It has been impossible to ignore the economic aftershock of COVID-19.
It has placed unprecedented pressure on businesses across the UK. Three national lockdowns and social distancing measures have upended the operational capacity of the majority of companies, with many turning to Government support schemes to stay afloat. By Nic Redfern (pictured) finance director of NerdWallet
Of course, such pressures have caused a great amount of stress for the UK’s workforce. With the pandemic threatening their job security, there has rightly been great efforts from organisations to support their employees’ mental wellbeing; arranging virtual socials to combat loneliness while remote working, for example, or holding regular company meetings to allow them to ask any questions about job security or the health of the business.
Such steps are extremely positive and have undoubtedly helped many people maintain good mental health throughout the pandemic. That said, it is important to remember that people in leadership roles within businesses are not exempt from stress. According to a recent survey of over 900 UK managers, commissioned by NerdWallet, the majority (54%) said that the previous 12 months have been the most stressful of their professional lives.
Often overlooked, the burden that has fallen onto senior managers within businesses requires attention.
Understanding the source
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many managers to make difficult decisions to protect their businesses. And it seems that these decisions are driving the deterioration of their mental health.
Indeed, NerdWallet’s aforementioned research revealed that the majority of managers (56%) have put at least one employee on furlough throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, 44% have made at least one member of staff redundant. Being forced to make such difficult decisions – and have difficult conversations – about their team’s careers will inevitably cause a great deal of stress for many managers.
Elsewhere, over two fifths (42%) of managers admit to concealing information about the health of their company in order to maintain morale. Such figures suggest that managers could be jeopardising their mental health in order to protect their staff.
Evidently, managers are struggling to cope with the pressure of having to make life-altering decisions about employees, while simultaneously keeping morale as high as possible. And to make matters worse, it seems that many feel they do not have any outlet to openly talk about their problems.
The danger of isolation
It is widely accepted that sharing one’s problems to a trusted friend, family member or confidant can help to manage stress and enhance mental wellbeing. However, many UK managers seem reluctant or unable to do so, thereby causing their mental health to deteriorate.
NerdWallet’s aforementioned research revealed that 52% of UK manages have seen their relationships with their friends and family suffer, as a consequence of work-related stress throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, 49% admitted to feeling increasingly isolated and alone over the previous 12 months.
Without feeling able to talk through their problems, individuals will find it near-impossible to relax – almost six in ten (57%) managers have found it harder to switch off from work throughout the pandemic, with 45% having lost sleep over the decisions they have had to make throughout the pandemic.
Positively, over a third (37%) of managers have recognised their worrying behaviour and sought some form of professional help. However, this leaves a significant majority of people who are still suffering in silence.
The question, therefore, is how can companies better support their managers?
Driving positive change
Vitally, businesses must ensure that employees and managers alike all have access to the same resources to support their mental well-being.
Reviewing existing budgets to ensure there is resource to finance staff wellbeing should be considered. This funding could be used to offer managers and their teams’ access to professional counselling or even to fund more regular virtual socials or casual catch ups. Simply giving staff the option of support and social interaction could go a long way in improving metal health.
It may also be beneficial for companies to encourage managers and their teams to shut down their work devices by a certain time each evening. This would also involve turning off email notifications on work mobiles. Doing so will grants people adequate time away from work, thereby allowing people to genuinely unwind and relax.
Other considerations such as introducing a more flexible working day, allowing managers and employees to tailor their working hours to a schedule that suits them, or allowing staff to take “mental health days”, so that they can recuperate when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Of course, every person will require different methods of support. As such, companies should speak closely with their management teams, to find out exactly what they need to feel supported. This process may take time; however, it ought to ensure that companies are offering meaningful and effective help to those whose mental health is suffering.
Nic Redfern is finance director for NerdWallet UK. NerdWallet is on a mission to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions. As an independent financial comparison website, NerdWallet provides consumers and businesses with useful tools and insights so they can make smart money moves. From choosing a bank account or breakdown cover to buying a house, NerdWallet is there to help individuals make financial decisions with confidence. Users have free access to our comparison tables and expert content, to help them stay on top of their finances and save time and money, giving them the freedom to do more. For more information, visit NerdWallet.com/uk/.