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Dealing with office romances We spend a massive chunk of our lives at work, so it’s not surprising that many people have enjoyed an office romance at some point or another. Close friendships are often formed when working alongside the same people day in, day out, and this can sometimes blossom into more. In fact, a survey from CareerBuilder.com found that 30% of workplace romances ended in marriage, suggesting that it’s not always just a quick fling – many are in it for the longer term. When you’re the boss though, it pays to be prepared for these situations just in case they arise. Though many office romances will cause you no problems at all, there’s always the possibility that things could turn sour and you’re left with a crisis on your hands. First of all, ditch the idea of creating a clause in your employment contracts that bans office relationships outright. They’re questionable when it comes to ethics, and they could lead to your employees feeling like they have to be secretive about their personal lives, which could in turn place stress on their relations with other colleagues, and leave them feeling uncertain about their long term future within your business. At the end of the day, do you really want to penalise your employees for falling in love and adding some extra happiness into their lives? Your workers should however be encouraged to keep reasonable and healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. Public displays of affection in the workplace are obviously inappropriate, and can cause tensions between staff and lead to people feeling uncomfortable. If this does become an issue, have an informal discussion with the parties involved, and set out your expectations. Be understanding and sensitive towards the situation, but make it clear that work is work, and you have a responsibility to create an inclusive and productive environment for all members of staff. Of course, if the romantic interest is not mutual, and one of your employees is showing an unwanted interest in another member of staff, this is a whole different kettle of fish. Act on any complaints as quickly as you can, and in line with your existing bullying and harassment policies. These things should be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible, and it’s vital that you have the right policies in place so all your employees and line managers have a roadmap for how to deal with the situation. If you want any help them call us on 01536 215240....read more
What do you do when an employee suddenly resigns? So, it’s Friday afternoon, you’ve had a decent week and you’re looking forward to the weekend. Just before home time, a member of your staff comes to see and requests a private meeting and before you can say POETS day, they hand you their resignation. Once you get over the shock, how do you respond? How is their work going to be covered? Why? Unexpected resignations can present big challenges for managers and business owners, especially for those unaccustomed to dealing with them. It might be something that has not happened for some time or it could be the first time it has happened to you. Sudden employee departures are especially hard on the psyche. If you’ve grown to really rely on that person you may feel a number of emotions; alone, let down, deserted, betrayed, worried. This blog will try and give you some tips to help you manage the separation and make the transition as smooth as possible. Have a plan Large organisations with HR Departments will (or should have) a plan for such eventualities. If you’re a smaller business with no HR Department that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan too. This maybe depend on circumstances; for example, if they are going to a competitor put them on garden leave for their notice period. During this time they are still under the obligations in their employment contract. The notice period should be as stated in their contract of employment along with any restrictive covenants, which may prevent them working for a competitor for a specified period of time. Take away any ID cards, IT access, equipment etc. Remember though, if they are on garden leave they are entitled to their full salary and benefits. If you think this is a little draconian and/or they are not leaving to join a competitor, you may want them to work their notice and perhaps the next working day you can agree handover. What you do will depend on the circumstances, but knowing what to do is important. Don’t ‘go off on one’ Although this might be what you are feeling inside, don’t get over emotional, angry and start immediately asking questions. Take a breath and think of point 1. Even though you may be angry, try and engage in a pleasant and professional way. In the world of work today, people come and go more often and it is important to maintain relationships. Someone once told me, never burn your bridges no matter what the circumstances, as you never know when you might need them in the future. It was very wise advice. The same applies when staff leave; how you handle it reflects on you and your business. Ask for the reason WHY Once the dust has settled, it is still important to understand why. If they say “for more money” dig deeper, as it very rarely is. Although that may be a consequence of the new job, the fact that they were looking in the first place normally has its roots in other factors, which may include you. Alternatively, it could be for personal reasons, e.g. their partner is moving from the area for a new position, or another personal reasons. This could be an opportunity to...read more
