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Is employee wellbeing high up on your agenda?

Employee wellbeing has become bit of a buzz word in recent years, moving from being something that the Google and Apples of the world do, to something that has made it’s way to the agenda of many smaller organisations.  But what is it and how can you implement a wellbeing strategy into your workplace?  We spoke to Nisha Gera of wellbeing specialists Joyful Living  for some advice.

Guest blog: Nisha Gera from Joyful Living

Is wellbeing at work is high up on your list of priorities? From improving motivation and productivity to helping to reduce attrition employee wellbeing initiatives can have a positive impact for businesses both large and small. This has seen them grow in popularity and move up the board room agenda in the past few years.

But what is wellbeing at work and how can you begin to implement it into your organisation?

Wellbeing initiatives can come in many shapes and sizes from simple one-day courses on a range of subjects to more detailed week-long or ongoing programmes.

Single subject courses
These are the most basic of well being initiatives and can cover a variety of subjects in a single lesson/course.  These range from nutrition, stress management, posture awareness to the more interesting and fun focused, laughter yoga.

These single subject programmes allow you to tailor your efforts to the needs of your organisation and employees. For example, posture and stress management are more suited for those with high pressure office based roles, whereas nutrition would help those field based sales people who eat on the go every day.  They also allow businesses with a smaller budget to access help for their staff. For those who need to gain management buy-in before committing to any long-term activity, these starter sessions allow you to sample and monitor the impact before making any further investment.

Timed programmes

Wellbeing is a relatively new concept within the business world, often a good way to kick start a corporate wellbeing program and to focus attention of both leadership and employees is to run a week/month long programme.  For example, holding daily sessions that staff can book, having health professionals available to speak too, supplying healthy breakfasts, snacks or lunches.

Ongoing programmes

Ongoing employee wellbeing programs go beyond simply offering sessions on how to improve posture or stress.  By investing in a long-term wellbeing strategy, you, as an organisation, are investing time and effort into your employees’ mental and physical health.  This can start with monthly or weekly desk based massages for example, but it needed end there, as discussed in this article by the Guardian one PR firm is going further… ‘Initiatives range from offering pedal points – five minutes additional holiday for every return journey walked or cycled to work – to free breakfasts, sabbaticals for staff with over five year’s service, and flexi-time hours and flexible working conditions.

In the past two years, the company has introduced a range of mental health initiatives, spanning mindfulness, pilates and resilience training on how to manage stress and busy workloads. It also runs regular updates for employees on mental health policy and employee counselling services.’

QVC UK is another example of an organisation putting wellbeing at work into practice. As well as offering flexible working, massages during breaks, two on-site beauticians and a local market, the company has launched its first employee allotment – giving staff the chance to grow their own fruit and vegetables. “Not only do they benefit mentally and physically from gardening, but they will also help local charities with donations and profits,” says a spokeswoman.

Whether you’re an SME or a multinational investing in the wellbeing of your employees will have a positive impact on your business.  As the examples above show it doesn’t need to be a costly exercise, implementing an element of flexibility to the working day, monthly desk-based office massage or running a bi-annual stress management workshop are all relatively low-cost ways that you can put wellbeing at work quickly into practice.

 

Guest blog by Nisha Gera of Joyful Living, provider of employee wellbeing services across the UK

 

If you want to attract millennials, then you need to embrace flexible working…

Although I have a slight issue with the term millennial, (I’m not really sure how such a diverse group of people with differing wants and needs can be grouped together under a single term) you can’t argue with the fact that endless pieces of research, including this latest piece by Totaljobs, all confirm the same thing… Those classed as millennials (aged between 18 and 34) want a more flexible workplace.
The ability to work remotely/from home is such a sought-after benefit that 25% of workers would change jobs to have the option to work from home, this increases to 54% for millennial workers. It doesn’t stop there, when looking for a new role remote working is a key factor and is in the top 5 most important benefits, coming above those such as enhanced parental leave, travel allowances and L&D. 20% say that they would chose a job with remote working over one that didn’t offer it.

These facts just go to show that those organisations that are able to, need to start embracing flexibility if they want to attract and retain the most talented individuals. Anyone that has read a few of our blogs will know there we are strong advocates of flexible working and have a totally remote workforce. Over the past 2 years we’ve recruited 4 key roles and this flexible approach has allowed us to recruit from a wider selection of candidates. We’re not limited to those within commuting distance of an office.

With technology improving daily, the barriers of working remotely, ie being unreachable, unable to access files or systems are now easily surmountable. So, it’s no surprise that nearly 40% of the UK workforce prefer to work from home, this figure rises to 46% for those aged 18-34 (millennials) but drops to 31% for those aged 55 and over. Showing the popularity of remote working for millennial workers. The greater level of flexibility, reduced commuting times and better integration of work and home life that remote working offers is most appreciated by women with 25% preferring to work from home compared to just 16% of men.

However, it does appear that those in charge aren’t as keen as workers on remote working. 12% do not offer remote working options due to difficulty in managing their workforce remotely, and of those that allow it, 15% admitted to using software to track how long employees have spent on certain tasks. This lack of trust and perception that working from home is just a way to skive for the day is one of the biggest barriers to flexible working. Despite workers saying they’re more productive at home, 16% of those questioned still believe that their colleagues don’t work hard enough when working from home!

