Does the traditional work-life balance still exist?

In this day and age we all need to recognise that employees’ work and personal lives are nearly one and the same and this should be understood if it has not already happened.

With the age of technology taking over our days and with an ever increasingly mobile workforce, people are able to work from home and manage home from work.

The line between professional and personal is becoming very, very thin and in some areas and might be seen a double-edged sword.

If you believe that you’re expected to work or at least be contactable 24/7 becoming stressed, depressed and disengaged is a more likely outcome.

However, If employees are provided with increased flexibility, they’re more likely to find time to exercise, take breaks, believe the organisation cares about them and feel good about their work.

That is — they’re more likely to be healthy, satisfied and engaged. That’s good news for employee AND business performance.

Approximately

74% of employers want flexible hours
VS
46% of employes provide them

FLEXIBLE HOURS: Those who get them are 18% more engaged.

Also

71% want to work from home
VS
32% of employers provide this option

WORK FROM HOME: Those who can are 14% more engaged.

When employees believe their

EMPLOYER CARES ABOUT THEIR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING,
THEY ARE …….

38% more engaged
28% more likely to recommend their workplace
18% more likely to do more than expected
10x less likely to be hostile

What do you think?

Do you believe it is possible to successfully operate when you have some of your employees working from home?

or

Does everyone need to be in the same workspace and accounted for every single day?

The Importance of Engagement

Engaged employees have a deep, emotional connection to their work. They feel a sense of purpose and energy.
They never say, “That’s not in my job description. I’m not paid enough to do that.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT ENERGY…

People often confuse job satisfaction with employee engagement. But that burst of energy you feel actually comes from being engaged in your work — not just with how satisfied you are while you’re there.
It’s like being “in the flow” —when you get so caught up in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. You’re challenged, but not overwhelmed.

WHAT DOES ENGAGEMENT LOOK LIKE?
Engaged employees are focused, energised and enthusiastic. And this leads to:

PERSISTENCE
•They work harder over longer periods of time, and won’t give up when something tough comes along

INITIATIVE
•They take initiative and action, not waiting for a manager to tell them what to do

ADAPTABILITY

•They change with the environment if required – including interpersonal adaptability, learning, dealing effectively with unpredictable situations and solving problems creatively

UNDERSTANDING THEIR ROLE IN THE BIGGER PICTURE
•They go above and beyond, and realise how their responsibilities impact the business

ROLE EXPANSION
•They think of the role broadly. They help others, fix mistakes someone else made and step out of the box of their role to solve a problem for the business

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE

NED…WHO IS NOT ENGAGED
• FREEZES UP, and can’t move the work forward when he hits roadblocks
• WAITS FOR MANAGERS to tell him what to do
• IS EASILY DISTRACTED and paralysed by change
• DOESN’T GO BEYOND HIS ASSIGNED TASKS
• REGULARLY says things like “that’s above my pay grade”

NANCY…WHO IS ENGAGED

• KEEPS PERSISTING, even when she faces obstacles
• IS PROACTIVE to solve a problem
• IS FLEXIBLE and can adapt to changes GOES ABOVE & BEYOND
• DOESN’T HESITATE about taking on a task outside the formal scope of her role

WHAT ARE THE LEVELS OF ENGAGEMENT
Engagement isn’t an all-or-nothing game. Different levels of engagement (or disengagement) are always occurring depending on the situation..
An employee can be invested in their work but not in the company she works for. They might feel connected to their team but not feel aligned with their higher purpose.

WORK ENGAGEMENT:
How an employee is connected with the actual work she does. If they don’t feel a strong connection to her work, then maybe you should consider re-designing work to better reflect her talents and interests.

TEAM ENGAGEMENT:
How an employee is connected with her immediate work group. To create a stronger connection, the team must be aligned to a common goal(you’re a team) have a supportive manager and feel they’re all contributing and working well together. It is fantastic when it works. But can be very deflating and energy sapping if it does not.

COMPANY ENGAGEMENT:
How an employee is connected with the company.
If there is not a strong connection to the company, start focusing on leadership’s ability to create a shared vision and bringing employees along to achieve it.

HIGHER PURPOSE ENGAGEMENT:
How an employee is connected with their higher purpose for work. To strengthen a weak connection, employees need to feel that their work is contributing to something bigger than themselves,(feeling even bigger than the company strategy. This can be a higher purpose that the company is trying to achieve – the company’s mission or reason for existence.

