How to survive Secret Santa and your work festivities!

Need to track down a Secret Santa idea by Friday?! Worried about surviving the rest of your work festivities? This is the post for you!

For all their frivolity, work Christmas festivities can present some interesting challenges. Especially if you’re new to the team, or haven’t had the chance to get to know all of your colleagues.

Let’s start with Secret Santa…

What can you find that your colleague will actually want to receive? We’re interested to see how many of last year’s top 10 Secret Santa gifts feature in this 2018 guide. There are 40 ideas in the latter, so you shouldn’t be stuck for long!

Of course, it’s sensible to undertake an extra spot of due diligence before you make your final purchase. The top two most-wanted gifts of alcohol and chocolates could fall sorely flat if given to a non-drinker or someone with specific dietary needs.

Gift cards (which happened to top last year’s list) may be a safer choice if you’re unable to find someone who knows the recipient better than you do. In this case, it’s wise to pick a card from a store that sells a variety of items.

Stick to the upper limit so as to keep things fair. The budget-conscious can naturally get a bit savvy with their Secret Santa search! Sweets, books and socks can all be kind to the wallet if you shop around.

What not to buy your Secret Santa:

Shoppers beware! What strikes you as an amusing or gently teasing choice could fast land you in hot water. What’s more, any HR repercussions could directly affect your employer.

Steer clear of all inappropriate, and possibly offensive, gifts including toothbrushes, deodorants and sanitary products, anything of a sexual nature (stag/hen night type fare included!) and personal garments such as pants.

Now for the office party…

Each year we see multiple warnings regarding work Christmas parties. Have you heard that 9% of British people have actually been fired or disciplined as a result of their party behaviour? The primary causes include:

  • Saying something ‘inappropriate’ to or about a colleague…or boss!
  • Physical or verbal fights.
  • Doing drugs.
  • Getting intimate with colleagues.
  • General inappropriate actions, including nudity or lewd language.

Hopefully, you already know better than to get involved with any of the above!

Don’t feel bad if you don’t always enjoy your work Christmas parties…

29% of people agree. This is mostly due to the interpersonal elements, including:

  • Feeling intimidated by the social aspects.
  • Cliquey colleagues.
  • Feeling forced together.

While it’s hard to avoid this entirely, The Guardian published a party survival piece for introverts.

For all bosses reading this, smaller team activities are preferred by almost 1/4 of employees. Something to consider when planning 2019’s celebrations; try to find out what works for as many of your team as you can. Finally, if you’re a manager or employer struggling to choose your team Christmas gifts, this post is for you!



What the average working day looks like

Does your average working day reflect the national norm?

Read any business interview and you’re likely to hear that ‘every day is different.’ While largely true, it appears that there are some common working patterns.

The average working day in Britain now features: 

  • 8.5 hours spent working and commuting (Accounting for 35% of each working day. This equates to a 37-hour working week. Our commutes also happen to be the longest in all of Europe, averaging an hour per day).
  • Sleeping (28% of each working day…but of course, we’re now out of office hours!).
  • Leisure or personal activities (24%).
  • Unpaid work and ‘miscellaneous tasks’ (12.5%).

These stats were reported by HR News. Almost 1/2 the national workforce additionally undertakes some work en route to the office or while on their way home.

What type of unpaid work and miscellaneous tasks are people doing?

This section refers to everyday tasks or chores, including cooking, housework and caring responsibilities.

  • The average man spends 2.3 hours a day on unpaid tasks, with women contributing 3.6 daily hours. This creates a collective average of 2.9 hours.

There’s also a gender disparity when it comes to the value of work being undertaken during this time. Women’s out-of-office tasks are said to comprise higher value activities.

How do people spend their leisure time?

It appears that the nation is favouring solitary activities – and it’s suggested that this may be in response to our high-tech and ‘interconnected’ lifestyles.

  • Watching TV, listening to music and reading currently top the list of leisure activities.
  • Men are more likely to opt for watching TV or films, whereas women are likelier to pick a meal out with friends or indulge in a relaxing hobby, according to this particular study pool.

And are we getting enough sleep?

Even though it’s the second item on the average working day list, the answer is ‘no.’ What’s more, it’s this topic that is perhaps of greatest interest to the study’s authors – Mattress Online!