How to engage effectively with your employees Employee engagement is hugely important for all companies, but particularly for small independent businesses. In this blog I aim to give an introduction to this key topic and the crucial dos and don’ts that you need to know. Even for large businesses employee engagement is crucial, but I believe even more so for smaller ones because you have fewer people who can make a real impact with your customers and on your bottom line. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of the drivers for engagement do not come with direct costs, so applying it is a cost-effective way of helping you develop a competitive advantage over your rivals. Difficult employees Let’s start with the barriers you have to overcome – those employees you find it most difficult to motivate and integrate into your team initiatives. Why are some employees more difficult than others to interact with? As with many areas of life, past experience has a lot to answer for here in establishing behaviours. If someone has only ever worked for organisations or managers that have not made them feel valued and involved, or at worst treated them badly, they will assume all managers are like this and react accordingly by being closed off or defensive. Other main causes are feeling that they have been unfairly treated in some way and, of course, an outside influence that has an impact on them, e.g. issues at home. There are some warning signs you can look out for here; most notably look out for any changes in an employee’s behaviour. For example, if someone who is usually very chatty and bubbly appears quiet, then don’t be afraid to ask if there is something wrong. Or if they usually contribute to team meetings and share ideas and this suddenly stops, again highlight that you have noticed this and ask why. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘have I done something to offend or annoy you?’ The most common mistakes employers make when trying to engage with their employees are: Applying very poor (if any) communication, especially two-way communication. Treating everyone the same. It is important to be fair but people are different and need to be treated as such. Not providing suitable training for the employee’s immediate manager(s). Poor leadership and management can contribute to an employee feeling isolated. Not giving the process any thought or time. Engagement does not happen by accident, it takes effort but the rewards are huge. What you can do Enhancing your own communication skills is obviously vital, and a good place to start is to focus on the art of listening. In my experience I have found the most common reason why employers find communicating with their employees difficult (particularly two-way communication) is because of their inability to listen, as opposed to just hearing people. This applies not just to what words are being said during the conversation, but also their body language. Make an effort to really concentrate on what that employee is saying. They may have taken a great deal of time and courage to bring up a particular matter with you; if they are visibly uncomfortable (fidgeting, fiddling with their hair, etc.) then your sensitivity to the subject being raised will help put them...read more
Should you let your staff work from home? According to recent research by ILM, more than half of workers feel trapped by the rigid structure of their workplace. A whopping 74% said that they wanted more freedom and flexibility, so it’s not really surprising that homeworking is a trend that a ton of savvy employers are considering. Homeworking provisions vary between businesses, but the overarching principle is that you let your staff carry out their tasks from the comfort of their own space. They might do this once or twice a week, or it might be a more permanent solution. It’s an approach that’s likely to be welcomed by those with caring responsibilities, and let’s be honest here… Probably everyone else, too. After all, no one enjoys doing the commute, or being stuck in an office all day long. As a business owner though, you’re likely to have a few concerns. Could it really work? Will it provide your staff with the temptation to sit twiddling their thumbs all day? Or is actually a wonderful way to give your staff what they really desire, utilise the benefits of modern technology, and strengthen your reputation as a desirable employer who everyone wants to work for? There’s no denying that there’s a lot to consider, if you’re to get it right. You need to think about how you’ll make sure that team members are in communication, and they all understand their responsibilities and how they fit into the bigger picture. In some cases, you’ll also have to look at how you can ensure that everyone has the equipment they need. And homeworking isn’t right for everyone. Some of your staff will crave face-to-face contact, and will be able to imagine nothing worse than just staring at the same four walls all day, with only their dog for conversation. But it’s 2017 now, and you can’t afford to stay stuck in the past. Fail to give your employees what they really crave, and they WILL start to look elsewhere… Regardless of how much they might enjoy their work. The concept of a job for life is over, and you have to work hard to win loyalty. If you’re not looking at ways to bring more flexibility into your business, then you’re seriously missing a trick. It can be a difficult shift to manage, but get it right, and it could work some real magic. Need help with planning your approach? Get in touch today for a free no-obligation...read more