WHY ENGAGEMENT MATTERS

COMPANIES WITH HIGH ENGAGEMENT:

OUTPERFORM THE STOCK MARKET
More than 65% have higher shareholder returns than average

ARE MORE LUCRATIVE
78% more profitable and 40% more productive

HAVE STRONGER INTERNAL METRICS
5x more likely to achieve high performance with high engagement

BENEFITS OF AN ENGAGED WORKFORCE

PERFORMANCE 4
Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organisation

SAFETY 5
5x less likely to have a safety incident

GROWTH
Firms with engaged employees have stock price growth nearly 2.5x that of peers

1 Macey, Schneider, Barbera and Young, 2009 2 Aon Hewitt (2009). What Makes a Company a Best Employer?
3 Gallup, Inc (2011). Employee Engagement.
2007 SHRM Research Quarterly, Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR’s Strategic Role, 5 SHRM “Employee Engagement and Commitment,” Robert J. Vance Ph.D. 6 Giving Everyone the Chance to Shine, Hay Group, 2010.

ALIGNING ENGAGEMENT WITH ORGANISATIONAL SUPPORT

Many leaders assume employees are responsible for bringing engagement to the table — so they hire for passion or energy. But once these enthusiastic employees start working, your organisation needs to support them in ways that keep them engaged.

HOW MUCH SUPPORT DOES YOUR ORGANISATION PROVIDE?

The resources, communication, reinforcement and encouragement you give your employees ultimately helps them become engaged.

ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT

AUTONOMY
Employees need to have autonomy to make decisions and “own” aspects of their work

CHALLENGE
Employees need to feel challenged with meaningful work

FEEDBACK
Employees need to receive feedback

MANAGER SUPPORT
Employees need to have a manager that supports them
• Employees are more productive, efficient and loyal when they have a strong relationship with their manager
• Employees who rate their manager as excellent are 5x more engaged than those who rate their manager as poor1
• Managers account for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement 2
You can think of these variables as the “engagement climate”— does it feel like a place where I can be engaged?

ALIGNING ENGAGEMENT WITH CULTURE

YOUR CULTURE NEEDS TO ALIGN WITH THE ENGAGEMENT CLIMATE YOU’RE CREATING.
For example, we know feedback is an organisational requirement for engagement. Well, your company’s culture dictates whether employees give meaningful feedback or not. Do they feel comfortable telling the truth? Or would they rather sugarcoat their opinions so they don’t rock the boat? This is especially important if your business strategy requires employees to learn and innovate.

ALIGNING ENGAGEMENT WITH WELL-BEING
Well-being is an employee’s quality of life – how “healthy” she is physically and emotionally and whether she’s improving and living the best life she can.

WHEN PEOPLE FEEL THEIR EMPLOYER SUPPORTS WELL-BEING, THEY ARE:*
38% more engaged
18% more likely to go the extra mile
28% more likely to recommend their workplace
17% more likely to still work there after one year

IMPORTANCE OF WELL-BEING AT WORK

ENERGY
• If an employee has a high degree of well-being, it’s easier to sustain physical and emotional energy at work.

PRESENCE
• Employees also have to be physically healthy to be engaged and productive at work.

RESILIENCE
• Resilience is about being able to recover quickly from difficulty and to persist despite obstacles. Employees who have high well-being are more likely to
be resilient.

REPLENISHMENT
• Lastly, well-being has to be replenished.

THE SWEET SPOT OF ENGAGEMENT
Employees might quit for two reasons – they’re either disengaged or working so hard that they burnout. So how do you find that sweet spot?
Employees who are deeply invested in their work have a higher risk of burnout and exhaustion. That means your most engaged employees have the potential to become too engaged. It’s up to you to make sure they have the time to recharge — and that they take it.

YOUR ORGANISATION IS THE MOST VULNERABLE FOR LOSING EMPLOYEES WHEN:
•They don’t feel trust in the workplace
• The basis for trust is compromised
• They don’t feel supported by their organisation (especially their manager)
• They discover an alternative company where they’ll feel the positive effects of engagement

10 TIPS FOR IMPROVING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Now that we know what employee engagement looks like, it’s time to improve it. Not only will your employees thank you, but your executive team will, too.
HERE’S HOW …

67% of your workplace isn’t engaged…

1
CARE FOR PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS, NOT JUST EMPLOYEES
Individuals feel more valued when their organisation considers the whole employee – their health, well-being and performance. And feeling valued is an important precursor to employee engagement. Some things to acknowledge include an employee’s:
• Life outside of work
• Aspirations
• Strengths and weaknesses
• Development and personal goals

Here are some ways to show you care about your employees
• Time off to recharge
• Stress relief breaks
• Healthy activities at work
• Flexibility

BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT JOB DESIGN (AND REDESIGN)

It’s easy to spend a lot of effort trying to measure and improve engagement, without even considering the actual work employees do. Often, little thought has been given to the actual design of the job – what are the business problems being solved with this job? Is there the “right” amount of ownership? Is there a balance of challenge and accomplishment? If employees indicate they’re bored or not challenged, re-engage them by redesigning their roles.

