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  • Desleigh White

Wellbeing for small business

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

The focus on Employee Wellbeing in Australian workplaces has resulted in significant improvements over recent years. As someone who is passionate about this area, it struck me that many small businesses will not have access to the expertise that large organisations do, so I hope to provide some value to those businesses in this blog. Wellbeing initiatives do not need to be high (or any) cost and can positively impact workplaces as well as people's lives.

The Parliament of Australia, Statistics and Mapping Section, reports that small business employed “around 4.8 million people ….. at the end of June 2017”. This is a significant portion of the Australian population who may benefit from employer / small business led Wellbeing initiatives.

Following many years working in people, culture and wellbeing, along with much research and reading, I have learned that a holistic way of considering wellbeing is to consider the key areas of social connection, psychological health, physical health, economic and environmental wellbeing. When all intersect, we have optimal wellbeing.

Workplaces can and do play a huge role in the wellbeing of the people engaged with and within them, not only through legislative health and safety requirements but also through a positive culture, supportive management and leadership. It is important to recognise that wellbeing is a shared responsibility – shared by individuals / employees and business owners. A strong focus on employees and employee wellbeing can operate as a retention tool, may also result in attracting new people to join your team and could attract more customers.

Personal and social wellbeing builds our capacity to develop and support effective relationships and foster a sense of belonging and inclusion. Consider this in light of your customer experiences – the connection between happy and well employees and customer satisfaction is possibly best articulated by Sir Richard Branson – “If you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers. Simple. ”

When we focus attention on wellbeing and build people’s skills, knowledge and capability / capacity to make good choices, we can enhance social and family relationships and foster community connections. Strong communities are vital for the success of small business.

My focus has become wellbeing supported by the philosophy of sustainability – looking at practices, systems and structures that are enablers of ongoing health and wellbeing goals; that lead to lasting or meaningful change; that create good habits. Contrast this to one-off, often expensive, experiences that feel good in the moment, but do not lead to lasting or meaningful change.

While your employees are ultimately responsible for their own Wellbeing, your role as a small business owner is important. You can:

  • Develop systems, policies and procedures to support employees.

  • Facilitate access to information, support services and tools.

  • Ensure you have a workplace culture that supports good, healthy workplace behaviours and practices.

Ideally, Wellbeing initiatives should be individual led rather than pushed by you as a business owner / employer. You may be surprised at what interests your people.

Examples of activities available to small businesses are listed below – please note that these are not recommendations, simply possible ideas. There is a great deal of information available online. You may also wish to ask your suppliers whether they offer access to any services. For instance in New Zealand Xero have a pilot programme where they offer customers access to employee assistance services; Employment Hero have discounts and employee benefits.

Examples - "Self"

  • Physical Activity – have a walking discussion; park the car a block further away than normal and meet a workmate to walk to work; get off the bus or train a stop earlier and walk; join a walking group; start a garden club and share your produce; provide a space for bicycles if people choose to ride to work, or shower facilities if possible; walk in nature

  • Physical health – consider a quit smoking initiative; or reduce the amount of alcohol if this is an area of interest. If one of your team (or their friend / family member) has an illness, find the group that focuses on that – for instance Muscular Dystrophy NSW, and Asthma Australia – these groups generally have good resources online

  • Sun safety – use the online resources available including through a web search in your area; book to have a skin check with your local General Practitioner and encourage the team to do the same; provide sunscreen at work if people are outdoors even occasionally

  • Sleep – we hear about the importance of sleep, and resources on this can be found at the Sleep Health Foundation among other sites.

  • Nutrition – there are many online resources available – from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as Alison, EdX, Monash, to health websites such as Healthline, and specific nutrition sites such as British Nutrition Foundation, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and Nutrition Australia - these often have sections with free downloadable resources Why not have team members research an area of interest and share what they learned?

  • Learning agility – learn a new skill / topic online (MOOC usually have free access to most courses through the Audit mode of completion); find a local community college, check your local TAFE or university for courses

  • Mental acuity – staying mentally alert is an important health factor – consider learning new hobbies, reading - share ideas on great books that you have read, crossword puzzles, sudoku.

  • Spirit – some people have religious beliefs, practice mindfulness with the many free apps (Calm; Smiling Mind; Headspace; Simply Being; Insight Timer; Aura; Omvana; Stop, Breathe & Think for instance), have a kindness or gratitude practice. Giving to others does amazing things like reducing your blood pressure and improving your sleep. Practising random acts of kindness, volunteering time, or simply saying ‘thank-you’ can all improve your wellbeing.

  • Emotional / psychological – our psychological health is as important as physical health. An Employee Assistance Program is out of reach for most small businesses; however, support can be accessed through your local General Practitioner, local counselling service or organisations such as Interrelate, BeyondBlue, Black Dog and Lifeline among others. Information is also available through EveryMind. Reduce the stigma of mental health by participating in Mental Health month each October, RUOKDay and the like.

  • Financial wellbeing – superannuation funds often provide financial information and support to their customers; banks may have budget tools / calculators available; and of course, online courses including from Smart About Money and other MOOC

  • Family and domestic violence – there are various government sites with information and Lifeline for individuals, and Fair Work have an employer guide to support businesses.

