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Mental Health Week Special: The Stepping Stones To Becoming A More Mindful SME

Mental Health Week Special: The Stepping Stones To Becoming A More Mindful SME

Now in it’s 19th year, Mental Health Awareness Week always begins on the second Monday in May. In 2019, it takes place between 13th and 19th May.

In a world that is increasingly opening up to – and understanding those with – mental health issues, it’s no surprise that Mental Health Awareness Week is attracting more and more attention in both the media and business worlds year on year.

Whilst I am a great supporter of anything that raises people’s awareness to mental health issues in the workplace, it takes more than just one week in the year to adequately support your employees’ mental health.

Right now, 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. Clearly, this can stop people from performing at their best.

Organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Smart businesses support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover. The support people receive from employers is key in determining how well and how quickly they are able to get back to peak performance.

Here are 10 simple steps SMEs can take to make a real difference to their teams’ mental health, all year round:

1. Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health: Send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and that being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. Work with your employees and managers to break down the stigma related to mental health.

2. Ensure your sickness absence and return to work policies apply to mental as well as physical health problems: Policies should make it clear that people must be treated equally whatever their health problem. Make sure this is communicated effectively so everyone in the business is aware.

3. Train managers in how to support their team through mental health problems: You can’t just ‘expect’ them to feel comfortable dealing with issues that have previously been considered taboo. Giving them the tools, confidence and support to engage in the right conversations is key to supporting employees properly.

4. Open up the discourse on mental health: It’s vital managers routinely ask staff how they’re doing and reference their mental health – it helps build up people’s confidence to speak up earlier on and get the help they need sooner.

5. Fully support anyone who discloses a mental health problem: Once you’ve opened up the dialogue on mental health with someone, the priority is to develop positive steps to address the key issues they’re struggling with. Generally, these steps are small and involve simple adjustments to someone’s job role or extra support from their manager. Often the necessary change is one of attitude, expectations or communication – rather than a major change or significant cost.

6. Develop proactive action plans that work for both the individual and the business: Support managers to work together with their team members to develop a personal action plan to proactively manage their mental health. This allows people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for a time when they’re not coping so well. It also facilitates open dialogue with managers – leading to practical, agreed steps which can form the basis for regular monitoring and review.

7. Be flexible and open minded to simple changes: When people feel under pressure they can find it hard to prioritise their workload. Flexible working hours and increased one-to-one supervision can help people better manage their time and plan and prioritise. Some find a regular surgery-style trouble-shooting session with their manager helpful, where managers can go through the person’s to-do-list with them to coach them on how to approach challenging tasks. Often this acts as a useful pressure valve to help people regain confidence and cope with challenges.

8. Manage an employee’s time off sick effectively: Sometimes an employee may be so unwell they need time off work to recover. The way organisations manage a period of sickness absence is key in shaping how well and how quickly people are able to return to work and get back to peak performance.

9. Prepare for an employee’s return to work: When people are ready to return to work managers should arrange to meet up in a neutral comfortable venue to catch up and discuss the details of their return together. An effective return-to-work interview is vital to build trust and engagement with the employee and support their smooth and sustainable return to work.

  • take a person centred approach and be sensitive to the individual’s needs
  • be proactive and get involved as early as possible if someone is unwell
  • be positive, professional and supportive throughout the process
  • maintain contact with people throughout their sickness absence.

10. Engage with a provider who can support you through the challenges: It’s always reassuring to know that you don’t need to have all the answers yourself.  HR consultants (such as TheHRHub) have a wealth of experience in supporting managers and employees through all kinds of mental health challenges.  It’s worth having someone on your side for support, should you need it.

For help and advice on any HR issue, get in touch for a no strings discussion about your business needs and how we can help. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

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Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Let’s face it, most of us avoid conflict if we can. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable and it’s not particularly productive. But even if you’re the most placid business owner in the world, inevitably there will be occasions when arguments between colleagues break out and insults are traded.

This can particularly be the case in an SME where the environment is much more intimate and intense. If you don’t manage conflict carefully it can quickly escalate, creating a toxic working atmosphere and worse still, potentially damaging your business reputation.  

The Confederation of British Industry estimates that ‘conflict’ costs UK businesses £33 billion per year, taking up 20% of leadership time and potentially losing up to 370 million working days.

However many books you’ve read about ‘managing difference’, it is tough to navigate strong personalities or working style clashes.

