The COVID-19 pandemic has been well documented as having significant detrimental effects on mental health and wellbeing, particularly for residents in vulnerable groups.
This may lead to reduced personal resilience and an inability to cope, increasing demands on public services.
Across the country, system partners, including local authorities, NHS, partner organisations and the voluntary sector have been coming together to support local populations by preventing as much avoidable psychological morbidity as possible through a range of strategies.
One key area has been developing support for businesses, where the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in disruption to trading, including cash flow and supply chains.
In Hertfordshire, our partners have been helping businesses to navigate emergency government business support measures as well as setting up local provisions to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on their work.
The disruption to business has also brought substantial challenges for business owners, employers, and their workforce, including remote working, furlough, illness, increased workload and caring responsibilities. As a result, responding to the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing is a national priority.
In Hertfordshire, our in-house Behaviour Change Unit and the UCL Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases joined forces with Hertfordshire Growth Hub, the central point of access for business support in the county. The mutual concern for the wellbeing and mental health of employees and business owners was clear.
This led to the development of a resource for business advisers and local businesses, to give them the psychosocial skills, knowledge and confidence they need to support the wellbeing and resilience of business owners and their employees.
The partnership’s working group collaborated to identify priorities, resources already available and those required, to offer a programme of support. To provide outreach to local businesses, a full-time small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) wellbeing project coordinator was jointly funded by Hertfordshire’s Public Health Service and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, to support employers, business owners and those who advise them.
The coordinator aims to help them achieve and maintain good mental health and wellbeing by:
- positioning wellbeing and good mental health as a key driver in increasing resilience and productivity for businesses by providing the tools, resources and guidance to help businesses to manage their own mental health; to reach out to colleagues who may be in distress; and to access support through local services
- training frontline advisers and those working with businesses to use our ‘Wellbeing during challenging times’ guide. Our offering aims to help an adviser to have a balanced conversation with their clients and support them to be proactive in accessing local resources and signposting them to relevant organisations
- working closely with the Hertfordshire ecosystem and voluntary organisations to promote the uptake of existing services for wellbeing and mental health, through virtual events and the Hertfordshire Growth Hub website.
I recommend making contact with your local growth hub or enterprise partnership, as they understand local business needs and will work with you to identify what type of support is required and where it is needed most.
It is through this systems approach that we have the greatest chance of supporting the wellbeing of our businesses and our local economy as we move towards recovery.