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Remote working employee

Top 5 Benefits of Hiring Remote Employees

Working from home employment is more than a lifestyle perk. It tells prospective employees your company cares about the team. Offering your employees the freedom to work from home is known to increase employee engagement. A Gallup survey states, “the optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their workweek — or three to four days — working off-site.” The next time you have a conversation about whether or not to hire remote employees, reference these top five benefits.

  1. Lures Top Talent

Remote jobs are appealing to everyone, whether you’re a student, parent, or someone with a unique lifestyle. It is a desirable option for people of all educational backgrounds and experiences. Offering telecommute options can give you the competitive edge you need to lock in top talent.

  1. Reduces Cost-Savings

A typical business would save $11,000 per person per year if they offered remote working. Think of all the expenses that would be removed off your budget list, such as no longer needing to purchase cubicles, ergonomic chairs and stationery supplies. Additionally, it can be more cost effective to hire remote employees outside of your office walls to broaden your candidate pool.

  1. Increases Productivity

Did you know 77% of people are more productive working at home? If your office is in Toronto or a popular city, the reality of a 1-2-hour commute can create stress and burnout. When employees have the flexibility of working from home, they have less distractions and can be more productive in their own space than in an office full-time.

  1. Lowers Work Absences

Canadian workers miss an average 9.3 days per year and it’s costing the economy $16.6 billion. With telecommuting, you might find your business having less work absences and higher cost-savings. The primary financial benefits of offering remote work for employers come from lower absenteeism and reduced sick leave. 

  1. Reduces Employee Attrition

95% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention. Some of the major factors that motivate employees to leave an organization include lack of work-life balance and a long commute to work. Offering the ability to telecommute addresses these two motivational factors, and in turn strengthens retention. 

How to Find Remote Workers

Most human resources specialists think common sites like Indeed or Monster is the best way to find remote employees. These websites are helpful but limited in finding a diverse group of talent that are experienced in working from home. Freelance sites like Freelancemyway, Hubstaff Talent and Guru are a few of my top recommendations. Feel free to check them out and start growing your remote team.

Final Thoughts

Remote work experience has financial and productivity benefits for both the employees and organizations. It improves work-life balance, decreases costs, and can attract a higher volume of top talent. I recommend the next you’re advocating for hiring remote employees, turn to this list and prove remote work is worth the investment.

Are you looking for ways to retain employees? Get inspired with Achievers’ employee retention infographic and learn more about the current retention epidemic by accessing this report.

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About the Author
Makeda Waterman is an online media journalist of 4 years with blog features on CNBC Make It., Huffington Post, Glassdoor.com, Elite Daily, Fast Company, among others. She is passionate about helping people improve the quality of their career.

 

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What Employees Really Want from Their PTO Package

Paid Time Off (PTO) Is More Than a Privilege

Hard work and determination are as American as Jersey Shore reunions and bacon-topped desserts. And to make ends meet in our highly competitive, ultra-consumerist society, U.S. employees often find themselves putting in long hours, taking fewer lunch breaks, and even getting side-gigs to keep pace. Well, worth it or not, thou who burneth the candle at both ends burneth out entirely. That begs the question, is all the tenacity balanced with sufficient PTO and the ability to stay home when you’re sick? And what’s more, do workplaces feel the need to encourage those hours with cold, hard compensation?

Are 11 Days of PTO Too Many or Not Enough?

A new study by TSheets found employees are, for the most part, getting their hard-earned PTO, as 84 percent of employees said they receive PTO. On average, American workers receive 11 days of PTO per year, which includes both sick and vacation pay. That said, around 16 percent of the employees surveyed said they aren’t receiving any PTO this year, and 21 percent said they get somewhere between six and 10 days.

Be it work reflecting life or life reflecting work, employees who do have time off with compensation are still leaving precious PTO hours unused at the end of the year. In fact, the survey found that 65 percent didn’t use all of their PTO last year — five days, on average, were left unused.

There are reasons for the leftover PTO hours, of course. Some employees have hours that roll over into the next year, and some felt the pressure to work. Others simply didn’t take the time. When you look at respondents in certain age groups, those reasons became more varied.

Although younger people were more likely to have leftover PTO (61 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds versus 39 percent of the 45-and-up crowd), the reasons didn’t quite match up. Less than half (42 percent) of employees aged 55 and over said they didn’t take their PTO in full because of their workload, whereas only 18 percent of the younger employees gave the same reason.

Employees Under Pressure

As much as we’d like to believe our work-life balance is, well … balanced, most employees want to do a good job and put in a hard day’s work. That could be why the majority of the people surveyed (60 percent) gave work-related reasons for not using their PTO, and nearly a third of the respondents said they felt pressured to work instead. To make matters even more confusing for those of us who love a good vacation, almost half of employees admitted to working during vacation or on sick leave.

And what does pressure add to the mix? Well, stress, for one. Without that PTO, employees feel more stressed. Over half (58 percent) of employees who said they didn’t use all of their PTO said they’d describe their stress levels as “unhealthy.”

