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How small firms can afford workplace wellbeing investment

Covid-19 thrust workplace wellbeing into the spotlight and it has more or less remained there ever since. However, amid a rise in “wellbeing washing”, there is growing concern that investment isn’t what it should be. How small firms afford to get it right?

Whether it has been encouraging healthier lifestyle choices, raising awareness of mental health issues, introducing flexible working hours or offering financial counselling, businesses are doing more to look after the wellbeing of their staff. And against a backdrop of prolonged austerity and its impact on costs and standards of living, this focus remains critical.

Yet, offering such initiatives and programmes comes at a cost – one that is particularly difficult for under-pressure smaller businesses to bear. While the importance of looking after work wellbeing is clear, with margins taking a prolonged hit, finding the resources and managing the cash flow is a challenge.

What is “wellbeing washing” and why is being talked about?

Interestingly, as businesses continue to battle severe market headwinds, a new term has emerged with regard to staff mental health strategy: “wellbeing washing”. What this boils down to is firms paying lip service to employee wellbeing and assistance programmes – all style and no substance.

Now, while it is easy to criticise businesses where staff wellbeing strategies are underdeveloped, the timing of discussion on this topic is perhaps critical. As beleaguered firms struggle on amid seemingly endless economic downturn, could a main reason why investment in initiatives isn’t a top priority be cost?

Funding wellbeing programmes and how alternative lenders can help

It’s hardly a huge jump to link criticism of workplace wellbeing strategies with prolonged market depression and cash flow struggles, in particular in relation to small businesses. Many have been keeping the wolf from the door for longer than they care to dwell on.

However, workplace wellbeing is important – a healthy, functioning workforce is a vital component of a successful business. This makes investment vital – but how can small firms do it?

Alternative finance can help.

Services such as invoice finance, asset finance and peer-to-peer lending are proving a vital source of capital for small businesses in the current funding climate (with 65% more SMEs experiencing difficulty in accessing finance from high-street banks). These alternative finance facilities, which offer a more easily accessible, affordable and personalised approach to lending, are helping small businesses survive and target recovery, stability and growth.

This profile has helped cement the reputation of alternative finance in the business sector. According to the British Business Bank, it is alternative lenders that are increasing filling the small business funding gap, with asset finance alone rising by 7% to £23.5 billion in 2023. At the same time, a 2024 study shows that more and more SMEs are turning to alternative lenders to access larger-scale finance packages.

Small firm finance options for investing in workplace wellbeing

How long will the term “wellbeing washing” stick around? It’s hard to say. If firms get the consistent economic growth they need and cash flow gets healthier, then investment might increase in these programmes and its mention might fall by the wayside.

However, despite the cost involved, it is important that all businesses, including smaller ones, continue to invest in looking after the health of employees. With this in mind and with banks retreating from small business lending, it is important that firms are aware of all the finance options available, including the services of alternative lenders.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Steve Bowles on 01903 602211 or steve.bowles@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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