As small businesses continue to struggle in dealing with the coronavirus, one of the issues they find particularly challenging is taking care of their employees. Some businesses have been lucky enough to get approved for a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, which is designed to cover employee salaries for eight weeks (as well as some other essential expenses, such as business rent and utilities). Others have had to lay off their staffs—many reluctantly.

Laying off employees is hard for businesses of any size, but for small businesses it can be especially tough, because despite the conventional wisdom that says you should never think of your staff as a family, most small business owners do consider their team as family, according to a recent QuickBooks Payroll survey, released in March.

And while this can complicate personnel matters, especially in challenging times like these, the small business owners surveyed say they’re “willing to do a lot to ensure their employees’ happiness, livelihood, and well-being in attaining a work-life balance.” Think of some of the survey responses as a best practices list.

All in the family

The survey reveals more than 80% of small business owners say they “care about their employees like family, and they equate new hires to new family members.” Just how “tight” are small business owners with their employees?

56% say they know the name of their employees’ kids and pets.
51% say they never forget an employee’s birthday.
41% have attended an employee’s wedding or had employees attend their wedding.
40% say if they were to win the lottery they would share their winnings with their employees.
26% admit to spending more time with their employees than they do with their families.
21% would donate a kidney to an employee in need.

Many management experts advise business owners to make sure employees know they are appreciated, and sometimes deeds (even small ones) go a long way. The business owners surveyed say they’ve “surprised” employees by gifting them with:

Donuts or pastries—76%
Coffee or tea—69%
Gift card—54%
An expected day off—36%

When I oversaw a fairly large department of workers (more than three dozen people) one of my favorite activities/treats was to either buy lunch for everyone (usually pizza) or have a department-wide potluck lunch. Just sharing a meal with your staff helps create camaraderie and strengthens bonds. So I was pleasantly surprised to see so many small business owners saying they share meals with their employees at least once a week. In fact, some business owners say they share a meal with their employees more frequently than I would have guessed:

41% dine with their employees once a week.
20% dine with their employees three times a week.
16% dine with their employees twice a week.
15% dine with their employees five or more times a week.
9% dine with their employees four times a week.

Most of the small business owners surveyed are committed to their employees—some to a surprising degree.

81% say their care about their employees’ financial situations.
33% would cut their own salary to avoid layoffs.

Business owners say they want their staff to achieve a healthy work-life balance:

98% say healthy employees are more productive.
62% encourage their team to take a personal day for “mental health” reasons.
53% have actually run errands or done personal chores for their employees.

Should you be doing more?

Despite treating their employees as family, many of the business owners surveyed don’t think they’re doing enough for their staff:

41% worry about losing their best employees because they can’t afford to offer enough benefits.
38% wish they had more time to invest in their staff’s professional development.
36% have taken a pay cut so they could afford to offer better benefits to their team.
31% think they could do a better job making their employees feel more appreciated.
24% wish they had better HR support for their employees.

Dealing with hiring and payroll

Doing payroll can be a complex and arduous task, and most of the small business owners surveyed worry they’re going to make payroll mistakes that will result in penalties (94%) or negatively impact their employees (63%).

When it comes to hiring these small business owners are not confident about their abilities to make their own hiring decisions (50%) or are worried they will hire the wrong person for the job (33%).

And when they are hiring, most either “strongly agree” (49%) or “agree” (36%) that hiring a full-time employee is like “adding a new member to the family.”

Should you treat your employees like family? Some say no, while the small business owners in this survey overwhelmingly say yes. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for your business, but in unsettling times like we’re experiencing today, your employees are likely to be more loyal if you do.

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