EXCLUSIVE: 34% of SMEs have staff with mental wellbeing issues

95% of organisations offer some form of mental wellbeing educationA third (34%) of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have employees with mental wellbeing concerns since lockdown restrictions started to ease in April, which is up from 26% in its spring study.

An analysis by employee benefits platform WorkLife’s Small Business Monitor, carried out by 3Gem among 750 senior financial and HR decision makers in UK SME organisations, revealed that 93% of businesses’ workers have come to them with these worries recently.

Almost three in 10 (29%) said they were worried about the impact on employees’ mental health of working from home for a long period of time, while 21% were concerned about workers’ physical wellbeing due to not having the correct workplace setup.

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Regarding the next 12 months, 17% said supporting workers with the long-term impact of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic on their mental wellbeing was a key concern for them, with 15% citing personal finances and 14% answering appropriately rewarding employees as other issues as well.

A total of 27% admitted staff had troubles about personal finances as well as childcare and caring for elderly relatives, while 24% had fears about job losses. Almost one-fifth (18%) said that staff feared being asked to return to the office, while the same number are concerned that they will be expected to work remotely on a permanent basis from now on.

WorkLife director Steve Bee commented that the mental and financial strain that comes through in the research is “concerning and could have a corrosive effect” on employees’ overall wellbeing if left unaddressed.

“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,” he said.