Mindfulness at Work

4 Tips: How to Cultivate Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness by definition is, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Seems simple enough, right?

However, achieving a state of mindfulness as defined above, while balancing the busy schedule of a working professional seems like another impossible task on the grand to-do list. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the health and wellness industry hit a record high of $3.4 trillion dollars in 2014, and that number continues to grow as more and more businesses seek to launch health and wellness initiatives of their own.

While mindfulness is a highly personal state of being, to me, it is the feeling of being more aware of myself and what’s happening around me. This takes dedication and a willingness to be fully aware of even the most-minute aspects of my daily life, both at home and at work. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first to carry this mindset over into your work life, but with time, mindfulness can give you the tools to handle the ups and downs of office culture. No matter how you achieve it, once you experience the effects of having a mindfulness practice, it can help you to successfully navigate all areas of your life.

To get started, here are four areas of focus that will help cultivate a mindfulness practice within the office:

  1. Awareness and Breath

Despite the ubiquity of health and wellness programs in contemporary office culture, it feels as though our society is more stressed than ever. Most of us work at least 40 to 50 hours a week, and then juggle personal tasks like looking after kids/pets, rushing to the gym, staying in touch with friends, a monthly book (read: wine) club, etc.

Our lives get so jammed packed, we need multiple calendars just to keep up with it all. The American Psychological Association found that “…money and work are the top two sources of very or somewhat significant stress (67 percent and 65 percent in 2015.)”

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control, take a few minutes to simply take some deep breaths. By completing the easy task of breathing, you are already more mindful because you acknowledged how stressed you felt before reacting. From there, take it one step further by aiming for balanced breath; equal lengths of inhaling and exhaling through the nose. I like to count to four in my head while breathing in and then repeat the cadence while exhaling.

While continuing this breathing exercise, observe how the signs of stress in your body reveal themselves. Were your shoulders up to your ears? Was your jaw clenched? Is your breath short and chest tight? Legs constantly dancing?

After you’ve identified the symptoms of stress, try to relax that specific area of tension by at least 20%. As little as 2-5 minutes of controlled breathing will bring you to a greater state of control over your feelings and help take your physical being out of fight or flight mode. By increasing circulation to the brain and slowing your heart rate, you’ll have greater clarity, allowing you to better assess the situation at hand. If you would like to go one step further and give meditation a try, Headspace is a great app for beginners.

  1. Forgive Yourself

Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers said, “You can’t build an adaptable organization without adaptable people.” To me, the essence of this quote is understanding that none of us are superheroes; it can be very difficult to finish everything within the work day and still live a balanced, healthy personal life.  This is why it is crucial to let go of any emotional baggage you might carry with you, in both your personal and professional life.

Forgiving yourself when things are not going as planned is critical in accepting the way things truly are and gives us the ability to move forward toward a more productive mindset. Feeling guilty, mad or frustrated can render us unwilling to be open-minded.

Instead, use this as a learning experience to reflect on what you can do better next time these feelings of frustration emerge, focusing on understanding why the end goal is important and then letting go of whatever is out of your control. Flexibility within the workplace is key to success, regardless of the environment in which you work. Behind every great person, company or business success, there was probably a moment where the prospect of failure was faced and overcome. The difference between losing and victory was likely a reinvention or evolution of an approach that turned failure into triumph. So make a conscious effort to learn from difficult situations in the moment and then, let go.

  1. Lighten Up

If you’re a “Yes Person” like me, your workload can rapidly become overwhelming. One way to counteract the weight of a stressful week at work is to lighten up and laugh more often. If you’re laughing while reading this, you’re off to a great start.

We’ve all had moments when things took a wrong turn and it feels like the WORST has happened. In these situations, it’s hard to remove the typical ‘should have, could have, would have’ narrative that is on constant loop in your mind. Next time, break the habit of being hard on yourself by focusing on a positive aspect. Ask yourself: what is it that is making me so upset? Why do I feel like this is so important?

Once you have answered the questions above, approach this situation with gratitude for what you DO have, it will likely help illuminate the problem and help reshape your frame of mind from “this is what I need to do… [Fill in what you are dreading]” to “this is want to do because… [Fill in what you are grateful for.]”

If you still need a lift, reach out to your colleagues; the people around you are there for support and will offer much needed perceptive on some of the challenges you’re facing. Try spending lunch with a good friend or co-worker to brighten your spirits with fresh energy and bring you back to the reality of what’s truly important. After all, “An optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh.” – Tom Nansbury

  1. Recognize Others

The average American spends over 2,000 hours a year in the office, which means aside from sleep, we are spending more time with co-workers than anyone else in our lives. This is why ‘working with great people’ is such an important core value for many working professionals.

Recognizing the fact that your team plays a major part in creating a positive office environment is crucial for work happiness. Treating work relationships with mindfulness will open your eyes to the great things people are doing around you every day.

In, The Neuroscience of Trust, published by The Harvard Business Review, the author states, “Neuroscience experiments by my lab show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.”

A Google study similarly found that managers who, “express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work.”

In the daily flow of work, a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way to boost morale. The inverse is also true: communicating negative aspects of work can have a detrimental effect on office culture. Unfortunately, it is much more common for workers to receive communication about the negative aspects of work or area where their performance was perceived as lacking.

We have all received an email from a boss on what needs to be changed/improved/updated. In comparison, when was the last time you got an email stating all of the great things you and your department has been doing? If you have received praise for a job well-done, didn’t it inspire you to continue the actions that led to the business success you were lauded for? Bringing to light the exceptional actions of you and your co-workers has much more weight to then the contrary.

A company that fosters a culture of mindful employees leads to a team that is recognizing, communicating and celebrating the accomplishments that make the organization successful. Increased employee mindfulness will also contribute to reduced stress, increased productivity and a better bottom line for the company; a win-win for all.

For more information on creating a culture of recognition and improving the way you and your colleagues feel about work, check out, “Top 5 Ways to Boost Employee Morale,” on the Achievers’ blog.

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About the Author
Phoebe Licata
Phoebe Licata is an Employee Engagement Consultant at Achievers by day and inspirational yogi by night. Her endless positivity propels her along her journey of consulting with companies on their employee engagement and rewards & recognition strategies. Connect with her on LinkedIn to talk about how to make your employees happy, engaged, and more productive at work!

 

 

 

Wellness and Company Culture

5 Ways Wellness Programs Can Enhance Employee Engagement

Look up from your computer and take stock of the colleagues working around you, they might not be at their desks much longer  A recent Gallup study reports that approximately 51% of them [U.S. workers] are either actively looking for a new job or keeping an eye out for openings.

Some say it’s a people or a hiring problem, others chalk it up to the natural employee lifecycle. However, this career transience can be more properly understood as a consequence of poor company culture.

While companies spend billions of dollars and thousands of hours working on enhancing their consumer-facing brand, they spend a fraction of that on their employer brand.

Companies often neglect their “employee value proposition,” meaning they don’t spend enough time thinking about how to differentiate themselves from other companies in a job market that has seen increased competition for talented employees.

For a company to differentiate itself in this increasingly competitive market, it needs a laser-like focus on its employees. More than the just good of the company, your employees are interested in achieving work-life balance and seeing to their own personal well-being. They want to work for a company that values those things as well.

Work and life aren’t easily distinguishable from one another these days because every employee, from CEO to the newly hired intern, carries things with them from their personal lives into the workplace. The personal and the professional exist in symbiosis, neglecting one is doing a disservice to the other.

Invest in your team holistically. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make your team feel cared for in the place they spend nearly one third of their lives. Making this effort can increase employee retention, engagement, and attract new talent.

An investment in the well-being of your employees as individuals is an investment in the company itself. One of the best ways to show that your company is committed to its people just as much as it is to its customers and profits is by building a well-functioning wellness program.

Establishing an employee wellness program impacts more than just the individual, it creates a more productive, motivated, and engaged workforce. Don’t believe me? Here are five examples of how wellness can turn your company culture around, creating real business impact:

1. Goals

light bulb

Wellness programs are an effective tool to align company goals with the health and well-being of your employees. They clear a path for employees to incorporate their personal well-being into their work, as opposed to handling work and wellness as separate entities.