  • The most popular time to go to bed is between 11pm-12pm.
  • Men are more likely to go to bed sooner, selecting 10-11pm. Whereas women are more inclined to choose somewhere between 12-1am.
  • The British average is 6.8 hours of sleep, just shy of the recommended 7-9 hours.

So, how closely do you match the average? Let us know by TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Want to boost your workplace wellbeing levels? Head straight to our last post!



Workplace wellbeing: 4 ways to improve yours

How to improve your workplace wellbeing – whether you’re an employer, manager or employee…

There are multiple motivations for companies to increase their workplace wellbeing efforts. For many company owners, the productivity benefits will be of paramount importance. Yet it also provides yet another competitive advantage at a time when great job-seeking candidates prove more challenging to find!

Of course, if you’re reading this from an individual perspective you’ll need little convincing as to why it would be helpful for you to feel less stressed, more supported, and all-around healthier throughout your working weeks. With this in mind, let’s look at…

4 ways to increase your workplace wellbeing, according to recent news reports:

1. Use your lunch breaks!

Source: HR News

This topic crops up time and time again, which is why it’s less of a surprise to hear that British workers are giving up 19 million hours worth of lunch breaks per day!

10% of professionals are grabbing lunch at their desk on a daily basis and 22% will give themselves less than 10 minutes for lunch.

However, legally, all employees working more than six hours a day should receive 20-minutes of uninterrupted lunch-break. Lunch breaks also provide all sorts of health boosts – from lifting your mood to reducing stress and increasing your concentration.

  • Managers/employers: here’s yet another message to make sure all bosses are honouring this right! If you know your employees are regularly skipping their breaks, you need to act fast.
  • Employees: take your breaks! If there’s a major reason you don’t feel that you can, you should discuss this with your manager or HR contact.

2. Move more often.

Source: HR Review

81% of British office professionals spend somewhere between four and nine hours a day sitting at their desks. This tots up to 67 days per person annually!

Alongside this, few people feel comfortable in the chairs provided and many report daily aches as a result. Although, legally businesses must conduct regular ‘workstation risk assessments’.

Research conducted with ergonomic equipment and sit-stand desks across a four-week period led to increased workplace wellbeing, higher comfort and greater energy levels.

  • Managers/employers: let this be a nudge to conduct those risk assessments and find out how your team is feeling. Explore better desk and chair options. Encourage everyone to take short breaks to get up and move around.
  • Employees: we should all aim to stand up and move at least every half an hour. Even if that’s just to pop up and down a flight of stairs, take something over to a colleague, head to the loo or put the kettle on.

3. Introduce or become a Mental Health First Aider

Source: The Telegraph

About 1 in 6 of us will experience a mental health problem at work at some stage. Full-time working females are twice as likely to encounter something of this nature. That’s a lot of the working population and may contribute up to 12.7% of national sickness absence.

Younger workers can also experience additional challenges, including exam anxiety and social media pressures alongside workplace isolation.

  • Managers/employers: why not introduce a mental health first aid person or team, dependent on the size of your business? Visit Mental Health First Aid England or St. John’s Ambulance for training details and advice.
  • Employees: you could volunteer to be a mental health first aider at work. Share some of the research behind this, alongside some of the training course details and see whether this is of interest to your employer. Here’s a recent advice piece we shared on LinkedIn for workers experiencing anxiety or depression.

4. Watch your environment

Source: HR News

64% of HR professionals believe a poor workplace environment can have a ‘substantial’ impact on employee sickness rates.

Naturally, absenteeism is of national concern as it now amounts to a cost of £18 billion a year. Think it’s always been the case? Well, 59% of people now take more sick leave than they used to a decade ago.

A more positive workplace setting is believed to provide encouragement and a sense of purpose. Great news for workplace wellbeing levels!

  • Managers/employers: this may take a spot of anonymous surveying, but it’s important to find out how your team perceives your workplace. You should also watch out for any hints of staff bullying, chronic negativity and/or low spirits. Also monitor your own actions to make certain you’re leading in a positive manner.
  • Employees: this may feel out of your control, however, you can also start with your own actions. Watch that you’re not using every chat as an opportunity to grumble, say please and thanks to your colleagues and try to respond to new ideas in an open way. Where possible, speak to a trusted manager or HR colleague if you have any concerns regarding the atmosphere for yourself or your colleagues. Of course, sometimes a fresh environment is also the best solution!

