Wherever you find content – in books, blogs, podcasts, videos, magazines, etc. – you’ll find a plethora of articles that promote the benefits of living a healthy life. We all know how important it is on the personal level, but what impact does it have on your business? This month’s WBN theme is “Healthy Staff, Healthy Business.” We recognize that good health matters in the whole of your life, not just after you end your work day. The approach to achieving the benefits of good health personally and professionally will be different for every woman, because of our unique circumstances, but the importance of taking steps to foster healthy staff cannot be underestimated.
The woman that works for an organization, large or small, may tap into benefits programs provided by her employer. The woman that operates a business may look into benefits plans for herself and her staff. The important part is that we all take steps to address our mental, physical, and emotional health as we go about our day-to-day work. Staff includes everyone – from the solopreneur to employees to leadership of any organization.
Healthy staff starts with a healthy environment
The piece that employers have the most control over is fostering a healthy, positive work environment and culture. Whether you are alone in the operation of your business or one of thousands of employees, the environment you create matters.
I once worked for a small business that could only be described as toxic. I happened to be checking my blood pressure regularly over the last six months of my tenure there and watched it go from normal to consistently high. The first time I had it checked after my last day, it was back to normal.
If work is creating health problems for staff, something is wrong. Whether demands on resources lead to staff to work excessive hours, or unclear expectations make it difficult for staff to successfully meet objectives, or challenging interpersonal relationships, being aware of and sensitive to the need for change is the only way to ensure you will know when it’s time to take action.
Group plans aren’t the only benefits you can provide
Small businesses often don’t have the resources to offer benefits programs to employees, though it’s worth looking into regularly. Employers with benefits programs experience less turnover, but don’t limit your exploration of providing benefits to typical health plans exclusively. Establishing valuable perks that address employee needs and wants can be a good way to start bridging the gap before you grow to the point of needing a benefits plan. Here are just a few ideas:
- Half or full days off on Fridays through the summer
- Allow staff to flex time around personal commitments
- Allocate time that staff can regularly participate in volunteer activities
- Talk with your accountant about allowable direct reimbursements if you can’t afford a health plan
- Look into group plans available through associations (e.g., Chambers of Commerce)
- Consider using remote work arrangements to reduce staff commute
- Provide refreshments for staff in your cafeteria/kitchen area
- Discounted rates on gym memberships
There are many, many creative perk ideas out there. The perks and benefits you offer internally set a certain tone for your work environment. Keep this in mind as you consider what to offer staff.
Community resources to promote healthy staff
Community programs can provide a wide range of support, including legal, mental health, parenting, transportation, housing, social services, and more. These community-based resources and programs can bridge the gap, especially when you don’t have an employee assistance program (EAP). Having a good working knowledge of the resources that are available also shows staff that more than their work product matters to you.
Every organization is going to have different needs and abilities to meet the needs. The key to achieving the right results is creative thinking and openness to feedback from staff.
Healthy staff, healthy business
Employees that are healthy are more productive. They miss fewer days of work due to illness. Healthy staff tend to be happier, which improves overall morale. When staff aren’t out sick, the pressure on other staff to cover for them is reduced. All of these things combined lead to a healthier bottom line for your business. The return on the investment is worth the effort of implementing the right programs.
WBN President, 2015-16
Karen C. Wilson Communications