The PTO Employees Really Want

Since people occasionally need time to recalibrate and take care of personal items without thinking about work, time off isn’t just about vacation days. Nearly half of the employees who participated in the TSheets survey answered that they’d like to get more time off.

But when they were asked to choose between more PTO or a raise, 74 percent said they would take the money. Despite historically high levels of employment, more than 1 in 3 workers (39 percent) said they would accept a job without PTO.

In terms of the type of time off benefits employees desire, paid holidays tops this list, with 91 percent of employees ranking it as the No. 1 benefit. A close second (88 percent) value sick leave, and paid vacation came in third with 87 percent. Interestingly, fewer people said maternity and paternity leave are the most important benefits.

One in 5 said employers shouldn’t provide maternity leave, and 28 percent said employers shouldn’t provide paid paternity leave. With all that said, almost half of the respondents replied they’d take a lower paying job if it meant having more flexible working arrangements.

Choosing the Right Benefits of Employee Health and Well-Being

From what we’ve seen, it’s obvious that PTO is incredibly important for employees. And whether providing the 11-day average is a possibility, employers are responsible for determining whether PTO is a privilege or an integral piece of a compensation package that values an employee’s well-being, rest, and personal time.

So what’s in it for the employer? Happy employees, of course! Use holiday leave, sick leave, and vacation time as a recruiting tool and as a way to retain the best employees. As hardworking as our nation may be, technology has indeed made it easier to do our jobs and has given us the potential to arrange, plan, and track PTO when we need it.

Are you looking for new ways to incentivize the modern workforce? Get started with Achievers’ Incentives eBook.

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About the Author
Kim HarrisKim Harris is a copywriter and blogger based in Boise, Idaho, who has been putting her journalism background to good use telling true stories and helping businesses grow since 2008. When she’s not writing for TSheets by QuickBooks, you’ll find her queuing up entertainment and plotting her next escape.

 

 

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Employee quitting

4 Ways to Prevent Your Employees From Quitting

When you hire a new employee, that person is already looking for a new job and at risk of quitting. That rather dire warning is offered by Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace and one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. Schawbel cites a study by his company showing that one-third of American workers are at the risk of quitting and looking to change their jobs within the next six months. Employee turnover, he points out, “costs companies a fortune,” and the numbers agree: Losing an employee in the first year of their tenure can cost your company up to three times the person’s annual salary. Clearly, employee retention is a top priority for every organization and it’s HR’s duty to build a strategy that can prevent employees from quitting. Here are four HR best practices to strengthen work culture and protect your company from the high cost of worker churn.

1. Provide Relevant Training Opportunities

As Schawbel investigated the underlying causes for employee attrition, he found a major perception gap between management and workers when it came to a training and development. Sixty percent of managers reported that they provide their employees with a clear path for advancing their careers, while only 36 percent of workers felt that this was true. This discrepancy needs your attention, because you ignore it at your peril: Employees (especially the highly talented ones you’d most like to retain) have more power than they once did, because their skills are in demand. Schawbel’s study found that 41 percent of employees say that they would leave their present companies if they found a position that offered better career advancement.

These numbers suggest that there is more to this equation than simply providing opportunities for training and development. That’s the first step, of course: A study of 4,300 workers found that 74 percent don’t feel that they’re achieving their full potential in their current position, and only 12 percent feel that the training they did receive is actually applicable to their job duties. Along with offering appropriate pathways for your workers to develop their skills, you should ask for frequent feedback to make sure that these opportunities are perceived as being relevant and useful.

2. Encourage Healthy Work-Life Balance

Thirty-nine percent of employees state that a negative balance between work obligations and the rest of their lives constituted a “major pain point” in their careers. These statistics are highlighted by Rich Hein, senior managing editor of CIO Magazine. He points out that the average tenure for an IT worker these days is less than four years, and an unmanageable set of work demands is one of the main culprits for this high turnover rate.

While you can’t necessarily relieve each employee’s outside personal challenges, Hein points out that your organization will benefit by offering flexible hours or telecommuting options. Multiple studies reflect the fact that providing flexibility to employees results in fewer sick hours, greater employee happiness, higher productivity and less stress.

3. Keep Your Managers in the Spotlight

It’s an old truism that people don’t quit jobs — they quit bosses. Even if you’re well aware of this basic human resources principle, it never hurts to be reminded that your management-level staff are key to retaining your workforce. “One manager with poor people skills can do damage to the culture and effectiveness of a company in a short period of time,” points out Maricopa County CIO David Stevens. Too often, people with outstanding technical know-how are promoted to leadership positions, where an entirely different skillset is needed. Fortunately, management training and coaching can be highly effective, and can enable your middle management staff to perform at their full potential.

Productivity consultant Laura Vanderkam adds an interesting twist to this standard advice. She points out that a manager may feel attached to keeping a “rockstar employee” in his or her department, and may be reluctant to provide development training that would advance the person’s career. For this reason, Vanderkam encourages executives and HR specialists to specifically reward managers who successfully move their outstanding employees forward into different departments. The manager’s individual loss will be the organization’s gain, as employee alignment will be strengthened by new career opportunities.