One of the main reasons that people don’t participate in wellness programs is because they don’t believe they have enough time (as many as 51% of employees according to an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Study). However, it only takes a little creativity to align wellness goals with productivity goals, and this small effort will ultimately impact the business in a big way.

Starting with an easily accomplished task, such as setting reminders to break up screen time by taking a short walk, can establish momentum that will help build efficiencies into the work day and ultimately help to reduce burnout.

2. Morale employees working

It’s not a leap to suggest that the way an employee feels about their job directly impacts how they perform on the job. Morale and engagement are intertwined.

Around 70% of U.S. workers report not being engaged at work. In thinking about the colleagues I referenced in the opening paragraph, seven out of ten of them aren’t being utilized to their full potential. That’s disturbing.

Wellness initiatives can strengthen the commitment of the individual to the company. It’s a reciprocal relationship; employees who feel cared for are likely to match that feeling in commitment to the company – not to mention engaged employees perform 20% better than their counterparts.

If your office morale is low, don’t be afraid to get creative and try some out-of-the-box morale boosters.

3. Stress

employees

The presence of high amounts of stress in the workplace can make or break the relationship between employee and company. While a manageable amount of stress is healthy and motivates people to succeed, it can easily become overwhelming.

Stress presents itself in two forms, eustress and distress. The former pushes people to reach their goals and the other stifles production and growth. The root cause of stress for 80% of employees is work.

A wellness program that takes this into account and provides resources or activities to deal with high and sustained-stress situations can help identify and address negative stress before it becomes a problem. If stress does become a problem, it can lead to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.

4. Relationships

employees

Fostering friendships in the office is beneficial both on a human level and as a good business decision. The Gallup study referenced above shows that about 20% of U.S. workers report having a best friend at work, which in itself isn’t that interesting. However, if employers could get that number up to 60%, the study posits that the resulting bonds would influence higher customer satisfaction and a 12% increase in profits!

The difference comes from a sense of being part of a team, rather than feeling isolated. Your employees will carry a greater sense of responsibility and purpose because they won’t perceive their work as only impacting them as an individual, but how it impacts the team, and company as well.

Offering activities that bring your team together outside of work can help foster closer relationships. Something as simple as sponsoring a company kickball or softball team can lead to seven times more engaged employees, and a more robust bottom line for the company.

5. Culture

laptop

A commitment to wellness is a commitment to building a strong workplace culture, and it follows that caring for your team means caring for your business. A strong workplace culture impacts more than just your employees, culture seeps out into the interactions employees have with customers, partners, and the community. Engaged employees are also your best resource in attracting talent, they’re the ones most likely to be extolling the virtues of your company culture on sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Your company’s biggest asset is the people that have bought into the company’s mission. Ignoring the needs of the people that keep the ship afloat is dangerous and might leave you swimming with your head just above water.

Has your company invested as much in its people as it can or should? If not, what do you think you can do to change that? Leave a comment and start the discussion!

For more information as to how wellness can impact employee engagement, click here.

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About the Author
Barron Rosborough
Barron Rosborough is a seasoned digital marketer and writer from Los Angeles, CA. He writes on topics ranging from wellness to leadership (and everything in between). He is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at SnackNation, a curated healthy snack subscription service for offices and homes.

 

 

 

 

ideas for employee appreciation week

Out of the Box Ideas for Employee Appreciation Week

Promoting a consistent culture of recognition is an essential component to employee engagement, but who says you can’t step up your appreciation game every once in a while? A good celebration tends to incite a positive atmosphere that is almost tangible to the touch – and the positivity is infectious. People’s smiles get a little bigger, the laughs a little louder and the residual feel-good attitude can be felt for days after. What’s not to love about that?

In the world of employee recognition, Employee Appreciation Day is the be-all and end-all of celebrations. In fact, some people (ourselves included) take it so seriously that we celebrate it for a whole week! If you’re keen on the idea of doing something extra special for your people to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day (or week), we’ve got some fantastic suggestions for you:

Fun and Games

My local gym (actually, it’s more like an adult playground) has a great little message on a wall that reads, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”  There are numerous gratifying aspects of working, from building your career to meeting some amazing people, but I am a firm believer that everyone has an inner child who is just waiting to be let out to play. Here are some ways to indulge the inner child in all of your employees:

  1. Craft Room
    Fill a room with different art supplies and encourage your team to let their imaginations run free. If you have especially artistic employees, ask if they would like to share their skills through an art class.
  1. Games Room
    Puzzles, board games, cards – there are an infinite number of games out there. Games have come back in a big way in 2017, and they are the perfect way to facilitate some team bonding and to let off some steam in the process.
  1. Jumbo Games
    If you want to go big on the game front, rent a bigger game, like a ping pong or foosball table, for your employees to enjoy during the week.
  1. Trivia
    Have a condensed jeopardy type competition at lunch or put out random trivia questions throughout the day. To spice things up, add prizes.
  1. Throw Back Thursday: baby photo edition
    This one requires some prep, but is well worth the effort. Ask your team to bring in their baby photos in the days leading up to EAD/EAW, then compile the photos on a poster board and let the guessing begin. For added difficultly, sprinkle in some celebrity baby photos.
  1. Photo Booth
    Rent a photo booth (or get a Polaroid camera) for the office so your team can document the employee appreciation moments and get some new pictures to put up at their desks – or to share on social media. This has the added benefit of showing the outside world (think perspective employees) how cool and fun your workplace is.
  1. Comedy
    I have yet to meet someone who is not a fan of a good laugh. Reach out to a local comedy group and get someone in to get the chuckles going in the office. Who knows, maybe you even have a few comedians on your own employee roster.
  1. Scavenger Hunt
    There are SO many options with how to approach this. From items in the office to incorporating the surrounding neighborhood or having an ‘employee scavenger hunt’ (e.g. find someone who has completed a triathlon), there is huge potential to be creative here. Scavenger hunts are also a great way to promote inter-departmental collaboration and bonding.

Snacks and Treats

Snacks are fantastic, and I do not think it would be untrue to say that free snacks are an almost guaranteed slam dunk. Ever pay attention to what happens when the après meeting ‘leftover sandwiches are in the kitchen’ email goes out?  Mass kitchen migration.

  1. Hire a food truck to park outside the office (on the company’s dime) for lunch
    Food trucks are all the rage these days. They offer new twists on old classics, have unique menus and can provide more good fodder for social media posts.
  1. Ice Cream Sundae Bar
    Delicious ice cream. Creative toppings. Need I say more?
  1. Smoothie Bar
    Same idea as the Sundae Bar, but a healthier option (and could be more appropriate if you’ve been making wellness a priority at your company this year)
  1. Team Picnic
    The outdoors and food are two pretty awesome things, so when you pair them together it’s a pretty excellent outcome. Have a nice patio? Get your team outside and into the fresh air for a bit.
    **This is more applicable for those working in warm environments. If you’re located in an area where average temperatures in March are below zero this could be perceived as a perverse form of punishment.
  1. Top Chef Competition
    I would be willing to bet that every office has a few aspiring chefs in their midst. Put out feelers in the time leading up to your Employee Appreciation celebrations and see if anyone wants to put their culinary prowess on display for an entertaining, and tasty, competition.

Personal Development

  1. Ted Talks
    Screen Ted Talks throughout the celebrations – bonus points for committing to the ‘theatre vibe’ with comfy seats and treats (popcorn machine anyone?). You can put out feelers leading up to the event and ask people to submit topics or speakers of interest.
  1. Leader Q&A
    Transparency is king. It provides people with a sense of inclusion and breaks down some of the typical hierarchical barriers. Create a comfortable environment where Leaders answer employee’s questions and hear their ideas. It’s a good idea to include a moderator and a question submission box, in case employees wish to ask sensitive questions anonymously.
  1. Celebrate Personal Accomplishments
    People in your organization are capable of, and may have already done, amazing things. Take some time to celebrate your team member’s accomplishments outside of work – this is also a great way to get to know them as individuals, beyond the office.

These are just some ideas to get the ball rolling, the key to a successful Employee Appreciation Celebration is incorporating aspects that matter to your employees.

Start celebrating Employee Appreciation Week by giving thanks and appreciating your employees today. Recognize their great work with a personalized recognition card. Get started here. 

