Mental health has been found to cost British companies as much as £34.9 billion annually (circa $45.1 billion). As the conversation around mental health and workplace wellbeing continues to improve, there’s an excellent opportunity for small businesses to implement positive changes in the workplace that can benefit everyone.
Minimize additional hours
Long working hours and stress can feed into each other, when high pressure makes working additional hours feel essential. Rather than resulting in a boost in productivity, this combination can actually slow things down. A TUC report found that in the final quarter of 2018, UK workers were putting in almost two hours per week more than the EU average. Staff in Denmark, who worked two hours fewer than the EU average, were found to be 23% more productive.
While there are circumstances when overtime is necessary, persistent unpaid overtime should be a red flag. Long working hours have the potential to contribute towards a downward spiral, in which inefficiency is compensated for with more hours. Not only is this wasteful for the company, it can be damaging to worker health and create additional issues in the future.
Create a comfortable environment
Making small changes in the workplace might seem insignificant compared to implementing new policies or providing training. But as your team spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work, issues with the workplace can have a large impact on wellbeing.
Many of the most effective environmental changes are based around comfort, and are especially valuable for office-based teams. In these cases, lighting is one of the most significant factors. A US study found that offices lit with natural light saw an 84% reduction in eyestrain and headaches.
Keeping the temperature at comfortable levels all year round and minimizing excessive loud noises will also benefit comfort and reduce distractions, while open spaces and ambient music will help to improve mood and focus.
Introduce flexible working
In the modern workplace, flexible working is becoming increasingly common and is something that can have a great benefit to both staff and the wider company – if implemented correctly. A large factor in staff morale is feeling that concerns are being listened to and that their best interests are being prioritized, and permitting flexible working can help to do this.
A survey into the benefits of flexible working found that it resulted in a seven hour increase in productivity compared to normal working hours, with 35% of workers feeling less stressed and 38% feeling happier.
Eliminating long commutes from the working day will reduce tiredness, and literally add more hours to the day. While this time may not be directly used for working, it is time in which other domestic tasks could be completed, meaning that working hours are more focused and productive.
Provide health and wellness training
A great way to improve worker wellbeing is to provide opportunities for training, simultaneously encouraging development and ensuring that team members have up-to-date knowledge of physical and mental health concerns. This could be health and safety training, such as a NEBOSH course, Mental Health, First Aid, or communication and wellness sessions.
For training to have a positive impact, it’s important that learning is shared and not presented as a lecture. Identifying leaders in each department to take part in training will then allow that information to be disseminated in a way that is most relevant to their sector.
Don’t forget communication
Good communication is an essential ingredient for improving worker wellbeing. Despite improvements in recent years, discussions around mental health may still be covered by a stoic professionalism. Staff need to be confident that they can approach their managers with issues around wellbeing and mental health to minimize issues, and that these concerns will be heard.
Improving wellbeing doesn’t have to be an expensive change, but it does have to be done with sincerity. Trust also has to be an important element of company culture. This means that as long as projects are completed and targets met, staff don’t feel they have to stay late or work through lunch breaks only to impress, and that employers encourage staff to take regular breaks, leave on time and use their holiday entitlement.
Improving the working environment, giving staff the freedom to work in a way that best suits their needs and providing training and initiatives demonstrates that a business values their staff. The impact of this will be noticeable in retention rates, reduced sick days and boosts to productivity.
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