The success of any business depends on the strength of its employees. That’s why creating a healthy workplace is something that every small business owner should strive for. As many employees experienced more flexible working arrangements due to the pandemic, they now expect more than just a paycheck. They want an employer that cares about work-life balance and their overall well-being. If your business doesn’t meet those needs, they will find another employer that will. Natalie Bowmer and Julie Chalifour, two HR experts from OnDeck Canada, take us through their thoughts on how to promote a healthy workplace for your small business.

The Importance of a Healthy Workplace

Businesses, big or small, need to devote more time towards employee mental health and well-being. A healthy workplace can impact your employee’s mood, motivation, retention and productivity. By keeping mental and physical wellness top of mind, it can stimulate a change in their mindset and have an impact on their overall health. According to a recent survey, 35% of employees reported being negatively impacted by the stress they experienced at work. Poor mental health was also cited to be an important factor in productivity for 20% of employees, leading to poor judgment and more mistakes on the job.

It’s important for employees that they work in an environment where they can be productive and challenged, but not at the expense of their health or happiness. Everyone’s needs are different, so take the time to understand what those needs are. By doing so, you will be less likely to experience turnover and be able to stay focused on growing your business.

4 Ways to Nurture a Healthy Workplace

Take the time to understand market trends and to determine what’s important for your employees. There’s no one size fits all approach and you will have to reserve some time to reflect on what matters. In the meantime, here are a few solutions that may spark some inspiration.

1. Be Flexible

Flexibility is an asset that most job seekers are now searching for. They want the option to do their job in a way that suits their lifestyle and responsibilities. In fact, 87% of workers surveyed by McKinsey and Ipsos want flexible work options to stick around for good.

Here are a few ways to include flexibility in your work culture:

Hybrid Work: If it makes sense for your business, employees should have the option to work from an office space or remotely. Employees love avoiding their commutes, not to mention the costs associated with them. After all, if employees can do their jobs just as well from home, why not offer them that option?

Flexible Work Hours: Employees want the option to choose and manage their own hours. If an employee wants to get that morning workout in, give them the time to do so. Likewise, commonly known as compressed workweeks, consider allowing employees to work longer days, shifting from a five-day workweek to four.

Anchor Day Model: If some of the work can’t be done remotely, you can strike the right balance by implementing an anchor day model. Allow your employees to work remotely but have them come in the office say once a week, or once a month. An anchor day model allows employees to continue enjoying flexibility, while getting together with their team every now and then.

2. Foster Open Communication

Employees want to know where you’re heading as a business and want to feel a part of that journey. They want to be aligned, to share common values, and to understand how they can have a meaningful contribution to the business. By creating a shared understanding of your goals and expectations, employees will have the space to align with your purpose.

Don’t forget, this is a two-way street. You should listen to your employees just as much as you communicate with them. Create a comfortable and open space where they can speak up and share their ideas. Here are a few things you can do to promote communication in your small business:

One on Ones: Schedule recurring one on ones with your employees. Check in with them and talk about how they’ve been doing, challenges they have been facing, or anything else that may be relevant. When employees feel like their input is valued, they’re more engaged.

Team Meetings: Get people together on a weekly basis and have them collaborate on projects, big or small. Team meetings build stronger relationships between employees and promote inclusion. It doesn’t always have to be work-related either, get your employees to socialize and to learn about each other.

Announcements & Decision-Making: Keep your employees informed with everything that’s happening in your business. Involve them in the decision-making process and make it easy for them to freely express their thoughts and ideas. Find creative ways to pull information from your employees. Use surveys, polls, or host open Q&A sessions. Most importantly, don’t forget to act on the information received, to implement what was requested, or at least to address what’s been raised.

3. Emphasize Personal Development

Employees are the main resource of a company and you should continue developing them throughout their employment. Encourage continuous learning and give employees the freedom to learn skills they’re interested in. This can be achieved by implementing business-wide training subsidies so that employees have the flexibility in owning part of their growth. When employees are learning and growing with your business, it’s much easier to sustain their engagement.

Secondly, you should implement safety, diversity, equity and inclusion training for new hires. Everyone carries a different lens and it’s important for everyone to understand where people are coming from. Use diversity and inclusion to your advantage to attract different opinions and voices in your business, helping you make better decisions and to solve problems more creatively.

4. Wellness Activities

Today, wellness programs are very common among large and small businesses. When done correctly, they provide the necessary tools or strategies for employees to adopt healthy habits. Benefits can include an increase in employee productivity, happiness, and a reduction in business costs. Here are different aspects of wellness to nurture and examples of activities that you can implement in your workplace or remotely.

Fitness

  • Organize fitness challenges or competitions between different teams. You can set the duration of the competition to be weekly or monthly. This could be as simple as how many total push-ups or sit-ups a team can accomplish in one week. There’s nothing like friendly competition to get employees more engaged.
  • Enroll your business in a local sports league which caters to recreational players and focuses less on competition (volleyball, softball, soccer, etc.). Sports team will promote physical activity and team-bonding beyond work hours.
  • Cover your employee’s membership fee at a nearby gym or hire a personal trainer to host online fitness classes. You can even arrange walking meetings at a nearby park that’s conveniently located for most employees. Make it easy and effortless for your employees to incorporate movement in their daily lives.

Mental Health

  • Organize daily meditation sessions to sharpen your employees’ minds, to reduce stress and to help them gain new perspectives. With just 10-15 minutes of mindfulness exercises per day, benefits can be shocking.
  • Stimulate your employees’ minds with non-work-related challenges or games. Host an online trivia at lunch time, organize puzzle or LEGO challenges, or have employees express themselves with art. Being creative can benefit the mind in several ways.
  • Challenge your employees to complete acts of kindness daily with colleagues, strangers, or loved ones. Get your employees to volunteer in initiatives that matter to your small business and community. Helping others is a proven way to improve levels of happiness.

Nutrition

  • Provide and promote healthy snacks in the workplace or send out health boxes to remote employees. A healthy diet is often all about keeping temptations low.
  • Organize daily/weekly lunch sit-downs with employees either in-person or remotely and explore different themes. For example, Monday could be salad day. Tuesday could be sandwich day. Be creative and make lunch something employees look forward to.
  • Send out a weekly email to share healthy recipes and healthy alternatives for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Create an ecosystem where employees discuss and share healthy recipes with each other.

A Glimpse of the Future Workplace

The pandemic accelerated the shift towards digitization and with it came new expectations in the workplace. Improving work-life balance has always been important for business owners but is becoming increasingly important to retain and attract new employees. Enabling a workplace that’s flexible, inclusive, and innovative will require business owners to rethink how work gets done.

Businesses are embracing AI and being more data-focused. Technology is being used to collect evidence-based people insights to make decision-making more predictable. We’re also seeing business owners trying to create people-centric cultures which translate well from in-person to remote.

Whatever the case may be, businesses will need to keep pushing towards an employee experience that’s all encompassing. Communication will be key in assessing your employees’ needs and to offer benefits which align well with their wants. Be clear in your purpose, your core values, and include your employees in all stages of your journey as a business.