4. Show Your Employees That You Appreciate Them

Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah identifies employee rewards and recognition as one of his three key ways for retaining employees. He acknowledges how easy it is for busy managers to put employee retention “on the back burner,” and he finds that continuous positive feedback is his go-to method of letting employees know how valuable they are to the company.

There’s an art to employee recognition best practices, however: It’s important to provide feedback on an ongoing basis, but workplace expert Lynn Taylor points out that it can’t be “robotic.” Your appreciation needs to be authentic and varied, delivered in a variety of forms. To keep a sense of freshness present in your appreciation, you can change up the channels: Providing your workers with a chance to recognize and praise each other’s contributions will nurture teamwork. Similarly, you may sometimes recognize the unified efforts of a whole team or department, so that it’s clear that everyone benefits from strong employee alignment.

You invest significant resources into recruiting and hiring. Once you’ve onboarded those top-notch employees, however, your HR challenge is only beginning. Lynn Taylor reminds managers, “Retaining the best and brightest is what ultimately matters. The most innovative and successful companies today [have] taken retention efforts to an advanced level.” To learn more about the current retention epidemic and how to prevent your employees from quitting, check out our latest report highlighting key findings from a survey taken by 1,724 employees across the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia.

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How would you prevent an employee from quitting? Share your comments below.

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20 Fresh Ideas for the Best Employee Appreciation Week

At Achievers, we couldn’t quite wrap our minds around designating just one day a year for employee appreciation. One special employee appreciation week, though — that can be a great opportunity to renew your commitment to showing your employees how much you value them.

Below are a few fun ideas you can use to really show your employees what they mean to you.

Optimize the Workplace

1. Create a Mentoring Program

Mentoring shows each worker that they matter, and creates new bonds of connection within the company.

2. Non-Work Lunch With the Boss

Take your team members out to lunch, either individually or in small groups. Keep the conversation away from work topics; instead, spend the time getting to know each person better.

3. Team Games

Make a list of fun activities (like bowling or laser tag) and ask your team to vote on their favorite. Be sure to offer appealing alternatives for anyone with physical limitations.

4. Do Your Employee’s Job for a Day

Draw names from a hat to choose one worker whose job you will do for a day. The chosen person will supervise you and make sure you do it right. You may just get a bird’s eye view of problems you weren’t aware of.

5. Crowdsource Innovation

Send out an employee survey asking for suggestions on ways to make the workplace run more smoothly, then hold a vote and promptly implement the winning idea. Your team will feel valued and you may well see an uptick in productivity.

6. Add Fun to the Break-Room

Sometimes, having a puzzle to work on is a great form of mental relaxation. Toy stores feature an incredible selection of cute, wacky, challenging and compelling amusements for all ages, and just seeing them will lighten up everyone’s mood.

7. Upgrade Office Furniture

Do people’s chairs need replacing? Providing your staff with ergonomic office furniture is a great way to ward off possible back problems and improve productivity. Your team will appreciate the fact that you care about their health.

Tip the Work-Life Balance

8. Massage or Manicure

Bring in two specialists and let each team member choose which luxury they prefer. Whether they end up with fancy fingernails or more relaxed shoulder muscles, it’ll brighten their day.

9. Housecleaning or Window Washing Coupons

Arrange for a bulk discount at a local housecleaning agency, and give all employees coupons for a single session at their homes. Even the tidiest housekeepers will welcome a helping hand.

10. Free Pass for Time Off or Late Arrival

These passes are sure to be coveted, and they’ll demonstrate that you respect your workers’ outside commitments. The flexibility of being able to pick a day to come in late, leave early or stay home will reduce the stress of conflicting demands, and will increase employee engagement.

11. Add a Fountain for Mental Refreshment

The sound of water is proven to bring a sense of calm and well being. Add a small water feature to your office, with a fern or two, and green up the atmosphere of your workplace.

12. Gift Certificates for Childcare and Dinner

It’s great to offer workers the chance to go out on a real date, but this can create extra expenses for those with young children. Professional child-care agencies offer gift certificates, allowing your employee to enjoy the luxury of a real evening out.

Offer Rewards and Recognition

13. Handwritten Notes

Yes, we mean just sit down with a pen and a stack of paper. Think about what each person has accomplished this year, and thank them for their specific efforts and achievements. It’s simple and straightforward, and will put a lasting form of validation into your employees’ hands.

14. Flowers

Natural beauty isn’t just for women; dramatic and colorful floral arrangements can be created to appeal to all tastes, and show that you care about aspects of life deeper than just the bottom line. For large teams, a major assemblage can be placed where everyone can see it.

15. Gift Cards

Everyone loves the luxury of getting to shop for free. Choose gift cards according to each workers’ preferences, or pick a type that covers so many different items that it’s guaranteed to delight every recipient.

16. Free Gym Memberships

This will add to your productivity by upping your workers’ fitness levels, and the extra exercise will improve their emotional health as well. Pair the memberships with some schedule flexing so employees can find time to actually get to the gym.

