Ending Discrimination Culture in the Workplace

In her bestselling book You Do You(ish), TEDx speaker and career coach, Erin Hatzikostas, wrote: “Stop seeing it as office politics and start seeing it as office partnerships.”

Such a sentiment is borne out by research by the organisation Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF), who as part of their strategic plan have a Men As Allies strand, recently tasked with finding potential steps to take to improve gender balance in the office.

The business case for gender balance in leadership roles is compelling. As McKinsey’s 2018 study Delivering Through Diversity showed, companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

Well go figure! Long ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton, no less, said: “When women participate in the economy everyone benefits.”

New research by LSE and WIBF has shone more light on this subject. Interviews with 79 City of London women revealed that they felt they needed to show sustained excellence in order to progress; faced more scrutiny than male peers; and mediocre male managers were blocking their development because they were more adept at office politics.

A quarter of the women in the survey were black who said they needed to work harder to receive the same recognition as men and white women. McKinsey’s 2018 study also found that for ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. This confirms that diversity is correlated to financial performance.

A shift must happen. Board rooms and senior leadership teams need to be more representative to help inspire future generations of talent by building in diversity from the ground up. It will help dispel workplace toxicity.

There are a number of different strategies that can also be adopted, including sourcing talent from diverse educational institutions; rethinking essential requirements in job descriptions to avoid deterring applicants; and working with recruiters or talent sourcing companies with shared values.

A workplace with an underlying culture of discrimination is storing up trouble. It will be difficult to recruit and retain talent and attract and keep business, investment or customers. Mediocre managers, male or female, fuel the fire. They create barriers to open communication and inclusivity when employees should be able to speak up, share their views, offer ideas, be valued, recognised and rewarded, which engenders a positive company culture – but only if leadership acts on it. Peer to peer recognition is also statistically proven to have a positive effect on employee performance and happiness.

Earlier this year Wrkit, spoke to a female business leader about her experience. She advised mentoring between genders and female-female to unlock impact and create alliances. She concluded: “Leaders, whether male or female, need to open the doors wider to give women that chance to prove themselves. When we do this more often, I believe the culture will be enriched for our doing so.”

Returning to five days in the office will undo progress in promoting work-life balance

Despite the push back of the lifting of all remaming Covid restrictions, employers world-wide are starting to consider their long-term stance on working from home. Predictions from think tank, Centre for Cities, are that the five-day office week will be the norm again within two years.

However this may have damaging implications that on employee wellbeing, especially as many have now reached a sufficent work-life balance. 

The prediction of a return to a five-day office working week might be premature, while we are seeing a large majority of workers come out in favour of the hybrid system of work. There are a lot of hurdles that those returning to work face, especially over the anxiety of a busy morning commute that will force them to rejuggle their schedules to account for the extra time.

Additionally, workers now have over a year of experience working from home, which has for many allowed them to adapt a healthy work-life balance, one that they are at risk of losing when returning to  five days a week in the workplace.

For many, the practical benefits of easier childcare, reduced commuting stress, better sleep and increased time at home will be something they are not prepared to forgo for the sake of their improved overall wellbeing. Furthermore, a number of teams and businesses have found they can produce work of the same, if not better, quality and quantity from home.

Now that businesses and staff have this insight into what real work-life balance can look like, we anticipate there being more reluctance than has been predicted to simply going back to how things were before the pandemic.

This is not to say that returning to the office doesn’t bring with it advantages, including being able to build working relationships between coworkers in person, but for some this does not outweigh the negaitvies. Employers should take into account the prefereances of each employee and not rush or force those to return to the workplace if they are as happy and productive working from home.

To find out more about how Wrkit can support your company with its employee wellbeing and wellness strategy, visit www.wrkit.com.

Getting Office Workers Moving

Thanks to research commissioned by office equipment business, Fellowes, images of Emma, The Office Worker of the Future, have emerged in the press as a warning of what could happen if employers fail to give employees adequate physical wellbeing support.