Obviously, it’s not possible for every profession to do their job from home. technology is a few years away from being able to offer remote haircuts, or have droids serving in restaurants or bars, but doctors can see patients via video conferencing and surgeons can now control mechanical hands from different countries. 2018 marks an important milestone – it is the first time that those born in this century will enter the workforce as adults. How will the working world for those that have no memory of a life before the internet, email or mobile phones differ from that of their parents and grandparents?

‘If you want to attract millennials, then you need to embrace flexible working……’ was written by Verity Morrish, Marketing Manager, Chiumento Ltd. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future careers advice and musings on the world of work.

Virtual still means real…

If you look up the definition of virtual in the dictionary you get the following: ‘almost a particular thing or quality’ or in terms of computing ‘Something that is virtual can be done or seen using a computer and therefore without going anywhere or talking to anyone’.

So, it’s understandable when we talk about ourselves as a virtual organisation, there is the assumption that we are, to a certain extent, not real. That it’s all run by computers, that there is no human element. We’ve had clients, and potential clients, struggle with the concept, and ask for reassurance that their people will be able to speak to a human. That they won’t just become part of a computer automated system.

What virtual means to us is simple. We don’t have an office. We have all the functions you’d expect of a business of our size, IT, finance, marketing, leadership, sales and programme delivery. The only difference is, we aren’t all sat in a big shiny (expensive) office together, we all work remotely.

We are strong advocates of virtual working and the benefits it can bring to both organisations and their employees. However, we’ve found that the term is a little confusing. Virtual reality and other such use of the word all imply a lack of something real, that it is all automated or housed within a computer-led world.

When we talk about ourselves and our technology-led programmes, what we mean is that we embrace technology to it’s fullest. And use it to offer our clients and their staff the best outplacement programmes. What it often understood, is that we don’t have offices, and everything has to happen online and there isn’t any human interaction involved.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve a small army of career coaches, that are all real people. While we don’t have offices for our coaches to meet delegates in, they still meet face-to-face. We meet delegates in locations that are convenient for them and where they feel comfortable to have a business conversation. That might be anything from a hotel lounge to a business centre or a membership facility such as the IoD. Others prefer the informality of a coffee shop or the convenience of video conferencing. If it works for the delegate, it will work for us and however they meet they are still talking to, and interacting with a person.

Our cost-effective accelerator programmes have the option of either video conferencing sessions with a career advisor or a professionally written CV. Both options involve another person. For those delegates on our All Inclusive and Executive programmes they have the added benefit of a career concierge, a very real person who they will speak to regularly throughout their programme. The career concierge will tailor their programme to specifically fit their needs.

While we embrace technology and all its benefits, it doesn’t mean we’ve done away with people. Yes, we do offer a highly competitively priced online only package, but this is a very small part of our outplacement portfolio and not one we expect all our clients to take. We know it isn’t right for everyone. We value the personal touch, the importance of tailored, 1-2-1 advice, which is why help from a career expert is still a large part of our programmes. What we’ve changed is how this is delivered. We don’t have a large office that we need to fill with delegates and coaches. So rather than dictate where meetings should happen, we give them the option to meet at a time and place that is more convenient to them. We’re finding that more and more interactions are happening via video conferencing rather than in person.

We’re starting a one-company revolution to change people’s perceptions, to reclaim the term virtual organisation for what it really is ‘a group of people who work together, communicating mainly by phone, email, and the internet, rather than regularly going to a central office to work’

How to stay productive in the heat…

The sun is shining and for once it seems that Mother Nature is listening to the calendar and we’re getting a bit of a summer (fingers crossed I’ve not jinxed it now). The sun works wonders, puts a spring in your step, a smile on your face… That is until you’re sat at a desk wishing you were outside instead of stuck indoors.

What can you do to keep yourself motivated and productive when the sun is shining…?

1. Clothing – it is slightly stating the obvious but dress for the weather. We’re not suggesting you don your swimwear, but where possible wear cooler clothing. Stick to natural fabrics, go for short rather than long sleeves and if you can, ditch the tie and jacket. Differing companies have differing views on what is or isn’t appropriate clothing – I know some that fully welcome shorts and flip flops and others that shudder at the thought. If in doubt speak to your line manager before digging your Hawaiian shirt from the back of the wardrobe.

2. Hydrate – make sure you drink enough during the day, hot weather means your body uses up it’s water reserves much quicker. A lack of water will slow your brain down – which is bad news for productivity. Don’t forget to take water with you on your commute, whether you’re in a hot car, train or tube you’ll need that extra liquid.

3. Take a break – working in the heat is tiring, make sure you take a break and get away from your desk every hour or so. It will give your productivity a much-needed boost.

4. Fuel – heat affects your appetite; more people skip meals in the hotter wearer. Don’t forget to eat, if you can’t stomach anything big then a nice light salad will help to keep you cool.