But Ignore Conflict At Your Peril

One of the most common (and most damaging) approaches we tend to see is simply ignoring conflict/issues in the hope that it will just go away or resolve itself. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it will, but more often than not, issues left unacknowledged will fester, then escalate and ultimately may end up being a bigger problem than it ever should have become. When it comes to conflict, ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

Now, that’s not to say you need to jump in and resolve every single difference of opinion or challenging conversation that takes place in the office, but if you’ve noticed a potential problem brewing, then it’s safe to assume the rest of the team have too; and they will be looking to you (or your management team) to step in and resolve things.  

Sometimes All That’s Needed Is A Frank Conversation

More often than not, initiating a conversation and facilitating both parties being heard can be enough to cool the heat and allow people to get back to what they are meant to be focussing on!  

If Conflict Remains An Issue Here’s What To Do:

  1. Set the tone –‘The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate’ – Gruenter & Whitaker.  People tend to follow the example set by the most senior members of the business, make sure you and your management team are role modelling the behaviour you want to see in others.
  2. Create a culture of trust, respect and honest conversations –  no one wants to work in a company where their opinion isn’t heard. Most people enjoy a healthy debate on how to get things done. If the culture of your business is one where people can engage in these types of conversations, disagree respectfully (i.e. without name calling, abuse or aggression) and then go about their day, you’re onto a winner for limiting the amount of damaging conflict you’ll need to be managing.
  3. Listen to your staff – ask questions to find out the underlying issues. It may be that there is a difference in value or even a simple misunderstanding.  Don’t assume that you know the problem without asking, as this can often make matters worse! It may be worth getting someone impartial (like TheHRHub) to either handle the situation or at least be present throughout any discussions.
  4. Train your managersthey are on the front line when it comes to witnessing and resolving conflict within teams. Giving them the confidence, skills and training to deal with these issues as they arise will hopefully stop smaller issues escalating into time consuming and painful ones.
  5. Have a clear policy on how you intend to manage conflict at work – for when things just can’t be managed informally, you need to have a clear and consistent approach communicated that outlines how the company will manage conflict. This doesn’t need to be “War & Peace”, just a section in the handbook or a one pager outlining a process you will follow, should an issue get to that stage.

At TheHRHub, we are experts in navigating SME’s through the difficulties of managing conflict.  Our pragmatic, personable but legally minded approach allows us to help you put a quick end to issues that have the potential to bubble away for a longer time, or even explode into something much harder to resolve.

We can offer you advice, draw up handbooks and policies to help manage future situations, deliver management training or even mediate conflict for you (although we do like to encourage our clients to take responsibility for solving their own problems, it makes for stronger leaders in the future).

Why not give us a call to see how we can help you make your business better. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs.

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The Secret To Achieving Your Goals? Building Healthy Habits….

The Secret To Achieving Your Goals? Building Healthy Habits….

You know what? I’m really not a fan of the ‘new year, new me’ mantra that gets rammed down our throats from 1st January onwards. I’m also not keen on putting unrealistic pressure on myself to change who I am just because the year has clocked up another digit. But I do understand why people use January as a fresh start. A new year has an irresistible draw, it somehow allows us to wipe clean the mistakes of the past and commit to reinventing ourselves and finally achieving those #lifegoals we have secretly yearned to brag about on Facebook and Instagram.

As an experienced life coach (as well as an HR consultant), I specialise in helping people make positive changes in their lives – at any time of year.  Here’s my take on how you and/or your team can really achieve a goal (or two!) that will make a positive difference to your business as well as yourselves.

Forget Starting With The Big Life Goal

It’s way too intimidating. Just starting this process is the scariest part for most people and it’s usually because we begin by imagining a great, lofty goal, such as losing a stone or running a marathon. The gap from where we are now, to where we want to be seems insurmountable. So we shove another leftover Quality Street in our mouth and pretend we’re doing ourselves a favour by clearing out the treat cupboard and removing future temptations (yeah, we’ve all been there).

Focus On Daily Habits Instead

“Habits are the architecture that help us to achieve our goals”

One of my all time favourite quotes. So how about, instead of focusing on the massive goal, focus on the daily habits that will help you work towards that bigger achievement.

These mini goals can then build upon each other and be focused on either individually or as a small group….eat one extra portion of green veg each day, go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, cutting back on the sugar in your tea… Try one of these for a few weeks, nail it and then add a new one when it becomes second nature (or habit!).  Suddenly that big #lifegoal doesn’t seem so scary and unachievable does it?

It Might Take More Time But The Benefits Of Habitual Change Will Last A Lifetime

Ok, so you might not get where you want to be by the end of January but c’mon, how many times have you quit all your good intentions by then anyway because actually, running 6 times a week whilst cutting out all sugar and getting up at 5am to do yoga isn’t actually that much fun after all?! A slower pace with a more concentrated effort stands a much better chance of making new habits stick.