The gruesome life-sized mannequin represents the way office workers may look in 20 years if there isn’t more done to encourage better workstation setups, posture and getting a good level of exercise. Emma’s permanently bent back, varicose veins, rotund stomach and dry, red eyes serve a stark reminder of the consequences of poor workplace health.

With the return to a more normal working pattern imminent, employers must encourage employees to look after their physical wellbeing. In our Work From Home Survey, UK-based employees scored agreement with the affirmation “I get more exercise at home” 6.9/10, versus 5.7/10 worldwide. As people spend less time at home and more time in the office, there is a real risk of exercise levels declining, which will impact overall health.

What is the solution?

Office work is sedentary by nature, but that doesn’t mean employees should be sat down for eight hours a day. Whether it’s putting on lunchtime yoga, starting a walking group or signposting relevant resources, employers can encourage their workforce to stay healthy and active.

Wrkit’s Move product promotes and supports exercising at home, on the move, in the garden and even in the office. The platform hosts a huge range of activity choices, from quick desk stretches to full body conditioning sessions and there is something to suit those at every level.

The on-demand video classes are led by qualified professionals and are ‘always on’, so employees can move at the times which suit their personal schedule.

As well as supporting physical health, the mental benefits of exercise are well documented. Taking short movement breaks throughout the day, such as two-minute deskercise sessions, will promote healthier work schedules with an adequate amount of breaks, which only 29% of people currently report taking.

To avoid developing a workplace full of Emmas and promote a healthy and happy workforce, employers must do more in encouraging employees to take care of their physical health. Implementing exercise or movement into employee wellbeing and workplace health strategies should be a priority in the return to the office.

To find out more about Wrkit’s Move module and how it could help your workforce, visit this page or request a demo here.

Worker Wellbeing In The Hospitality Industry

The gradual reopening of hospitality over the past few weeks has been a significant signal of better times – meeting friends, enjoying food and drink that you cannot have at home and generally soaking in the feeling of the return of normality.

However, behind the scenes, a staffing crisis within the sector is a real challenge.

Hospitality does have a reputation of staff working long, antisocial hours and dealing with difficult customers as well as it being a somewhat physically demanding and often low-paying job. A year of uncertainty, furlough, increased risk of infection and last-minute closures has only exacerbated these issues as jobseekers may be avoiding the sector in search of more stable and safer employment. Furthermore, Brexit has caused many European nationals previously working in the industry to return to their home countries.

As the country reopens to both citizens and international visitors, an adequately staffed hospitality sector is essential not just for the industry, but for the wider supply chain. To attract and retain staff, it is now vital that employers are making a conscious effort to support employee wellbeing and offer additional staff benefits to attract and retain workers.

Some businesses have increased wages and offer other financial incentives and while this is a good move for an industry that is known for low wages, support for hospitality employees should go beyond this. By being creative with their employee benefits offering, employers will improve staff satisfaction, morale and retention which may be crucial to the survival of their business.

Resilience

It is no secret that hospitality staff frequently come under fire from disgruntled customers and that these exchanges can be unkind and may leave team members upset, low and feeling less resilient. Similarly, amid busy service tensions between staff can run high and lead to stressed encounters between colleagues.

Offering stress and resilience training will give staff the tools they need to handle difficult situations, reduce the effects they have on them and allow them to protect their mental wellbeing while developing their confidence.

Employees can take an active part in developing their own resilient mindsets by discussing issues with supervisors and by reframing challenging situations to look like a learning opportunity and to discuss ways to grow and develop as an individual and as a team.

Employers can also support staff resilience by recognising that they have handled a difficult situation well and reassuring them that it is not necessarily a reflection of them or their capabilities. In combination with mental health resources, stress and resilience training will go a long way in protecting employees’ wellbeing.

Talks and workshops offered by Wrkit will give teams the tools they need to grow, develop resilience and manage the challenges that they face throughout the day through practical workshops and coaching sessions.

In addition, the self-help tools on the POWR platform will help employees build resilience and improve wellbeing. The platform allows employees to take control over their health and wellness through Self Awareness, Goal-Setting and ongoing Self-Monitoring.

