Small businesses valuing good mental health at work
Posted Tuesday 3 May 2011
This is a guest post from Mary Boughton, Health and Safety Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses
Stress and anxiety affects us all and can be difficult to deal with, especially in the workplace where there is more pressure to meet targets and deadlines. As employers, we can be unsure of the best way to approach and deal with a member of staff that might suffer from mental health issues in the workplace.
But quite simple flexible steps can be taken to help manage mental health issues in the workplace and promote the wellbeing of staff.
I know from my own experience that making staff feel valued makes them work harder, but also reduces stress and anxiety. I make sure my staff have the option to have an on-site massage every month if they want to. We also have water fountains in all offices and provide things such as high visibility vests for those who like to cycle or walk to work.
But not all businesses know that it is these small things that make such a big difference to the wellbeing and productivity of their staff. This is why we have teamed up with Mind to publish the Taking Care of Business guide for small businesses, with tailored advice for smaller firms.
Small businesses are by their very nature flexible, often operating with only a handful of employees. Usually they know them all well and have a much closer relationship, often functioning more like a tight-knit family, and it is because of this that people tend to feel happier, secure and more closely involved when working in a small business.
In my business we try to be as flexible as possible by not penalising staff who have to take time off for things like doctor’s appointments or eye tests when these are only possible during working hours.
Our policy is to try never to say ‘no’ to a request and as a result our employees feel valued and don’t take advantage of our adaptable attitude. This encourages a positive team attitude where everyone pulls together and they know that their views are important.
The guide suggests measures, such as those I have got in place, as well as simple things such as talking to employees to see if there are any adjustments they might need to make their working environment, or promoting a supportive working environment through regular informal catch-ups. All of this can make a real difference without being burdensome.
Often just joining employees for a coffee and having an informal chat gives the owner of a small business a good opportunity to pick up and be aware of any potential problems. Meeting outside of work at social gatherings can be a valuable way to gain awareness of any mental health issues. Without learning these it can be damaging for both the employee and the business.
As small business owners, we are best placed to choose what our staff and business needs. This guide suggests how small simple steps can make a real difference to your staff’s happiness. As a result this helps increase productivity and performance.
Mary Boughton is the Health and Safety Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses
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