The unproductive month + top December stresses!

Do you suffer from unproductive Decembers when work and festive commitments collide? If so, which elements do you find most stressful?

It appears that 1/3 of British professionals struggle to maintain their productivity during the run-up to the Christmas break.

Almost as many (30%) also regret using their holiday entitlement early in the month, as they’ll then miss out on the festive atmosphere at work.

Other December regrets include…

  1. Drinking excessively at the office party
  2. Leaving ‘too much work’ until after Christmas – and then feeling depressed on their return!
  3. Missing the office party due to personal commitments

The challenge of juggling work and social needs brings additional stress. Professionals most struggle with:

  • Picking the perfect presents (35%)
  • Trying to finish their work before the end of the year (21%)
  • Budgeting for gifts, food, and travel (14%)
  • The number of social commitments (12%)
  • Deciding what to wear to the office Christmas party (5%)

It’s not all negative though…

13% of employees don’t find December stressful. Plus respondents clearly find joy in the season, with these items topping their list:

  1. ‘Drinking with friends’
  2. ‘Eating delicious food’
  3. ‘Celebrating the years’ success’
  4. And ‘seeing directors having fun’

Want to boost your productivity this month? Havard Business Review has a free guide to help you avoid distractions ‘at work and in life!’ You can read the transcript or listen to the conversation in full. It’s less than half an hour long, so also offers a great way to make your commute more productive!

Tip: if you want to boost productivity in your workplace this December, why not hire a temp or two? Whether to cover your phone lines for your Christmas party day or to help handle a surge in seasonal demand. Please call the office on 01225 313130 or email us to discuss your needs. You can also register your CV for temporary (and/or permanent!) work.



Letting go of workplace grudges

Harbouring any workplace grudges? Perhaps you’re struggling to let go of that one thing your colleague did last week…or year?!

This is an important topic for every stage of your career. Your grudges can get in the way of your job search (for instance, making you appear negative during interviews), as well as being a nuisance for your daily tasks, workplace relationships, and even your promotion opportunities.

So what exactly is a workplace grudge?

Well, we all loosely know what a grudge is. It’s defined as ‘a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’

But really, what is at the root of a grudge? According to psychologist Steven Sylvester, it’s actually when someone is “manifesting their frustration by pointing it at someone else. It’s a defensive tactic to explain away something we fear. If you have serial grudges, that shows a strong desire not to take full responsibility for what is happening in your life.”

This may sound far-fetched to you. Yet it’s worth asking yourself the following question, as posed by Sylvester – what does your grudge say about you?

For example, say your colleague embarrassed you in a team meeting. The colleague is clearly at fault for their actions, yet there’s also fear at the root of your response. You could be concerned about appearing foolish or maybe already worry that your superiors doubt your abilities.

Sylvester goes on to suggest 3 questions for each of your workplace grudges:

  1. What emotions are sparked by the person you’re holding the grudge against?
  2. What does that say about you?
  3. Plus how can you ‘self-correct’ the situation? In other words, what could you do in the future to alleviate the problem or prevent your grudge from taking hold?

If this sounds like too much hard work, it’s worth considering what could happen if you leave your grudges to fester…

The Plum has an article that highlights many of the ways workplace grudges can negatively affect the grudge holder:

  • By limiting workplace productivity
  • Making it harder to concentrate and problem-solve
  • Possibly also contributing to ‘chronic inflammation, high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate’.

They also offer another great piece of advice: “if the grudge relates to your current work situation, let it motivate you to work towards what you want.”

Know you want a new job? You’ll find the latest listings here. Plus don’t forget to keep up with our news page for more career insights and advice.



The happiness, productivity & success connection

Your job happiness is directly linked to your career success. Here’s another big study to prove it…

If you’re trying to stick things out in a job that makes you absolutely miserable in the hope of becoming more successful, you may want to reconsider.

There have been many studies that prove happiness precedes job success, as opposed to the reverse. We discussed this back in the summer – when featuring the 1/5 of parents who want their ‘child to seek success over happiness, kindness or honesty‘.

What’s so different about this new study?

