Work and Wellbeing · 3 June 2019

Six steps to improve employee well-being

Your team are the driving force behind your business, so it’s vital you look after their health and well-being to ensure their happiness and productivity. Although many companies focus on perks such as unlimited coffee, lunchtime yoga sessions, and ping pong tables, you can go even deeper to invest in your people for the long-term.

Here are a few ways in which you can make a real difference to your team and all on a small business budget.

1. Encourage open discussion

Talking with your team members individually strengthens your relationship, and should be a frequent occurrence. Take the time to get to know your people properly and invest in the relationship.

It’s important your team feel comfortable coming to you with any problems they may experience. Make sure your employees feel listened to and establish a truly two-way dialogue, where there are no taboo subjects. This takes consistent effort, honesty and isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Traditionally difficult issues, for example, those relating to stress and anxiety, should be addressed head-on and ample support should be given to help your staff overcome negativity and build team engagement and empowerment.

2. Ask your team what they really want

Cut to the chase with your well-being efforts by asking your team what they need to optimize their day-to-day working environment and habits – especially those things that also have a long-term impact. Keep these discussion channels open as things change and priorities evolve.

Although direct and verbal communication is preferable, sometimes it is not always possible.

Regular pulse surveys are an effective way for your staff to have the chance to provide feedback. Do this bit by bit, but regularly. It’ll help you act on the data you’re collecting, so you can spot areas for improvement and make positive changes.

3. Provide genuine work-life balance

The right work-life balance can make all the difference to your staff well-being and is something you can influence as a small business owner. Lead by example and embody a good balance.

This can be as simple as taking time out for a lunch break and leaving on time at the end of the day. Once this is observed, it will become the norm and much appreciated by staff as they have the chance to mentally recharge throughout their working week.

Give staff the freedom to work when they’re most productive, as well as the ability to organise their workload around their responsibilities and schedule. This is highly motivating and empowering.

It also shows you trust your people, which is absolutely crucial in building an inclusive environment. And, it’ll give employees an increased feeling of control. It also helps build your reputation by making your employees your best advocates when it comes to attracting new talent (not to mention retaining it).

4. Help your leaders to lead

As the business owner, you must ensure that your staff are appropriately trained to support your team both professionally and emotionally. Investing in good people management and mental health awareness training is key in equipping your leaders, as well as yourself, with the right skills to provide this support.

It will also help each team member feel confident in dealing with any tricky situation which may arise, as well as handle it appropriately. But it’s also crucial to be aware of how important and valued manager/employee relationships are. Without them, there will be a lot of friction in the workplace that could have been avoided.

You can reduce the need for external training in some areas by hiring a brilliant HR expert who can develop training resources specific to your business. You could also implement a mentorship programme which involves peer-to-peer coaching and sharing. This will help build a strong team culture where everyone feels respected, listened to and inspired.

5. Become pet-friendly

Encouraging your staff to bring their furry friends into work is a real winner.

For example, dogs in the office can be a real mood-booster in times of stress, encourage team building as employees bond over a shared interest and it saves your employee’s pet from being cooped up at home all day – win, win! Just check everyone’s on board with the idea (and has no allergies) before implementing this scheme.

6. Have a process for the unexpected

Finally, even with the best well-being system in place, life will still throw up unexpected challenges at you and your staff. For this reason, it’s worth having a basic plan or process to help you support your team in the right way – even at short notice.

It can be as simple as noting down the key questions you need to ask to clarify a particular situation, its immediate impact and the next step to take. Think ahead about the different kinds of unexpected issues your employees might face, and in turn the areas of support you can provide, per scenario.

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Hannah Dawson is the founder and CEO of Futrli, a Brighton-based tech startup that aims to change the way small businesses make decisions. Its platform uses artificial intelligence, enhanced by machine learning, to help business owners forecast and take control of their cashflow.

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