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How business owners can support employee wellness

By Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East

As we emerge from a difficult 18 months, forward-thinking business owners are thinking about how they can rebuild their businesses to be more sustainable, successful and adaptable. One of the elements that they’re focusing on is their employees. By helping your people to perform at their peak, your business can drive better customer service, higher productivity, and more innovation.  

The pandemic has left business leaders and employees depleted – physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. But these times have also highlighted the importance of mental and physical wellness in the workplace, and the role business owners can play in helping their people to thrive.

Here are three practical ways you can work with your employees to build a better and more sustainable workplace that will be well-positioned to compete in the post-pandemic landscape:

Put a spotlight on employee wellness

It is likely that some or even most of your employees are wrestling with mental and physical health concerns. COVID-19 brought with it a long list of challenges, including social isolation, job insecurity, financial losses, illness, new personal demands (like homeschooling), and grief. As such, many companies are putting health and wellness at the top of their priorities.

It needn’t be expensive to provide resources for employees such as fitness or emotional resilience webinars. Other examples include sponsoring meditation or yoga sessions, offering mindfulness training (or access to an app like Headspace), or providing access to a clinical psychologist. And it may be as simple as regularly checking in with your staff to see if they’re doing okay.

Offer practical support

Financial wellness is closely linked to physical and mental wellbeing, and it is an area where many people have taken harsh blows. Employees and their families may have seen a reduction in their basic income during stricter lockdown levels and rules. Their partners might have lost their jobs or needed to support an extended family that lost income or a breadwinner.

It’s therefore imperative to look at ways to help employees who are facing debt or other financial problems. Introducing financial counselling and education is one way to support them. Another is to have a debt counsellor on call. Funeral policies that support employees’ direct and extended families can also provide some peace of mind.

Introduce flexible working hours and models

The move to remote working during the pandemic wasn’t wrinkle-free, but it was more successful than many business leaders expected. One of the lessons to take from the pandemic is that it’s entirely possible to offer a more flexible working model for some members of your team without compromising performance and productivity.

Talk to your employees about what has worked and what hasn’t. These open conversations can lead to working arrangements where people get their work done, while still having the leeway to manage childcare and other personal responsibilities. It can also help drive productivity and employee engagement by keeping people focused on outcomes rather than work hours.

The end is (hopefully) in sight

With the mass vaccination programme picking up momentum, the worst of the pandemic may be behind us once the third wave passes. This is a perfect time to regroup, evaluate the lessons of the past 18 months, and develop a team that will be ready for whatever comes next.

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