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Via The Irish News : Six workplace wellbeing initiatives and trends businesses should look out for in 2018

Health Assured CEO and wellbeing expert David Price takes a look at the wellbeing trends companies should consider including giving to charity and workplace naps

Promoting good health and wellness should be an employer’s new years resolutions for 2018.

With that in mind, here is a summary of the six best workplace wellbeing initiatives and trends that businesses should look out for next year.

1 Sit-stand desks

There is no escaping the fact that the majority of employees’ time in the office is spent sitting at their desks. This lengthy level of sedentary behaviour can have serious consquences for a person’s health and has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including obesity and depression. To counteract this, sit-stand desks can be effective in reducing the amount of time staff sit and are no longer the obscure recommendation they used to be. They can, however, be costly. Even if a workplace can offer a regular sit-down desk, chances are they may have electronic devices such as a laptop or a tablet that can be used to migrate to a different working area. Finding a table top that’s the right height can be tricky, but if they have one in their workplace it can break up the day and a mixture of sitting and standing can easily become a reality.

2 Workplace naps

Sleeping on the job is very much a workplace taboo, however, a 20-minute power nap has been proven to reduce stress and increase productivity. As a result of this, in-company sleep pods, resting rooms and snooze friendly policies are becoming increasingly popular, with tech giants like Google leading the way. Understandably not everyone has the luxury of being able to step away from their desk for an hour’s sleep but lunch hours and tea breaks can be a great time for employees to have a quick nap in a quiet dark room.

3 Digital detox

Many of us work in a culture where we feel we are unable to switch off or put down our phones even when it is the weekend or when we are on holiday. The need to keep up to date with work emails or make that quick phone call to the office during personal time is something that many of us struggle with. But not having good boundaries around work and personal time can be counterproductive and leave employees far less effective at work and can lead to an employee burning out. If businesses want employees to take a digital detox they should consider encouraging employees to get away from their desks and disconnect from all technology at lunchtime. But most importantly employers must create a workplace culture that supports digital detoxing as many employees feel guilty about taking a break when they actually should.

When employees know that taking a break is not only acceptable but necessary for good job performance, they will be more inclined to do it. At a time when many employers expect round-the-clock communication, encouraging employees to take a digital detox is not just good for employees it’s good for business. Work burnout, caused by stress levels that affect an employee’s job performance, is something that more and more people are suffering from. Being constantly connected to smartphones, laptops, and tablets after work can now also leave people susceptible to digital burnout.

4 Financial wellness programmes

Research from the CIPD in 2017 revealed that UK adults believe their financial situation will worsen due to economic factors such as driving down wages and rising living costs. This is a worrying time as financial stresses go hand-in-hand with reduced mental health and wellbeing. And while it’s devastating for the people going through it, businesses can also suffer. If an employee is in trouble, there’s a high chance that they’ll struggle to focus on their work, make mistakes, or miss their targets. To support employees, employers should consider getting an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). It’s a confidential outlet that can help employees out of their financial hole. EAPs combine in-person, online and over-the-phone support services like debt counselling and financial advice. Businesses should also think about offering lines of credit advice on how to manage money or a workplace financial education, such as classes focusing on making the most of existing income through better money management and savings plans.

5 Giving back to charities and the community

Participating in charitable initiatives help employees feel good about themselves and proud of where they work, which in turn builds loyalty. Many employees would love to have time to do charity work, but can’t fit as much of it into their lives as they’d like to because of time spent working. Giving employees several hours per month to do charity work can be a perk that benefits not only employees but the local community too.

6 Healthy vending machines

The office vending machine can be a quick and easy way to pick up a snack or drink at work during busy times. One of the negatives of the office vending machine is that they usually only offer processed, sugary foods and heavy carbohydrates. Thankfully there are innovative businesses popping up who are creating healthy vending options with no preservatives or sweeteners. These are a great alternative for businesses to use so that they can promote and provide a healthier diet as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Via The Globe And Mail : How to cut out drama in the workplace to improve results

Those are five core beliefs shared by Cy Wakeman in No Ego, a book about how individuals create drama and discord in the workplace – rather than constructive collaboration – by operating out of ego.

Originally a therapist who moved into workplace consulting, she was struck by how conventional leadership approaches were missing this element.

