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Small businesses can support employee wellness: Here’s how

March 1, 2023
By Pivot
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A global pandemic. Rising inflation rates. A potential recession. Over the last couple of years, it seems as if we’ve been in a constant state of crises with no end in sight. It’s no wonder your employees are stressed out. 

In fact, 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor. This stress affects employees directly, causing a variety of unwanted physical symptoms. However, it also affects U.S. businesses that lose up to $300 billion yearly because of workplace stress. Poor mental health and stress can negatively impact things like employee job performance productivity, engagement, communication, physical capability, and daily functioning. Globally, there’s an impact, too. When employees become disengaged due to stress, it costs the world economy $7.8 trillion. 

Which employers likely face the biggest impact of work-related stress? 

Small businesses that tend to run quite lean in terms of staffing. One unanticipated absence causes a domino effect of negative consequences. For example, if someone quits, operational disruptions may be nearly impossible to manage until the company hires and onboards someone new. Even when an employee is absent for a day or two, a backlog of work can increase the stress on existing employees, creating a vicious cycle and a negative environment in which no one wants to work. It’s not surprising then that 61% of small business employers are worried about attracting and retaining top talent.

Safeguarding your employee base

Fortunately, small businesses can take steps to safeguard employees and reduce workplace stress. Consider the following:

1. Create a more positive place to work. 

A positive work environment helps employees stay focused and motivated. There are many ways to create this environment. For example, employers can establish an employee recognition program, plan social outings, encourage open communication, and promote diversity and inclusion. Collectively, these and other steps let employees know you value them and want to create a rewarding work experience.  

2. Offer better and more applicable wellness benefits. 

In a small company where employee benefits may be limited, in-demand wellness programs and benefits can help foster strong morale. However, wellness benefits are helpful only when employees desire and actually use them. Employee surveys can help small business managers glean this information. For example, if a large percentage of employees smoke, companies may want to consider offering a smoking cessation program or tool as an employee benefit. Similarly, if a large percentage of employees say they’re stressed out, companies could offer a stress reduction benefit that includes access to personal assessments, board-certified health coaches, and tools to build employee resilience and mitigate the impact of stress. 

3. Educate employees about their benefits. 

If employees don’t know about their benefits—particularly their wellness benefits—they definitely won’t use them. For example, a benefit description buried within a 40-page employee manual doesn’t do anyone any good because many employees won’t read this information on their own. Instead, supplement printed materials with interactive educational sessions (e.g., one-on-one meetings, employee newsletters, benefit fairs, or webinars) throughout the year—not just during open enrollment or when new hires come on board. 

If possible, personalize benefits communication (e.g., targeted emails) to create specific experiences for employees based on their needs and preferences. This not only increases the likelihood that employees will take advantages of applicable benefits, it also demonstrates that you value and respect them as individuals. 

Be sure to communicate this message: The entire HR team is there to support employees year-round with comprehensive benefits that promote physical, mental, and financial well-being.

Creating cultural change

In an era of unprecedented workplace stress, every business must change the way in which it approaches wellness. Fortunately, small businesses may have an advantage because of their size and intimate workplace. More specifically, they may have a better handle on what employees want and need in terms of wellness benefits, and they may be able to respond with greater flexibility and creativity. 

For example, it may be easier for small business managers to identify work-related stress in their employees because of more frequent one-on-one interactions. Manager-employee relationships tend to be more intimate, and employees may be more willing to talk about their stress. In addition, the process for approving wellness tools and benefits may be more expedited because there’s less ‘red tape’ for approval. Small businesses identify a need, and they can immediately act to fulfill it. Finally, many small businesses already embed a culture of wellness into their overall operational philosophy. This creates an environment where everyone is treated like family. Managers truly care about their teams and want to see them succeed. 


Shifting the company mindset to one that promotes employee well-being will help at a time when wallets are tightening, and the job market is more competitive than ever. In a small business, even one healthier employee can make a big impact. Learn how Pivot Flex can help.

FAQs About Employee Wellness for Small Businesses

What percentage of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, and how much does it cost U.S. businesses annually?
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83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, costing U.S. businesses up to $300 billion yearly.

How much does employee disengagement due to stress cost the global economy?
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Employee disengagement due to stress costs the global economy $7.8 trillion.

Which type of businesses are most affected by the consequences of work-related stress, and why?
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Small businesses face the biggest impact of work-related stress. They often run lean in terms of staffing, so an unanticipated absence can cause significant operational disruptions, leading to a domino effect of negative consequences.

What are some steps small businesses can take to reduce workplace stress and create a positive work environment?
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Small businesses can create a positive work environment by establishing an employee recognition program, planning social outings, encouraging open communication, promoting diversity and inclusion, offering relevant wellness benefits, and educating employees about their benefits.

Why might small businesses have an advantage in addressing workplace stress compared to larger companies?
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Small businesses may have an advantage due to their intimate workplace setting, which can lead to more frequent one-on-one interactions. They can more easily identify employee needs, have fewer bureaucratic hurdles in implementing wellness tools, and often embed a wellness culture into their operations.

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Learn how Pivot Flex can help

Pivot Flex helps employees improve their mental well-being with tools to reduce stress and anxiety.

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