On the back of Mental Health Awareness Week, it seems an appropriate time to talk about mental health and well-being at work - a subject we’ve been thinking about and discussing a lot over the past few months.
We like to think that we are a supportive employer, but there’s always more that can be done, improvements that can be made and new developments and initiatives that can be embraced. So we’ve been looking at what we do already to support our team (including ourselves) and exploring what else we can do to ensure we are enabling and empowering people to maintain good mental health and wellbeing, ensure a healthy work/life balance and generally be a good employer to work for.
One of the positives of being a very small organisation is that we are able to be really responsive to the needs of our team and the unique individuals within it. If someone needs something we can chat about it, make a decision and make it happen quickly and easily, without frustrating bureaucracy. We are also able to offer flexible working to fit around people’s lives outside of the workplace - we’ve always said that provided the work is done, on time and it’s good, we don’t really care if it’s been done at the beach (careful with sand in that laptop though)!
However, when we’ve tried to look at taking a more structured approach - so we can ensure we are being proactive and not just reactive - things can get more tricky for us micro businesses. Investigating things like employee assistance programmes and schemes providing staff ‘perks’ or benefits, we found ourselves either priced out of the market by packages designed for much larger organisations or excluded completely as they are only offered for ten employees upwards.
Even when we did find a potential provider who was happy to be flexible and tailor something to our tiny team, we still felt that we were limited in what we could offer our staff using this approach - one size fits all, didn’t really fit us and we were too small to be able to offer a menu of options.
So what CAN we do? Well, there ARE plenty of ways we can ensure we are offering a benefit to all staff while still ensuring this is inclusive, flexible and appropriate for each individual. One brilliant idea I heard about from another local organisation - the most excellent Plymouth Music Zone - is a daily 30-minute ‘well-being time-out’ for all staff. A period that is built into their day (and their contracts) to ensure they spend 30 minutes every working day away from their desk/workstation/mobile or whatever, doing something positive for their well-being. So this could be (almost) anything that each individual feels is appropriate - a walk, reading a book, yoga, singing, dancing, knitting, walking the dog, going for a run, sketching, watering the plants - the list is almost endless. We will more than likely adopt this - details to be thrashed out at our next Directors meeting.
Another option which we are tentatively exploring with other organisations in Plymouth is whether a group of micro-organisations can come together as a collective and access a programme of employee benefits and support in partnership. As a group, we are more able to hit the numbers required to make it financially feasible. This conversation is in its early stages but watch this space.
I’ll leave you with a shout-out to other small organisations striving to look after their staff - what do YOU do to ensure workplace well-being and can we start a conversation to share some great ideas?