From cafes to car washes, running a small business is a complex undertaking. And even when you’re getting the balance right, the round-the-clock responsibility can be personally taxing.

“For sole traders and freelancers, owning and managing your business can be demanding and lonely,” says Helen Lea, chief employee experience officer for business platform MYOB. “There’s an emotional toll associated with being an employer. The day-to-day activities that accompany running a business, when coupled with responsibility for the livelihood of others, means the stakes are always high and the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’ is blurred.”

A recent report commissioned by MYOB revealed that two thirds (66%) of small businesses feel Covid-19 has impacted their mental wellbeing, with 58% claiming it’s negatively impacted their business. The top five factors impacting respondents' wellbeing in the last 12 months are Covid-19 (selected by 55% of respondents), finances (51%), work related stress (45%), lack of sleep (41%) and relationships (22%).

“Managing cash flow and financial issues, long hours, work-life balance, feeling isolated, wearing multiple hats and a general feeling of responsibility for the businesses’ success or failure are all common issues experienced by business owners,” says Lea.

Now the additional stress of Covid-19 has left many businesses struggling. “Challenges created by social distancing and lockdown measures are compounded by the emotional stressors of caring for their staff and wondering about their own financial security,” says Lea. “It’s no wonder stress is a major issue among small business operators.”

To help address some of these issues, MYOB has partnered with the not-for-profit web and app-based meditation program Smiling Mind, to create a custom program for small business owners.

The MYOB x Smiling Mind Small Business Program is designed to support the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of business owners. Topics covered by the app-based program include mindfulness, stress management, relationships and resilience. “The segments are short and sharp, allowing business owners to listen to the content around their already-full lives,” says Lea.

According to Smiling Mind founder Jane Martino, the program’s benefits aim to include increased productivity and attention, reduced anxiety, improved stress management skills and increased life satisfaction and self-esteem beyond the workplace. As well as helping with the fallout of Covid-19.

“It can help small business owners establish a routine and proactively look after their mental health,” says Martino. She says that it’s not just small business owners who are dealing with the stress of social isolation: since lockdown, Smiling Mind usage is up 500 per cent, and downloads are up 180 per cent week-on-week.

“One of the things we’re encouraging people to do with their team [right now]… is to continue group meditations on platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams … so people can continue to have that interaction and feeling of connectedness,” she says. “Research has proven that not having that sense of connection and meaning is a huge cause of depression.”

After all, keeping an even keel in a period of disruption is proving difficult for everyone, not just small business owners.

“The people who are coping the best with it are certainly people who are still maintaining a routine, in particular their morning routine,” says Martino. “Even if they don’t have to be at the office or on calls, they’re continuing to get up early and start the day with a meditation, a walk or some physical exercise and time for themselves. If we can help people with that daily ritual, that will be helpful.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with MYOB and Smiling Mind, together bringing you the Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, the program is designed to help business owners thrive. So let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the “At Work” section in the Smiling Mind app today.