COVID-19’s Impact On SME Mental Health

Many employees at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have seen their mental health impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by two separate pieces of research. For employers, the reality is that staff wellbeing has never been a more prominent subject and, as a result, offering the right employee benefits is more crucial than ever.

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[Related reading: Employees Not Confident Discussing Health Issues As Organisations Look To Increase Spending]

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A Third Of SME Staff Have Mental Wellbeing Issues

New research has revealed that a third (34%) of SMEs have employees with mental wellbeing concerns since UK lockdown restrictions began to ease back in April.

According to employee benefits platform WorkLife’s Small Business Monitor, which is an analysis of 750 senior financial and HR decision-makers in UK SME organisations, 93% of SME workers have reported such worries to their organisations recently.

Just under a third of SMEs (29%) said they were worried about the impact of working from home for a prolonged period and how it would impact employee mental health. One in five (21%) said they were concerned about how working from home impacted employees’ physical wellbeing due to not having the correct workplace setup.

In terms of the outlook for the coming year, 17% of SMEs said they were concerned about supporting workers with the long-term impact of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing. Employees’ personal finances and appropriately rewarding staff were potential issues cited by 15% and 14% of SMEs respectively.

Commenting on the findings of the analysis, WorkLife director Steve Bee said: “Employers who have not already done so simply must be engaging with employees, be it on a personal basis or via HR professionals, to assess people’s concerns and where they would benefit from more support or flexibility. A happy and productive workforce is a key pillar to any successful company, but it’s important to remember that for many people, the workplace is where they are going to be able to access the support they really need right now.”

SME HR Staff Having More Mental Health Discussions

Meanwhile, separate research from Benefex has further highlighted the impact of the pandemic on employees, with 87% of HR staff saying they have experienced more employees than usual disclosing mental health issues.

Benefex’s new white paper, Employee experience in the new world of work, includes responses from more than 200 employers. It explores the changing dynamics and demands within workforces, as well as how HR managers are adapting their strategies to better meet employee needs.

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[Related reading: Calls For Employers To Do More To Support Employee Mental Health]

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According to Benefex’s research, 82% of HR staff have seen greater numbers of employees reporting feelings of loneliness. The vast majority (96%) said employee experience has become more important during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Employee wellbeing has been a key driver in this shift of focus.

Almost three-quarters (71%) of HR professionals said a commitment to staff wellbeing is the most critical aspect of an “exceptional employee experience programme”. Ensuring employees feel connected to company values (66%), recognition for work achievements (62%), the provision of intuitive workplace technology (62%), and effective internal communications (61%) were the next most important aspects.

What is your organisation doing to safeguard the mental health of its employees? Do you offer employee benefits? If so, are they conducive to supporting employee mental health and wellbeing? If you haven’t reviewed them in a while, maybe it’s time to check if they are truly supporting your staff.

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Author: Darren Perkins - Sales Director