By Peter Moorhead, Managing Director of Celebrate Health & Fitness
The disruption caused by the pandemic has presented many challenges for small businesses, and has left many business owners and their employees struggling emotionally and financially.
For those businesses whose staff have been able to work from home there have been challenges around maintaining good communication with employees, keeping them engaged and motivated and ensuring they feel supported on a more personal level.
For those who have remained operational there have been the health and safety issues related to Covid-19 testing, the potential of virus transmission and the related and unexpected periods of staff isolation. In some cases, people who have never felt or been vulnerable before have experienced levels of uncertainty that are new to them.
Although we can now start to look ahead with more optimism to a time when we can head back to the workplace, even if it isn’t exactly the way it was before the pandemic, some business owners and employees are facing new concerns and anxieties – in terms of travelling to the workplace, seeing colleagues again and adjusting to yet more new or different working practices.
It’s no wonder then that the topic of employee wellbeing has risen to the top of the news agenda. In a recent poll of workers by Mental Health First Aid England, 25 per cent said their workplace had not checked in on their mental health since the crisis hit a year ago and only a third (32 per cent) of employees said mental health and wellbeing support improved over the pandemic. Another study, by YuLife and YouGov, revealed that 25 per cent of employees want more employer-provided benefits to help boost their wellbeing.
For smaller organisations with a smaller workforce, and limited HR support, it can be hard to identify the best ways to improve employee wellbeing or find the time or resources to invest in it. But there are some inexpensive and simple actions that small businesses can take to develop their workplace wellbeing practices:
Ask your team what they want
If you are committed to investing in a workplace wellbeing programme, ask your employees what they would like to see introduced. You may be surprised by what they feel is most important.
Improve your working environment
Good ventilation, natural light, plants and music can all influence how we feel in the workplace. Think about how you can break up any prolonged periods of sitting; for instance, by moving photocopiers or drinks stations to encourage more movement around the office.
Introduce regular one-to-one wellbeing meetings
Open conversations about mental health can encourage staff to share concerns sooner and help to build resilience in the longer term. Separate these from more general appraisals, and take time to understand people’s personal needs such as challenges with childcare or family care so you can provide the most valuable support.
Encourage more exercise
Promote active travel to and from the workplace and organise group exercise, even just a short walk at lunchtime – consider providing a step-counter for all staff to encourage a daily step challenge – or introduce a cycle-to-work scheme. Alternatively, why not introduce walking meetings, which can lead to more natural conversations but also enhanced creativity as the exercise stimulates the brain.
Create a healthy eating programme
This could include providing fresh fruit, introducing healthy eating team lunches, healthy baking competitions or hydration challenges.
Offer access to regular or one-off specialist services
Invite health experts onto site to conduct health checks, talks, exercise classes, supportive therapies counselling and more. Many providers have pivoted to offer many of their services online so it’s possible to involve flexible or working from home members of staff moving forward too.
Get expert help
Don’t struggle alone. There are a multitude of professional organisations that can provide additional support and guidance for business owners looking to introduce more measures to support employee wellbeing, not least FSB.
Higher levels of wellbeing among employees are not just good for the individual but also for the employer. Those that choose to invest in employee wellbeing will see tangible benefits such as reduced staff turnover, reduced costs of absenteeism and presenteeism due to ill-health (physical and mental), and higher levels of creativity, motivation and productivity.
But there are less obvious benefits too, such creating opportunities for teambuilding, fostering stronger team bonds, developing leadership skills, and ultimately increased staff loyalty.