Five Initiatives Small Businesses can Deploy Right Now to Improve Employee Wellbeing

In conversation with an expert panel at a virtual event hosted in partnership with Breathe HR, Jonathan Roomer shares effective ways to improve employee wellbeing straightaway.

Yugi the Giraffe - 18 October 2020

Show your employees you care during times of stress

YuLife hosted a webinar, in partnership with Breathe HR, that drew attention to the importance of employee wellbeing - now more than ever. With a huge amount of uncertainty at the moment, wellbeing has been highlighted as a necessity for businesses.

In the event, the panelists - Jonathan Richards, Breathe HR CEO; Rebecca Bull of My HR Hub; and Jonathan Roomer, YuLife Co-Founder -  discussed what to consider when implementing an effective employee wellbeing programme, how to measure its effectiveness and the major obstacles most HR professionals face.

Read on to find out some of the event’s main takeaways, as well as some cost-effective ways to ensure a happier, healthier workforce.

Ensuring employee wellbeing is a priority

Jonathan Richards began the virtual event by sharing that “right now, businesses are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shouldn't we be pulling in the purse strings, instead of spending money on wellbeing? How much of a priority is it?”

Jonathan Roomer weighed in by saying that employee wellbeing is often “the victim of any economic downturn. The problem with cutting your wellbeing budget is that you end up causing a lot more damage in the long term. Over the last few years, more of us are investing in wellbeing - Now is actually the time to double down. I think it's undeniable that our staff are the people who make our business successful and we have a duty to help them to be well.”

A virtual poll conducted during the event showed that the audience agreed:

  • 100% think there is a link between productivity and mental and physical wellbeing.
  • 91% agreed that there is a link between productivity and financial wellbeing.
  • 98% also agreed that financial wellbeing links to mental wellbeing.
  • However, just over half (51%) don’t have personal finance advice, recommendations or a guidance feature in their HR programme.
  • 67% believe that employers have a moral responsibility to support employee personal finance.

Measuring effectiveness of your programme

Rebecca shared that a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing doesn’t work for every organisation, especially with the shift to online and digital working: “It starts with thinking beyond a gym membership or Friday drinks. We see quite a few organisations making the same mistake and put a blanket health and wellbeing strategy in place. I think you need core basics, like an employee assistance programme (EAP). But it starts with what you need to measure and change - how do you set clear, defined goals and outcomes? Being able to measure that is really crucial.

“You may want to measure happiness, staff productivity, reducing absence, increasing staff retention, etc. So once you have an idea of what you'd like to improve in the business, then it's really going out to employees. So you could do this by online questionnaires, and interviews. Open up the floor or use tech to gain feedback. From there, you can hone in on what the data is telling you.”

Jonathan added to this with “asking a question is the absolute starting point, but knowing what questions to ask which is quite difficult. Sometimes it's actually better to give people the tools you think they need, see how it gets used, see the engagement and then make changes as opposed to waiting for the perfect solution.”

Walking meetings

Now most of us are working from home, some are missing out on the exercise afforded to us by the commute. Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book, The 4 Pillar Plan, outlines the many health benefits of walking, including reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart attacks. Make the most of your time during virtual meetings and get your daily step count up by encouraging everyone to walk during a meeting.

With the YuLife app, you can get your team to create healthy habits and keep fit with daily step challenges and an in-app leaderboard to encourage a bit of competition in your team; before you know it, everyone will be on their feet!

“Less face time”

Zoom fatigue has been widely acknowledged to be a real strain on our mental health. A TED article found that one of the root causes of this strain comes from the fact that “people feel like they have to make more emotional effort to appear interested, and in the absence of many non-verbal cues, the intense focus on words and sustained eye contact is exhausting.”

With so many of us having multiple Zoom meetings a day, Jonathan suggests that “this may be controversial advice, but hang up on video calls. Talking with your team over the phone can be just as effective from time to time.”

Separate work and home life

A lot of us feel like we’re living at work, rather than working from home. Set clear boundaries with your team and ensure that people are both taking regular breaks and logging off at reasonable hours to avoid burnout.

Jonathan Richards posted the question, “how do you go about ensuring that people are logging off at the end of the day and setting clear boundaries? I guess two things  focus on is culture, and workload.”

To this, Jonathan Roomer replied that “with some large corporate companies, one of the big things I learned is that you have to look busy and you achieve nothing - everybody knows what's going on but you have to be physically present, because otherwise it looks bad. I think senior management have to set the right example and say that it's time to switch off.”


In today's fast paced working world, stress, anxiety and burnout are quite commonplace. The principal reason for work related-stress is a lack of support and understanding for managers and leaders.

Rebecca said that “a good wellbeing strategy is underpinned by emotional intelligence. In layman's terms, it involves basic things such as self awareness, being authentic, self-management and empathy.

“We know most businesses fail because of communication. I'm sure we've all been in companies where that has been the case, but you can communicate effectively. This is a very different type of leadership skill than what we saw six months ago. Everything's changing every single day with furloughs and businesses pivoting that you can never communicate enough.

“As business leaders, we get so wrapped up in what we're doing, where we're going, and how we're going to get there that we stopped listening. And when we're really listening and engaging with people that are working for us, that's when we start to hear what is needed. So much of what people want is to be heard with an honest and authentic reaction back.”

Look after your own wellbeing before the wellbeing of others

It will be increasingly difficult to handle the problems of your team effectively if you are equally, if not more, burnt out than they are. Ensure you look after your wellbeing first and foremost.

Rebecca found this has been increasingly true in HR: “the pandemic has shone a light onto HR, and the many hats that HR professionals have. When you look at the accountability for people and the organisation for the legal and compliance side, as well as trying to protect everyone and train line managers. Check in with your HR people and ensure they’re taking steps to look after themselves, too.”

Click here to watch the full event.

Yugi the Giraffe

Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.