VALUE THE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION
Managers play a huge role in employee engagement. Just as employees need to feel valued, so do managers. Uphold high standards for your managers and don’t force people to manage if they don’t have the ability or desire. But for those who do, here are some ways to support their growth as a manager:
• Provide training and support
• Articulate expectations of their role
• Arrange new manager meetings
• View them as employee advocates
• Ensure they’re working to create trust

ACTIVELY SUPPORT GROWTH & LEARNING
To feel engaged, employees need to feel like they’re developing and growing. This means creating opportunities for movement, learning new skills, understanding career aspirations and providing feedback.

PROVIDE REGULAR FEEDBACK
Employees need feedback about areas for improvement. Having a meaningful “norm about giving feedback (timely, specific and actionable) helps employees see a clear path toward their own professional development. Think beyond positive feedback – employees crave clear, constructive suggestions.

GIVE EMPLOYEES A VOICE
This means creating mechanisms for employees to have a say – informal or formal, qualitative or quantitative (optimally it’s a combo of all four). Do you have an employee survey? Can employees talk to your CEO? Is it OK to speak up about a difficult topic at your all-staff meetings? Do you ask for employee suggestions before rolling out a new program? You need to create these mechanisms and forums for employees to have a voice — but most important, you need to listen to what they say and take action.

CREATE CLARITY AND CONNECTION WITH THE MISSION
Employees need to feel a connection to your organisation’s reason for being. And it’s especially important they see how they contribute to it. Some employees may feel far removed from the mission of the company. For example, how does an accountant understand how her work contributes to a non-profit’s mission of ensuring all people are able to live their fullest lives? The accountant’s manager can show her how the work she does ensures the organisation’s financial stability, which is integral to it’s ability to serve clients.

GO DEEPER WITH EMPOWERMENT
Ideally, employees should feel they have the authority to make decisions that impact their job. And when they do, they feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to their work and organisation. How do you create this? By empowering employees. Push decision-making and autonomy to the front lines (your greatest assets). Consider creating processes where managers can sign off on top level strategies so employees can run with their work without feeling micromanaged.

FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP
The quality of your organisation’s leadership can either support engagement or be an engagement inhibitor. Organisations have to ensure that employees believe in leaders and the direction of the company. Leaders also must be honest communicators and create trust throughout the organisation. Make sure they walk the talk and understand what’s expected of them.
Remember: leaders themselves need to be engaged. Disengaged leaders become obvious to the organisation and have a negative impact on others – and can even constrain the rest of the team’s engagement.

IDENTIFY CULTURAL BARRIERS TO ENGAGEMENT
Become more intentional about building a culture that aligns to your business strategy and supports engagement. Start by conducting a culture audit to see which aspects of your culture are supporting engagement and which might be getting in the way..

Eat, sleep and exercise your way to success.

Let’s Face it. We don’t always take care of ourselves as well as we should. It’s more do as I say, not do as I do approach don’t you think? We will be more than happy to offer advice to another, but will we follow through ourselves?

It’s tough sometimes, as work and pleasure gets in our way and we become distracted on what really should be simple and easy.

But whether it’s convenient or not, maintaining our health(physically, mentally and socially) should be a priority, even before our work. Why? Because if we aren’t healthy, we can’t be successful, we are no good to ourselves, our family or our work colleagues.
Related: 4 Healthy Habits You Already Know but Aren’t Doing

Let’s look at—food, sleep, exercise—and why you can’t ignore them:

Food
It’s lunch time. You’ve been in the office early and been at the desk the whole time. Maybe you move to go to the loo or have brief chat to you boss or colleague.

When those hunger pangs strike, the most appealing option seems to be greasy, ultra-convenient fast food. The aroma triggers your hunger even more. That does not compare to a freshly made sandwhich or a salad. But do you know what those excessive calories found in fried foods actually do to your post-lunch productivity?

What you eat affects your productivity in different ways, so eat smart.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Ron Friedman lays out the facts about how different foods affect work performance. He cites a study where participants reported “food consumption, mood and behaviours over a period of 13 days.” The participants who ate less high-fat meals and more fruits and vegetables were “happier, more engaged and more creative” than those who opted for high-fat, high-calorie lunches.

