New advice issued to small businesses on health and wellbeing in the workplace

Although the majority (60 percent) of the UK’s private sector workforce are employed by small businesses; advice and support for employers and individuals in supporting health and wellbeing at work has generally focused on large companies. This is the impetus behind a new campaign launched by The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which focuses on the wellbeing of small business owners and employees. Alongside Public Health England and other organisations, such as the mental health charity, Mind, FSB has also developed Wellbeing in Small Business: a short guide, which aims to provide ideas people can adopt to improve their health and wellbeing. It includes advice on how to start conversations about stress, mental health and wellbeing, tackling loneliness, managing flexible working arrangements, networking, fitness groups and improving the physical environment.

The new campaign from FSB is intended to help its members – and the wider 5.5 million-strong small business community across the UK – reap the benefits of a positive approach to wellbeing, which are felt not only by the business they run but also by the economy and society as a whole.

The campaign has been launched in response to a rise in incidents of health and mental health conditions across the UK’s workforce, including business owners and the self-employed. The annual bill for sickness absence already sits at £29 billion across the UK, while research from FSB’s medical and health advice service, show that the number of small businesses seeking mental health advice has doubled in the last five years.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Owning and running a business can be hugely rewarding. However, it brings with it demands, responsibilities and risks that can bring personal pressures that can impact a person’s health and wellbeing.”

“Wellbeing can help increase our productivity, improve our performance and reduce absenteeism. There is a clear business case, however, the benefits are felt just as much in our health as individuals, but also by our communities and the wider economy.”

“Small business owners can play a vital role in improving the lives of their employees through a variety of actions – from innovative and new ideas to simple steps such as encouraging more activity and regular breaks.

“There’s never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and not every idea will be suitable for every business. We are, however, seeing some real innovation from small business owners for themselves and their teams. It is important that small business owners find the ideas that work for their business, themselves and their staff.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: “Britain’s 5.5 million small businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy so it is imperative that they have the tools they need to keep their workforce healthy.

“Staff who are healthy in work are more productive and businesses that promote a progressive approach to wellbeing can see a significant impact on business performance.

“This invaluable guide from the FSB highlights simple steps a small employer can take to help improve the health of their employees. This includes low or no cost actions, including signposting to opportunities such as the One You ‘Couch to 5k’ and ‘Active 10’ app or local lunchtime run clubs, or promoting active travel like cycling to work.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “Workplace wellbeing is increasingly at the top of employers’ agendas, which is welcome. After all, a recent Mind survey found that 56 per cent of workers polled said they found work very or fairly stressful. We all have mental health just as we all have physical health, and it can fluctuate from good to poor for any number of reasons.

“Whether you are self-employed or run a business, mental health should be a top priority for you. It is really important to promote wellbeing and take steps to tackle the work-related causes of poor mental health among your staff, as well as looking after your own wellbeing. Mentally healthy workplaces are associated with engaged, productive and loyal staff so it’s in everyone’s best interests to prioritise mental health at work. There are positive steps that you can take to promote good mental health including promoting the benefits of volunteering, up-skilling and continued learning, practicing mindfulness, building connections with others, and being active.

“We’re pleased to be supporting FSB in taking this forward and would encourage small employers and the self-employed to make good use of this guide.”

For further advice visit the FSB’s ‘Wellbeing in Small Business’ hub.