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How would you rate your workplace well-being?

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How well is your workforce? Australia has been ranked 25th out of 25 comparator economies for work-life balance on a report into working lives by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  This suggests that workplace well-being in the Australia needs attention.

Long working hours in particular are a concern. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Director and CEO Barry Sandison said, “while we have made some inroads into achieving work-life balance, we are still among the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to working long hours”.

Left unaddressed, long working hours can lead to health problems such as stress, burnout and eventually increased absences.

There are several factors that can affect employee well-being with workload being just one. World Well-being Week, which runs from 24 – 28 June, presents a great opportunity to check-in with employees and reassess the overall well-being and happiness levels of your staff.

Why is workplace well-being so important?

First, as an employer, you are legally obliged to ensure the health and safety of your staff. Failure to comply puts you and your business at risk.

Second, people work better when they are happy. Healthy working environments help people to develop, while engaged and happy workers are more likely to be committed and more productive.

Third, employees are often the frontline of your business and typically manage relationships with customers and suppliers. If employees are not at their best, your company image can suffer.

How to improve workplace well-being in your business

Workplace well-being is comprised of health, good work, happiness and welfare. So in order to assess the well-being of your workplace it is a good idea to start by assessing each of these areas.

Health

From physical to mental health there are many ways in which you can manage and promote good health amongst your employees. Promoting telephone support services for emotional well-being, implementing a cycle to work scheme or holding training on stress management are some good starting points.

Good work

Good work looks at an employee’s ability to do their job well and reach their potential. Hiring the right people is crucial for good work to take place, and regular reviews or 121s keep track of performance. Review job descriptions regularly to make sure that additional workload has not crept in over time. Moreover, promoting an inclusive culture and providing accessible workstations make a difference day-to-day.

Happiness

How engaged are your employees? This can be a good measure of happiness, as unhappy employees tend to be less interested in their work and can lack motivation. If you are concerned about morale, try organising a fun activity that promotes teamwork, or a schedule for engaging lunch-and-learn sessions.

Welfare

One in four employees have mental health issues causing stress and anxiety. These concerns may not always be work related but can have an impact on work. Providing access to support can make a huge difference.

Best practice and policy

A well-being policy can show your commitment and dedication to employee well-being. It sets the tone for your organisational culture and can help to retain and attract the talent that your business needs to succeed. If you think your workplace well-being could do with an upgrade, get in touch with your local HR Dept today.

 

Top tips for managing remote workers

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There are many benefits to employing remote workers for your business, such as reduced overheads and better flexibility. But managing them comes with its own challenges. On-site employees jesting that their homeworker colleagues are “slacking”, and a lack of visibility on productivity are just some of the obstacles you might face when managing remote workers.

Whether you employ office staff that work from home on the odd occasion, operate teams overseas or supervise a large network of homeworkers, remote work needs dedicated management to suit a unique set of circumstances.

The rise of remote working

Perhaps you are yet to manage remote workers. But as the desire for flexibility picks up pace amongst today’s working population, you may find yourself managing people working remotely sooner than you think. Many people are seeking opportunities that offer a good work-life balance. Additionally, advances in technology continue to better our channels of communication and aid our ability to work well remotely.

Ultimately, hiring or appointing remote workers is your decision and will come down to the specific needs of your business.

Effective management of remote workers

If you’re considering widening your prospects for recruitment or would like to review your current management of employees working from home, see our top tips below.

Encourage transparency

A stigma of home working is that if you are not seen to be working, you can be perceived to not be working. This assumption can damage working relationships between co-workers and the morale of the person working from home, who may feel a need to overcompensate.

To overcome this, consider online solutions for tracking workflow and productivity. Having all employees update their progress, regardless of their location, via the same system, can improve transparency and productivity.

Using video calls to keep everyone in the loop

As with all employees, good communication is essential. This can be even more important when managing those working remotely. If your team is prone to having open discussions and making quick decisions, those working from home could be missing out.

