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New Timekeeping Requirements – What Does This Mean For Your Business?

New Timekeeping Requirements – What Does This Mean For Your Business?

UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. Yet the UK’s productivity is lagging behind other G7 countries causing businesses and the economy reduced growth. Long hours also contribute to stress, depression and anxiety which, in 2018/19, accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases. In short, a long hours culture isn’t any good for anyone. 

Now a ruling from the European Court of Justice has mandated that businesses record all the hours employees work using timekeeping systems. We take a look at what this means for your business. And how you can get the best return from your timekeeping system investment. 

Why Is This Happening?  

The EU has previously attempted to limit a long hours’ culture in the shape of the Working Time Directive. This law, established in 2003, stated that, unless employees choose to opt out, they should not work longer than 48 hours a week and they are entitled to an 11-hour break every 24 hours. 

However, some trade unions have questioned the law’s efficacy, particularly when it comes to the accurate recording of employees’ hours. 

According to a Spanish trade union, 53.7% of overtime hours worked in Spain are not recorded. 

This results in an action being brought before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) seeking to force Deutsche Bank to set up a timekeeping system.  

In making its judgement the court noted: 

  • the importance of workers’ fundamental rights to a limit on the maximum number of working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods in line with the Working Time Directive 
  • that Member States are required to ensure workers benefit from the rights conferred on them 
  • without a system to record the duration of time worked each day by each worker it’s not possible to determine, objectively and reliably, the number of hours worked and when, or the number of hours of overtime worked.

This has resulted in the ECJ mandating that businesses must introduce new timekeeping systems to ensure workers’ rights are complied with. 

What Kind of System Do You Need? 

The ECJ did not define the type of system you need to use leaving it to Member States to define their own arrangements. However, the system must determine the number of normal and overtime hours worked and when in a way that’s objective and reliable. 

TImekeeping systems typically consist of a combination of hardware and software. The physical system can take the form of a biometric scanner, swipe card system or a clocking in machine. Supported by software that captures the data, these systems can be customised to provide the exact reporting your business needs.  

There are lots of different solutions available with price points starting at several hundred pounds and running into thousands or tens of thousands of pounds. The exact cost will depend on the number of employees and sites you operate and your business requirements. 

The Business Benefits 

Let’s be honest – the law says you need to have a timekeeping system so you’ll have to set aside some budget. However, introducing a new timekeeping system can do much more than help you meet your legal obligations.  

More information, more insight 

With more reliable data, you’ll have a better understanding of your workforce’s habits which will empower you to make decisions based on facts rather than guesswork.   

Timekeeping system reports can flag issues like:  

 recurrent absences which might indicate a disengaged colleague, a potential leaver or someone struggling with ill health 

  • dips in performance from one of your best people that directly correlate to long hours 
  • recurrent lateness and no evidence that the hours are being made up at the end of the day 

With this kind of information you can assess workforce challenges and take action to correct them. Which could mean keeping hold of top performers, retaining someone with illness or ensuring every team member is fulfilling their contractual hours.  

Help with holiday pay calculations 

The information gathered in a timekeeping system can also help you calculate holiday pay which must now include regular overtime and commission payments. Depending on the system you already use for this process, you may be able to adapt it to meet the new timekeeping requirements. Or you could kill two birds with one stone with your new software. 

Fair treatment and employee engagement 

This new requirement isn’t just good for you as a business owner but for your employees too. They’ll feel that they’re being fairly compensated for the time they work leading to engaged employees and an even more harmonious workplace.  

Using a timekeeping system to visualise your business’ time and attendance, you’ll have the insight to help your people and your business achieve peak performance. And you’ll be one step ahead of legislation too. 

Find out more about Crosse HR’s services or get in touch for support with any people problems on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

Avoiding Alcohol-Related Headaches at Work

Avoiding Alcohol-Related Headaches at Work

A few beers at the match the night before, mid-week drinks or a catch-up with friends over a few glasses of wine. In moderation this kind of drinking is fine. But research from the Drink Aware campaign shows that as many as 89,000 people could be hungover or under the influence at work. Which could pose difficulties in the workplace.  

As the festive season draws near, the likelihood of your staff turning up to work a little worse for wear is increasingly likely. So how can you, as an employer, solve this alcohol-induced headache?  

