How to incentivise your staff to be fit and healthy

With staff turnover costing the average mid-sized business a whopping ?138,000 annually, and absenteeism leaving a ?14bn hole in the economy, it?s grim news for directors and their teams.

We all know the benefits of a happy workforce ? productivity goes up, as does creativity and willingness to collaborate. Many businesses have already put a number of perks in place to try and boost spirits. The problem, however, seems to be scepticism around sincerity ? are you just throwing packages together in the hope that the wellbeing question will go away?

If you implement a policy, it has to mean something ? so how do you make sure the team knows you?ll be true to your word?

(1) Reward to reinforce

Incentivising your team to take you up on perks might sound odd, but there?s no denying you mean business if you enhance the benefits. If you offer free or discounted gym membership, for example, it?s unlikely regular users will take any considerable sick leave, so why not reward the most active with an extra day?s holiday?

Or if you?re happy to fund further education to gain some value skills within the team, you could offer paid-for development days and flexible working to support ambitions.

(2) Respect rest

Working more is often (wrongly) associated with working harder, but if you don?t ensure your team take time out to unwind, you risk burnout and resentment, so put a stop to overtime, lunches at desks and reluctant holiday-goers.

You?ll need to lead by example, and show your team that, whether they?re off for two weeks in the sun or a sabbatical, things won?t fall apart while they?re gone, but equally that there?s a place for them to come back to.

(3) Create space to vent

It?s not always going to be rosy ? people will have days that go wrong, often despite their best efforts. As an employer, you need to accept that ? don?t let people bottle up their frustrations. Make sure your team has somewhere or someone they can turn to.

It could be a designated quiet space or simply ensuring your line managers encourage openness and transparency so no one feels silenced. For team members experiencing more ups and downs than usual, you might also want to consider setting up a confidential helpline where people can talk to a neutral third party.

(4) Engage and involve

You?ve gathered your team together for a reason ? each person has brought talent, knowledge and unique insights to the table ? so make sure you take advantage of this and ask them for their opinion on company decisions, or ideas that could help propel the business forward. The more entrepreneurial and empowered your team feels, the more pride they?ll take in their own work as well as the direction of the firm.

Remember to share successes too ? if you win a big new contract or are up for an award, make sure recognition goes beyond your senior management team. At the end of the day, managers are only as good as the people they lead.

How to engage workers:

(5) Champion community action

Volunteering is a wonderful thing for an office to embrace ? when people are passionate for causes outside of work, it nurtures a sense of collaboration and dedication, so if you don?t already have a policy for paid-for volunteer leave, make sure you introduce one and push people to use it.

If people are stumped for ideas, why not shape team outings around getting involved in the local community? Organising activities such as fun runs and planting trees is great way of adding a new dynamic to office life.

It?s all too easy sometimes to get caught up in growth, deliverables and client demands, but we have to remember to take a step back and think about the human cost. It?s a strength to enable people to put their wellbeing first, and you?ll ultimately be rewarded with a more stable, stronger business if you recognise and support the individuals providing the backbone of your operations.

Debra Charles is CEO and founder at smartcard technology firm, Novacroft.

Also, columnist Charlie Mullins suggests UK entrepreneurs still seem to be wrestling over the decision to take a break this year.

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