The research (which comes from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School) explores many of the same topics. However, it’s the first to provide an ‘exact measure’ of the relationship between job happiness and productivity and success. Their research finds that:

  • Happy employees are 13% ‘more productive and successful’ than their less happy counterparts.
  • The pool of call centre employees both performed faster and made more sales conversions when happier.
  • Multiple elements contribute towards workplace happiness, including higher salaries, secure work, and jobs that prove ‘more interesting and meaningful’.

How significant are these findings?

13% may not sound all that dramatic, yet it is a meaningful figure. Not only would most businesses be pleased to see such an increase in sales conversions, yet this may represent a vital clue as to what’s going wrong in many businesses.

It could be a great time for employers to review how happy their team truly is and take steps to support employee wellbeing.

Of course, employees can also take measures to review their own happiness in and out of work. You can always explore the latter while searching for your next role!



More holidays and a pay rise

The New Economics Foundation is calling for more holidays and a pay rise for the good of the British economy!

This recommendation (and its accompanying report) focuses on ways in which to improve national productivity.

The idea being that if consumers are able to spend more money, and have more time in which to spend it, the demand for products and services will increase. This, in turn, will help bolster business productivity and the wider economy.

Do we need more holidays?

Few employees would decline the opportunity to have more time off. Especially on hearing that Britons receive fewer public holidays than many of their European counterparts.

While the UK minimum stands at 28 days, EU employees receive anywhere from 30 to 40 paid public holidays each year.

This report also reflects employees’ priorities, according to a separate study

When looking for a new job, British people prioritise:

  1. Their salary (98%)
  2. Holiday allowance (91%)
  3. A pension plan (89%)
  4. Promotion opportunities (78%)

Talking of holidays…

Therefore, while the ideas sound welcome, there may be additional issues to tackle in practise! In the meantime, don’t forget to use your jobs research as a chance to review your personal priorities. 



The stress of taking time off

Why is it so stressful to take time off work – both before and after your holiday? Advice included for employers and employees alike…

We’re all encouraged to book breaks from work and with good reason. Holidays (whether spent at home or away) are necessary to help us unwind and restore our productivity and focus. However, what do you do when the act of taking a break proves stress-inducing?

  • An astonishing 91% of UK employees feel ‘more stressed’ in the days before their break, according to research by Wrike. 92% of German employees feel the same.
  • 43% of the UK group reports feeling ‘very stressed.’
  • This is compared to 42% of French workers who only attest to being ‘slightly stressed’.
  • As for returning from a break, 84% of UK professionals experience stress at this stage.
  • Only 30% of French employees and 29% of Germans report the same.

Why is it so stressful to take time off?

The article discusses the ‘disruptive’ nature of work holidays and how challenging it can be to step away from – or finish – projects to go on leave. This can also leave you worrying about those tasks you’ve got to return to.

These sentiments are supported by ‘‘No time for a holiday?‘, in which we hear that being ‘too busy’ to book time off is the leading reason for people not using their full holiday entitlement.

Advice for employees on minimising your pre- and post-holiday stress:

As we’ve said, breaks are an essential part of your work-life balance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now officially recognised burnout as a real condition. It’s defined as: ‘energy depletion, exhaustion, and negativity resulting from chronic workplace stress.’ So you need to take time off, but you need to know how to do it well.

Harvard Business Review has some excellent tips, some of which are summarised below…

  • Build relaxation into daily life, rather than leaving it until your holiday.
  • If you can, prioritise all tasks a few weeks before you go and ask your manager’s opinion on your list. Focus on this list.
  • Let all necessary parties know that you’ll be away (and, where possible, that you won’t be contactable during this time).
  • Handover tasks to anyone who is covering your absence and let your manager/boss know who this will be.
  • Tidy your desk to reduce clutter-associated stress.
  • Prepare your out-of-office.

As for your return, TIME recommends

  • Allocating some space to catch up on emails as soon as possible.
  • Where suitable, asking to work from home on your first day back.
  • And phasing into a ‘manageable work pace and workload’ to reduce overwhelm.
  • Mind additionally suggests: preparing a healthy dinner and breakfast ready for your return.
  • Using your lunch breaks and leaving on time throughout your first week.
  • Prioritising and setting goals for your upcoming tasks.
  • Decluttering your desk (if you missed that from the above list!).
  • Organising a catch-up with whoever took care of your tasks.
  • Focusing your mind on the most enjoyable aspects of your job.

