Frustrated with corporate life and seeking to follow his passion, Marco Muñiz launched La Mexicana resturant in Grey Lynn, Auckland, after the first Covid-19 lockdown.
In the wake of the pandemic, Muñiz says he knew looking after his own, and his staff’s, wellbeing needed to be a priority.
“Wellbeing affects the way you show up to work. Working in a massive corporate office, I got frustrated climbing the corporate ladder and doing the same thing day-in, day-out. Plus, I wanted to use all of my energy and effort to create something of my own” Muñiz says.
And it turns out, investing in wellbeing maybe the smart thing to do financially as well.
New research from Xero and the New Zealand Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows for every dollar a small business owner invests in organisational wellbeing initiatives for their staff, they can expect to see a return of up to 12x within a year.
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Craig Hudson, Managing Director of Xero New Zealand and Pacific Islands, says small businesses are the engine room of Aotearoa’s economy and responsible for 28 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP, employing more than 630,000 people (approximately 29 per cent of all New Zealand employees).
“When Kiwi small businesses succeed, our whole country succeeds. It’s encouraging to see the economy recovering after the challenges of 2020. But now’s the time for all small businesses to reset for ongoing growth in the long term,” says Hudson.
The return for investing in wellbeing was measured by analysing two key areas: organisational wellbeing and employee assistance programs (EAP).
Organisational wellbeing involves creating wellbeing culture in the workplace that supports the physical and mental health of staff. For example, wellbeing education programmes, fostering environments supportive of mental health, and organising specific activities designed to improve staff wellbeing.
The second was Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) that offer staff professional counselling to help them with their mental wellbeing.
At La Mexicana, wellbeing is a central pillar and Muñiz recognises the strength of having good people.
Since opening shortly after the second lockdown in October 2020, La Mexicana has retained the majority of their original staff.
“We are what we are because of our whole staff. As we still have a really small team, we have to make sure that everyone is on the top of their game, because you rely on everyone.
“When our staff feel comfortable, relaxed and are able to communicate better, they’re going to give a better customer experience. You look after your staff and they’ll look after your customers,” comments Muñiz.
Some of the wellbeing initiatives he takes include fostering an open communication dialogue, encouraging staff to feel comfortable to take paid time off when they need it, free food and coffee during work hours, as well as Christmas functions to get the team together.
He wanted his staff to be able to feel like work was their “second home” and that the team was “family” so that they could feel comfortable telling him if they weren’t well so they could work through the issues and get staff back on their feet faster.
“For example, just the other day, we had a staff member show up to a shift who didn’t look as happy as usual. For us it was a case of saying ‘hey, is everything okay? Do you need to take some time?’ and for them to know that they can say ‘yes, I’m actually not feeling well at the moment’ and feel supported in that decision.
“It’s little daily things that end up making a difference,” says Muñiz.
Hudson says Covid-19 pushed wellbeing to the forefront for all of us and showed us the importance of looking out for one another in the workplace.
“We now know categorically that wellbeing delivers efficiency and productivity gains for businesses. Put simply: If small businesses are ignoring wellbeing, they’re wasting money,” says Hudson.
“By fostering a workplace with a focus on wellbeing, we can destigmatise and address employee mental health problems proactively before there becomes a bigger productivity problem.
“Simple things like getting together as a workplace to celebrate success in a more relaxed social environment or having one-on-one conversations with employees about their lives are small steps you can take to shift the culture of your workplace towards being more open and inclusive.