For many small business owners, the priority is understandably to run and manage the business.
But ensuring staff are productive is an important part of this, as employees who are struggling with health issues are likely to take more time off sick and will be less able to put in the required effort when they are in work.
The following tips provide some food for thought around how to improve your employees’ physical and mental wellbeing:
Cut down on stress
Around 10 million working days a year are lost to stress, according to the Health and Safety Executive. This may not always be due to work pressures, but creating a culture where employees know it’s OK to talk about their workload or other worries can go a long way towards preventing problems from escalating. Those who are suffering from stress may need adaptations making or signposting towards help, such as an employee assistance programme. Make sure you can spot the signs of stress, and train line managers to do the same too.
Ensure a good work/life balance
Making sure staff are able to cope with their work and personal responsibilities is vital if they are to be productive at work and want to stick around. Offering flexibility around working hours and being understanding about other commitments can make a big difference. Consider allowing people who can to work from home sometimes, and try to accommodate reasonable measures to help those with children cope with holiday periods.
Tell staff to get out more
Many people in the UK regularly work their lunch hours or fail to leave the office or workplace during the working day. Make it a requirement that people take this time off, and try to encourage them to go for a walk around the block. Not only is this good for their physical health, it can also help clear the mind and ensure they are productive in the afternoon.
Exercise is a great way of staying mentally and physically fit. Business owners can help with this by setting up running or walking clubs during lunch hours or encouraging people to cycle to work where possible. Other options include negotiating a discount with a local gym or running sports-related teambuilding events in the summer months, as well as allowing some flexibility for people to take slightly longer lunch hours if it means they can fit in exercise. Remember to lead by example here; make sure staff see that you’re regularly exercising and take a break over lunch.
Promote healthy eating
Poor diet can be a contributory factor to illness. Businesses can make a difference though by ensuring there is always free fruit available and encouraging any canteens or sandwich providers to offer a range of healthy options. Let staff know that it’s OK to have breakfast in the office too, in case they haven’t been able to eat before leaving the house or dropping the children at school.
Private medical insurance can mean employees who are sick can be treated quickly and get back to work sooner. This doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive either; many providers now allow small businesses to choose particular policies covering certain conditions only, and most also provide access to additional services such as an employee assistance programme or GP helpline.
Other options include cash plans, which allow employees to access a wide range of treatment for less serious medical conditions, or dental insurance. FSB Care can also help, by putting those diagnosed with serious physical or mental health conditions in touch with nurses who can provide practical support and information. For more information visit www.fsb.org.uk/benefits/advice/fsb-care
Nick Martindale is a business journalist and editor of FSB’s First Voice magazine