Campus Society, having launched in July 2016, now boasts a 35-individual strong team. Its CEO, Rashid Ajami, tells Real Business that while a job can be fun, it can also prove stressful, which is why you need to create for staff the environment they need to thrive.
“The best thing about my business – a platform intended to globalise knowledge from the 200m student population – is that we get to see the impact of our work,” he said. “And I love the fact that throughout a working week I touch all areas of business. However, as a startup, there will always be new challenges. It can be stressful, especially when you have multiple tasks coming at you from all angles.
What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?
The main benefit of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing is that you can get the best out of someone if they are happy and healthy – and that’s not just physically. Having a healthy mental state allows everyone to be productive, think more clearly and be positive. This is when they are at their most engaging and they can get the most out of the opportunities given to them.
Putting employees in an environment they need to thrive makes them feel at home at the company. They instantly become committed, passionate and have more buy-in to what the business is aiming to achieve.
In what ways do you invest in your employees’ health and wellbeing?
We go to the nearest park for lunches as a team, we organise regular yoga and mindfulness sessions, company runs, provide fresh fruit and treats and offer flexible working. As much as possible I encourage everyone to use standing desks. We have weekly cooldowns – where we talk about each area of the team, what they’re up to and what they have coming up. We also organise team-building trips.
If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you like to have in place?
I’d love to give staff access to a gym, alongside other health benefits, not to mention set up more group activities to continue to develop creativity and create an environment they need to thrive. I have a friend whose business employs one person whose job is to help with any problems in the company – someone employees can voice concerns to, almost like therapy.
What do you think is the biggest health and wellbeing risk at your workplace?
The biggest risk at any startup is if employees feel overwhelmed or under too much pressure. This environment often comes with joining a startup as there are sometimes unknowns or challenges that no one has faced before. If people start worrying too much or taking too much on, it affects their work. They could even quit.
Do you think smaller businesses tend to be better or worse at managing health and wellbeing?
Smaller businesses tend to have a family style atmosphere that brings employees closer together which is central to encouraging open communication and collaboration and fostering an environment they need to thrive. In larger organisations, employees can seem like small fish in a big pond and sometimes get lost.
But this all depends on the company and what strategy is in place to ensure good health and wellbeing – there’s no reason why a small business can’t cultivate the same type of environment as a large organisation and vice versa.
What are the signs of stress and what do you do if you spot them?
If someone turns up to work and they seem quieter than normal or they don’t look happy. If they’re negative or don’t attend socials to connect with others on the team. The best thing to try and do is spot this early and encourage and support them or listen to any issues.
How do you handle employee stress?
Senior team members, including myself, make sure we are always approachable and check in with employees. We give them the comfort and encouragement they need, always showing them the upside to what they’re doing, reassuring them and giving them the necessary support. We’re always positive and excited about what we do as a business. This helps them feel less stressed.
Have you ever had an employee take time off for stress?
We always encourage employees to book time off as there is a point for anyone where they need to take a break and take it easy. If they are working too hard for too long, they end up getting tired and it flattens productivity.