Alcohol and Work – A Modern Concern? 

In the past, it was considered completely normal to visit the pub at lunchtime with colleagues and have several alcoholic drinks before returning to work. However, consuming alcohol at lunchtime has become something of a social taboo that’s frowned upon by both organisations and their workers.   

In modern Britain, even traditionalists like Lloyd’s of London, have banned lunchtime drinking due to alcohol-related harassment cases. 

The reasons for this change are clear as alcohol is associated with lower productivity levels, reduced inhibitions and the potential for mistakes to be made. Plus the chance that staff could place themselves and others at risk. 

For employers, there are two alcohol-related situations that need to be considered, planned for and dealt with.  

24-Hour Party People 

It’s easy to forget that alcohol can stay in your bloodstream for up to 24 hours after you finish drinking. As anyone who’s used an online alcohol calculator will know, it can be surprising how long it takes to be safe to drive after a few drinks. A bottle of 13% wine that’s consumed by 11pm means you probably can’t drive legally until 10am. 

What does this mean for you as the boss? Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 you have a duty, as far as is reasonably practical, to protect the health, safety and welfare of all your staff.  

This means, if someone is still under the influence of alcohol or is a risk due to a hangover, you have a responsibility to stop them from working. Knowingly allowing an employee to work under the influence of alcohol and putting colleagues, customers or the individual at risk could result in prosecution.  

Sending the individual home is probably the safest bet. But don’t forget, you’ll need to ensure they get home safely, which could mean getting them a taxi or a lift home.  

Make Your Position Clear with Policy 

To protect your business and yourself, it’s a good idea to have a policy around alcohol and the workplace. Depending on the nature of your business, you might decide to completely ban the consumption of alcohol during or immediately before working hours.  

Or it may be appropriate to allow moderate drinking at lunch or with clients at meals for example. You’ll need to decide which approach is safe and suitable for your business. 

Your policy needs to be clear that if an employee shows up to work under the influence of alcohol, then this will be classed as a gross misconduct offence usually resulting in a disciplinary process. 

From Hangovers to Alcohol Dependency 

Dealing with people who are under the influence is one aspect of dealing with alcohol in the workplace. But what about situations where staff have had a few drinks the night before and arrive in work hungover? Where do you stand then? 

This probably depends on the severity of the hangover. A slight headache and raging thirst could pose a low enough risk to be tolerated in the workplace – particularly in low-risk roles and environments. However, it’s not pleasant for other workers to put up with a colleague who’s not pulling their weight with a waft of alcohol on their breath. 

As long as this only happens occasionally and performance is not regularly impacted, there’s probably no need to address these kinds of situations. 

However, repeated offences could be an indication that someone is alcohol dependent, which is another issue entirely. 

Providing Support for Your Staff

Its likely that colleagues and supervisors will be the first to notice a change in behaviour, alcohol on the breath or someone struggling to complete their work effectively or safely. 

In this situation, it’s important that everyone feels able to speak up so help can be provided. With the right support in place, it’s more likely that individuals will come forward enabling you to take action. 

Employee assistance programmes are an excellent way to provide help to your staff. Not only do they provide phone helplines but face-to-face counselling sessions that will help staff address any underlying issues causing alcohol misuse.  

Company Events 

With Christmas fast approaching it’s likely company events will feature alcohol. So refresh your policy, or get on in place ahead of time, then communicate your expectations to line managers and staff. There’s no need to be heavy handed – a light touch communication about everyone enjoying themselves responsibly should set the tone.  

If your event is at a venue with bar staff, ask them to refuse service to anyone who looks like they’ve had enough. Don’t forget – if it appears you have encouraged staff to over-consume, it can be difficult to dismiss anyone for gross misconduct offences relating to alcohol.  

If you don’t have an alcohol policy in place, we’re more than happy to draft one for you. Ensuring everyone at your company has a very merry Christmas without the hangover.  

Contact Olga at Crosse HR today on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Continual Performance Management

Continual Performance Management

Performance management used to be a once a year event or twice at a push. Managers set objectives at the start of the year, gave feedback six months later and at the year-end provided an overall rating. If employees were really lucky, they were asked about their career aspirations and development needs.

Following years of feedback, it emerged that this style of performance management wasn’t as effective as employees or employers would have liked. In fact, only two in ten employees believed that annual performance appraisals motivated them to do outstanding work.

