Friday, 31 July 2015

Absence management - how to Motivate your People on Mondays and Fridays

Anyone who uses our online absence software, Activ Absence,  will tell you that the most popular report managers run is the days of the week report.
That's because once people start looking at how their people perform, the first thing they notice is that staff are more likely to take a sick day on a Monday or a Friday.
It's common sense if you think about it, either day makes a weekend longer!
Sickies on these days are not just about people deliberately extending their weekend - its about years of culture that reinforce negative stereotypes we hold already about Mondays and Fridays.  
Any look in popular culture will throw up a list of songs related to the Monday Blues - how many can you name?  Here's a few for starters:
  • Manic Monday ♪ the Bangles
  • Rainy Days and Mondays ♪ the Carpenters
  •  I don't like Mondays ♪ the Boomtown Rats
As for Friday, its hard to get motivated or focussed when its all about the weekend:
  • Last Friday Night ♪ Katy Perry
  • Thank God It's Friday ♪ Nikki Williams
  • Friday on my Mind ♪ Easybeats
So, apart from the obvious benefits of absence management software, which will help you identify patterns and trends in your staff absence, how can you tackle a century of Monday - Friday culture that gets reinforced at every turn?
The secret is in acceptance - you can't change the world, so embrace it and (my favourite phrase!) turn it into a win - that way, when the world works the way it always does, it will be working for you!
We have a quick team meeting on a Monday.  It gives us an opportunity to get together and set goals for the week.  We establish a clear plan for who is doing what.  I personally struggle if we don't have a meeting, it helps me focus on the week ahead.
The meeting is also a chance for us to have a quick chat, to catch up with each other and 'sympathise' with one another that the weekend has ended.  A big round of applause to my boss Adrian who always makes sure that we have milk for the inevitable dose of caffeine that all of us need on a Monday!  
If people know there is a meeting and their absence from that meeting will a) be noted and b) affect the whole week, they are less likely to take a sick day - and that's reinforced by a friendly, supportive atmosphere in our Monday meetings (save any major issues for a one-on-one later in the week!)
Of course, Friday is another story, everyone is relaxed and ready for the weekend and there is just a little temptation to start it early.
At Activ Absence, we know that everyone naturally views Friday as a 'special' day - the weekend is coming and it's hard to get people motivated about work.  
Adrian motivates us on a Friday with Lidl's beautiful blueberry muffins, reinforcing our tendency to treat Friday as a 'special' day. (If you haven't tried Lidl's blueberry muffins, the fresh ones from the bakery, you are missing out bigtime!)
The price of a muffin has engaged our team for minimal cost and as such our team see 'us' as a special place to work.  Its a part of our culture.  Indeed we've engaged others too, we're known among our suppliers and Twitter fans as 'the muffin people', because we tweet about #muffinfriday (its more fun and says more about our staff culture than 'happy Friday'!)  
So is it just a muffin and a meeting that defines our culture?  No, but they do help us feel included and engaged, because they reinforce beliefs we held about weekends already.  It certainly makes for a pleasant atmosphere at work, but am I looking forward to the weekend?  You bet I am.  
You'll notice I'm writing this on Friday, and yes, I have that delicious muffin in my hand (at least I did when I was writing the first line, I don't have that much self-control!)  I'm off camping and hoping I have a great weekend, but if I bump into anyone at all who could be interested in what we do here, I will gladly tell them, I love our company, our people and our culture and I'm proud of what we achieve here every week.  
Am I looking forward to Monday? Of course not, I'm human, too!  However, I will be attending my team meeting, planning my week, and looking forward to seeing my work colleagues and hearing about their weekends.  Yes, we'll whine about Monday and console ourselves with coffee for the first 5 minutes - but soon we will be bouncing ideas off each other in the team meeting, go away with a great weekly plan and of course.... looking forward to Winesday on Wednesday (its a Wales thing!)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Great Activ Evening at Corporate & Cocktails

Cocktails lined up ready for the HR attendees (and Adrian and Nikki!)
Adrian Lewis and Nikki Roberts from the Activ Team were privileged to attend this week's Corporate and Cocktails event in London, which featured an employment law quiz.

'Corporate and Cocktails' bill themselves as a fresh and lively human resources (HR) networking group and run regular HR events for HR professionals in London.

As Andy Selway, group organiser and very experienced HR professional says, "there is a reason the word “work” is in “network". It's because networking can actually be quite hard."

To change the mould of HR Networking, the Corporate and Cocktails events are informal, fun and friendly.   As Adrian said, "it is great to put faces to the names of the people you work with in an informal setting  - most HR people are people-people like us, so it's fab to avoid the stuffiness and just have a good time while sharing skills and learning."

The 14th July event featured a very successful quiz on HR law, however our own stars, Nikki and Adrian did not even come close to winning!

Every quiz has its winner, and members of the winning quiz team each won £100 experience voucher courtesy of Red Letter Days - as well as the respect of everyone present, as the quiz was pretty challenging!