We tend to think too simplistically about food. Those who are always on the go and on task without taking a breath as you power though the day see what they consume as “fuel.”

A little misleading, however. As Friedman points out, you can expect a certain level of consistency with fuel. Food, on the other hand, is less predictable. What you eat affects your productivity in different ways, so eat smart.

Sleep

When your work life is demanding(as it does happen on occasion. Some more than others) you keep erratic hours. Early starts, late finishes. When you are at home At home, you sit down to “tie up some loose ends” and before you know it 200 minutes later you fall into bed. Routine repeated over and over again throughout the weeks.

It might be your job. Even if you burn the candle at both ends, there are still steps you can put in place to make sure you’re getting adequate rest. So why is rest so valued?

Sleep deprivation has been linked to higher levels of stress, higher blood pressure levels and lower brain function. I’s almost guaranteed that your performance and productivity performance will suffer if you are not sleeping enough. Despite what others say. Sleep in not something you can catch up on.

So, how does one combat chronic sleeplessness? Finding a regular schedule definitely helps.
Create definitive work hours, making sure you give yourself enough time to unwind after finishing work.

If work is still on your mind when you go to bed, you’ll probably find yourself lying awake for a while. W
When your alarm clock goes off, get up no matter what. Don’t use the snooze button and which will upset up your sleep cycle.

Exercise
Stress can get the best of us at times, and what’s better than eliminating your problems (and fat) away by get up and active? Choose an activity you enjoy on your own, with friends or colleagues. Maybe you workplace has a program(s) in place. Working out is a great stress reliever and will take the focus off your daily pressures—as well as get fit at the same time. Regular exercise wards off depression and a host of other mental blocks that make success hard to achieve.

Talking about being active and exercising is one thing. Actually committing to it is another. The important thing is that we actually get out and do it. Commit to 20-30 minutes of activity into your day to start. Make an appointment with yourself as you would a client.

Be honest with yourself. Are you a morning, lunchtime or evening exerciser? Which do you prefer? Don’t schedule your activity at a time of day which you will find even harder to commit to. Look at being fit as your pathway to success. It’s not just something you should do; it’s something you must do.

Self-maintenance is essential to your success because it allows you to go further, get more done and most importantly, be happy doing it.

Take a step and meet in the right direction

With all the “mobile” technology surrounding us, it still seems that most of our work time is spent sitting at their at our desk more than ever before. The average worker sits about 9.5 hours a day – which is 2 hours more per day than they sleep.
Why are we at our desk? What keeps us there? It is our insatiable thirst for increased productivity and efficiency.

Ironically, one of the things that makes us most effective is leaving our desks.
Steve Jobs conducted walking meetings as does Mark Zuckerberg. If these two people found them beneficial, why are not all of us participating.

Here are 7 reasons you want to consider incorporating moving meetings into your culture:

1. Employee Health.
Walking meetings allow employees to involve physical activity throughout their workday, which improves health, lower health care costs, and a lower number of sick days.

2. Higher Employee Energy
Movement creates circulation; circulation creates energy. Rather than reach for the sweets to get a boost of energy, take a walk outside.

3. Inspiration.
Nature and changes of scenery trigger new neuro-pathways in our brains, which yield new ideas, and new solutions to problems.

4. A Flatter Organisation.
Technology executive Nilofer Merchant shares in her 3-minute TED Talk that when executives and employees walk side-by-side, the hierarchical boundaries are virtually eliminated.

5. Increased Collaboration.
Walking meetings aren’t just for a few people. Larger groups can also benefit. Unlike traditional meetings in a conference room, where attendees take a seat and often don’t move until the meeting is over, mobile meetings give attendees the option of moving freely from one conversation to another. Plus having a waking meeting is not as intimidating. The power of particular seating arrangements is minimised or in some cases, eliminated altogether.

6. Stronger Personal Connections.
Walking meetings take the corporate feeling out of meetings. Employees can accomplish the same goals set for a traditional meeting, but they can relate on a much more personal level.

7. Minimised Differences.
Walking meetings bring everyone together. As companies continue to employee 5 different generations of workers, and as diversity increases in the workforce, walking meetings break down both conscious and unconscious biases and barriers.

So don’t wait a second longer. Give it a go. You might be surprised how successful it will be.

Workplace health and wellness programs: It’s a no brainer don’t you think?

October is Mental Health Awareness Month and the perfect opportunity for business owners and managers to review their organisation’s health and wellness strategies.

