5 ways to improve employee wellbeing in your startup

A quick summary:

Employee wellbeing is somewhat of a buzzword in today’s startup world. 🌎

But what is employee wellbeing? 🤔

Employee wellbeing refers to the mental and physical health of your employees. A result from factors both inside and outside of the workplace. But as we see an increasing amount of people now eating, sleeping, and living in their new workplace, employee wellbeing has never been more important. 

How can you improve employee wellbeing in your startup? 🧘

There are so many ways to promote employee wellbeing in your startup, and leaders must think outside of the box. That said, here are 5 to begin with: 

Have the right people in the right roles 

You might be losing people because they’re not a good fit for your team - or perhaps they aren’t a good fit for the role. The nature of a startup encourages collaboration. People are drawn to the startup environment because of the non-traditional career opportunities. 

But this structure has its drawbacks… 👀

In a fast-paced startup, a junior/mid-level dev could easily find themselves heading a team as you scale. Who better? They are a great cultural fit; they know the company like the back of their hand, and they have likely experienced most operations across the business. 👍

This may be great for everyone involved, as they’re a natural leader and can build a strong team beneath them as you hire. 

Yet the opposite is also a possibility. They may have no experience in leading a team. And while they have the technical skills to build your company, they lack those vital leadership skills. Not everyone makes a good leader. And the results of a bad leader in a small team can be catastrophic for employee wellbeing. Our retention report gathered data from over 400 tech candidates, and we found that 71% of people considering leaving their tech role were dissatisfied with their relationship with their direct manager. 

This isn’t to say you can’t learn how to successfully lead a team - but don’t expect people to be able to (or to want to). ✋

So how can we prevent this? 

  • Personal development conversations with your team. Who wants to be a leader, who enjoys it, and who will be good at it?
  • Leadership training - relatively inexpensive and worth it if you want a happy team
  • Systems you can put in place like Loopin to help kickstart the wellbeing conversations
  • Hire leaders who have experience working in a scaling team (that’s where we can help) 

Find out what works for different members of your team 🎯

2020 was a wakeup call for many. It made us reflect on our work/life situations. The introduction of remote working left many people feeling isolated - struggling without the in-person interactions of an office environment. But others felt refreshed. Understanding the different needs of your team is important when it comes to employee wellbeing. 

Speak to your team 👋

Engage through one-to-ones and anonymous polls. Many founders are scared that they might lose their team to the pull of remote working - but you’ll definitely lose a team who don’t feel listened to. 👂

Explore different hybrid working solutions 🔎

This could include a mix of remote and office days, subscribing to a flexible working space or establishing core days that everyone will meet up and take part in team building activities. 

Ultimately, you won’t know what works for your team until you talk to them. And remember, nothing is ever set in stone. If it takes a few trials to figure out the best solution for your startup that’s okay - your team will see that you are invested in their wellbeing, and this can go a long way. 

Shout about each other’s wins 🏆

No one wants to feel like their hard work is going unseen. 

Encourage recognition and praise amongst your team. As you scale you might find yourself drifting further and further away from the everyday workings of your startup. You’re no longer just across the desk to congratulate someone on their win. 🥇

If you can encourage your team to shout about all of their wins - individually and on behalf of others - you'll create a much healthier and happier work environment. 

And if you’re all working remotely, it’s even more important to share these achievements. It’s easy to feel disconnected from a job when you work from your bedroom - have daily/weekly catchups where you encourage people to share their wins, no matter how small. 

Consider 'Employee of the Month' awards - and make sure you mix it up. If it’s always one person winning the awards this can have a negative effect on your team morale. 

Sharing information helps people learn, and it keeps people motivated to do great things for themselves and for your startup.

Involve your team in business improvement meetings 🤝

It can be hard to loosen your grip on the reins. This company is your baby, you’ve grown it from the ground up and hearing any form of criticism is like a dagger to the heart - but it shouldn’t be. 

Constructive criticism is like gold dust. Use it to help build your startup. Opening up the floor could prompt valuable discussions and ideas that you wouldn’t have arrived at yourself. 

Your team are your company, so listen to them. Even something as small as a quarterly business improvement meeting with your team could spark ideas that drive success.  💡

In turn this trust and inclusion will boost employee retention and employee wellbeing. Give your team the tools and space to help improve your business. And of course, not every suggestion will be viable or even good - however it will allow your team the freedom to talk and help you to detect any snags.

Re-evaluate the wellbeing initiatives you have in place 🚴

Long term employee wellbeing and retention doesn’t come from ping-pong tables, lukewarm beer, or free pizza. It’s born out of trust, engagement, and progression. ✅

In an early-stage startup, leaders must get creative with their wellbeing initiatives, regardless of budget limits. There’s plenty of options out there. Take a look at the list below:

  • Regular one to ones each month (including for you) to discuss challenges, wins and plans
  • Team away days - could be a hike or a bike ride - something away from the desk
  • Play games as a team - whether this is virtually or in person. You can learn a lot about someone by the way they carry themselves on a Monopoly board…
  • If you’re a remote team, consider social zoom calls - coffee mornings or after work drinks
  • Team quiz nights
  • Team up with an employee benefits platform like Heka to help you keep track of your spending and let your team choose what wellbeing looks like to them

Through Heka you can support the wellbeing needs of any scaling team. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wellbeing, so an employee benefits platform is a great way to keep your team feeling engaged. 💪

Heka allows you to budget each quarter for personalised and individual wellbeing. This means eliminating expensive fees and the hours spent managing employee benefits packages. Instead, a monthly allowance of £20 - £50 can go a very long way in supporting healthier, happier employees.  🤑

There’s no quick fix when it comes to employee wellbeing. But when you’re hiring at scale, you’ll be thankful that you invested in employee wellbeing now. And when you really get down to it, a happy team is a winning team - and before funding and investments and product launches, your team is all you’ve got. 💚

This blog was guest authored by Róisín Phelan, content writer at ISL Talent. ISL are an award-winning UK recruitment company who partner with startups and scaleups in their growth journey | Strong teams, built better.