8th October 2020

Why Health and Wellbeing Are Crucial to the Survival of SMEs

1st May, 2019

Kevin Rogers

With a growing number of big businesses proving to be ever-innovative in their approach to health and wellbeing strategies for staff, the risk to smaller businesses of not being able to keep up and subsequently missing out on top talent is ever-increasing.


I believe that while bigger businesses are open to alternative and unique methods of retaining, rewarding and recognising staff, there is still a huge opportunity for SMEs to remain ahead of the perk and benefits game (or at least be in the running).  


Crucial Investment for Employers

Many large brands and organisations are continuing to invest heavily in the health and wellbeing of their teams. As well as consistently making sure that what they provide meets the needs of its team, this provides real return on investment. It generates loyalty both from the employee and the employer.  


This investment is becoming crucial to companies as part of the wider overarching commercial strategy. With the right processes and practices in place, employers are able to not only effectively reduce absenteeism, but presenteeism too — when someone shows up not feeling well enough to be in work, and subsequently performing below par.


High Perceived Value to Employees

Many businesses, especially SMEs, recognise the importance of investing in the health and wellness of their staff. The provision of healthcare support is often more appealing, and has a higher perceived value, to would-be recruits than a slightly higher salary.


However, not all businesses have the budgets in place to be able to offer comprehensive and innovative techniques such as unlimited holiday or free staff lunches. As such, they might feel as if they’re not able to compete effectively with those who offer generous salaries and effective staff benefits.


So the question is, how else can SMEs make themselves stand out in the ever-competitive world of employee health and wellbeing?


More Innovative Options for SMEs

The results from our recent group meeting as Patrons of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, with fellow Patron and Member organisations, provided some interesting insight into why many SMEs are struggling to adopt more cohesive strategies.


Many identified that having never invested in such a way before, there is hesitance to invest too much due to the unknown returns on investment or how it will impact on the business’s bottom-line. Others mentioned that many solutions are often too in-depth and not tailored enough to their specific business needs, especially for those new to the idea of employee wellbeing strategies.


And we know through our own partnerships with our corporate SME groups that there has previously been a lack of understanding within their businesses about the importance of supporting all three core aspects of an individual’s health — physical, financial, and mental.


One in four people will experience a mental health problem, and it’s simply not realistic for employers to suggest that these problems stay at the door of work when an employee arrives.



Support for Mental Health 

To ensure that they are performing at their best, mental health support is a crucial part of any organisation’s wellbeing strategy. I believe that Employee Assistance Programmes — a confidential counselling service — continue to be a hugely valued resource for staff to use if any issues are affecting their performance at work.


They are cost-effective for employers, are completely confidential for staff, and can offer support for a diverse range of issues which no doubt have an effect on an individual’s performance at work — from relationship breakdowns, to stress and depression, grief, and financial worry.


SMEs make up a huge 99% of the entire business population in the UK, so it’s essential that they not only reap the commercial benefits of investing in their staff’s wellbeing. Their staff will be better supported and valued as individuals, and have access to a wide range of services should they need additional support.


An Effective Alternative to Pay Rises  

At a time when salary increases are becoming more difficult for business owners to offer to staff, the window of opportunity for employers to support staff from a mental, financial and physical standpoint is ever increasing and ever important.


A UK study by Glassdoor found that 57 per cent of respondents said that benefits and perks play a major role when deciding whether to pursue a particular job1 and Inc. reported 80 per cent of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay rise2.


The Stats

  • Absenteeism | The average employee took 4.1 sickness absence days in 20173, and based on the average salary for a full-time worker, this equates to a cost of £432.84 per year, per worker for their company (assuming they get full sick pay)
  • Presenteeism | Despite sickness rates in 2017 almost halving those from 19934, presenteeism (when an employee goes to work feeling unwell) has risen dramatically over the last few years, with 86 per cent of employers experiencing presenteeism in the workplace. The rise of this phenomenon and the decline in absence rates points to the very real potential of employees not feeling comfortable taking time off when they are ill, possibly caused by workplace culture, unpaid sick days, or stigma associated with mental illness
  • Stress | One in five people take a day off work due to stress, of which a huge 93 per cent lie about the real reason for their absence5

Kevin Rogers

Kevin Rogers is CEO of Health Cash Plan provider, Paycare, which helps businesses recognise, reward and retain their employees, and provides preventative support covering their physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing needs. As a qualified accountant and Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Kevin began his career with Tarmac PLC followed by senior financial roles at SMEs and multinational organisations within the manufacturing, automotive and construction sectors. For more information about Paycare, its range of corporate plans and how they benefit both businesses and employees, please visit or call 01902 371000.

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