Many businesses are beginning to recognise that the wellbeing of their employees is key to building a positive workplace culture, increasing productivity and retaining and attracting talent. Large organisations can set up reward schemes and offer appealing bonuses as well as generous maternity and paternity packages. However, wellbeing is fuelled by far more than finances. This is enabling smaller businesses and start-ups to promote wellbeing in the workplace and compete with bigger organisations to attract essential talent. Yet, they’re not all getting it right.
Some start-ups advertise their positions emphasising that they’re a new business and therefore there will be a lot of late nights and out-of-hours work required. They’re hoping to attract talent willing to burn themselves out working all hours to achieve the business owner’s vision, hoping they'll be rewarded in the future if the company is successful. This sometimes works for business owners but generally not so well for employees. Certainly, it is not going to nurture wellbeing in the workplace.
Wellbeing is largely about having the basic needs met. It’s about keeping the body and mind healthy and the good news is that we need little to achieve this, in normal circumstances. One of the reasons why the workplace is so essential to employees’ wellbeing is that it can either be a source of stress and/or unfulfillment, or it can be a place where individuals feel valued and positive relationships flourish.
Happy employees have a positive influence on the work environment. Healthy employees take less sick leave and contented employees are focused and therefore more productive. Start-ups need these qualities in their team because in the early days of a business, or for keeping a small business competitive, the people behind the business have a huge amount of influence and visibility. Therefore, start-ups need to promote wellbeing in the workplace. Here are some super easy, affordable and effective ways to do so:
According to a survey by Maru Public Opinion for The Business Journals, 43% of Gen Z rate salary as a top factor in where they decide to work. Yet, if you
look at other important conditions for Gen Z then flexible working and company values are also key. It is easy to see financial achievement and general wellbeing as two separate goals. However, wellbeing is greatly affected if our basic needs are not met and financial wellness is a basic need, especially with the rising cost of living.
This is not to say paying salaries way above market rate is going to further increase the wellbeing of your employees, which is fortunate since most start-ups cannot afford to do this. Yet, salaries that fall below can lead the employee to feel undervalued and can put a financial strain on them that could cause their mental health to suffer.
Therefore, wellbeing in the workplace starts with fair pay.
Providing Wellbeing Tools
To promote wellbeing in the workplace, you may find you have to make the tools available. These might include:
- Herbal teas
- Healthy snacks
- Mindfulness or mood cards
- Break-out areas
Making sure there is healthy food, drinks and snacks available in the workplace
will ensure your staff have access to the fuel they need and let them know that their health is important to you. Yet, feel-good snacks can also help to make people feel cared for and they'll also need spaces within the office where they can socialise or take a break, away from their desks.
To get employees off to a great start you can provide them with an Onboarding Gift Box full of healthy snacks, sweet treats and sustainable gifts.
Reaching goals can be invigorating. So much so, it drives us to keep going, set new goals and strive for more. This is great but all too often we forget to take a
break and enjoy the latest win. This is even more important when it’s the employee who has reached this goal for or with you because they might not be quite so keen to move straight onto the next project. Hopefully, they too will feel jubilation but it may not come in the same energising fever form as yours, since it is not their business. The best thing you can do for them, and your business, is to reward them with a little rest time.
When targets or growth are achieved there is often some form of financial or celebratory reward. Maybe a bonus or a team dinner. Whilst this is great for validation and job satisfaction, what many employees would be most grateful for after a particularly intense week or even quarter, is probably a day off. Furthermore, giving hard-working employees a break means they return to work rested, grateful and mentally ready for the next challenge.
An essential component of wellbeing in the workplace is good relationships between colleagues and managers. Positive social experiences are key to wellness and, since many of us spend significant time working, it often falls upon the workplace to provide us with this.
You can’t force everyone to get on of course, but you can provide opportunities for colleagues to get to know one another. After all, a team that is bonded socially will usually communicate better, have a more in-depth understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses and work effectively in collaboration.
One way to bring colleagues together outside of meeting rooms and work-centred discussions is to throw team lunches. Of course, for a start-up taking a team to lunch can be unaffordable. It doesn’t matter that the long-term benefits outweigh the costs because you probably have a less comfortable cash flow and tighter margins at the beginning of your journey. Yet, team lunches can take place in the office if you can provide the food. Bringing in outside catering, even if that means picking up a couple of family meal pizza deals locally, can reduce the cost burden of team socials.
