Why employee wellbeing is top of the agenda for SMEs

By rotide
Created 16/06/2021 - 06:20
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By Mark Fosh Divisional director, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing [1]

As the UK eases out of lockdown restrictions and businesses start to return to normal, employee wellbeing is moving up the agenda for SMEs as they recognise the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on employees.

A recent study by WorkLife by OpenMoney amongst UK senior financial and HR professionals in SMEs, revealed that one in five (21%) are concerned about helping staff manage the long-term mental health impact of the pandemic.

A fifth were troubled about how to keep remote working staff engaged, while 26% were concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their employees' mental wellbeing. 21% were also worried about helping staff manage the impact of the pandemic on their personal finances.

With the Covid crisis taking a toll on employees' health, many SMEs want to offer health and wellbeing support to their employees. Those businesses that previously didn't prioritise wellbeing are now recognising that many health issues, particularly mental health, have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Months of isolation from working at home, digital fatigue from hours spent on Zoom, plus many having to combine work with home-schooling or caring responsibilities have led to increased employee mental health issues. Consequently, there are a rising number of employees suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression.

Other issues are affecting employees too, including musculoskeletal disorders because of poor working arrangements, a lack of exercise or not taking breaks. Last year Bupa found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of staff have injured their back, neck, hips, knees, or wrists because of poor homeworking practices and a lack of suitable equipment.

If unaddressed, these issues could give rise to poor productivity, low morale, rising absenteeism and presenteeism - issues that will be more acutely felt by smaller employers than larger ones, who have greater ability to flex their workforce. Offering more wellbeing support is key.

Research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) highlights that 60% of SMEs acknowledge that providing health and wellbeing benefits has a high impact on supporting the productivity of their company. This increases to 69% for medium size businesses, whilst 22% of SMEs rated having health and wellbeing benefits as being critical for ensuring high productivity.

Unfortunately, many smaller firms may not have a HR team to focus on wellbeing, or simply lack the required time and dedicated resources. We have therefore launched a new SME Hub to help time-poor managers look after the health and wellbeing of their employees.

We hope the Hub will be a go-to-destination for businesses seeking wellbeing support. We offer free resources, practical tips to help employees look after their mental health, insight and advice on cost-effective workplace solutions that can improve health and wellbeing and an ‘ask the experts' section. We hope this will be a hugely valuable tool for often over-stretched SMEs as we move beyond the pandemic. 

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