Mental health costs Australian employers $11.5 billion a year. Absenteeism due to mental health results in $6 million dollars or 12 million days’ productivity lost each year.

A recent study by market research firm TNS found a mentally healthy workplace makes employees more committed to their jobs and less likely to seek alternative employment. Half the employees surveyed have left a workplace because of a poor mental health environment.

Respondents also claimed a mentally healthy workplace was the second most important factor in their decision to accept a new job.

The impact of physical activity to the performance and productivity of employees has been well documented. A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found 96 per cent of working Australians had at least one chronic disease risk factor. Chronic diseases are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. The economic cost of physical inactivity in terms of lost productivity is estimated at $9.3 billion a year. The bottom line is, if you’re not investing in workplace health and wellbeing programs, you are losing money.

With at least 60 per cent of waking hours spent at work, workplaces offer the prime location to educate employees about mental and physical health and wellness and provide preventative programs. Here are some of my top reasons for investing in a mentally and physically healthy workplace;

1) It improves productivity

Healthy workers rate their work performance higher than unhealthy workers and have fewer short-term absences than their unhealthy counterparts. An Australian study found the healthiest workers are almost three times more effective than the least healthy, with the healthiest employees working approximately 143 effective hours per month compared to just 49 effective hours from the least healthy.

2) It’s good for business

Workplace health promotion interventions that are comprehensive, well-designed and successfully implemented will have a positive return on investment. It will help reduce the costs associated with absenteeism and a high staff turnover and help create work-life effectiveness for employees.

3) It’s the law

Employers have legal obligations in relation to the management of health and safety in the workplace. Workplace health and safety legislation requires employers to ensure the workplace is safe and healthy for all workers and does not cause ill health or aggravate existing conditions. This legislation refers to both mental and physical health.

4) Workers demand it

The bottom line is, if you’re not investing in workplace health and wellbeing programs, you are losing money.

A National Workplace Health Index found health initiatives at work are important to employees, with close to 80 per cent of respondents stating they would rather work for an organisation that provides healthy living programs. A total of 83.5 per cent of respondents also thought their own health and wellbeing could be improved.

5) Financial gain

Effective workplace initiatives focusing on mental health have been shown to have a positive impact on business with every dollar invested returning $2.30-$3.00 to the economy through decreased absenteeism and presenteeism.

Mental and physical health is fundamentally linked. More organisations are looking at the link between employee health and productivity and adopting workplace programs that support healthy lifestyles. Those who eat well and exercise are generally healthier and probably going to have less time off work. They also have more energy to contribute while at work.

Physical health programs are vital to ensure a healthy, productive workforce and business owners and leaders play a critical role in making this happen.

To create a healthy workplace, business owners need to consider both mental and physical health and if necessary, introduce programs to benefit workers. These programs need to be part of the overall company strategy for a health workplace.

Follow this approach to ensure your workplace has an holistic approach to wellbeing and takes into account both the mental and physical factors when considering employees welfare.

Educate workers

Awareness of both physical and mental health is essential and needs to be promoted from the top down. Employees need to be made aware of the benefits of being mentally and physically healthy and advised of simple ways in which they can achieve this.

Take part in health events

There are numerous national and international health related events designed to help create awareness and promote wellbeing in the workplace. Mental Health Awareness Month in October is one of the largest but there is also R U Ok? Day, Men’s Health Week and many others. Taking part in these events will help raise awareness and reduce the stigma within your organisation.

Provide preventative health services

Providing employees with regular health checks, mental health awareness training, resilience building training and promoting regular exercise to employees will help build a healthy workforce.

Introduce a wellbeing program

A wellbeing program will go a long way to ensuring your employees are fit, healthy and productive.

Look after your staff and they will look after you. By implementing a health and wellness program for your employees you will:

Create a positive, proactive and happy environment
Have less stress for yourself and your managers, as you can focus on the business and not needing to train someone while someone is absent(who knows for how long?).
Keep employees longer as they will be happier and give you more, not only because they can, but because they want to.

Workplace health and wellness programs: It’s a no brainer don’t you think?

How to keep your employees happy when the bottom line isn’t.

When budgets are tight, it can be hard to justify raises as rewards for high-performing employees. But if someone loves their work, takes pride in doing it well and feels valued, there are many other ways besides a bigger paycheck to show your appreciation for a job well done.

Studies have shown that employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged and loyal to their companies. Hiring managers, HR experts and business leaders weighed in on the best ways to keep employees satisfied when salary isn’t the driving factor.

