What you post can wreck your life

Harvard recently rescinded admission offers for some incoming freshmen who participated in a private Facebook group sharing offensive memes. The incident has sparked a lot of discussion: Was Harvard’s decision justified? What about the First Amendment? Do young people know the dangers of social media?

I’m a business school lecturer, career services counselor and former recruiter, and I’ve seen how social media becomes part of a person’s brand – a brand that can help you or hurt you.

College admissions staff, future employers and even potential dates are more and more likely to check your profile and make decisions or judgments about you.

Here’s what you should know so you don’t end up like those Harvard prospects.

1. Social media posts disappear, right?

Let’s be clear about one thing: You’ve been building your online reputation since your first Snapchat. Think the posts disappear? Think private pages are private? Think again.

You might feel like your life and opinions are no one’s business, but you can’t always control who sees what you post. Every photo, video, tweet, like and comment could be screenshotted by your friends (or frenemies). You might make a mistake with your privacy settings or post to the wrong account. And a determined online sleuth can sometimes find ways around privacy settings, viewing photos and posts you might think are well hidden.

2. Do employers and colleges actually look at this stuff?

Your profile will very likely be scrutinised by college admissions officers and employers. According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 social media recruitment survey, social media screening is through the roof:

  • 600% increase since 2006 in employers using social media to screen
  • 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates
  • 34% of employers found online content that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee

This trend is common with admissions as well. Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 survey of over 350 college admissions officers found that 35 percent checked applicants’ social media profiles. Many who do said social media has influenced their admission decisions.

3. What are recruiters watching out for?

So what are the potential hazards to avoid? These are some of the types of posts that left a bad impression on me when I used to recruit:

  • References to illegal drugs, sexual posts
  • Incriminating or embarrassing photos or videos
  • Profanity, defamatory or racist comments
  • Politically charged attacks
  • Spelling and grammar issues
  • Complaining or bad-mouthing – what’s to say you wouldn’t do the same to a new school, company, boss, or peer?

4. What can I do to build a positive online reputation?

Remember, social media is not all bad; in many cases it helps recruiters get a good feel for your personality and potential fit. The CareerBuilder survey found 44 percent of employers who screened candidates via social networks found positive information that caused them to hire a candidate.

From my experience, the following information can support and confirm a candidate’s resume:

  • Your education and experiences match the recruiter’s requirements
  • Your profile picture and summary is professional
  • Your personality and interests align with the values of the company or university
  • Your involvement in community or social organizations shows character
  • Positive, supportive comments, responses, or testimonials

5. How do I clean things up?

Research. Both the college of your dreams and your future employer could Google you, so you should do the same thing. Also check all of your social media profiles – even the ones you haven’t used for a while – and get rid of anything that could send the wrong message. Remember, things can’t be unseen.

Bottom line: Would you want a future boss, admissions officer, or blind date to read or see it? If not, don’t post it. If you already have, delete it.

By Thao Nelson; published on MSN.com 

Witnesses are key in arbitration

Legal procedure makes it immensely difficult for a party at arbitration to win its case without witnesses.

For example, should an employer send, no witnesses to a CCMA arbitration the employer’s representative will find it extremely difficult to win the case because the testimony of witnesses normally forms the crucial core of the procedure at any arbitration hearing.

The procedural guidelines laid down require the arbitrator to start off by explaining the arbitration process and rules.

This entails explaining:

• that the employer is normally required to present its case first. This will be done via witnesses, documents and other evidence

• the right to cross examine that witness

• the arbitrator has the right to ask the witness questions for clarity and the employer is allowed to re-examine the witness, but only regarding the issues raised during cross examination

• once all the employer’s witnesses have been heard the employee presents his/her case according to the abovelisted steps.

Thereafter the arbitrator must:

• Hear closing statements

• Assess the evidence and make the award.

The evidence that the arbitrator assesses for purposes of deciding in favour of the employer or employee falls into three broad categories. Viz:

• Documents

• Sundry items such as video tapes, stolen goods, photos and other items relevant to the case at hand

• Witness testimony

While all three types of evidence are very important the testimony of witnesses is the most crucial of all. This is because it is difficult (and often impossible) to bring documentary or other evidence without using witnesses as a channel. For example, should the employer’s representative need to bring a letter or a video tape as evidence against the employee, the representative will need to validate the letter or video by bringing, as a witness, the author of the letter or the person who filmed the video. Thus, witnesses are normally the conduit for all other evidence.