Further reading:

Managers looking to do more to increase their workplace wellbeing rates may also be interested to read:

  1. The real reason employees are calling in sick via HR News.
  2. Job insecurities are hurting your employees on People Management.


The working parent: maternity, SPL & the untapped pool

Discussing some of the issues faced by today’s working parent…

Maternity returners are lacking confidence & left unsupported

Less than 1/5 of management-level professionals feel confident about re-entering the workplace after their maternity leave, reports People Management.

What’s more, over 1/3 of this group consider leaving their role due to feeling ‘unsupported and isolated on their return’. 90% additionally say their company provide no formal support or ‘returnship’ focus whatsoever.

The CIPD encourages businesses to provide senior level job-sharing opportunities, alongside increased flexible working, to further support these employees.

Shared parental leave take-up remains incredibly low

Of the 285,000 couples who qualify for shared parental leave (‘SPL’) annually, only 2% take advantage of this opportunity. Why is this and are employers to blame (asks HR Magazine)?

The article cites a variety of possible factors. These include:

  • Mothers not actually wishing to share their leave with their partners
  • Health factors, including the mother’s need to recover from pregnancy or birth
  • The perceived impact on fathers’ careers
  • Cultural values around ‘being the breadwinner’
  • Lack of SPL promotion at work
  • Complex workplace policies

The single working parent: the ‘untapped talent pool’

Single working parents are more likely to be unemployed than any other primary employee group, says HR Review. In fact, their unemployment rate is now two and a half times that of the British average.

Unfortunately, the new-employment rate for the single working parent has actually declined over the past five years.

These stats come from Indeed – and the company is advising businesses to consider the group as a major untapped talent pool. With 845,000 national vacancies to fill, and record national employment rates, they suggest this may be one possible solution to overcoming the skills shortage.

Once again, the notion of increased flexible and remote working is discussed.

They also reference disabled and minority ethnic employees as further talent pools. Positively, national employment rates for both of these groups have increased over the past five years.

Appoint welcomes recruitment enquiries from each of the discussed employee groups, as well as those looking to do more to attract and support them. For initial advice, please call the office on 01225 313130 or email us via the bath.info address. Here’s what to include in your cover email as a candidate.



Employers intend to invest in their teams

Two separate surveys highlight employers’ plans to invest in their teams; regardless of their economic expectations…

Survey 1: employers set to invest in new employees

Source: REC

Our first survey actually comes from our accrediting body, the REC. Confidence in the UK economy appears ‘negative’ for its fourth consecutive month. In figure terms, this equates to a survey score of -14.

However, despite this, hiring and investment plans remain positive and have even increased by a percentage point over the past month. Taking this particular score to +16.

  • 48% of businesses looking to hire permanent employees are worried that there will not be enough candidates available (+6%).
  • Likewise, 53% of those hoping to grow their temporary headcount are concerned about sourcing enough skilled staff.
  • The marketing, media and creative sectors are among the most affected by the skills shortage.
  • Overall, the number of companies planning to recruit agency staff within a short-term time frame has increased by 3% since October (to a total score of +19).

Neil Carberry of the REC suggests Brits are displaying their ‘pragmatic best’ in spite of their wider economic concerns – and are set to ‘invest in their own businesses to meet demand’.

These attitudes clearly reflect those of other sources, as recently discussed.

Survey 2: employers will continue to invest in staff benefits

Source: The CIPD via People Management

Looking to the next two years, most businesses (97%) additionally intend to either maintain or increase their employee benefits schemes.

  • 81% plan to spend the same amount.
  • 16% intend to increase their spend in this area.
  • Businesses predominantly wish to focus on professional development benefits (43%), including mentoring and secondments.
  • This is followed by health and wellbeing incentives, such as sick pay (29%).
  • 25% will mainly focus on financial schemes, including pensions and debt-related advice.

Once again, these figures are deemed promising when considering external economic factors.