5. Timing – the day gets hotter the later it gets. Try to do your most important tasks in the morning when it’s cooler. Leave the easier tasks to the afternoon when energy levels will be at their lowest.

6. Climate – while large windows are great for looking out of – in the summer they turn every office into giant green house. The once prized window seats become unbearable heat traps, hotter than the surface of the sun. If you’re able, make sure there are blinds or something that can shield the hottest of the suns rays. Aircon and the temperature it’s set at can cause many an argument in the office, with some people melting while others are wrapped for the artic. Try and get a happy medium so you have a comfortable working environment for all.

7. Concentrate – multi-tasking isn’t the most productive way to work – our brains work best when concentrating on one thing at a time. When the weather is hot and concentration and energy are lacking, try to stick to one task at a time. Concentrating on a single task will help you get it finished quicker and with less mistakes.

8. Get out – leave your desk, leave your office and make the most of your lunch hour. Go and grab a sandwich on whatever bench or tiny patch of grass you can find. Staying inside all day will only increase your resentment of not being able to enjoy the hot weather. A break and some sun will give you a boost and if you’re anything like me, after 30 mins in the sun I’m melting and can’t wait to get back to the nice air conditioned cool of the office!

How to overcome the downsides of working from home

Chiumento is a virtual organisation, which isn’t to say we’re not a real one, made up of real people doing real jobs. Just that we aren’t all doing those jobs in an office together, we’re each doing our own job from home.

We’re strong advocates of flexible and remote working practices. We can list the many benefits and improvements it’s made to both the personal and professional lives of our employees and the growth of the business. However, we are not blind to the challenges and realise that alongside the benefits there are also the negatives to consider. The risk of isolation, the lack cohesion within the team, the inability to switch off, the reduction in creativity/ideas and the impact this can all have on the wellbeing of our employees.

As a company we have taken steps to combat these issues, be it regular all-team meetings, weekly Skype calls and smaller project based face-to-face meetings.

But as an individual what can you do to ensure working from home works for you?

Interact – avoid isolation. One of the hardest aspects of working outside of an office is the lack of, or reduction in, human interaction. What happens naturally in an office environment, the general chit chat about what you watched on TV last night, lunchtimes spent with colleagues or the ease of popping to someone’s desk to ask a question. All become impossible when you’re working on your own.
Make an effort to interact with people. If like us at Chiumento, you’re part of a wider team call or Skype your colleagues rather than relying on email. For us our preferred means of intercompany communication is Skype, while not quite the same as being sat next to somebody it is 100 x better than an email.

Rather than sitting at home alone, go somewhere with people. Coffee shops and libraries both have good internet connections and plenty of space to work. If you’re looking for something more formal many big cities have shared workspaces where you can hire a desk.

Move – us humans weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day. We’re designed to run and hunt. While we’re not suggesting you don a loin cloth and go stalk some local wildlife, you do need to get some exercise.
Exercise helps every aspect of your life, from improving productivity and sleep to making you happier. It doesn’t need to be much, a gentle stroll to the shops or a lunch-time jog is enough to get the blood pumping. Even better join a local gym and attend a class or two, exercise and combatting isolation at the same time. Whatever you decide to do it will all help and have a positive impact.

Look around you – is your office/work space dull and uninspiring? Research from the University of Texas suggests that certain colours such as white, beige, and gray don’t just look depressing — they are depressing. Brighten up your work space, if painting a wall isn’t an option then add some nice bright coloured accessories, set your desk up so it has access to natural light and if you’ve got a nice view, then make the most of it.

Set boundaries – working from home can go one of two ways… you procrastinate and do everything but the job you should be doing. Or you hide yourself away and stay at your desk for hours on end and never take a break. Neither is good, while homeworking can be great for work/life balance and allow you to do the washing while writing a board report or finalise that sales deal after dropping the kids at school, you need to set boundaries. Don’t let home life encroach too much on your work time and vice versa. Not everyone likes the 9-5 working pattern but find one that suits you and stick to it. Let your family and friends know that when you’re working, you are working and need to concentrate and not be disturbed. But also, don’t spend all your time working away and ignoring your outside life. It’s a fine balance that can be hard to get it right.

Talk – remember it is ok to not be ok.  If you are feeling isolated, stuck in a rut or just generally unhappy, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to someone about it, you might find you’ve a colleague who feels exactly the same who could also do with some support, do you have friends in a similar situation you could speak to.  Don’t bottle it up inside where it can do damage, speak to someone.

Since making the move to Chiumento and being permanently based at home I’ve had lots of comments on how I cope with being at home all the time.  Don’t I get cabin fever?  Do I miss being in an office?  While the answer to those is yes, at times I do feel like I spend too much time at home and I miss the camaraderie of being in a big office. I wouldn’t change it.  I have steps in place to stop those feelings becoming too overwhelming.  Regular interaction with my colleagues, that isn’t always work related, leaving the house for walk in the woods and working from somewhere else all help to give me a bit of a boost and keep my mind on the job at hand.

‘How to overcome the downsides of working from home…’ was written by Verity Morrish, Marketing Manager Chiumento Ltd. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future careers advice and musings on the world of work.