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Managing working lives and mental health

Article posted: 18th September 2018

Guest blog by Alison Parmar, FSB Kent development managerPhoto of Alison Parmar FSB Kent Development Manager

The way we work has changed significantly. There are now more people than ever going it alone and setting up their own business and entering self-employment. In the UK, there are now 5.5 million small businesses and self-employed in the UK. In fact, 60% of private sector employment is now in small businesses.

Owning and running a business can be hugely rewarding, however we know better than anyone that running a business can also be hard. The demands, responsibilities and risks faced by small business owners and the self-employed are essential for UK economic success but also bring personal pressure. Some of these pressures are an inevitable consequence of running a business, but there are steps that all of us – society, business, government and individuals – can take to improve the health and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. Wellbeing at work can increase productivity, improve staff performance and reduce absenteeism.

Small business owners can, and do, play a powerful role in improving the lives of their employees through a variety of actions – from innovative and new ideas to simple steps such as encouraging more activity and regular breaks. However much of the business advice and guidance produced on wellbeing at work hasn’t, until now, been tailored for small businesses and the self-employed. This is, in part, because running a small business or being self-employed is a markedly different experience to being involved in a larger company or the delivery of public services – most small businesses will not have a HR department, for instance.

Our jobs have a big impact on our health and wellbeing. The Labour Force Survey in 2007/08 found that an estimated 442,000 individuals in Britain believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill. A report from MIND in 2016 showed that one in four people had experience poor mental health at work. Most recently, a survey of 44,000 people commissioned by MIND showed almost half of UK employees have experienced a mental health problem at work. Well-designed jobs with good line management, communication and flexibility can all help reduce stress.

Keeping yourself and your staff healthy is incredibly important – it’s equally important to access the help you or your staff need if one of you develops a disability or health condition while in work. If somebody falls out of work, not only can it lead to the loss of a valued member of staff for a business, but it can lead to worse health outcomes for them and contribute to negative economy-wide outcomes.

Support, guidance and events

FSB in Kent is keen to showcase the support and advice available. We have joined forces with Kent Police and Kent County Council to run a conference for business owners focusing on mental health in the workplace. The conference, taking place on 10 October 2018 at County Hall Maidstone, will give businesses the opportunity to find out what you can do to support good mental health in your business.

For advice and guidance on workplace wellbeing, check out the new Mental Health at Work gateway, curated by MIND and launched this September by the Heads Together charity.

Visit the FSB Wellbeing Hub for information and practical advice on managing wellbeing in the workplace.

Alison Parmar can be reached on alison.parmar@fsb.org.uk. You can also follow her on Twitter @FSBKent.

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