For any important matters make sure to schedule a meeting and dial in the relevant remote workers. If you can add video to the call, even better. Participants are less likely to zone out if they are on camera and it’s nice to see a familiar face once in a while.

Promote inclusivity

Working remotely offers less of an opportunity to connect with colleagues and can sometimes be an isolating experience. It’s important that managers and co-workers remain mindful of this and include remote workers whenever possible.

Some simple ways of being inclusive can be remembering to invite homeworkers to socials or team away days, scheduling meet-ups between homeworkers or days when they can come to the office. Or even allowing them to claim back a home delivery if the whole team is enjoying a pizza reward.

Review the arrangement

It is a good idea to regularly check-in with your remote workers to ensure that the arrangement is working well for you and the employee. Consider individual as well as broader team or organisational goals in addition to health and wellbeing risks.

 

Help managing home workers

Happy and productive remote workers can be a real asset to your workforce when they are managed well. If you’re thinking of introducing remote working to your business and want to implement a remote worker policy, contact your local HR Dept today.

Getting ahead with good mental health in your business

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As an employer you would not expect your employee to work as usual if they were suffering from a physical illness that caused them obvious pain. Unfortunately, when people are suffering from mental health issues such as depression the signs are not obvious, or necessarily even visible at all. Many choose to suffer in silence because of stigma.

Relationship breakdowns, financial worries, grief and many other issues can be the trigger. But the frightening statistic is that one in five Australians experience a mental illness in any year.

Whilst moderate stress is typical in the workplace and can help build resilience, prolonged stress can be hugely problematic. It can lead to complications with a person’s physical and mental health.

Why workplace mental health matters

Employees who are struggling with their mental health may find it difficult to work well. Many even feel like they can’t come in to work at all. Increased absences can lead to their work colleagues starting to feel the strain of an increasing workload. This can create a domino effect of stress-related problems and before you know it, your business is suffering too.

At a cost of around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity, it’s an expensive matter.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and well-being of their staff. Failing to adequately address mental ill-health in your business can lead to a Fair Work claim for disability discrimination. In turn this can result in a damaging fair work case.  But even more important is the fact that happy staff are more productive.

Time to change

Good mental health should be aspired to like good physical health. The difficulty is that it is harder to know when someone is struggling with mental ill-health unless they tell you. Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not.

Without being intrusive or presumptuous, employers must address and tackle mental health matters in their workplace. Luckily there is support available to help with this.

Changes you can make today

There are steps you can take today to make a positive impact on the mental well-being of your employees. It could start with a simple “How are you?” to open the conversation about mental health. Regular 121s with your staff present the perfect opportunity to talk.

Your company culture can impact workplace well-being. Leading by example and fostering a mentally healthy workplace, which leaves no room for stigma or discrimination, lets employees know that they are respected and working in a safe space.

Consider implementing a workplace well-being programme. Whilst ad hoc activities like bake-offs, away days and such can help to boost morale from time to time, a workplace well-being programme offers a holistic and permanent solution. Health benefits and flexible working options are just some of the elements that can form the basis of your programme.

Call us. There are costs associated with the mismanagement of workplace mental health. We will take the time to listen to the unique needs of your business and provide expert advice on how best you can support your employees and manage mental health in your business.

Getting to grips with best practice parental leave

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You’ve signed the card and waved an employee off into parenthood. But what happens next? Perhaps you haven’t thought that far ahead yet, especially if the employee is taking the full allowance of parental leave which can be up to two years.

However, saying “See you later!” with no further plans for communication during an employee’s parental leave can actually be detrimental and risky for your business.

Pregnancy, family and carer responsibilities are protected attributes and are legally protected from discrimination at work. Yet pregnancy discrimination still happens. Studies show that as many as 49% of Australian mothers and 27% of fathers and partners have experienced discrimination at work related to pregnancy or parental leave.