17. Artisan Food Delivery

Does your city have a gourmet cookie or cupcake delivery service? Handmade artisan food treats are becoming more common, and nothing says quality and caring like treating your workers to the best edibles out there.

18. Serve Breakfast to Your Team

Reserve the first hour of one day for a truly great catered breakfast. Once the food has been brought, grab a coffee pot and start pouring the coffee and serving the waffles. It will show that you’re willing to go the extra mile for your people!

19. Create a Team Scrapbook

Ask everyone to contribute a few photos, and take some of your own as well. Use photo-editing software to create a printable book, add some personal compliments and then print one copy for each person on your team.

20. Broadcast Your Appreciation

Take to your company’s employee recognition platform and give a shout out to everyone on your hardworking team. Recognition, whether monetary or social, is always welcome, and it takes on extra power when it’s offered publicly.

Employee appreciation is most effective when it’s given out on a consistent basis and is an integral part of your daily routine. For more in-depth discussion on building up your employee morale, download our report on The Art of Appreciation. And make sure to check out our infographic highlighting results from our 2018 survey on “New Year, New Job?”.  You’ll be surprised to see how many people are planning to look for a new job this year and what it takes to retain them.

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Are you looking for a great eBook? Check out our newest eBook highlighting 3 ways to make recognition an everyday event.

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Do you have any other fun employee appreciation week ideas? Share your comments below.

Female Employee Must-Haves

What Female Employees Really Want in the Workplace

This is not the 1960s, but it’s difficult to convince many female employees who function within outdated corporate Human Resources policies. The policies read like a military manifesto by describing rigid schedules and failing to mention recognition and reward systems or establishing promotion policies favoring men. The HR policies form the unforgiving backbone of an organizational culture that disengages the modern woman, even as the organization struggles to understand why it cannot meet gender diversity workforce goals, has difficulty with recruiting and hiring talented and skilled women and is challenged with low female employee retention rates.

Tale of Two Worlds

Gallup data found that 48 percent of female employees say they are actively looking for a different job or watching for new opportunities. Though 73.5 million women over the age of 16 are working, they’re often caught between two opposing worlds. In one, she’s viewed as capable of career success and managing work and family. In the other, she’s criticized for denying her children a full-time mother to pursue a career. For the majority of women, it’s children who have the most influence, so the ability to achieve work-life balance is a major determinant of happiness.

A Matter of Importance

As a business leader, you are challenged with finding ways to make the workplace engaging to female employees by developing an inclusive culture, implementing HR best practices and recognizing and addressing issues of importance. Following is a list of what female employees desire in the workplace to find happiness.

Supportive Culture

The workplace culture influences gender diversity because it impacts talent management practices, interactions with co-workers and managers and career opportunities. A positive culture encourages employees to assist each other and to treat each other with integrity. It emphasizes the meaningfulness of work. For female employees, all the characteristics of a positive workplace culture inspire what they want – respect, compassion and positive relationships.

Mentoring

Talented women need a voice in the workplace because they’re still overcoming biases holding them back from advancing. Traditionally, men worked their way up the corporate ladder to assume senior leadership positions. Historically, women were not hired for higher-paying jobs and are still not fully included in succession planning and career planning, keeping them out of the loop for promotions into leadership positions.

Mentoring experienced and newly hired women gives them organizational visibility and access to decision-makers. A Global Strategy Group study sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation found that only 34 percent of the women surveyed believed their workplace put a high priority on having women in leadership positions. A lack of support from mentors for career advancement and lack of access to career-building personal connections keep women from advancing.

Recognition and Reward 

Properly structured work benefits and perks are important to engaging all employees. Raising the profile of talented women in your organization through a strong recognition and reward system is a success strategy. Implementing a rewards and recognition program enables your co-workers and managers to recognize exceptional effort, innovative ideas, team contributions and leadership.

Family-Friendly Work-Life Balance Policies

A Fairygodboss survey of women attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland found a correlation between the number of weeks of maternity leave allowed and job satisfaction. Employer policies supporting work-life balance are important to women. Your policies can embrace supportive maternity leave and a flexible hours work schedule or a home-office work schedule, for example.

Since children have the most influence on whether women work, the ability to balance work and family responsibilities is extremely important. When a child has a doctor’s appointment or is on school break, savvy employers allow women scheduling flexibility. Flexible work schedules take many forms, from a set number of hours worked from home to the full ability to determine when and where hours are worked.

Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias, embedded in workplace cultural norms, expresses itself in many ways. It limits women’s access to important projects, thus harming their advancement opportunities. It’s expressed during recruitment or performance reviews when men are consistently rated higher than women. It’s found when men are primarily chosen for prime training and development opportunities or promotions. Women want unconscious bias addressed in all its subtlety.

Equal Opportunities and Equal Pay

Statistics say the pay gap persists, with women earning approximately 77 percent of what men earn (figures vary depending on the source). There are a lot of reasons for the gap. In a study reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology, men who act altruistically, such as staying late to work with colleagues, were viewed more favorably than women who did the same thing. Women desire fair treatment, equal opportunities and equal pay.