  • Take notice - being aware of what is taking place in the present moment enhances your wellbeing. This also helps your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations. Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. Take a different route on your journey to or from work or sit in a different place or outside for lunch.


Close relationships with friends and family can add up to 7 years to our lives. That’s the same benefit as giving up smoking! As social isolation and loneliness becomes a more significant issue in Australian society, focusing attention on the ‘other/s’ in our life is important. Sometimes people rely more heavily on friends rather than on immediate family, and I recently heard this group of people referred to as someone’s “Framily” – a lovely way to recognise their importance.

So plan something to connect with others – it can be as simple as a get together for a coffee, or could include a Meetup event (I’m positive there is literally a group for everything! And if not, why not start one?) or other social event.

There is an opportunity in Wellbeing activities to recognise and include the people who are important in our lives to ensure a holistic approach. The initiatives above in “Self” can equally be extended to “Other/s”.

Additionally, you may wish to consider:

  • Share with your team the Go4Fun healthy lifestyle program for their kids

  • Taking notice of how your workmates are feeling or acting

  • the social aspects of sharing a meal with the team and someone from each of their ‘Other’ – friend, family, significant other.

  • how inclusive you are as a business and whether there are opportunities to improve this. There are some great resources from Culture Amp and other providers such as Diversity Council of Australia on this.


In all our communities there are local groups who appreciate our support. This may be through volunteering your skill/s, time, making a financial donation or even as simple as sharing social media posts. Groups range from animal welfare and rescue groups, religious groups, kids sport, community transport and the elderly (and everything in between).

Opportunities to volunteer can be found on Seek Volunteering, GoodCompany and organisational / charity websites depending on your interest/s, local noticeboards, Facebook groups and through conversations in the community or with customers.

On a Global scale, being aware of issues such as human trafficking and making purchasing / supplier decisions based on good the corporate / community citizenship of suppliers are options. Their websites should tell you all you need in this regard.


Consider engaging your team in conversations about:

  • Recycling paper, cardboard, glassware, cans and other items

  • Choosing the recycled paper as your preferred stationery;

  • Using cutlery and crockery rather than disposable items;

  • Paper towel or napkins with a high proportion of recycled materials;

  • Which toilet paper you use – could you switch to recycled?

  • Efficient water use;

  • Energy efficient Lighting

  • Choosing foods that do not contain palm oil

  • Choosing foods that are vegetarian or vegan


There are physical and psychological conditions in workplaces that affect employee health and wellbeing. Focus on areas that decrease work-related injury, illness, and disability such as ergonomics, vicarious trauma, air quality, noise and lighting conditions. Develop procedures / systems of work and make sure that people understand and follow these. Again, this can be an opportunity to check in and have a conversation with your people.

When considering your workplace culture look at areas such as the design of work, including hours, responsibilities, training, relationships with management / owners / supervisors, and the sense of control people have over their workloads. A healthy supportive work environment with good communication and two-way feedback are important to Wellbeing in the workplace. Now that the World Health Organisation have categorised burnout as an occupational phenomenon, expect to hear more about this. There are great articles on burnout available, including from HBR.

Resources available include:

  • Safework NSW

  • I have previously used a variation on the Advisory visit concept with great success.

  • They also offer a WHS Toolkit and

  • free group safety workshops, which can be a great opportunity to get some other local business owners and their team/s together for a session of mutual interest.

  • Similar sites in other states

Where to start?!

I suggest talking with your team, or if you are a sole trader, with a friend or someone at home about what they already do and works for them; share this blog / article with them; think about what you might want to try. Get others involved in their wellbeing (and yours).

Make things visible

A wonderful Wellbeing (among other things) specialist, Heidi Dening, once told me “make the invisible, visible”, so make sure that you are having conversations with your employees and even customers about what you are doing in this space. Post on social media, share your experience / efforts in a collaborative, ‘we’re doing this for social good’ kind of way. The promotional opportunities will be a by-product.

What does success look like?

It depends on you – it could be as simple as connecting over a meal twice a year. It could be a team member saying thank you, it could be feeling better yourself.

But you may be interested in evaluating the effectiveness of any Wellbeing initiatives that you implement with your team. Larger organisations with more resources do this to justify the expense and time, but for small business this may be a stretch. An alternative is to ask – ‘what is the cost of not doing anything?’

If you do want to evaluate your Wellbeing initiatives, this could be through:

  • How many people used the resources? What was their feedback?

  • Attendance at community events;

  • Decreased absenteeism;

  • Positive feedback;

In closing

While I have tried to provide a reasonable amount of information, I hope you are not overwhelmed. I hope one or more of the points above piqued your interest enough to have a conversation with others – in your team, with a friend or at home on possible way/s to support yourself and your team. Supporting yourself and your team also supports your ‘Others’ and ‘Community’ and is a great start to making a difference in your collective Wellbeing.

Interested in more general information on Wellbeing?

Some of my favourite sources of Wellbeing information include:

Or reach out and let's connect and have a conversation!

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