SMB owners’ mental health takes a hit due to lack of personal travel

Dan Gregory, Founder of The Behaviour Report

American Express’ Business Class research explores the wellbeing and business benefits of personal travel. This is important as challenges continue to mount on Australia’s SMB sector in light of inflation, supply chain pressures, labour shortages and the volatility surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 47% of Aussie SMB owners say their mental health and wellbeing have suffered as they weren’t able to take time off for a holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testament to just how critical recharging one’s batteries is, findings reveal 77% of SMB owners say personal travel positively impacts their outlook and ability to run their business.

What were the key findings of American Express’ study?

Key findings include:

  • 63% of SMB owners believe personal travel helps them make better business decisions.
  • 66% agree they feel rejuvenated after a holiday and take fewer sick days off work.
  • American Express’ research also found that they also feel more relaxed (60%), happier (57%) and more energised (53%) when returning to work.
  • 53% say that after a leisure trip they return to work feeling more productive or inspired.
  • 72% say personal travel enables them to bring fresher thinking to their business, which helps them innovate and grow, with 26% citing increased creativity.
  • Personal travel momentum is building, with 87% planning at least one domestic holiday this year or next. 68% of small business owners are planning an international trip.

Why is personal travel essential for SMB owners?

Commenting on the research findings, Kiely Potter, Vice President, SME Account Development, American Express said: “Taking a holiday is one of the few ways small business owners admit that they can fully switch off from the pressures of running a small business.”

“With personal travel back on the agenda, taking a holiday is critical in helping to replenish small business owners’ sense of wellbeing and productivity, and offers a fresh perspective they can inject back into their business. Supporting small businesses to be at their best is a key component to reinvigorating our economy and communities,” Potter further said.

Dan Gregory, behavioural researcher and strategist, and Founder of The Behaviour Report says: “Taking a break is vital for mental health and wellbeing and sadly this isn’t something Aussie small business owners have generally been able to do over the last few years.”

“While some SMB owners think there’s too much on their plate to step away at the moment, they should consider taking a trip, not only for their own wellbeing, but for the business benefits that will come from the time off. When thinking about the drivers that move us and lift us, travel helps us relax and detach; it stimulates our senses in new ways, allows us to connect and to separate physically and emotionally from the day-to-day grind of our work.”

“This puts SMB owners in a better frame of mind when they return, helping them to spot opportunities, tackle challenges with a fresh perspective and be better set up for success.”

Commenting on the research findings, Leah Cameron, owner of Marrawah Law said: “As the owner of a busy legal firm, I really value break-time and during the pandemic that simply didn’t exist. For me, getting away somewhere is the only time I can really down tools and refocus. Your mind just stops and you can broaden your thinking beyond the day-to-day.”

“I try to go to new locations, as this is where I can completely reset. Immersing in different cultures makes my brain think differently and inspires me to do the same when I return.”

Dan adds: “SMB owners are definitely aware of what they’ve missed by not taking a holiday: the loss of connection and inspiration and the effects this has had on their mental wellbeing and outlook towards their business. There’s something in Aussies’ nature that drives us at a cultural level to travel and explore to make us the best versions of ourselves. Even increasing costs, rolling delays and cancellations seem preferable to the idea of not travelling at all.”