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.

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.

Too tired and stressed for work

Are we a nation of tired and stressed employees? Recent reports should come as a warning sign to professionals of every job level…

We learned that almost half of UK working adults fail to do anything to cope with their work-related stress. What’s more, professional services employees are the least likely to do anything to help themselves.

HR Review reports that a lack of time is the primary barrier for the majority of people (65%). Perhaps no surprises there!

Other barriers are said to include financial constraints and the fact few employers incorporate stress relief into their employee benefits.

How are other people reducing their stress?

  • Physical activity tops the list of popular activities for 44% of those surveyed.
  • In second place comes hobbies/personal interests (39%).
  • While others prefer to relax with family and friends (35%).

Another urgent health issue:

There’s another workplace wellness issue that’s affecting almost as many employees (46%)…and it’s fatigue. Fatigue enters the realms of ‘extreme tiredness’ which may have a physical and/or mental cause.

HR Magazine reveals that employees feeling too tired to work are:

  • Experiencing forgetfulness (37%).
  • Becoming ‘short-tempered with colleagues (30%).
  • And even falling asleep during the working day (22%). Most worryingly of all, 13% of workers have fallen asleep while driving.

Yet, despite the severity of the potential consequences, 86% of people do not feel their colleagues or management team will understand this issue. Furthermore, fewer than 10% would feel able to call in sick due to fatigue.

Drawing a connection…

While these could be two distinct issues, they may also be highly interlinked. After all, mental stress can lead to fatigue. Naturally, if workers are unable to do anything to relieve their stress, the problem can become more severe – and even create a culture of chronically tired and stressed employees.

How to help the tired and stressed!

We all need to do what we can to prioritise our stress management. We have a proactive guide, including support links, here (for employees of every working level).

Let’s not forget that employers and managers are also prone to becoming tired and stressed! While it can feel ‘professional’ to keep plugging away, there are two primary business costs. Productivity and financial. There’s a great piece about these over on Forbes.

Employers are additionally reminded of their duty to undertake work-related stress risk assessments (information can also be found here).

Whether it’s hiring some extra hands, opening up the conversation about fatigue, reducing the working day, increasing holiday allowance and/or banning work activity outside of office hours, there’s plenty that can be done to benefit all.

Not enough work to keep you busy?

Do you have enough work to keep you busy each day? This topic is inspired by one of the Guardian’s recent ‘Working it out’ columns…

This column is designed to give readers the chance to submit their work-related problems. Rather than roping in careers experts to respond, it’s then fellow readers who get the opportunity to share their thoughts in the comments.

We were interested to read a recent post titled…

“I don’t have enough to do at work. How do I stay motivated and look busy?”

In this case, the person is part way through a job restructure and will soon have an increased workload. However, we know that this problem also affects many employees on an ongoing basis.

It’s the career world’s Goldilocks principle. People either don’t have enough work to stay inspired, or they have too much and risk burnout. Often they flipflop from one side to the other, struggling to find that healthy middle ground!

There are many reasons for this…

Perhaps it’s a job that sees strong seasonal shifts in demand. Maybe the business has hit an unusually quiet time. Or, perhaps, the team isn’t as well balanced as it should be and there are too many people trying to undertake the same job.

One group that can be especially affected is that of the brand new employee. Especially if the employee is not receiving much in the way of an induction, or the planned induction is delayed. Of course, the new staff member may also be ‘catching on’ faster than anyone predicted and is quickly outgrowing those early duties.

What to do if there’s not enough work to keep you busy:

We’ll come on to your team members in a minute. For now, we’ll think from the focus of the employee.

  • Speak to your manager, if appropriate. The best way to broach this topic is from a positive, proactive perspective. Rather than raising any flags that suggest you’re bored, explain that you have completed your day-to-day tasks and wondered whether there’s anything specific they’d like some extra support with.
  • Where possible, use an example. It often helps if you can identify a project that may need some extra hands; especially if the rest of the team is busy (and possibly too busy to draw up a list of fresh tasks).
  • If it feels inappropriate to ask (for instance, there has been a major work situation to deal with and you don’t want to distract your manager): use your initiative. Brainstorm all the ways that you could complete your day-to-day duties better/support the rest of the team. Is there some research you could undertake from your desk; a system that you could put in place or a skill that you could learn to facilitate your role? You should still aim to discuss this with your manager at the next convenient opportunity (making sure they’re happy with the way you’re focusing your time). Meanwhile, don’t just ‘look busy’ ensure you stay busy by completing these tasks.
  • Steer clear of non-work related tasks. Many of the Guardian commentators suggest working on what sound to be personal projects. Yet, however bored you are, you’re still being paid to support the business.
  • If you’re that bored for that long: it may be time to consider a more challenging role. Our jobs page is regularly updated with the latest opportunities.

