A common misconception for many small to medium-sized companies is the belief that employee wellbeing programmes are only for the largest businesses, that employees of smaller firms do not expect such “embellishments” to their work lives. Whether they expect it or not is unimportant. Wellbeing programmes and activities have been shown to decrease absenteeism, spark creativity, boost productivity, and enhance collaboration and teamwork. Only the unwise overlook these opportunities to attract the best talent, keep them onboard, and get the very best from them.
Some ideas or programmes will work better than others, depending on the nature and size of the business and workforce. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here, but one thing that is universally beneficial to the engagement, confidence and mental wellbeing of our people is communication. A culture of open, two-way communication will result in employees with trust in their leadership, a confidence in the business, and an understanding of their employer’s strategy and values.
Despite this, CIPD’s Good Work Index, which has been measuring the UK workforce’s experiences since 2018, reported that a third of employees described their manager as being poor at keeping them informed about management decisions. There is no better way to make your people feel under-valued than by keeping them in the dark about the things that will ultimately affect their work lives. Similarly, feeling uninformed or siloed will only send your people’s stress levels skyward. And that’s never good for attendance, morale, or productivity. (Our friends over at The Comms Guru offer an independent health check of your internal comms if you’re not confident that you’re hitting the mark in this vital arena.)
Recognition and appreciation are also massively influential and beneficial when it comes to employees feeling valued. A peer-to-peer recognition scheme which allows our people to express their appreciation of each other, whatever the reason, can be invaluable in support of mental wellbeing and in nurturing a sense of belonging. Peer-to-peer encourages recognition not only for professional or performance-related achievements, but also more personal gratitude for guidance, support, or something else that would otherwise be off-radar. Regardless of the reason, the emotional boost to both the sender and the recipient of the recognition is wonderful for wellbeing, and it can have a contagious effect on all who see it too. Publicly amplifying and celebrating the most notable nominations with shout-outs, awards or rewards is also a great way to celebrate the positives, share good practice, encourage more of the same, and boost everyone’s spirits in the process!
Once you’ve got these fundamentals in place, you can look at some of the other options for boosting wellness in your workplace.
For mental health, investing in discounted mental wellness sessions, or mindfulness classes, can be highly beneficial to both wellbeing and team building. Having nominated and suitably informed mental health first-aiders can also help.
For physical health, organising fun exercise for your people is another great way of increasing wellness whilst enhancing inter-team relationships. From football friendlies to office Pilates or yoga, encouraging your employees to share some physical exercise is great for mind, body and soul! And these don’t have to cost much, if anything, to arrange or host - you may even have someone within your teams who can lead this and would love the opportunity to do so.
You could also run friendly competitions around total steps walked in a week or month, or arrange a team treasure hunt, to encourage some low impact but valuable activity.
Providing a small choice of healthy snacks is a good way of keeping your people fuller and healthier, which is great for concentration and productivity. From fruit bowls to a healthy breakfast choices, there are plenty of ways of showing that you care about how your people are feeling.
The provision of hot drinks is a basic requirement, and few of us will ever have the displeasure of working somewhere that doesn’t provide a kettle, some instant coffee and a few branded tea bags. But going just a little further by opening up the offering to include some green or fruit teas, and some decaf’ options, will make even more of your people feel catered for and valued. It’s also true that many of us don’t drink enough water throughout the day, which is terrible for concentration and brings on fatigue, so water coolers are another highly worthy addition to any shared workspace.
Also, don’t forget to pay attention to that physical workspace. Plenty of natural light, heating that works, windows that open, ergonomically sound desks and conformable chairs all make up a bare minimum. Adding a few plants can make an inexpensive difference, and a comfortable, chilled break-out area away from the hustle and bustle is a worthy addition if space allows.
The occasional social event is a great way of letting your people blow off some steam and work on their relationships, which is great for collaboration, creativity, and mental health in the long run.
And finally, check out which modern working practices might work for your business. Where appropriate, flexible working hours and/or locations can provide a huge boost to employee wellbeing and loyalty. They advocate trust and demonstrate a respect for work/life balance. They have also been shown to increase productivity and will absolutely help to attract talent. Similarly, offering a more flexible approach to annual leave (such as a buy-&-sell-leave scheme) is a great way of making your employees feel more in control and valued.
Implementing just some of these suggestions will make a difference to the wellbeing of your people. And that could well translate to the wellbeing of your business and its bottom line.