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Employee Wellbeing: What’s All The Fuss About?

Employee Wellbeing: What’s All The Fuss About?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t have to scroll far down your LinkedIn news feed to stumble across a blog, article or company talking about employee wellbeing. It’s become the buzzword ‘de jour’ and my usually cynical self can’t help but feel rather excited about this. Let me tell you why.

Wellbeing Benefits Us All

It isn’t a mysterious concept. Put into plain English, it means looking after your physical and mental health, or the health of those you employ if you’re coming at this from a business owners perspective. Quite frankly, this is something we should all be doing anyway, right?

So Are Employers Really Doing Their Bit?

Ask a room full of people if they think it’s important to be healthy and I’m sure the majority will say yes.  Ask them if they want their employer to care if they are healthy, again, it’s probably a yes. Ask them if they feel their employer actually does care if they’re healthy…I suspect the answers will be less favourable.

Modern Life Can Dehumanise Us All With Wellbeing Taking A Back Seat

You see, somewhere in the midst of hyper growth tech unicorns, the burnout culture perpetuated by Silicon Valley and the constantly blurred lines between work and life; we forgot to acknowledge that people are not robots. You cannot ask for 200% effort from them every day and not expect someone to topple over at some point.

Burnout Is Particularly Prevalent In The Technology Sector

Work ethic is a perennial topic in the tech industry (where I’ve spent most of my working career), which has its own blinkered take on the American dream of bootstrapped socioeconomic mobility. Parables of extreme devotion — like the story of Elon Musk sleeping on a bean bag near Tesla’s production line — are recited faithfully by entrepreneur acolytes and established VCs alike. And this kind of thinking is bad news for the ‘average’ employee. Apparently, we are living in generation burnout, with the once desirable burnout ‘badge’ seen only in senior execs being achieved at a much younger age and with much more regular frequency. Our social media obsession comes with an abundance of pressure to ‘have it all’, ‘do it all’, ‘buy it all’ and for goodness sake, ‘don’t be AVERAGE’. Combine this with the expectation to work like Elon Musk and it doesn’t take a genius to work out this is only headed in one direction, and it ain’t a pretty ending.

But Reports Show Tech Firms Are Starting To Put Wellbeing Strategies In Place

Thankfully, some smart companies (around 69% according to a recent Towers Watson survey) are already clocking on to one simple fact; healthier employees = happier employees = productive employees and have decided to put employee wellbeing at the top of their agenda over the next 2 years.

Great for Apple, But What About Me?

So, you’re probably thinking, that’s all very well and good for the big corporates who have money to throw at these problems, but what about us, the SME with our modest budgets and countless ‘priorities’ to spend it on.  And I get it, it’s far easier to justify spending money on things that are obvious and the benefits are clear to the business right now.  New systems, IT equipment, marketing collateral, sales events – there are countless needs when growing a business and unless the ‘people’ are screaming and shouting at you everyday, they are not going to be the number 1 priority.  But that is the problem with stress, wellbeing, health issues and the like; they can creep up on you or even come completely out of the blue. Before you know it your top sales guy is signed off work for a month and you’re facing a huge gap in your targets for that quarter.

Wellbeing Starts With Getting To Know Your Team

I’ll let you into a secret, wellbeing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You’re a human too (I expect!) so think for a second about a time when you felt happy, healthy and generally ‘well’. Was it because your company was spending a ton of money on gurus coming in to teach you how to meditate and expensive staff trips to Ibiza to practice Yoga?  It’s possible that the answer is yes, of course, but it’s also possible that it was because you just felt like you had enough balance in your life. Time to spend with family and friends, a meaningful job where you got acknowledged for your contribution, the ability to manage your own time and work around your own life priorities, and the feeling that your employer cared about you as a person, not just a bum on a seat churning out work. That’s employee wellbeing at it’s finest. Putting it bluntly, it’s giving a sh*t about how your staff feel day to day, and supporting them when how they’re feeling is, actually, a little bit overwhelmed.

Practical Solutions Can Be Simple, Cheap & Easy To Implement

Perhaps Dave would love to leave early next week so he can pick up his kid from school.  Sarah might really appreciate the opportunity to have some coaching around achieving some of her life goals.  Aarthi might really value a team lunch or drinks after work. James would love to just be told he’s doing a great job and thanked for his contribution (and a cheeky Amazon voucher would go down well too).

