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Reasons to embrace flexible working and how to make it work

Over the past few years, the term ‘flexible working’ or ‘flexi-time’ has definitely become more prevalent. However, the latest HR buzz word is more than just that – there has been a rise in the number of companies now offering employees the option of flexible working hours. As an employer, you may have overheard remarks from staff, who long for a little more freedom and so this is something you are willing to consider. This begs the question: what exactly is flexible working and how do you make it work? Here, Consult HR’s Julie Pollock shares her expert advice on this.

Undeniably, flexible working offers the employee many benefits; as well as a better work-life balance, flexi-time can mean no more 6am starts, long commutes in rush hour traffic and the ability to attend private appointments when necessary. But it isn’t all about the employee. Introducing flexible working boasts benefits for businesses too. Employee productivity is increased, you’ll attract the best talent and staff absence levels are reduced.

In fact, Microsoft Japan recently revealed that a four-day work week ‘boosts productivity’, with a 40% increase in sales achieved, during an experiment in which staff worked a four-day week on full pay. As well as this, meetings were restricted to a maximum of 30-minutes and online discussions were encouraged as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. As well as a dramatic increase in sales, Microsoft Japan saw a reduction in electricity consumption by 23% and paper printing by 59%.

Top tips for introducing flexible working

In order to introduce flexible working into your workplace and make it a success, you’ll need to put in some groundwork first. Considering the following points is a good place to start:

Do you trust staff?

Quite simply, flexible working won’t work unless you can fully trust employees to get on with their work. Trust is undoubtedly a massive part of any flexible working initiative. Employers need to trust that the work is being carried out if staff aren’t in the office and employees need to feel trusted to complete the work in the own time, without feeling like they are constantly having to check in with someone.

Do you have the correct systems and technology in place?

To ensure systems run smoothly, it’s vital that the correct systems and technology are in place. If your flexible working policy means employees can work from home, they need to be equipped with everything they usually have in the office, to make sure their working day flows. This may include access to work emails, a mobile phone and any computer programmes they usually use in the office.

Is everyone on the same page?

Flexible working can mean different things to different people and it definitely isn’t a one size fits all model. So with this in mind, here are a few of the options:

Flexible starting and finishing times

One of the most common approaches to flexible working is to offer workers flexible start and end times. Rather than being strict about a 9-5 day, some firms offer the option to work from 10am to 6pm or 8am to 4pm. This hour to play around with means staff can drop the kids off to school, attend the gym or simply miss out on rush hour traffic, all of which ensures a less stressful start to the day.

The ability to work from home

While it isn’t for everyone, many people admit to being more productive when they work from home, quite simply because there are less distractions. It also helps with that healthy work-life balance that so many of us crave.

Creating a fusion

And of course, there’s the option to combine these two elements. Perhaps you require workers to be in the office for a set number of hours per week, while completing the rest at home.

If you are considering implementing flexible working and require help getting it started, contact Julie Pollock on 07858089006 or email: julie@consulthr.co.uk to discuss further.

Top tips to reduce employee absenteeism in the workplace

We’ve just had a scorching May and early June and fingers crossed, the good weather is set to return. While the sunshine puts a spring in our step, it has brought with it some problems, with many employers reporting that they noticed a rise in absenteeism in the workplace.

In particular, employees are phoning in sick when employers suspected that they were basking in the sun in their gardens or soaking up the sun at the beach!

With the average UK worker being absent over six days annually, costing employers an average of £554 in sick pay per employee, no doubt you are keen to limit this cost within your business.

Effectively dealing with employee absence and differentiating between genuine absence and those taking advantage is a common challenge that many employers face.

So what exactly can you do to reduce employee absenteeism? Here, Julie Pollock from Consult HR provides her top tips on how you get a handle on it this summer.

employee absenteeism

Have a clear policy in place

The first and most important step is to ensure that your company has a practical, well-written policy in place, which is given to employees when they take up their post. The document should state the process which employees are expected to follow should absence from work arise. Having clear attendance and absence policies will keep employees versed on the standards expected of them, as well as assisting managers when dealing with proceedings. Furthermore, the policy should be readily available to staff, such as on the company’s intranet. This easy access and high visibility will enhance its importance. Finally, asking employees to read and confirm they have understood the procedures regarding absence helps improve compliance.

Conduct return to work interviews

The thought of having to sit down with a manager face-to-face to explain absence, after taking a ‘sneaky’ day off can be enough to make employees think twice about actually phoning in sick.

So having return to work interviews as standard practice can reduce your absence levels without you even noticing.

Ensure managers are approachable

If employees don’t have an understanding point of contact in the form of a manager, they may be less likely to discuss issues or requests which could avoid absence. For example, if an employee feels they can’t approach staff for a couple of hours off to attend a necessary appointment, the result of this may be calling in sick at the last minute, requiring a full day off work. Having an open, sympathetic ear will help put employees at ease and open the door for communication and ultimately reduce absence levels.

employee absenteeism

Monitor absence

If you aren’t already doing so, monitoring absence patterns and levels is an effective way of foreseeing potential problems. This will help you identify those employees you need to have a conversation with, distinguishing between those who genuinely need assistance with ongoing health problems and those who may be taking advantage of your company’s sick pay scheme.

Keeping a record will also help you to keep abreast of trends, ie those that have ‘Monday-itis’. Furthermore, this can help notify you of absence trends, which may reveal that the employee has some external issues, which are impacting on their ability to attend work and may be resolved in a short period of time with some support from you.

Communication Is Key

Where you identify some concerns with an employee’s attendance at work, address the matter early by having a conversation, advising the employee concerned what your concerns are. This in itself may be enough to correct the problem early without the matter getting out of hand.

Health and wellbeing programmes

Companies which offer health and wellness programmes, have been shown to have lower levels of absence than those which don’t. These programmes cover a range of conditions, such as offering on-site yoga classes at lunchtime, to helping employees quit smoking or lose weight. There should be no pressure for employees to participate but they should be made aware of such programmes should they wish to avail of them. As well as helping improve health and wellbeing, staff moral will be higher and good working relationships will be developed, not to mention improved attendance levels.

employee absenteeism

Instil flexible working hours

This is a big decision for a company to take, but one which can result in lower levels of employee absenteeism. Flexible working can take many forms such as working from home, job-sharing, part-time, term-time, job-shares and flexitime. Being able to fit working hours around the demands of a busy life, will again, ensure employees take fewer unexpected days off work. Furthermore, being accommodating instils a greater level of trust between the employer and employee.

Keep staff moral high

Keeping staff motivated is an effective way to ensure absence levels are kept to a minimum. Encourage good morale with incentives, recognition programmes, career advancement opportunities and arranging social events for teams. Undoubtedly, a combination of emotional and physical factors are responsible for preventing employee absenteeism. A positive work environment is a key factor in encouraging staff to come to work everyday.

If you are struggling with employee absenteeism in the workplace, help is at hand. At Consult HR, many companies have benefited from our outsourced HR services. For more information, get in touch here.

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.