In the case of NUMSA obo Buthelezi vs Falcon & another (2003, 10 BALR 1110) the employee was dismissed for attempting to steal paint as reported via a sworn statement from the security guard who had caught him. However, as the security guard did not give evidence at the arbitration hearing the arbitrator found the dismissal to be unfair and ordered the employer to reinstate the employee with full back pay.

Not only are witnesses the most crucial source of evidence they are also the most difficult source of evidence to utilise. There are many reasons for this:

• Unless properly managed witnesses can disappear or fail to turn up at the arbitration hearing

• Unless properly prepared witnesses forget important details

• Witnesses can be bribed or otherwise persuaded to lie

• Unless expertly handled witnesses may get nervous during the arbitration hearing. They may therefore get flustered and so make mistakes.

Due to the fact that witnesses are the most crucial means of winning a case at arbitration and, at the same time, the most difficult evidentiary element to control any party at arbitration should use the services of a labour law expert to:

• Identify well in advance all the witnesses that will be needed

• Prepare these witnesses to ensure that they will truthfully give the evidence relevant to the case of the party who calls them

• Work out which witnesses will be used to validate which documents and other evidence.

By Ivan Israelstam, CEO of Labour Law Management Consulting

It wasn’t long after smart phones, tablets and ubiquitous Wi-Fi that workplace experts predicted the end of the office. And while a telecommuting trend took root for a while, it is now beginning to reverse with large American companies like IBM, Honeywell and Yahoo leading the change.

But also thanks to offices that are now much more human friendly.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says:  “The thinking went along these lines: if technology allow people to work anywhere, then who needs the office?

“As it turns out, the vast majority of workers do—because work, at its essence, is a social process. Even people armed with the latest mobile device still come to the office to connect with other people and to access technology they can’t carry around.

“The office didn’t go away, but it’s now evolving into something fundamentally different.

“We are in the midst of an office renaissance.”

And the proof is evident in some of the world’s biggest companies.

After several decades of allowing employees to perform their jobs remotely, IBM recently announced that it wanted many of its remote workers back in the office.

Between 1995 and 2009, the company shrank its office workforce. Other companies soon followed suit: Work-from-home became a desirable perk of many white-collar jobs.

Yahoo has also reversed its stance on home workers and said that since calling back its staff, employee engagement was up, product launches increased significantly and teams were thriving.

American conglomerate Honeywell also joined the back to the office trend by banning telecommuting for most of its workers worldwide.

Says Andrews: “It’s not surprising there is a swing back to the office. The workplace has become a catalyst for energy and buzz.

“People are again looking for inspiration and creativity at work, as well as human-centered technology that makes life easier. These ideas are being embraced and adopted at a rapid pace thanks to new people friendly design and facilities.”

Traditionally, offices were focused on uniformity and standards. Much of the space was dedicated to individual workstations, separated into departments, where people spent the majority of their time working alone. A cafeteria provided a place to eat lunch and large meeting rooms were used mostly for collaboration.

But by reducing the number of dedicated individual workstations and creating an ecosystem of spaces, people now have the freedom to choose how and where to work.

“Appealing offices now have a social hub, previously just a cafeteria, which shifts away from supporting just nourishment to now also becoming a place for workers to connect and collaborate,” says Andrews.

“They also have a nomadic camp—purposely placed near the social hub— to support mobile behaviours. The additional settings offer mobile workers a place to work alone or with others. Workers can see and be seen by coworkers, or choose a private setting for focused work.”

The concept of a ‘resident neighbourhood’ is also proving popular and includes spaces for managers in the open plan to promote learning and quick problem solving. Resource centres offers workers a space to securely store coats and bags and access meeting tools.

“People want to feel a connection to the places where they work, where they can see themselves in the space, versus something that feels imposed upon them. Well designed offices and productivity gains from working closely with smart people is driving the office renaissance,“ Andrews concludes.

Employees intend on taking advantage of their sick leave to stay away from work when in truth they really just can’t face a day in the office.

