Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Why a little Flexibility is a good thing (despite the PJ's)!

When bosses hear 'flexible working',  for some it conjures up pictures of their people sitting around in pj's and spend their days watching such delights as Jeremy Kyle.

I work from home sometimes so I'm sadly able to confirm the rumours about pj's, but I'd rather stick a hot poker in my eye than watch daytime TV, in fact one of the reasons I frequently work from home is because I struggle to work with any noise and I work more productively in the serenity of my lounge.  My other half is the opposite, he works better with chatter and music, the louder, the better.

We're both hard working and productive people - we just work differently.  It's a good example of how different things are important to different members of staff.

Working from home means people are able to create their own unique environment in which they will thrive, which is maybe why almost all the research undertaken to date shows that flexible workers are more productive and more loyal.

However, even offices who need the rigidity of a 9-5 structure could benefit by introducing a little flexibility.

Here's a few things to consider:

1. Do you want your people to be honest with you?

If it's the Wimbledon Final, the day of the World Cup England Match, a Welsh International Rugby Game. or even the first episode of the new Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, your people will know and a good chunk of the conversation with colleagues is likely to revolve around these topics.

We don't tend to plan for TV in advance, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter.   If that critical TV or sports event starts at 5 o'clock, people are more likely to book holiday at very short notice or worse, develop a sudden 'illness' and need to go home early.  If it's in the early morning, chances are they won't be in at all.

Only this week, Lottoland did research which found that 1 in 10 UK fans who watched the US launch of Game of Thrones at 3am took the next day off work, with 47% of them pulling a sickie rather than taking official holiday...scary!

Without any policy governing this, those who don't take time off can feel resentful, whereas those who do are effectively rewarded for being dishonest - it decreases morale and encourages dishonesty, the last things you need in a workplace.

Letting the sports fans leave early or the Lost fans come in late may sound horrific and anarchic at first glance, but if people make the time up later in the week, so long as you have:

  • a system that records the 'absence'
  • a system that manages the requests, so you can still plan staff
  • the ability to make the time up within the same pay period, and 
  • the business is left with adequate cover, 

would it really be that disruptive to offer a little flexibility?

The one thing we've seen is that flexibility breeds loyalty - because it is fair, builds relationships and encourages qualities normally prized by employers.

2. Do you want your people to feel good?

We often forget that working parents are often torn by their desire to be good parents and good employees.  Making them choose the latter over the former is likely to be at the expense of their confidence and mental wellbeing.

Good employers understand people's home commitments and work with them.

Why force employees to miss their child's first school play, their child's medical appointments, or be unable to take holiday because they used all their leave to attend these?  It makes it harder for parents, and adds to the discomfort and guilt of being a working parent - but much of this pressure can be avoided by a little flexibility.

I was an hour late for work on my daughter's first day at school, because I wanted to take her myself that day.  Is that so very unreasonable?  My then boss didn't think so and was happy to let me come in 15 minutes early for the rest of the week to make the hour up.

It wasn't a big deal to my boss, but the difference it made to me in terms of feeling less guilty as a working Mum was incredible.  I'd have felt on edge if I'd phoned in sick and guilty if I'd gone into work.  This option worked for both parties, balanced my work and home life and was visibly fair.

3.  Do you want your business to spend its money on absence?

People are people, and they have a life outside work.  Organisations that offer flexible working arrangements see the lowest rates of absence.

There will always be people with poor motivation, an awful work ethic and a bad attitude, despite your best attempts to weed them out at the interview stage.

However, most people who take sickies are not in this group.  They think that they aren't 'hurting' the business, but are inadvertently costing your company a fortune - in fact, some estimates put the cost for UK businesses as a whole at £29 billion.  In most cases, the ability to work around the reason, e.g. a medical appointment, a TV programme or even a late night, would be preferable both for the employer and employee,

With the right systems in place and a little flexibility, you can manage and record these minor flexibilities, let staff make the time up and avoid paying them for a whole day of 'sickness'.

As for the negative nellies who would throw sickies even if they worked one hour a week, the same system would let you pick them up more quickly and help the disciplinary process sort them out more smoothly - to me, its a no brainer.

Getting the right systems in place is the key to offering flexible working, and you remain in control of just how flexible you want to be.

 Activ Absence isn't just something we sell, its something we use - and I'm grateful it helps me work in my PJs!  However, there's a whole lot more to flexible working than working from home and I'd encourage any employer to take a second look at including it in your 'absence management toolkit'.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Research from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW)*, surveying more than 32,538 workers across all UK industries, revealed that high stress and lack of physical activity are causing industries to lose up to 27 days of productive time per employee each year.

While poor diet, alcohol and cigarettes have a severe effect on long-term health, it is stress and physical activity which have biggest impact on day to day productivity.

The study, which was conducted by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, found that productivity varies enormously between industries, with some industries losing almost 27 days of productive time per employee per year, compared to a national average of 23.5 days. Healthcare and financial services lose 26.6 and 24.9 days per employee a year respectively, while high-tech loses just 18.9 days per employee per year.  Read more

Workers and employers can be flexible, but is transport for workers?