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About the Author

Sarah ClaytonSarah Clayton is the Communications and Campaigns Specialist at Achievers, where she focuses on generating content to drive desired recognition behaviors and engagement on the platform.

 

 

 

Positive Work Culture

5 Company Initiatives That Improve Office Culture

In today’s competitive market for talent, office culture is everything. With employees spending most of their time (some upwards of 50 hours a week) in the office, it’s should come as no surprise that HR leaders consider developing and nurturing corporate culture and employee engagement to be their number one challenge.

Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to improve company culture. Initiatives that promote health, work-life balance, kindness and gratitude already exist and can go a long way in bolstering a positive office culture while also increasing engagement.

If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few initiatives to consider:

Employee Health

Companies have been holding organization-wide health challenges and the like for some time now, but the kinds of health initiatives employees desire are different than they once were, where end results were all that was emphasized. People don’t want to step on a giant scale and see how much weight they lost (or didn’t lose!). Instead, they want measurable processes that lead to overall well-being; to track progress with technology, get stronger, healthier, and feel great. With that in mind, here are a few modern health initiatives to try:

Supply organic lunches: According to a 3-month Communispace study. millennials care deeply about what they eat: “More than a quarter say organic, natural and non-toxic products are part of maintaining their health and may see them as alternatives to traditional medicine, signaling an opportunity for brands well beyond the traditional health care sectors,” If your organization can’t pay for lunch every day, choose a couple days to provide an organic lunch for employees or consider partnering with a catering company or bringing in a chef.

Strength challenge: You are probably familiar with popular health hashtags such as: #Healthyisthenewskinny and #progressnotperfection. With the idea of encouraging progress towards health goals in mind, why not hold a fitness challenge and then give employees a period of time to prepare for a re-test, challenging them to improve their performance and beat their old numbers. The friendly competition will encourage camaraderie and morale among employees while emphasizing greater personal health through competition.

Sleep goals: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the more sleep an employee gets, the less likely they are to call in sick: “Results show that the risk of an extended absence from work due to sickness rose sharply among those who reported sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours per night,”

With fitness trackers and other wearables, people can now track how long and how well they’re sleeping every night. Set a sleep goal for employees and have them track their sleep over a period of time to earn rewards like gift cards, merchandise or PTO. Employees will feel better and they’ll love telling people they have “sleep goals” for work.

A Kindness Initiative

We could all benefit from more kindness in the world these days; not only at work but throughout our daily lives. In a recent poll, 76 percent of respondents said the world is a less kind place than it was 10 to 20 years ago. One way to bring more kindness, respect, and empathy into the workplace is with a kindness initiative.

It should include the following components:

Create a set of kindness “pillars” that everyone follows. Examples include: When giving constructive criticism or performance feedback, always give “compliment sandwiches” (compliment, criticism, compliment), assign work based on people’s strengths to set everyone up for success, exhibit small acts of kindness like holding the door open for coworkers, etc.

Institute regular recognition of employees. For this to stick, it has to work top down. Managers and team leaders can plan a monthly meeting where one or a group of employee(s) is called out for their excellent work. To ensure a tangible element for this type of recognition, employers can also create a wall of fame to post photos of these high performing employees. For larger organizations, an employee recognition platform is a great way to create and embed a culture of recognition.

Encourage employees to “give props” to their peers. If you use a tool like Slack to communicate within your office, this is easy to facilitate. Set up a channel where employees can recognize one another with a timely “thanks” or “nice job” regarding recent business successes. Using Slack, colleagues can not only tag the recipient of the “props”, but the entire channel, so everyone sees what that person did. Some recognition software providers, like Achievers, even allow the integration of popular tools like Slack within their recognition platform to further encourage “recognition in the flow of work”.

Employees will love getting the extra recognition, and more kindness may help reduce drama and sticky office politics.

A Volunteer Initiative

Giving back is not only good for the soul of your organization, it’s also good for attracting and retaining millennials: But sadly, only 57 percent of millennials believe that business leaders are committed to improving society. A volunteer initiative is relatively easy to set up and gives you a chance to boost your employer brand while also increasing loyalty and engagement among millennials.

Here are a few suggestions for setting up a volunteer initiative:

  • Hold a bi-annual volunteer event, where employees volunteer their time rather than go into the office for the day. Don’t do it on a Saturday—not only will you likely cripple turnout, but employees will likely not appreciate having an initiative such as this scheduled during their free time.
  • Reward employees who volunteer on their own time with “free” half-days.
  • Give every employee one workday a year, month or quarter to take part in a volunteer activity of their choosing.

In addition to the inherent value of the good deed itself, participating employees will feel good about themselves and gain more respect for your business, making volunteer initiatives especially valuable.

A Work/Life Balance Initiative

In the aforementioned Communispace study, 49 percent of millennials reported work-life balance as an important part of their health and wellness, followed by relationships with friends and family (47 percent). Employees of all generations care greatly about achieving a proper Work/Life balance, making it an important part of any culture campaign.

Luckily, there are many ways you can help employees foster desired work-life balance:

  • Half-day Fridays: Offer this once a month, or during a specific quarter. Many companies do this in the summer, when people tend to go on more weekend escapes.
  • Flexible work hours: Instead of limiting office attendance to the standard 9-to-5, allow employees to work when and how they can personally be most productive, whether that means coming in and leaving early, or working through the night. As long as they are performing up to expectations and making themselves available for meetings and other requests from colleagues, allow them the flexibility to manage their own schedules.
  • Work from home: If possible, allow employees to occasionally work from home, be it once a week or month.
  • Unlimited time off: This is something many startups and even larger companies are starting to offer. Employees can take as much, or as little time off as their job permits, without worrying about PTO caps or tracking their remaining vacation days. Fostering trust among your employees does wonders for engagement and it also benefits employers as it has been suggested that employees may actually take less time off when they have unlimited PTO.

A Shadow Initiative

This initiative allows employees to shadow their peers for a period of time. Business departments often get siloed and have little understanding as to what each other is doing. Shadow initiatives give everyone a chance to understand the roles of their collegues and see how their two positions can work together to achieve even better results.

To keep it organized, allow one department to shadow each month. For example, in March, members of the marketing team will shadow whomever they want. Set your time period (4 hours, an afternoon), and ask each shadow pairing to come up with one way they can work together in the next month.

Employees will love spending time doing something new and the business will flourish as connections are made that take projects and ideas to the next level.

To learn more, download the white paper All For One and One For All: Uniting a Global Workforce With Company Culture.

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About the Author
Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She’s been featured on Forbes and has written for sites such as Lifehack, Inman, Manta, StartupNation and more. When she’s not working, she’s enjoying sunny San Diego with her husband and friends or traveling somewhere new. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

 

Reasons to welcome the millennial influence

The Demands of Millennials Make Our Workplaces Better

For all the complaining about Millennials and their approach to the modern workplace, they are actually responsible for much of the change happening in the modern workforce. Their entry into the workforce, was accompanied by a slew of stereotypes, followed recently by a round of myth-busting, with statistics and all, aimed at debunking those stereotypes. As an “ancient Millennial” myself (a term I borrow from journalist Jessica Grose), I can attest that at least some of the stereotypes come from kernels of truth, but like most stereotypes , they must be taken with a grain of salt. More importantly, many of the changes Millennials bring to the workplace are actually good for everyone. Change is always hard, so it’s natural to initially oppose or question the forces of change. However, most of the changes that Millennials have brought about have actually made for a better workplace.

The influence of the Millennial generation is not to be underestimated, if for no other reason than its size. According to a recent report from SHRM, (“Millennials: Misunderstood in the workplace?”) as  Baby Boomers exit the workforce, an even greater number of Millennials will continue to enter the workforce to take their place. In fact, it is estimated that Millennial workers (those born between 1980 and 2000) will make up more than  half of the workforce by 2020. And, according to Pew, they already make up the largest overall share of workforce, having surpassed Gen X’ers in 2015. With those facts established, here are four reasons to welcome the Millennial influence:

Generalization #1: They need constant feedback: Millennials grew up in a feedback culture. Some say that Millennials are obsessed with getting positive feedback (you’ve likely heard of the “trophy generation”, but put simply, it is the belief that we are doing our youth a disservice by lauding them for mere participation rather than awarding success.). But even if that’s true, it likely contributed to an encouraging new trend – the phasing out of annual performance reviews. An annual performance review simply doesn’t tell us enough in today’s fast-paced business culture. If HR hears a complaint about an employee but their 8-month old performance review shows high marks, that documentation does little to advise any action. In 2017, we will likely see employers implement more regular feedback conversations along with frequent “pulse” surveys to help identify and address employee concerns in a more timely, actionable fashion.