Almost 40% of South Africans are planning on “pulling a sickie” in June or July, according to a survey released by Pharma Dynamics on Monday.

The generic pharmaceutical company polled 1 500 workers across the country to find out how people were gearing up for the colds and flu season. However, respondents also let slip the time of year they are most likely to ring in sick, said Pharma Dynamics.

Bad weather coupled with colds and flu
A combination of miserable weather and the expected spate of colds and flu in winter makes June and July the most popular months of the year to take a duvet day, said Pharma Dynamics spokesperson Nicole Jennings.

“Nearly a third of those polled admitted that they’ve pulled a sickie before – 45% of whom said they do so two to three times a year, while a few chancers (15% in fact) do so even more often. The 40% whose conscience probably gets the better of them, can only bring themselves to do so once annually.”

Jennings said what makes matters even worse is that those who pretend to be sick don’t do so on their own.

“More than a whopping 51% rope in their partners and/or children to take a duvet day with them – 20% either didn’t have a partner or a child, which implied that if they did, they’d probably get them to bunk with them too. The remaining 29% preferred to do so solo.”

The result of sickness-related absenteeism on the economy has been enormous, according to the most recently available Adcorp Holdings’ employment index.

Cumulatively, since 2000 the economy lost R55.2bn in real terms due to sickness, the report dated 2013 shows.

The index found that between 2009 and 2011, one-quarter of all workers claimed the maximum statutory allowance for sick leave, which is 36 days in a three-year cycle. It showed that the average output per worker in 2012 was R145 233 per year – or R586.19 per working day. In 2011 this loss of output due to sickness totalled R4.29bn

At the time Adcorp said it was alarming that sick leave in South Africa had been rising continuously.

More recently, South Africa was ranked last among 19 nations in a global survey that measured healthcare system efficiency – the ability to deliver maximum results at the lowest possible cost.

The Future Health Index, commissioned by Dutch tech company Philips, showed that South Africa’s efficiency ratio was the lowest out of the 19 countries in the study, which included countries such as France, the US, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, China and Brazil.

South Africa scored 4.4 compared to the group average of 10.5.

Source: Fin24

Dealing with customers from hell

No less a respected journal than The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published an article entitled, Stay Calm When Someone Is Getting on Your Nerves. “Come on, HBR,” I thought to myself, “Is this the best you can do? Nothing like stating something that is so blindingly obvious!”

The basic theme of the article was that we all have people – and customers – who irritate us. People who interrupt, people who are filled with arrogance or sheer stupidity, people who are unreasonable, irrational, and emotional and who blame us personally for everything that is wrong in the world. And that excludes the anonymous people who post nasty things in the social media, and the self-important bullies who can only feel good about themselves if they put you down.

Then the authors write: “To help yourself, remain calm in these situations, acknowledge your emotions and think through why you’re reacting the way you are. For example, you might get angry about being interrupted because it was a major problem at your last job or in a prior personal relationship. Don’t let those associations control you…”

And yet… if an esteemed publication like the HBR feels a need to publish such an article, maybe it’s because most people don’t get it. You are definitely going to occasionally get the “customer from hell.” You may have tried all of the best strategies in the world, maybe even used some of the hints for dealing with complaints, problems and anger covered in one of my previous columns.

There are probably only a handful of responses to people like this, but I have to completely agree that it all starts with you. Whenever I see bad behaviour, whenever I see people troubled in their lives, or whenever there is some conflict or event that challenges all of the things that glue society together, then the first place I look is at the self-esteem.

Why is it true that some people let the smallest thing spark off rage, while others seem to be able to remain calm, no matter what happens? When someone needs to behave in this obnoxious, aggressive and hurtful way, what are they saying about themselves? It’s because they feel weak and vulnerable and insecure. I know the times when I flash a fist at a taxi driver, or snap at someone, or slam a door, those are not the times when I feel good about myself, happy with who I am, and when I just know that the world is just a great, forgiving, generous abundant place. They are the times when I feel fearful, hurt, and out of control. (Under different circumstances when they aren’t attacking you, you may even feel sorry for the customers from hell.)

If we paint the opposite picture, it becomes even more obvious: people who feel optimistic, positive, and who like themselves don’t need to behave like this. They are generous, kind, sensitive, empathetic and helpful towards others.

