Category: Mental Health

Creating a culture of wellness in your business

Creating a culture of wellness in your business

The significance of holistic wellness is growing more and more normalized (and expected), both within and outside the workplace. Whether you’re running a large corporation or a startup, building a culture of wellness within your organization takes time, intentionality and earnest buy-in from the top, down.

What is wellness culture?

A culture of wellness goes beyond the health benefits you may offer as an employer. Wellness culture focuses on building an attitude of positive mental, emotional, social and physical health in the workplace. It encompasses tangible initiatives and involvement to improve the wellbeing of employees, and aligns with creating a positive, safe and respectful work culture leading to happier, more engaged and productive employees. The result is higher morale, and ultimately a better bottom line.

The importance of developing a culture of wellness

In prioritizing employee wellbeing, you make it part of your business’ mission to empower your employees to make healthy choices—personally and professionally. A 2021 study by Alberta Blue Cross found that employees who had access to workplace wellness programs saw a measurable improvement in overall wellness across four different categories, including respiratory, cardiac, physical and mental health. 

Workplace wellness programs are also contributors to decreased absenteeism and higher productivity, which can lead to better financial outcomes for your business. Alberta workers rank leaders and managers who promote a positive work culture as the most important influence on work environments, productivity, and psychological health and safety (Leger, 2021). Any wellness initiative is an investment in your most important resource: your people. 

How to make wellness accessible in your small business

Wellness initiatives can vary in size, method and desired outcome. Aligning with national initiatives like Mental Health Week or Nutrition Month can start important conversations and address wellness in a scalable way. Other initiatives could look like:

  1. Integrating the Mental Health Continuum Model in one on one meetings between team members and leaders. This model allows employees to identify their mental health state without stigma, and enables leaders to offer appropriate support. 
  2. Encouraging time off, including vacation time and flex or wellness days—build a system to make sure your employees are able to unplug from their work and recharge during time off. 
  3. Creating a ParticipACTION+ program to encourage movement, or partnering with a local gym or fitness studio to provide free or subsidized access to fitness equipment or programs.
  4. Swapping out workplace snacks for healthier options like fruit or nutrient-dense bars.
  5. Encouraging movement with a team building activity like Office Olympics or mini-golf.
  6. Creating a digital communication charter, where team members can align with how they prefer to communicate and when it’s appropriate to communicate. This document can allow teams to create mutually agreed upon boundaries that allow for peak productivity, focus and wellbeing.
  7. Build movement breaks and mindfulness exercises into meetings.
  8. Reducing barriers by holding education clinics.
  9. Encouraging mental health and reducing stigma by providing programs like Not Myself Today, The Working Mind and other resources.
  10. Identifying opportunities for ergonomic workspace improvements.

The focus of any wellness measure is that your employees feel heard and valued. Choose a “wellness champion” from outside your management team to spearhead your initiatives, encourage peer-to-peer support from all sides of the organization and collect feedback on the effectiveness of wellness initiatives and programs. Whatever the size of your business, creating a number of smaller groups is more effective—participation in any initiative is generally higher when there are less members in a group as coworkers have more socialization opportunities.

Gather feedback from your employees to understand what wellness approaches are resonating, and how you can improve wellness culture overall. Creating a culture of wellness doesn’t have to mean making huge changes overnight. Start small, and build at a pace that’s comfortable. Together we can make it a little easier for all people to access the support and resources they need. 

Balancing mental health and business management

Balancing mental health and business management

Being a small business owner can be rewarding and exhilarating, bringing with it a high sense of achievement and autonomy. But being an entrepreneur can be stressful too.. In a 2022 survey of 1,500 Canadian entrepreneurs,  34% said that mental health challenges interfered with their ability to work at least once a week (BDC, 2022). Both to support the long-term success of your business and for your own health and happiness, it’s vital to prioritize your mental health as a small business owner. As an added bonus, taking time to reflect and rest can increase the fulfillment you find in your work.   

Create boundaries. While this sounds like a simple solution, in the day-to-day of running a business, it can feel impossible. Phone calls and emails during the evening and weekends can be difficult to ignore, if you feel doing so might affect your relationship with a client or supplier. Likewise, it can be hard to be truly present with friends or family when you’re worried about a delayed shipment or business challenge. The reality is that healthy boundaries between your work and personal life isn’t something you can build without planning, time, and effort. Set aside a day in your calendar to think about how to structure your work and block your time so that you have built-in time away. You could set up your email and phone so that you don’t get notified for any work emails or calls, unless the person trying to reach you feels the matter as urgent. You could also hire a virtual or in-person assistant to free up your personal time and mental headspace. 

While changing your habits and work flow will take time to get used to, you’ll be glad you took the time to separate your home life from your work life – and your friends and family will be glad, too. 

Stabilize your cash flow to give you some control around those boundaries you’re striving for. This will allow you to scale your business at your own pace, while supporting a positive work-life balance. Our ATB Entrepreneur Strategists can help guide you through cash flow variability and work with you to build a plan that supports your current situation (you can request free support here). 

Find direction and purpose by creating big-picture goals and building a business plan to achieve them. . While cash flow periods will vary, having a strategy to reference will help you make key decisions. It will help you eliminate distractions and move away from work you find stressful or tedious, allowing you to build a business that fulfills and inspires you. While many business owners have goals in mind, many don’t have a plan in place to ensure they stay accountable to their goals, and benchmarks for meeting their goals that are manageable. Our ATB Entrepreneur Strategists can help you design a business strategy that’s future-proof, designed for growth, and centered on your vision.  They can also provide support and business solutions to help you achieve your goals for today, five years from now, and beyond. 

Connect with fellow small business owners who encourage your entrepreneurial mindset and understand the unique challenges of running your own business. Networking opportunities not only charge your social battery, they can also motivate you. Tapping into the creativity of other business owners can help you solve problems and streamline your processes. ATB regularly hosts educational workshops and events – find events in your area here

Self-care is not a cliche, and needs to be a priority for every entrepreneur. Self-care is not solely defined by taking a spa day, going to a yoga class, or going on a vacation. Self-care simply means stepping away or logging off and doing something you personally enjoy outside of work. This can mean reading a book, going for a walk in nature in the middle of the day, watching a tv show, or preparing a week’s worth of meals. Remember, the pursuits that help you manage stress aren’t frivolous. They’re what keep you going, even on the hard days.

Access resources to help you tap into your inner strength and calm your mind. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has developed a library of resources you can access at any time here. Resources include links to virtual therapists, professional coaches, and online exercises that can help you find meaning in your personal and professional life. Sometimes, simply talking to someone can help you let go of your fears or reframe your challenges.  It’s a good idea to use resources even when you’re not experiencing a crisis. Proactively mitigating personal stressors will help you think more clearly and work more effectively. In other words, talking to an online counselor or coach during the evening or over the lunch hour isn’t a distraction from your business, it’s an investment.