SMEs ‘need access to emotional support’

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The Welsh Shadow Minister for Business and Economy today led calls for more effort to provide support for the self-employed and SMEs at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Russell George said he recognised that while those employed in the public and private sectors, will have access to emotional and psychological support provided by their employers, those in small businesses or the self-employed tend “ will be more isolated and without that crucial support that working in a bigger team can provide”.

His comments come as HR experts stressed the importance of having measures in place to deal with potential problems.

Russell George: risks without support

He said that these lone workers, the self-employed, or those running small high-street shops, often have slim operating margins and little in the way of reserves, and in many cases, are now not working and no clear idea when they will be.

“The SME and self-employed sectors are an intrinsic part of the economic backbone of Wales, “h e said. “They tend to take entrepreneurial risks and branch out without the support of others.

“The UK Government is supporting them financially, but we are calling on the Welsh Government to identify the potential risk those in these sectors face, and outline a package of emotional and psychological support as a priority, and work with industry partners – perhaps the Federation of Small Businesses Wales – to deliver it.”

Natalie Rogers, HR Director of the employee benefits provider, Unum, UK agreed. “In the current climate employees with mental ill health, burnout or severe stress symptoms may not find it as easy to access support and resources,” she said. “Employers can help by pointing staff to resources where they have them.”

She went on: “Working remotely for long periods of time can lend itself to bad working habits. For example, late-night emails can make employees feel pressured and can be a trigger for workplace stress.

“Leading by example is the best way to promote a healthy work/life balance and will help keep you and your team working with a positive mindset.”

Megan Barbier, VP of Human Resources at the project management application service provider, Wrike, said: “Mental health awareness at work should be a priority for every company at this time and beyond. The worries and pressure on employees, especially those who are working from home for the first time can exacerbate mental illness.

“Educating or simply talking about mental health at work opens up a channel for employees, and senior leaders, within a company to share their experiences in a way that encourages honesty and makes the team feel supported.