Opportunities for Meaningful Work

In an ICEDR study, millennial women cited a lack of interesting and meaningful work as the third main reason for leaving organizations. Female employees want the work they do to make an important difference in some way, such as contributing to the improvement of people’s lives.

Paying Attention to Happiness

Paying attention to employee happiness reaps big rewards for organizations. Multiple studies have proven that a gender-balanced workplace enhances employee engagement, increases productivity and profits and improves organizational and brand reputation. Achieving gender balance requires a mix of policies and programs that engage, motivate, recognize and reward, as well as offer equitable pay and career opportunities to women.

Engage Your Employees

Employee engagement is mentioned first because an engaged workforce is inclusive, motivated, productive, recognized and rewarded. Giving employees the recognition they deserve is key to employee engagement. For more information on how to engage your employees, watch this webinar recording on Using Recognition to Drive Engagement.

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To learn more about what makes employees happy by checking out this infographic highlighting results from Achievers’ “New Year, New Job?” survey.

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Top 10 Company Perks

10 Irresistible Company Perks for the New Year

In a recent survey of millennials, more than 30 percent said that they’d like their workplace to be “more fun” – and this element seems to be in short supply. Survey respondents noted that “fun and humor” were job aspects for which daily reality fell far short of their wishes. In order to entice and retain the most talented workers in today’s competitive job market, it’s important to come up with company perks that will add fun to your environment. Here are 10 amazing possibilities that could make your employer brand sparkle in the new year:

1. A Place in the Spotlight

Every company has a few would-be stars yearning to strut their stuff for colleagues. AOL has found that events like lip sync battles, happy hours, and ping pong or Foosball tournaments are great at keeping staff engaged. Andrea Marston, AOL’s senior director of talent acquisition, notes that “Offering these company perks helps keep AOLers happy and excited to come and have a productive work environment.” Bain goes farther afield with its “Bain World Cup” soccer tournament for employees once a year.

2. Vehicle Maintenance Service

Okay, we know that having your vehicle worked on doesn’t really qualify as fun. But the opportunity to painlessly take care of routine auto maintenance or bike repair on the clock leaves your team more time outside of work to do something more enjoyable. Adobe offers this service worldwide, while adding kayak storage at its Seattle campus. And, in order to make sure that transportation is never a problem for its employees, Adobe also offers shuttle service and a guaranteed ride home.

3. Company Yacht

This one only works if you’re located near the right body of water, but many organizations on the San Francisco Peninsula are realizing the potential benefits of proximity to the bay. One of these is iCracked, with its Redwood City headquarters right next to a communal dock. Employees who need a break can take the yacht out for a spin on the bay to clear their heads and breathe in the fresh salt air.

4. Flex Time for Surfing

It’s hard for staff members to feel down when the workplace reception desk posts daily surf reports – and then offers flexible hours so they can take advantage of those days with absolutely perfect waves. At Patagonia’s Ventura campus, HR director Shannon Ellis says, “Whether it’s playing volleyball or going down to the beach, we encourage people to take a moment of time to reconnect and enjoy summer.”

5. And Snowboarding…

Vermont snowboard maker Burton, located in Vermont’s Green Mountains, offers its workers flexible hours so they can catch the powder while it’s fresh. Free lessons and demo equipment lure newbies and veteran riders out onto the slopes, with free passes and discounted lift tickets thrown in. Meanwhile, office attire at Burton includes “jeans, flip-flops, mud boots” and anything that the workers feel like wearing.

6. In-house Cooking Lessons

For employees who want to actually enjoy a home-cooked meal (rather than dining at one of the company’s specialty cafes), Adobe hosts cooking classes by the company’s executive chef in the “Learning Kitchen”. These type of company perks may not fall under traditional forms of worker training, but it’s bound to keep team members on the company campus for longer hours.

7. Workspace in the Woods

Spanish architecture company Selgas Cano located its office in an actual forest (conveniently located in downtown Madrid). Workers sit at eye level with the leafy forest floor, under a curved glass wall and partial roof that let in abundant natural light. The structure is partially embedded into the ground as well, making it comfortable regardless of season or outdoor temperature.

8. Wrap-Around Lifestyle Benefits

Cutting-edge companies like Yahoo pull out all the stops when it comes to company perks. The team can get a haircut, massage or dental care; visit a farmer’s market; get their car washed; play volleyball; exercise in the fitness center; do yoga and enjoy free meals three times a day – all without leaving work. Yahoo Director of Communications Carolyn Clark states, ” [We want] our employees to feel excited about coming to work every day and making a difference.” With benefits like these, employees might never want to go home.

9. Concierge Service

For employees who are too busy with work tasks to take care of personal errands, Wisconsin household product brand SC Johnson employs a full-time concierge. This person may do anything from standing in line for concert tickets to taking an employee’s car in for an oil change – helping workers with that tricky work-life balance.

10. Employee Recognition

All the parties, boat rides and cooking lessons in the world can’t substitute for giving your employees frequent individual recognition. HR technology introduces creativity into your workplace and also provides a streamlined way to reward your team members for their unique contributions. Coworkers and managers can all participate together, while workers enjoy the fun of being rewarded for their efforts.

