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SME guide: How supporting mental health helps create a positive work environment

Team 365 finance

Written by Team 365 finance

Help and Advice

Mental health issues have risen among UK adults in recent years, mostly because of the pandemic. According to ONS, the number of adults experiencing some form of depression rose from 10% to 21% between 2019 and mid-2021. Of those people, 74% said the coronavirus was affecting their well-being.

With society getting back on its feet, employers face pressure to offer more mental health support in the workplace. McKinsey recently referred to mental health at work as “the coming revolution”, reporting that 91% of employees expect their employers to take mental health seriously and provide appropriate support. So, employers need to create a positive work environment where staff feel intellectually, emotionally, and physically supported.

Read on to learn more about:

– The cost of lacking mental health support in the workplace

– How to support employee mental health and create a positive work environment

– How investing in your employees helps grow your business

– Accessing funding to support mental health investment


The cost of lacking mental health support in the workplace

Did you know that a toxic workplace culture costs the UK economy £20.2 billion per year?

Other research has found that poor mental health at work costs UK employers up to £45 billion, equalling a 16% rise since 2016, or an additional £6 billion a year.

Failing to support mental health in the workplace not only leads to billions lost that could be spent elsewhere –– it can also have devastating consequences for your business in the long term.

Companies that don’t prioritise employees’ well-being will likely experience complications, such as:

– High staff turnover –– nearly a third (27%) of employees will quit because of poor company culture.

– Loss of productivity –– stress, anxiety and depression are well-known for impairing productivity.

– Increased sick days –– staff may call in sick rather than ask for mental health support.

– No sense of loyalty from staff –– if employees don’t feel supported by the company, they are less likely to perform to the best of their abilities.

The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to assess your current work culture and make appropriate changes to ensure that your team feels supported and valued.


What is a positive work environment?

Every positive workplace culture is unique. However, most companies that have achieved it have a few qualities in common. Generally speaking, a positive work environment includes aspects like:

– Open communication channels

– Opportunities for growth

– Positive relationships

– A clear shared purpose

– Rewards for good work

Positive company cultures make your employees happier and more comfortable while they work. As a result, your team will become more productive, efficient, creative and content.

How to support employee mental health and create a positive work environment

By implementing the following suggestions, your business can create an inclusive and supportive work culture that increases employee retention and allows your business to thrive.

Speak up – be an advocate of mental health

In 2021, a staggering 63% of employed individuals experienced at least mild symptoms of anxiety, and 58% suffered some form of depression. Yet, many employees hesitate to speak up about their mental health struggles to their employers.

The first step to creating a positive work environment is to set a good example for your staff by acting as an advocate for mental health.

As an employer, you can support your team by:

– Encouraging open communication between colleagues and line managers

– Taking time to check in with employees about how they’re doing

– Offering support if an employee expresses mental health issues because of something they struggle with

Employers need to make it clear to staff that their mental health matters and that being open about struggle will lead to support, not discrimination. Setting a good example helps you create an environment built on trust, where workers feel more comfortable asking for help if they need it.

By also offering sufficient support, you can help your team member tackle their issue, boost their confidence and, in turn, increase their productivity.


Offer flexible working policies

Flexible schedules can be tricky in retail and hospitality. However, try to offer working arrangements that suit your employees and help them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

One way employers can provide flexible working is by offering a fully remote or hybrid structure. If your line of work makes home working impossible (such as if you run a pub or a restaurant), there are other ways you can offer flexibility to staff, for example, in the days and type of hours they work.

For example, an employee may ask to finish early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pick up their children from school, and another might prefer to work Wednesday to Sunday to give them two consecutive days off every week. If your business can accommodate these requests, do it. If not, work with your employees to find an arrangement suitable for them and the business.

Showing consideration and recognising that staff have lives outside of work is crucial to creating a positive work environment.


Create a solid onboarding process

Another key part of building a good company culture is setting employees up for success from day one. It has been known for years that companies with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention. According to research dating back to 2015, good onboarding increases employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Investing in initial training and onboarding allows new employees to learn the ropes quicker and gives them a good start at the company. Below we’ve listed some tried and tested strategies your SME can implement today to improve your onboarding process:

– Introduce a buddy system or internal mentors

– Share clear expectations around behavioural standards and performance

– Ask new employees for feedback on the onboarding experience, ideally within the first month

– Gather feedback from longer-term staff to get their thoughts on the process

– Educate recruits on workplace safety and codes of conduct

– Clarify your role as a manager and how to work with you

– Explain where and from whom new recruits can find support, such as documents or more senior employees

Remember to evaluate and tweak your onboarding process regularly to ensure it’s effective and aligns with your business goals.


