As an SME owner, chances are your business is an extension of yourself. Employees in small teams can have a much bigger influence over the direction of the business than perhaps they might in a large corporate. It’s the nature of a small business that everyone is used to keeping “all hands on deck” and taking on a greater share of responsibility. But keeping your team motivated boils down to keeping them happy and healthy.
People are most productive when they are happy, according to research from the University of Warwick, which is good news for your bottom line, and it really doesn’t take as much effort (or budget) as you might think to improve your employees’ working lives.
This is why Real Business has teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to support their SME Work and Wellbeing programme – a collaboration with cross-industry business leaders. It aims to showcase how business owners have benefited from putting health and wellbeing at the heart of what they do, and how other small and developing companies can follow suit.
Over the course of this series, we will be exploring the simple initiatives businesses can take to improve wellbeing in the workplace, as well as hearing top tips from AXA’s health experts and seasoned entrepreneurs.
By way of introduction, we caught up with four entrepreneurs to find out what wellbeing means to them, and what some of the standout issues are for SMEs in this arena.
Here’s what they had to say.
Create a positive culture
Gina Conway is the owner of a string of salons and spas across London, and she feels that work needs to be a place people want to go to – but she understands the knock-on effects of this.
“It was very important to me that I created a team culture whereby they felt amazing here, so they would make their clients feel amazing,” she explained.
She also tries to create a culture where employees consider they have a “career” rather than “just a job” by offering opportunities for learning and education.
Don’t sideline mental health
The first thing to take note of is that wellbeing doesn’t just mean employees’ physical health. Mental health is just as important and yet often, it can be harder to spot when someone is struggling.
Andrew Humphries, co-founder at the Bakery, an innovation accelerator, admits he came to understand the importance of mental wellbeing and happiness quite late on in life – but now takes it seriously.
“As well as general employee wellbeing and a sense of belonging, I have a passionate interest in the self-management of mental health,” he said.
“At The Bakery we use a coaching start-up called Sanctus, which enables SME employees to benefit from corporate life coaching ─ something you usually only have access to in a larger company. Sanctus provides a much broader set of coaching capabilities so people can benefit from whatever area of their life they might need coaching for ─ both professional and personal.”
Founder and CEO of health and wellness digital platform LiveSmart, Alex Heaton, knows that health and wellbeing is about a process of continuous improvement – it’s not a case of ticking boxes and resting on your laurels.
“As a business, we know that health and wellness in the workplace is critical for business success. If you’ve got a healthy, happy, fit workforce, then they will give more to your business.
“In some respects, I’m running a business marathon. I’m looking at the long term and I’ll make lots of improvements to get to my final goal,” he said.
Heaton acknowledges that, traditionally, health and wellbeing has not been given much of a priority by many businesses, but he believes all this is about to change as the evidence supporting the business case mounts.
“Health and wellness can be really critical to the bottom line of businesses and, as this evidence base builds, we’re going to see more and more businesses focusing on health and wellness,” he said.
“Really we’re only at the beginning of this journey.”
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