When employers engage employees in regular, smaller-scale conversations, both management and employees are better equipped to deal with issues as they come up. This in turn helps employees to feel more engaged because they know their suggestions and concerns are being listened to. Furthermore, by combining these mini performance management conversations with real-time feedback tools for employees, management can help facilitate a culture of transparency in which both positive and negative business outcomes can be celebrated or addressed openly.

Generalization #2: They demand more work life balance: One of my favorite Millennial trends is that men are beginning to demand more time with their families. They ask for paternity leave more than their fathers did, for example. And because married Millennials overwhelmingly co-lead a dual-income household, they can’t buy into the 80-hour work week like their fathers did before them. As a recent article in The New York Times put it: “Millennial men—ages 18 to early 30s—have much more egalitarian attitudes about family, career and gender roles inside marriage than generations before them, according to a variety of research by social scientists. Yet… workplace policies have not caught up to changing expectations at home.”

Likewise, a Department of Labor report also highlighted the growing importance of paternity leave as men consider whether to accept a job, noting: “Paid paternity leave may be a key workplace benefit for retaining high-skilled workers. In a 2014 study of highly educated professional fathers in the U.S., nine of out ten reported that it would be important when looking for a new job that the employer offered paid parental leave, and six out of ten considered it very or extremely important. These numbers were even higher for millennial workers.”

Millennials came of age watching their parents work long hours and aren’t convinced it translates to a happier existence, or even a fatter nest-egg for themselves. With this in mind, employers would be wise to encourage work-life balance in the name of productivity and worker satisfaction. Even the U.S. Commissioner of Labor Statistics agrees that hours with your butt in a seat does not equate to more productivity, “Only if we increase our efficiency—by producing more goods and services without increasing the number of hours we work—can we be sure to increase our standard of living.”

Generalization #3: They need hand-holding. It’s true that most managers don’t have time for hand-holding. However, research published in the Journal of Workplace Learning shows that companies who have a “culture of learning” rely not just on managers to disseminate information. Not only does their training help them perform their job functions better, but employees who are able to embrace learning and growth opportunities also feel more valued and engaged, doubling the value for the company. Learning can happen anytime, often facilitated by a co-worker (“Contextual factors influencing the facilitation of others’ learning through everyday work experiences” by Andrea D. Ellinger Maria Cseh), so managers don’t have to feel the exclusive burden of teaching their staff everything.

Generalization #4: They feel entitled to career advancement: Climbing the corporate ladder just isn’t as important to Millennials as it was to their parents (see Generalization #2: they value more work-life balance.) When they see their managers put in long hours at the cost of their personal lives, it doesn’t look appealing. In addition, Millennials learned the difference between “management” and “leadership” before they even entered the workforce, and the 80 hour week management job that only serves to maintain the status quo is not their idea of having an impact. Millennials might feel entitled to advancement in a different sense. They want to keep learning and keep contributing. If other generations in the workplace adopted this sense of motivation, you might not see a scramble to fill the senior manager job, but you’d have leaders everywhere.

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About the Author
Anna PetersAnna Peters is Content Manager for College Recruiter. She manages all content, supervises a team of content writers and is part of College Recruiter’s senior management team. Her prior experience at nonprofits has made her an expert in directing volunteer recruitment and a champion for diversity and inclusion efforts. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.

 

 

Emotion and Employee Engagement

Intention vs. Action: Love Human Beings Not Human Doings

We judge ourselves based on our good intentions, and we judge others based on their actions. The holiday season is full of good intentions – but also many emotional pitfalls and opportunities to feel let down, put down, or shut down. We feel more pressure to be positive and present with family and friends, on top of accomplishing everything else on our normal end-of-year ‘To Do’ list.

So what gets in the way of us fulfilling our good intentions? Most of the time, it’s our emotions. According to research by Dr. Rachel Jack with Glasgow University there are four driving emotions that impact our ability to have the desired outcome we want. These four emotions are: fear, anger, happiness, and sadness. The challenge is that three out of four of these are negative. So how do we overcome negative emotions in order to achieve the positive outcome or results we desire?

In thinking about this question I was reminded of a client who was preparing for an important customer pitch. He had spent two weeks researching and putting together the best proposal possible with his team. But ten minutes before going into the meeting with his client, he received an email from his manager stating that one of his peers had been fired. He immediately wished he hadn’t read the email before his presentation because it caught him by surprise and left him with mixed emotions. He couldn’t understand why his peer was being let go and it led him to think negative thoughts: “Am I next?” “Why didn’t I see this coming?” “Should I be looking for another job?” Because of this negative emotional response he felt like he had been completely derailed.

But despite the shock he was in, he still had a presentation to give. When he walked into his client meeting he found he couldn’t focus – his energy was low and he couldn’t stop thinking about why his peer had been fired. Midway through the presentation he realized that his emotions were taking over his ability to deliver to the client. So much so that his other team members noticed something was off and began to wonder what had happened to him.

After the meeting was over, he felt the presentation had gone well enough, but was not as great as it could have. He wished he had the chance to re-do the presentation the way he envisioned. The meeting still went well and he was able to make the best of it, but his client and team members had no idea why he was distracted. They were judging him on his actions and how he was presenting himself in the moment – they didn’t know the emotional cause of his uncharacteristic performance.

This type of situation can, and does, happen to all of us. We are cruising along, focused on the day-to-day, when something unexpected happens that instantly derails us – whether it’s a co-worker saying something negative, or reading a difficult email. During these tough moments, it’s important that we bring ourselves back to present-moment thinking.

How do you bring yourself back to present-moment thinking? Start with asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does this feeling need to impact my actions, communication, and relationships right now?
  • Can I separate my thoughts and feelings from one another?
  • Can I take a few deep breathes to engage in the present moment and not be overtaken by what could be?

By asking yourself these questions calmly, you can slowly bring yourself back to present-moment thinking and overcome negative emotions.

The key Emotional Intelligence (EI) tool is to remember we are hardwired as human beings to feel before we think for our human survival, but this does not always serve us in our day-to-day living. Can you move away from the negative self-talk and feelings in order to achieve the results and have the impact you desire? Breathe. Ask yourself a few questions. And then get back to delivering on the good intentions you had set out to achieve that day. Most importantly, when you are interacting with friends and family this holiday season and you feel let down, remember to love human beings and not human doings. You can be pretty confident their intentions were worthy, it may just have been that their emotions got the better of them.

Want to learn more about EI? Check out our blog post How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Drive Employee Engagement.

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About the Author

Bobi Seredich HeadshotBobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

Employee Experience

Beyond Employee Engagement: 6 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience

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“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

The recent history of work has been characterized by increasing levels of automation, greater demands on workers’ time and an overall breaking down of the walls between work and home life. But in our race towards organizational productivity we’ve added so many layered and complicated processes – along with countless devices, tools and platforms – that we’ve ended up completely dehumanizing the workplace. Employees are often termed as mere resources or just another headcount on spreadsheets; they’ve become easily replaceable in the eyes of poor leadership.

This begs the question, what do our jobs mean to us? The reality is that only a small number of people believe that our work drives our lives and defines who we are. The majority consider our jobs to be a means to an end, rather than an end in itself – and justifiably so. It is this silent majority of the workforce that we need to keep engaged by improving and humanizing their experience in the workplace. It is time we start thinking beyond engagement and try to learn what people really want from their job and the workplace.

A decade ago there was a huge push by major businesses to concentrate on customers and gather and act on their feedback. CX, or customer experience, is the sum of all touch points that the customer has with an organization. Starting with Awareness, the first step on the customer journey, then Research, Consideration, Purchase and finally, Service and Support (or some variation thereof), CX encompasses the entire lifecycle of a customer’s experience. Companies spend millions of dollars on nurturing their customers because they know that nurturing and subsequently up-selling to current customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones.