Now organisations around the world are trading in their annual process for continual performance management. An approach that’s better suited to modern businesses seeking improved employee performance and enhanced results. We explore what continual performance management is, why it’s favoured over annual appraisals and how to implement it in your organisation.

What Is Continual Performance Management?

Continual performance management is a human resource (HR) process that takes place throughout the year. It’s an ongoing, holistic approach to appraisal that replaces infrequent with regular feedback leading to a more natural employee-manager conversation and healthier, more authentic workplace relationships. 

What Issues Does It Seek to Address?

Can you remember exactly how you delivered a piece of work two weeks ago? How about three months ago? What about half a year? 

The whole premise of continual performance management is that it’s difficult to remember exactly what we’ve delivered and how we’ve delivered it a long time after the event. This makes it tough on employees to give an accurate account and difficult for managers to make an accurate assessment of performance.

In addition, modern agile businesses move much faster which often results in objectives set at the start of the year no longer being relevant six or twelve months later. 

Why Is Continual Performance Management Proving so Popular?

Continual performance management enables organisations to be far more flexible in how they set and evaluate performance. By creating objectives for the next quarter, they’re far more likely to be relevant and aligned to changing strategic objectives. And, by regularly reviewing performance, it’s easy for managers and employees to recall what’s been done and how it’s been achieved. Which should lead to more accurate performance assessments. 

Regular reviews also mean that managers are encouraged to provide on-the-spot feedback. This is much more powerful than waiting several months to deliver insight and it enables staff to quickly correct their performance ensuring problematic actions or behaviours are nipped in the bud and minimising the potential for poor performance to spread to other team members. 

Feedback about good performance also means that staff are more likely to keep doing more of the right activities in the right way. Which can only be good for business.

How Can You Implement Ongoing Appraisals?

Continual appraisals often include check-ins between the line manager and each employee every month or at least quarterly. These sessions cover:

  • Progress against objectives
  • Personal development
  • Priorities
  • Issues or concerns
  • Any new or amended objectives
  • Agreed actions

Between each check-in, employees work on their objectives and get feedback from their line manager to keep them on course. One of the major benefits is that managers and staff aren’t bogged down completing lengthy forms in one sitting, an approach that many people dread.

If continual performance management sounds like a lot of additional work, it isn’t. Implemented correctly, ongoing performance appraisals offer a more frequent but lighter touch that provides more benefit to the organisation.

What Will Your Managers Need to Implement It?

One of the major concerns among leaders around introducing this style of appraisal is the ability of line managers to have meaningful conversations. That’s why it’s important to train and educate supervisors and managers at all levels before implementing this new approach. 

Remember: performance management needs to be followed by every manager at every level of the organisation. If you’re the most senior leader in your organisation, how you performance manage your direct reports will cascade down the organisation. To ensure you get a great return from introducing this change, the new process needs to start with you.

If you need a little more persuading that continual performance management is for you, research shows that high performing companies are more likely to provide more frequent performance feedback and align their objectives closely with strategy. Making continuous performance appraisal a step closer to even greater business success. 

For pragmatic support revising your performance management process, contact Olga on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Over the past few decades, lifestyles have become more flexible and people are able to differentiate in their choices about practically everything. This isn’t just a consumer trend: businesses have also become wise to the fact that their employees all have different needs that need to be catered for through flexible benefits.

This has resulted in organisations taking a more individualistic approach to benefit provision.  

In this blog, we explore what flexible benefits are, why they’re a popular choice and how your business can implement and get the most from them. 

What Are Flexible Benefits? 

All organisations provide employee benefits which are usually determined by grade. In most instances, the more senior the role, the more valuable the benefits package. Depending on seniority, core employee benefit packages, where the benefits are paid for by the employer, typically include items like: 

  • company car 
  • holidays 
  • private medical insurance 
  • critical illness cover 
  • long-term health cover 
  • health checks 

In addition, employers also often voluntary benefits like think discounted gym memberships, dental insurance and household or holiday insurance. Employees can choose to take up these products voluntarily, paying for the benefits themselves, usually out of their pay. 

