SuperFriend’s 2018 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey shows that smaller organisations are trailing behind their larger peers when it comes to workplace policies that support employee wellbeing.
While smaller organisations are leading the way when it comes to culture, capability, leadership and connectedness, they are less likely to have effective policies for bullying and harassment and return to work after time off with mental health problems. They are also less likely to have access to external support services such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and internal counselling and support services.
Small businesses account for more than 95% of all Australian workplaces  and many of these small businesses are also low-resourced. But even if full-time HR support isn’t an option, there are a variety of policies that can be implemented to meet the needs of your workers.
Where to start with workplace policies
- Ensure there are effective performance management arrangements in place and that you provide employees with clear information about their roles, their contracts, and their remuneration and benefits
- When an employee needs extended time off work, ensure there is clear return to work planning, and support them through the entire process. If possible, help them stay at work. Tips for return to work can be found in the Mentally Healthy Workplaces toolkit
- Prioritise equality and diversity
- There are many Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) with telephone counselling services available at varying costs, depending on the needs of your organisation
- Make sure you have a clear and effective policy on bullying and harassment. As found in the 2018 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey, the most commonly reported policy indicator of a thriving workplace is effective policies against workplace bullying and harassment
- Consider training for staff to promote mental health in the workplace to improve awareness, reduce stigma attached to mental ill-health and encourage staff to seek help
- Ensure there is a strategy and policy in place for mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical. Find more on this in the Policy section of Building Thriving Workplaces
When implemented well, shared and understood throughout the workplace, policies like these can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of employees. They complement the good work that is already being done in the domains of culture, leadership, capability and connectedness.
Other low- and no-cost initiatives – saying hello, good bye and thank you; creating an open-door policy; co-creating organisational values; encouraging regular breaks; discouraging out-of-hours emails – can also shift the overall wellbeing of the workplace quite noticeably. These positive changes tend to have a ripple effect; what impacts positively on one person is likely to positively affect everyone else.
If you’re not sure what your employees think will improve wellbeing – ask! It’s likely that they share similar ideas about what could be changed or improved. Things that have the biggest impact on wellbeing can often be changed quite rapidly and inexpensively. Building Thriving Workplaces provides practical ideas to get started on the workplace wellbeing journey for any organisation size.
 SuperFriend. Building Thriving Workplaces: Guidelines and Actions. Melbourne: SuperFriend; 2018.