Small Businesses Deal With Hiring Shortage, Mental Health Concerns

Given the events over the past year, it’s not surprising that more U.S. workers are worried about their mental health and wellbeing.

What may be surprising is the impact it has on employee retention – a significant issue considering the news that businesses are reporting a record-high number of unfilled job openings.

In its latest report for April, the National Federation of Independent Business shared that 44 percent of small businesses had job openings that remained unfilled. The NFIB’s numbers coincide with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that there were more job openings available than the number of people looking to get hired.

Small Businesses Concern Over Employee Mental Health

After a year of facing extraordinary challenges, from laying off employees to adjusting to new health and safety guidelines, and even pivoting to a new market in some cases, small businesses are seeing an increased emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic. Besides competing for staffing and struggling to fill open positions, there’s a growing concern among small business owners about the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.

According to the Small Business Index Q1 2021 report by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, small businesses are monitoring their staff’s mental health as the pandemic entered its second year. More than two-thirds of small business owners are worried about the morale of their staff, while nearly three-quarters were concerned about the mental health of their employees.

“With 67% of small business owners concerned about employee morale and another 70% concerned about employees’ mental health, a majority (60%) say their business is actively addressing employee mental health as a priority right now.”  - MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Among minority-owned small businesses, the numbers are higher. According to the report, this group of small business owners is more likely to be worried about their staff’s morale and mental health at 76% and 82 percent, respectively. At a generational level, more than 75 percent of Millennials and Generation X stated they were worried about the mental health of employees, compared to nearly 60 percent of Baby Boomers and older generations.

Hiring Struggles and Being Empathetic to Mental Health Needs

With the news of hiring difficulties plaguing small businesses across the country, making sure you remain competitive and empathetic to the mental health needs of your existing staff is critical.

In its analysis on “The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Small Businesses,” the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy reported that the consequences of the pandemic are continuing even though the vaccine was first approved six months ago.  

“However, the effects of the pandemic will continue long after it ends,” the report states. “The pandemic changed patterns of consumption and forced businesses to find new ways of serving their customers. Some businesses have died, some have been born, and many that survive will have been permanently changed.”

“The pandemic changed patterns of consumption and forced businesses to find new ways of serving their customers. Some businesses have died, some have been born, and many that survive will have been permanently changed.” - U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

Small Businesses Offer Mental Health Resources To Staff

As mental health issues in the small business workplace may cause a decline in productivity and impact a business’s bottom line if left unaddressed, small business owners are taking the proactive route to deal with it head one before it’s too late.

According to the Small Business Index report, nearly 70 percent of small business employees have openly discussed financial and personal struggles. Nearly three-quarters of small businesses surveyed provided some type of mental health or wellbeing resource for their employees, the report stated. Other common resources offered include:

  • Promoting mental health breaks during working hours (28 percent);
  • Extending mental health days/flexible paid time off (24 percent);
  • Coordinating regular check-ins with employees to discuss their mental health and wellbeing (22 percent).

Halfway through the second year of the pandemic, many are hitting the pandemic wall. Having the tools to manage mental health wellbeing to adapt to this new reality is needed not only for small business owners, but their employees as well.

“What’s bad for employees is bad for business, and employers are seeking ways to deal with burnout in the workplace,” writes Emily Heaslip in an article in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog. “Meditation, yoga and mid-week time off are among the diverse strategies being employed to combat this 21st-century problem.”