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Business & Economy

MMC: Supporting the mental health of business owners

Two thirds of business owners that were surveyed by MMC Research & Marketing in 2020, said that concerns around cashflow and cancelled work were causing them high levels of stress, with over half of participants stating that their mental health was worse than usual within the first few months of lockdown. Two years on, the team is looking to find out to what level the pandemic has affected business owner’s mental health and what kind of help does – and would – support them. Natasha McDonough, founder and managing director of MMC Research & Marketing, explains

Tell us about the motivation behind the survey?

In the height of the first lockdown, I got chatting to fellow business owners and became really concerned about how some, including myself, were struggling with anxiety levels and overall mental health. It seemed that there was plenty of media out there around employees and their mental health, but nothing about the struggles that business owners were facing.

I launched the first survey in 2020 to find out what kind of support business owners wanted and what had been helping them so far. Over half the business owners that took part in the survey said that they were feeling more stressed and worried since the pandemic began, mostly caused by financial worries, responsibility of staff, work/life balance and general unease.

I want to run it again this year because I still want to make a difference and find out what kind of support business owners need to help them run productive and profitable businesses, and not to the detriment of their mental wellbeing.

Which topics of discussion will the survey explore?

I’m keen to understand to what level the pandemic has affected business owners’ mental health, and I’m especially curious as to whether it has made business owners more risk averse or whether they’re ready – more than ever – to fire on all cylinders.

Again, we’re also looking at the kind of support that business owners want and the good – and bad – things that they’re turning too.  For example, in 2020 we found out that 51% of business owners were comfort eating and 48% were having trouble sleeping.

With so many networking opportunities available again, I’m also keen to know whether people are wanting to retreat away from others, or not. In other words, has it made business owners more introverted?

In your experience, how can business owners better protect their mental health amidst the challenges of day-to-day business?

Personally, it took me several months of trying to juggle work and family to realise that some form of exercise before I start my day helps me.  Sometimes I only manage 15 minutes, but it always makes a difference.

61% of business owners said that peer-to-peer support also helped them. I would always encourage meeting up with a fellow business owner for an open and honest chat. Don’t be afraid of sounding vulnerable.

How will the response to the survey be used to inform the business community?

I’m planning on sharing the findings with the North East England Chamber of Commerce and any other business groups that are keen to support business owners. When I’ve mentioned the survey during meetings with senior civil servants and a senior minster, they were also interested in understanding the results, so I’ll be sure to follow that up. We’ll also be adding supportive information and signposting within our Mental Health Hub that we launched back in 2020 to help those that are struggling.


The survey is being supported by partners North East England Chamber of Commerce and North East Times.

John McCabe, chief executive of North East England Chamber of Commerce, added: “This survey is so important.  Our business owners are the economic lifeblood of our region and we need them to be in their best mental and physical health. As leaders it is all too easy to forget their own well-being and concentrate on the people who work for them.  The results of the survey are invaluable to ensure the right support, from the right places, is identified and available. Well done to MMC for arranging this research which the Chamber wholeheartedly supports.”