1. Be transparent

Feedback and the ability to understand employee concerns is important, but it’s what you do after that’s critical to retention. You should always be transparent by sharing what you’ve learned and a course of action for addressing the issue. For example, have your business fill out a company-wide engagement survey, and share the results with all your employees. This not only allows you to communicate your positive responses but also your negative responses and shows that you are willing to listen and consider possible changes moving forward. Transparent communication and a simple acknowledgement can go a long way.

2. Offer more vacation time

Reward your highest performers with incremental vacation days. These employees are your superstars so you can be confident they will get their work done as well as enjoy a few extra days of well-deserved time off with family and friends.

3. Make work-life balance a priority

To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organisation and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life.

4. Encourage communication in common areas

Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible.

5. Create a career pathway

Research has found that not providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organisation. It’s critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company.

6. Build employees up

If you’re looking to keep an employee by giving him/her a raise, it’s already too late. Find people who share the operational values of your organisation from the outset, test for fit early, and allow growth opportunities to express that value.

7. Promote a positive work environment

Happy employees make for a happy company. Within the office, publicly acknowledge accomplishments, provide a group lunch, reserve a prime parking space, or change a title. Also help employees to grow and develop, whether by taking on new desired responsibilities or challenges, taking courses to learn new skills, or furthering knowledge of the company by traveling on company business trips.

8. Set the example

One can’t underestimate the importance of walking into the office as the boss with a smile on my face and making sure you give the same feeling of importance to everyone.

9. Recognise and reward employees

Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up.

10. Always say ‘thank you’

Employees rarely become unhappy or leave solely over money. When they do become disenchanted it is usually because they don’t like their boss, aren’t engaged or feel like they have stopped learning. Having a positive culture and workplace environment helps a lot, as it encourages teamwork and communication which increases engagement and opportunities for teammates to learn from each other. Also do periodic “shout outs” to people at all levels of the organisation for great work or superior effort. These cost nothing but provide important public recognition for a job well done, effectively compensating people in the form of social currency which is highly valued.

11. Make employees part of the big picture

The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness.

The 8,10 or 12 hour work day. Which is best?

The 8-hour workday is not based on the optimal number of hours a human can concentrate. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with the kind of work most people do now: Its origins lie in the Industrial Revolution, not the Information Age.

In the late 18th century, 10-16 hour workdays were normal because factories “needed” to be run 24/7. When it became clear that such long days were both brutal and unsustainable, leaders like Welsh activist Robert Owen advocated for shorter workdays.

In 1817, his slogan became: “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”
However, this 8-hour movement didn’t become standard until nearly a century later, when, in 1914, Ford Motor Company astonished everyone by cutting daily hours down to 8 while simultaneously doubling wages.

The result? Increased productivity.

Let’s look at our modern society. When was the last 40 hour week you all had?

Can working less actually lead to more productivity? New research suggests yes. Stanford University’s John Pencavel found the sweet spot of how long we should work each week. And it’s much less than most of us realise.

Fifty hours. That’s what research shows is the optimal work week. Anything more and we hit diminishing marginal returns. In fact, it has been found that output at 70 hours differed little from output at 56 hours. So those extra 14 hours could’ve been better spent outside the office. It’s something to keep in mind next time our bosses ask us to work over the weekend.

What does this mean for employees around the world?

In the United States, the average workweek is 34.4 hours, according to data from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Contrary to popular belief, there are countries who work much harder than the U.S. In fact, the U.S. only ranks 16th worldwide. Employees in Mexico worked the most hours with 42.85 average hours per week.

German workers ranked last (or first, depending on how you see it!) with an average workweek of just 26.37 hours. In each country, however, there are outliers who work more than 70 hours.

Those people who spend their vacations checking voicemails. And those who feel overworked yet underpaid. I’m guilty of it. But I’m trying to remember that it’s called the weekend for a reason. Work ends so we can begin again. That way, we can start the next week refreshed and refocused.

Make activity part of your job

When we think about the value of exercise, we tend to focus on the physical benefits. Lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, a more attractive physique. But over the past decade, social scientists have quietly amassed compelling evidence suggesting that there is another, more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think.

Finding time to exercise is more often or not a reason not to pursue any activity. But if you schedule it in as an appointment, you will find it easier to commit to, as it would be just like meeting a client.

We also have to remember that being active not only benefits our physical being, but also our mental, social and spiritual well-being as well.

Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:

Improved concentration
Sharper memory
Faster learning
Prolonged mental stamina
Enhanced creativity
Lower stress

Exercise has also been show to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance. I’m willing to bet that your job requires you to build interpersonal connections and foster collaborations. Within this context, feeling irritable is no longer simply an inconvenience. It can directly influence the degree to which you are successful.