Wellbeing is not a black art.  It’s also not a one size fits all exercise (despite their being a  ping pong table at the back of every single tech office I’ve ever worked in!).  It’s taking the time to listen, get to know your team and spending whatever budget you have on something that matters, to them.

Here at the HR Hub, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the very ugly when it comes to wellbeing strategies and we’d love to have a pragmatic chat with you about what might actually work for your business. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call us on 0203 627 7048.

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Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

You could be mistaken for thinking that the current Childcare Voucher scheme has now closed (after all we have been talking about it since 2017 now….) however it has now been extended for new members by another 6 months following a Commons debate, with a revised closing date of October 2018 (exact date still tbc).

The current Childcare Voucher scheme (which means that parents can save up to £933 a year on childcare) was due to close to all new members on 6th April, making way for the new Tax Free Childcare scheme which was launched in April 2017.

So, what’s the difference between them? In short, both schemes reduce the cost of childcare but one scheme may suit an individual’s circumstances better. The most significant difference between the 2 schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare offers savings per child per year, while childcare vouchers offer savings per parent per year.  

With childcare vouchers, each parent can take up to £55 each week from their salary before tax and National Insurance, or £243 a month, to spend on childcare no matter how many children they have, as long as the parent is a basic-rate taxpayer and the employer has chosen to run the scheme.

The Tax-Free Childcare initiative however is much more akin to a savings scheme and under the rules parents have 20% of their childcare costs each year met by the Government, up to a limit of £2,000 a year per child (or £4,000 if your child is disabled) The scheme is directly managed by the employee and not the employer and so employees are not restricted based on whether or not their employer runs the scheme.

What do you need to know as an employer?  If you don’t offer child care vouchers to your employees you don’t need to do anything! However, if you do offer Child Care vouchers you should be aware of the following:

    • Anyone who joins the Childcare Vouchers scheme before the scheme closes can continue to benefit from the savings for as long as their child remains eligible, they must also stay with the same employer, or have received a voucher within the last 12 months;
    • Employers will continue to benefit from up to £402/year savings in employer NI for every parent on the scheme;
    • Once an employee has left Childcare Vouchers to move to Tax Free Childcare scheme, they cannot rejoin
    • Employees can’t use both schemes at the same time.

For help or guidance on Child Care Vouchers or any other benefits related query contact us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

Image Credit: Unsplash

New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

Public Health England and Business in the Community have published a toolkit in an effort to encourage employers to promote healthier eating and exercising to their employees. Keen to stress the business benefits, the toolkit explains that such initiatives can boost productivity, slash absence rates, and play a key role in facilitating a happy workforce.

And while this might fall into the yet-another-thing-I’ve-got-to-do category (quite far down for many if I’m honest) of what to look at whilst running a business, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the health of the nation is a ticking time bomb. According to the NHS, the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and rising obesity levels continue to grab headlines. As an employer, you have the ability to make a positive impact in your staff’s lives, as well as strengthen your business for the future, so it might be worth having a gander…..

Occupational health isn’t just about ensuring your staff have comfortable chairs to sit on (although yes, that is one of thing basics…) as the real benefits will be gained by those who are more proactive with their responsibilities as employers, tapping into the opportunities that exist for all of us to have a much more holistic impact on our team’s lives.

The toolkit includes:

  • Suggestions that healthier food and drink options should be available within the workplace, including at meetings and events
  • Ideas around organising ‘family days’, so staff can get their loved ones onboard with healthier habits
  • Advice for managing shift workers and remote workers: two groups of staff that will experience unique difficulties when it comes to maintaining their health and wellbeing
  • Guidance for handling sensitive mental health issues in the workplace

Though the suggestions are comprehensive and provide a lot of food for thought for employers, it’s also stressed that there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. Businesses are encouraged to involve their staff in any initiatives from the very earliest stages, giving them a voice and the opportunity to hone a way forward that’s really going to work for them. After all, if your staff aren’t engaged and onboard, then your efforts are going to fall on deaf ears and fail to meet their objectives.

We recognise that employers have a lot on their plates. You may well think that you simply don’t have the time to consider promoting better levels of health and wellbeing to your staff. You’ve got performance reviews to handle, back to work meetings to schedule, and a whole load of paperwork that seems to mount up on your desk on an hourly basis. 

But there are benefits to be had by adopting some of the suggestions here ( others we’ve seen and shared previously), so if you can find the time, you should definitely give some careful consideration to how you can ‘borrow’ a couple of the ideas in order to boost the long-term prospects of your business.