Charles Cotton from the REC praises businesses for their efforts. He says ‘spending in these areas can help improve employee performance, and ultimately corporate performance.’

The two news items are extremely closely related, with benefits packages also providing valuable staff attraction tools.

Benefits also appeared in our last post, as we explored which Christmas gifts employees most hope to receive.

Looking to recruit permanent or temporary staff? Call the office on 01225 313130. Candidates can apply for new jobs via the website, or upload a CV as a general applicant



Most-wanted staff Christmas gifts

Only 39% of full-time employees receive Christmas gifts or rewards from their employers each year. This is according to a new survey conducted by Motivates; as reported by HR News.

Those that never receive rewards formed the largest respondent group (50%). While 11% of people ‘sometimes’ get them.

With less than a month to go until Christmas, managers and employers may start to ponder the available budgets for festive rewards and activities. For anyone wondering, these are currently the…

…5 most-wanted staff Christmas gifts!

  1. An individual cash bonus (64%)
  2. Personal gift vouchers (52%)
  3. Team cash bonuses (42%)
  4. A company-paid team meal or social night (34%)
  5. The manager’s verbal thanks (25%)

Items voted 6-10 can also be found here. As for the percentages stated, each respondent could select as many items as they wished from the rewards list.

73% of employees would prefer a choice of gift, if possible. This could be an interesting way to amplify the buzz of the rewards and invite your team to be a part of the celebratory process.

What to do when there’s not enough budget for staff Christmas gifts:

Several items on the list don’t cost a penny, as per item 5 above. It’s possible to make these rewards even more personal. For instance, speaking to team members individually and taking the time to thank them for specific aspects of their work.

There are also plenty of ideas to be gathered from the realistic staff rewards post – featuring the most sought-after non-monetary gestures. Companies could increase flexible working opportunities or provide additional half days/early finishes for staff to do their Christmas shopping. Even providing an office picnic lunch can make for a lovely affordable gesture.

Employees could also organise their own Secret Santa celebrations, festive bake-offs and post-work drinks to add a spot of festive cheer. Managers would be wise to encourage this; especially if their teams fall into the 50% of workers who won’t receive Christmas gifts.

Longing for some extra hands to make everything happen this Christmas?

Hiring one or more Christmas temps can prove to be a gift for busy bosses! Whether it’s helping with the season’s admin, covering the phone for your festive events, or offering some additional skills for a special project.

Call the office on 01225 313130 to discuss your Christmas temp needs.



Reputation matters to job-seekers

Why any business looking to recruit new team members would be wise to take a good look at their reputation.

Today’s discussion rather neatly follows on from our last post. If you haven’t read it yet, it highlights the importance of job skills in relation to the ongoing skills shortage.

With many stats pointing towards both high staff demand and low application numbers, employers must appraise their staff attraction approach. And this is where brand reputation comes into the conversation…

Never more important than now:

It’s said that a brand’s online rep is more important now than ever before. Alongside the recruitment climate we’ve outlined above (and over the past few articles!), we all clearly possess the digital means to thoroughly investigate our prospective employers. The stats suggest:

  • 70% of people will always research an employer’s reputation before applying for a job.
  • 56% would not go on to make an application if the business had ‘no online presence’. 57% say they would distrust these companies.
  • As for what the candidates are searching for, employee satisfaction and how staff are treated top the priority list.

The power of word of mouth…

It’s not only low job application numbers that employers should be concerned about. Future buying behaviour may also be affected by their recruitment reputation.

Perhaps understandably, candidates who’ve been through an unpleasant recruitment experience are less likely to support that employer’s products or services. What’s more, word of mouth could further harm wider purchasing choices.

  • 69% of candidates would discuss their negative experience with others – 81% would do so through one-to-one conversations and 18% via social media broadcasting.
  • 47% who heard about such a negative encounter from a friend would be less willing to purchase the brand’s offerings.
  • The experiences most likely to influence buying behaviour included poor interview encounters, and ‘lack of transparency’ regarding salaries or job descriptions, alongside non-existent interview feedback.

A reputation for the positive:

Thanks to HR News, we’ve observed the importance of employer reputation and the consequences of a poor recruitment rep. Now, we turn to Recruiting Times and the draw of a positive impact.