So how should you deal with your own negative feelings? Many people believe – incorrectly – that bad emotions are always dangerous and powerful. If we express these feelings openly, then we’ll be less popular, lose someone’s love and admiration, or provoke someone’s anger, boredom or dislike. This – being liked by everybody all of the time – is unrealistic. People also believe – and also incorrectly – that it’s unhealthy or dishonest to try to control how they express their feelings. They believe that they have a right, indeed a responsibility, to let people aggressively know how they feel in any manner they choose, no matter what the circumstances or the consequences.

Therefore, there are only two ways we can deal with bad emotions: repress them or express them in the form in which we experience them, that is, negatively. Both of these can be pretty destructive. Repressing your negative feelings happens in one of two ways: denial, (“I can’t admit having these negative emotions,”) or suppression, (“I know how I feel, but I can’t think of a constructive way to express these feelings, so I won’t display them.”) If you do this, you know that you may be sparing others, but hurting yourself. But if you don’t deal with these feelings, they won’t go away. Instead, they show themselves in some of the following symptoms: depression, physical illness, (including headaches, stiff muscles, insomnia, eating disorders, ulcers and even heart attacks,) low self-esteem, emotional withdrawal, (we become apathetic, unenthusiastic, indifferent and uninvolved, just going through the motions,) and even recourse to drugs and alcohol, (we seek escape through substance abuse.)

Destructive expression, on the other hand, can also hurt the recipients and alienate people from you. Moody people thus become isolated from others, often lashing out at the nearest target, and feeling terrible afterwards. They show some of the following behaviours: temper tantrums, (childish, inappropriate, and uncontrolled anger that can be triggered by even trivial things – some of them going back years and years,) sulking and “the silent treatment,” (in which they refuse to explain why they are upset,) and sarcasm, (because they are reluctant to confront the cause of their bad mood directly.) In groups we sometimes call these “passive aggressive” behaviours.

Remember that we have already established the fact that defensive behaviour does not help. Yes, criticism is hard to accept especially when you work hard, when you are trying to please people, and when you feel it is unjustified. It is hurtful. But trying to justify your behaviour, or even trying to shift the blame or prove that the other person is wrong, is futile. They will all be rejected by the other person unless you have worked through all of the conflict and anger.

Of course you have a right to feel anger and express it sometimes. Anger doesn’t have to lead to violence or more anger. Your goal is to learn to deal with anger more constructively, not to ignore it or to repress it. Also, don’t rationalise your reluctance to express anger. Excuses like, “I won’t say anything because I’ll hurt the other person’s feelings,” are ways of explaining to yourself why you don’t do what you have never learned to do. Instead of dwelling on the reasons why you don’t express anger, concentrate on learning how to do it.

There’s a lovely legend I’d like to end off with: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Goodness – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

If you feel strong, confident, secure, and have good self-esteem, you will be able to deal with unhappy and abusive people, no matter what they throw at you. This is the big secret of keeping yourself calm.

In part 2 of this series we will look at some of the practical things you can do to calm down upset customers.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

Ignore Labour Law at your peril

Employers constantly complain that labour law does not allow them to fire employees for breaking the rules. However, employers need to understand that:

• Labour law definitely does allow employers to dismiss employees.

• The CCMA has frequently upheld the dismissal of employees fired for misconduct. We have been directly involved in a great many cases where employees have been fired and, after appealing to the CCMA, have remained fired.

• It is not the firing of employees that the law has a problem with. Instead, it is unfair dismissals that result in the employer being forced to reinstate the employee and/or being forced to pay the employee exorbitant amounts of money in compensation.

• In order to be free to fire employees who deserve dismissal employers need to understand and accept the difference between fair and unfair dismissal. This is because, if the employer has an employee who is causing mayhem or is costing the employer money or is otherwise undesirable, the employer cannot afford for the employee to be reinstated. The reason for this is that it is exceptionally difficult later to dismiss or discipline an employee who has been reinstated by the CCMA or other tribunal.

So while the law does allow dismissals it also requires the employer to be able to prove that the dismissal was both procedurally and substantively fair.

“Procedurally fair” relates to whether the employee was given a fair hearing.