If these tips don’t help, it could be time to look for a new opportunity.

Advice for employers and managers…

The evidence is clear. All businesses need to support their employees to minimise the risk of burnout (and benefit from healthy and productive teams).

  • Keep an eye on the holiday diary. Make sure that people feel able to book breaks and help employees prep for their time off.
  • Reading the above tips will help.
  • As will booking one or more temps to provide cover support. This is especially essential for small and/or highly busy teams where nobody else is available to receive additional tasks.

Please call the office on 01225 313130 to book a temp or email us for support. 



Is a 4-day week the future norm?

Could a 4-day week become the new ‘norm’ for employees and help solve the nation’s working challenges? This is the core theme of multiple HR and recruitment news features published within the past fortnight.

Living in the overtime capital

The UK has sadly earned itself the moniker of ‘unpaid overtime capital of Europe.’ The average full-time employee now works around 6.3 hours of unpaid overtime weekly. This amounts to £5,000 per person each year, according to ADP research data.

You could assume this means we’re flying ahead in the productivity stakes, however, the opposite is true. What’s more, our culture of overwork could actually be at the root of this problem.

  • It’s said that the Danes are ‘23.5% more productive per hour,’ despite the fact they work 4 hours less each week.
  • The Republic of Ireland is also 62.7% more productive, yet works less than 40 hours per week. The UK averages 42 hours.
  • Apparently, if changes aren’t made, ‘it would take 63 yearsfor UK employees to receive the same amount of leisure time as the rest of Europe.

Employees call for a 4-day week

Alongside the productivity issues, UK professionals are also feeling increasingly stressed. More than 1 in 3 people feel more stressed than they did just two years ago. The respondents suggest this is due to:

  • Increased workloads (66%)
  • ‘Changing relationships’ at work (30%)
  • Not having control over their work (27%)

On being asked what would help lower their stress levels, the participants said:

  1. A 4-day working week (Almost 1/3: 30%)
  2. Greater management support (25%)
  3. Reduced responsibilities, or other work changes (13%)
  4. Stress management training (6%)
  5. Regular exercise (5%)
  6. Not receiving work emails outside of their contracted hours (5%)

Various views on the 4-day week

It’s suggested that technological advances should make a 4-day working week feasible. Yet some employers and employees have their concerns…

  • Businesses worry about paying the same salaries for reduced workloads and professionals fear that they’ll end up working fewer days yet even longer hours. Others worry that they’ll have to squeeze their existing workloads into a briefer timeframe.
  • Several examples are provided in the above-linked piece. One of which is a Surrey-based trial in which employees will work an extra hour a day in order to shorten their working week to four days/32 hours for full-timers. The workers’ stress levels will be compared at the end of it. It will be interesting to see whether the longer days/shorter weeks outweigh the associated concerns.
  • One German-company has taken a different approach: reducing each working day from eight hours to five. They say this has resulted in reduced stress and improved work-life balance. They have, however, had to implement some practical changes to help employees manage their workloads. This included reevaluating ‘social media usage and finding weekly routines’.

In conclusion…

While it doesn’t appear that 4-day working weeks will become the imminent norm, don’t be surprised if you see more UK employers experimenting with this notion. In the meantime, are there any jobs that more closely match your working priorities? For example, those with reduced commutes or more favourable hours or shifts, flexible working opportunities and other lifestyle benefits.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for future updates regarding this topic/how the Surrey study turns out! As well as sharing such updates via our news feed, you can also follow us over on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.



Are you married to your job?

Does it feel like you’re married to your work? If so, you’re among more than a ¼ of British employees who feel this way…

Research led by Perkbox (and shared by Recruiting Times) shows that:

  • 45% of people routinely work more than an hour beyond their standard day – with weekends included.
  • Almost ¼ have cancelled a personal commitment, such as a date or a party, due to their work.
  • 1 in 10 say that being married to their job has caused a relationship breakdown.
  • 30% of respondents feel “like they’re always at work, even when they’re at home”.

