How to prioritise mental and financial wellbeing for your employees

It’s easy to understand the alure of starting up and running your own business; the highly attractive personal, professional and financial rewards bring a great degree of job satisfaction. But there is no doubt that the pressures can sometimes be all-consuming.

Striking an equitable work-life balance is not always straightforward when you have poured heart and soul - and frequently a substantial amount of personal savings - into founding and scaling your own business. 

What’s more, the pressure on company owners has intensified since the start of the pandemic, with every decision potentially critical to the future of the enterprise. That has brought with it an added toll on mental health for those running their own businesses. A survey by the charity Mental Health UK found that 80% of small business owners had experienced symptoms of poor mental health during the pandemic.

The concerns have certainly mounted up - from the availability of emergency COVID-19 grants and loans, to the safety of staff and the logistical challenges of working from home.

Protecting your mental health

Operating in these conditions, it can be hard to take time to consider your own wellbeing. For business owners, it often comes down to time - or lack of it. If you are chief executive, head of finance, marketing director and sales director all rolled into one, it can sometimes feel like there is not enough time in the day to consider your own mental health as well as the health of your business. 

But protecting your mental wellbeing is not only important for your overall health. It also contributes to the productivity and success of your business. And as we emerge from lockdown restrictions and the vaccine rollout takes effect, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect and reset. 

It’s an issue that’s in the interests of business owners and their staff to take seriously. UK government figures show that there were 17.9m working days lost due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020. It therefore follows that improvements to working practices can have a strong positive effect on a company’s productivity.

Working through money worries

Much of the focus of mental health in the workplace is on financial wellbeing, given the effects of the pandemic on money worries. 

Financial wellbeing is about feeling secure, confident and empowered, according to the Money and Pensions Service. It’s about being in control of your finances. An absence of financial wellbeing can have serious and lasting implications for individuals, households, employers and society.

Finances are the biggest single source of concern for most people, with 26% of us worried about money on an ongoing basis, ahead of careers (22%), health (18%) and relationships (14%). Financial stress naturally has an adverse impact on an individual’s mental health and therefore on their ability to do their job and perform well. As a business owner, failure to perform well in your job can result in business failure. 

Prioritise employee wellbeing

For those high-growth businesses that do employ staff, it can be as difficult for employees as it is for owners. A report by Aegon found that while 71% of employers believe that their employees would be happier at work if their financial wellbeing were better, many firms remain uncertain as to how best to support employees in this. Just half of the businesses surveyed said they would be able to provide information to staff on debt issues and 38% admitted that they didn’t fully understand the level of financial information they could offer employees. 

Seeking advice is key to achieving financial wellbeing. At small companies, the advice can be provided one-on-one - an advantage over larger firms that sometimes have to rely on large-scale training programmes. 

It often helps to work with partners such as financial advisers to help empower business owners to make informed decisions about their finances. St. James’s Place, for instance, has a network of financial advisers who can provide financial education in the workplace and support people in different circumstances.