Concerns around employee wellbeing top priority for small businesses
- The top current concerns for UK SMEs are keeping employees safe from the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace (28%) and workers’ mental wellbeing (26%), WorkLife’s Small Business Monitor reveals
- Over the next 12 months, smaller firms are most concerned about helping employees with the long-term impact of the pandemic on their personal finances (21%) and mental health (21%)
The impact of the pandemic on employee wellbeing is the top concern for SMEs both in the short- and medium-term, WorkLife by OpenMoney’s latest Small Business Monitor has found.
As the UK moves through the first phase of lockdown restrictions easing, employee benefits platform WorkLife’s analysis reveals that the vast majority of SMEs (96%) currently have worries about their business. More than a quarter (28%) of firms said they were anxious about keeping employees safe from the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace. A similar number (26%) were troubled by the impact of the pandemic on workers’ mental wellbeing.
But after employee wellbeing, financial and operational woes come into play, with a quarter (25%) of those surveyed saying they were worried about having to lay off staff. More than one in five (22%) were concerned about simply remaining in business, while 20% were fearful of falling sales and 18% were worried about paying staff.
Longer-term, the knock-on effects of the pandemic on employee wellbeing remain high on the list of fears for smaller businesses. Aside from the direct impact of government restrictions, over the next 12 months 21% of firms surveyed said they were worried about helping their employees manage the long-term impact of the pandemic on their personal finances, with the same number concerned about helping employees manage the long-term mental health impacts of the pandemic. A fifth of those surveyed (20%) were troubled by how they would keep workers engaged as they moved to work remotely more permanently.
Financial factors also concern firms over the coming year, but sit further down the list of priorities. Some 18% were worried by rising inflation, while 17% were anxious about slowing consumer demand and getting customers to pay on time. 15% expressed concerns about getting their hands on finances such as loans and 13% were worried about gaining access to foreign markets post-Brexit.
WorkLife by OpenMoney director Steve Bee commented: “Our study clearly shows that despite the immense challenges, SMEs recognise that their workers are the ones who will help them get their business back to where it was before the pandemic. While it’s great to see so many firms considering how they can give back to those who have demonstrated such loyalty and versatility, with so many firms facing financial challenges, the reality is it’s going to be some time before many feel confident enough to start investing in things like staff rewards.
“But it isn’t things like one-off bonuses that are going to make the real difference here, which is why firms should be looking further afield at smaller, more meaningful ways they can give workers a helping hand over the coming months. For example, offering access to financial advice can help with managing stress and other mental health concerns. Meanwhile, perks like retail discounts could offer a vital lifeline to some people – particularly among those who may have been furloughed or had hours cut during lockdown.
“Given that the majority of people in this country work for small businesses, it is important that firms understand the different options available to help them alleviate concerns surrounding employee wellbeing. For many people, the workplace is the only place they are going to be able to access the support that they need.”
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. Fieldwork took place 14 to 22 March 2021.
Helena Jones (MRM) – firstname.lastname@example.org / 07503 645 612
WorkLife is a digital platform on a mission to make financial advice and employee benefits accessible and affordable to every UK business.
Powered by OpenMoney, it combines top of the range financial advice and market leading benefits with low cost and transparent fees, allowing SMEs to reward their employees with the same great perks as those traditionally enjoyed by workers at larger companies. The platform puts an emphasis on employee wellbeing, making sure they are covered in all the financial, mental and physical aspects of their life.