Recognition

Recognition is not just a tool to build resilience, but it also makes employees feel valued in their role which improves overall job satisfaction.

Wrkit’s recognition module is a fantastic tool for promoting this and creating a culture of mutual support and celebration between the team to help everyone to feel appreciated and respected. This should span from management down and between both back and front of house staff.

Switching off

Spending hours on your feet, working busy shifts and keeping on top of what customers need and want throughout the day sounds exhausting, but in reality, it stimulates your brain and makes it hard to transition out of “work mode”.

Employers should encourage staff to unwind at the end of their shift, whether that is sitting down and having a drink before going home, providing a quiet space to sit at the end of the day and process the shift before leaving, or giving access to mindfulness or meditation tools.

These switching off practices are especially important for employees working late night shifts as failure to do so could leave them awake until the early hours of the morning and not getting enough rest.

Sleeping and resting

The hospitality industry is known for long, late hours and often a lack of breaks. While it is understandable, especially in the face of a staffing crisis, that staff cannot always take a break during a busy service, managers must ensure they are doing everything in their power to give their staff a reasonable amount of downtime.

Getting a good amount of sleep is critical to performing well at work and maintaining mental wellbeing. Late-night hospitality venues in particular must consider this. Avoid putting staff on shifts that require an early start after a late finish and explore options to help staff rest quicker after a shift, such as mindfulness or meditation resources.

Megan Sowney, Wrkit’s UK Managing Director, said: “Hospitality staff face challenging situations every day, but these challenges have been amplified in recent weeks. The public have missed eating and drinking out, so have descended on establishments in huge numbers. This combined with staffing issues means that hospitality workers are working incredibly hard, and this is likely to take its toll on mental health.

“Employers must ensure they are taking care of their staff, or they could end up losing them to other businesses or industries, which could have dire implications. The hospitality industry needs staff to operate, and it needs staff who are not burnt out to run well.

“Businesses that look after the wellbeing of current staff, re-evaluate the current industry standards and offer an attractive employee benefits package will enjoy higher levels of retention and an improved employer reputation, aiding recruitment.”

Are Staff Equipped To Handle The New World Of Work?

Following months of frenzied media debate it is clear that, for many businesses, remote working is here to stay in some capacity. Whether this means working from home permanently, or in a hybrid fashion for a couple of days each week, the way we work will look very different to how it did in years past.

While workers will see a great many benefits to this more flexible world of work, this cannot come at the expense of worker productivity or, more importantly, wellbeing. Unfortunately, our recent Global Working From Home Survey indicates that, unless action is taken, this may very well come to pass.

Specifically, our research indicates that UK workers overwhelmingly believe that they are not equipped to work from home permanently, with workers scoring only 1.6/10 – a significantly low reading – for the affirmation “I have the tools I need to do my job from home”. What’s more, there appears to be a disconnect between how the public responded to our survey, and how they actually feel.

In our survey, our respondents actually responded positively to the affirmation around being adequately equipped to work from home, scoring this at 8.4/10 – more than five times higher than the score above when you take into account the unique Implicit Reaction Time (IRT)* scale we have used for this research.  

This is a concerning finding, given it indicates that staff surveys across the country may be susceptible to similar “false positives” and, subsequently, a significant shortfall in equipment provision may be going unnoticed. Moreover, it may indicate that, while employees want to work from home, they may be struggling with aspects of the remote working environment such as limited work space and childcare, signalling that employers may need to rethink their benefits provision in favour of solutions that better fit the needs of their workforce.

Looking at the knock-on effect of this shortfall, whether this be in terms of equipment or environment, there is a clear correlation with (remote) workplace stress. In our survey, UK workers scored substantially lower than their counterparts across the globe when it came to managing stress levels, with UK workers rating their capacity to manage stress while working from home at 5.1/10, compared with the global reading of 7.2/10.