Whether a dismissal is “substantively fair” relates to the fairness of the dismissal decision itself rather than to the disciplinary procedures. Specifically the employer would have to show that:

• The employee really did break the rule

• The rule was a fair one

• The penalty of dismissal was a fitting one in the light of the severity of the offence. AND

• The employee knew or should have known the rule.

Properly trained CCMA arbitrators consider all the above factors together with the circumstances of each individual case in deciding if a dismissal was fair and whether the employee should stay dismissed or should be reinstated.

In the case of Mundell vs Caledon Casino, Hotel and Spa (Sunday Times 15 May 2005) the employee was dismissed for two reasons. Viz:

• She distributed a R15000 tip amongst her colleagues
• She allowed a colleague to take home five cans of cool drink

It was reported that:

• The rule requiring employees to hand in tips to management to go into a monthly kitty had not been given to Mundell
• Mundell had no way of knowing that she was not allowed to distribute the tip money herself
• The tip had been given by the client at an open gathering
• A number of managers were involved in sharing out the tip
• The cool drinks had been intended by the client for consumption by the staff
• Giving the cool drinks to the employee was not serious enough to merit dismissal
• The employer’s failure to prove that the employee knew of this rule rendered the dismissal unfair
• The employer was required to pay the employee six months remuneration in compensation.

The outcome of this case proves that the inability of employers to make dismissals stick is not primarily because of the law but rather because of the lack of labour law expertise of many employers.

By  lvan lsraelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

Poor air quality kills productivity

People who work in poorly-ventilated offices with higher levels of indoor pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) have significantly lower cognitive functioning which severely damages their productivity.

Linda Trim, director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, says that good ventilation is often the last thing people think about in an office.

“But it should be far greater consideration when you realise most people who work spend 90% of their time indoors.”

She notes that when designing offices, people typically think about layout and the look and feel of the space.

But interestingly, as buildings have become more energy efficient, they have also become more airtight, increasing the potential for poor indoor environmental quality.

“While design and energy efficiency are of course important, little regard is given to air quality. If it isn’t good, none of the other stuff matters because it diminishes worker productivity so much.

“It should no longer be an afterthought when you consider the high cost to businesses of having staff performing below par.”

Trim cited an October 2015 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Syracuse University which assessed indoor environment.

“The researchers looked at people’s experiences in which both the participants and the analysts were blinded to test conditions to avoid biased results.

“The findings suggest that in office spaces in which many people work daily could be adversely affecting cognitive function—and conversely, improved air quality could greatly increase the cognitive function performance of workers.”

These results suggest that even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality may have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers.

The same study also ran cognitive tests on people working in enhanced ventilation conditions and compared them to those working in elevated levels of carbon dioxide which replicated the typical workspace.

They found that cognitive performance scores for the participants who worked in the enhanced ventilation environments were, on average, double those of participants who worked in conventional environments.

Researchers found that the largest improvements occurred in the areas of:
• crisis response (131% higher in enhanced ventilation work places over conventional environmental with elected carbon monoxide)
• strategy (288% higher as above )
• information usage (299% higher as above)

“Our understanding and refinement of the best working environment is still developing however it is clear that poor ventilation has a marked effect on worker performance.

“Improved air quality is a simple yet very effective way to get more out of people and help them feel better and more energetic at the same time,” Trim concludes.

If you frequent the conferences and launches held by technology companies, you would surely have come across statements similar to the following: “Up to forty percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will not be around in a decade’s time. They will have disappeared into mergers, acquisitions or extinction.”

This is not a new trend. According to the American Enterprise Institute, nearly ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 are no longer with us. Modern emphasis resides on the speed at which companies change and disappear. This has increased the Corporate Burn Rate which is indeed running at high levels.

Yet even here we are not in uncharted territory. A company from the first half of the Twentieth century could expect a lifespan of at least fifty years. By the Seventies, that had dropped to roughly thirty years. We can look to the Seventies as the first definable major milestone in this trend. The rise of business machines, automation and other technologies were creating a new breed of company.

Those were the years that saw the rise of Microsoft, Intel and other technology game-changers. The mainframe computer had graduated from high-end hardware used by militaries and governments to a mainstream business tool. Consumers were starting to enhance their lifestyles with cheap televisions, ATMs, microwaves, economical cars and a bevy of other innovations.