Is work-life balance ever really achievable for business owners? When you dip into an article from an HR consultant about work-life balance, you probably have a few preconceptions about what we’re going to say to you. You might imagine that we’re going tell you that time off is vital, and that no one can fire on all cylinders without getting some well-deserved time away from the office. Maybe you think that we’re going to drive home the importance of adhering to the legislation around working hours, and ensuring that you aren’t breaking the law when it comes to how you require your staff to turn up and get stuff done. And of course, all of these things are important and most definitely have their place. Here’s the thing though… We’re business owners too. We understand that it can feel like your work is never going to be done. We know the pressures of running the show, managing a team, and trying to hold it all together. So how about today, we have a frank and honest conversation about YOUR work-life balance, as the head honcho in your business? Sure, sometimes the long hours are inevitable if you want to reach your goals, make more sales, and put food on the table. But the reality is that you can’t serve anyone – including yourself – if you’re constantly tired, burnt out, and spinning way too many plates at the same time. No one said that running a business was going to be easy, but it can certainly be a whole load simpler when you recognise that you aren’t a machine. One of the best things that you can do right now, if you know that it’s only a matter of time before things start to spiral out of control? Delegate, and outsource the things that you’re just no good at. If you’re spending half your days firefighting people management issues, or focusing on anything at all that isn’t your zone of genius, then you’re definitely limiting your earning potential. Want to chat about how we could potentially work together to get you some breathing space, a bit more time outside of the office, and a more cohesive plan to allow you to reach your goals? Give us a call today on 01536 215240 and we can arrange to have a no-obligation discussion about your next steps. ...read more
The ‘new’ problem of presenteeism and how business can stop it happening In October last year the CIPD reported that a third of the 600 employers it surveyed reported that they had seen an increase in the number of staff coming to work while they are ill. But more than half of those organisations had done nothing to discourage this kind of behaviour in their employees. This is the fifth consecutive year that there has been a rise in the number of people attending work while sick. The research also showed that presenteeism is more likely to occur where long working hours are the norm and operational demands take precedence over employee wellbeing. In addition, it also showed that those employers who reported an increase in presenteeism, are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress related absence. So what is presenteeism? Firstly, it can mean putting in excessive hours as a perverse expression of commitment or a way of coping with nagging job insecurity. This was observed by Cary Cooper at Manchester University during the downsizing and restructuring in the 1990s. Secondly, as the CIPD report identifies, presenteeism is a way of describing employees who are coming to work despite being sick or injured. So, why should organisations be bothered? People turning up for work even if they are not 100% is a good thing, isn’t it? Attendance figures will be great. More research by the Health Coalition of Tampa Florida has shown that productivity loss from presenteeism is 7.5 times greater than that of absenteeism. I know of many organisations who put value on those who come in early, stay late, work weekends, etc. If they do that they must working hard mustn’t they? Work/life conflict can also encourage people to come to work while unwell which can cause stress, burnout and depression. If research is saying that this is extremely unproductive, what can organisations do about it? Given there are a number of different types and causes, a one size fits all solution will not work. Diagnose the problem. Include a question or number of questions in a staff survey on presenteeism. Find out how much of a problem it is (or isn’t). Develop an employee well-being strategy that is a key part of the overall business strategy so that its importance to the progress of the business is key. Employee wellbeing should take precedence over operational demands as well looked after employees are more productive and therefore will fulfil the demands of the business better. Review policies on flexible working, listen to what employees are saying and support them wherever possible Look at providing health programmes like gym membership, health screening, occupational health support, employee assistance programs, access to flu jabs and many others depending on the resources available. Some of these do not have to break the bank to be effective and well received. Increase face time between staff and their managers. For this to be effective additional training may need to be given to give managers the necessary skills and confidence to manage staff more effectively. The workplace environment can be improved to increase the amount of social interaction with employees. A professional services businesses in Leeds recently moved offices and at the new offices created a large communal space where...read more
