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Sinead Healy

Fanclub Recognition

Co-founder & MD

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SME staff are most stressed. How recognition helps


New research released this month has uncovered that employees working for Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses are twice as stressed compared to staff at larger firms.

The research was carried out by payroll company Moorepay and found that 12% of employees working at businesses with fewer than 50 staff said they suffered from stress on a regular basis. Just 8% said they suffered regular stress working at larger businesses.

The results mirror concerns about employee well-being from The Health and Safety Executive which reported some 11 million working days a year are lost due to stress. Aside from the damaging effects chronic and long-term stress can have on employee health, the issue also carries huge financial ramifications. It’s estimated that stress-related absence costs the UK economy £5 billion every single year.

So why are staff at our SMEs struggling the most? Some might have thought that working at a larger business would carry more stress and responsibility. But bigger firms also typically have dedicated in-house teams working to manage staff welfare and workloads too.

Smaller businesses can struggle to alleviate those work pressures and offer workable support, either through lack of in-house expertise or a complete lack of time and resources to do so.

This notion is highlighted by findings that half of SMEs lack mental health support within the company, compared to only 34% of businesses across the UK as an average.

What can SMEs do to help alleviate stress?

Time, resource and budgetary constraints are just three critical reasons why SMEs struggle to create staff support systems within the business, especially mental health support.

But managing staff well-being is just as important as managing their performance, and the two go hand-in-hand. Workers suffering prolonged periods of stress will lose creativity, focus and potentially leave your company too. Productivity takes a hit and so does morale. Highly driven, motivated and efficient workforces are least likely to suffer the effects of high-workloads and high-pressure periods.

As Andrew Weir, employer service manager at Moorepay notes: “Businesses, whatever their size, have a duty of care to support their employees. Supporting staff with stress or other mental health issues doesn’t have to be expensive or involve a complete process overhaul.

“Many effective initiatives are simple to introduce and within easy reach for many smaller organisations.”

So what can small companies do to alleviate the situation? One cost-effective solution is effective staff recognition.

Employee recognition at its very core is the act of acknowledging the achievements of teams or individuals and letting them know their work is valued by management and the business as a whole.

It’s a staff-management tactic that charities relying on volunteers are typically extremely skilled at, but paying bosses often neglect - historically anyway.

And if you’re wondering how employee recognition affects the bottom line, further research paints a pretty clear picture of the benefits and return-on-wellbeing-investment. A report released by Aberdeen Group in 2016 found that just 14% of organisations gave managers the tools they need to implement a staff reward and recognition programme, despite data suggesting that businesses spending up to just 1% of payroll on staff recognition initiatives were nearly 80% more likely to see better financial results.

Moorepay’s study did suggest exactly what many employees would find helpful to alleviate workplace stress though; flexible working (44%), reduction of working hours (34%) and access to counselling (34%) topped the list of desired initiatives.

Pair stress-alleviating perks with a plan of action for engaging and recognising employees and businesses of all shapes and sizes will see the benefits, and most importantly, so will their teams.

Has your workplace struggled with periods of absences due to stress? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Author Profile Picture
Sinead Healy

Co-founder & MD

Read more from Sinead Healy

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