At times, the approaches fed ego – and not just those of top leaders, but also anyone in the ranks resisting feedback and grumbling about how wrong everything around them is.

Sound exaggerated? Ms. Wakeman says we continually stoke drama in the workplace, creating “emotional waste.”

She gives this quick example: The boss asks how you are doing on a project. You indicate you’re a bit behind and she encourages you to try to catch up as soon as possible. Good-willed collaboration? Probably, but chances are you might create a different story around that interaction, about a micromanaging boss or a superior always hounding and mistrusting you, particularly when you’re overly busy.

Ms. Wakeman surveyed human resources experts and employees, finding that emotional waste – stewing in our stories, arguing with reality – chews up 2 1/2 hours a day. Such surveys have their faults, but no doubt your experience suggests emotional waste is real and higher than desired.

“Ego is not your amigo,” Ms. Wakeman says in an interview. “Ego is a distorted filter of the world, judging and creating motive. It’s like wearing a bad pair of prescription glasses. Stop believing what you think.

“You aren’t what you think. You aren’t even the one doing the thinking.”

Dealing with this as a supervisor or team leader revolves around two more aphorisms she has developed as core beliefs you need to adopt:

  • The impact of a leader does not come from what he or she tells team members but from what he or she gets them thinking about.
  • Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.

You should push for self-reflection by team members or subordinates. Instead of giving them answers and directions – actions you probably think leadership requires, but only provoke egotistical reactions – the questions deftly sidestep their ego. The questions get them pondering how they might improve, instead of creating more stories to defend against change. “Ego keeps us from growing and self-reflection,” Ms. Wakeman says.

Here are some questions that can help:

  • What do you know for sure?
  • What would be most helpful in this situation?
  • What could you do next that would add value?
  • What could you do right now to help?
  • Would you rather be right or happy?
  • What is helpful in this situation – your expertise or your opinion?
  • How could we make this work?

“Collaboration and engagement are natural states when you get the ego out,” Ms. Wakeman says. Stay away from questions with “why” or “who” in them, which usually ignite ego, and the accompanying stories of misery with inevitable emotional waste. You can instead ask those questions of yourself, disrupting your own ego.

Before you judge someone else, take the lead for improvement. If a colleague tends to be uncommunicative, start the conversations first yourself. Keep your heart and mind open.

As an example, she says, “you could have voted for Trump and my mind closes. If I open my heart, it helps. I might learn that you are worried about your job.” When you find yourself suspicious about other people’s motives or behaviour, it’s probably a signal to examine your own intentions and behaviour.

If somebody gives you troubling feedback, instead of developing a story of why it’s wrong, embrace the feedback as true and see if that helps you to improve.

She says leaders today are overly concerned about engagement, believing that if they create perfect circumstances for employees those folks will give the gift of work. But engagement is a choice. It’s a choice usually made by people who are highly accountable for their work and feel they can be productive and contribute whatever the situation. But our engagement surveys lead us to pay too much attention to people who don’t have a sense of accountability for improving their circumstances. Foster accountability through questions that encourage self-reflection, and you’ll get more engagement.

More generally, do your share to cut your workplace drama. Apply her insights on reducing or bypassing ego.

Via Workplace Insight : Nine out of ten employees believe flexible working is key to boosting productivity

Data published by HSBC claims that flexible and remote working practices are more likely than financial incentives to motivate staff and ultimately increase workplace productivity. A study of British businesses and employees found that nine in ten employees surveyed (89 percent) consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – a view shared equally among male and female employees (87 percent and 90 percent respectively) – and more so than financial incentives (77 percent). Alongside this, 81 percent of workers who can work remotely believe this opportunity helps them to improve their productivity, making a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels.

Regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London (where 30 percent of workers have the option) and the South East (32 percent), generally see the highest levels of productivity in the UK (where productivity, as defined by the ONS, is calculated as output per worker or output per hour worked ). In contrast, only 18 percent of employees in Wales, where productivity levels are lower, are offered the opportunity to work flexible hours – suggesting that companies providing a better work life balance may be paving the way for a more productive workforce as employees feel more motivated.

The most productive sector – the professional services industry – is the most likely to offer employees flexible hours, with 36 percent of professional services employees saying it is available to them. Whereas, in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, where one in four workers (24 percent) are not offered benefits or perks of any kind (including flexible working), productivity is lowest. In Q2 2017 output per hour stood at just £23.00 in this sector (significantly lower than the national average of £32.20) while the sector with the highest output per hour, professional services, had an average of £68.10 per hour.