One of the great features of Activ Absence is its ability to manage flexible and remote working.

It gives managers visibility of when staff are working and gives remote workers the ability to plan and manage holidays (and any other leave type) in the same way as their 'traditional' working colleagues.

We've always championed the cause for flexible working, now suddenly everyone else is starting to see the benefits.  Only yesterday, the CIPD said that flexible working was the key to a better life in London, thanks to the time taken to commute to work.    read more...

Activ Absence Sponsor HR Manager of the Year Award

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital was named HR News’ first HR Manager of the Year at an awards presentation in the Heronston Hotel in South Wales.  Activ Absence was proud to sponsor the first HR News HR Manager of the Year Award.

The event saw some of the UK’s best HR Managers past and present and some of the best HR leaders in South Wales.  Leader Mark Hendy also announced the launch of a new South Wales HR network which is due to take place on 20 April at Miskin Manor.

Editor Lisa Baker said:
"It's been a fantastic first year for HR News, and I really want to thank Activ Absence for their support.  Directors Adrian and Richard supported us from the word go, and as the workload has expanded,  they've been generous enough to let me manage the site in work's time."

Of the award itself, Lisa added:

“Choosing a winner from a group who span a range of industries and experience levels was hard.

“How do we choose between a young lady who, with no experience, set up an entire HR Department from scratch, like Mikyla Wollaston from Glanvilles, or a nominee who received ten separate nominations from across her workforce like Rachel Davison from Turnitin?   Katrina from CM Downton juggles multiple locations and a mobile workforce… and Michael Arkins from Fleetmatics manages a global workforce that has grown massively in a short space of time.

“Robey from Age UK and Sue from Tros Gynnal Plant work for charities.  Don’t underestimate how hard that is – they are miracle workers who manage both staff and volunteers from diverse backgrounds and a huge range of abilities.  That takes more juggling and more patience than other HR roles – and they have to do it on a tighter budget.

“We’ve also got Yvette and Michael who work in the Learning and Development areas of HR.  Yvette was coming today, but had a client emergency so can’t make it – she’s doing what she does every day, putting her people first.

“Michael also inspired several nominations from his team – I know he’s a great teacher because in the short time I’ve known him he’s taught me a great deal about Newcastle United and football in general!”

HR News set out to engage and inform HR Managers, and HR managers in turn engage people from the most junior right the way up to speaking at board meetings, inspiring leadership and motivating people at all levels.  Presenting the award, Lisa continued:

“I am sorry that there is only one award today, but I’m proud to award it to James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD  of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

“James received a very warm nomination from his superior, HR Director Ali Mohammed.  The praise in the nomination was exceptional, but so is the winner and their entire team.

“Despite having over 5000 staff, their team are a big family, led with support, leadership and encouragement.  James and Ali have built a team on the principle that good leadership creates future leaders.  I’m confident that James will go back and celebrate this well deserved awards success with his team.”

Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director for Activ Absence said:

"Working with HR News over the last 12 months has been fantastic, its been great to watch their readership grow from just a few loyal subscribers to over 7,000 at last count!  

"We're looking forward to see growth continuing, and the site continuing to thrive.  When we started HR News wanted our 'brand name' to sponsor the new site, now HR News is a brand in it's own right and we are proud to be associated with them."

Monday, 4 April 2016

Lanarkshire Council: Sickness Absence costs £2.8 Million in 3 months

A meeting of North Lanarkshire Council’s Policy and Resources (Human Resources) sub-committee for the last three months of 2015 heard that the cost of sickness absence payments made to council staff whilst off work could reach a whopping £2.8 million – that’s without taking into account the cost of overtime and/or temporary cover as their colleagues struggled to cover the workload.

Read more: Lanarkshire Council: Sickness Absence costs £2.8 Million in 3 months

Friday, 1 April 2016

10 Years of Being a People-Person in the world of Cloud Based HR software

10 Years of Being a People-Person

Old age is good, and whilst I won’t tell you how many birthdays I’ve had, our company is ten this year.  I’m proud to be here and to have a great team of people who work for us.  In fact, life in general is good, the first major holiday of the season kicked us into Spring last weekend – and we finally have the sunny weather in Wales to match (which I can assure you has been a long time coming!)

As the individual who manages staff holiday planning in our business, I can testify that a little bit of sunshine does wonders for increasing leave requests.  I’m luckier than most – as Commercial Director of a software business that offers cloud based leave planning and absence management software, I’m able to approve or reject leave requests with a single click.
I haven’t forgotten the old days of spreadsheets though, and I’m always impressed by HR Managers who still juggle spreadsheets and paper forms.  They somehow manage the intrusive phone calls and resolve the annual leave disputes without dropping any balls!  In a digital age with online calendars, where even birthdays are managed with Facebook reminders, its a little concerning that many of our largest businesses use spreadsheets and paper to manage holiday, leaving HR Managers stressed and with little or no analytics. Read More...