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  • Writer's pictureMel Archer

RU OK? Normalising mental health in small business

I'm very open about how The Foundry Cowork came to be. Working from home long-term made me disconnected, apathetic and deflated, ultimately resulting in a breakdown affecting my work, relationships and entire identity.

Mind you, I didn't identify the cause until I sought counselling. I didn't think that such a 'small' factor as working alone could affect all aspects of my life. I wish I'd noticed the signs earlier, and I think it's really important to know what those signs are if you're a sole operator or small business owner.

Signs your mental health is suffering

According to Beyond Blue, the early signs of depression or anxiety include:

  • not going out anymore

  • not getting things done at work/school

  • withdrawing from close family and friends

  • relying on alcohol and sedatives

  • not doing usual enjoyable activities

  • unable to concentrate

If any of the above behaviours resonate with you, Beyond Blue has a very simple checklist to complete which will determine if you're actually experiencing depression or anxiety so that you can take early action.

Mental health and small business

Small business wellbeing has recently become a main priority for the Federal Government. The 2019-20 Budget includes $11.5 million for a National Mental Health Workplace Initiative that will support businesses - including sole traders - and workers to create a mentally healthy workplace.

“It is great to see the mental health and wellbeing needs of small business owners and sole traders being recognised by governments,” Director of Everymind Jaelea Skehan said.  

Ms Skehan said a survey of more than 440 small business owners conducted by their Institute showed they had higher levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety than the national average. Stress levels were high too with 57.6 per cent falling outside the 'normal' range.


The RU OK Movement has also made a significant impact on normalising the importance of good mental health in small business. In partnership with Yellow Pages, RU OK? have produced a vital resource - the 'Mental health handbook for small business owners.'

But there's still work to do in normalising mental health issues across the board and weaving the "RU OK?'" conversation into everyday life.

So if you're a small business owner, freelancer or remote worker I'm asking you the question now:

  • "RU OK?"

  • "Are you feeling like yourself?"

  • "Are you overtired, constantly distracted or numb?"

Because you probably don't know me, and it's a bit weird talking to a complete stranger, but I understand and I'm here to listen. I want to let you know that what you're feeling is OK, it's normal and it's something that can and will improve if you take some simple steps. If you need a confidential chat, business owner to business owner, I'm all ears. Pop into The Foundry and I'll buy you a coffee.

If you're not a small business owner but you know one, pick up the phone and ask "RU OK?" Because they might look like they have their sh*t together, but it doesn't always mean they have. Us small business owners have a good game face, believe me.

What is coworking and how can it help?

Coworking is a shared office environment where individual spaces are rented out to sole traders, freelancers and small business owners who want to get out of the home office or cafe on a casual or permanent basis.

Coworking, even once a month, can be of huge benefit to the mental health of anyone routinely working remotely or from home. Benefits include:

  • Separating home life and work life

  • Boosting productivity

  • Connecting with others

  • Networking and collaborating; business-building

Coworking has been my absolute saviour. I look forward to going to work everyday to hang out with our little growing community and my business has been thriving as a result. My general outlook on life is vastly different to the one I had when working from home. The washing and household chores might be suffering since the move (ha!) but I couldn't be happier.

Thanks for reading, and take care.


To read more about the benefits of coworking, please read my article The top 5 reasons sole operators choose coworking.

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