Top HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace

This month, keep morale and productivity high, thanks to our top HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace.

Whether it’s fact, or a mere fragment of our imagination, this year, so-called Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year –  falls on the 15th of January. Christmas is but a distant memory, the credit card bills have arrived and that next holiday seems an eternity away. All of this can leave your workforce feeling a little sluggish, which is turn can see a decrease in productivity. So what steps can you take to keep the office a hive of activity? Here are our top 10 HR tips to beat the January blues in the workplace…

January blues

TIP #1: A survey by Investors in People revealed that 44% of employees questioned said that a welcome back from bosses would increase their motivation. So on a Monday morning, kick start the working week by showing an interest in employees’ weekends; the perfect way to boost morale.

TIP #2: There’s no denying that staff like to feel part of the company and in the loop. A weekly company newsletter is the perfect way to communicate new year wishes and set out plans for a great year ahead.

TIP #3: No doubt after the festive period, staff will be keen to book their next holiday. You may find that you are inundated with holiday requests after Christmas and rather than increasing stress levels and fobbing staff off, ensure you have a good holiday request process in place. Dealing with holiday requests swiftly will make sure staff feel valued, which in turn will affect their productivity and work quality.

January blues

TIP #5: Don’t forget to acknowledge staff who have worked antisocial or additional hours over the festive period. Let’s face it – no one likes working when others are on holidays so ensure this is highlighted at their next appraisal.

TIP #6: January is the perfect time to set out your plans for the year. A recent survey revealed that 47% of UK workers are looking to change jobs in 2018. The main reason? Poor management was citied by a huge 49%. With this in mind, communication is key to retaining staff. It’s a great idea for line managers to sit down with staff to discuss the key role they play in the success of the business and how the work they carry out meets this. This should be a two-way conversation, allowing the employee to contribute their objectives too.

TIP #7: The come-down after the festive season brings with it increased stress levels and lower moods. Evidence links physical exercise to good mental health so ensure your employees can get out at lunchtime. A quick walk in the fresh air can do wonders for a person’s mood and in-turn, help them regain their focus for the afternoon’s work. And when it comes to breaks, encourage staff to take theirs away from their desk. So many people are guilty of eating while they work so ensure your office boasts a welcoming staff room, canteen etc, so staff have a place of respite to escape to for a few minutes each day.

TIP #8: Give praise where praise is due! During a time when moods are low, the easiest way to pick staff up is by telling them you appreciate the good job they’re doing. Acknowledging hard work is an instant mood booster and staff will be keen to keep the momentum going!

January blues

TIP #9: Assess employee training needs for the year ahead. Learning and self development go hand-in-hand and are the perfect staff incentive, with both the employee and the employer benefiting. Encouraging learning and development of skills increases staff retention levels and motivation.

TIP #10: Be stress-aware! Post-Christmas blues, changes in staff, performance reviews and new goals for the year ahead can trigger stress in staff. Promote an open discussion on stress in the workplace, offering advice to staff on stress management, which they can use to their advantage. Plus, ensure managers and supervisors are aware of the symptoms of stress and how best to approach it.

If it suits your business, give flexible working hours some thought. A flexi hours system can help reduce stress and has been shown to increase productivity in the workplace.

This January, use these top tips in your workplace to keep moods and productivity high.

How to avoid tears, tantrums and legal actions following your office Christmas party

Tis the season to be jolly but with the office Christmas party comes the need to keep both your employees and business safe during the festive frenzy. With a staggering 9 out of 10 businesses having had an employment issue as the result of a Christmas party, here are my top tips for avoiding tears, tantrums and legal actions this festive season.

You are invited to attend…

As an employer organising a Christmas party, you are undoubtedly responsible for the behavior of your employees at the event. When it comes to inviting staff, avoid discrimination claims by extending the invite to everyone. This includes those who are sick, on maternity leave or who may have mentioned they are unable to attend.

At the time of inviting employees, it is important to address the code of conduct that is expected of them, highlighting that social events connected with work are an extension of the workplace. In particular, staff should adhere to the Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment policies or indeed, these should be put in place if they are not already in existence.

The Chief Constable of the Police in Lincolnshire was held accountable for the actions of a male employee, who sexually harassed a female colleague, whilst at a pub. The Employment Appeal Tribunal in The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire v Stubbs [1999] ICR 547 upheld the original Employment Tribunal’s conclusion that “attending a public house for relaxation immediately after the end of the working day is, in our view, merely an extension of employment…”

 

Office Christmas party

It was the drink talking…

In Judge v Crown Leisure Ltd [2005] IRLR 823 (CA), a company director who attended the office Christmas party advised Mr Judge that he planned to align his salary soon to meet that of a new employee who was earning considerably more. Two years later, with no advance in salary, Mr Judge resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. His claim was dismissed in the view that the Director was merely providing “words of comfort”.

Beware of promises made. Don’t make promises about pay rises or promotions at the Christmas party. The employer here was not held to it but a different tribunal may have ruled differently. Plus, the entire affair is costly in time and money so it’s best to avoid this type of conversation outside of the office.