The importance of best practice

Whilst at first it might seem like you are not going to see the absent employee for quite some time, we recommend that you have a best practice parental leave policy in place. This can not only improve retention rates by increasing the chances of talented employees returning to work for you. But can also make sure that you avoid any nasty Fair Work claims for discrimination.

How to implement best practice parental leave

Let’s take a look at what you should be doing before, during and after the parental leave is taken.

Before an employee begins parental leave

Preparation is everything. It is a good idea to have a policy in place before an employee informs you that they are expecting. That way you can save time and refer to your policy when the moment comes.

Prior to drafting your policy, you may wish to consult your employees and their representatives to discuss their unique needs regarding parental leave. When it comes to the final draft, expert help is recommended to ensure that you remain legally compliant and follow best practice.

During parental leave

Communication is key. Keeping in touch with employees who are out on parental leave is a great way to promote inclusivity and is an important part of any best practice parental leave policy.  There are many ways in which to achieve this, such as pre-arranged catch-ups and invites to work socials.

Returning to work

An employee returning from parental leave is legally entitled to return to the same job. If you have made changes to your workforce and that job no longer exists, you are legally obliged to offer them a position for which they are qualified and suitable. Keep in mind that it will need to be near in status and pay to the position that they had prior to parental leave.

You may also want to consider reasonable adjustments for an employee returning to work. For example, flexible working can help employee work-life balance and even improve efficiencies.

Additional support

Parental leave is a broad term which covers several types of complementary entitlements. The process can be complex and costly if mistakes are made. If you would like professional advice regarding your own parental leave policy and want to know if you are following best practice, contact your local HR Dept.

How to manage an employee under the influence of alcohol

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Did you know that a quarter of people drink to get drunk at least once a month? A new report shows how this statistic has increased since 2011. Perhaps you are not too surprised by this as drinking is known to be a popular Australian pastime.

With that in mind, you may expect that some of your employees enjoy a drink or two in their downtime. Depending on the culture of your company, it might even be commonplace that colleagues meet after work for drinks. Trouble can arise however when an employee blurs the lines between work and play, and turns up to work under the influence of alcohol.

This is not only incredibly awkward and embarrassing, for them and onlookers. But it’s also a risky and potentially dangerous health and safety situation that needs to be dealt with quickly and legally.

Find out how best to deal with an employee who is potentially under the influence with our top tips below.

Investigate the situation

Meet immediately with the employee as soon as it is brought to your attention that they may be under the influence. There may be an innocent explanation. For instance, some medications can cause drowsiness and some illnesses can impair mobility. Therefore, it is important to assess the situation and establish whether the employee is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Or if it is something else like prescribed medication.

Refer to your policy

Having a policy that clearly sets out your company rules on drugs and alcohol in the workplace is essential. It will help you work out what to do next. If the employee is under the influence of alcohol, you can refer to your policy and explain the steps. This may be a serious misconduct issue that could result in summary dismissal.

If the employee is obviously incapable of working safely then they should be suspended on full pay pending further investigations

Investigate further

At a later date, invite the employee to an investigative interview.  Interview witnesses and try to build a complete picture. Is it a one-off following a personal problem or celebratory event? Or is there an underlying addiction? Does your policy have a support system in place for addiction?

The findings of these questions will define your next steps. If having a drink is associated with your company culture, you may want to balance it out by providing your staff with health education on the effects of binge drinking.

Seek expert advice

Failing to manage an employee who is inebriated at work can cause even bigger problems. Random drug and alcohol testing is really recommended where driving or handling machinery is involved. And it’s worth noting that if you or a manager provided the alcohol, say at a work event, you can be at risk of vicarious liability and be implicated should any harm come to the employee.

If you’re in need of an alcohol policy, setting up testing or would like to train your managers on how to deal with alcohol in the workplace, contact your local HR Dept today.

Are your interviewing techniques a help or a hindrance?

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Interviews. You either look forward to doing them, dread them or get someone else to do them for you. Perhaps you feel you have nailed your interviewing technique by now and typically follow the same process every time. This is great… if your technique is a success and legally compliant.

