Workplace Wellbeing – Is 2020 the Year for SMEs to Step Up?

2019 has seen has some great leaps forward in improving employee wellbeing from large companies in the public and private sector as well as specialised sectors, like the police force.  We also saw many of these organisations start to talk more openly about the issues around mental health and wellbeing (we have a Royal or two to thank for that as well).

However, whilst many of these organisations are set to further break down barriers this year, the same cannot be said for many SMEs that are still struggling with long working hours, low productivity, heavy workloads and lack of budget to invest in wellbeing initiatives.  And let’s not forget that SMEs represent over 60% of total employment in the UK – that’s 16.6 million people (source: FSB).

What SMEs need to realise (as many large companies have already started to) that there is a real cost of NOT addressing employee wellbeing.

Add to this the fact that the “always on” culture that has enveloped us for the last few years is not going to disappear anytime soon – we could be looking at a ticking time bomb for the health of the working population.  

When stress and workloads escalate, so do health issues. Smaller companies cannot afford for employees to go off sick, underperform, or worse, just leave.  Many a business owner will report that costs associated with sickness and recruitment can be truly crippling.

Wellbeing is an issue for all employers, not just the large corporates with robust HR teams. 

The time to act is now. There are many options out there and they don’t always require big budgets.

Here are just a few suggestions to start thinking about that can be relevant for any size of company.

  • Work on creating a secure and open culture to identify issues before they impact someone’s health, that means facilitating communication and a support infrastructure
  • Take time to identify the micro workplace issues that may be playing out, not just the macro ones e.g confidential audits can help here rather than a simple survey
  • Review flexible working take up (which is typically pretty poor, especially amongst men) and recognise that one size doesn’t fit all when putting together working arrangement options
  • Check in on your email culture – are people sending emails to each other on the same floor instead of talking to each other? Are managers sending emails out of hours that could cause potential stress even though they say they don’t need action until the following week – it could just be enough to ruin someone’s weekend!
  • Equip line managers with the interpersonal skills to help their team thrive. These line managers may be technically brilliant at their job but may have never had to develop people’s careers before or manage others’ productivity levels

If you would like to talk about any aspect of employee wellbeing in your organisation contact Helen Hayes on


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