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Mental Health help for Small Businesses

  • Blog
  • 08 August 2018
Mental health is clearly the hot topic at the moment and rightly so, with one in four of us reportedly likely to have a mental health problem in any given year . Small business owners have the added pressures of owning and managing a business and tend to work much longer hours. Research has shown they work 13 hours a week more than the UK average (37 hours) and it is not uncommon to find smaller business owners working over 80 hours each working week.   All this adds up to the fact that many small business owners neglect their own physical and mental wellbeing.

Employees in small businesses feel the pressure too; the structure and policies that tend to exist in larger companies are often not there. Employees are often reluctant to take time off if they are feeling unwell for fear of letting down their colleagues or customers. When absence does occur then the impact can be much greater.
As we know, the NHS is very stretched in the area of mental health services, so people can be waiting several months to start an appropriate course of therapy, often suffering deterioration in their condition as a consequence.

Wellbeing and prevention

For smaller businesses, this can be an area which is perceived to be out of reach or at least, just one more thing to do on an ever-increasing “to-do” list, so is not a priority but can leave the business exposed if it’s not considered.

Making employee wellbeing a priority can not only prevent illness developing but also boost morale and productivity. Simple things such as thinking about opportunities for health eating, the physical environment, the chance to have a walk at lunchtime, as well as appropriate support services can all be helpful. Employees usually welcome being consulted and involved in wellbeing initiatives; this alone can generate a sense of inclusiveness.

Effective Mental Health Support Services

Getting help as early as possible is important, rather than when illness has become more serious.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) can be purchased at reasonably low cost, and there are also several technology products such as apps which are becoming popular. 

Employers, however should take care to check what is included in these products to ensure it would be really used and provide the necessary help when called upon.

Clinical assessment is key, as is speed of access to the right therapy, so services which employ mental health nurses provide a far better outcome for the employee and therefore the employer and/or insurer via which the service is offered.

Those who have been away from the workplace for some time usually need help to prepare to go back to work, help to re build self-esteem, confidence in their ability to do their job again and coping strategies to re-integrate into the team.

Unfortunately mental ill-health tends to reoccur, so a long-term service is also really important, even if just as a safety net.

Affordable for Small Businesses?

Although support services may initially appear out of reach to small businesses, this needn’t be the case; many insurance policies such as Life, critical illness and income protection include good quality support services at no additional charge.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) offers members’ support services which are available for members and staff. 

Combining a good quality support service with a positive attitude towards employee wellbeing shows that there are things that SMEs can do,  it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, and with so many likely to be affected, it is a must-have to build business resilience.

Why not check out the FSB’s Wellbeing in Small Business hub for information and practical advice for your business on mental health and general wellbeing. Included are ideas and suggestions that you can try if you are looking to improve your own wellbeing or the wellbeing of your staff. 

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FSB members with a serious health condition have free access to a personal nurse adviser - providing practical information and emotional support.

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