It might surprise some employers to learn that employment law applies even before hiring an employee. From the moment you begin recruiting, you are bound by laws on discrimination and data privacy.

Choosing the right questions can also be a challenge. In a limited length of time you’ll want to find out if they are the right person for the job, the right fit for your culture and to tell them more about your company. Believe it or not, some employers stumble here and get this part horribly wrong.

What not to ask in a job interview

Earlier this year a candidate in the UK tweeted about her brutal and humiliating interview during which she was quizzed about her childhood, her parents’ relationship and criticised for her posture.

Unsurprisingly the tweet went viral attracting attention and a BBC radio interview. Not to mention some bad PR for the company in question.

Inappropriate or invasive questions can make a candidate feel uncomfortable and some, such as “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?”, can be blatantly discriminatory and illegal. It’s best to avoid getting too familiar.

In another example, a Caribbean food chain is reported to have asked candidates to show off their limbo skills. Whilst it’s in the spirit of the company culture, this is a risky route for an interview. We would advise that interviewers avoid asking candidates to dance – unless it’s crucial to the job!

What can I ask a candidate?

There are plenty of acceptable questions that you can and should ask an interviewee, that won’t be harmful or embarrassing. We suggest having some prepared ahead of time.

You’ll want to prioritise questions that explore their skills and experience to find out if they are the best person for the job. Questions like “Can you elaborate on your relevant experience for this role?” or “What skills can you bring to this position?” will help you to make your decision.

Questions that instigate critical or creative thinking can also be useful, if they are necessary for the role requirements.

Naturally you’ll also want to know if the candidate will fit in well with your company culture. Open ended questions like “What are your hobbies?” can be a good ice breaker and are a safe way to find out more without being invasive. Also, a revelation such as regular participation in dangerous sports might tell you a lot more about a person.

Are my interview questions legal?

If you are unsure, it is always best to seek professional advice. If you are about to start a round of interviews and would like to check your technique first, why not run your questions past us or come on one of our training courses? Or if you would like a higher level of support, let us do the questioning for you.

What to do when an employee asks for a pay rise

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Just when everything seems to be ticking along nicely, you get a request from an employee asking for a pay rise. Sigh.

It could be right on time, perhaps you have been reviewing wages. Or, it’s caught you off guard and you’re left feeling stunned. A flustered “You must be joking!” can cause you even bigger problems. So it’s best to fight off any impulsive urges and take time to consider your response carefully.

At this stage, a simple acknowledgment and commitment to follow up should suffice. After which you can consider the below in order to provide a constructive and thoughtful reply.

Find out why

Ultimately when an employee asks for more money it suggests that they are unhappy with their employment. You’ll need to know the reasons behind this in order to manage the situation and find the best possible solution.

For example, are they struggling financially and don’t know what else to do? Do they feel undervalued or believe other staff are paid more? Do they believe that their salary isn’t competitive?  Are they willing to take on more work? Each of these situations necessitates a specific response.

Consider your options

Has the request prompted you to review your current salary offering? Perhaps now is the time to carry out a job evaluation on all roles and look at competitive salaries locally. Job evaluation helps you to develop salary bands, creating a fair pay system and preventing gender pay issues. You then need a pay policy to guide you. It will also help staff understand the process of how salaries are reviewed, and with performance management objectives achieved, how they may increase their salary at the next review.

Is the employee capable of taking on additional duties that would warrant an increase, and could that opportunity be offered?

It may transpire that the employee in question is receiving a competitive and fair wage for their role and you do not have the need to alter their responsibilities. But if you would like to show them they are valued, a non-monetary reward could go a long way.

With delicate situations, such as an employee struggling financially, a pay rise might not be justified. But, even so a different kind of support could be really helpful. Read our blog on how to discuss financial well-being with your employees.

Communicate clearly

When it comes to delivering the news, good or bad, be sure to do so compassionately and make sure your explanation is clear. Acknowledge their determination for the initial request and clearly point out the reasons behind your decision.