There is also evidence suggesting that exercise during regular work hours may boost performance. Take, for example, the results of a Leeds Metropolitan University study, which examined the influence of daytime exercise among office workers with access to a company gym. Many of us would love the convenience of free weights or a yoga studio at the office. But does using these amenities actually make a difference?

Within the study, researchers had over 200 employees at a variety of companies self-report their performance on a daily basis. They then examined fluctuations within individual employees, comparing their output on days when they exercised to days when they didn’t.

Here’s what they found: On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.

What prevents us from exercising more often? For many of us, the answer is simple: We don’t have the time. In fairness, this is a legitimate explanation. There are weeks when work is overwhelming and deadlines outside our control need to be met.

But let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.

This is why the research illuminating the cognitive benefits of exercise is so compelling. Exercise enables us to soak in more information, work more efficiently, and be more productive.

And yet many of us continue to perceive it as a luxury; an activity we’d like to do if only we had more time.

Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.

How do you successfully incorporate exercise into your routine? Here are a few research-based suggestions.

Identify a physical activity you actually like. There are many ways to work out other than boring yourself senseless on a treadmill. Find a physical activity you can look forward to doing, like tennis, swimming, dancing, softball, or even vigorously playing the drums. You are far more likely to stick with an activity if you genuinely enjoy doing it.

A series of recent studies also suggest that how we feel while exercising can influence the degree to which it ultimately benefits our health. When we view exercise as something we do for fun, we’re better at resisting unhealthy foods afterwards. But when the same physical activity is perceived as a chore, we have a much harder time saying no to fattening foods, presumably because we’ve used up all of our willpower exercising.

Invest in improving your performance. Instead of settling for “getting some exercise,” focus on mastering an activity instead. Mastery goals, which psychologists define as goals that centre on achieving new levels of competence, have consistently been shown to predict persistence across a wide range of domains. So hire a coach, enroll in a class, and buy yourself the right clothing and equipment. The additional financial investment will increase your level of commitment, while the steady gains in performance will help sustain your interest over the long .

Become part of group, not a collective. One recommendation aspiring gym-goers often receive is to find an exercise regimen that involves other people. It’s good advice. Socialising makes exercise more fun, which improves the chances that you’ll keep doing it. It’s also a lot harder to back out on a friend or a trainer than to persuade yourself that just one night off couldn’t hurt.

But there’s another layer to this research—one that is well worth considering before signing up for an exercise class this fall.

Studies indicate that not all “group” activities are equally effective at sustaining our interest.

We are far more likely to stick with an exercise regimen when others are dependent on our participation.

As an illustration, consider the standard yoga or pilates class. Each involves individual-based tasks that require you to work alone, albeit in the presence of others. Both activities technically take place within the context of a group, however in these cases the “group” is more accurately described as a collective.

Research suggests that if you’re looking to establish a routine that sticks, exercising as part of a collective is preferable to working out alone, but it’s not nearly as effective as exercising as part of a team. So consider volleyball, soccer, doubles tennis—any enjoyable, competence-enhancing activity in which your efforts contribute directly to a team’s success, and where if you don’t show up, others will suffer.

Regardless of how you go about incorporating exercise into your routine, reframing it as part of your job makes it a lot easier to make time for it. Remember, you’re not abandoning work. On the contrary: You’re ensuring that the hours you put in have value.

Sit back and relax. Your mind will thank you.

Most people still view massages as a luxury item. They feel like they are spoiling themselves by booking a massage whether it’s a 30-minute massage, one-hour massage or a four-hour spa day. But some business leaders are starting to look at massage more as a necessity just like working out and eating healthy. Study after study keeps touting the benefits of massage. As a result, many executives are changing their mindset from thinking of massage as a nice treat to thinking of massage as an essential item in their routine that helps them perform at the top of their game. Here are five reasons why you should stop making excuses and book that massage today.

1. Massage can help spark creative ideas. The business world is fast-paced and stressful. Sometimes people need to stop their mind and relax in order to solve a problem and think of a better solution. Massage frees thoughts.

When you are so focused on something and stressed out, you have blinders on and don’t see the whole picture. You just see what is in front of you. Massage lets executives calm down to think clearer and get a better picture—its better than coffee.

