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How workplace wellbeing can help small businesses to retain employees

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By Mike Davis, Head of SME Direct, AXA PPP healthcare

In a small business, every employee matters. When you hire a new team member, you spend a considerable amount of time and money on training them and bringing them up to speed with your business. They may then become a vital part of the company. Their expertise becomes invaluable to your business and you rely on them to help your business continue to grow. 

So what happens if that employee then decides to leave? A high turnover of employees can be a huge problem for a small business. The costs and time needed when hiring a new recruit to replace a top team member can be substantial. 

Encouraging a positive workplace wellbeing culture within your business can greatly benefit employee retention, as your team will feel more valued and supported in the workplace. According to a survey conducted by Exec Survey on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare, 85% of respondents believed it is very or significantly important that staff in their organisation are offered health and wellbeing support initiatives, such as gym memberships, healthy eating schemes or private healthcare cover. [1]

So how can small business owners encourage a positive workplace wellbeing culture in order to retain employees?

Encourage open dialogue

A culture of open dialogue between management and employees can have a significant impact on motivation and overall happiness levels at work. You should encourage your employees to share their opinions on how the business operates, and any frustrations or concerns that they may have.

Ensure that any feedback from employees is taken on board and acted upon and share updates with your team during the process. When employees are able to positively affect the company that they work for, and feel that their voices are heard and opinions are taken on board by management, it can prove invaluable to their happiness and satisfaction at work. 

Employees should also have regular catch up meetings with their manager to give them the opportunity to discuss any concerns that they may have regarding work. These catch ups can also be used as an opportunity to discuss the development needs of the team member, and whether they’re on track to meet their KPIs. Having a clear development plan in place can aid in retention, as it helps employees to feel that they’re progressing.

Development and training

It’s easy for employees to feel stuck in a job when they no longer feel that they’re learning and developing. Ensuring that your team are regularly offered training and development opportunities, and working with them to find out where they’d like to enhance their skills, can be a great way of retaining your employees by keeping them engaged with the business.

Speak to employees to find out where they feel their skills gaps lie, and work with them on a training plan focussed on these areas. Whether that’s conferences, courses or online training programmes, it can be hugely motivating for employees when they can see that you’re investing in their career.

Employees and managers should also work together to set mutually agreed KPIs to work towards in order to continue progressing in their role. This may benefit their motivation levels as they have objectives to work towards.

Work life balance

Encouraging your team to have a healthy work life balance can also aid in overall workplace wellbeing by ensuring that staff morale stays positive. When people are overloaded with work, they might find that their work starts to bleed into their personal time. This could result in them missing out on family time, which could lead to feelings of resentment towards work. 

Employees often look to management when it comes to work life balance. If they see that you’re regularly staying in the office until gone 8pm and working through lunch, then they’re more likely to mimic that same behaviour as they view it as the norm within the business.

You can encourage a positive work life balance within your business by:

• Avoiding emailing your team outside of regular office hours and if you do need to email them, make sure they know that you don’t expect them to reply until the following working day.

• Encouraging your employees to take their lunch break and get away from their desks. 

• Ensuring that you are leaving the office at a reasonable time and encouraging your staff to do the same.

• Making sure your team are taking all of their annual leave allowance, and discouraging them from checking their emails when they’re on annual leave.

• Regularly reviewing your team’s workloads to make sure that they aren’t being overloaded. If they are feeling overloaded, work with them to find ways of reducing their workload.

• Creating a breakout area within your work environment can provide employees with somewhere to socialise. Not only does this give your team somewhere to go when they need a break, but it also encourages better relationships between your team.

Benefits package

According to Canada Life Group, 85% of employees are more likely to work for an employer with a clearly labelled benefits package.[2]

Benefits packages can be highly attractive for employees, so can be a great way to retain team members and make them feel valued within the business. They can also be beneficial when it comes to attracting new hires, particularly if you aren’t able to offer huge salaries. Employee benefits packages differ from business to business, but some common benefits are:

Private medical insurance
• Childcare vouchers
• Cycle to work incentives
• Additional holiday/holiday trade in
Discounted gym membership
• Season ticket loan
• Company car

With benefits packages, you can really tailor them to your business and pick the benefits that suit your team the best. 


Flexible working is becoming an increasingly attractive perk for employees, with 67% of employees wishing they were offered flexible working[3], according to a survey by PowWowNow.

For some industries, the benefit of flexible working isn’t always possible. However, in industries where remote working is possible, it could prove to be a great way to retain employees. According to the same survey, 70% of workers feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them.

As well as being beneficial when it comes to retaining existing team members, flexible working can also help in your hiring process by attracting top quality candidates who may be looking for a more flexible role.

While the idea of your top team members leaving your business can be daunting, there are a number of ways that you can improve the overall working environment within your business. This could then in turn result in a higher likelihood of retaining your top people by keeping them motivated and happy at work.

AXA PPP healthcare cover

Our small business healthcare cover provides a range of benefits to help you look after your team. They’ll feel supported and reassured that they can get help when they need it most. We know that every business is different, that’s why we offer a range of cover options so you can choose the ones that best fit your business and your people. Click here for more information about our cover, including what we do and don’t cover.

Sources and References
1. Exec Survey on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare. Health and Wellbeing in the UK Workforce, 2018.

2 Canada Life Group. ‘Employers Must Start Offering Clearly Labelled Benefits’.
3 PowWowNow. Flexible Working in 2017.