Toolkit

Small businesses and the self-employed: taking care during the pandemic

For small businesses and the self-employed, it’s an anxious time.

Perhaps, as a self-employed person, you’re familiar with home and work being the same place. Or perhaps you’re a small business owner experiencing it for the first time. Either way, your home/workplace probably feels like a different place to be than it did before the days of self-isolation. And that’s just one side of it. How will your business change? On top of other worries in the economy recently, will it survive?

We spoke to the Federation of Small Businesses and the Self-Employed (FSB) and it’s no wonder, in their words, “There’s a heightened sense of worry and anxiety around what’s going on.” Here’s what they recommend for staying mentally well amidst it all.

Stay connected

It might seem straightforward, but it bears emphasising: their number one piece of advice is to keep channels of communication open. “Networks are more important than ever” – whether that’s personal, professional, family, or something else. Social contact is hugely important for wellbeing.

…with colleagues, if you have them

“Staying connected isn’t just about your own mental health; it’s about your team’s mental health.” If you manage others, remember that contact with you and with each other might be an important part of how they are dealing with the pressures of being isolated with family, or without anyone. Share knowledge about technologies and tips for staying in contact; the FSB uses Zoom and BlueJeans, for example.

…with other businesses

“Small businesses and the self-employed are all in the same boat here. If you’re trying to keep your business running in a weird scenario, it’s important that you’re talking to people.” The key benefit here is that others might have creative ideas that you haven’t thought of. We’ve all heard about pubs and restaurants suddenly offering takeaway options; perhaps there are equivalent ways of pivoting in businesses like yours. Exchanging ideas can make all the difference.

…with others who can help

The FSB website is filled with advice and information, and an FSB membership gives access to things like their legal advisors and FSB Cares, their support, advice and counselling service. There’s also a support group on Facebook for small business owners and the self-employed, specifically around coronavirus issues. But look elsewhere too: are there associations or communities specific to your field, or to your location?

…and know how to disconnect

“It can be very difficult to disconnect yourself from work, when your work space has become your personal space.” FSB’s advice is to do what you can to set up a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a whole room or just a part of a table. Then, think about your daily schedule in the same way as you would if you were going out: go through the routine of starting and stopping work. Have a shower and get dressed properly!

It’s clear that the internet is a fundamental part of getting through this. For many small businesses, social media and other online platforms have always been the key ways to engage with customers and clients. But it’s important to know when to step back: “If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, or the news around coronavirus is impacting you in a negative way, think about when to separate yourself.”

Finally, think about your physical health – particularly in terms of staying physically active. “If you can get outside sometimes, do that – and if not, at least make sure you move around regularly.”

Below, we’ve recommended some resources to help with all this. Stay well, stay at home – and stay connected.


Resources in this toolkit:


Quick
Resources

​Active mobile working

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Taking part in regular physical activity is one way of boosting your mood and looking after your health. This one-page PDF guide from Unilever explores ways that mobile and home workers can break up long periods of sitting without disrupting their work.

Free