Smaller firms facing a ‘low workforce morale epidemic’

Recent research reveals what the impact of Covid-19 has been on mental health issues in some of the UK’s small businesses.

The new research reveals an almost clean sweep (99%) of UK small businesses believe that the Covid-19 restrictions have had an impact on the mental health of their employees which has led to an increase in workplace issues.

This seems to be in line with NHS Digital research data from January 2022 that shows ‘fit notes’ issued by UK doctors had increased by 5% since the start of the first lockdown in 2020. 

Of the 250 UK SMEs, polled by the  Moore Barlow employment team, 40% have noticed an increase in performance issues, 38% have seen a rise in disputes between colleagues, and a third have reported growing levels of absence.

36% of SMEs also reported that since the work from home guidance has ended, they have seen a reluctance from their employees to return to the office. 23% of businesses said that biggest challenge they are facing is attracting or retaining.

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<p><strong>Research and infographic from Moore Barlow LLP</strong><br /><br /><a href=’’><img src=’’ alt=’Smaller firms facing a low workforce morale epidemic’ width=’600px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

There is a workforce morale epidemic sweeping through the UK’s SME community. The impact of Covid-19 on a small team is felt that much more keenly than it is in a larger firm with a bigger workforce. SMEs are also less able to weather economic instability, adding to stress levels for employees who may be concerned about their livelihoods.

Katherine Maxwell – Partner and head of employment law at Moore Barlow

As firms continue to battle the fallout from Covid-19 many see reviving the office dynamic as central to addressing their workforce woes. The vast majority of firms (92%) are planning some form of a return to office, once the current government guidance is relaxed. 84% said that they are planning to introduce a hybrid working model that accommodates employees working two or three days a week from home.

65% of firms are looking to improve perks and benefits to aid recruitment and retention of staff, with common new initiatives being wellbeing programmes (14%), volunteering allowances (14%) and unlimited leave (13%).

The ‘Covid-19 effect’ is creating a more tense workplace where frayed tempers, low productivity and heightened anxiety are commonplace. Firms are looking in the right places for solutions – improving their offering to employees and introducing better wellbeing support – but they should think about their processes and procedures too. For example, introducing internal mediation techniques to help handle disputes amicably before they escalate can really help, while implementing thorough performance management programmes are vital for getting struggling employees back on track.

Katherine Maxwell

About Moore Barlow

Moore Barlow is one of the UK’s leading law firms, focused primarily on meeting the needs of private individuals & families, owners and leaders of fast-moving organisations and businesses, and people whose lives have been affected by serious accidents or negligence. With 70 partners, 272 lawyers and legal professionals, and a total staff of nearly 500, Moore Barlow has offices in Southampton, Guildford, Woking and Lymington, as well as two locations in London (Richmond and the City).