Employees feel that working for these companies would increase their individual happiness and productivity. In addition, staff members would be willing to leave roles that didn’t prioritise a positive or meaningful ethos.

How companies can work with recruitment agencies to improve their employer reputations

  • As well as ensuring you have an up-to-date and easily found website, why not provide some extra details that support your employer reputation profile? This could include links to any awards you’ve received (especially those for staff management), links to review sites, and HR provisions you’re proud to offer.
  • If you have had any negative reviews as an employer, it may be worth discussing these with your Consultant. Perhaps it came from previous management and new methods are now in place. Honest conversations can help your Consultant to communicate openly with prospective candidates.
  • Sometimes it helps if candidates can meet with one or a few employees during the interview process. This also proves a useful tool for ascertaining potential team fit.
  • Recruitment consultants can advise on how to best conduct the interview process, support you in creating the most appropriate job descriptions and help provide interview feedback/updates.
  • The above can also include a focus on your impact statements and brand purpose. This must be authentic though, or else an excited applicant could soon become a disgruntled employee!

Please call the office on 01225 313130 to discuss your recruitment needs.



The job skills special

As ever, we’re keeping a close eye on the job skills news. It’s vital that everyone involved in the recruitment process (candidates, clients and consultants included!) remains aware of the nation’s changing skills needs. Information that becomes all the more vital as the UK skills shortage becomes all the more prolonged…

What exactly is the skills shortage?

Quite simply, it’s the shortfall of suitable applicants for the number of job vacancies that the nation has to fill. It’s an issue that we’ve been exploring for more than 18 months.

The latest job skills news reveals that…

  1. Most businesses (79%) plan to increase their higher-skilled roles within the coming years. However, the majority of employers (66%) worry that they will struggle to find suitably matched employees.
  2. A Barclays LifeSkills survey shows that almost 60% of UK adults ‘lack core transferable’ job skills, including leadership and creativity. Differences are reported among demographic groups.
  3. 2/5 of people are being recruited for roles before discovering they do not have the right ‘soft skills’ required. More than 1/2 of workers have left a role on realising their personality or work style does not suit the position.
  4. SMEs face the worst of the skills shortage, with underperforming recruits costing an annual average of £39,500.
  5. Even when sources disagree on job vacancy figures, they agree upon these ongoing recruitment issues!

What are the solutions?

According to the reports, changes must be made at a formal education level. All future workers should be equipped with adequate skills for the modern workplace.

Alongside this, employers need to provide continued training opportunities. Therefore enabling existing workers to upskill on the job; aiding staff retention and business growth.

Businesses must also review their recruitment approach to ensure…

  • They are managing to attract enough applicants.
  • Employers also know how to best identify suitable skill-sets.
  • The job offering is additionally appealing enough to compete with those of other (perhaps better known) organisations.
  • Decision-making processes are swift enough to retain interested applicants.
  • While ample onboarding is provided to welcome new staff members.
  • Plus the list really does go on..!

What should you do now?

  • Employers & employees: keep reading articles such as these! We regularly share posts discussing the most sought-after job skills – useful insights whether you’re the one looking to fill these or the businesses competing to attract them! Re-read our skills shortage advice post.
  • Especially for job-seekers: do all that you can to ensure that you’re searching for the right jobs for you and you’re doing everything possible to highlight your skills. Follow these tips as closely as you can.
  • Especially for businesses: start working through that bulleted list above! Your Recruitment Consultant is the perfect person to call on to support you with this. For tailored recruitment advice, please call the office on 01225 313130.


Job vacancies: record highs or figures falling?

What does the number of job vacancies tell us about the state of the employment market? Well, the answer could depend on your chosen source…

Two different news items published only a day apart suggest that:

a) Advertised job vacancies are falling and reflect a ‘cooling off’ period 

Source: Recruiting Times & Adzuna

Adzuna has been recording its own data since 2012. However, it will not have access to the same quantity of data as our next source.

