Lone working within a small business possessing few resources can be a challenge, but the added flexibility provides an opportunity to respond on a more personal level to issues that arise.
Gedanken is a small consultancy that provides personal development, business and executive coaching, staff support and mediation.
The business came about when David Cliff, the company’s MD, saw a need to reflect the kind of care, support and advocacy that both staff and employers need to work together.
The business has a wide range of clientele, from startups to multinational organisations, and is itself comprised of only three people. Naturally, the health and wellbeing of its own employees is of upmost importance to the business.
“The best thing about this business is the real rewards that come from the growth we see in people,” Cliff said.
“Whether it’s helping somebody improve their leadership role and grow their organisation, supporting an individual preparing to leave a company, or working with a person on suspension needing support, our approach seems to find a good fit with the public and business at large – and our results are very good indeed.”
Health and wellbeing in action
Cliff believes that, rather than invest in wellbeing, many businesses operate on the basis that burn-out is inevitable and will occur across the workforce – at which point staff are discharged and the business re-recruits.
“This is a shocking waste of human resource and a very short-term, narrow-minded strategy. Notwithstanding, it surprising how many people do this.
“The benefits of investing in health and wellbeing are huge. These include: reduced sickness, increase productivity, a greater sense of belonging and being valued, increased employee behavioural flexibility, reduced accidents and improved business communication. There is some evidence suggest investing in health and wellbeing increases employee behavioural flexibility as well.”
Cliff thinks small businesses need to take responsibility for health and wellbeing just as much as larger organisations – the added flexibility that comes with being small can actually facilitate a more human approach.
Working alone and managing loneliness
Working alone holds particular challenges, one of the main ones being how to handle isolation.
“Unaddressed, lone working can lead to isolation, lost motivation, paranoia and just general inefficiency. The presence of other people in our workplace environment paces us, creates situations where we must interact and this overall is mentally healthy,” said Cliff.
“The stress of lone working needs to be eased by a whole range of techniques including the opportunity to meet with other people in the same position. In this respect, networking opportunities are more than just about business generation. They are often an opportunity for people to come together who are working in comparative isolation where in a sense of camaraderie, connection and even social activity be fostered.”
Cliff also highlighted the difference between lone working in an office-type environment and operating alone from home. Working from home might suit someone’s lifestyle, or be a cheaper alternative to an office for a startup, but the line between rest, work and play becomes blurred – and it can be harder to switch off.
Because of this, companies that manage home workers should explore ways to improve communication and reduce isolation where possible.
“Good supervision and benchmarking ensures people remain engaged and simply do not get lost in an environment that is unregulated and devoid of feedback as the home can sometimes be.
“Ultimately, health and wellbeing is about finding balance between the individual’s interests and the interests of the firm. It is about recognising that we all form part of the society in which we live. Organisations should be about communities and people within communities. No organisation exists in isolation from the community in which it trades or in which it employees live.”
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