The cost of mental health absence in SME’s

In 2017, 12.5 million working days were lost because of poor mental health in the UK alone. The estimated cost of this is around £26 billion in lowered productivity. For a company with hundreds of staff, losing a member of the team for a few days or more can be fairly easy to cover – but for SMEs, the impact of employee absence is more noticeable.

99% of UK businesses are SMEs, with 96% classified as micro-businesses employing less than 10 people. When one person’s absence means the business has lost 10% or more of its productivity, it should be clear that putting measures in place to keep staff feeling mentally and physically healthy is a worthwhile investment.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, depression and anxiety accounted for 49% of all working days lost due to ill health in the 2016/17 period, with workload pressure and a lack of managerial support cited as key contributing factors. As well as reducing these kinds of absences, wellness programmes have also been proven to boost employee engagement and encourage team collaboration. Nurturing a workplace culture that is mental health-positive and which champions emotional wellbeing is often overlooked.

Key ways to reduce stress in your workplace include things like:

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks – making sure that people aren’t afraid to take a minute to decompress if things are getting too much, and that colleagues are taking their lunch breaks rather than working through them

Have an open-door policy – offer staff opportunities to talk, and make it clear that time will be found to discuss any problems that arise whenever it is needed

Encourage a healthy work/life balance – even slight flexibility in working hours can help people to juggle their out-of-work commitments, and encouraging people not to take their work home with them will reduce the risk of employees feeling overworked or overwhelmed

Encourage collaboration – small teams have to work closely and efficiently together, and if one person is overloaded to the point of collapse it can be detrimental to everyone. Encourage teams to support each other during busy periods.

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