Technology once again bears some of the brunt of the blame. 70% of employees have received out-of-hours communications via email, text or phone call. 25% even think they send more messages to their colleagues or boss than they do their friends.

A number of health implications are additionally discussed. These findings support People Management’s report, which states that: ‘always on employees are more engaged but also more stressed.’

An overworking culture…

The Perkbox study only has 2,000 respondents. However, it closely reflects wider research. For instance, the TUC’s exploration of 5 million UK workers. This reveals that a total of £2 billion worth of unpaid overtime was undertaken in 2018.

While acknowledging that many people are prepared to work some overtime when needed, the TUC suggests that there are employers who are taking advantage of their teams. As a result, they’re calling for new rights that will make such employers more accountable.

Once again, the health impact of these working practices is discussed, alongside the reduced productivity that results from a culture of overwork.

Appearances may be deceptive!

Over on HR Magazine, a separate report explores the productivity issue in more detail. This post cites research from Maxis Global Benefits Network, which found that 79% of UK office professionals work an extra three days of overtime each month.

  • 79% of people also report to a ‘desk time’ focus, meaning that they’re ‘expected to be seen at their desks’ most of the time.
  • It may be thought this would boost productivity. Yet, conversely, many employees (almost 1/3) are spreading out their workloads to appear more productive than they truly are.

You won’t be surprised to hear that this article also finds a connection between long working hours and anxiety, stress and poor work-life balance.

So, is it time to divorce your job?!

If you’re no longer enjoying your work, or you feel it’s having a negative effect on your personal life, you may want to reconsider your options. Review the latest jobs and be sure to discuss your priorities with your recruitment consultant.



A happy workspace?

There’s a lot of talk about workplace happiness, yet how about a happy workspace? We’ll explore how your surroundings impact your mental health…

Why this research matters:

While you couldn’t be blamed for thinking there are more pressing issues to consider, how you feel about your working environment could actually be part of a large (and expensive!) problem.

Poor employee ‘enthusiasm’ in January could now contribute to an annual national cost of £93 billion.

So how are people feeling about their surroundings?

According to the ‘In Pursuit of Office Happiness’ report by Staples…

  • 1/5 of workers say their workspace is ‘depressing’, with 31% feeling ‘ashamed’ of it, and 24% having gone so far as to lie about their surroundings.
  • 81% believe ‘a well-functioning and attractive workspace’ positively affects a team’s mental health.
  • 68% say greater investment in their workspace would make them feel more valued.
  • 35% are struggling to concentrate due to noisy offices.

These findings cause 46% of employees to believe they would ‘be happier in a different job.’

Ideas to create a happy workspace:

The report also offers a number of tweaks that could contribute to a happy workspace. These include introducing:

  • An office dog (27%)
  • Free spa or yoga offerings (27%)
  • Nice stationery (23%)
  • Access to free healthy snacks (23%)
  • Hammocks or sleeping pods (20%)
  • And even punch bags (20%)

It’s not clear how many options were provided to respondents. While the responses may not suit you or your employer, it’s clear that businesses need to consider realistic changes that they can make.

This might start with some simple decorative changes – from pot plants to artwork, furnishings and lighting. There’s a whole separate report on the impact of the latter.

Naturally, if there’s more at the root of your low job enthusiasm than lighting, stationery, and snacks, it might be time to step up your job search



Money worries at work

Are money worries affecting your work? You might not associate financial concerns with recruitment discussions, however, this very topic has become an increasing news theme over recent months…

Most employees experience money worries.

But what does this all have to do with recruitment?

Working towards solutions…

  • This issue presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The more that these discussions take place, the more likely employers are to find ways of supporting their team. While the most innovative companies can make this another staff attraction and retention differentiator.
  • Professionals will also feel less alone in their money worries. Anyone who has concerns that they are unable to discuss with their employer would be wise to contact the Money Advice Service. This is a free, impartial service.
  • On a separate note, if you’ve never really got to grips with your payslip and tax code, this post should help.
  • If you’re wondering whether you could earn more for your career experience and skill-set, speak with your Recruitment Consultant. Regularly researching jobs in your industry can also improve your knowledge of the going market rates.