One of the best things you can have around to promote wellbeing in the workplace is plants. Nature carries with it all sorts of benefits for wellness including lowering stress levels and improving mood and clarity.
They can also improve air quality in indoor spaces which may explain why those who work with plants nearby claim increased attention span, focus and productivity.
Aside from this, having plants inside is aesthetically pleasing and shows employees that you have made an effort to make the work space a pleasant one to be in.
Encourage Getting Outdoors
No amount of plants in the office can replace the benefits of getting outside. In the modern world, many of us are working predominantly indoors, at screens for long uninterrupted periods. This can cause us to feel sleepy, sluggish and struggling to focus as the day goes on and this is largely due to a lack of fresh air and physical movement.
We needn’t, nor cannot, change our entire lifestyles. However, all most of us need to maintain balance is to get outside and moving around for 30 minutes at some point during the average working day. This can help re-energise us and boost our mood.
An increase in oxygen allows the brain to function better, resharpens the mind and hones concentration. Being outside also exposes us to vitamin D and gives us the chance to move our bodies and elevate our heart rate which, again, can energise us for the afternoon ahead.
Preferably, you’ll be on the doorstep of a national park or the beach, but most of us working in offices are in towns or, if we’re working from home, in residential areas. It doesn’t matter too much where you are or where you wander. A walk around, even a short one, will do wonders.
Employers who encourage their staff to take daily walks, get outside and away from their screens or be out of meeting rooms for at least half an hour per day, will likely see an improvement in focus and energy levels in the office. Whilst it can be tempting to skip breaks when work is busy, the benefits of getting outside during the working day improve productivity more than enough to make up for any time lost.
Some employers have even set-up lunchtime or morning walking groups within the office where colleagues come together to get out for some fresh air.
Companies are often able to acquire special corporate rates at local businesses that they can pass on to their employees. Partnerships with gyms, yoga studios, fitness classes, meditation centres and similar local organisations give your staff better access to wellbeing by reducing the cost for them, without it costing your business.
Setting up these staff discount programmes can be time-consuming but having a focus on partnering with wellness providers demonstrates that the wellbeing of employees is important to you. Furthermore, having these schemes in place can help to attract talent to your organisation who prioritise their physical and mental health which can make them better all-round employees.
It’s tempting in a start-up situation or as a small business with limited cash to splash, to take on more than your share of the workload and work excessive hours. Whilst a business owner can take on this sacrifice, employees shouldn’t be expected to.
Aside from this though, working longer hours may not be improving productivity at all. In fact, it may even be having a negative effect on the quality of output. Let’s say you needed medical care; would you rather be treated by a doctor who has been working twelve hours without more than a 10-minute break, or one who has just come on their shift after a good night’s sleep in a proper bed? We know the quality of work, attention to detail and emotional state of a working person is better when work-life balance is achieved. So, clocking off is important for you, your employees and the business.
This doesn’t just mean encouraging employees to go home on time. Since most of us can carry work literally around with us, on our mobile devices, you may consider introducing a policy around checking or sending emails outside of working hours. Potentially, this could cause problems with employees you have on flexible or non-conventional working hours so their needs must also be considered. Essentially, teaching your employees to clock off is not about introducing rules but rather creating a culture whereby you don’t have staff being sent ‘urgent’ emails or messages when they’re supposed to be outside of their working hours. It’s about ensuring your organisation isn’t supporting a culture that is stress or anxiety-inducing for those who work there.
Set An Example
You can introduce and make available as many wellbeing schemes, policies and practices as you like but if you’re not following them yourself then your staff won’t because they are literally employed to take their lead from you.
If you truly believe that wellness at work is important then you’ll be taking care of your own wellbeing too. Setting an example doesn’t just permit employees to take care of themselves at work but it may encourage those who are less prone to looking after their physical and/or mental wellbeing to start to do so. Besides, you can’t be the inspiring leader you need to be to bring everyone together in working towards and achieving your vision if you're not taking care of your wellbeing .