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Well-being in SMEs

There are 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, accounting for 60% of the private sector workforce and almost half of private sector turnover. The National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses (otherwise known as the FSB) is a not-for-profit, member-led organisation offering advice and business services to those small businesses, and September 2017 saw the launch of the FSB’s well-being campaign.

New report for small businesses

The self-employed and owners of small businesses are in some ways some of the most resilient and self-reliant people in the business community (little surprise perhaps, as they are often quite literally ‘going it alone’) however, that same situation can also mean such people (and their small teams of employees) are subject to more stress and pressure than others.

Furthermore, given that paying attention to employee well-being has been shown to improve business productivity, the FSB is keen to offer a list of options and methods for improving well-being across the small business sector, supported by a fresh-off-the-press guide, ‘Well-being in Small Business’.

A 6-fold plan for employee well-being

The FSB’s guide is divided into six handy topic areas:

  1. Let’s talk about it – Part of the problem with well-being in the workplace is how reluctant people are to talk about it. The above mentioned ‘going it alone’ scenario tends to encourage a classic ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ attitude. However, talking about work pressures without stigma, admitting to stress and then discussing options, is actually a more effective long-term strategy for the tough and not-so-tough alike.
  2. Job design matters – When was the last time you looked at the design of your employee’s jobs (or your own)? Balanced responsibilities, adequate resources, timely support, proper training, flexible working, good management and open lines of communication are all factors that can reduce stress and improve performance.
  3. Physical environment matters – Then there’s the design of your working environment. Put simply, the state of your surroundings have an effect on your state of mind. So, does your office/factory floor/etc. make people feel glad to be there, or the opposite? Air quality, furniture choices, lighting, facilities, they all matter.
  4. Healthy body, healthy mind – Getting down to employee’s individual fitness (including for work), it’s a question of exercise, diet and getting enough sleep. The FSB’s guide quotes the Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7-9 hours per night and suggests that employers can do much to encourage healthier lifestyles among staff, including initiatives such as cycling to work and establishing team fitness groups that agree to exercise together.
  5. Support when it’s needed – Not everything is about prevention. Even the most fitness-committed business will have ill employees from time to time. Part of a successful well-being programme includes treating sick members of the team well. This might include phased returns to work after a longer illness in which the returnee works their way back up to their full hours, or flexible work patterns whereby they work the hours but in a different arrangement.
  6. Reaching out – Finally, in a small business the serious illness of an employee, or an extended period off work sick, are rarer occurrences than in larger organisations. Hence they are not ‘business as usual’ scenarios and when they occur, that’s the moment when the business could most benefit from advice and support. The FSB encourages all small businesses to reach out to the external help available to them, including the FSB itself, Mind, the CIPD, the government’s Access to Work initiative, and many more.

The full report, ‘Well-being in Small Business’ is available from the FSB website as a free download.

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