It wasn't however only the quiz team who were winners that evening, as Activ Absence held a free prize draw for a bottle of champagne which was won by the lovely Natasha Mitchell, Group HR Manager at Adaptavist.

The whole evening's events were captured on film by talented photographer Naomi from and you can see the results at The Corporate & Cocktails website.

It only remains for the team to say a huge thank you to Andy Selway for organising the event, and we look forward to the next Corporate and Cocktails with enthusiasm, delight and just a little bit of a hangover!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

HR in the Cloud & the Candy Crush Generation

  When people talk about cloud based software, SaaS, cloud based file storage and cloud based computing it can sound incredibly scary for those [...]

Thursday, 9 July 2015

25 Bad Excuses for Sick Days proves a You Tube Hit

25 Bad Excuses for Sick Days proves a You Tube Hit

Productivity & absence management challenges this summer!

Absence management is a topic oft associated with National Sickie Day in February, rather than in the height of summer.

However, while the sunny weather is great for putting people in a good mood, the opposite can be true for HR Managers who are used to seeing unauthorised sickness absence rates rise as quickly as the mercury – particularly if Andy Murray is playing well on Centre Court!
Adrian Lewis is the Commercial Director for absence management software business Activ Absence.

He  says, 

The good weather impacts absence rates in many companies. But, this doesn’t need to be the case. With good planning, preparation and a certain amount of 'going with the flow’, the weather can even be an opportunity for engaging employees and raising morale and worker productivity.”

Here's our tips for how managers and HRs can manage unauthorised absence and keep employees productive and motivated:

1.  If you have spent money on fans and air conditioning for your staff that haven't been used since last summer, test them all in late February so you know they will work in the event of a hot spell.

2.  It sounds harsh, but whilst managers should be empathetic to heat related conditions, make sure your team's sickness and holiday is recorded accurately and fairly and dealt with under your normal policies.  Most businesses using paper or spread sheets to manage absence admit they 'skip' recording the odd occasion of holiday or absence, which creates upset among co-workers.

3.  Have a plan for managing a sudden increase in annual leave requests.  How will you cope if, all your fork lift drivers want to take the same days off?  Make sure your staff are fully aware of your policies around annual leave.

4.  Even if you don't have to physically prepare for the unpredictable British summer, try to keep a list of little 'warm weather coolers' can put in place quickly that are pre-agreed by management.

5.  Relaxing the dress code a little in hot weather can help your staff feel more comfortable at work.  Your customers will be warm too, so will understand if people are dressed in a cooler way.

6.  Flexible working arrangements can really help staff cope in hot weather. You could offer flexible start and finish times so staff can avoid commuting at busier times, and if staff are able to work from home, consider allowing them to do so.

7.  If you don't have air conditioning, make sure your staff have access to cold drinks - hydration is important so consider giving staff extra breaks for tea/coffee if they are not allowed to drink at their desk.

8.  Boost morale by treating everyone in your office to an ice cream - keep the number of a cash and carry handy so it's as cheap as possible!  

9.  We know that staff tend to take sickies for summer sporting events - canny managers can turn staff interest in these outside events into an opportunity to build team morale instead by letting staff listen to the match on the radio and bringing in food that day, e.g. strawberries in Wimbledon season, or getting everyone involved, e.g. a 'best hat for ascot' contest.  

Engagement is the key, wherever possible, every opportunity to engage should result in a win/win.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Who's Off Work Sick - There's a Match On!

The Activ Absence team are always 'game' for a laugh, so thanks to our supercool boss and 'Wimbledon Star' Adrian Lewis for being our model!  
Whilst we always have fun at work, absence management is a serious matter. Sporting events like Wimbledon often result in a spike in unplanned absence as fans don't want to miss important matches or overindulge in the Pimms and strawberries over the weekend! Identifying who's off sick can be a challenge, but software can help.
For those keen to not miss key matches, canny managers can turn events like Wimbledon into an opportunity to build team morale by letting staff listen to the match on the radio and bringing in strawberries (or indeed, have managers dressing in tennis whites like Mr. Lewis above!)  
Turning a sickie-prone event into a win/win is one is a neat way to reduce unplanned absence, but obviously not every environment allows for this (may I add Mr. Lewis is dressed normally today!).
Obviously Wimbledon and other sporting events are not an everyday problem, but the cost of short term sickness absence IS a major issue in the UK.  Wearing his serious hat as our Commercial Director, Adrian said:
“Spikes in absenteeism represent a continual challenge for HR managers. Our software can help companies firstly get a grip on the implications of such problems and help inform directors to make the right decision in terms of how to deal with this issue.
“Many companies still use spreadsheets to record sickness, but they don't give any ability to manage and analyse your data. Activ Absence is a brilliant way to keep on top of everything - and it saves businesses time and money."
To see how much absence is costing your business, click here to learn more