Navigating economic turbulence: a guide for SMEs to support employee wellbeing

SMES support employee wellbeing
Some simple strategies can deliver wellbeing benefits.

As economic pressures take hold, small businesses are feeling the squeeze, fueling concerns over job security and intensifying the burden on employers.

Current data shows that an alarming 38 per cent of business leaders predict a need for workforce reduction in the year 2023. With 92 per cent of employers deeply troubled by escalating costs and inflation, the challenging scenario puts a serious financial strain on employee wellbeing.

However, SME owners can become an advocate for their employees. Through tax-efficient fringe benefits, specifically tailored to individual needs, SMEs can alleviate the growing financial burdens for their employees. Strategies like subsidies on groceries, fuel costs, and primary healthcare services can ease the burden of soaring living costs, ensuring basic needs are met.

Wellbeing-aligned benefits

Everyone’s needs are different, so services and benefits should be adaptable to their unique needs at various life stages, and effectively curtail stress and anxiety.

  • Subsidising psychological services or specific medications could be beneficial for some employees.
  • Financial advice and/or support may be suitable.

To attract, engage, and retain their small teams, small-business owners should aim to promote employee health and overall well-being, with initiatives that are practical, well-received and used.

Personalised, convenient, and aspirational benefits

Benefits that are flexible and tailored to personal needs are highly prized by employees. Coupling these with the convenience of easy access and scheduling makes them all the more appealing. Employers should look into user-friendly platforms that combine all benefits into a single space, easing time constraints and eliminating the need for multiple channels.

Moreover, benefits offering sustainable rewards and an element of aspiration can motivate employees and foster a positive work atmosphere.

Healthy work practices and genuine care

SME owners must foster a supportive work culture to inspire loyalty and respect. This responsibility begins with establishing healthy work practices.

  • Goals, strategies, and flexible work cultures should be collaboratively developed, ensuring that employees’ voices are heard and individual needs met.
  • Seeking regular feedback from employees on their quality of life can help create meaningful, scalable options that can support the team sustainably.

By investing in employees’ wellbeing, SMEs can experience improved productivity and employee satisfaction, and yield a positive return on their investment.

Integrating wellbeing into workflow

Health and wellness initiatives should be integrated into the daily workflow, allowing employees to realise that it’s acceptable to prioritise their wellbeing during work hours. This approach promotes a culture that values self-care and encourages employees to participate in health initiatives that naturally fit into their routines.

Options, priorities, and strategy

Despite concerns about inflation and interest rates, we need to remember it’s temporary and will pass. It’s how SME owners lead their teams through the challenges that will make a difference.  Before making rash decisions, consider the potential fallout from downsizing. Maintaining workload with a smaller team can lead to burnout and a damaged workplace culture. Other options can counteract the need to downsize teams:

  • Open communication and conversations about the business’s health can encourage staff buy-in on solutions.
  • Flexible work options that are agreed between employees and teams together, can foster a culture of getting everyone through the storm together.
  • Upskilling and training staff can fortify your employee skill base to increase their confidence, and strengthen the business.
  • Management visibility is important in times of uncertainty, work with your team, it can boost morale and demonstrate that everyone is in the situation together.

Through a comprehensive approach, SMEs can foster a culture of care and support, and maintain a strong culture, leading to better health and overall wellbeing, even during economic uncertainty. Implementing wellbeing initiatives and flexible, healthy work practices can contribute to both business success and employee satisfaction, creating a resilient SME community.

This article was first published on sibling website Inside Small Business.