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5 Ways to Boost Employee Emotional Well-Being It's imperative to nurture the mental-emotional wellbeing of your employees to help them stand the vagaries of a start-up environment and ensure success

By Atika Shukla

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The Startup boom in India over the last couple of years has seeded aspirations across the working class to work in Startups. However, while they are obvious benefits of working in a start-up environment – accountability at a younger age, more exposure to different functions, flexible timings and freedom to experiment. Yet they are challenges as it's a demanding working environment given overall resources are scarce, perks are limited, employees constantly having to multi-task and stretch themselves given the limited financial runway. Overall in startups and corporates alike there has been a tremendous decline in the well-being of employees owing to their sedentary lifestyle, growing work pressures, and lack of harmony between personal and professional lives, among other reasons.

So as founders how can one boost overall employee wellbeing to ensure we have a productive, highly energized & motivated workforce?

Recognize & Reward: When we start the venture the first set of employees are like family, as founders we know everything about them, their backgrounds, family circumstances, their ambitions and challenges. Recognition and rewards (public acknowledgement, ESOPs etc.) come naturally since they are the early risk takers who take the plunge and buy into the vision of the founders. The challenge arises when the venture starts scaling and how to maintain the vibrant culture which is the core DNA/lifeline of the Start-up. This can be done by building and instilling mechanisms to ensure we pivot more on culture Vs skill set in our hiring, maintain a relentless high bar and ensure we build in structures including compensation which rewards employees for imbibing the start-up's cultural values and not just performance on the job. For example, institute rewards (financial or otherwise) not just for achieving a sales target but also demonstrating behaviour on a core value of your start-up like customer obsession wherein the employee went over and above to make the customer happy. By expanding the scope of assessment of employees beyond their immediate targets to also things they do to maintain culture gives the employees a broader sense of purpose and ownership.

Work-Life Harmony: In today's time work life balance is cliché given employees are available on an electronic medium (what's app /Emails) 24x7. It's imperative to create work life-harmony the principle way you can help your employees do this is to align their passions, interest and strengths with their core work/outcomes. Or at least ensure they have 20per cent free time to experiment execute on their think big ideas which of course has a business impact.

Employee Friendly Environment: This one is obvious but important especially since the biggest USPs of start-ups is Flexible Work Hours– Flexible work (telecommuting, flexible scheduling, part-time professional roles, and freelance jobs) greatly affects well-being when it comes to work, stress, and mental health. These USPs are also a great employer branding tools. It's important to have clear flexible policies around childcare services for parents, encouraging vacations (clearly defining how many leaves, optional offs etc.) permit unpaid time for live events, and/or allow for schedule flexibility. As Start-ups we need to nurture a culture of ownership i.e. look to drive outcomes Vs clocking hours in the office and think of innovative ways to create business impact – this can only happen when every employee thinks like an owner. Giving freedom and accountability go a long way in driving ownership!

Beyond Work – Mindfulness: It's important to create avenues for employees to break away from work and do fun activities together. Creating mindfulness awareness and training has been shown to help reduce stress, increase productivity and generally improve the performance of an organization's workforce. Whether it is weekly meditation practices, a mindfulness training program spanning a few months, an emotional counsellor available on call/once a month or even a company retreat, this may be an ideal way to the centre, balance, and unite workers in your office. If you can get the employee's families engaged in these activities it's even better – things like Yoga days, Kids day at work create an inclusive family atmosphere. Creating avenues like these can help a foster friendship which is important in today's increasingly transactional world and provide employees with the emotional and psychological strength to deal with whatever comes our way – whether it's an exciting opportunity, a challenge or a crisis.

Creating a Safe Environment: At the end, it comes down to being aware and present in terms of what your employees are not just needing but feeling. It's about ensuring that you and your leadership team recognize emotional disturbances and provide a safe environment for employees to share their emotional issues, including highlighting issues of harassment.

Overall in a fast growing startup environment, it's imperative to recognize nurturing the mental-emotional wellbeing of your employees will help them stand the vagaries of a start-up environment and ensure success.

Atika Shukla

Founder and CEO, Breaking Barriers

Atika is passionate about empowering individuals to lead a more productive and fulfilling life. She is a powerful facilitator who guides and inspires her clients to overcome obstacles, fears, inadequacies and mental constraints. She assists them to surpass barriers for further growth and progress in their personal and professional lives.

Atika has been actively involved in the field of mental and emotional well-being for the past 13 years and founded her own practice “Breaking Barriers®” in 2013. She has worked with the leading organizations like Max Healthcare, Naz Foundation, Sanjivini Society for Mental Health and National Commission for Women (NRI Cell). Furthermore, she has conducted successful consulting assignments with Delhi University, IndusInd Bank and Times Internet as well.

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