The world was changing rapidly, and with it, companies rose and fell on their ability to respond.

The eighties and nineties became the eras of rapid productivity. Based on US figures from the Heritage Foundation, productivity has doubled while the average hourly rate has declined from 1970 to 2010. This is both good and bad, but it illustrates with certainty, the impact of productivity technologies during the last decades of the Twentieth century. From spreadsheets to email to switchboards to fax machines to ERP suites: these were productivity’s catalysts.

Eventually though, every pendulum has to reverse course. Those innovations started attracting complexity. In the early nineties you were lucky to get an email a day. Today you are lucky if you can read a hundred emails and get through your daily workload. The same systems that have granted us more space to accomplish, have also grown bloated. This is not new either: the reason why technologies in the Seventies boosted productivity, is because they were replacing overwhelming complexity. The mainframe was so popular since it was a lot simpler to use than the boxes of punch cards demanded by older systems. Then it became cumbersome, eventually challenged by leaner desktop and server PCs.

Today we are at that stage again. The standalone server is being replaced by the cloud. Email is being joined by collaboration suites and messenger apps. The spreadsheet is making way for dashboards and analytical machine learning. Why? Because complexity is at a saturation point and the world is demanding simplicity to drive new levels of productivity.

It is important that we appreciate the nature and inevitability of the sea-change that companies are currently experiencing. Now to my point: your business processes have been born and honed through those productivity technologies. Your fax machine sits idle – all that has shifted to email. If your email ceases to function, several of your processes will grind to a halt.

Thus, it is paramount that you take stock of your processes, consider what powers them, and see if there is a better way. Let’s consider the highly impactful example of data. Your company generates a lot of data, which until now, has likely languished in storage or was sent to the afterlife of deletion. But today data is a differentiator. Your ability to understand your data is crucial to your success, while the speed at which you access those insights defines your productivity. So it’s a simple question: are you making use of your data?

There are many more examples: can the cloud improve the speed and expansion of your products? Can machine learning automate manual processes, freeing up your staff and time? How are you using mobile devices to empower your workforce and yourself? Do you understand the benefits of in-memory computing? Is there a role which technologies such as Blockchain can play in your organisation?

What you are looking for is Corporate Cholesterol: the fatty bits that have started to narrow your company’s arteries. What are those processes and technologies that once made the enterprise’s heart beat, but now threaten to choke it off?

As a guideline, I can recommend three areas to consider. Firstly, look at how your customer experience drives your strategy. Customers are often familiar with innovations that make life easier. If you aren’t appealing to them, your processes are lagging. Secondly, don’t view your decision and the resulting transaction as separate entities. They feed from each other, so rather ponder on how you can enhance that relationship and learn from it. Thirdly, remember that data is the new centre of gravity, and speed matters. If your organisation is not responding as fast as your market expects it to, you need to address that.

No such transition is easy. There are challenges in terms of security, regulation uncertainty, skill-sets, creating new mega-processes, disruption and more. But the only people who experience smooth sailing all the time are those who never leave the harbour. The storms of change cannot be avoided. However, they are key to ensuring business longevity. Cast a critical eye on your processes and contemplate on how new technology can help cut the bad fat.

By Brett Parker, MD of SAP Africa at SAP

Top tips for total productivity

Post-holiday gloom, the 3pm slump, stiffness from sitting down all day, annoying colleagues … whatever the cause, everybody experiences a lag in productivity in the workplace from time to time.

But Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says the responsibility of managing staff health and well-being falls on both employer and employees.

“Often neither party knows how to get the most out of a working day.

“So we’ve put together this handy guide to help boost happiness, health and productivity, and achieve more each day:

Step away from the desk
No matter how fit you are, sitting for more than an hour at a time raises your risk of heart failure, diabetes and obesity. “We recommend taking at least a two-minute break from the desk every half-hour to stretch the legs, hydrate, get some natural light, and clear your thoughts,“ says Andrews.

Being active can improve output and work satisfaction by 80% according to the UK’s Business in the Community.

Test alternative meeting styles
Meetings that lack focus are a drain on productivity, time and motivation.

