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Give your staff a wellbeing boost

By Hanna Smith, Chief People Officer, Futrli

There’s a stereotype of what employee wellbeing looks like in an SME – think fancy coffee, beer taps, pilates classes and ping pong tables. While this is all very nice to have, it doesn’t do anything to truly safeguard an employee’s physical and mental health, ensuring that they are happy, fulfilled and able to work productively.

My experience in people management has taught me that office ‘perks’ are simply not enough (and in many cases, should be offered as a standard). Wellbeing needs a mindset shift: the focus should be on putting your people first and investing in them for the long term. With that in mind, here are some strategies that I know can make a real difference – and on an SME budget. 

Find out what staff need

Rather than spending money on ad hoc wellbeing initiatives, invest in long-term strategies that appeal to your team. Your staff are doing the day-to-day work at your business. They know what could help and what won’t – so ask them! Hold frequent, open meetings and conversations in which the different possibilities are discussed and reviewed. Find out the priorities of new hires during the onboarding process to see how these fit with what’s already in place.

You should also carry out regular pulse and engagement surveys to assess the level of happiness in your business, doing these anonymously to get honest answers. From here you can understand any concerns and what to do to make everyone’s working lives better. 

Encourage open discussion

 Regular conversations about individuals should be the norm. One-to-one meetings should be all about the person in question, from professional to personal lives. Your staff need to feel listened to, but also feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems in the first place. 

Developing an open and transparent culture is a crucial part of your SME’s wellbeing strategy. From the offset, make it clear that there are no ‘taboo’ subjects in your business. Talk openly about issues like stress and anxiety, challenging stigma and offering your support. 

If someone asks for help, the first response shouldn’t be to offer time off. While this is sometimes just what’s needed, take the time to listen and make sure the individual understands what support is available, what they might need or if changes are required. Then develop strategies that will help that individual to thrive. 

Offer support with their workload, encourage focus and try to alleviate any fears or worries by catching up with them regularly – as well as directing them to further resources that might help. All of this creates a healthy working environment where staff feel supported and are more engaged with their work. 

Share your knowledge 

Your managers should be trained appropriately to support the wider SME team in their daily responsibilities and progress, as well as on an emotional level. Investing in people management and mental health awareness training is vital to ensure that leaders have the right skills to provide this support. This also builds staff resilience, ensuring each team member feels confident in their role and equipped to deal with its potential stresses. 

External training will be necessary in some areas, but you can reduce costs by developing training resources specific to your business and by organising peer-to-peer coaching and mentorship. By fostering collaboration and encouraging knowledge-sharing through your health and wellbeing strategy, you’ll build a strong team that appreciate and inspire one another to work hard and make positive change.

Make work fit around life

Helping your staff to maintain their work-life balance is very much within your power as an SME owner. It partly requires you and your management team to lead by example. Simple acts, such as taking your lunch breaks and leaving on time, show others that it’s OK to do the same. School runs and personal appointments are part and parcel of daily life. Make sure this is widely known. Also, providing a cosy hangout space where staff can eat and chat, coming back to their desks feeling mentally recharged, is also essential. 

Meanwhile, flexible working should be a given. Having the freedom to work when they’re most productive and to fit work around their schedule is highly motivating for staff. Flexible working approaches also create a more inclusive environment and play an important part in attracting and retaining skilled employees. From this, you can build in other policies to improve work-life balance – be that paid parental leave, childcare support, the option to buy extra holiday days or even providing a day off once a month for staff to focus on ventures outside of work.  

Become dog-friendly

It might sound gimmicky, but letting your staff bring their dogs to work is a winner. They’re fun, they’re friendly, they provide a welcome break in moments of stress and it means your employees won’t have to leave their pet home alone all day. Just make sure everyone is onboard before you implement this idea!