In the fourth week of our cost-of-living campaign with NatWest we focus on the mental and physical health of business owners and their workforce.

Changes to well-being can result as a knock-on effect from the increasing costs of doing business and are important to approach holistically.

Maintaining a happy, healthy workforce is a responsible and ethical thing to do. If your team’s well-being can be improved, so too, can their productivity. Your employees might be experiencing similar anxieties to you regarding their own rising bills, so it’s important for business owners to be mindful of this.

According to Susan Galashan, senior consultant in employment law & human resources at NatWest Mentor, paying attention to financial and emotional well-being can also have a positive impact on employee retention and recruitment – something that many businesses are struggling with.

Invest in staff well-being

Businesses have a duty of care to their employees. Failing to make reasonable adjustments for someone struggling mentally could result not just in prolonged absences from work, but litigation claims and reputational damage to your business. 

Investment in well-being is also beneficial for the overall productivity of your business, with employees displaying improved resilience, and higher morale and engagement as a result.

However, it’s crucial that business owners and managers don’t just see well-being as a ‘nice’ extra or add-on.

Initiatives often fail because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business. Well-being practices need to be embedded into organisational culture and leadership. Here are four tips that might help you look after your workforce.

  • Reassure your employees: Tell them they will continue to receive stable employment when you know that is possible. Update them as and when you get new information pertaining to the crisis’s impact on your business.
  • Talk to senior staff: Encourage line managers to lead by example in creating a culture where discussing these issues matters. Give them the training and tools needed to provide meaningful support to employees. Be sure to check their duties are outlined in your business’s well-being policy.
  • Know your own limitations: You don’t have all the answers, so it’s important to direct your teams to other forms of support and advice, whether through access to financial coaches, webinars, fact sheets, signposting or counselling sessions.Encourage communication between staff: Since the pandemic and the adoption of hybrid working models, your staff have probably got used to working remotely at least some of the time. But person-to-person contact helps build strong relationships and dispel individual stresses. Organise regular catch-ups and be sure to check in on all employees especially those working remotely.


Invest in your well-being

Financial stress can often cut straight to ‘survival stress’, activating the fear centre in our brains and impacting a business owner’s decision-making skills.

Severe paralysing anxiety of this kind has been labelled ‘financial PTSD’ by specialists. Stress may lead to poor decision-making, but financial PTSD can be much worse, leading to the inability to make any decision at all, which could be even more detrimental to your business. If you’re a business owner, it’s important to tackle the cause of your stress and take the following steps to alleviate it.

  1. Face your fear: It’s the only way to get it under control, and constantly obsessing over money issues is both draining and unhelpful.
  2. Start with something small: This could be as simple as reassessing your banking arrangements, consolidating loans and/or credit cards, or examining bank statements to get a clearer picture of outgoings.
  3. Seek help from someone you can trust: If you’re a small business owner, you might be able to consult your accountant, but, in the absence of this, you could also look to a financial adviser or therapist.
  4. Find a ‘money buddy’: Do you know someone who is similarly committed to improving their financial well-being? If so, consider pairing up to share resources and keep each other accountable for actions and goals.
  5. Accept what you can and can’t control: The soaring rate of inflation is not your fault. But where you can, take action to tighten up spending, and look at how you could change marketing strategies to better respond to current circumstances.

Next week we look at how you can be risk aware and informed on some of the biggest scams out to take advantage of SMEs.