This approach is fine if the core benefits on offer meet every employee’s needs. But what if your employer provides a company car but you don’t drive? Or you’re already covered on your partner’s private medical insurance so you don’t gain any advantage from this benefit? Or you don’t have any dependents but your employer insists on providing life cover any way? 

When benefits aren’t suitable for employees, companies are paying for benefits that aren’t used or they’re providing an unappetising benefit offering to their staff that fails to engage.   

Flexible benefit programmes provide a solution to this problem. Instead of offering standard benefit packages in the usual way, flexible benefit packages enable employees to vary their pay and benefits to meet their personal requirements.  

In most schemes, staff can retain their existing salary while selecting the right mix of benefits for them. Or they can adjust their salary up or down by taking fewer or more benefits.  

Let’s look at some examples to explore how this works: 

  • A single employee rejects the family private medical insurance cover they’re entitled to due to their grade and opts for single cover only – they receive the cost difference in cash 
  • Someone who doesn’t take all their holidays each year chooses to sell five days holiday and uses the saving to take up family private medical cover with the rest taken as cash 
  • An individual who doesn’t drive forgoes the company car benefit and takes the cash instead – they use it to buy more holiday and take up dental insurance and gym membership  

These are just a few examples of the sorts of flexibility flexible benefit schemes can offer. However, not all programmes will be this flexible; some employers decide that their staff must take a certain level of benefits (usually items like life cover or other insurances) as a minimum. And there are other considerations, like minimum pension auto-enrolment contributions, that need to be worked into the scheme. 

How Many Companies Use Flexible Schemes? 

According to Aon, just 12% of employers operate flexible benefit schemes. Which is surprising given research from Willis Towers Watson which shows that: 

  • 66% of employees who are offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs 
  • 30% of employees who are not offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs

However, the answer could lie in the perceived challenges associated with setting up and running a flexible benefit scheme.  

What to Consider When Setting Up a Flexible Benefits Programme 

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a flexible benefits scheme in your organisation: 

  • Online or paper – this might work for smaller businesses or those where staff don’t have access to computers. Otherwise online options, although more expensive, tend to offer ease of use and greater flexibility. 
  • Choosing benefit options – it’s easiest to transition your existing benefits to a flex scheme before expanding the options available. You’ll need to decide which benefits must be selected or whether you want to allow a more flexible approach. 
  • Keeping schemes up to date – every change in your benefits, tax and legislation must be reflected in your scheme which involves additional work in terms of configuring scheme rules, calculations and systems (if online). 

Although each of these sounds fairly straight forward, flexible benefit schemes can quickly become complex and require technical decision making which requires HR specialist knowledge.  

However, the pay off could well be worth the effort as flexible benefits help organisations stand out in the recruitment marketplace. And they can also be a powerful tool for retention as your benefit package will meet the needs of every segment of your workforce, regardless of life stage.  

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a successful flexible benefits scheme, so consider working with a seasoned HR consultant to ensure you deliver legally and secure a great return on your investment. 

For flexible support with all your HR projects, get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Holidays – the silly season is nearly upon us

Holidays – the silly season is nearly upon us

This is the time of year the rows start – the annual leave booking season. Wall calendars and online calendars are pored over and leave is booked, most of it around the same time, there will be rows between parents and non parents about who should take priority and why and on we go.

So it makes sense to have a few set of rules to try and take the tension out of the whole thing.

Firstly be clear about how much leave can be blocked in one go i.e. one, two week blocks (financial services now insist on this), if there is a cap i.e. two weeks maximum etc.

Secondly, be clear how much advance notice must be given, a month’s notice is usually acceptable if you want to book a week, 2 days is not acceptable if you want to book anything at all and if leave needs to be approved by a manager or some such.

Thirdly, be clear leave can be refused, obviously as a last resort and with good reason but it’s good to get the story straight.

Fourthly, be very clear about how many employees can be out at the same time. It never ceases to amaze me, no matter how often you say it and set the limits, they will give it a go anyway and all book the same time off and fight about it for weeks afterwards.

Fifthly, be very clear what precedents you want to set i.e. if you had the first two weeks off in July last year, you might not get it this year, same goes for half terms, school holidays and Christmas.

Sixthly, what the rules are if you are sick on holidays (holiday can be claimed back if proven), if your flight is delayed (usually unpaid, get proof) and you don’t get back when you are supposed to, the rules around social media and mixing the professional with personal, working on holiday, using the work mobile on holiday etc.