More than three-fourths of millennial workers state that “the culture and atmosphere of their workplace is just as important as pay and benefits.” In today’s tight job market, you’ll keep the edge over competitors if you provide unbeatable company perks and make your company into a place where people simply enjoy hanging out. To learn more about attracting and retaining employees, download our infographic on Six Stats That Speak to Employee Retention.

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5 Ways to Empower Employees to Do Their Best Work

A business or team can only be as successful as the sum of its parts. There are several companies with effective leaders that struggle with employee turnover or poor performance. According to one Gallup poll, 24 percent of employees who aren’t in a leadership or management role feel disconnected from the company or team.

This can decrease employee satisfaction, which significantly affects performance; if employees no longer care about their job, why would they care about doing it well? Empowering your employees to do their best work and be an integral part of your company can reduce their disengagement, and in turn, boost performance.

Here are a few ways to do exactly that:

1. Challenge Your Employees (Within Reason)

To avoid employees becoming bored or stagnant with their duties or roles, set goals. This helps to push them past their comfort zone and realize their potential. The goal is to set the bar high, but not too high—the goals should be attainable, yet still challenging to reach.

To set goals that empower your employees, keep these seven tips in mind:

  • Align goals with company objectives.
  • Allow employees to identify their own job-specific goals.
  • Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-based) rule.
  • Make them attainable.
  • Keep goals between employees consistent.
  • Reward those who achieve their goals.
  • Work closely with those who miss the mark.

All of these tips allow you to use goals as a way to empower employees. They’ll just need a little guidance along the way.

2. Define Opportunities for Upward Mobility

No employee wants to be stuck in a dead-end job. If your staff feels there is no opportunity to advance in your company, they’ll seek opportunities to do so elsewhere. Be transparent and communicative about how staff members can earn more money, take on a bigger role, or advance in leadership.

“Even in the best-case scenario where managers are holding regular performance reviews with their employee, employees often don’t understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in an organization,” according to Louis Efron from Forbes. He continues, “But, for any employee that is worth retaining, a manager must make clear to them how and where they can move forward on their career path.”

In many cases, there may not be a clear trajectory for an employee within a company. In this case, uncover employees’ strengths, desires, and interests to see how they can take a larger role within the organization. When they know there’s room for growth, they’re empowered to get to that next level.

3. Encourage Open Communication

Do you have an open-door policy in your office? Do your staff members know that they can talk to you or other managers when they have questions, ideas or concerns? It’s important that your staff members feel their input matters instead of a dividing line between management and lower-level employees.

“When employees feel they can communicate freely with their leaders and each other, they’re more likely to feel valued, satisfied and motivated at work,” according to experts from The Office Club. “Finding a boss who eagerly listens to questions or concerns is harder than you think, so make your company and leadership style stand out with effective communication.

To encourage open communication, give employees the opportunity to share feedback on big, company-wide projects. Don’t forget to include every team whenever possible and use monthly meetings to remind employees about where they fit within the greater scheme of things. When they see how their work is having an impact, they’re empowered to do more.

4. Offer Praise and Recognize Strengths

While employees should be intrinsically motivated to do a good job, there still needs to be an aspect of humanity involved in the workplace. In short, workers need frequent feedback and praise. They want to know their efforts are appreciated and that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

You may think you don’t have the budget for this, but praise and recognition doesn’t necessarily mean monetary rewards. There are countless ways to recognize your employees for a job well done, including:

  • Regular verbal praise
  • “Shout outs” (flyers, cards or emails)
  • Activity-based rewards
  • Small gift cards for coffee, food or other items
  • Half-day at work

Be specific in your praise, this will help employees identify what it is they bring to the table; when they realize they’re good at something, they’re empowered to do more of it because they know they can make a difference.

5. Promote Vacation Time and Work-Life Balance

Even the most dedicated employee gets burnt out if he or she doesn’t have a work-life balance. Happy employees are both career-oriented, and dedicated to their life outside of the office. When you let them have time for the things that are important to them, they’ll have more focus and energy during the time they spend at work.

“Your employees will actually be more productive and better at their jobs if they are well-rested and rejuvenated,” says Peter Daisyme, of Business.com. He continues, “You don’t have to mandate full weeks off at a time, but you should foster an environment where a long weekend here and there is not only tolerated but actively supported.”

When you’re sympathetic to their needs and circumstances, they’ll be more willing to work hard. You show appreciation to employees and in turn, empower them to do the same.

Empowering employees to work harder and better improves the entire company and boosts retention—a win-win for everyone.

For more information on how you can empower employees to survive the most daunting corporate difficulties, such as massive change, check out this blog post on Staying Engaged During Corporate Change.

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About the Author
Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the last two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 or connect on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

How to motivate employees during the holidays

How to motivate employees during the holiday season

The winter holiday season is often a distracting time for employees. They may be hosting family members or planning to travel, the kids are home from school, and they may be working under generalized holiday stress. The common outcome for business is a high absentee rate and a distracted work force, leading directly to lowered productivity. As a manager, it’s your job to find positive ways to keep everyone on task. Below are three basic tips to keep your employees enthusiastic about their jobs despite the pressures of the season.