Similarly, EX, or employee experience, is the sum total of the interactions employees have with their organization – from recruitment, to onboarding and beyond. EX is measured by the individual’s experience at all points of contact as measured against the individual’s expectations, and has an effect on engagement, productivity, happiness, personal development, and advocacy. Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are hands down more productive, satisfied, and fulfilled with their job. It’s simple: more satisfied employees equate to more satisfied customers, which leads to more revenue for your business. Attrition is expensive and it is time we start focusing on EX in order to make people want to stay and be part of something bigger than themselves.

Conventional wisdom has linked an employee’s engagement and overall experience to the interactions they have with their immediate manager and the group of people they work with on a daily basis. While that is generally true, we thought it would be helpful to compile a list of the top 6 ways you can go beyond engagement, focus on the full employee experience, and humanize your workplace.
 
1. Open and transparent interactions

open and transparent

In a world where technology has transformed our most basic forms of communication and connection, workplaces have struggled to keep up. Today’s employees seek workplaces where openness is the default for communication, where their voice is heard, and where they feel significant, connected and recognized for their contributions. To create such an environment, employers need to foster a culture where people feel empowered to share feedback, suggestions and recognitions. In this way, employers can magnify the positive interactions among their employees and give senior leadership a view into how their workforce interacts with each other and the amazing work that comes as a result. But to begin with, employers must remember that their employees are not just numbers on a spreadsheet or in an HR system – they are the heart of the company culture.

2. Flexible working hours

flexible working hours

There’s been a lot said about organizations needing to offer more flexible hours to employees and the ability to work remotely. We can’t stress this enough. People have lives outside of work and the easiest way for an organization to show their employees that they care about their well-being and work/life balance is to offer a flexible schedule. That being said, you can always suggest core availability hours, say 11 AM to 3 PM, where you can expect them to be available for collaborating with their teams. If you trust your employees to make the right choice, they will make it 9 times out of 10.

3. Gamification

gamificationAs demonstrated by the recent Pokémon Go craze, or the popularity of Fitbits and “counting your steps,” it’s clear that gamification is a powerful motivational force. What scores of fitness gurus, gym sales people and even spousal encouragement couldn’t force people to do despite years of trying, Pokémon Go has been able to achieve in a matter of weeks. It has managed to get users outside and walking. So how can we bring gamification to the employee experience to produce long-term engagement? The key is to not just to rely on once a year employee engagement events or retreats to magically increase engagement. Bring the gamification into the day-to-day. Encourage little competitions amongst teams or departments and reward achievements continually. Have mini events every month to bring people together. Encourage employees to compete both against each other and their own prior results to keep them motivated. Gamification builds the company culture and is just another fun activity for employees to look forward to and participate in.

4. Recognition and rewards

rewards and recognitionEngaging employees is no easy feat. Recent Gallup surveys have showed that employee engagement has held steady at only 30% of the US workforce for the last few years, trending slightly upwards over the last couple of years. But a proven method for improving engagement levels does exist. Dr. Bob Nelson, best-selling author and a leading authority on employee recognition, has found that, “Organizations that have a ‘culture of recognition’ have employees who report they are five times more likely to feel valued, seven times more likely to stay with the company, six times more likely to invest in the company, and eleven times more likely to feel completely committed in their jobs, which has been shown to account for 57 percent greater effort on the part of employees.” And according to the Achievers 2015 Workforce Survey (revealed in our Getting to Greatness: The Route to Employee Engagement infographic), 57% of employees don’t feel recognized for their progress at work while 93% hope to be recognized at least quarterly, it not more. So don’t miss the opportunity to recognize and reward great performance at work. Through the right rewards and recognition program, tied to real business goals, companies are able to see a direct impact on revenue, retention and customer satisfaction. The value of recognition and engagement is stronger than ever, with a 1% increase in employee engagement equating to an additional .6% growth in sales. But it isn’t just about the bottom line, it’s about making employees feel valued, happy and engaged.

5. Eliminate email

eliminate emailThis will most likely be the most controversial suggestion I make, but I am not alone in recommending that employers try to eliminate email, or at least scale back its use as the primary means of communication within teams. There are a slew of group messaging and collaboration tools like Slack, HipChat and Jabber that empower teams to have effective real-time communications. Leaders can join or subscribe to conversations that they are interested in rather than having to be copied on every email sent by their team members. This is one of the many ways that leaders can encourage employees to get their work done more efficiently while not being too invasive and showing trust in their workforce. Creating a natural, trusting atmosphere for employees goes further than you think.

 

6. Pay parity

pay parityFinally, it is critical that organizations pay their employees fairly. For many years it was clear that there existed large disparities in compensation based on an employee’s gender, ethnicity or personality type. Do not compensate two people who are doing the same work different salaries just because you can, or because they won’t ask. Be fair. For far too long companies relied on people not talking about their salaries with co-workers as cover for unequal treatment. Equal and fair pay is not only ethically sound, it is sound business practice. When employees know they are getting paid fairly they will be more engaged and stay with your company for the long haul, because it’s a place where they feel valued and appreciated.

Based on a recent Gallup poll, an estimated $11 Billion is lost annually due to employee turnover and 71% of the workforce around the world is disengaged. Employee experience is the next business frontier that needs to be fully explored and optimized, and the best way to start improving the employee experience is by making your workforce feel appreciated, recognized, connected and empowered to make a difference.

Are you ready to transform your workplace by focusing on the full employee experience? Download our white paper The Greatness Gap: The State of Employee Disengagement to learn more about how critical employee engagement is for your business and what you can do to improve EX today.

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Amit K. HeadshotAmit Kaura (@tweets_bitter) is a technology leader at Achievers and is helping build the next generation Employee Success Platform. Achievers’ employee recognition and rewards platform provides digital systems for sharing recognitions, feedback, and suggestions. The platform allows you to humanize the workplace by digitizing and thus magnifying the positive interactions among the workforce.

 

Employee Health and Fitness Month

Celebrate Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month (GEHFM), so it’s a great opportunity for you to inject some new energy into your employee wellness programs and introduce new measures for improving employee wellbeing. Healthy, well employees are more likely to be productive, happy, and engaged. Here are some ways you can help your employees achieve higher levels of health and physical fitness, based on suggestions made by the nonprofit sponsors of this special awareness month.

Healthy moments

Improving employee health doesn’t have to mean substantial investments of time, energy, and resources. GEHFM reminds everyone that modest one-at-a-time measures can add up to big improvements over time. You can facilitate healthy moments at your workplace by providing nutritious snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables as an alternative to sweet, starchy office treats. Encourage your employees to get more exercise by subsidizing gym memberships or providing incentives for walking or biking to work. Bringing in a massage therapist to offer shoulder rubs during high-pressure projects is another fun and cost-effective idea.

Healthy groups

Peer companionship can make the difference between success and failure in sticking to healthy new habits. For that reason, GEHFM’s second set of recommendations revolve around forming groups for sharing sustainable healthy activities that will continue on past this one month. You can facilitate such groups by hiring trainers to offer free on-site fitness classes in yoga or other forms of exercise. You can also help employees organize cycling groups, lunchtime walking groups, or after-work activity clubs.

Company-wide projects

To achieve a sense of alignment in the concept of wellness throughout your entire organization, GEHFM encourages you to initiate a company-wide health-related project this month. Here are a few options for creating “culminating projects” that every employee can be invited to join:

  • Hold a step competition using digital apps to track steps and see who took the most steps during a given period.
  • Sponsor a company 5K race to raise funds for a cause selected by the workers.
  • Plan a fun fitness event for workers and their families.
  • Transform a piece of company property into a volunteer-tended vegetable garden.

Global Employee Health & Fitness Month is a good opportunity to get creative and seek input from all your workers. Almost everyone spends time thinking about how they can improve their fitness, and your organization will benefit from the synergy of everyone joining together to lead healthier lives.

Business Travel Tips

7 ways to make business travel easier on your employees

Employee wellness should be a priority for all organizations, and in the mobile workplace that wellness extends beyond the office. Business travel is an essential part of most companies’ success: Harvard Business Review research shows that for every $1 invested in business travel, a company earns $2.90 in profits. However, it’s important that those profits not come at the expense of your employees’ wellbeing. Use these business travel tips to help your employees stay healthy and sane on the road:

Health hazards of frequent business travel

There can be substantial health risks associated with regular travel. Jet lag can lead to impaired immune system responses, higher likelihood of cardiac disease, short-term memory impairment, and even more rapid aging. If the body’s circadian rhythms are interrupted, that can lead to mental health issues. Many people find it difficult to get adequate exercise out of town and find it impossible to cook their own healthy meals. The combination of low activity levels and a reliance on high-fat, high-salt restaurant foods can cause weight gain, fatigue, and a host of other negative side effects.

