Employee wellbeing needs to be at the heart of your business. It’s been a whirlwind two years, since the novel COVID-19 first impacted everyone on a global scale. And it feels more prudent now than ever to mention the importance of employee wellbeing – especially with mental health in decline and the challenges faced and losses experienced as a result of this pandemic.
Prioritising wellbeing has many advantages for a business beyond the obvious ‘human’ element of protecting your employees – and more so if you’re working at a high-velocity scaleup:
• Talent retention – startups and scaleups tend to have a higher turnover rate, but creating an environment where employees are happy to work can have such a massive difference, and help your business stand out from the crowd.
• Quality of work – the input determines the output. If you’re working at a business driven by results, with aggressive deadlines, then it’s important to make sure you facilitate a working environment that enables people to succeed.
• Productivity – similar to the previous point, a healthy work environment where employees are set up for success will significantly boost their productivity.
This focus on wellbeing seems straightforward enough, but add into the mix remote working and distributed teams, and the concept gets a little more challenging. How can HR teams focus on making teams happy and providing benefits that help employees, no matter where they’re working from?
Here are my suggestions.
1. Tie wellbeing back to your values
Your company values are extremely important in setting your culture and helping the business build on its reputation as a thriving workplace. Not only that, but these values should bleed into everything the business does to uplift and support employees. This includes:
- A value interview in the application process. This allows teams to gauge how the applicant works with others in the business. Similarly, it offers an understanding to the applicant of what’s expected and how they fit into the business.
- Reflecting the culture, values and expectations in the employment offer letter you send your successful candidate.
- Reinforcing these values in the onboarding process, through sessions with various team members.
- Assessing employee progress and development based on the values of the business, and how they’ve worked to reflect those values.
- Providing regular shout-outs to encourage colleagues, and tying praise back to a value that this reflects.
All these points can have a significant impact on employee morale, as it provides colleagues with an understanding of how the business wants to grow, and the working environment they will help sustain as the company hires more employees.
2. Create an open atmosphere of discussion
It seems obvious, but the best way to address wellbeing in the workplace is to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing it. Whether that’s by implementing a mental health platform they can turn to when they need to get something off their chest, or even just encouraging this discussion through the articles people share via Slack, for example.
This open atmosphere can have a big impact on employee wellbeing, as it reinforces the fact that the business supports its employees and will listen to concerns. It also helps the company seem more ‘human’, as opposed to being another faceless organization treating workers like another cog in the machine.
These features also don’t require a massive, disruptive project – it’s a simple change to mindset and behaviours that leaves a lasting impression and can help the business retain talent.
3. Add a specific component in manager-employee 1:1s
Following on from the previous point, another way to facilitate discussion is to create a structure for these one-on-one meetings that offers space for questions around wellbeing and productivity.
Sometimes, speaking to your manager about the concerns can be beneficial – managers can collaborate with leadership teams to provide support, reduce workloads, or find solutions to help resolve the issue.
4. Revamp your time-off policies
‘Time-off’ policies often only cover two categories of leave: sick leave, or annual leave. This can create ambiguity around certain cases – for example, would an absence due to bereavement fall under annual leave, or sick leave? Can employees ask for time off due to period cramps? And how does mental health fall into this?
Instead of creating an atmosphere where people are uncertain about these conditions, revamp your policy to address them. At Juro, we’ve created an extensive policy list that outlines sick leave, but also the specific instances where sick leave is applicable – including mental health breaks, otherwise also known as “wellbeing days” or the more informal “duvet days”.
Making the option explicit ensures there’s no ambiguity – and this is really valuable, especially for remote employees, who might not be able to read between the lines of a “goes without saying” policy.
5. Offer a remote working budget
The location in which you work has a huge impact on your mood – and with so many people confined to their homes as a result of the pandemic, it can be difficult to replicate the office environment.
Some people have taken to playing office sounds in the background to help create a suitable working environment, but if you’re looking to make a more lasting impact on your employees and their wellbeing, why not offer a ‘remote working budget’?
Your employees can use this budget to improve their home setup, by purchasing:
- A stand-up desk, to increase productivity and improve posture.
- A chair that offers suitable back and neck support.
- Wireless keyboards, so they can keep their main monitor at eye level.
- Headsets for walking meetings.
… And much more. The potential impact of a suitable remote working environment extends beyond mental health, to physical wellbeing too. And it’s something HR teams can implement to help employees regardless of location.
In 2021, businesses are being scrutinized for their focus on mental health and employee wellbeing – and rightly so. With a huge variety of services out there, and simple solutions to seemingly complicated problems, there’s no reason why employee wellbeing shouldn’t sit at the heart of everything your scaleup does.