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Pressure of economic uncertainty negatively impacting mental wellbeing of South East business leaders

During Mental Health Awareness Week new data* from leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP shows that almost two thirds (61%) of mid-market business leaders say the uncertain economic climate is negatively affecting their stress levels and mental wellbeing.

Grant Thornton’s bi-monthly Business Outlook Tracker research, which polls mid-market business leaders, showed that economic optimism plummeted -7 percentage points (pp) since February 2023, -3pp below the rolling average since the research began in 2021.

Leaders’ confidence in the funding position of their businesses has also taken a hit, dipping -11pp since February, which is -6pp below the rolling average.

Correspondingly, investment in wellbeing and mental health is an increasing priority for mid-market business leaders. Around two thirds (65%) intend to increase their investment in mental health in the coming year (up +14pp from 2022). 63% say mental health forms a key part of their inclusion, diversity and wellbeing strategy, up from 51% in 2022.

Employers’ awareness of the importance of investing in mental health has led to an increased number of businesses offering counselling, training, providing mental health first aiders, and checking in with their people more regularly.

John O’Mahony, Gatwick practice leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:  “Leading a business is a high pressure, high intensity role even in the steadiest of economic climates. Whilst leaders across the South East have demonstrated remarkable levels of resilience over the last few years, this research shows that the ongoing pressure of managing uncertainty is having a negative effect on wellbeing.

“While our study looks specifically at leaders of mid-market businesses, wellbeing is vital to productivity for all employees. Having a mentally healthy workforce at all levels of the business isn’t an optional extra, it’s a commercial imperative. Healthy people are better able to respond to stress and pressure, which is why it’s vital that employers invest in wellbeing and mental health support for their people and for themselves.”

Five ways employers can help their people to manage stress in a high-pressure environment:

1) Hybrid, flexible working that genuinely feels inclusive supports wellbeing. 91% of 2,206 respondents to an internal Grant Thornton survey said that being able to work when and where is best for them supports their wellbeing. 93% said it also allows them to be more productive and feel more in control

2) Offer access to independently provided counselling and/or trained Mental Health First Aiders (colleagues who are trained to listen, reassure and respond – even in a crisis) provides a valuable resource for people to confidentially discuss things that are affecting them

3) Visible role models and open discussion through internal channels to highlight mental wellbeing issues creates opportunities to learn and fosters an inclusive, supportive culture. Read Bethan’s story – Battling Burnout and find out more about how you can bring your I&D strategy to life

4) Recognising busy, pressured periods within the business by offering wellbeing days, additional paid days to be used within a certain timeframe, is a great way to encourage people to take time off to care for their wellbeing.

5) Supporting financial wellbeing with employee benefits – providing benefits such as life assurance, income protection and critical illness will give employees a stronger sense of confidence in their own financial circumstance.

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Mental wellbeing of business leaders affected by economic uncertainty

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*The Grant Thornton Business Outlook Tracker is a bi-monthly survey of mid-market businesses. Censuswide (on behalf of Grant Thornton UK LLP) surveyed 608 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses between 4 – 17 April 2023. The UK mid-market is defined as companies with an annual turnover between £50 million – £500 million. About Grant Thornton UK LLP Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. We are an adviser that delivers technical expertise and a personal, proactive and agile service that goes beyond. The UK member firm is part of a global network that employs 62,000 people in over 140 countries. We combine global scale with local insight and understanding to build relationships and deliver the services you need to realise your ambitions. The UK Grant Thornton member firm is led by over 200 partners and employs over 5,000 of the profession’s brightest minds. We are a business adviser that celebrates fresh thinking and diverse perspectives to bring you proactive insights and a service you can trust. Find out more at @GrantThorntonUK © 2023 Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. ‘Grant Thornton’ refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton UK LLP is a member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by us for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

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