Plan ahead and be flexible

Don’t let holiday scheduling sneak up on you. Meet with your staff right now to go over everyone’s scheduling needs and to make sure the office doesn’t end up shorthanded. Nothing adds to holiday burnout more quickly than employees being forced to do someone else’s work in addition to their own. If your staff can work remotely, consider letting them extend their time away while still meeting productivity goals. Also remember that winter holiday travel can be affected by weather, and half your team could end up snowed in at an airport across the country. Likewise, allowing schedules to flex a bit to accommodate holiday obligations can help support your employees’ work-life balance and build loyalty to your company.

Create a festive atmosphere

Your employees are going to appreciate your acknowledgment that the holiday season is special. Business Know-How notes that you can increase employee motivation by offering a few celebratory observances. “Secret Santa” exchanges are popular and cost-free for your company. Plus, supplying an assortment of treats and decorations that recognize all of the different holidays that are celebrated during this season can create an atmosphere of emotional warmth. If possible, schedule a holiday party during the workday, so you’ll avoid putting pressure on your employees to invest scarce personal time in work-related events.

Offer rewards and recognition

Kimberly Merriman, associate professor of management at Penn State University, points out that providing parties, gifts, and other forms of acknowledgment carries important symbolic value: “They send a message that the employment relationship is more than simply a transactional one.” A Glassdoor survey focusing on holiday recognition found that “53 percent of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciation from their boss.”

Knowing how to motivate employees is essential throughout the year, but it takes on unique importance during the holiday season. If you plan ahead, create warmth and recognize each employee’s unique contribution, you can build good will that may last until next year’s holiday season.

Dogs at work

Do dogs at work actually improve employee engagement?

Dogs at work are the latest perk to have employees salivating with envy. From Nestle Purina’s “bring your dog to work day” to the “woof-top” dog park built on top of Zynga’s San Francisco headquarters, a growing number of companies are letting employees bring their pooches to work.

The office is not your home, however. If it’s not appropriate for your employees to wander around in their PJs, why should you welcome dogs at work? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons, and whether it actually affects employee engagement:

Pooches reduce workplace stress

Employees who bring their pets have less stress. In one study, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that workers who had dogs nearby experienced declining levels of stress throughout the day, but stress levels spiked by 70 percent for workers who left their dogs at home. From a work-life balance perspective, bringing your dog to work means that employees don’t have to worry about their four-legged friends sitting home alone all day. Pooches also contribute to the casual feel of the work environment and introduce a tangible sense of fun that relieves stress.

Staff members become more sociable

One of the reasons pets have such a marked effect on workplace-related stress is because they encourage the staff to open up socially. Even on the most hectic days, team members walking past a dog tend to engage in mushy, one-way conversations and scratch the dog’s belly. A dog’s antics give co-workers something to laugh about, and this binds them together — making for a friendlier office environment that, according to Purina, boosts productivity.

Dogs can distract co-workers

While a study by Central Michigan University confirms that dogs at work could help build camaraderie and trust, the study also admits that pets can distract some employees. What if co-workers have an allergy or phobia? Employees are unlikely to work efficiently if they must chain-swallow antihistamines or cower in their office to avoid canines. Also, what impression might clients get if they hear barking in the background?

Pet-free zones can help

Employers who ignore the wishes of canine-loathing staff do risk alienating a portion of their workforce. That’s why it’s crucial to lay down the ground rules before you invite your tail-wagging friends — and that includes designating pet-free zones for workers who are uncomfortable around dogs. Ultimately, the burden of avoiding messes and aggressive behavior lies with the pet owner. It’s a perk that comes with responsibility.

Inviting dogs to work may not be for everyone, and staff buy-in is crucial. However, if both the dog and team are happy, then maybe it’s worth giving dogs at work a trial run.

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.

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.

Benefits of Telecommuting

Should you let your employees go remote? How to weigh the risks and benefits

The benefits of telecommuting are becoming clearer, and this practice has gained popularity so fast that it is now considered a standard perk in some industries. Forrester Research predicts that by 2016, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will primarily work from home. Not only that, but a Global Workplace Analytics survey found that 36 percent of employees would choose a telecommuting option over a pay raise. Would your organization benefit from allowing, or encouraging, some employees to work remotely? There are a few key factors you should consider before you decide to offer this option. And be aware—if you don’t discuss telecommuting proactively, your employees will likely start asking about it soon.

First, consider what types of jobs are best suited for remote work. Obviously anyone dealing with customers, patients, or physical objects can’t telecommute. If you have team members whose effectiveness depends on immediate information exchange, then their roles are not well-suited for telecommuting. However, many information-based jobs can be done from home just as well as they can from a cubicle, if not even better. Many employees report higher levels of productivity at home, when they don’t have to deal with distractions from coworkers, ambient noise, and difficult commutes.

