The project aimed to investigate ways to better support micro/small businesses to become healthier workplaces, including needs assessment, actions, education, policy development and monitoring. This helps managers support employee participation to develop shared values, find ways to address barriers to good health at work, and to support shared learning in the team. This example relates particularly to NICE guidance (NG13) Workplace policy and management practices to improve the health and wellbeing of employees.
Aims and objectives
Aim: To support small and micro businesses to become healthier workplaces.
- To encourage a ‘plan do review’ approach to health improvement in a small business involving the whole team following the PriceWaterhouseCoopers model.
- To support staff to implement actions prioritised dependent on needs they identify.
- To monitor and audit outcomes using a qualitative audit tool (locally developed) and the Workplace Wellbeing Charter standards.
Reasons for implementing your project
Small and micro workplaces have traditionally been harder to reach by health promotion services. Larger numbers of employees can typically be reached in large workplaces making it more effective to deliver health promotion. However most people work in small businesses so finding ways of reaching this widely spread and often disparate group of workplaces is an important aspect of workplace health. The project aimed to support small workplaces to become more health promoting.
Initial research showed that most businesses in Bath are very small and there is a larger than average proportion of self-employed people. UK Business Counts (2014) highlight that 87% (approx. 6525) businesses are micro (< 10) in B&NES, and a further 10.5% are small (< 10-49). (Interdepartmental Business Register (ons) Labour market profile for Bath.
Although Bath is generally a healthy place to live, there are pockets of deprivation. The local economy in B&NES is characterised to some extent by low wage jobs. The top priorities for the B&NES business community include; the protection and support of the independent retail sector; reduced traffic congestion and the provision of more ‘green’ transport facilities. A key local priority is to reduce obesity and support the production, accessibility and consumption of local food. B&NES Council’s ‘Think Local’ procurement policy aims to help businesses overcome the barriers that prevent local businesses from winning contracts.
Opportunities identified were to work with small and micro businesses to understand the mechanisms for improving health outcomes in a small business setting. Also to investigate what levers or mechanisms for achieving change could be used, and how they could be used.
1. Three businesses took part: A bakery in Bath. They employ 14 staff on permanent contracts and have been an owner run family business for four generations.
2. An architect’s practise in Bath employing 21 staff all permanent with over 20 years’ experience of designing and delivering quality buildings.
3. An estate agent in Bath comprising of 4 self-employed partners all with extensive experience in estate agency.
How did you implement the project
All 3 businesses reported good staff wellbeing at the start of the process and were motivated by increasing their reputation as quality business. In two cases the businesses wanted to improve their adherence to legal requirements. e.g. Health and Safety and Equality legislation.
An initial meeting was set up to discuss values and how these relate to staff health and wellbeing, and their reasons for doing the Charter. A form was used to help employers consider their reasons. All welcomed the support to comply with legal requirements. The bakery also wanted ‘to be an employer of choice’ and one that cares about staff and customers. The architects wanted to; ‘do the right thing for our staff’. The estate agents wished to further develop their ‘culture of wellbeing’ for partners and customers.
All 3 businesses self-assessed against the National Charter standards and surveyed staff views/needs and assessed how well the work environment supported staff health and wellbeing. From this they developed actions. The bakery focused on healthy eating. The architects looked at leadership and whole team development. The estate agency focused on physical activity.
The bakery ran a Sugar Swaps campaign and produced a low sugar granola bar. They also achieved a local ‘healthy eating’ award for their business. The architect’s developed internal communications for all the health promotion strands and reorganised their team vision and business objectives to ensure they prioritized staff wellbeing. They also did whole team motivational mapping work. The estate agents rewrote their partnership agreement with their self-employed partners that made up the staff group, and planned a customers, friends and family ‘walk’. Barriers included time, sensitivity of the subjects and methods of knowledge transfer. Costs were staff time (incl) and training costs. Training costs were met jointly by the business and the project team.
A local audit tool was developed to monitor progress and notes were made after each visit.
All 3 businesses updated policies. Two businesses sent staff on health and safety training, and in all three business one or more staff members made lifestyle changes. All three businesses promoted health through campaigns and found the campaign briefings useful. Knowledge was increased among all staff about credible sources of information and local services.
There has been an increase in healthy conversations among staff and among the local community. Several members of staff come forward and volunteered stories about personal behaviour change. The time provided by the lead officers of all three businesses exceeded expectations.
All three businesses now have a workplace wellbeing charter award.
Key learning points
Small businesses responded well to a ‘light touch’ and often customer inclusive approach to addressing lifestyle issues. They preferred having a single point of contact for the Charter.
It was important to focus on their reasons for engaging in the programme, which were different for each business. Also to identify barriers and find solutions in collaboration e.g. part funding training.
The Charter is a useful framework within which businesses can position themselves and identify their starting point and actions.
‘Values’, ‘relationships’ and ‘building trust’ were all very important to the businesses both in terms of staff and also in terms of the wider local community and customers. This theme was central to the reasons why the businesses took part in the Charter.
Learning methods including story telling, debates and joint action planning worked well to inform policy development and other change activities. Regular communication with the business was key. Generic training e.g. Health Champion training was not achievable with smaller businesses in this. All the businesses worked well with the use of visual aids, checklists, directories of local information and verbal methods of evidence collection. Forms to fill in to use as prompts for conversations also worked well.
It is important to have experts in all the 8 strands of the Charter advising a local Charter delivery project to ensure guidance given meets legal requirements and is up to date, Also that the delivery reflects local priorities informed by the local Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Once enough employers are engaged with the project it is hoped that employment law and other types of group briefings will be able to be provided and that a type of health champion training could be delivered also.