How to Balance Employee Well-Being and Growth

Whether you own a small restaurant, a large retail business, or anything in between, you’re always pursuing growth opportunities.

But should you? Sometimes saying yes to every opportunity that crosses your path can come at the expense of your employees’ well-being.

A 2021 survey by Indeed found that since the COVID-19 pandemic, 67% of workers report that they have more feelings of burnout. This is especially true of younger workers, with 59% of millennials feeling burned out and 58% of Gen Z reporting the same. It is imperative to support your workers’ well-being, even if that means sometimes having to say no.

Knowing When to Say No

How do you prioritize your customers while also considering the needs of your staff? Devin Osbourne of Fatback’s BBQ summarizes his approach: “One of the ways that we often keep our staff and our customers in line is we look at them in the same way and we view them through the same eyes.”

That may seem counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t your customers come first? While traditional logic and “the customer is always right” ethos tell us to prioritize customers over staff, this may be a flawed approach. If you don’t prioritize employee well-being similarly to the customer experience, both will suffer. 

According to a recent Gallup poll across all industries, only 24% of employees feel that their employers care about their well-being. That 24% of workers were also found to be:

  • 69% less likely to look for another job
  • 71% less likely to report feelings of burnout

This effect is even more pronounced in the retail and restaurant industries. Quit rates continue to be higher in both of these industries when compared to the national average with data from May 2022 indicating a larger trend:

  • National Average: 2.8% quit rate
  • Retail: 4.0% quit rate
  • Food Services: 5.7% quit rate

Unsurprisingly, this leads to staffing issues, especially as the pandemic wanes and customers return in significant numbers. A recent survey by Popmenu found that  51% of restaurateurs reported that they had difficulty maintaining adequate staffing to meet customer demand.

And even amongst the staff you do have, you’re likely to see the effects of poor employee well-being. According to the American Psychological Association, 79% of employees reported feeling work-related stress that led to:

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of effort
  • Mental fatigue
  • Physical fatigue

If you’re short-staffed and the staff you do have is performing at reduced capacity, it’s only a matter of time before the customer experience starts to suffer. 

What can you do to avoid this?

Implementing Balanced Business Practices

It’s more vital than ever to look after the well-being of your employees. The first step in doing so may be saying “no” to some opportunities. We can look to Devin Osbourne again to provide a real-world example:

“We had a catering offer come up and it was to cater seven weddings within about two months’ time. And unfortunately, we don’t have the staffing for that right now. And so that was really not something we wanted to lose out on, but for the sake of the business, and for the sake of our daily customers, that’s something that we had to really consider and think about.”

Knowing when to say no isn’t easy. You want to believe you and your staff are capable of meeting any challenge. Technology can help you see things more objectively. It can provide you with data so you can better assess when a growth opportunity is worth taking on, such as:

  • Team Management – Team management tools show you exactly what your current staffing looks like. This includes staff availability and individual team members’ recent performance. These tools make scheduling easier, give you a true idea of your staffing capabilities, and show early signs of potential staff burnout.
  • Customer Engagement – Customer engagement tools give you a clearer view of who your customers are and how they’re feeling. By engaging with customer feedback you’ll be able to see which areas of your business are being stretched thin. This can help you decide when to put the brakes on growth so you can focus on daily operations.

Technology gives you objective data that reflects how your business is trending. This objectivity gives you a better chance to find the right balance between well-being and growth.

Promoting Employee Well-Being in the Long-Term

Ideally, you want your business to be in a position where you’re able to say “yes” more often than you say “no.” To do that, it’s important to implement long-term policies that will promote your employees’ well-being. Some ideas include:

Higher wages

If your main concern is being able to keep adequate staff levels, then the first place to look may be your pay rates and making sure you’re staying competitive.

Scheduling

One advantage restaurants and retail have over other industries is that they offer employees flexible scheduling. But this can be a double-edged sword. Employees appreciate flexibility but still crave stability (so they can better plan their lives). And, with many employees still attending high school or college, working around their schedules becomes an important way to invest in their future success.

Use technology to keep track of schedules and time-off requests. Also, consider cross-training employees in multiple jobs. This can give your management team more options to find coverage when needed.

Support programs

One major way to promote employee well-being is to start thinking of staff as more than employees. Programs that engage them as people can go a long way toward improving their feelings about work. Examples include:

  • Employee assistance programs
  • Encouraging exercise (perhaps by partnering with a local gym)
  • Access to mental health resources
  • Organizing team-building events that are fun and stress-free
  • Creating an open-door policy so management can get a better sense of how employees are feeling

Taking Care of Your Employees Is Taking Care of Your Business

Your employees represent you and your brand. They are some of your most valuable assets and they deserve to be treated as such. By promoting their well-being, you’re showing you care about them and not just about what they can do for you. This will help you build a loyal, trustworthy team that you can count on to power your growth more than any single business opportunity.

Prioritizing your employees by saying “no” now can lead to more “yeses” in the future.