That said, it’s still of national interest as it considers the UK as a whole. Perhaps most interestingly, these findings also report on competition levels; stating that application numbers have fallen to an all-time low since Adzuna’s records began 6 years ago.

b)  Job vacancies have reached a record high since 2001

Source: HR Review & the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Conversely, the ONS reports that job vacancy numbers have reached the highest level recorded in 17 years. Although these figures are taken from the August to October 2018 period; Adzuna’s refer to the ‘latest data’ which may well be exploring the past month.

This report also reflects a talent shortage, stating that ’employers across many sectors are continuing to experience fundamental challenges in finding the staff and skills that they need.’

What the REC has to say on this topic…

As you may well know, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation also conducts regular research.

Their latest press release explored October’s figures and found:

  • Staff appointment numbers rose at their fastest rate last month.
  • Job vacancies ‘expanded at the softest pace’ for almost two years in October, yet staff demand was ‘historically sharp’.
  • Overall candidate availability fell at its steepest rate in nine months.

Considering all these findings, it appears that there is greater consensus across the sources than it might have appeared at first glance.

Certainly, each agrees that businesses are facing skills shortages, with HR Review reporting that “employers can expect to face continued recruitment and retention pressures and need to prioritise workforce planning.”

Looking to overcome the skills shortage?



Simple workplace happiness hacks

When you think of finding happiness at work, you might picture a promotion, more rewarding project, or achieving your ultimate job goal. Yet what if we were to tell you that there are some simple steps you can take to make your current job at least a little happier? Not only that, but you could also bring happiness to your colleagues and/or employees by executing this newfound knowledge…

The recent Office Happiness Index suggests that this is indeed the case.

HR News shared the Index findings, also revealing that 75% of workers feel happy at work.

The leading happiness hacks are:

  1. Saying ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to colleagues. Receiving such acknowledgement from bosses and clients tops the list for 85% of professionals. However, we can all show our appreciation whatever our job role.
  2. Taking your lunch-break and encouraging others to do the same. Despite this being ranked the second happiest moment of each working week, we know that so many people aren’t taking their breaks. Managers need to ensure their team feels able to do so, finding ways to reduce strain where needed. Top tip: booking a temp can relieve a lot of pressure in periods of high demand/workload.
  3. Treating your colleagues to cakes, pastries, or similar. This simple gesture wins over 80% of people, plus it can be combined with the next most popular happiness hack…
  4. Asking someone how their weekend went. Even better, ask someone you don’t always chat with.
  5. Finding a way to fix that faulty piece of office equipment. A moment of bliss, according to 73% of participants!

You can also beat the biggest pet peeves by…

  1. Doing point 5. above! Yes, this leads the list of office peeves, so prioritise the fix (or find someone who can!).
  2. Checking your emails and comments for all hints of the ‘passive aggressive!’ It’s easy to let personal stresses spill into your comms with your colleagues, yet it’s certainly not the way to vent your concerns or win people over.
  3. Avoiding unnecessary meetings. If you’re calling a meeting, make sure it has a clear purpose and timeframe and only invite those who really need to be there.
  4. Cleaning your crockery! Dirty coffee mugs and cutlery left on desks are considered the bane of office life for 65% of workers. Get in the habit of clearing as you go – and win yourself some brownie points by offering to lend a hand to an even busier team member!
  5. Considering your temperature needs. It’s hard to make everyone happy with this one. What’s comfortably warm for one is irritatingly chilly for another…and yet far too hot for someone else. Wearing layers can help, plus asking around before you fiddle with the thermostat or whip open the windows. Managers should also consider the team’s individual seating and supply needs.

Talking of seating and supplies, the article also shares insights regarding the types of offices that create the most happiness.

In other happiness news…

The UK is considered one of the 30 happiest countries in the world. However, it scored 19th place and only just made the list when it came to work-life balance (28th). This was despite coming in the top 10 for salaries (9th). The top three happiest countries each had higher work-life balance scores than the UK’s:

  • Happiest nation: Finland (11th for work-life balance)
  • 2nd happiest: Norway (7th)
  • 3rd happiest: Denmark: (4th)

Elsewhere, it was reported that males born between the mid-1960s to early-1980s are the least happy working group. Public sector workers and those paid hourly as opposed to by salary also fared worse on their happiness scores.


Ready for the challenge of a new role? Check out the latest jobs in Bath & Somerset. You can also use these tips to take your job search to an expert level!