It’s possible that your answer might lead to some difficult conversations. If you would like us to carry out the job evaluation for you, do enlist the help of your local HR Dept.

The rules of overtime

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Do you find yourself asking staff to work overtime when business is booming?

Many business owners typically know when their busiest times are and will have formed strategies to cope through those peak periods.

For a fluctuating small business it might not make sense to hire more staff, and so requesting overtime from existing staff is a common solution.

As the name suggests, overtime falls outside of an employee’s ordinary hours of work, and there are rules when it comes to requesting overtime from them. It’s important that you are aware of the rules on overtime to avoid people problems in your business.

Whilst overtime can be seen as a quick solution for a busy business, it can also have a negative impact if not implemented well. We take a look at this below in addition to the rules of overtime.

My legal obligations as an employer regarding overtime

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) specifies that employers can request that an employee works reasonable overtime. You may ask, what might be deemed as reasonable? Well the FWO have made this clear and the following points must be considered when requesting overtime from employees.

  • Risk to health and safety from working the extra hours
  • The employee’s personal situation, including their family responsibilities
  • The needs of the workplace
  • Overtime payments or penalty rates for working the extra hours (if applicable)
  • If they are paid at a higher rate on the understanding that they work some overtime
  • If the employee was given enough notice that they may have to work overtime
  • If the employee has already stated they can’t ever work overtime
  • The usual patterns of work in the industry

You’ll also need to consider overtime rates. These are set out by awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements and can differ between industries.

For example, a recent Fair Work Commission ruling on overtime for casuals on horticultural farms came into play this month. Penalties can be incurred for non-compliance regarding the change to maximum shift hours. Ask us if you are unsure about overtime awards for your industry.

The impact of overtime on your business

Whilst the request may be reasonable and the employee may be willing to accept overtime, you’ll want to monitor the frequency of which overtime is occurring.

Consistent overtime could lead to employee burnout which in turn can lead to further problems. Declines in productivity and an increase in mistakes are known to be the result of overworked employees. It’s also important to look out for employee well-being and manage workplace stress, as neglect can lead to poor mental health.

How to make overtime work for your business

To make sure overtime is a success for you and your employees it’s important to know not only your legal obligations, but also how to effectively communicate with your team. Regular employee reviews offer the perfect opportunity to check in on workload, productivity and well-being.

If overtime has become standard practice for your business, it could be time to consider expanding your workforce.

Whether you need advice on the legalities of overtime for your existing staff or are looking to recruit for your growing business, your local HR Dept can help.

Seven tips to protect your business from employee sabotage

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Finding out that you and your business have fallen victim to sabotage is awful. Uncovering that the damage was done from the inside and it was an employee who caused it can be even harder to swallow. After dealing with the initial shock and disappointment of the situation you’ll want answers.

Why has this happened? How has it happened? And what needs to be done to make sure it never happens again?

It’s possible that your risk analysis has typically been focused elsewhere until now. Such as keeping a keen eye on a bitter competitor or alerting staff to a vocally dissatisfied customer. Afterall, it’s perhaps easier to accept that someone wishing harm on your business isn’t on your payroll, or holding access to some highly confidential information.

The unfortunate truth is that employee sabotage is a thing. The good news is that there are processes that you can put in place to increase protection for your business.

Types of employee sabotage

A good starting point is to remain aware of situations that have the potential to do damage. You could be dealing with varying degrees of employee sabotage, such as:

  • A disgruntled employee repeatedly acting up after missing a promotion.
  • An online smear campaign caused by a social media executive with a grudge.
  • A sales assistant telling a customer about their very competitive side hustle.
  • A developer deleting crucial code during their notice period.
  • An outspoken employee coercing others and threatening to strike.

Each problem will require a case by case resolution. But there are approaches you can follow to manage them effectively and mitigate risk.

Following the correct procedures will also help your defence should the problem lead to tribunal.