Given that the national rate of work-related stress, anxiety and depression has skyrocketed in recent years according to the HSE, employers would do well to pinpoint elements of the job that may be causal factors, and look to better support their staff in these areas wherever possible. Investing in the tools and platforms staff need to do their jobs effectively and (where possible) stress-free is a clear step towards this, which is highly likely to pay for itself many times over in the long run.

Simply enough,while it is encouraging to see that businesses are increasingly adopting more flexible approaches to working patterns, such as hybrid working, employers must now ensure that these changes amount to more than just lip service.

If businesses are to make the permanent leap to remote working in any kind of meaningful way, they must provide realistic employee provisions to ensure that they support their staff with the tools and technology they need to work from home effectively. After all, a business is only as strong as its people, and staff morale and wellbeing are paramount.

Interested in finding out more about how the team at WRKIT can help your business to provide world-class support to its remote staff? Visit https://wrkit.com

Building the healthy daily habits for Wellness Success

In recent years there has been a substantial rise in various online and mobile wellness apps. The main areas of focus being on measuring sleep, promoting meditation, engaging in physical exercises such as steps, running or cycling, mood monitoring, an increased awareness of nutritional intake and measuring the effects of positive psychology on thinking and on mood.

Why is this?

Research now shows that the regular practise of a variety of healthy habits can have a significant impact on increasing physical health and psychological wellbeing. Findings show that one of the keys to this is completing some focused wellbeing actives in a manageable and integrated way. The message here is: Little and often.

Various apps such as Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer have been created to attend to many of these areas, as has our employee wellbeing tool POWR – Positive Occupational Wellness Resources which has taken it one step further. Not only does POWR measure overall health and wellbeing, but it provides unique personalised health plans to help easily enhance a person’s overall wellbeing and education. Sitting within POWR are over 420 clinical plans designed to help staff engage with their wellbeing, with built in push technology to provide some much-needed encouragement in achieving greater results. POWR plans target the 6 keys areas of wellbeing – mind, life, work, sleep, active and food; with plans added each month, alongside a huge number of new blogs, articles and videos.

How to get the best from a wellness application?

With an app like POWR and others such as Calm, the design taps into several scientific research findings which shows that key areas to invest in and create healthy habits with are:

  • Regular meditation
  • Focused breathing
  • Mild exercise
  • Positive thinking

The analysis of various research shows that regular meditation significantly improves areas such as stress, anxiety, depression, quality of life, and emotion regulation (mood). Longer term it also improves other areas such as general positivity, self-generated positive emotions and can provide real benefits to close relationships and social outcomes.

Further research shows that regular mild exercise also has a significant effect on psychological wellbeing, while more moderate exercise has a significant effect on depression and anxiety, comparable with usual psychological care. Based on these findings and others, POWR brings this research all together and provides easy access to hundreds of clinical plans in each of the 6 targeted areas, making it accessible, available and easy to log into to work on wellbeing, every single day. With built in meditations, visual and auditory breathing exercises and a positive psychology reinforcing reflection tool, it really supports and promotes the benefits of these finds.

Take the challenge!

POWR is the ideal tool to help employees create healthy habits. To encourage this we have also created the POWR Formula for Success, which includes challenges in the areas of exercise, meditation, positive psychology journalling, wellness and stress relief articles and focused breathing challenges, to complement the 6 pathways in POWR which are always available for users to interact with, complete plans in and grow their wellbeing. This POWR challenge is designed to quickly get staff involved over a two weeks’ timeframe as a company challenge to help them feel healthier, socialise what they are doing, be more active and be more in tune with how they want to be.

Why annual leave is good for business.

Summer is just around the corner and undoubtedly there will be many of your colleagues who have booked time off to enjoy holidays abroad or downtime at home throughout the year. However each year 40% of workers don’t take their full allocation of annual leave and over 30% will work while on holidays. There is an abundance of reasons why employees don’t use their well-earned days off but there are negative consequences to this pattern of behaviour.

For the individual, untaken leave equates to an increased risk of burnout. Time away from work, unplugged from the ecosystem of always on emailing and IM chatter is vital to allow the mind to recuperate. Just like labourers or professional athletes, thinking workers need an “off season” to rest and recharge. When the boundaries are pushed by long stints of time without a break, it results in increased stress, decreased morale, cynicism and disengagement, which translates into organisational level challenges including absenteeism and presenteeism.

