Small business owners turn to their pets about work problems

With many Brits facing burnouts at work and with cases of business stress on the rise, the new research suggests that most small business owners build a reliable support system to help them through the ups and downs of running a business. For the 4,966 small business owners surveyed by Hitachi Capital, the single biggest port of call at times of stress was a business owner’s partner (69%), despite the fact that the divorce rates on are on the rise in the UK. However, the research also shows that small business owners also have more unsuspecting allies that they feel they can rely on as part of their support network – including their household pets (23%).

The big question – dogs or cats?

Nationally, dogs were regarded as a greater stress-buster than cats – with 14% of small business owners saying they talked to their pooch when they were stressed. A further 20% said that the simple pleasure of taking their dog for a walk helped them to unwind.

Cats were a comfort for other business owners. Around one in ten said they would rush home to spend time with their feline friend if work was getting them down – suggesting that snuggling up to your cat does play a part in boosting moods.

Regionally, small business owners in Scotland and the North West (18% and 18%) were the most likely to talk to their dog if they had worries about work. In the East Midlands, small business owners (13%) were more likely to speak to their cats than their counsellor or family GP (1% and 5% retrospectively).

Other popular choices

  • As many as 69% of small business owners said they talked to their other half when they are stressed out – peaking amongst those that work from home (75%).
  • Small business owners in the North East and London were the most likely to look for support from their fellow colleagues (35% vs 32%), compared to a national average of 18%.
  • More than one in three small business owners (37%) said their friends were also valued sounding boards when they were stressed about work. Supportive friends were most valued by young business owners (25-34 years old) who were in the earlier stages of running a business.

Surprise flat pancakes

When push comes to shove, it was the serious professionals everyone knows they should talk to who emerged as the people few relied on as being in their support network.

  • Only 3% of small business owners said they would turn to their business partner when they needed support, many preferring to rely on people outside the workplace.
  • Only 1% of respondents said they would sit down with a counsellor and talk about their problems – and very few said they would turn to a business mentor (1%).

Gavin Wraith-Carter commented: “It is very encouraging to see that small business owners recognise the importance of having a support system to help them through the highs and lows of running a business. There is a place for professional advice but outside the workplace support from trusted friends or even a walk with the dog also matters. It’s all about balance and recognising the importance of being able to switch off.

“Whilst we can rely on our partners and family as shoulders to cry on – the positive outtake from the research is that we are getting better at voicing our stresses, not internalising them and recognising that it doesn’t matter who helps you the most – as long as you feel you are supported. Mental health is being recognised as a major issue in Britain today and, for many small business owners, having a good work-life balance and the mechanisms in place to switch off is important to the long term health of their small business.”