Small businesses focus on employee wellbeing as winter approaches

Retaining productivity and an enthusiastic, engaged workplace culture is an essential part of running a small business.

Small businesses focus on employee wellbeing as winter approaches

Richard Bearman is Managing Director of Start-Up Loans, a government-backed programme launched in 2012 to provide loans of up to £25k to new and early-stage businesses throughout the UK who may have struggled to access finance elsewhere. As we head deeper into winter, Richard discusses the impact of the clocks going back and the nights drawing in on small business culture, and shares advise from Start Up Loans Ambassadors on how to support employee wellbeing during this period. 

Retaining productivity and an enthusiastic, engaged workplace culture is an essential part of running a small business. Healthy work environments not only make financial sense for employers, helping to avoid sick days, but can also improve staff morale and lead to more creative and engaged workforce. 

This is a year-round job, but becomes particularly pertinent in November as the reality of winter sets in. The clocks going back and dark, cold weather inevitably impacts staff morale, dampening energy levels and leading to more illnesses. 

I believe Start Up Loans Ambassadors are in a strong position to help their staff through this transition period, despite operating on lower funds than bigger corporations and spinning a lot of plates already. Start-ups have the freedom to create tailored approaches to their employees’ individual needs, can often be more flexible in their offering and don’t need to wow their staff with purely financial incentives. 

I’ve spent some time talking with loan recipients from a range of sectors and business sizes about how they plan to look after their employees this winter. 

Nicola O’Shaughnessy, Founder of PO’Sh Creative

We deal with the transition to the winter months together, encouraging everyone to be mindful of how the darker days and earlier nights might affect us. The general lack of daylight and the colder temperature is without doubt a spirit crusher for most people, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve to keep morale high and wellbeing front and centre:

  • We communicate a supportive culture with flexible work from home days and a reassuring approach to illnesses, where employees feel comfortable resting and recovering, not feeling rushed back into work and also not spreading germs
  • We run a surprise pop up ‘hot chocolate bar’ to keep everyone feeling toasty warm and give them a chance to get creative and have fun with the toppings 
  • We keep our PO’Sh picnics going to treat our whole team to a ‘2-hour lunch date’ once a month and thank them for their hard work

Kate Collins, Founder of My Outdoor Classroom 

As an outdoor education company our staff can be really affected by the winter and darker months. Our team can spend all day out in the cold and wet, packing up damp equipment covered in mud can be really time consuming and hard.

But as we are set up to improve the wellbeing of children by offering space to play in nature, we would be foolish if we didn’t also consider the wellbeing of our small team. 

For the last few years, we have aimed to have a 6-week shut down from mid-December until the end of January so our team can have a long, paid break. While this may seem counter-productive, it works for us and means are staff are well-rested before the rush at February half term.

Susan Bonnar, Founder of The British Craft House 

We have almost 500 sellers but we create a sense of community with our social media Hub, where we connect on a personal level and promote each other. 

We are a small team but I regularly send random gifts in the post, such as on our launch anniversary and on their birthdays. As my team continues to grow, I will encourage an open culture and would love to have an annual retreat for employees.

Daniel Edwards, Founder of D&K Accounting 

We try to promote a healthy work-life balance as much as possible, so we already offer flexible working around home commitments. During the coming months, we will be offering our team the option to work from home during the week if they need.

I also delegate the office-decorating to the team so that they can make it as festive as they like to keep spirits high!

In addition to our tailored mentoring scheme offered to all Start Up Loan recipients, we offer free advice and guidance for anyone to access on our website. If you’d like to find out more”

Richard Bearman
Richard Bearman

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