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A Wellbeing Check-in for Small Businesses

For a small business, the idea of hiring a wellbeing consultant or business coach is a bit laughable. But any business has the very real danger of burnout right now. Our people need some sort of support, or at the very least acknowledgement, of this stressful situation. So – I’ve got a taste of it…

A woman standing on a hill overlooking a city, with her arms outstretched

For a small business, the idea of hiring a wellbeing consultant or business coach is a bit laughable.

But any business has the very real danger of burnout right now. Our people need some sort of support, or at the very least acknowledgement, of this stressful situation.

So – I’ve got a taste of it here for you, free.

This is a combination of what I’ve learned as a mentee in the past, what I’ve been taught at psychology conferences, and what I’ve been told by actual business coaches during this pandemic.

5 wellbeing gems for small business teams

1. We’ve evolved to focus on negatives 

Being alert to danger and spotting potential threats used to keep us alive; now, our brains do it instinctively to protect us, even though it’s rarely necessary. 

We’re still reacting to perceived problems as though they’re wild boars heading straight for us. Our warning system starts alerting for things that won’t actually cause us harm, which causes us stress we don’t need to survive.  

Then, there’s the media. News focuses on negatives because they elicit a stronger emotional reaction. More clicks, more views, more shares – more attention for advertisers. So, negatives sell, and our world appears to be in a downward spiral even though, statistically (yes, even with a pandemic!), we’ve never had it better.  

Community, although often positive, can also have a negative effect. Humans love to gossip, particularly about bad news. It’s what drives us to write a bad review when we usually wouldn’t bother leaving a good one. Unfortunately, we love bad news. 

Result: we think the world is worse than it is, because we see negatives where there are none, maximise the scary stuff over the happy, and spread bad news more than good. 

Knowing this, and trying to remember it, can help us adjust our focus. Everything seems awful because that’s how we’re programmed and how the media works. It’s actually all going to be OK.

2. Achievement isn’t all or nothing

We beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve the goals we set for ourselves. But right now, we’re living through adversity. So we shouldn’t see things in black and white: achieving or failing.

You might not be able to face that 5k in the rain tonight, so your brain decides ‘I’ve failed, might as well give up.’ When really, couldn’t you settle for 2k? Or a quick walk? Even a few steps towards your goal means you won’t feel that sense of failure.

It’s the same with business goals. We may not be hitting the targets we set for ourselves pre-pandemic. But we can still push to achieve other things – we actually need to, to stay motivated and fulfilled.

Make sure your team or employees know that the goalposts have shifted. It’s not that you’re expecting less of them; it’s that you’re realistic about what ‘achieving’ means right now.

3. We feel happiest when we’re working with our core values

Yes, we all want to work for a company that’s aligned with our beliefs but psychologically, it’s very important for our happiness. We do our best work in the service of our core values. We feel fulfilled and motivated.

Now is a good time to think about what’s important to your business and make sure everyone feels part of that. Think about projects or programs you can do as a unit, especially things that focus on the local area or that someone in your team holds dear.

I recently found that doing a CEO roundup blog of the last year helped everyone feel a sense of achievement and togetherness; we all experienced the hardship together while we were living it, but we can all feel good about helping our businesses survive as a team, too.

4. It’s time to stop tolerating and start accepting

Tolerating a situation means gritting our teeth and hunkering down until it’s over.

Accepting a situation means coming to terms with the fact that life has changed and we need to adapt.

Emotionally, those are very different, and they’re also vital for our mental wellbeing and our businesses’ survival. We’ve all lived through a grief phase, as we’ve watched the effects of the pandemic on our families, communities and way of living. Hopefully, now we can enter a period of acceptance and adaptation.

Within our businesses, there are some easy ways we can foster acceptance.

> Do an employee survey

We still have a ways to go with lockdown and even further before we’re back in offices properly. Now is a good time to let people know you’re listening and get information on how things could be better – because it’s going to take work to stay positive.

Get feedback on how work can function more smoothly while you’re remote; it’s great info but it also lets your team know the business is adapting

> Conduct an equipment audit

Does everyone have adequate seating? Seems silly but it’s serious as all get out. Most experts rank back issues in the top problems remote working could introduce.

Make sure your people aren’t sat on a cat food box hunched over a tiny screen. They need the same level of comfort and technology that they had at the office if they’re expected to have the same output.

I made a homeworking guide last year – make sure those things are easy for everyone to check off every day.

> Get serious about socialising

I know, it’s grim. Forced fun. But we used to sit next to each other and chat, didn’t we? We used to pass in the kitchen or go for a drink after work. That stuff has to be replaced somehow.

Get your more socially-minded team members to spearhead events and activities to help people stay connected and feeling SOMETHING. Whether it’s mini TED talks on passion projects or exercise challenges, things that aren’t work are very important to keep everyone happy with work.

> Prioritise training

Don’t keep leaving training ‘until we’re back in the office’. Just because training used to involve a whiteboard and chairs doesn’t mean it has to.

People need training when they need it. That’s imperative to your business. They also expect training – it’s something people choose roles for.

Making sure training still happens also tells everyone that the world is carrying on. The more that gets left for the future, the more people will feel like they’re on pause for that imaginary time.

> Put money into exercise

If there’s a penny left in the budget (ha ha), I would recommend getting a fitness instructor to do a weekly session of something everyone will enjoy.

  1. It will help with those back pain tribunals in the future
  2. It feels like you care about your people (let us never forget that internal brand is an important business exercise)
  3. It’s something for people to talk about that isn’t work or… sourdough?
  4. It breaks up the week
  5. Family (and cats, please!) can join in, so it’s some much-needed variety
  6. It helps a freelancer at an incredibly difficult time

So – good for the body, the mind and the team. And it says new normal like nobody’s business.

None of this is mental health support

You are an employer, not a doctor. However, we all have a responsibility to our teams, especially now.

If your business doesn’t provide health insurance, check in with HR to make sure they know where to point someone struggling. None of us truly know how everyone is experiencing this time, so even if we do everything we can for our company’s wellbeing, some people are going to have a tougher time than others.

HR need to be up-to-speed on bereavement, anxiety, stress, illness – all big issues that will be coming up more frequently than usual right now.

Make wellbeing and mental health a conversation, show your team you’re serious about trying to make things easier and maybe we’ll all get through this. Together.

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