2. Massage can help reduce pain and even boost your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage has proven to be an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. Some studies have also found that massage can help people suffering from anxiety, headaches, digestive disorders, sports injuries, joint pain, fibromyalgia and lower back pain. Considering how many executives sit at their desks for long hours, suffering from neck and back pain, a therapeutic massage may be just what they need to feel better, think clearer and be more productive. Not to mention a growing body of research now indicates that massage can help boost your immune system. If you want to avoid taking time off for being sick and stay healthy during cold and flu season, scheduling a weekly massage may help. Having a massage on a regular basis increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that fight viruses.

3. Massage can help increase your productivity. For the past 20 years, there have been studies linking massage to improved brainpower and productivity. That may explain why roughly 11% companies offered workplace massages to employees in 2015 and 3% of companies planned to add corporate massage in the next 12 months, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Corporate massages typically involve having a massage therapist come to the office and provide 15-minute or 30-minute chair massages for employees.

4. Massage can help you sleep better. Studies have found that people who receive regular massages spend more time in deep sleep, which is the restorative stage of the sleep cycle. Want to avoid tossing and turning and not getting enough sleep the night before a big presentation or a day packed with back-to-back meetings? Try scheduling a massage in the second half of your work day or book a whole day for your staff. It will help you relax, relieve work stress, reboot your mind and sleep better, so you are ready to tackle the next day feeling completely refreshed.

5. Massage can reduce stress symptoms. Massage helps alleviate stress, but it’s more than just the dim lights, calming music and healing touch helping the body to relax. Research suggests that frequent massage reduces cortisol, which is a major stress hormone, and high levels of cortisol have been linked to high blood pressure, suppressed immune system function and obesity. And you don’t need an hour-long massage to reduce cortisol levels or lower stress. Studies have found that even a brief 15-minute chair massage once a week can reduce stress systems.

Business leaders should schedule a massage on a weekly basis or every 10 days. This may not work for everyone, but even once a fortnight or once a month will have its benefits.

Most executives workout and eat right because they know that exercise and good nutrition helps your mind. On the same level, massage gets your mind working the right way because it helps to balance everything—workouts, job, family and life.

Massage may be the missing piece of the puzzle for many business leaders. “When you get a massage, it is about you. You don’t have to talk. It is not about anyone but you. People need that.

For more information about seated massages for your workplace contact Corporate Health Results. www.corporatehealthresults.com.au or info@corporatehealthresults.com.au

No More sickies. Can we change the culture?

A recent survey has prompted estimates that absenteeism is costing the Australian economy $28 billion in lost productivity and wages per annum, with the public service alone bearing costs of $1-$1.5 billion.

The survey of over 100 employers by absence-management firm Direct Health Solutions, also exposes the fact that Australia’s average absence levels are 8.75 days per worker, almost one-third higher than UK sick leave rates.

Another key finding is the fact that heavily unionised workplaces have higher rates of sick leave (21 per cent higher than non-unionised workplaces), with management finding it more difficult to address absenteeism in the face of union power.

The worst industries for absenteeism are telecommunications, utilities, call centres, tourism and hospitality and government. The best industries are retail, manufacturing and information technology.

Eighty-three percent of employers believe between 10 and 25 percent of sick leave is non-genuine.

One distinct problem is absenteeism around public holidays and weekends – absenteeism reached around 30 per cent at some parts of Toyota after Australia Day this year, prompting a tough management response, and the Monday before Melbourne Cup Day sees an annual epidemic of “sickies” in Melbourne. An audit of NSW teachers this year found that sick leave rates are a third higher on Mondays and Fridays than other weekdays.

While absenteeism is a major problem, there is no silver bullet solution, only silver buckshot.

Encouraging staff to stay healthy and exercise, offering yoga, seated massages, nutrition seminars or bootcamps, just to name a few help keep staff healthy and motivated.

To add to this, allowing breaks for movement and stretching for desk bound workers can complement this.

A recent survey of 1,000 workers across six government departments found that 85 per cent of those who spent more than eight hours a day working at a computer experienced neck pain.

It is no coincidence that there are higher rates of sick leave in large, particularly public sector, organisations, where employees are less likely to be engaged.

A key aspect of managing staff turnover and promoting productivity is around leadership and engagement – an interested and engaged workforce is less likely to want to “chuck a sickie”.

A sick leave policy for all businesses, large and small, is essential. This not only enables recourse for managers to take action against sick leave malingerers and abusers, but also sets out and communicates clear expectations to staff. One well-used plank of a typical sick leave policy is the requirement for a medical certificate to be presented for an absence of a certain length or an absence immediately before or after a public holiday.

Well-defined and documented policies and procedures that minimise legal and business risks and enable staff to understand an organisation and its policies, such as those around sick leave can be used to keep your staff on track and legitimise their absenteeism.