Says Andrews: ”Conducting a meeting while walking, standing or even exercising encourages employees to step away from their desks, inspires ideas and introduces exercise into a typically sedentary day,” Methods such as this let you exercise, brainstorm, refresh and build relationships while being part of a meeting.

Fuel body and mind
The food that you eat has a real impact on your energy levels.

Sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks give you a spike in energy, but this is often followed by a crash where you feel more tired than before.

Berries, vegetables, nuts, wholegrain cereals, yoghurt and biltong are better than junky snacks. If you feel the need for something sweeter, a few squares of dark chocolate is a good compromise.

Choose perks wisely
An office games console and on-site bar may win you likes on Instagram, but it’s important to consider about whether your work-space perks will benefit your staff in the long term.

“Rather than always spending funds on boozy nights out, introduce fresh fruit, flexible working, gym memberships or healthy away days,“ Andrews advised.

An interesting UK survey by Labour Force shows that 30.4 million working days were lost in Britain in 2015-2016 through sickness. Stress, depression and anxiety caused 11.7 million days to be lost, while musculoskeletal problems accounted for 8.8 million sick days. With such losses at stake, looking after staff health has to be a priority.

Being efficient at work helps staff to reach their targets and keeps clients happy.

“However, efficiency levels can fall when staff are stressed, constantly reaching to meet high expectations, lacking in confidence or under the weather. Maintaining a friendly atmosphere, having clearly defined roles, and setting realistic goals are essential for an efficient workspace, “Andrews concludes.

The world over, savvy businesses are rapidly moving beyond shared desks to flexible workspaces, which is having a profound effect on job satisfaction and staff turnover.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says: ”The hot desk concept is on the wane.

“Many more people have higher expectations for their working lives now want to be able to work in a more flexible way. Offices are adapting to meet that need. A bonus and a pat on the back is no longer enough to retain staff.”

Recent research by a UK social research charity The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that almost half the UK workforce would like the opportunity to work in a more flexible way. Job search firm CareerBuilder’s research revealed that 56% of employees who describe themselves as satisfied in their jobs cited work/life balance as a key factor.

Only 39% cited salary as the root of their job satisfaction.

Said Andrews: “Rather than setting up rows of traditional desks, each with their own power point and telephone, firms should consider shared spaces with work benches and social hubs where staff can work in a group or on their own in a more informal setting.”

Companies are seeing rewards from a more flexible approach. US retailer Best Buy adopted flexibility at its headquarters, resulting in a reduction in staff turnover of 45%.

“As technology develops to enable access to corporate systems, services and applications from any location at any time, employees are increasingly questioning the need to sit at a particular desk in a specific office at set times each day,“ Andrews noted.

The future of flexible working can be divided into three areas – space, location and time.

Flexible space

Flexible work spaces have the advantage that they don’t “belong” to any individual or team, meaning staff are less likely to get territorial over a particular place. They are also a great use of space for businesses looking to get the most value out of building costs, as they can be used in different ways – from a short meeting to an employee needing to focus on a particular project away from their team.

A clear-desk policy is a must when considering any of the above, ensuring that staff don’t reserve a certain seat or desk even when they’re away from an office.

Flexible location

Remote working is being embraced by many businesses to allow staff to work while travelling or offsite. Whether it’s letting staff head home after an external meeting to carry on working, or a more formal arrangement enabling workers to be at home for certain days per week, employees are increasingly demanding these opportunities. Enterprises that fail to offer flexible working policies and options will soon find they are unable to compete with larger companies when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

Flexi-time

The most radical of the three options, but it’s one already widely practised by micro businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. However, we have yet to see a real shift to flexible hours among larger enterprises.

“Most companies expect their staff to work set days and hours, even if they happen to be working at home or from a hot desk. As offices decrease in both size and number of people on the premises at any time, as more of us choose to work remotely, so the need for staff to all be working the same days and times decreases,” said Andrews.

The most forward-thinking firms will start considering roles and functions in their organisation by employees working their own chosen hours – whether that’s compressed hours, weekend or night-time working – rather than those dictated by the business.

It might be that only one or two of these three options are feasible for your organisation at present, but for all firms it is worth assessing pilot programmes to try out the trio of different

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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