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Wellbeing in the workplace: how SMEs can afford it

Workplace wellbeing is the spotlight, for obvious reasons. The impact of Covid-19 has shown that investing in safeguarding the mental health of employees is good business sense. But how can under-pressure SMEs afford it?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million working days were lost to mental health issues in 2019, at a cost of £2.4 billion. This is staggering figure and the total for 2020 is likely to be even higher as employees are affected by the stresses and strains linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The impact of Covid-19 workplace mental wellbeing has been widespread. Changing work patterns have had a big impact on mental health and employee confidence. For example, new research shows that over half of employees having been worried by the changes to their routines caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with around the same number reporting a loss in energy as a result of isolation.

With regard to SMEs, a recent study from Wildgoose has revealed that nearly half of employees at these companies are finding that their mental health has been negatively impacted by Covid-19. Employees are being affected by issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness. In addition, staff wellbeing is at risk from presenteeism pressure.

How SMEs can invest in workplace wellbeing

Clearly, looking after employee wellbeing and the creation of employee wellbeing programmes is a good investment. Whether employees are working remotely or coming into the office, there are steps employers can take and facilities they can put in place to help safeguard the mental health of staff members.

For example, employers can offer the use of standing desks, provide healthy snacks, ensure that staff take regular breaks, take time out for physical activity and make sure that the workplace environment is clean and Covid secure. Furthermore, companies can offer work flexibility, actively work to prevent overworking, ensure payment accuracy and reliability and provide a safe space for sharing concerns.

Despite the benefits of such strategies, they are still largely the preserve of larger firms, with few SMEs able to offer a similar range of wellbeing-orientated employee facilities. One of the principal reasons is cost – right now there is preciously little spare capital available. However, survival and regrowth isn’t possible without a healthy workforce – investing in employee wellbeing is vital. So, how can SMEs afford it?

Alternative finance can help.

Affording workplace wellbeing and how alternative lenders can help

In the wake of prolonged caution from traditional lenders and at a time of extraordinary economic contraction, facilities such as invoice finance, asset finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are proving a vital source of capital for small businesses, both for safeguarding cashflow and for essential investment. These facilities, which offer a more personalised approach to lending, are helping small businesses survive and grow.

Tellingly, alternative finance is playing a key role in the government’s Covid-19 business support strategy, in particular with regard to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which offers access to a range of finance facilities, including alternative finance services.

What businesses need to know about SME funding options

Despite the vaccine-shaped light at the end of tunnel, small businesses and their staff are still under incredible pressure. The latest lockdown is yet another herculean test for beleaguered firms and workforces. The need to invest in workplace wellbeing is clear.

As such, it is critical that SMEs are aware of all the funding options available to them, from the government’s emergency support schemes, including the new one-off grant package, to the services of alternative lenders.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Steve Bowles on 01903 602211 or steve.bowles@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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