And as an aside, it’s amazing how many of my clients who are schools that have set holidays agreed years in advance, encounter the same problems with leave! So if you are a school struggling with leave requests outside of school holidays, call me 0330 555 1139.

Finally, when it comes to annual leave, be fair, consistent and apply the rules to all staff, no exceptions.

If in doubt contact CrosseHR, we’ll draft a policy for you to be proud of.

 

Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

Should You Monitor Employee Emails?

Monitoring employees’ emails or not to monitor? That is the question! Nobody wants to be accused of being Big Brother, but monitoring employees’ emails is perfectly legal if you go about it in the right way.

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres in your skull.”  

― George Orwell, 1984 

Data Protection and Employee Rights 

As a business owner, you need to make sure your employees are carrying out their work effectively. You also have a responsibility to ensure they’re not using work email to do things they shouldn’t. Like sending offensive emails or sharing unprotected data. At the same time, you don’t want to encroach on your employees’ privacy or demonstrate a lack of trust.   

Before we consider whether you should monitor employees emails, let’s take a look at whether you can.  

The Information Commissioner’s Office states that, in general, it is considered intrusive to monitor your employees’ emails.   

That’s because employees have a right to respect for a private and family life under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This means people can send personal emails from a work computer and email address and expect them not to be monitored or read by employers.   

But what about work email?  

It’s perfectly legal for employers to monitor employees’ emails as long as certain criteria are fulfilled. This includes being: 

  • clear about the reasons for the monitoring 
  • satisfied that the monitoring arrangement is justified by real benefits 
  • clear with employees for the reasons, extent and nature of any monitoring that’s in place 

If you decide to monitor, you’ll need to warn employees that emails sent from a work computer may be observed. A good way to do this is to include suitable wording in your contract of employment. 

Before implementing a monitoring policy, employers must carry out an assessment of the proposed activity to establish 

  • the reasons for monitoring staff and the benefits that this will bring 
  • any negative effects the monitoring may have on staff 
  • whether the monitoring can be achieved through any less intrusive means   
  • whether the monitoring is justified, taking into account all of the above 

Think you might have sufficient reason to monitor? Then the next thing to consider is proportion.  

In-depth or Light-touch? 

Depending on your business and sector there may be highly valid reasons for monitoring staff email. For example, financial services organisations often monitor communications to ensure sensitive data is not being shared, accidentally or otherwise.  

However, all businesses considering email monitoring should act proportionately and fairly to achieve the right balance between organisational needs and employee privacy.

In most cases assessing the date, time and recipient or sender of an email will help you determine whether it relates to work or not. Reading private emails, particularly those that contain confidential information is likely to breach an employees’ privacy.  

Automated email monitoring can analyse huge amounts of email traffic, spot inappropriate content and deliver reports for managers. This distances managers from the emails themselves and raises a red flag indicating that further investigation is required.

Before jumping straight into an in-depth review of an employee’s inbox, it can often be a good idea to hold a meeting. By discussing how the individual has been using email and the kinds of information they’ve sent you can decide on a proportionate response.  

The Potential Impact of Monitoring Employees’ Emails  

Monitoring employees’ emails can create an atmosphere of distrust if implemented and acted on incorrectly.  

In some sectors, like those with significant data protection requirements, employees are likely to be more understanding of the need for monitoring employees’ emails. However, organisations where data is less sensitive may not find employees so tolerant. 

Should any breach in policy be identified, managers’ next steps are key to how your monitoring policy is perceived. Managers using the information inappropriately will bring the policy intro disrepute. However, used effectively – to curtail inappropriate behaviour or prevent action being taken against the business – employees will likely support the policy.  

Coupled with well-handled conversations and a genuine respect for employees’ privacy, email monitoring can be helpful for businesses. However, history has shown most people don’t appreciate their emails being monitored so introducing this policy requires careful handling.

If you do decide to go down this route ensure you’re acting legally, in line with your policy and for the good of your employees as well as the health of your business.  

For help navigating email monitoring and other employment contract issues, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

The Impact of Undervalued Employees

The Impact of Undervalued Employees

Researching undervalued employees like this makes employee recognition a critical element of business success. But it can be easy to let appreciation slip, resulting in low morale and high turnover.

