For many, Glastonbury weekend heralds the start of an increasingly busy summer calendar of live cultural and sporting events. And more and more businesses are capturing some of this magic for their employees by hosting their own summer ‘do’.
Here, Matt Turner, founder and MD of Clownfish Events explains how work summer parties can be the perfect antidote to employee stress and gives us some great event theme ideas to boot…..
If work is stressing you and your team out at the moment, you’re not alone. Research shows that people in the UK work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. Stress can be hugely detrimental to productivity and engagement, not to mention our wellbeing. Over 11 million days are lost at work every year because of stress, according to annual reports by the Health & Safety Executive. More significant to business owners is the £1.24bn cost to UK employers of these high levels of absenteeism.
Balance sheets aside, we all know about the powers of exercise and mindfulness for combating workplace stress; but one of the best (albeit rather underrated) antidotes is a well thought-out summer office party. Done right, it can recharge the batteries of the most jaded of employees, whilst boosting engagement and reinforcing cultural values at the same time.
The Rise & Rise Of The ‘Digital Detox’ Party
Given the contribution of smartphone addiction to stress levels, not to mention the current ‘always on’ culture, it’s unsurprising that Digital Detox parties are a huge trend at the moment, as employers opt for summer events that urge colleagues to re-connect face to face and share quality time away from their devices.
They can be surprisingly cost effective too. Think fires-side alongs: a tipi, firepit, cosy blankets, toasted marshmallows and maybe an open mic for coworkers to show off their talents. There’s no need for expensive catering or fine wines, but you could include a discreet photographer, so no one is tempted to use their phones and post the action on social media!
And a digital detox event is suitable for all brands, regardless of their specific cultural values, because it makes the vital connection between respecting work/life balance and the impact of proper downtime on mental wellbeing.
But if a detox isn’t needed for your team, and you’d like something more bespoke to your business, here are four more cost-effective options that can be used to convey specific brand values and create a consistent cultural experience that boosts employee engagement levels…
Creative Summer Party Themes That Reflect Specific Brand Values
- White Party – stylish, sophisticated and achingly cool.
This theme is ideal for luxury brands and high-end professional services companies that might also want to celebrate their organisation’s emphasis on promoting diversity and a cosmopolitan culture.
Think Mediterranean islands, white furniture and ambient lighting to recreate an exclusive holiday hotspot. Add a dance floor, DJ, chill out zone and plenty of entertainment for an event worthy of an A-list beach club.
Brand values: passion, attention to detail, diversity, dare to be different, simplicity, style
- Traditional English Fair – heritage, tradition, under-stated style and practicality.
This theme is great for brands that want to emphasise their British provenance as a sign of quality – like custom manufacturers, food and drink producers and ethical brands.
Choosing a garden party theme with traditional accents like deckchairs, bunting, fairground rides and side stalls (with some Pimm’s and strawberries thrown in!) is a great way to celebrate the summer, keeping costs down but still delivering an event that is unique and memorable.
Brand values: community, fun, quirky, sustainable, heritage, traditional.
- Sporting Fun – competitive, team spirited, entrepreneurial and spontaneous.
This theme is the perfect choice for challenger brands, start-ups and dynamic/fast moving industries where risk-taking is the norm.
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year and increasing numbers of companies wanting to promote health and wellness amongst employees, sporting challenges are likely be very popular this summer.
Brand values: excellence, growth orientated, teamwork, courage, commitment
- Boho Festival – glamorous and fun; a good fit for international brands looking to emphasise the importance of ‘down time’ and adventure.
If your employees are longing to be back at Glasto, why not bring the Pyramid Stage to them with music, hay bales and street food vendors.
Brand values: innovation, distinctive, creative, open-minded, sustainability
Summer Parties Are Quickly Overtaking Christmas Dos As The Must Have Annual Event
Whereas a Christmas party is often fairly traditional, summer events can be much better at conveying an employer’s brand values and reinforcing its personality. This is important for everyone but especially for millennials, who tend to value personal experiences, their employer’s values and a sense of feeling appreciated over material rewards.
Furthermore, they are flexible to organise, cost effective and a greater return on investment in terms of improving productivity. So why not take inspiration from Glastonbury, The FIFA Women’s World Cup or simply your local village fete and make your work summer party a legendary fixture in the event calendar for your team…
Matt Turner is the founder and MD of Clownfish Events. He started his first business aged 13, DJ-ing at community discos, and now runs themed events, team building and parties for some of the UK’s best known brands and business owners.
More than any month, June is often the time when employees run out of battery. The excitement and momentum from the first quarter has begun to wane and summer holidays seem a long way off. Staff are the engine room of any business, and when their spirit starts to tire, employee engagement and well-being are at risk, not to mention business efficiency and effectiveness. If you think this is even a potential issue in your organisation you need to take action now….
The single best way to jump start your team is good, old fashioned TLC. Happily for SME leaders, you are the exactly right people to give it – all it takes it some thought and a little bit of time.
Here’s how to give the team the boost they’ll need to keep going ’til the year end:
- Remind the team of the Vision: You know the one I mean. ‘Why’ you are all here in the first place. ‘Why’ it’s important to them that you hit those goals. ‘Why’ the company is in existence. Without this connection to the purpose, they could be working for anyone….
- Spend time giving a little feedback: It’s one of the best (and cheapest) ways to help someone grow. Raise their self awareness by praising the things they have done a great job on.
- Listen to what the team have got to say: They may seem tired, grumpy, lazy or any other seven dwarves, but you can bet they’ll be feeling motivated after some time spent with their leader and the given the opportunity to have their say.
- Hold a 30-day Check-in: Meet with all the team, communicate what progress has been made and what a difference this has made.
- Allow trust to flourish & go easy on the micromanagement: It’s tempting when things aren’t going as we like to jump in and start holding meetings every day to see how you’ve progressed, but If you set out clearly what you are looking for your team to deliver, give them support to do so, then allow them some breathing space to do just that, without their diaries being clogged up by meetings and their autonomy jeopardised.
- Add a little extra incentive: We’ve all read that the evidence for complex bonus structures and remuneration packages driving motivation is lacking (even decreasing it in certain areas..). However incentives which are offered for a simple, easy to understand and achievable task are a different kettle of fish all together. So offer a meal out, front row tickets to the Donmar or whatever floats the particular boat of your team to get them focussed on a short term competition.
- Hold a 60-day Check-In: Reward any progress which has been made (publicly and privately) to reinforce the behaviour you want to see.
- Wheel in your best client : Have one of your customers/ clients come in to talk to the team about what a difference your product/ service has made to their business. Get’s straight to the point of ‘Why’ they’re here and helps instil a sense of pride.
- Give them a break: It doesn’t have to be an expenses trip to Dubai; but a Friday afternoon/ early evening jaunt to somewhere local to get a bit of downtime will be something to look forward to for all.
- Cut yourself some slack: With all this focus on other’s it’s easy to forgo the progress you have made, so re-visit where you were this time last year and give yourself a pat on the back.
TheHRhub is a complete HR support solution for SMEs. We provide operational and strategic HR expertise in-house, ad hoc or online. Give us a call on 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs or drop us a line at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.
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 email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 to find out more…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0203 627 7048.
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.
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