Research has found that employees who take breaks in general (lunch breaks, walking breaks etc.) are more engaged and committed to their place of employment, with 81% of respondents having a strong desire to be an active member in their organisation. Holiday breaks yield a similar positive result. In a 2016 study of its own workforce, Ernest & Young  found that for every additional 10 hours of holidays taken by employees, performance metrics went up an average of 8%. 

While taking breaks can yield a more relaxed, creative and productive workforce there are often apprehensive employees who will worry about accumulated workload or the stress of planning a holiday. Organisations can help address these issues by providing services to assist in the holiday planning stages and by ensuring comprehensive policies and practices are in place to manage the holidaying employee’s workload in their absence. It can be beneficial to incentivise full use of annual leave days too.  For example, GE Healthcare give a fifth week of leave in the year following an employee using their full allocation of leave the previous year.  

Author: Sara Glynn, Customer Success & Marketing Manager @Wrkit

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day takes place annually on September 10th. The aim of this day, which is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), is to raise awareness worldwide that suicide is preventable.

Thousands of lives are lost to and are left devastated by suicide every year, but the IASP are aiming to show that this does not have to be the case. There are many ways that you can get involved this year, both inside and outside of the workplace, in order to promote understanding about suicide, and to support those affected by suicide.

Cycle Around the Globe

An initiative called Cycle Around the Globe is being organised by the IASP, as part of World Suicide Prevention Day, to raise awareness of the risks of suicide and to raise money for suicide prevention activities. The aim is to collectively cycle around the globe (40,075 km), between the 1st and 17th September, and to raise vital funds for the IASP while doing so. The cycling can be done by anyone and in any place – more information on the challenge and to register can be found here. This is a challenge that could be made office-wide and could be undertaken by colleagues together – in terms of racking up the km on the bike, raising funds, and generally spreading awareness of the cause around the organisation.

Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Mental health first aid is the help offered to a person who is developing mental health difficulties until appropriate professional treatment is received. Both individuals and organisations can receive Mental Health First Aid training – the workplace training teaches managers, supervisors, and individuals how to assist a co-worker who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. Engaging in such training in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day will contribute to an organisation’s wellness culture, will help staff to feel valued and supported, and will contribute to improved relationships between managers and employees. More information can be found here.

Other Fundraising and Supporting Options

Small steps can make a big difference, especially in the workplace. Why not organise a bake sale, a book sale, a coffee morning, a talent show, or a silent auction, and donate any funds raised to charities working towards suicide prevention. A list of organisations working on suicide reduction in your local area can be found on the Samaritans website – for example, a list of the organisations in Ireland can be found here.

Other activities which can be done in the workplace to support this cause include: holding workshops and seminars in suicide and depression awareness; organising a memorial service or event to remember those who have died by suicide; amending organisational policies to ensure that adequate mental health support is provided to colleagues; or providing workplace education emphasising the factors which contribute to good mental health, such as physical activity, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep. A comprehensive list of activities provided by the IASP which can be undertaken to support World Suicide Prevention Day can be found here.

Sources

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/wspd/en/

https://www.iasp.info/wspd/pdf/2018/2018_wspd_suggested_activities.pdf

https://iasp.info/wspd2018/cycle-around-the-globe/

https://www.mhfaireland.ie/workplace

 

Guest Author: Dr Jennifer Fennel, Counselling Psychologist

 

Sitting Disease

Modern life, work, and technological advances mean that many of us spend a large amount of time being sedentary every day – in fact, it is thought that the average person spends up to 12 hours a day sitting down. However, the human body is designed to move, not to be sedentary, and such physical inactivity can have very real consequences for us, such as sitting disease.

What is sitting disease?

Sitting disease is a term used to describe the ill-effects of an overly-sedentary lifestyle. Excessive sitting has been linked to a host of health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and cholesterol, as well as to a greater risk of death, compared to those who do not spend that long sitting down.