Provide career development opportunities

Setting up your employees for success goes far beyond the onboarding process. Part of creating a positive work environment involves providing opportunities for staff to learn and improve their skills.

Encouraging your employees to progress also increases retention rates. According to LinkedIn research, 93% of employees prefer to work for a company that provides regular training and career development. In addition, upskilling staff increases your available resources since it allows them to handle more complex tasks.

Some companies offer employees a monthly or annual allowance to spend on training. Alternatively, your business could organise official training days where workers can learn new skills. Or, you can create mentor programmes where newer recruits can learn from senior staff.

Each one of these options helps keep employees motivated, happy and performing at their best, which also boosts their mental health.


Organise regular social outings and activities for employees

The pandemic made it abundantly clear how important socialising is to our mental health. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions left many feeling isolated, and 60% of UK adults said their mental health got worse during it.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs names a sense of belonging as a major need that motivates human behaviour, on par with our need for food, shelter and safety. So now that society has opened up again, an excellent way for SMEs to offer mental health support in the workplace is to organise social events for their employees.

Giving staff a chance to bond and have fun helps lower their stress levels. In addition, feeling a sense of belonging within the workplace can significantly impact your staff’s motivation to perform better, helping your business in the process.

However, it’s also important to do your part in ensuring your employees can afford socialising outside of work events.


Provide fair salary packages

Inflation is at an all-time high. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 7% between March 2021 and March 2022, with 0.8% of that increase in February 2022 alone. However, even without the increased cost of living, employees want to feel valued. Offering fair salary packages is a good way to build trust with your staff and help create a more positive work environment.

Paying employees fair wages gives them an incentive to work harder since they’ll feel appreciated at the company. Moreover, competitive wages help your business attract more experienced and hard-working people.

SMEs can also create additional incentives for employees by offering bonuses and prizes to those that do a job well, such as making the most sales of your promotional product. However, you can also offer incentives to employees who simply put in consistently good work that makes life easier for the rest of the team.


Promote diversity

Finally, employers should strive to create an environment where all personalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds are welcome and respected. There are many ways to create a diverse work culture, such as:

– Promoting inclusive language by encouraging employees to share their pronouns

– Making diversity a part of your recruitment strategy

– Demonstrating zero tolerance for bullying of any kind

– Offering training to teach employees what diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace and how they can contribute

– Ensuring that diversity and inclusion continue to be foundational elements as your company grows

Promoting diversity does more than support employee mental health; a diverse workplace can also help you attract the best and brightest to your workforce. Research shows that 67% of individuals name diversity as an essential factor when deciding where to work. By attracting top talent and creating a positive environment, you open doors to creative thinking and innovative ideas that can ultimately drive the business forward.


Investing in your employees helps grow your business

Positive work environments are a fundamental way businesses grow and become more successful. While it takes resources and time, it’s undeniable that investing in your employees’ mental health is vital. Doing so helps your business:

– Retain your best employees

– Boost productivity levels

– Create a good brand reputation to attract good workers

In addition, allowing employees to take responsibility for their work and initiatives helps them empower themselves. It’s critical for employers to remember to credit their team for their achievements and praise their progress. Doing so will motivate them to continue performing better and achieving more in their role, thus contributing to your company’s continued success.

Happy employees lead to happy customers –– and a happy business.


Access funding to support mental health investment with 365 Finance

Getting serious about mental health support in the workplace and doubling down on ways to create a positive work environment may require capital that your business doesn’t currently have.

365 Finance can help your SME by offering funding between £10,000 to £400,000. Our revenue-based funding is designed as a quick way for any business that accepts credit and/or debit cards to raise capital without the need for a bank loan or hefty overdraft.

Apply online in minutes, get your funds in days, and watch your business grow. One of our dedicated relationship managers will be with you every step of the way, from applying to receiving your funding.

Get a free quote today –– we approve 90% of businesses that apply, and funds can be with you in as little as 48 hours.