The Problem with Presenteeism As an HR Professional, in nearly every organisation I have worked in the topic of absenteeism and what to do about it is one that is often discussed and worked on. Many businesses have absence levels as one of their key measurements as it has a direct effect on the bottom line. There is however, an ever increasing threat that can slow down work, reduce productivity and sap employee energy. This new threat is presenteeism. The aim of this article is to look at what it is, how it affects productivity and how to tackle it. What is presenteeism? Presenteeism can be defined as the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury or other distress, often resulting in reduced productivity or a loss of workplace productivity resulting from employee health problems and/or personal issues. Even though the employee is physically present at work, because they are experiencing problems (which can be many and varied, including, allergies, stress, family problems etc.) they are unable to fully perform their duties and are more likely to make mistakes in the work they do perform. In a 2004 study of the problem, the Harvard Business Review noted that presenteeism is not to be confused with malingering (pretending to be ill to avoid work) or just deliberately putting off duties at work, and should be considered a particular condition of being unable to perform at the highest level due to real physical or mental health challenges. Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism is more difficult to identify, and also has potentially hard-to-track, far reaching consequences for the business. What are the negative impacts of presenteeism Some studies have shown that the cost of presenteeism can be as high as 7.5 times that of absenteeism, and in the cases of employees with some stress related issues (high blood pressure, migraines, heart disease etc.) as much as 15 times greater. Yet, unlike in the case of absenteeism, these losses are much harder to identify because it’s impossible to tell with a glance which employees are sitting at their desks producing high quality work and solving problems, and which ones are muddling through in the face of physical or mental problems that prevent them from working at their full capacity. So what can you do about it? As we’ve seen, presenteeism is harder to see than absenteeism and therefore harder to tackle, but as we’ve also seen, if you do, it can give any business a clear competitive advantage. Research has shown that targeted wellbeing investments can pay off, especially those covering areas like neck pain, back pain, fatigue and slight depression, which are among those with high presenteeism levels. Look at ways people can work from home or can work flexibly and create a culture where people are encouraged to look after themselves and others and not be afraid of being honest if they are not up to coming into work and don’t feel pressurised to coming in when they don’t feel well. Include stress management and mental health programmes in any wellness programmes as this can help prevent presenteeism in a pro-active and cost effective way. Stop presenteeism before it starts This is really down the culture and the behaviours of Managers and employees. Any business serious about preventing presenteeism needs to look...read more
Working Parents Something happened to me a few days ago that honestly took a few precious hours from my own life expectancy. So imagine the scene, I’m ready for work, I just need to pop my shoes on to head out the door, and “Aaaaaagh, what is THAT?” My heart leapt into my mouth, my stomach had a slightly nauseated sensation, whilst my mind raced wondering what the squelchy, slightly cool substance was that my foot had just slid into. Ideas ranged from jelly to a dead slug (I have a cat, worse has happened), as I pulled my foot out of the shoe, head turned slightly away in trepidation of what I had to deal with, I was confronted with… a mostly deflated, crinkled blue balloon. And herein lies one of the many daily challenges of being a working parent. It never used to be this way, and any other person who is responsible for the care of a child will understand. It used to be that mornings involved dragging myself out of bed – especially if it followed a cheeky mid-week trip to the pub – spending peaceful time in the shower and applying make-up in one sitting. Now times have changed. Waking up can be any time from 5am, depending on whether my daughter is excited about something (and given that excitement can be derived from something as simple as it being chicken curry day at school, it’s an unpredictable event), and a shower is kept short thanks to the repeated interruptions of questions ranging from where socks are to “Muuuuum, do you know which My Little Pony has balloons as her cutie mark?” Basically serious stuff that cannot wait. If you don’t have any dependants there is a simple way to have the ‘real life experience’ without the commitment. For one morning, just shout the same sentence over and over. I suggest something along the lines of ‘Brush your teeth’. You’ll know when you’ve said it enough times (and loudly enough) when