Small businesses have a duty to do their bit for their employees’ wellbeing. We often talk about how ensuring employees are not being overworked will lead to better business results in the long term, but shouldn’t the driver be more to do with protecting against mental health problems?
Research from Mind suggests that one in six workers at any one time will be experiencing mental health problems. In the UK, this accounts for 30-40% of absences from work and as much as 50% of all long-term sick leave cases, yet only 11% of staff will disclose this to their employer.
Mental health is, of course, a complicated subject, but the sooner employers recognise that they can have an impact on their employees’ frame of mind, the better. At the moment, there appears to be a lack of understanding on that front. It’s leading to employees of UK small businesses working more hours than is healthy.
There will inevitably be times in the year when staff will be asked to work beyond their usual hours, but this shouldn’t become the norm. However, new research from Paymentsense reveals how UK SME employees are working an average of eight extra hours unpaid every week at work and home. Younger workers (aged 18-24) – perhaps eager to impress – are averaging 11 extra unpaid hours every week.
Sometimes, the extra work comes from a good place, with 28% of survey respondents stating that it’s borne out of wanting to see the business do well. However, often it’s just a case of feeling like they have no other choice. The main reason given for doing so many extra hours is to keep up with the volume of work (58%), followed by pressure from their manager (30%).
The outcome of all this additional work is nearly half of people (42%) feeling more stressed, while more than a third (37%) feel like they are being taken for granted by their employer.
Giving employees due credit will go some way to improving mindset. More than a third (36%) of SME staff say they rarely, or never, get credit from their bosses for putting in the extra hours.
However, that will likely only help matters in the short term. Supporting the long term mental health of your employees requires you to ensure that they are not having to regularly stay on past their time. It’s a moral duty as well as a commercial imperative.
If you’re finding yourself having to ask staff to take on more work than they should have to, perhaps you could do with a bit of support to help your business move away from this culture of ‘work hard, work some more’.