7 ways to reduce your employees’ travel stress

  • Book your employees in hotels with gyms. If you run step competitions within your organization, be sure that your remote and traveling employees are eligible to participate.
  • Consider offering reimbursement for exercise classes employees take while traveling.
  • Allow employees to schedule an additional night in their hotel so they can rest before or after work meetings.
  • Offer a travel gift pack including face mask, earplugs, and travel pillow to facilitate a restful flight.
  • Use a streamlined travel expense app that allows for automatic expense entry. Harvard Business Review found that post-trip paperwork can be the most stressful part of the trip.
  • Offer assistance with trip planning that prioritizes direct flights to minimize stressful layovers. If connecting flights are necessary, encourage the employee to avoid tightly scheduled layovers that will create worry.
  • Avoid booking redeye flights.
  • Provide employee education programs on stress management and healthful strategies for business travel.
  • Make sure employees have a portable wifi device so they have the freedom to work while they’re traveling and can rest and recuperate as soon as they arrive at the hotel.

When your employees travel for work, they willingly putting their health and well-being on the line for the benefit of your business. Employee wellbeing and employee engagement go hand-in-hand; by making business travel easier and healthier for your employees, you can see better productivity and better business results.

Vacation Time

How to convince employees to take vacation time

Businesses don’t just run on machinery; they run on the hard work and innovation of employees. Unfortunately, many North American employees are stifling their productivity and creativity by working without significant breaks for many months, or years, at a time.

In 2014, more than 40 percent of Americans didn’t take any vacation at all. Taking vacation time, whether employees actually travel or not, is essential for allowing time to rest and recuperate. “Use it or lose it” policies encourage some employees to take vacation time off, but there are a number of other ways that you can improve vacation usage at your organization:

Encourage people to take time off

Some companies encourage people to take vacations by offering several weeks of paid days off per year. Other companies have policies stating that employees are required to use a minimum number of vacation days, paid or not. Companies can monitor whether employees are taking days off through their HRIS and remind them when too much time has gone by without a break. HR should work with the employee’s manager to resolve issues that make it hard for the employee to get away.

Take a vacation yourself

Employees know there are unstated policies that matter just as much as stated policies. If senior managers never take a vacation, or if they’re always calling to check in when they’re away, employees will think that they’re expected to always be available, no matter what HR says the policy is. Take a real vacation yourself to let your employees know that it’s really okay.

Don’t overload employees with work when they return

Who can relax on vacation when you know work is piling up at the office and you’ll be slammed when you return? Have a process in place to handle work so it doesn’t accumulate and overload an employee returning from vacation. Some companies even take care of work-related emails in employees’ inboxes when they’re away. It’s the electronic equivalent of coming back to a clean desk.

Think twice before offering unlimited vacation

Offering unlimited vacation time seems like it should reassure employees that it’s okay to take time off, but it can sometimes have the opposite effect. Without some official norm, employees don’t know how many vacation days it’s really okay to take — they realize unlimited vacation doesn’t mean taking off 364 out of 365 days, but they don’t know just how many days are acceptable. They may take less than they’d like because of the confusion.

Your employees are your best asset. Help them take advantage of their vacation time allowance for their benefit as well as the company’s.

 

Stress Management at Work

7 ways to reduce employee stress around the holidays

The holiday season is a cheery time, filled with lights, presents, and time with loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressful and exhausting time for employees trying to balance work and holiday responsibilities. So, in the spirit of giving, here are seven tips for helping employees deal with stress management in the office:

  1. Provide free flu shots at work

Arranging for free flu shots at work saves employees a trip to the physician’s office or pharmacy. This simple act also sends the message that you care about their health and time. Meanwhile, you benefit by having fewer absences during flu season.

  1. Allow flexible work schedules

Allow flexible work schedules so employees can get still get work done while attending to personal holiday obligations. For example, allow a four-day workweek, or time off during the week to run errands with make-up hours worked at home or job sharing/balancing.

  1. Assist employees with daycare

Students get up to two weeks for holiday break, creating a trying situation for parents of young children and obligating them to use vacation hours during what may be your busiest time of year. You can help relieve the stress by allowing telecommuting or providing access to daycare services during the school holiday period.

  1. Adjust workloads and deadlines

Employers usually have leeway when it comes to assigning workloads and setting deadlines. You can look for ways to temporarily lighten the load by only requiring critical projects or tasks, or moving deadlines to allow more time to complete work. Be realistic about what can and can’t be accomplished as the year winds down.

  1. Offer holiday benefits

Holiday benefits include everything from floating days to financial and other rewards. The key is to give the benefits early enough in the holiday season so employees can take them into consideration during their holiday planning.

  1. Offer holiday health and wellness training

People tend to adopt unhealthy habits during the holidays, such as eating fatty foods and foregoing exercise. Departure from regular routines can be a great stress inducer, so offer health and wellness training that proposes specific strategies for maintaining healthy habits during the holidays.

  1. Celebrate your employees 

Businesses succeed because of their employees. During the holiday season, employers should celebrate and reward employees, commending each on his or her yearlong contributions to business success.

Stress management at work is good for employee mental and physical health, as well as for workplace productivity. A Virgin Pulse survey found that 64 percent of respondents admit that stress distracts them from work and reduces the quality of the work produced. But the good news is that you, as an employer, can do a lot to help employees enjoy the holidays while keeping the business on track.

Office Holiday Party

Underdressing & overserving: Avoid these common issues at your office holiday party

Do you dread throwing the obligatory annual office holiday party? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. While popular among employees, holiday parties can be stressful for managers because spouses and partners may be present, alcohol is usually involved, and inhibitions are generally lowered. Here are six of the most common pitfalls of office holiday parties, along with easy tips for heading them off.

Reluctant guests

This fact should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Attendance at the office holiday party should not be mandatory. Some employees are just not the party-going kind, and even party lovers will feel more festive if they’re there by choice. Likewise, significant others may be welcomed, but their attendance should not be heavily stressed.

Employee costs

If you can’t afford to hold your party without asking your staff to pick up part of the tab, your goodwill effort might backfire. Management expert Alison Green notes that a simple party with small treats will feel like more of a gift than a pricey dinner that your workers have to subsidize.

Overwhelming details

Party planning works much better if you keep your priorities in order. Young Upstarts points out that color-coordinated napkins and perfect tablecloths won’t matter nearly as much as plenty of good food and a generous bar, including options for non-drinkers too.

Drinking and driving

If you’re serving alcohol, HR specialist Suzanne Lucas urges you to make it easy for partygoers to be responsible by making prior arrangements with a cab company, renting a bus, or holding the party in a location that’s convenient to public transportation.

Too much drink, not enough food

You can head off potential overindulgence in alcohol by making sure there’s a steady supply of munchies. Include protein, vegetables, and gluten-free options so everyone will find something appealing.

It’s a party, not work

As a manager, the office holiday party is not the place to bring up work topics. Trying to use the good cheer to fuel work tasks will only deflate the team’s holiday spirit and deplete their motivation.

When handled well, holiday office parties can deepen the camaraderie among team members and build warmth that lasts well into the new year. If you’re sensitive to the potential pitfalls, you can plan ahead and avoid them. Then, you can throw a holiday party that’s enjoyable for workers and management alike.

Dan Harris Meditation ACE 2015

Is meditation magic? It can quiet the brain, lower job stress, and increase focus

Imagine having a panic attack: a sudden feeling of terror that can strike without warning, even during sleep, and that can make you feel like you are having a heart attack or going crazy. Now imagine having one on live television with 5+ million people watching. That’s just what happened to Dan Harris, ABC news correspondent, co-anchor and author of 10% Happier: How I tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress without losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works.


 

Harris shared his story, as well as why he believes that meditation will be “the next public health revolution,” during his keynote speech at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2015.