What to do if there’s not enough work to keep your team members motivated:

  • Watch out for the signs. Your current team/particular team members may think and work faster than previous groups that you’ve managed. This is no bad thing if you take a proactive approach; watch out for any signs of boredom and speak to your employees when needed.
  • Invite an open response. Ask your team how they feel about their current workload. This open question will hopefully spark more than a one-word response. If the person says they’re fine/happy yet you feel they’re holding something back, ask if they feel ready for some additional tasks.
  • Keep a list of business development opportunities. Use quiet times to commence new projects that support your business goals. If it’s a temporary lull, these can be soft projects that can be picked up and dropped as necessary. For example, research, creative brainstorming, and similar.
  • Consider training opportunities. Is there a skill you’d like your team to work on in quieter moments? There are so many online courses that can be completed from a desk; often these are free.
  • How about giving your employees some say in how they should be using this time? Rather like Google’s infamous 20% time, employees could be invited to do whatever they wish to do during quieter moments yet with one condition: they must be able to explain precisely how this task will benefit the business.
  • Consider your current structure and the health of your company. Is this a good time to support business growth? Would offering internal promotions allow you to recruit new staff members and grow your team? And/or could employees take on some additional duties for the company’s benefit?

For further advice on team restructures and recruitment plans, please call the office on 01225 313130.

Annual leave & leavism: are you affected?

Why so few workers are taking all their annual leave, plus the core symptoms of ‘leavism’…

How much annual leave are you taking?

  • The average worker only uses 62% of their annual holiday allowance.
  • Up to 40% of people use no more than 50% of their total entitlement.
  • When on leave, only 50% of workers feel able to switch off completely; without fearing that they need to be contactable by their employer.
  • 20% of people are expected to maintain awareness of any work issues, with 15% having received work-related communications from their boss and 20% from another colleague.

These stats have been compiled by Glassdoor, as reported by HR Magazine (where you’ll also find evidence that people are not only checking work emails while away yet also responding to them while under the influence!).

What is leavism?

Each of the above stats represents an aspect of leavism. This newly coined phrase refers to the all-too-common practice of working out of hours (when not paid!) and while on annual leave.

CIPD findings suggest that 69% of workplaces have been affected by leavism over the past year. Core symptoms include:

  1. Regularly checking work comms, by phone and email.
  2. Being afraid to book annual leave – and not using all of your holiday entitlement.
  3. Not trusting your colleagues to cover your workload; taking on all the responsibility and failing to delegate.
  4. Cancelling annual leave at the last minute.
  5. Taking unfinished work away with you.

Further descriptions can be found on HR Review.

And what is this telling us?

Few people would see this as a good sign. Yes, employees will appear conscientious at first glance, yet what is this going to do to long-term employee productivity?

This topic ties in with many of our previously discussed features on employee happiness, a general lack of free time, and national burnout concerns.

Encouraging employees to take a break and switch off is only going to benefit company performance and staff retention over the longer term.

Where possible as employers/managers:

  • Make sure all management staff are aware of the business benefits of annual leave.
  • Positively encourage all staff to book their leave; remind them of how much allocation is outstanding.
  • Ensure you’re not rewarding people for not taking leave/working while away!
  • Avoid expressing frustrations regarding the person’s absence or workload.
  • Book temps to ease any workload pressures.
  • Encourage staff to set clear out of offices and only forward emails to in-house staff covering the person’s holiday. Expressly tell staff not to check their emails if they have off-site access!
  • Make sure someone is on hand to communicate with any clients while the person is away. If possible; provide clear contact details for this person. This could be your temp.
  • Save all email/phone updates for the employee’s return; notify your colleagues to do the same. It’s as simple as saving emails as drafts or using your email service’s scheduling options.

It doesn’t take long to implement these steps and they will fast become part of your company’s standard annual leave practice.

Where possible as an employee:

  • Book your leave under the terms of your allowance!
  • Avoid the hypothetical. Have you actually been asked to leave your phone/work email on or are you just feeling that you should? Is your colleague really incapable of covering the basics while you’re away? Do you absolutely need to take that work away with you?
  • Any workload or performance concerns should ideally be discussed with your manager or HR personnel – and preferably with adequate time to make any plans or cover preparations before your holiday.

Want to book a temp to cover annual leave? Call the office on 01225 313130 or email us today.