Effective telecommuting requires certain basic ingredients, both human and technological. Before being granted the right to work remotely, an employee should demonstrate consistently high performance and commitment to the job. Once they’re home, they’ll have no oversight, so managers will need a good way to track results and keep employees accountable. (Though this is true even for employees who come into the office every day – results speak much louder than butt-in-seat-time).

Additionally, you will have to consider the technology needed to support effective remote workstations. Will your staff members need to share a virtual whiteboard space, have real-time group meetings, or simultaneously mark up documents? Remote work platforms are becoming more sophisticated, but it might take some up-front investment on your part to provide your employees with high-quality software and audio and video equipment.

Telecommuting is somewhat unstructured by nature, so creating a structure is a good idea. Be clear with your employees about what hours you expect them to be available, and through what means of communication. Ask for input from your employees, and engage in conversations about the possible issues that might arise. Once you have the technology and policy in place, begin slowly: Have workers telecommute one or two days a week at first, and then evaluate how things are going at the end of each month. While you may increase this schedule to several days a week, you’ll probably still want to have regular meeting times where everyone comes together in the same place. It’s important that employees continue to feel a sense of belonging and identification with your organization.

Employee engagement is the key to business success. Employees feel more engaged and productive when they are able to effectively balance work and family obligations. In fact, businesses whose workers telecommute at least three times a month are likelier to see a 10 percent higher annual revenue growth. That means that telecommuting doesn’t just benefit your employees—it can benefit your business’ bottom line as well.  When managed well, your team of virtual employees can get the best of both work worlds.

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.

Happy at Work

Get Happy—5 Links to Help Keep Everyone Smiling at Work

Imagine it’s a Monday morning and you’ve just arrived to the office. How’s your mood? Are you excited to be at work? Does the prospect of a new week get you excited? Are you smiling?

Happiness in the workplace may sound like a pie-in-the-sky concept, but the good news is, it’s not. Although happiness has often been attributed to an individual, there are things managers and companies can do to help foster a happy office environment. Here are five of our favorite links from around the web to help get your office smiling.

 

1. Why Happiness at Work Matters – (Inc.)

2. Make Fun a Workplace Priority for Happier Staff and Clients – (Lifehacker)

3. The Benefits of Bringing More Play into Your Work – (tinybuddha)

4. 5 Simple Office Policies That Make Danish Workers Way More Happy Than Americans – (FastCo.Exist)

5. Reframing Your Way to Happiness – (Forbes)

Maintaining a happy and fulfilling home life is a goal most of us have. So, with most of our waking lives spent at work, striving for the same at work makes perfect sense. Keep these tips and insights in mind as you and your company works to keep your employees happy and engaged.

 

Photo courtesy of: adt610 via Compfight cc

5 must-reads for the in-the-know HR Professional: Week of March 29th, 2013

work_life_balanceComing off the momentum of Sheryl Sandberg’s book launch many discussions have been started about work life balance; how does one obtain it, does it actually exist, and how does it relate differently for men versus women in the workforce. The articles I collected this week touch upon the different perspectives around work life balance, so enjoy the read and let us know what your final say is on the topic.

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Take back your vacation days!

Have you seen the awkward yet equally comical commercial about “taking back vacation days?” Even though the commercial advertises Las Vegas, the overall message is worth repeating: employees should take their vacation days, and employers need to encourage it too!

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Why you don’t want workaholic employees

For many employees, the idea of a 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. Smartphones and other forms of technology now keep us connected to work 24/7 and, as a result, the lines between work time and personal time are completely blurred. It is easier than ever for employees to become workaholics and “burn the midnight oil” responding to client and business emails or working on projects. Many employers may think that these workaholics are great news for their business productivity and profitability, but they need to think again.

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A personal touch: The key to successful new initiatives

Dear A Advisor,

My Human Resources department would like to instigate an exciting new initiative: our employees can choose a personal ‘Top One Goal’—for their finances, their health and wellness, or their other personal projects—and aim to reach that goal by the end of the year. I’m concerned about how to make our new initiative effective. We’ve already decided to offer prizes and incentives along the way, but I would really like to make sure that the program is fully integrated into our employee’s work life. How do I ensure that my colleagues get the support they need to fully utilize the program?

Thanks for your help!

Covering Our Bases

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You say goodbye and I say hello: The secret to retaining your workforce

Fact: job dissatisfaction is directly related to life dissatisfaction.  “We”, by Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse, observes that employees who are stressed, micromanaged, and disengaged at work suffer negative repercussions in their external relationships, health, and general life happiness.  Not to mention, employees are increasingly being diagnosed with work-induced anxiety and stress disorders.  Employers need to abandon the work-life separation mentality and recognize that work is a part of life.  You can’t retain disengaged employees because people won’t settle for a disengaged life.   Stop saying, “Goodbye”.

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Satisfied employees meet the bar; Engaged employees set the bar

A,

We’re working with our managers to get them to recognize their teams more, but management don’t seem to see the value.  They feel like everything is fine as is.  How can I explain to others exactly what the term “engagement” means?

Yours truly,
Miss Engagement

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