We often think of the need for audits, checks and the like to be the purview of large businesses and not the domain of the small business. This is not the case. Whether you are a single operator or have a small team which works for you, as a small business operator you should build well-being into your business processes.
It is funny how we will check our electronic systems, make sure we have maintenance programs for mechanical equipment and always keep our tools of trade well looked after but we forget our most valuable resource in a business – our human resources.
There are two ends of the spectrum on this one, the first being that “well-being” and “wellness” are seen to be quite frankly as “fluffy” something you do as an extra, not as a day to day part of business. If I label in mental health most people start running for the hills. It is even worse with us small business operators as in the first instance we see it as a luxury cost and therefore not necessary whilst we are building our business up, in the second instance we take the “head in the sand route” which is I have this covered and don’t need to worry about it.
This is not true.
Mental health issues are costing business. According to Mind, a mental health awareness charity in the UK, businesses in the UK lose:
- £2.4 billion (US$3billion) per year on poor mental well-being due to staff turnover
- £15.1 billion (US$18.6 billion) due to unproductive staff due to poor mental well-being
- 70 million lost working days due to mental health problems
This is not a problem that is restricted to the UK or even just worse in the UK. It is definitely not restricted to the big corporations. If anything it can become a much bigger issue in a small business or start up. The scariest thing is that this is only the surface – many mental well-being related issues go unreported.
I had a conversation recently with a highly regarded gentleman who works with business start-ups on a regular basis. We were having a discussion about mental well-being in the workplace and he mentioned that one organisation he was involved in, which had a turnover of £3million a year, nearly went under due to the fact that they had missed a poor mental well-being issue in the man in charge of the company finances. A costly mistake narrowly avoided. This could have been avoid all together with a positive mental well-being program in place within the organisation.
What do you need to do to ensure your start up or business moves forward with a strong mental well-being program?
1. Do a well-being audit of your business.
If you are in the start-up phase this will not be so much about doing an audit but more of ensuring that you implement a policy and practice into your business that makes sure this becomes a part of the ethos of your business. You want to build a business that is in touch with the community in which you operate – local, national or global – especially if you want to connect well to not only your future staff and investors but also today’s consumer.
If your business is already establish but still operates with a small team, regardless of turnover level, you need to do an audit of your business.
This audit will tell you the current well-being levels of your business, what you need to do to improve it and how you can work to ensure you keep your workplace a happy and open environment that really encourages the individuals within it to look after their mental and physical well-being.
2. Create awareness programs within your business.
As a start-up as you grow, you will want to have the awareness of mental well-being and the importance of being open about it at the centre of your business, to help keep it healthy and functional. It is a good idea as you bring staff on board to include awareness sessions in your induction programs. Make sure your leaders understand what the impact can be on the moral of the team, not just on the bottom line, and how they should deal with it effectively. Most of all ensure you implement a business ethos, from the start, that accepts and encourages diversity. I am not just talking about gender or race balances here; I am talking about true diversity – personality balance.
This is where a real understanding of self, how one likes to work and communicate, can lead to positive mental well-being impacts, including creating an environment where people can be open about being bipolar, suffering from anxiety disorders or even chronic depression, for instance. These are things that may impact the individual but don’t need to impact the bottom line or even take away from the business if we focus on working to strengths rather than seeing if we can break a person, or even ourselves, in trying to prove how superhuman (and the same) we can be!
3. Live the values of well-being and diversity within your business.
If you do this you will create a positive and open culture within your business. This means that you also need to look after yourself.
Women in particular are notorious for not looking after our own well-being. We get so caught up in being super-human that we forget that it is not just the workplace that impacts on our well-being.
You as the founder and key leader in your business are the person that those who follow will take their cues from for how to work, how to deal with well-being related issues and also how open to be about any issues they may have. Make sure your project the right picture. Remember to look after yourself as well. This is not about pamper days, this is about investing in you to invest in the future of your business.
The bottom line is, if you really want to look after your business bottom line, you need to invest in the human capital in your business and more importantly invest in their mental well-being. Set up the right set of values and culture in your organisation from the start and you will have a positive and strong business which will support its most important assets growing the bottom line.