Work and Wellbeing · 29 November 2018

Why happy and healthy employees are vital for a micro business to thrive

Happy and healthy employees are best-equipped to build a thriving business.

In collaboration with AXA PPP healthcare, Business Advice consults three entrepreneurs to find out how micro business owners can foster a culture of positive physical and mental wellbeing from day one.

There are many sources of stress for today’s small business owners – from the threat of business failure to late payments and poor work-life balance. This constant pressure takes a well-documented toll on the mental and physical health of entrepreneurs. In a recent survey of 1,000 SME bosses by Aldermore bank, one third admitted to experiencing anxiety or depression in the past five years.

In a separate study by software firm Advanced, 65% of small business owners and senior managers revealed they struggle to “switch off” once the working day is done. Two-thirds of respondents claimed that they use “stress-busting” rituals, such as breathing exercises, to help them through difficult moments. However, it’s vital that SME decision makers develop long-term wellbeing strategies, rather than simply tackling tension as it arises.

How do you create a culture of wellbeing from the start?

At the same time, SME bosses must lead by example and introduce wellbeing initiatives for staff members. Stressed out employees are unlikely to be as productive as they could be and they may start searching for a new job in a better working environment.

“Starting a business is not just about your product, your name or your brand.” – Andrew Humphries

According to Andrew Humphries, co-founder of innovation accelerator The Bakery, employee retention is one of the most compelling reasons for introducing workplace wellbeing initiatives.

The Bakery founder Andrew Humphries

“It’s the responsibility of the employer to create an environment where people want to stay,” he explained. “That means mental and physical wellbeing, but also developmental wellbeing: Can staff develop and achieve their ambitions and their goals as much as possible in your organisation? If you aren’t creating that environment, then you need to understand that people are going to leave.” 

Founded in 2012, The Bakery identifies entrepreneurial startups and connects them to large corporates to drive innovation. As well as managing his own 29-person team, Humphries helps startups through the early stages of their development – and he’s learned a lot about company culture along the way. The key to keeping talented employees, he said, is to have a clear and actionable plan for the brand you want to build.

“Starting a business is not just about your product, your name or your brand,” Humphries said. “It’s about the ethos you want to have as a business owner. If everybody buys into that vision then you’ll recruit, attract, keep and develop the right people. If you don’t even have the vision yourself, you’ll have a much more difficult job on your hands.”

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Why micro businesses need to prioritise work and wellbeing and how to get started

Feeling run down? Overwhelmed running your business? A new wellbeing collaboration from AXA PPP healthcare for small business owners can help you manage health and wellbeing to get the most out of your day, one step at a time.

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Practice what you preach

With strong, human-centric values in place from the start, micro business workers will feel a sense of loyalty to their company. But it’s not enough to make promises in your employee handbook or during staff induction.

“It’s really important that my staff are in a good mental and physical state.” – Gina Conway

Alex Heaton, founder of health and wellness digital platform LiveSmart, makes a point of listening to his employees’ needs, and has even changed company wellbeing policies to allow them to put their health first.

LiveSmart founder Alex Heaton

“One thing we have changed is the rule around gym times during the week,” Heaton said. “We allow people to go to the gym at any time they want and they make the time up. It doesn’t cost us any extra money but it’s the flexibility that allows people to go.”

Employees that look after themselves will also perform better when it matters most. This is why London-based salon owner Gina Conway, who launched Gina Conway Salons and Spas in 2001, makes an effort to show staff that she’s engaged with wellbeing initiatives herself. In a demanding, client-facing industry, it’s important that employees are always at their best.

Gina Conway

“I’m always trying to get team members to take the stairs,” she said. “It’s my way of showing how we can be better and healthier. It’s really important that my staff are in a good mental and physical state, because this industry can be very exhausting. The stronger you are, the more stamina you have throughout the day, and the happier you are the happier my clients are, so it’s a full circle thing.”

Putting staff wellbeing at the heart of your business can lead to increased productivity and reduced absences. This is especially important in small enterprises, where everyone has a crucial part to play. Employers and senior managers should be flexible and build wellbeing into the working day – even if it feels like a distraction from the task at hand.

Ultimately, happy and healthy employees are best-equipped to build a thriving business.

Visit AXA PPP healthcare’s Work & Wellbeing programme to find out how to build a healthy business

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Jennifer is a reporter for Business Advice.

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