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Create a wellbeing culture in your firm

By Clare Avery, HR manager, e-days

According to the mental health charity Mind, one in six UK workers is currently dealing with mental health issues. These widespread mental health issues are estimated to cost UK businesses up to £15 billion in productivity each year, along with over 91 million lost days.

When you read about how some of the world’s most successful businesses manage wellbeing, it’s all too easy to conclude that you simply cannot afford a wellbeing programme. According to research by Ellipse, a third of SMEs think wellbeing benefits are just for larger firms, and 43 per cent of SMEs have never considered offering them.

But the fact is that SMEs have a lot more to lose than larger businesses. Think about those 91 million days lost to mental health issues. For businesses with large teams, unplanned absences are inconvenient, but manageable. There’ll most likely be someone in the team willing and able to make up for the lost productivity.

But SMEs generally do not have large teams. So instances of unplanned absence can hit much harder. If there’s nobody to cover for the absent employee, you’re looking at lost sales, missed shipments, and unhappy customers. And even if there is someone available to cover, that employee’s going to be spread far too thin. They’ll be stressed and overworked, which could lead to further unplanned absences further down the line. 

Creating a culture of wellbeing means ensuring that the time people spend at work is as empowering and rewarding as it can possibly be. It means supporting good physical, mental and emotional health for everyone. The following tips can help you do just that: 

Flexible working 

Think about ways you can help your team get the best possible work/life balance. If they want to work from home, let them. If they need to leave work early to make a doctor’s appointment, or to pick the kids up from school, let them. They can always make the time up elsewhere. And, of course, it’s in your best interests to be as generous as possible with parental leave.

Create an open-door policy

The best way to make your employees feel listened to is to listen to them. Let them know that you’re never too busy to talk. Your door is always open, nothing’s off the table, and everything will be totally confidential. This could help you to nip many potential issues in the bud. But if you invest in some mental health first aid training, it could also enable you to offer early intervention for more serious conditions like stress, anxiety and depression.

Financial security

Offer a competitive salary and commit to paying a living wage. Some SMEs go even further, offering their staff financial wellbeing initiatives. They provide access to affordable loans, and even give financial support, through the provider, if it’s requested. Financial worries are one of the single biggest causes of stress in life, so promoting financial wellness could be a big part of a holistic wellbeing programme.

Promote health and fitness

Healthy employees are happier, more productive and less likely to call in sick. There are many things you can do to promote a culture of physical wellness. Healthier snacks in the vending machine and complementary fruit is a good start. You can also consider introducing cycle-to-work schemes, offering subsidised gym memberships, and even setting up a company sports team.

Do something…

The two biggest barriers to employee wellbeing are the cost perception and the time perception. Employers believe that they simply haven’t got the time and the resources to design and implement an effective wellbeing program, so they end up doing nothing. The thing is, any investment in employee wellbeing is sure to pay off. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from investing in your people.