you hear the neighbours shout “OK I’m brushing them, stop nagging”. This will just give you a glimpse into my world. School runs are the other addition to the working parent’s schedule. Any woman who walks it will know that heels are a thing of the past, no more cute little heels or strappy stilettos, oh no, it’s practical flats ladies. And hair that resembles a scarecrow caused by doing your best Usain Bolt impression trying to keep up with a child on a scooter. Once done, you can pop off to work to squeeze a full day’s workload into a few hours. When you fly out of the office in time for school pick up, you are looked at with envy by those full time workers. (Little do they know that the anxiety of not being able to stay longer or the guilt of not being able to get to your child’s play that the school kindly arranged in the middle of the day is a constant pressure on you.) You once again fly, often late, into the playground to get ‘that look’ from both child and teacher, and then get to enjoy a crazily busy evening of homework and making dinner, all the while trying to keep in touch with work,...read more
Gender Pay Gap – whose fault is it anyway? As an office full of HR peeps and also (most days) all women, we often discuss the issues in relation to the equal pay gap and how it has come about. As we start to work on Gender Pay Gap reporting with our clients, and more importantly how to address any issues, this discussion has become more popular. It is fascinating though, the different opinions that are out there and the misunderstandings as to the gap and what is being said. One really common topic is when companies announce they are pledging or setting a target for the number of women in certain roles or levels in the organisation. One comment in our office was a very defiant: “It’s not right to place women in top jobs because they are women”. Of course this person was correct in that no one should be put in to a role due to their gender, but what does need addressing is why far fewer women get into those roles. What organisations need to do is look at how people progress within their organisation; is it transparent and fair, and are both genders given the chance to progress? However, it goes so much deeper than what happens in organisations. A lot of the issues sit within society and culture. There are still certain professions that are dominated by one gender and this is what needs to be looked at. Lots of big businesses are doing a lot of work in this area, for example, working in schools to encourage girls to get involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. I always remember my son when he was very young being very surprised when he went to the Doctor when the Doctor was a woman. This was not a stereotype that came from me, but when I thought about it most Doctors he had read about in children’s books or on children’s television were male. When he then met a male nurse it blew his mind! So, what can you do in your business? Even if you are not covered by the need to report on the gender pay gap, take time to look at the ‘make-up’ of your workforce. Is it pretty even or is there a dominance of either men or women in senior roles? If you have this then start to look at how this has come about… if you need our help you know where we...read more
Would you have a problem with a tattooed employee? It’s fair to say that body art and the workplace are two things that haven’t traditionally gone hand in hand. In recent years though, things have started to shift. Back in 2014, Starbucks famously lifted its tattoo ban for its staff in a move that was applauded and welcomed with open (and perhaps intricately adorned) arms. The coffee chain is known for being a creative brand, with a predominately young workforce and modern-minded customers, and it’s perhaps no surprise that the business decided to move with the times. New research from Acas though has suggested that employers as a whole may well be out of touch with the changing public perception of visible tattoos, piercings, and other modifications. The implications here can be fairly serious. If you have a policy, either formally or informally, that bans body art, then you could be missing out on a huge pool of talent. As well, you could be causing unrest and resentment amongst your existing workforce. So could it be time to rethink your stance? As a starting point here, let’s consider your legal position as an employer. Body art is not classed as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, so there are no direct implications in the eyes of the law. Still though, there is a possibility that you could be challenged on the grounds of a breach of human rights. How you decide to approach the issue of tattoos comes down to you, though it could be worth giving some serious thought to whether your position is serving a purpose, or exists solely as a result of outdated workplace culture and practice. Ultimately, it’s essential that whatever you decide, your policies are clear and well communicated. It makes sense to consult with your staff before making any big changes to your approach, and ensure that there’s no ambiguity around what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Do you employ staff with visible body modifications? What impact has this had on your business? And what advice would you share with other employers? If you’d like any advice on amending your own business policies, give us a call on 01536 215240 and we can...read more