A recent survey of Business South Champions has given a fascinating insight into how businesses are coping during the pandemic.

While 70 percent of those who responded said they had lost business as a result of the pandemic and 50 percent had made redundancies, there was positive evidence of how employers are focusing more on the mental health and well-being of their staff.

Business South Group CEO, Leigh-Sara Timberlake, said: “The survey has given us a snapshot of how a range of businesses across the Central South have fared during the pandemic and how they are feeling going into 2021.

“There is no doubting the impact of the pandemic has been far reaching. While some reported they are struggling to survive, others talked of pivoting to a global approach as well as looking for new markets and new talents.

“Gaining this insight from Champions will help us to better support them in the coming year with a programme of events and activities targeted to their needs,” she said.

Business leaders said they had done everything from introducing mental health first aiders and yoga to sending gifts in the post and arranging webinars and walks.

Home working was seen in a mostly positive light with one business leader saying it had led to more productivity and better work/life balance.

However there were concerns that it had led to a loss of creativity as there was little opportunity to bounce ideas around.

NHS Solent Director of Partnerships, Gordon Muvuti, said: “The Mental health Impact report published by Public Health England in September 2020 shows that there is evidence  the COVID-19 pandemic has had a large adverse impact on the mental health and well being of the population. Self-reported mental health and wellbeing has  worsened during the pandemic. The report showed that certain groups have been disproportionately affected. Adults with low household income, Adults living with children, young people, women and in particular women with young children. Factors across all groups  such as isolation, disruption of routine and social support networks, home schooling, increase in alcohol usage and the overall impact of trauma have played a part.

“Every employer in the country will have at least one person who has been affected and it is important that we take the appropriate measures to look after the well being of our staff. It is encouraging to see that many have started introducing measures such as mental health first aiders and ensuring regular contact with colleagues. The impact of the pandemic on mental health will go long after the virus has been brought under control. We cannot think of these measures as interventions in a point in time but rather a radical shift in the way we think about mental health in the workplace.”

Looking ahead, businesses said they were concerned to understand what behaviour and changes will be permanent after the pandemic and many were focused on getting their business back to pre-Covid levels.