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How SMEs can protect staff mental health



Mental health has become one of the biggest problems facing employers in today’s workplace. Mental health services in England received a record 4.6 million referrals in 2022, up 22% from the previous year.

Such is the scale of the problem that 25% of small and medium-sized enterprises we surveyed at Nucleus Commercial Finance said that it was one of the top three threats facing them over the next 12 months. 11% even cited it as their number one danger in the future.

The cause of the problem stems from the Covid-19 pandemic when millions of employees were forced to work from home, resulting in people developing a host of conditions including anxiety and depression as they became increasingly isolated. Many are still suffering from these problems as the NHS struggles to cope with the overwhelming number of cases reported.

Workers’ mental health topped the list of concerns from business leaders, with 15% in the affirmative. Bearing the brunt of this is the senior team, whose mental health also ranked highly among respondents (10%).

Physically workers appear to be suffering too as they have become accustomed to working longer hours and have been getting less exercise. That’s reflected in the nine percent of those surveyed who said that they were worried about the workforce’s physical health and the seven percent who raised concerns about that of the senior team.

Impact of the Great Resignation

Another fallout from the pandemic has been the Great Resignation, with a flight towards better benefits and work-life balance. Now employers are feeling the full effect, with quiet quitting of employees a worry among eight percent of leaders and the shallow talent pool available concerning 12%.

But the bottom line is that little is being done to tackle these problems. A tiny four percent say that they have increased staff perks, while just seven percent offer mental health days.

Employers need to take quick and decisive action. They can do this through offering counselling and therapy where required as well as regularly checking up on the wellbeing of employees through team meetings and one-to-ones.

At the same time, businesses are under increasing pressure from ever-rising costs. 40%of senior executives cited internal costs such as rent and wage bills, which have skyrocketed due to inflation, as their biggest sole expense. 35% argue that external costs like their supply chain are the main driver, while 37% claim it’s down to the Ukraine conflict.

Steps to reduce costs and boost revenue

In terms of the bigger picture, firms are failing to address many of these issues. A staggering 21% haven’t done anything at all to mitigate them, while just nine percent have taken some kind of action.

Boosting takings has been the key focus for those that have done something, with 26% putting up the price of their goods or services. Reducing energy bills by switching suppliers is another popular strategy among 17%, while 13% have used the time productively to upskill employees.

In the same vein, companies should seek to reduce their expense base wherever they can in the business. That means using less energy or switching to more energy-efficient methods. It will also help them to fulfil their green goals and become a more sustainable entity, potentially avoiding staff layoffs.

In an increasingly competitive world, there’s also often greater scope for negotiating better rental prices with landlords or, if they disagree, finding something more affordable. Similarly, more favourable deals and prices can be struck with suppliers by going direct or changing supplier.

Whatever changes are made, buy-in and suggestions from the wider team should be sought – there could be efficiencies suggested that weren’t considered – not only that but the team will feel part of decisions made, potentially reducing the impact on them in the long run.

Chirag Shah, founder and CEO of Nucleus Commerical Finance and has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and a deep understanding of the needs of UK SMEs.

In 2011, he founded Nucleus, a leading alternative finance provider, to offer flexible and tailored solutions for SMEs across various sectors and stages of growth. With an understanding of the challenges that UK SMEs face in the current economic climate, Chirag launched Pulse in October 2022, a free-to-use service that helps businesses and accountants gain insights into financial performance with AI-powered data visualisation and personalised dashboards. Chirag is not only committed to driving growth and innovation in the UK business ecosystem, but he’s also helping SMEs better understand their data to boost their profitability and guide them towards success.

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