The morning after

As employers are obliged to provide a safe place of work, be mindful of employees who are required to work the day after the Christmas party, especially those who have to drive or operate office machinery.

Employers should make employees aware of their expectations in not returning to work the day after the Christmas party under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With this in mind, it is advisable to limit the amount of free alcohol that employees have access to at the Christmas party.

 

Office Christmas party

Secret Santa implications

Although fun and a highlight of the festive season, the anonymity surrounding Secret Santa can result in inappropriate or offensive gifts being swapped. An easy way to avoid potential problems, is to make staff aware that this practice falls under the Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment policies, which they should keep in mind when purchasing gifts. It’s also advisable to put a spending limit on gifts in order to ensure that all staff feel included.

Beware of social media

While many believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, a clip or photos of your office Christmas party going viral on social media, for all the wrong reasons, can bring with it much more than just a hangover. With the popularity of social media on the rise, comes an increase in the number of cases involving inappropriate use of social media sites.

To avoid this, employers should have a Social Media Policy in place, which advises employees not to place material online which could negatively affect the reputation of the employer, or which breaches its Bullying and Harassment Procedures. Employees should be reminded about the practice of social media in the run up to Christmas.

The Christmas bonus conundrum

At this time of year, it is common practice for Christmas bonuses to be given, as a gesture of goodwill. However, with the effects of the economic downturn still lingering, employers often question whether they are obliged to give employees such bonuses.

If an employee’s contact is silent in relation to this payment, it can be argued that if this has previously been a custom, it is an implied term in his/her employment contract. To avoid this, employee contracts should be very clear that Christmas bonuses are at the discretion of the employer.

 

Office Christmas party

Have fun

While this all might sound a bit Scrooge, we don’t advocate that your Christmas party should be a bland affair, free of all fun. With the correct communications and employee expectations laid out beforehand, the office Christmas party can be a great event, devoid of drama and disciplinary hearings.

Happy Christmas from Consult HR.

Starbucks Dyslexia Discrimination Case

Starbucks Found To Have Discriminated Against An Employee Who Was Dyslexic

Dyslexia is said to affect around 10% of people within the UK, but the problem for employers is that it is often seen as an invisible disability and is not detected until something goes wrong.

Recently a Starbucks employee with Dyslexia won a disability discrimination case against her employer, after being wrongly accused of falsifying documents.

An employment tribunal found that Meseret Kumulchew had faced discrimination after making mistakes due to her difficulty with reading and writing. She was accused of purposely falsifying documents after she had mistakenly entered the wrong water and fridge temperatures.
 

The tribunal found that Starbucks had committed several wrong doings

  • Discrimination – They discriminated against the employee because of her dyslexia.
  • Victimisation – They victimised the employee by demoting her and making her feel unable to do the job due to her disability.
  • Reasonable Adjustments – Starbucks also failed to make reasonable adjustments to help accommodate Meseret Kumulchew’s disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act covers dyslexia; therefore all workplaces need to comply with it. There are a number of steps employers should take to identify and support the needs of a dyslexic employee:

 

  • Understand what it is

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. Although it is more than just a literacy problem – it can also cause problems with short-term memory and with tasks that involve using sequences.  It is a condition that cannot be cured, but the difficulties it causes can be alleviated with appropriate intervention and specialist support.

 

  • Treat each dyslexic person as an individual, everyone is different.

Dyslexia will affect people in different ways. It is important that employers are aware of the nature of individual’s dyslexia and how it affects them in the work place. This will try to determine and help provide the appropriate support. Failure to do so will mean an employee will not be able to demonstrate their full potential in the work place.

  • Adapt your recruitment procedures. 
Completing forms is something that is feared by many dyslexic people. Therefore changes to size, style and layout of text will help with this. If an applicant reveals they are dyslexic, it is important to remember that dyslexia affects everyone differently. Do not assume you know the way it might affect their performance within a particular role. If psychometric testing or other selection processes are required, a dyslexic person may need extra time or other methods of writing or recording information.

 

  •  Consider training needs

Many dyslexic employees’ fail to progress within their careers because they are hesitant to undergo any further training, fearing that their difficulties will be exposed to others. Tasks such as note taking or reading training material can be a frightening process for dyslexic people, especially when they have to work quickly in front of others. It is important that trainers and line managers are aware of these issues and discuss any support options with the employee concerned. This may include the use of recording equipment during presentations.

 

  • Making reasonable adjustments

Once you identify that an employee has a disability, you as he employer has a legal requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act to consider reasonable adjustments.  As dyslexia will affect people differently it is important that you know how it affects each individual within your work place and make reasonable adjustments to help accommodate them. The British Dyslexia Association has determined the most appropriate adjustments that can be made for particular individuals according to their needs, wither it is written or verbal communications or time and work planning. These can be viewed in the link below.
http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/employer/reasonable-adjustments

 

Costs

Employers found to have discriminated against an employee on the grounds of disability could face huge financial penalties, the compensation awards for discrimination cases are unlimited.

 

Contact Consult HR today if you need assistance with managing a process involving employees suffering from a disability.