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Holly's Blog: Wellness - coming to a cinema near you

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Yesterday I recorded a podcast with super experienced business presenter Liz Barclay, and we bashed some of these ideas around, particularly in the context of small business owners. I’m unsure what my reaction to this is. My 'dislike for over-engineered processes'/'attitude problem'* (*delete as appropriate) produces a Pavlovian minor nostril flare when I’m increasingly told that ‘wellness’, should be higher on the company agenda.

You see, on the one hand:
I am a curmudgeonly Gen X-er who struggles with the L’Oreal (Because I’m Worth It) generation I occasionally interview (and don’t ask back), who seem to forget that an employer is not merely a rung on their one way life-quest ladder for training and self-improvement. Titles, hierarchies and the need for constant awards and public high-fiving exhausts me - I have never given a toss about what my title is, nor do I value emojis nor platitudes. Beyond this undoubtedly sociopathic and out-of-date personal attitude problem, I also know that for many small business owners, simply managing cashflow to get through the last Friday of every month is all-consuming. The pie chart of time only adds up to 100% however hard you try, and we’ve a lot on our plates. Are we, and should we, also be responsible for institutionalising our employees’ mental health and general wellbeing?

It’s the artificial shoehorning of this into a ‘programme’ which I struggle with. Is all this ‘wellness’ stuff for business owners, not simply what used to be known as ‘not being an @rse?’, and having a sense of how your team are functioning and looking out for them?

On the other hand:
My intention is not to belittle, silence or sneer at mental health issues. A company is nothing without its people. I’ve run small businesses for 10 years, and you cannot employ people for this long without having your eyes opened to some of the struggles which go on in life. I’ve had people come to me as they or their families suffer from anxiety, stress, miscarriage, divorce, debt and even assault. In a doubtless clumsy way, I’ve done my best to help them through it. You do feel a sense of responsibility as a boss, and it’s clear that you can actually offer up some practical help and understanding which makes a real difference.

And beyond this, we spend enough time at work to mean it should be enjoyable. The odd POETS day (p***-off-early-tomorrow’s-Saturday), Coke in the fridge and birthday cakes are all fun. But how far does this need to go? One small business owner I know, tells me about the Prosecco Trolley at 4pm on Friday with a face like he’s sucking a lemon, as I laugh at him and tell him to shut up and show willing!

Personal lives are complex and we cannot quarantine this from our lives at work. But these are human relationships, and I struggle with this idea that we can somehow institutionalise them, and serve ‘em up in a shiny wellness package alongside a fruit bowl and Friday drinks.

Having spent much of yesterday talking about wellness, I got home to see someone on LinkedIn asking me for my opinion on a new business venture – yup – all about wellbeing at work. It never rains, but it pours.

I would love to know what you think. Especially small business owners or people who work for SMEs. Is this something you think your boss should do more on? Do you work for a company that does great stuff here? What would you value? And small business owners – is this on your agenda?

Have a great weekend everyone. December is upon us and the carols are playing in the shops. Resistance is futile!

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