The link between exercise and sitting disease

Unfortunately for most of us, it is thought that exercise does not compensate for excessive sitting. This means that, even if we get the recommended amount of physical activity, we can still suffer from sitting-related health issues, if we spend too much time being sedentary. This therefore presents employers and organisations with a difficult challenge, in terms of addressing this issue.

The workplace

Sitting disease has real implications for organisations – it is in the best interests of employers to target physical inactivity in the workplace, as the ill health effects of employees’ excessive sitting can lead to reduced productivity and huge financial costs.

What can be done?

There are a lot of individual choices that people can make, to increase the amount of time they spend standing or moving – such as exercising when watching TV or when talking on the phone. There are also steps that organisations can take, in order to encourage people to get moving more in the workplace:

Providing education: this could include educating employees to recognise the warning signs of sitting disease (such as slouching, back pain, weight gain, and lack of energy and focus), as well as educating them on the health risks associated with excessive sitting and the potential benefits associated with more activity throughout the workday (such as weight loss and increased productivity)

Encourage physical activity in the workplace: this can be done by facilitating walking meetings, lunchtime walks or exercise classes, and, most importantly, regular movement throughout the day – employees can be encouraged to utilise calendar reminders and phone apps to stimulate them to move around for one to three minutes every half hour. Gentle exercises, such as leg raises, glute squeezes, and wall sits, can also be incorporated into the workday

Invest in products: organisations can provide products to encourage less sitting in the workplace, such as standing desks, stability balls, and pedometers

Make it fun: inactivity can be tackled in creative and fun ways, which will make employees more likely to engage. Examples include prizes for those who have taken the most steps that week/month or organising special or unusual exercise classes every few weeks.

 

Guest Author, Jennifer Fennell, Counseling Psychologist

Sources

http://www.juststand.org/the-facts/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/sitting-disease-is-killing-us-and-exercise-doesnt-help/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/much-sitting-linked-heart-disease-diabetes-premature-death-201501227618

https://updesk.com/blogs/news/4-subtle-signs-you-may-have-sitting-disease

Employee engagement – where do I start!?

The term “employee engagement” appears in leadership and HR literature the world over. It is a topic which comes up in every one of our client conversations, however the term seems to hold a very different meaning from one organisation to the next.

A Google search for employee engagement will yield a myriad of definitions, for example UK voluntary movement Engage for Success, defines employee engagement as “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” While other definitions might vary from this, the overarching theme is an emotional connection between an employee and their employer organisation.

When addressing employee engagement, an organisation should aim to strategically implement sustainable programmes, initiatives and tools which will result in an employee having a sense of purpose and belonging. Something which will challenge the success of even the most holistic engagement strategy, is a lack of definition around company values and purpose. Engagement is intrinsically connected to the values of an organisation, so when considering engagement, the first place an organisation should start is with their own values.: the glue which will keep people invested (long-term) in the overall business mission.

With clear values and purpose, tools such as an employee survey can be leveraged to gain insights into the culture and mindset of a workforce. The eNPS (employee net promoter score) will provide a very basic understanding of engagement; how likely your workforce is to recommend your organisation as a place to work. Detailed survey questions assessing; workplace inclusion, wellbeing, communication, recognition and career development will provide a greater understanding of an organisation’s needs.

For organisations of all sizes and industries effectively administered surveys will help guide better business decisions. Utilising the feedback, an organisation can determine clear engagement objectives and a strategic approach to boost employee satisfaction. While the prospect of an employee engagement strategy might be daunting at first, with the right building blocks in place the planning process becomes easier and more systematic.

At Wrkit we specialise in the creation of better, healthier working environments using our online suite of data driven employee engagement and retention tools – Surveys, Recognition, Wellbeing (POWR), Learning and Lifestyle Savings. Headquartered in Dublin (Ireland), with offices in London and Boston, we serve local and multi-national companies around the globe. Let our experience guide your next steps, get in touch today info@wrkit.com.

 

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit