Small businesses face a mental health crisis

Philippa Bell

Published on:

September 10, 2020

Britain’s small businesses face a mental health crisis as their employees struggle with the ‘new normal’ of returning to work after lockdown. A combination of job insecurity, the demands of social distancing in the workplace and the ever-present fear of getting sick from COVID-19 have created a toxic stew of worry for bosses and workers alike. 

In our recent Small Business Monitor, looking at the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, we found that 29% of small businesses worry about the impact it is having on the mental wellbeing of their employees.  

We also found that the biggest concern employers had was keeping their staff safe from the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, whereas when we asked employers about the worries raised by their workers, a third (32%) of firms said employees were worried about their own mental wellbeing.  

On top of this, employers admitted their staff had other bigger anxieties linked to the pandemic that contributed to stress:  

39%said workers worry about the health of their loved ones 

38%of employers said employees worry about their personal finances 

32%said workers were concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. 

As a country, we Brits do have a tendency to ‘keep calm and carry on’, however,it brings the risk of workers ignoring the stresses and worries that could be damaging to their mental health, especially in the current climate. Although there is no quick fix to end the impact of the pandemic, employers have to do their bit to support employees in mitigating against the added stress they are facing.  

Thankfully mental wellbeing is already high on the agenda for many small businesses. Our research found that 30% of SMEs currently offer their employees support, such as ways to help managing their stress. While this may not sound substantial, we found that an additional 25% want to introduce such help in the next six months.  

This is why we’ve made sure mental health and wellbeing support is an integral part of our employee benefits platform. Small businesses using WorkLife will be able to give their workers free access to Thrive, the only mental wellbeing app approved by the NHS. 

Developed by psychologists and psychiatrists who have created mental health services for the NHS, Thrive offers a wide range of practical help and support,from relaxation techniques such as meditation, through to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and sleep improvement. The app is personalised to each user, allowing people to tailor it to their needs and set their own goals, tracking their progress in monitoring and improving their mental wellbeing.  

We setup our platform to give small businesses access to the kinds of employee benefits usually only enjoyed by workers at big companies. In addition to Thrive, employees can also access free financial advice from OpenMoney,designed to help tackle the financial stress many workers find themselves in at the moment with many on furlough or facing wage cuts. 

WorkLife’s Small Business Monitor is based on research carried out by 3Gem among 750 senior financial and HR decision makers in UK SME companies with 5 - 250 employees.  

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