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Winter Blues Threaten SME Productivity And Health

Newmarket Business Awards Best Small/ Medium Business of the Year and Newmarket Supreme Winner Award for 2021

New Zealand's recent spate of heavy rainfall, snow and wild weather means it is time for Kiwi SMEs to pay closer attention to the health and wellness of their staff who will be contending with the things like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and low morale during the gloomy months of winter.

Director of Auckland accounting and advisory firm, Justin Keen, says we've entered a period of low sunlight, an extended spell between long weekends and increased colds and flu, all of which can have a negative effect on mental health, team spirit and productivity.

"In addition to the normal winter blues, it is important to remember that the pandemic and its consequences will only add to the burden. I say to clients who own businesses that if you want your staff to stay healthy, productive and positive you are going to have to do some work to make that happen.

"Sporting teams, like the Black Caps, don't achieve their extraordinary levels of success without paying close attention to the mental health and motivation of every member in the team, and your business is no different."

Keen says that, in addition to an employer's responsibility to pay attention to the basic human needs of the company's people, the science is clear that employee morale impacts engagement and their levels of productivity, as well as absenteeism rates.

"Winning boosts morale, but you can't win if you haven't looked after morale. We've seen it with the newly minted test champion Black Caps, and in our own business BetterCo after recently winning the Newmarket Business Awards Best Small/ Medium Business of the Year and Newmarket Supreme Winner Award for 2021.

"We took the whole team to the awards night and then took our whole team up on stage with us, which was an incredible moment for everybody. We can see the difference it has made in the workplace because everybody believes they are doing something right and they're part of a winning team."

Keen says that while not every business can go out and win awards or world championships, there are some basics every SME can do that will help them win in business.

Engage one-on-one

There are five directors of the BetterCo advisory and accounting firm which employees 17 people, and the directors each take staff members for regular coffee catch-ups to engage one-on-one.

"As an employer you have a duty of care to each of your people and you cannot discharge that duty of care properly if you are not engaging at a personal level with each person in your team. The insights and engagements we take away from these meetings are invaluable for both the director, the firm and the employee," Keen says.

Organise socials events

Keen says BetterCo takes staff to lunch every Friday and the firm sponsors a social club that organises a structured social get-together every two or three months.

"A team that doesn't have some fun together isn't a team. We make a point of social, informal fun events on a regular basis so people get to know each other better, unwind a bit and just enjoy hanging out – winter socials are particularly important."

Encourage work and life balance

"Winter in particular is a period when people need to re-charge the batteries because there are no long weekends for a while and it's easy to get burned out and demoralised. We actively encourage our staff to take time off for themselves and we lead by example."

Focus on purpose and vision

Keen says having a vision and purpose helps the team stay on track, boosts motivation and keeps staff engaged.

"This week we're hosting a day long workshop for the entire team to re-visit our vision, mission and purpose. Without buy-in, your business will not continue as you wish to."

Sunlight triggers the release of the hormone serotonin which boosts mood, calm and focus. The lack of sunlight in winter, including longer nights, can lead to low mood, sleepiness and even depression, which in turns causes illness, low energy, poor morale and reduced productivity.

“It makes sense to make sure the most important part of your business, your people, are looked after.”

For more information: https://www.betterco.nz

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