Do you take time off from running your business when you’re ill – or do you feel you can’t? Do you make time to live a healthy lifestyle, eating properly and exercising? The FSB have been looking closely at the health of small business owners, and their findings are a reminder that however busy we are, we have to take time to look after our health.

SME’s Top Three Health Concerns

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently launched a campaign to improve the health and wellbeing of small business owners, and as part of their work, it has reviewed 5 years of statistics about the health of its members.

The review revealed that just three conditions have made up over half of the initial referrals to FSB Care, its medical care and advice service:

  • orthopaedic issues relating to the musculoskeletal system (35%)
  • mental health issues (17%); and
  • cancer (6%)

While these conditions are common concerns for everyone, the FSB is concerned that the mental and physical stress of running your own business – the responsibility and long hours involved, and the sometimes less-than-healthy lifestyle that goes along with it – may make SME owners more vulnerable.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Being ill and needing to take time off work is a huge fear for anyone running their own business. Nobody can wave a magic wand or promise an elixir, but our members are guaranteed that there will be a medical expert on the end of the phone who can support them through difficult times when they need it.”

SME owners may be more likely to ignore symptoms and get early health checks, reluctant to take time away from their business.

Christine Husbands of RedArc, the service provider of FSB Care, points out that musculoskeletal problems may be a particular problem for them:

“Too many hours spent slumped in front of a computer and a too-sedentary lifestyle caused by long working hours can lead to such problems. Added to the fact that stress can increase our sensitivity to pain, it’s easy to see why orthopaedic issues are top of the reasons why FSB members look for support.”

Mental Health and Isolation

The FSB has also warned that stress is often underlying or an accompanying factor when physical conditions present, meaning the number of people supported for mental health issues may be more acute than the data indicates.

One thing often identified as a trigger for mental health issues among SME owners and freelancers is loneliness and isolation.

FSB research shows that isolation and working alone is one of the top three challenges of self-employment (25%), and a report by Aldermore (March 2017) revealed that over a third (39%) of Brits say they have felt lonely since becoming their own boss.

Rachel Reeves MP, Co-Chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Select Committee, made a speech this week entitled ‘Throwing a New Light on Loneliness’.

In it, she highlighted how our society has become increasingly disconnected – both at home and at work:

“More and more of us live alone. We work at home. Or in a van with just a stylus and tablet for company. We spend a greater part of our day alone than we did ten years ago. The institutions that once brought us together – trade unions, churches, the local pub, the workplace – are now marginal or they have changed out of recognition.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, commented on Ms. Reeves’ speech.

“Loneliness can diminish productivity and creativity, both of which are so vital to the success of the small business community.

“As the UK’s biggest business network we understand that small business owners and the self-employed can be particularly susceptible to feelings of loneliness; FSB offers practical support to help combat this, including a regular UK-wide series of networking events which has seen over 4,000 participants since launching earlier this year.”

The FSB has a wealth of information on health and wellbeing. A good starting point is their Wellbeing in Small Business Hub.


Are you taking care of your physical and mental health? Many health conditions that can be resolved with early treatment and diagnosis – needing minimal time away from your business – can become much more serious and time-consuming if ignored.

Mental health is inextricably linked with physical health and we need to attend to it just as assiduously. Make use of the networks and groups available to you, which will give you the chance to interact with others, talk through your problems and find support.


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