“More companies are finding that recognition, appreciation, and human workplace practices improve overall employee experience and fuel business performance.” Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 2018

What are the tell-tale signs that your organisation has undervalued employees? What is the impact on your business? And what steps can you take to boost appreciation? Read on to find out.

How to Tell Whether Your Business Appreciates its Employees

There’s so much to do when you’re running a business: finances, marketing, HR; and then there’s the day job. Which can leave little time for the nice fluffy stuff like appreciating your team.

Except recognising people’s effort isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s an essential aspect of engaging employees, driving performance and delivering your business goals.

Failing to appreciate your staff is a behaviour that can easily fly under the radar. So, here are five behaviours to look out for that mean your leaders don’t value your staff:

  1. You haven’t got their back – when a customer or colleague points the finger, employees want to know their manager will be there to support them. Leaders who immediately look for fault and seek to apportion blame lose trust from their teams. Making them less likely to go the extra mile for their boss and the business in the future.
  2. Employees’ strengths aren’t played to – people often have unique talents beyond the job description, like strong organisational skills or an ability to speak a foreign language.  Managers who fail to comprehend the full potential of their team are doing the business a disservice by missing out on opportunities. This short-sightedness also leaves employees frustrated because they know they aren’t adding best value.
  3. Nobody asks for employees’ opinions – do senior people interrupt colleagues during meetings? Are less senior staff even consulted about decisions? Failing to get fresh insight from team members is a missed chance to grow and expand your knowledge. Neglect this and employees will feel ignored and disrespected, which isn’t good for engagement.
  4. Feedback is unheard of – employees want feedback so they can grow and improve. Leaders who withhold this lose out on an opportunity to build trust and show they value the relationship and their employees’ career. Deliver on this front and you’ll gain loyalty from your staff. Fail to do so and their heads will be turned by your competitors.
  5. You don’t trust them to manage their work – micromanaging employees signals that you don’t have confidence in their ability to perform. Employees either become extremely frustrated or they begin to doubt themselves leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, engagement and performance dips and employees’ chances to develop or grow are stifled.

If these behaviours are allowed to continue for any period of time, frustration and disengagement will soon turn people’s head and they’ll begin to look for new jobs. Leading to two other major challenges for your business too:

  • Retention Risk

Losing your best people isn’t a smart move in a highly competitive recruitment market. With unemployment at 4.1% – the lowest in 18 years – retention is currently a major issue for businesses.

  • Recruitment

Empty seats mean more recruitment which means more time and more money. And with the advent of online platforms like Glassdoor, you could be facing employer branding problems too as employees publicly advertise their reasons for leaving. Which will give your business a bad reputation and make it even harder to hire the right people.

How to Not Have Undervalued Employees

Showing your appreciation is simple and it doesn’t need to cost a penny. Start by identifying when people have gone above and beyond and thank them for their efforts. Or congratulate your team at the end of a busy week or for delivering a project successfully.

Many firms operate formal recognition schemes where employees can provide peer-to-peer recognition and managers can give rewards or gifts.

Other firms choose to get to know each member of their team via company-paid socials so they can build relationships and appreciate the potential each person has to offer.

The long and short of this article is that if you fail to value your employees, you’re failing to value your organisation. If any of this rings true for your business, it’s time to start identifying and celebrating success. It will pay dividends all round.

If you want practical HR support to prevent you having undervalued employees or train your managers in employee appreciation, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Stress Outside of Work – Is it Your Problem?

Stress Outside of Work – Is it Your Problem?

Almost half of all working days lost during 2016 to 2017 were due to personal stress. As the highest reported figure in almost a decade, it’s clear that there’s a growing problem.

Almost every piece of research into the causes of personal stress lists work as the primary factor. The government makes provision for this via health and safety legislation which states that employers have a responsibility to manage workplace stress.

But what about causes of personal stress outside the workplace? As an employer, are you responsible for helping employees counteract the effects of these stressors?

We take a look at why you should be concerned about non-work stress and the steps you can take to mitigate it.

What Are the Biggest Stressors Outside Work?

