A UK Government report (link) recently found that SMEs invest less in staff wellbeing programmes than larger firms. This is not necessarily due to lack of desire or interest, but because they don’t know what to invest in and lack the funds to do so.
This is certainly a challenge that needs to be solved.
Having worked in SMEs during my career, I think they would benefit greatly (if not more so than larger firms) from investing in staff wellbeing. Here’s why:
1. It’s a higher risk if staff get sick/ leave due to stress
Whether in an SME or a Fortune 500, people are people. They still have a mind body and soul that needs looking after. But in an SME, you have a smaller pool of people who you rely on to get work done.
If even one of them goes off sick from stress or leaves because of it, it will hit you hard. A larger firm could probably find someone to cover or replace quite easily, but that might not be the case for you.
2. Relationships are key to wellbeing – having less of them in a small team means they NEED to be good
Relationships are key to resilience, wellbeing and longevity of life and happiness. Forbes recently ran an article that said a person’s manager has a greater impact on their mental health than their partner or their therapist. And, do you know what comes up in almost every one of my resilience training sessions as a problem people are having? Relationships in the workplace.
There aren’t lots of other ‘options’ in a small team. Individuals can’t go off and find other supportive colleagues/ move teams/ make other friends at work etc. They are stuck with who they’re stuck with! So, making sure that people have good relationships in an SME is essential, for their health, wellbeing, engagement and performance at work.
3. The high risk environment means staff have to be more resilient
My experience working in SMEs is that they’re a whole different vibe. You may be taking on different aspects of the company’s work, not just sticking to one clear job role. You have to be more flexible, deal with more uncertainty and instability, take on more challenges, cover for more people when they’re off sick, and know that the business could be 3 phone calls away from going under.
That’s not easy to deal with! You have to be healthy, well and resilient to handle the stress of life in an SME. And do you know what we didn’t get taught much at school? How to handle stress. Give your staff some training (perhaps mine!😊). Help them to help themselves.
4. Leaders have a lot of pressure on their shoulders
If it’s your business, what if you make the wrong decision? What if things take a tough turn? What will happen to you, your team, their jobs, their families? This is part and parcel of running an SME and it’s a lot of pressure to take on. So if anyone needs support with maintaining wellbeing, resilience and performance, it’s surely leaders of SMEs.
5. Less formal processes and structure can stress people out
I’ll start by saying that if you’re someone who NEEDS and LOVES processes and structures for everything, then an SME is probably not the place to be! At least, if we’re talking about really small and relatively new organisations -because they tend to be much more informal.
Working in informal structures can feel like chaos for some people and make them stressed. Help them stay well, healthy and resilient if you want them to enjoy their work and be at their best in this environment.
6. People can feel more isolated and lonely
If you love being alone/ with a few people, this probably won’t bother you. But some may struggle with isolation in a small company.
To be fair, linked to my point above – if you want a huge gaggle of work friends and colleagues then you probably shouldn’t work for a 15 person SME! But it’s still something employers could consider supporting and facilitating – relationships and connection is essential for wellbeing.
7. People might not talk about their issues
In small firms, there are less likely to be anonymous forums and employee engagement surveys where staff can ask for help or voice concerns around wellbeing in the workplace. In many cases, this may mean people keep quiet.
But they are human, life is complex and challenging, and no organisation is perfect. So, whilst SME leaders may think silence means there are no issues, that may be far from true. Better to carry out a simple programme to garner staff feedback and help with their wellbeing, than assume all is fine and dandy and have that come back to bite you later.
Although large companies will of course have their workplace wellbeing issues, small firms deal with a whole different culture and set of challenges on a daily basis. They often don’t have the resources to put into staff wellbeing and so if staff are struggling and not getting help, it’s only going to get worse.
From a personal perspective, I love the SME vibe. I love the flexibility, the informality, the opportunity to contribute and shape a company, the close knit team of people, the opportunity to get involved in different things.
So there’s really a two pronged solution to this:
- As an individual – choose your workplace wisely! Don’t go into an unstructured, informal, high risk SME and expect it to be all rosy. Think about what you’re getting into and whether you’ll handle and enjoy it.
- As SME leaders – keep it simple – you don’t need huge programmes for wellbeing, you just need a simple way to find out what your staff are experiencing, what they want and need, and supply it as best you can, bit by bit. People like me are here to help with consulting and training. There are experts out there in resilience and wellbeing, nutrition and gut health, men’s mental health, sleep, yoga and physical fitness, meditation and more – I know quite a few of them myself and would be happy to connect you to them. So reach out, make connections with industry experts and allow them to help you, to help your staff with their wellbeing.
I hope that gives you something to think about,
News TIOB News