The arrival of the pandemic in early 2020 brought with it anxiety for business owners regarding both the performance and mental health of their employees. Many were nervous about the possibility of temporary closures and the transition to a “work from home” model.
Indeed, Canada Life report that, at the time, 27% of small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners were nervous about their company’s productivity, while 17% were concerned about the mental health of their employees.
But how have these figures changed over the last 18 months, and how will you be able to keep your workers on track throughout 2022? Read on to find out more.
Worries about productivity have declined, but mental health concerns persist
At the start of the pandemic, business owners were worried that the mass shift to homeworking would give rise to issues inhibiting productivity. Some of the main concerns were distractions at home, poor internet connectivity and technological issues, and a fall in general motivation.
More than 18 months later, the number of SME owners still concerned about productivity remains significant, at 19%. That’s a little over 1 million entrepreneurs worried about the output of their team.
The decline in concern is thought to be linked with the success of mass homeworking, with many companies adopting a flexible or fully work-from-home model going forward.
However, there was no such reduction in terms of mental health concerns, with 14% of business owners still worried about their employees’ wellbeing.
With Covid-19 still looming at the start of 2022, here are some ways to both protect your employees’ mental health and ensure their productivity throughout the year ahead.
- Focus on employee happiness
Possibly the most important way of maintaining employee productivity is to ensure their happiness, especially amid the “great resignation”. The Guardian report that almost 25% of workers in the UK are planning on changing jobs, with workers less likely to tolerate unfavourable working conditions.
If your workers want to leave, they will not be producing work of the highest quality, especially if they feel as though they are not treated well. As such, be sure to show your workers how much they matter, since they form the backbone of your business.
Provide them with regular, thoughtful feedback to reflect their hard work and show them that they are listened to and understood. Treat them with respect by understanding that mistakes happen and provide regular opportunities for them to raise concerns.
- Dissuade presenteeism
Presenteeism has also been a concern for SME bosses as workers feel the need to be seen at work, even when they are ill, simply because they work remotely. A worker forcing themselves to log on despite feeling ill might seriously disrupt their ability to effectively complete their work.
Encourage your workers to take the time off they need, whether for illness or mental health concerns, and ensure that the right support is in place to help them, such as generous sick pay. This way, they have the ability to recharge when off, and will be working at full capacity when they clock back in.
- Limit time in “unproductive” meetings
Meetings in the workplace can be both a blessing and a curse. When done right, they can offer a good boost to team morale and achieve exactly what they set out to do. When done incorrectly or too frequently, they can do the exact opposite.
A report from the Independent in 2018 found that the average employee spends about 187 hours (23 full days) a year in meetings, 55% of which are considered to be unproductive.
While this statistic comes from before the pandemic, the prevalence of Zoom in remote work has made meetings just as, if not more, common than when staff were in the office.
- Offer opportunities for personal development
Many workers are always looking for opportunities to learn and would jump at the chance to better themselves. This will, in turn, improve their contribution in the workplace.
Consider providing courses for your employees that are relevant to the work you do. For example, office workers of any kind could benefit from communication workshops, or the development of their presentation skills.
You could also include these courses as part of your training regime, which will bring new staff up to speed quicker.
- Reflect on your own leadership skills
Lastly, consider taking the time to reflect on yourself and analyse how you could help your employees. Think about how you run your business and what improvements could be made from the top. Start by asking yourself three main questions:
- Is my communication as effective as it could be? Re-evaluate the methods with which you convey ideas to your teams and the internal communication channels within the company. Think about ways that these could be improved or altered for efficiency.
- Am I doing too much and slowing down the team? Consider delegating tasks in a logical manner to speed up the process if you’re trying to do too much work. You could be putting a lot of stress on your workers by simply giving yourself too much to do and slowing the whole process.
- Am I asking for enough feedback? Ask your employees what they think about work, and ensure they answer honestly. It may be best to do this anonymously as it might give your employees the confidence to answer truthfully. Be sure to actually take what is said on board instead of simply dismissing it.
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