Research from the physiological society established that in 2017, the most stressful events that could take place in an individual’s life were:

  1. the death of their partner, a relative or friend
  2. imprisonment
  3. fire or flood damage to an individual’s home
  4. serious illness
  5. being fired
  6. separation or divorce
  7. identity theft
  8. unexpected money problems
  9. starting a new job
  10. planning a wedding

The research also showed that different problems impact different generations differently. Take the loss of a smartphone. This is rated as the 14th most stressful life event overall. However, when you look at the data by age group, it’s considered far more stressful by younger people than for seniors.

In contrast, serious illness is more concerning the older people get.

While there’s no requirement for employers to take steps to minimise personal stress, there are plenty of compelling business reasons to do so. The International Labour Organization notes that stress – and subsequent productivity loss – costs Europe around €617 billion each year.

Aside from the economic impact, stress often presents in employees as:

  • an inability to sleep
  • anxiety
  • disrupted concentration
  • over-eating

Concerningly for business owners, personal stress leads to almost one third of staff being less productive at work while 22% report feeling disengaged from their work. And more than one in ten say stress causes them to take days off sick.

Which means many things for employers:

  • Business risk – lack of sleep has been one of the major causes of industrial accidents including the Chernobyl disaster and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • Additional cost – unexpected sick days disrupt work and can be costly for businesses.
  • More recruitment – longer term sickness absence means recruiting additional temporary headcount. Alternatively, firms can ask other team members to pick up more work although this can ratchet up their stress levels too.
  • Under-delivery – disengagement and poor performance also has a direct impact on the effectiveness of your business.

This means that choosing to only manage workplace stress is short-sighted.

Without legal requirements in place, the extent to which you support employees to live healthy lives outside of work is entirely up to you. But the more you can do for your people, the more they’ll be able to do for your business.

There are plenty of ways to support employee well-being. Here are just a few examples.

Employee Assistance Programmes

This cost-effective benefit provides employees with over-the-phone or online assistance for a range of problems including legal issues, parenting and health. Many providers also give employers the option to add face-to-face counselling sessions for employees.

The costs tend to be fairly low; about £14 per employee for a comprehensive plan and £2-3 for telephone-based support only. When an employee is in dire straits, having this service on-hand is of enormous benefit.

In some cases simply having someone to talk to can prevent an employee going off sick. Or, if they do need some time away, the counselling or advice services can bring them back to work more quickly.

Financial Education

Financial pressures impact every age group. However, they are particularly pressing for millennials who are combating high levels of student and personal debt along with inflated rent and low income. All without the life experience to help counteract these pressures.

Other employee groups may also have financial concerns, particularly if they’re saving to buy a house, starting a family or approaching retirement.

Many businesses now offer financial education programmes that help employees find ways to manage their money better. This puts people in control and reduces their stress levels.

Depending how far you want to go, you may decide to provide flexible benefits packages that can be used to direct money to where individual’s most need it.

For example, instead of automatically sending any additional pension contribution (on top of the auto-enrolment minimum) direct to pension schemes, you could:

  • give employees the option to direct this money to a savings pot
  • send it off to pay off a student loan
  • or add it to salary to increase income while saving ahead of the birth of a child for example

This kind of flexibility will provide options that will help all employees address their financial concerns.

Flexible Working

Once upon-a-time, flexible working was a standout employee benefit. But today it’s a must-have for modern businesses. Consider how you could find ways to enable staff to fit work around their lives. This could include offering flexitime or giving people the option (and technology) to work from home

Duvet Days

Ever woken up and felt like you needed to stay in bed all day? That’s exactly why duvet days exist. This benefit allows employees to call in, or book ahead, to take a day off in addition to their holiday allowance.

This permits employees to rest mind and body while you get a refreshed employee back at work with their head in the right place.

Culture

You can have the most supportive policies in the world but if employees don’t feel able to use them they won’t benefit anyone. Ensuring your business operates a caring culture that places employee well-being ahead of the business will ensure your business succeeds.

A Final Word From Mary Queen of Shops on Personal Stress

Mary Portas, business expert and agency founder, says that to be successful:

“Businesses have to be kinder … Tomorrow’s businesses will be built on collaboration and understanding, and people will bring their whole selves to work, and not aim for profit at all costs.”

This means that trying to ignore your employees wider lives – and the stresses within them –  will have negative implications for your organisation.

So, take a long hard look at your personal stress management practices and see what else you could do to completely support your employees.

For HR support that will help you take care of your staff and support organisational performance, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.