People & Leadership

How to look after your staff and increase productivity

UK businesses are losing on average 27.5 days of productive time per employee each year because of sickness, so businesses have a clear interest in keeping their staff fit and healthy. And with 31% of companies planning to implement a health and wellbeing strategy, wellness is moving into the mainstream.

From rock climbing walls and sleep pods to mini-golf courses, these are some of the benefits companies such as Google or Facebook are offering their employees to keep them happy.

But what happens if your business is not as large as these Silicon Valley tech giants? You still need to keep your employees happy – after all, it will boost their productivity and make your business grow.

Investing in staff

A study from global financial services company American Express and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that 23% of SMEs felt investing in staff was a key ingredient to grow a business, ahead of choosing suppliers (20%) and investing in technology (19%).

Jose Carvalho, executive vice president for Global Commercial Services – International at American Express, says: “There are many hurdles on the path to business growth and securing top talent is key priority for ambitious SMEs.

“Whether expanding at home or globally, business owners are looking for partners that can help them attract and retain staff.”

Setting aside the usual employee benefits of gym membership, flexible working and shared parental leave, there are other incentives you can offer your existing or potential employees if you run a small business.

Not all about the money

Helen Nott, owner and CEO of a chain of nurseries in Bristol, feels employee benefits shouldn’t all be about money.

She says: “At work, we ensure everyone on the team is kept involved as we grow and change as a business.

“Feeling valued and trusted with our plans is important. We also ensure everyone has clear job progression, holding reviews and regular feedback sessions.

“We also have a new chillout garden, which we’ve just introduced to our setting at Flax Bourton, with lavender and herbs in a south-facing raised bed, wind chimes, clematis and tables and chairs so staff can relax and unwind in the garden on their breaks.”

London workplace consultant and office designer Peldon Rose said in a recent research report that:

  • A poor work environment can have a detrimental impact on employee motivation, performance and wellbeing.
  • Providing a variety of workspaces can encourage new ways of working and enable staff to work in an environment that best suits them and the task at hand.
  • Organisations should consider areas that can contribute to the wider employee experience, such as spaces that allow staff to relax, recharge, exercise or socialise with colleagues.

Steve Taylor, project director at Peldon Rose, says: “We try to encourage [organisations] not to have too many closed meeting rooms and not to have too many seated meeting rooms.

“So things like stand-up meeting tables or stand-up benches that [employees] can huddle around for a quick conversation, whether it’s a project catch up or a brainstorm [can be great].

“That means people move a lot quicker, and they’re more likely to be creative.”

The working environment can also play a role in motivating staff to change the way in which they work, thereby supporting an organisation’s wider goals.

Peldon Rose has highlighted four essential features for a smart working office:

  • Multipurpose workspaces
  • Community spaces
  • Building the right culture
  • A balanced workplace

Food for thought

After making sure your employees are in the right office environment, another step worth considering is whether they are eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Livewire Kitchen, a small business based in London, provides nutritious food designed to reinvigorate office workers. Co-founder Zoe Watkins also makes sure her employees are fed healthy meals for free.

Some businesses are also beginning to offer their employees food options that include low fat, low sugar or low salt meals in an attempt to have healthier, more productive and happier staff.

So as an employer, what can you offer your employees aside from a generous workplace pension, flexible working hours and an ergonomically friendly desk?

Peldon Rose offers these top five takeaways:

  1. Get the basics right with air conditioning, outdoor spaces and natural light.
  2. Help staff keep active and healthy with showers and changing facilities.
  3. Create a social workplace to help team bonding.
  4. Support a healthy work-life balance.
  5. Some employees will offer salary sacrifice and longer hours in the office in exchange for an office refurbishment with enhanced facilities.

Try putting these alternative benefits in place and see what sort of impact it has in your workplace. And share your success stories in the comments section below.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in November 2017 and has been updated for relevance.

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