In March 2018, we put a call out for examples from small businesses across the country to hear what steps they were taking to improve staff wellbeing. This report represents a collation of practices that emerged from that call.
What are the key findings?
This paper identifies a number of ways in which small businesses have invested in employee wellbeing, demonstrating that there are practical and cost effective measures that all businesses can take.
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What can small businesses do to improve the wellbeing of their employees?
We know that work, and the quality of the work that we do has an important impact on our wellbeing. Being employed is good for our wellbeing. Being in a ‘good’ job is even better for us. Having higher levels of wellbeing is not just good for us as individuals; it is also good for the employer. Potential benefits to employers who choose to invest in employee wellbeing include:
reduced staff turnover
reduced costs of absenteeism and presenteeism due to ill health
Improved wellbeing in the workplace also benefits wider society. So there are plenty of reasons why it makes sense to invest in employee wellbeing, and plenty of things that
employers can do. This includes providing jobs, ensuring those jobs are of good quality and recognising the impact that the organisation has on the wider community.
For large companies with many employees and extensive human resources infrastructure, opportunities for investing in the wellbeing of employees can include providing training, making changes to ways of working or investments in organisation wide changes. The UK’s largest employer for example, the NHS, announced in 2015 an investment of £5m to improve employee wellbeing.
For smaller organisations, with a smaller and potentially more flexible work force, it may be harder to identify opportunities to improve employee wellbeing or find the time and resources to invest in it – but there are things that small businesses can do that are not expensive or complicated. This discussion paper summarises an investigation we carried out into what smaller businesses can do to improve the wellbeing of their employees and other interventions which have a wider impact on the wellbeing of the communities in which they operate. Six small businesses, one medium sized and one Community Interest Company that have implemented policies and practices that can improve wellbeing were interviewed between May and July 2018 to inform this discussion paper.
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What are the drivers of wellbeing in the workplace?
There are many overlapping factors which determine our wellbeing at work. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing have categorised them into five main drivers, with associated themes and sub-themes.
How people experience these themes and sub themes, including the relationship with their line manager or their mental health can all be identified and measured. This can help employers understand the range of employee experiences across the organisation and where improvements can be made.
Most important: Health and Relationships
Followed by: Security and Environment
Looking within the workplace itself, and in response to the Taylor review of modern working practices, the UK government have also identified five principle’s which underpin the quality of work, which are to be measured in order to progress the UK ambition for good jobs for all. These principles are:
overall worker satisfaction
participation and progression
wellbeing, safety and security
voice and autonomy.
We now have a good idea about what a good job looks like. There are nine characteristics of a good job, as identified by a report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Employers can use the list of characteristics in figure 1 on the following page to understand where there are gaps in their offer to employees and where there is potential to improve the quality of work.
Figure 1: ‘Good jobs’ that lead to higher wellbeing tend to give staff…
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