The study also highlights a disparity between the working style options employees believe to be most motivating and those that they are offered – as the vast majority of employees who are currently offered flexible working believe it motivates them, yet less than a third (30 percent) of business offer it. The deficit is most apparent in the manufacturing industry where nearly all employees currently offered the benefit (91 percent) believe the opportunity to work more flexibly would improve their motivation and productivity at work, yet less than a quarter (23 percent) have the option.

Far from being an attitude associated only with younger workers, flexible working is valued most by 35-44 year olds of whom 59 percent value the opportunity ‘a great deal’, compared to just 47 percent of millennials (under 35s). Suggesting cash isn’t always king, good workplace culture was cited as being crucial to improving workplace productivity, while more than half of employees (53 percent) believe work they find interesting boosts their productivity levels. Furthermore, almost one on five (18 percent) employees cite poor work life balance as a reason for leaving their last job – a problem many companies could address with flexible working.

Via Business News Daily : Proper Workplace Communication in the Age of Chat and Text

Communication tools have made leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. We have moved from phone calls and faxes to emails and text. With those changes came a new language and new rules for professional communication etiquette. Experts advised leaving humor out of emails to avoid misinterpretation, and arguments ensued over the use of salutations and signatures in replies and forwards, not to mention the battle over personal quotes in signature blocks.

Flash forward to today. Now many productivity tools include instant messaging in their team spaces and have taken that challenge a step further with the introduction of emoticons in their systems. While many of us use smiley faces, sad faces and “LOL” in our everyday informal communications with friends and family, should they be used in professional correspondence?

“Those types of communication tools allow for flexibility,” said Dennis Collins, senior director of marketing at West Unified Communications. “Many times the communication tools get blamed, not the user, for inappropriate use. Instead, managers should focus on the results of increased and immediate communication, and not the means of getting there.”

The pros and cons of digital communication tools

There are many positives to using Slack, Teamwork Chat and the wide variety of similar communication tools. Sharon Schweitzer, an international business etiquette expert, author and the founder of Access to Culture, said collaboration tools provide teams with a designated platform on which to discuss and develop projects, allowing everyone to share and consolidate their ideas.

“The open exchange between co-workers allows them to transmit and receive information as quickly [as possible], amping productivity and cross-team communication,” she said. “For a project that includes multiple teams or people working remotely, these apps help reconnect employees, provide progress updates and facilitate collaboration. The apps also provide a designated platform for workplace communication without the distractions of Facebook Messenger or Google chat, allowing for greater office efficiency.”

Guiding that open exchange can be a challenge. While Collins encourages small business owners and managers to embrace the technology and go with the flow, he also encourages setting parameters.

“Set expectations,” he said, “and provide guideposts for their use. The appropriateness of different media makes a difference. You may ‘talk’ one way in an email and express the same sentiment in a chat message, only differently because of the more informal nature.”

This includes the use of emoticons. Collins has several reasons why using emoticons in chats is a good thing, primarily when it comes to context.

“Content that is not relevant is just noise,” he said. “We are being flooded with content. But when content has context, it is easier to understand. Emoticons provide that context, making one-dimensional messages more robust and showing inflection.” It gives what the person is saying a visual communication feel, adding an extra layer to tell if the words typed are meant as a joke, serious or sarcastic, for instance.

Instant communication has other benefits as well. It breaks down hierarchal boundaries. Instead of an email to a boss, then another one to their boss, one to the big boss and back down again, now a question can be asked in real time. Because people don’t have the attention span they used to, shorter messages at greater frequency elicit better and more immediate responses, keeping a project moving forward instead of waiting on a question and answer that is traveling up the ladder and back down.

There can also be a downside to the use of emoticons, inside or outside of your organization. According to a new study from Amsterdam University, including smiley faces in your email correspondence leads readers to view you as less competent. If that is a concern, Schweitzer has some advice: For professional exchanges, leave out the emojis, LOLs and memes.

“Remember that your online work platform is first and foremost a professional sphere designed to facilitate efficient and effective dialogue,” she recommended. “Spamming your co-workers with GIFs is a sure way to cause problems and irritate your teammates. Keep your messages short and sweet.”