Not got the time but like the idea? Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a quick chat on how we might be able to help or call 0203 627 7048.

Image: Unsplash

When the office goes viral: handling the coughs, colds and sneezes season

According to recent research from Aviva, 70% of workers admitted they have gone into work whilst feeling ill. Though some might say that their dedication to the job is admirable it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why having sick people at work might cause issues.

Who knew a sneeze could carry as many as 100,000 germs and apparently be fired up to twenty five feet!? Yikes!  Germs are spread so quickly, so it is a easy to see how before you know it, you could have a situation on your hands that is starting to look distinctly like an epidemic. One colleague ‘sharing’ their germs can mean a whole host of ‘lucky’ recipients all fall down the week after.

Why do we do it?

In Britain we like to adopt a stiff upper lip, and just get on with things, battle on through and enjoy the satisfaction of not letting a little cold beat us. But sometimes it’s less to do with our national culture and more to do with people feeling guilty or fearful of being absent for any period of time.

Of course though, either way there are certain things that you can do as an employer to make sure that office illness doesn’t knock your business off course…..

6 Great Ways To Combat Presenteeism In Your Business

  1. Ensure that you have a sickness and absence policy that’s fit for purpose: It should focus on supporting your staff as well as achieving your goals and objectives. A policy can rarely cover every instance of sickness or absence, however you can use it to set expectations on what you want team members to do in certain situations e.g do you let people work from home when they’re a bit ‘coldy’ but otherwise happy and strong enough to function (but when they are still likely to spread germs)? Or do you have a firm ‘go-home-log-off- and-get-better’ stance?
  2. Lead From The Front: When you or a member of the senior team are ill, make sure the policy guidelines are followed correctly – it’s the best way for behaviours to become part of the cultural norm.
  3. Address workload issues: More than 40% of employees who took part in the study said that they were too afraid their workload would pile up if they were to stay off sick. It may be time for you to take a look at your wider practices, and assess where problems might exist that need to be addressed. For example, is the distribution of the workload amongst the team fair and correct? Is there a system for sickness cover within teams for tasks to be distributed out when someone is off with illness? Is there any low value, frustrating work that can be farmed out elsewhere? And crucially, is the total work required for a project by an individual or team realistic in the time given or is it contributing to their wellbeing in the first place? All this of course can only be brought to light if employees feel able to let you know when things are getting too much…
  4. Consider Mental As Well As Physical Sickness: A new PwC study claims 34% of the UK workforce may have a health and wellbeing issue, with the most common being anxiety, depression and stress. It’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of supporting staff with mental health issues, and tackling the stigma that often exists around non-physical health and wellbeing.  When creating your sickness and absence policies, it’s vital that you consider how you’ll be playing your part in creating positive change.
  5. Encourage Decontamination: It may sound a bit extreme but a simple action like offering hand sanitiser to your staff, or encouraging a dose of desk disinfectant, can go a long way to preventing bugs spreading. Especially in offices where you hotdesk or share a workspace.

If you have issues in your workplace surrounding presenteeism or sickness absence, then it may be time to call in the professionals. We can assess the effectiveness of your existing policies and procedures, ensure that you’re compliant with relevant legislation, and help you to move forward towards exemplary leadership.

Get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about how we can help you on the road to employee magic!

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Is Pawternity Leave The Next Big Thing?

According to the RSPCA, around a half of UK households own a pet. Though there’s no legal right for employers to give their staff time off to look after an ill animal, or to help a new puppy settle in at their new home, ‘pawternity’ leave is something that’s being discussed more and more.

Though some might say it’s all a bit ridiculous and it’s taking things a step too far, there’s a strong argument for business owners to consider whether they should add some leeway into their policies and procedures for those whose children are of the furry variety. For many people, their animals are a big part of their family, and an illness or a death could be absolutely devastating. Would it really be reasonable to expect a member of staff to turn up to work and just get on with things under these circumstances?

On a similar note, many employers now allow pets in the workplace. Guide dogs can often be classed as a reasonable adjustment for those with certain disabilities, but plenty of businesses have opened up their doors to the pets of their workers too. It can enhance the mood of staff and offer them a little more flexibility.