Harris is frank about the fact that he didn’t want to meditate and didn’t believe in it, but he learned to recognize his inner narrator – you know, the one that we all hear and that “talks” to us about ourselves, what we did wrong, what happened yesterday, and what will happen in the future. He not only learned that meditation can quiet the inner narrator, but also learned that daily meditation can actually grow the grey matter in the brain associated with self-awareness and compassion while it shrinks the part of the brain associated with stress. It also helps the meditator learn to focus on what is happening in the moment rather than obsessing about the past or the future.

Why would this matter in the workplace? Today’s employees are stressed. According to the American Institute of Stress, “numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. …  In New York, Los Angeles, and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work related injury and is compensated accordingly ….”

Despite knowing this, less than 40 percent of companies are actually talking to their employees about wellness. That might be changing, though. Harris says that the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Army, colleges across the country, and even pre-school classes are weaving meditation into their activities.

Daily meditation is easy to learn, can be practiced anywhere and can quiet the inner narrator who might be picking apart the PowerPoint you just presented. We all could benefit from silencing that voice.

Office Design for Employee Engagement

Office design: it affects employee engagement, health, and productivity

When you’re looking for ways to increase your employees’ well-being, your thoughts probably turn to medical benefits, steps challenges, and perks like healthy snacks in the kitchen. It’s true that those considerations all matter, but there’s another factor in employee engagement and job satisfaction that’s pervasive, yet often overlooked: office design. “The evidence linking good office design and improved health, well-being and productivity of staff is now overwhelming,” according to Jane Henley, CEO of the World Green Building Council. But you don’t need a brand-new building to improve your employees’ work experience. Below is a quick look at how some simple environmental design changes can bring immediate results in employee health and productivity.

Check your ergonomics

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) explains that a poorly constructed work station can actually cause musculoskeletal injuries. Chairs at the wrong height or keyboards that force the worker’s wrist into awkward flexing are just two of the many potential risk factors for people whose work involves hours at the computer. Reviewing the height, angle, and structural support of office work stations and making the changes recommended by AAOS can improve your employees’ comfort and productivity.

Workers need some privacy

Privacy is one of the key elements of an ideal work space, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. While employees need some access to each other to develop a sense of teamwork, an entirely open-plan work space tends to be distracting. Research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that worker satisfaction is dependent on maintaining some level of privacy, and the social benefits of open-plan offices can be outweighed by their negative impact on employee well-being. This problem is easily mitigated by purchasing inexpensive screening dividers that give each employee a bit of personal territory. When feasible, constructing private booths throughout the office is also a great way to give employees a quiet, private space to conduct phone calls or work without interruption.

Contact with nature makes a difference

Numerous studies conducted over the past century have repeatedly proven that working in natural light increases employee health and productivity. Furthermore, when workers have a view of natural vegetation, either through a window or within the office, they stay more alert and perform better on attention tests. If you have windows in your work space that tend to stay covered, try raising the blinds and turning off the overhead lights. An alternate strategy is to install light bulbs that provide a spectrum of light similar to sunshine, and to bring some healthy green plants into your office.

It doesn’t take a lot. Employee engagement and happiness can hinge on subtle changes in the physical environment. If you take the time to make a few simple design improvements, your employees will understand that you care about their well-being, and your efforts can pay off in greater retention and productivity.

Commuting to Work

Driving me crazy: How bad commutes affect employee retention

There’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic or squeezing onto a crowded subway. But for many workers, it’s the way they both start and end their day. When we think about the issues that most affect employee happiness and turnover, we often overlook a major factor that actually takes place outside the office: the quality and length of an employee’s commute.

Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace. Tweet: Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace http://ctt.ec/frg2v+

While a recent study by the Brookings Institution shows that commute distances for both urban and suburban residents are increasing overall, managers do have options. There are a number of changes you can make within your organization to help relieve the negative effects of commuting to work.

One big impact that long commutes have on people’s lives is that they increase their sense of loneliness. Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam has studied social isolation at length, and he discovered that “every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer ‘social connections’.” To alleviate your employees’ sense of isolation as they travel to and from work, you can help them set up carpool or vanpool options. That way, they can break the isolation and connect with colleagues while underway.

If employees do need to rely on personal vehicles to get to work, you can make their lives easier by flexing hours in response to local traffic patterns. If you allow someone’s workday to begin and end slightly earlier or later than the standard rush hours, they can avoid gridlock and get to and from home faster.

Since long commutes result in more time spent sitting down (and more fast food consumed en route) you can help employees counter these effects by placing stronger emphasis on healthy habits in your workplace. You can replace the office donut box with fresh fruits and raw vegetables, and offer subsidized benefits such as gym memberships and smoking cessation assistance. Get more ideas for encouraging health in the workplace from our article 5 ways to make healthy lifestyle part of your company culture.

Another way to solve the commute issue is to lessen or eliminate it; telecommuting, compressed work weeks, and job-sharing options allow employees to complete work with less physical travel. The number of employees who work remotely grew by almost 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, and these numbers increased across all sectors even during the recession.

Finally, some employers are considering commute time as a selection factor in hiring, and some job candidates have mixed feelings about the practice. Just ask this letter-writer to the Ask a Manager blog who doesn’t understand why potential employers should care about her 2-hour commute.

While this hiring approach might eventually weed out the commuting problem altogether, it might not be the most effective or ethical way to screen candidates. Xerox, for example, decided not to use data regarding job applicants’ distance from the workplace because it wanted to ensure that its hiring policies were not discriminatory – i.e. because in some areas, lower-income communities might be located farther from the city center.

Whichever approach you take, make sure that your people leaders have awareness of and sensitivity toward commuting issues. Small changes and allowances can have a big impact on employee engagement, health, and productivity long term.

Corporate Wellness Programs

Step it up! 5 ways to make healthy lifestyle part of your company culture

Corporate wellness programs can lead to better employee engagement, greater productivity, and fewer long-term health care costs. However, you don’t need enterprise-level resources to support your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle. Even small and mid-sized businesses can introduce changes that will support a culture of health and wellness, and many of them don’t cost anything.

“The workplace is too often an overlooked but important part of the employee well-being equation. With people spending so much time on the job, it’s key for companies to recognize their influence on people’s health, well-being, and productivity,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, the habits-focused well-being company. “Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving employee well-being, and successfully changing habits goes way beyond a person’s individual willpower. As an organization, anything you can do to support your people’s health will make a difference. It’s all about helping them by making small tweaks to the environment and culture so that healthy choices and changes are easier.”

  1. Promote exercise

Physical activity is one important key to better health. Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you have many options for encouraging your workers to be active. Secure bike parking and employee showers are great options if your facilities allow for those, but simpler innovations can also be effective. Establish and incentivize a lunch hour walking club, or subsidize gym memberships and give points for hours attended. Fitness trackers are also increasing in popularity, and they allow employees to track their steps and other relevant health data. Holding friendly competitions, such as steps challenges, using these devices is a great way to integrate technology into your wellness programs.

  1. Get everyone on their feet

Numerous research studies indicate that prolonged periods of sitting result in unique health problems, and that “exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” according to one biomedical researcher. Provide your staff with standing desk options and encourage hourly stand-and-stretch breaks. Walk-and-talk meetings are another great option, because they simultaneously allow for physical activity while also keeping meetings from running too long.

  1. Offer healthy snacks

Good nutrition will give your employees the stamina they need to stay sharp throughout the workday. While special occasions still warrant cookies and cake, you should support your workers’ daily nutrition with healthier options. Stock vegetable snack trays, fresh fruit baskets, and plenty of low-calorie snacks that people can grab when they’re in a rush. Be sure to position healthy options right within eyesight, and consider hiding less healthy options in cabinets or in opaque containers to reduce temptation. Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google, refers to these easy techniques as “nudges,” and they’re extremely powerful. Google employees were able to cut 3 million calories from their diets as a result of nudges, and your employees could see similar results.

  1. Support mental health

Stress, anxiety, and depression are destructive forces in your employees’ lives. Linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune disorders, these mental health issues also lead to sleep deprivation, family problems, and poor performance at work. Your company and employees both will benefit from any programs you put in place to address these common issues. In addition to providing support resources for employees in need, review your health benefits to ensure that you’re providing adequate mental health care coverage, and encourage or require employees to use all of their allotted vacation days.

