Why small businesses need to prioritise play

New research suggests that although many businesses recognise the importance of employee engagement, they could afford to get to know their staff better

Why small businesses need to prioritise play

There’s a reason companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook encourage employees to play ping pong and go on team picnics: they know that being a fun place to work makes it easier to recruit and retain the best talent. But what’s the attitude to fun amongst Britain’s small businesses? In a new Play and Productivity survey, BrightHR spoke to the owners of over 2,000 UK small to medium sized businesses to examine their thoughts on employee engagement, fun in the workplace and the link between good employee relationships and productivity.

The company also wanted to know whether business owners were aware of both the visible and hidden costs of ignoring employee engagement, as well as the link between employee engagement and client engagement.

People, productivity and profits
The research found that 90% of the business owners surveyed strongly agree/agree that a good relationship with employees has a positive effect on productivity. And 91% strongly agree/agree that employee engagement boosts profits. Yet only a third of respondents claim to know their employees well.

This may well indicate that relationships in the workplace are not as strong as they should be, given the importance of employee engagement for building harmonious and productive teams. Getting to know your staff not only makes for a more trusting, open and productive work environment but it also builds loyalty and improves staff retention rates.
Graham Allcott, author of How to be a Productivity Ninja, says: “It’s often said that people join organisations but people leave bosses. How you set the culture of the organisation is vital in ensuring you keep your best people. Obviously money is one factor but feeling a sense of progression, challenge and belonging are also important reasons people stick around. It’s all about developing trust. Getting ‘beyond the task’ and relating to one another on a more human level can be a powerful way to develop that trust.”

Playing to win in the workplace
While 80% claim to understand what is meant by employee engagement, the survey data suggests that there is a gap between their perceptions of the term and the reality. Many employers claim to be employee-focused but is this actually the case? Do they really understand how to build relationships with their workers that lead to clear business benefits?

Previous research by BrightHR has supported the notion that in order to get the best of out of your workforce, it pays to play. This is particularly important for millennials — people born between 1980 and 2000 — who expect fun to be an integral part of their work lives more than any other demographic.

The results provide valuable insights into what employees want. For example, 79% of employees aged 16-24 rate fun at work as very important or moderately important and 62% of all employees believe that laughter would definitely make their work life better. But some businesses might not understand that it’s possible to be both professional and playful at the same time.

The cost of ignoring employee engagement
So many drains on productivity – not to mention harmful office politics – could easily be reduced by introducing more fun into the workplace. And given that BrightHR’s research suggests that a fun working environment can help limit absenteeism, business owners concerned about their bottom line should look at whether they are doing enough to keep people happy.

That being said, some business owners haven’t joined all the dots. More than two-thirds of employers say they don’t know how absenteeism impacts profits. It’s understandable that fun isn’t always a priority: a lot of small business owners work long hours trying to make their company a success, solve problems on a daily basis and are often dealing with tight cash-flow issues. But being a small business owner means setting the culture for the team – even when you feel like you don’t have a single second to spare.
Happy staff, happy customers
Excellent customer service and client experience can only be given by staff who are engaged, happy and feel valued at work. When your employees are happier, so are your customers. Businesses that invest in employee satisfaction, staff development and happiness are more likely reap the rewards in the form of a larger market share. The easiest and cheapest way to make this happen is to introduce play into the workplace. Simple things such as dress down Fridays, wellbeing days or computer games are all inexpensive initiatives that promote fun, play, trust and goodwill.

This article comes to you courtesy of BrightHR the absence management software company.


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