Like we’ve mentioned, there’s no legislation on the matter, so it largely comes down to discretion. Statistically speaking though, it’s an issue that you’re likely to face at some point when you’re running a business and leading a team, so if your thinking of introducing four-legged friends to the office, here’s some tips to keep you out of the dog-house:

Top 5 Tips For A Pet-Friendly Workplace

  • Consider those with allergies or those who are afraid/uncomfortable around dogs – your responsibilities lie with the health and wellbeing of all your employees first. Ask them if there is any way around their issue. If not, it may well be a non-starter
  • Have designated ‘Pet Free’ as well as ‘Pet Friendly’ areas – and ensure dogs are on a lead or in a crate at all times
  • Specify that only housetrained, defleaed and well-socialised dogs are suitable candidates
  • Limit the number of dogs in the office at any one time – just one is fine…
  • Ensure the office is safe for pets – protect furry friends from hazards such as loose cables and open bins

theHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a no-strings chat about your HR needs – large or small!

 

When Stress Becomes A ‘Problem’ – And How Employers Should Deal With It

Stress is a typical response to an increase in the demands and pressures in our lives. And a small amount of stress isn’t actually a bad thing. It’s good for instilling a sense of urgency, keeping you on your toes and primed for action. But too much stress is counterproductive – and extreme stress can tip us over into very dangerous territory indeed. It can threaten our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing; damage our performance and erode our relationships. Stress is something we all need to understand and watch out for…

The Psychological & Physical Signs Of Stress

Prolonged and/or excessive stress can have significant consequences on a person’s psychological as well as their physical wellbeing. Psychological consequences of stress include irritability, anxiety, low self esteem, and feeling overwhelmed. Physical signs of stress include chest pain, dizziness/feeling faint, hair loss, excessive sweating and insomnia. Experts believe these physical responses to stress are due to the body’s automatic release of cortisol and adrenaline in response to perceived danger (the fight or flight response). Producing high amounts of these hormones can make a person feel physically unwell and affect their long term physical health.

Behavioural Signs Of Stress

These psychological and physical consequences of stress can lead to behavioural changes, some of which may be noticeable in the workplace such as reduced concentration and motivation, shirking responsibility and poor performance.

So When Does Stress Become A Problem?

Stress becomes a problem when it significantly affects the emotional well-being of the individual and/or their ability to function at home, work, or in personal relationships.

What To Do If An Employee Is Suffering From Stress

Whilst there is no specific law in relation to an employer’s obligations to managing stress levels at work, under the Health & Safety at Work Act, employers have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff.

As such, we would recommend the following approach:

1. Keep Your Eyes Open

Despite the increased coverage of stress and mental health issues in the media recently, for many people it’s a very difficult subject to bring up. But, as a responsible employer you should keep an eye out for employees displaying any of the psychological, physical or behavioural signs of stress mentioned above. And if you see someone struggling, you have a responsibility to address it.

2. Have Open Dialogue

Whether you bring it up or they come to you, the best thing you can do when talking with someone about their stress or mental health is to listen to what they have to say and validate how they feel. Having their symptoms acknowledged and taken seriously can make all the difference.

3. Bring In Practical Steps to Reduce Work Stress

If you both feel that work is a contributing factor to an individuals’ stress levels consider practical steps such as

  • flexible working
  • clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • training or support to help manage their workload
  • introducing new channels of communication or an alternative line management structure

4. Consider Getting External Help

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a great way to offer support to your staff. They will often come in the form of a telephone helpline and/or website with the option of telephone and face-to-face counselling. There are companies that provide these services and they often aren’t too expensive. And as a bonus, some schemes will offer you additional services such as employment law or tax advice. If someone is seriously affected and taking time off, work you can also look at setting up occupational health referrals, whereby you will pay a health professional to meet with the employee and make an assessment about how best to deal with the employee. Health insurers like BUPA and other employee wellbeing companies can help set these up for a fee. Importantly with both of these suggestions, if you end up further down the road with a dismissal or resignation related to mental health issues, getting and expert medical opinion and offering staff an EAP will also show to a tribunal that you have supported your team and that you have gone a fair way to meet your ‘duty of care’ as an employer.

For many, pressures associated with work can increase over the summer holidays and make it a particularly difficult time of year for those with mental health issues or who suffer from stress. Whether this is due to an increased workload for those covering for colleagues on holiday or the stress of juggling work and child care when the kids are off school – things may get too much for some. So keep a watchful eye over your team over the next few weeks and make sure no one’s suffering in silence.

 

For further advice and support on any other HR issues contact theHRhub today on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk

 

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