  1. Prevent illness

Flu season takes its toll each year on productivity, as employees and their family members succumb to long spells of illness. Furthermore, a hard bout of flu weakens the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to whatever ambient infections cross their path. If possible, provide on-site flu vaccines to your entire staff. If this isn’t feasible, consider subsidizing your employees’ share of vaccine costs and provide paid time to go and get the shots. Additionally, managers should always encourage sick employees to stay home—not only will they recover more quickly, but they won’t spread their illness to colleagues. Ensure that your managers are trained to prioritize employee health over face time.

The health of your business cannot be separated from the individual health of your employees. When your organization becomes an ally in supporting each member’s wellness, you’re committing to better engagement, improved productivity, and increased loyalty. À votre santé!

Employee HR Policies for retail stores

5 ways to improve employee health and wellness in the retail industry

When we consider which occupations pose a risk to employee health, retail positions don’t ordinarily come to mind. However, the OSHA category that includes retail workers suffers the second-highest number of on-the-job injuries and fatalities of all industry sectors. Fatalities in retail work are almost exclusively the result of assaults and violent acts, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. Hazards leading to injury include long periods of standing, heavy and awkward lifting, falling from ladders, problems from indoor air quality, and repetitive manual tasks. Fortunately, you can address the hazards your workers face with a variety of straightforward adjustments. Provide a safer workplace with the top five health-related HR policies for retail stores:

  1. Stools and cushioned mats

Standing for long hours can result in swollen legs, back aches, joint damage, varicose veins, high blood pressure, and foot deformities. The best solution is to let your employees sit on stools while they work. If this is impossible, cushioned floor mats can ease discomfort and reduce the incidence of foot problems.

  1. Ergonomic lifting instructions

Many retail positions require employees to lift and move heavy objects. While back braces are often thought to reduce the risk of injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reminds employers that scientific evidence does not support this. Your workers will be far safer if you fully instruct them on safe ergonomic lifting techniques.

  1. Security planning

Employees who work alone, especially at night, are vulnerable to violent assault. You can help keep your workers safe by training them to recognize and respond to workplace threats. Physical security measures include pairing workers when possible, ensuring their easy access to a phone, and removing large amounts of cash from registers during night shifts.

  1. Enforce breaks

Employees’ productivity and well-being will suffer if they work straight through lunch, breaks, and vacation days. Insist that all staff members take their allotted time off and that working excess hours will not be viewed positively at evaluation time. Ensure that store managers are trained to enforce all required breaks.

  1. Encourage healthy snacking

Team spirit may be bolstered by the occasional birthday cake or donut run, but you can set a different daily standard. Provide free snack plates of fresh vegetables and low-calorie dip for those times of the day when employees usually grab a fast-fix snack. A working fridge and microwave in the staff room will encourage your employees to bring lunches from home rather than relying on unhealthy fast food.

Employee engagement depends on many factors, but addressing basic health and wellness issues is essential for adequately engaging your staff and creating a positive, safe workplace for all.

Employee Perks for the Summer

3 cool employee perks for the hot summer months

Are you and your employees ready for summer? Maintaining employee engagement during summertime can be challenging. But you don’t need to resign yourself to a period of low productivity and motivation just because temperatures are rising. Try these employee perks to keep your team members in the game while also giving them a chance to enjoy the season.

Flexible Work Schedules

Flex schedules are the norm in an increasing number of workplaces, and summer may be when your employees need them the most. Kids are out of school, there may be gaps in childcare coverage, and it’s a prime time for much-needed vacations.

These easy perks don’t cost you anything, but they can help your employees manage this busy, transitional season:

  • Half-Day Fridays: Let your employees go home early either every week or every other week.
  • Revolving Home Days: If employees can complete work from home, set aside certain days and times for it. This lets employees work during “off” hours so they can be with kids or attend functions during normal work hours.
  • Schedule Swapping or Earned-Time Allowance: Planning vacations can be like composing a symphony—lots of moving parts need to come together to create an enjoyable time away. If employees have less vacation time than they need, let them earn more days off by working extra hours before a vacation to create an earned-time allowance. Similarly, make it easier for employees to switch shifts with coworkers to accommodate everyone’s time away.

Relaxed Dress Code

While you want your employees to maintain an appropriate appearance at work, consider allowing some leeway on the dress code during the summer. Let men lose their ties for a few months, and let women wear sleeveless shirts or dresses. The more comfortable employees feel while in the office, the more their heads will be in the game.

Freebie Fridays

Another way to celebrate your employees’ devotion while maintaining their engagement is to hold special events throughout the summer. A smoothie machine one week, chair massages another, or an employee gathering outside of work hours can go a long way toward showing your appreciation. In addition to work-sponsored events, consider arranging discounts with local businesses like sports teams or amusement parks so your employees can enjoy some summer fun at a discount.

With a little planning and a lot of appreciation shown for jobs well done, perks at work can effectively maintain, or even increase, employee engagement during the coming summer season. Flexibility and perks can be the key to continued company success.

While you’re at it, why not take a second look at the rest of your Total Rewards Package? There’s a lot more that you can include in your compensation toolkit besides salaries, bonuses, and a few cool perks. Download our whitepaper, The Total Package: Including recognition in the compensation toolkit, to learn more.

Work-life balance tips

You look like you need a vacation: Helping your employees disconnect

Are you one of the 64 percent of managers who expect their employees to be continually available by email and phone? This figure comes from a recent survey by Workplace Trends, and the ramifications of blurring the boundaries between personal time and work time are concerning. Too often, both employers and employees assume that true dedication means they’re never off the clock – in reality, this inability to leave work behind yields only inefficiency and emotional burnout. Forward-thinking employers support (and even pay) their staff to disconnect completely when they’re not at work.

Weekends and vacations act as mental “reset buttons,” helping workers remain effective by allowing them to refresh themselves and engage fully in other interests. Decades of research show that humans perform better when they have the chance for rest and recuperation. Football coaches encourage players to get plenty of rest before a game, and colleges warn students not to study all night long before a big exam.

An increasing number of businesses now recognize that their workers are more engaged on the job when they have the chance to disconnect. In fact, the CEO of Evernote now pays employees $1,000 to take a vacation in which they stay entirely disconnected from work. FullContact went one step further, offering its employees $7,500 to take non-working vacations.

The trend toward working from home and using personal mobile devices on business trips creates confusion about what constitutes personal time. In addition, the economic pressures of the recent recession have instilled fear in employees that if they take truly disconnected vacations, they might be passed over for promotions.

To encourage your employees to get the mental refreshment they need, here’s a quick list of work-life balance tips:

  • Set an example: When you’re not working, let your staff know that you aren’t available by phone or email.
  • Make disconnecting during non-work hours a company-wide policy, and publicize it widely.
  • Provide assistance with delegating, especially if your employees have a tough time believing it is safe to leave work in a colleague’s hands.
  • Reassure workers that you don’t value them on the basis of over-connectedness. Instead, praise them for demonstrating good mental hygiene (as shown by being able to step away from phone and email).
  • Incentivize taking all the allotted vacation time.

Even if it takes a bit of effort to break the habit, your organization will benefit from the change in culture. When your employees have the chance to take a true break from work on evenings, weekends, and vacations, they’ll come back with increased productivity and improved morale.

Employee Vacation Time

Out of Office—4 Reasons Why It’s Time for a Break

The end of the year is just around the corner. In a little over two months, you’ll have goals to meet, budgets to decide, holidays to plan for, and let’s not forget the start of the flu season. In other words, you probably aren’t thinking much about taking time off—but you should.

Americans are neglecting their vacation benefits, taking fewer days off in 2013 than at any time in the past 40 years. And, if you believe the studies about sitting for more than six hours per day, things aren’t looking good for those of us tied to our desks, 40-60 hours per week.

 

Still not convinced it’s time for a break? Here are four of our favorite links this week to help you get out of the office for some much needed R&R:

  1. Shorter, Better, Faster, Stronger—The Easiest Way to Get More Done? Work Less – Slate
  2. Workaholics who skip vacation are forfeiting $52.4 billion annually – Fortune
  3. This Agency Is Giving $1,500 to Each Employee to Go on an Exotic Vacation – AdWeek
  4. Could Unlimited Vacation Time Work for Your Company? – The Muse

 

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