3 ways small business owners go above and beyond for their employees

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It’s a common sentiment: “My boss doesn’t care about me.” 

And it’s true that many small business owners view their employees as expendable. When confronted with an employee who is sick or struggling, some might prefer to cut ties than make accommodations. 

But that’s not the case for all, according to recent QuickBooks Payroll survey findings.* In fact, the opposite may be true. Assuming they answered honestly, the majority of small business owners view their employees as a kind of family. And they’re open to showing their affection in three significant ways. 

 

1. 3 out of 5 employers prioritize mental health

Employers celebrate imageThe stigma around mental health has long held that those who struggle have only themselves to blame. Feeling depressed? Get happy. Got crippling anxiety? Toughen up. 

But lately, the attitude toward mental health has been shifting, even within the workplace. And it’s a fortunate turn of events, considering around 3 in 10 employees suffer from severe stress, anxiety, or depression. That’s according to a 2020 report by benefits consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. 

Why should that matter to employers? The report finds that approximately 35% to 45% of absenteeism from work is due to mental health problems. Additionally, the number of emergency room visits attributed to anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions is rising. And as a result, health insurance claims (and costs) are going up too. 

All of this leads back to the employer’s bottom line. So even if business owners aren’t naturally sympathetic, they may be inclined to support initiatives that can help. 

3 out of 5 employers in the QuickBooks survey said they’ve encouraged an employee to take a mental health day. And that’s just one way business owners can prioritize prevention over triage when it comes to an employee’s mental wellness. 

Other options might include implementing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or sponsoring mindful conversations to fight the stigma around mental health.

 

2. Employers pay employees before paying themselves

It’s not unusual for small business owners to hold off on paying themselves the first couple of months they’re open. Nor is it uncommon for employers to give up their own salary to pay an employee. 

Husband-and-wife duo, Caleb and Tori McKim, are examples of business owners who’ve given up their cut now and again to make employee payroll. “Everyone else has to get paid,” says Caleb, who owns Flying M Coffee in Caldwell, Idaho. “We’re last on the list.” 

It’s a sentiment that resonates with many employers, from coffee to construction. 29% of construction survey takers said they’ve given up their paychecks to pay employees. And 33% said they’ve paid employees out of their own pockets. 

That’s consistent with recent QuickBooks Payroll survey findings. To start, 1 out of 3 business owners says they’d take a pay cut to avoid laying off an employee. But some would do even more than that to aid an employee in need. 

 

3. Employers give from their heart—or their gut

Employers’ motto imageThere are many ways to encourage employee retention—some more effective than others. We don’t have the data to support this, but we’d suspect organ donation is among the most impactful when it comes to securing an employee for life. Perhaps that’s why 1 out of 5 employers in the QuickBooks survey says they’d donate a kidney to an employee in need. 

Or maybe they’re just generous. That was certainly the case for employee Darla Engstrom, whose boss, Jim Winkels, donated a kidney to her in 2017. While the two are not related, Jim was a direct match for Darla, who suffers from polycystic kidney disease. When asked why he donated his kidney to Darla, Jim said, “We treat others the way they would want to be treated.”

But while the gift of an organ is generous, to say the least, altering the employer-employee relationship so drastically comes with complications. It’s tough to compare the benefits of saving a life to months or years of HR battles and lawsuits. But those could be the stakes at hand.

Evidence of this can be seen in a 2012 incident in which employee Debbie Stevens was fired after donating a kidney to help her boss. Later that year, a New York board ruled in Debbie’s favor, prompting her to open a $15 million discrimination lawsuit against her employer. 

Should years of potential litigation prevent you from saving a life? That’s a question every (applicable) small business owner must answer for themselves. 

 

Business owners really do love their work fams

From encouraging time off to taking a pay cut, many business owners seem to view their employees as more than…well, employees. 80% of business owners said they care about their employees like family. Half said they’d never forgotten an employee’s birthday. 25% have spent more time with their work fam than their home fam. 

It’s an interesting thing to think about one’s employee or one’s boss as more than a companion at work. But given how much time teams spend together, perhaps there’s something lovely in that connection as well. At the very least, it’s nice to know that when you need a kidney, a living donor might be closer than you think. 


*Methodology: QuickBooks Payroll commissioned Qualtrics to survey anonymously 610 adult business owners in the U.S. with internet access. Respondents were rewarded for their participation. The survey was conducted in November 2019, and the margin of error is ±5 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. 
QuickBooks Payroll welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original source is cited with attribution to “QuickBooks Payroll.”