The Right Coach Can Make All The Difference

Building a set of healthy habits is not as complex as you might believe, it just takes a bit of time, focus, support and the right set of questions, ideally from a kick ass coach who will challenge your comfort zone and push you to take responsibility for yourself.

Now I appreciate that we don’t all have the money to invest in a personal life coach and it’s really bloody hard to motivate yourself to make healthy changes when you don’t really know where to start. There are a million contradictory articles online and a building pressure from social media to be amazing every day (it’s enough to make you quit life and go live in the jungle somewhere isn’t it?!) but I have a suggestion for you that might be more realistic…

Invest In ‘The Building Healthy Habits Workshop’ From TheHRHub

Convince your employer (or budget for it yourself if you’re responsible for employee wellbeing) to get the team at TheHRHub in to run our fabulous ‘Building Healthy Habits’ workshop and reap the benefits of a healthier, happier, more productive team. We use classic performance coaching techniques to help you (or your team) break down your goals and commit to the healthy habit changes that I guarantee will help you all move towards where you want to be in 2019.

Drop us a line hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to find out more…

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What is my company culture? And how on earth do I manage it?

What is my company culture? And how on earth do I manage it?

It’s a commonly held misbelief that company culture is just a bunch of motivational adjectives (brave, creative, innovative *delete as appropriate) graffitied on the walls of funky/industrial looking offices with pool tables, Nespresso machines and beers on a Thursday at 5pm (look how relaxed and fun we are)…. However I’m afraid I’m here to burst this bubble.  If culture really was that easy to nail, every company in Shoreditch would be winning the Best Company’s award and constantly turning away the cream of London’s talent pool.

So what is a company’s culture?

In its most simple form, a company’s culture can best be described as the way you do things as a team and how you behave towards each other.  There is no point having ‘be bold’ emblazoned across the wall in flashing lights if every time someone takes a risk at work they are chastised by senior management for not seeking several layers of approval first.

How do I define ours?

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I passionately believe your organisation’s culture is the backbone of your business and what I’m about to say next is probably my best piece of advice on the topic…

*** It’s OK not to be Facebook, Google or Airbnb when it comes to culture  ***

In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s mandatory (unless of course you are Facebook, Google or Airbnb in which case, as you were!). Culture is about being true to who your organisation is, stating what kind of company you are and working out what it is about your company that makes people join (and more importantly, stay!) then singing that tune from the rooftops!  

The best way of working this all out is to…. ask people

It’s that simple. From the co-founder who’s been by your side since day 1, to the newbie who kicked off their induction yesterday and the leadership team who make critical decisions about the business every day.  Everyone will have a view and you’ll probably find a handful of similarities running through what they say – that’s the foundation of defining your culture.

Once you’ve got this key information from your team, it’s time to decide if it’s in line with what you really want the culture to be.  If the answer is yes then great, good work! You can now focus your time on how you’re going to spread that message to both current and potential employees (employer branding, your recruitment page on the website and sure, why not paint those words on the wall in the canteen, after all you know they are true now!)  

But what if my view of our culture is different to everyone else’s?!

There is of course the chance that what employees currently say about your business, doesn’t really align with how you want to be perceived (for example: I was told at interview that this company values work life balance but if I leave my desk on time then my manager makes comments about me being a part timer).  

Look for the trends in what people are saying

It’s tempting to dismiss these views, ‘oh the manager is just mucking around’ or ‘god, she’s being way too sensitive’ but this isn’t advisable.  Whilst it’s important not to dwell on every negative piece of feedback you might get (that’s a pretty destructive and depressing way to live your life after all), the silent killer of culture is saying one thing, and doing another.  

Take definitive action to get things back on track

So, armed with the definition of your ideal culture and this knowledge of what reality may well be like, it’s time to address the way you do things and how your team behaves so that it’s more in line with what you want your culture to be.  

I won’t lie, this can be challenging and will probably take a fair amount of time.  You won’t change people’s deep set behaviours overnight. A few tips from me on the topic?  Lead by example, call out people when you see them acting in contradiction to the desired culture (but do so in a way that’s in line with it too!) and of course, reward people who do demonstrate the company values – this will encourage more people to follow suite!

 

Here at The HR Hub we’ve worked with a wonderful array of businesses at every stage of culture definition (from the head scratching start up phase of ‘who do we want to be’ to the exciting growth phase of ‘how do we scale our business whilst keeping our culture strong’) and we love nothing more than helping a business to align its actions with its words.  So, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help your business to define, manage or enhance your culture?

 

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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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