Tips to prevent employee sabotage

1. Start at the beginning with your recruitment. A thorough recruitment process can help to make sure you are hiring employees that are a good fit for your business. Comprehensive reference checks, a reliable interview process and employee vetting can highlight causes of concern early on.

2. Accountability for actions. Each employee should be aware of their own accountability. Breaking down business goals and explaining how they relate on a team or employee level can help to get everyone on the same page and working towards the same purpose.

3. Need to know basis. With information sharing in mind, it’s wise to consider who needs to know what and how much. Updating managers and employees is beneficial but you’ll also need to protect yourself when it comes to sensitive data.

4. Policies for protection. Policies are a good way to inform employees of your expectations and can help you to manage a difficult employee. Policies on social media use, conduct and data protection can all help to provide a solution in the event of employee sabotage.

5. A time and place for feedback. Regular reviews offer an opportunity to pick up on potential problems. You can use this time for feedback and to look for a resolution. Correct documentation is essential should you need to refer back to previous meetings.

6. Don’t skimp on security. Change passcodes and revoke access when employees leave, or sooner if the situation is urgent. You’ll also want to protect your online brand reputation. Use social media listening to watch for brand mentions and address any online grievances.

7. Company culture. An inclusive and diverse culture that promotes employee voice can keep you in touch with the overall well-being of your workforce. If trouble is brewing, it could be time to collect feedback or consider a team-building away day.

Whether you are in the midst of suspected employee sabotage or want to know how best to protect your business in the future, contact your local HR Dept today for advice.

What is the key to effective internal communication?

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One employee missing your important email and asking questions could be brushed off as an honest mistake. But when the second, third or fourth person does the same thing, you may find yourself exhaling sharply and exclaiming “just read my email!”.

It could be that they simply didn’t read your email. With email being a popular form of communication in businesses, it’s possible that yours was lost in a sea of many others. Or perhaps they scanned it and missed some vital points of information. Regardless of how it happened it can be frustrating and counter-productive to repeat the message over and over again. Especially if it is an important update relating to your business.

The problem of oversharing in internal comms

Of course, another scenario is that everybody receives your email but perhaps it isn’t very well received. Could you be oversharing with your internal communications?

For example, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been criticised for some all-staff emails. In one early morning email, sent at 01:20 am to be precise, he admitted to there being other companies who can offer a better work-life balance and urged employees to do everything they can to advance the cause. (Tesla’s, that is).

Then there’s the boss who let his anger get the better of him in an outrageous email rant sent to all employees. Listing the misdemeanours of “five to six” employees and threatening a risk of being “fired and slung out the door in under three months” if they didn’t pick up their game. Yikes!

Tips for communicating with your workforce

So how should you communicate with your wider workforce, and what is the key to effective communication with employees?

First, it’s a good idea to consider your audience. Does everybody need to know or only those concerned? Is your message clear and concise? Use plain English and try to avoid overcomplicated terms.

If your communication includes employee conduct, such as our example above, this should be dealt with privately and on an individual basis. Timing is also important. Catch up on some sleep and save the 1am emails for 9am. You can revisit your draft with fresh eyes before hitting send.

Methods of communication

When your message is good to go, it’s time to consider your method of communication. If you’re stumped as to how to get your message out there without email, why not try one of these?

  • Face-to-face. Call a company meeting at your premises to get your message across in person. This can reduce the risk of misinterpretation and you can take questions there and then. For clarity, it might be an idea to run the announcement past managers first.
  • Mobile first. If your team are dispersed in the field, an internal communications app with notifications could work well for your business. If you decide to go the social media route, be sure to implement a policy first to manage usage and behaviour.
  • Instant message. Instant messaging can be an effective communication tool for businesses and is growing with popularity. If you’re thinking of trying it for your business, read our blog on how to keep control over workplace instant messaging.

More help with internal comms

For further advice or a second pair of eyes on your internal communications, speak with your local HR Dept today. We’ll work with you to make sure your message is understood.