She also endorses using professional communication platforms internally only. “External tools risk exposing private, confidential, trademarked, financial, or other sensitive information to the public or competitors. Open the channel to the in-house groups that are collaborating together, and be sure to close the conversation to all not involved in the project.”

Another negative is the use of the platforms for personal business. It shouldn’t be used to send messages to co-workers about non-business topics such as weekend plans or personal problems.

Advice for managers and employees

Within an organization, however, the use of common emojis, memes and GIFs can promote familiarity and foster that teamwork feeling. The key is to provide and enforce the guidelines for appropriate types of communication over the workplace communication tool and channel.

“Use it as a leadership opportunity,” Collins said, “not a boss action. Sit down with the team and explain protocol for inside and outside communications and work on those protocol points together. Explain what is OK and what isn’t. Once determined, monitor and engage – practice what you preach.”

“Management can coordinate with HR to prepare written guidelines for use of the platform,” added Schweitzer. “HR managers can train and debrief employees on the platform’s function, tools and guidelines so that its use remains professional. Guidelines prevent personal and unauthorized use (for example, office gossip). Instruct employees to refrain from sending personal or sensitive messages; be clear that, as with any online messaging system, messages are not private.”

Also, to prevent your team from distraction by notifications, create a management override or policy requiring them to adjust their settings so that they only receive alerts pertaining to them and their workgroup. This cuts down wasted time and increases productivity.

Finally, emphasize that a messaging platform is not a substitute for in-person meetings, phone calls or video conferences, all of which are more personable and effective communication. While online apps are convenient, they should never take the place of real-time interpersonal interactions. It is OK to instant-message to see if someone is available to talk, but discussions of substance should still take place in person. No electronic smiley face or “LOL” can take the place of a true smile or a team laughing, discussing and working together.

Via Benefits Pro : How automation will impact the next generation of work

Artificial intelligence, data analytics and other emerging automated technologies are not only going to impact low-wage workers, but also highly compensated executives and other professionals – and employers should be helping them to prepare now for the digital New World, according to Guardian’s report, “The Next Generation of Work.”

Most workers shouldn’t fear their jobs will become obsolete, though – only about 5 percent of all jobs will be phased out entirely due to automation, according to the report. However, most jobs will continue to change and workers will be redeployed, and to remain viable, workers will need to beef up their skills in creativity, collaboration and communication.

That will take workers learning more specialized skills — but to date, many have not and hence, they risk becoming less valued in their current work environment, according to the report. A minority of working Americans have taken on a new role at their current employer (23 percent), been cross-trained (18 percent), made a career change (12 percent) or returned to school for further education (11 percent).

“A more technology-enabled workplace is creating a widening gap between the skills employees possess and the skills employers require,” the authors write. “Job openings increasingly are in occupations that require higher-level social or analytic skills; physical or manual skills are fading somewhat in importance.”

Some of the strategies that Guardian recommends for employers to adapt to an increasingly digitized workplace include modernizing the workforce by reinventing the recruiting, hiring and training processes; closing existing skills gaps and building competencies in business technology, communication, writing and problem-solving; enabling the organization to anticipate and respond to on-demand talent needs, or to secure specific skills required to remain competitive in the evolving workplace; adapting workplace strategies for the millions of working Americans (many of them millennials) who embrace a new work paradigm and choose flexible or remote work arrangements and non-traditional career paths; and implementing a change management strategy that enables the organization — from top to bottom — to overcome barriers to success in a more automated and digital world.

Other study highlights include:

  • Twice as many businesses expect total employment to increase (38 percent) in the next five years compared to those anticipating downsizing (16 percent). Jobs will continue to change and workers will be re-deployed and require skills in creativity, collaboration and communication.
  • Millennials are more likely to embrace opportunities to acquire new skills, such as taking on a new role, cross-training, making a career change or returning to school. Gen Xers, who still have 10 to 25 years before retirement, are less likely to have taken steps to improve skills. One in five Baby Boomers would retire when faced with significant work/job changes.
  • Nearly four in ten employers indicate that staffing (including recruiting, hiring and training) is a top business challenge for their organization.
  • One in five U.S. companies expect an increase in their agile workforce in the coming five years as younger generations lean toward non-traditional employment arrangements, flexible schedules, part-time/contingent and non-permanent positions.