Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder that affects approximately 24 million people worldwide. There is an array of preconceptions around this disorder, particularly due to the nature in which it is presented in entertainment media, but a lot of these preconceived notions do not accurately reflect the experience of someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It is therefore important for employers and HR to understand the reality of schizophrenia, and how with the right support and reasonable adjustments, those with this disorder can be capable, productive, and dedicated workers.

Schizophrenia is a disorder that is primarily marked by psychosis, which refers to a set of symptoms characterized by a loss of touch with reality due to a disruption in the way that the brain processes information. This can manifest thought hallucinations, delusions, reduced motivation, motor impairment, cognitive impairment, and difficulty with relationships. There is no definitive cause for the disorder, although it has been found that those with family members who suffer from schizophrenia have a higher chance of being diagnosed.

Despite schizophrenia being widely heard of, it is actually one of the more uncommon disorders – it is much more likely for a person to have a panic disorder, bipolar, or depression. Due to portrayals in popular culture, some employers may be hesitant to hire individuals affected, but the reality of this disorder is very different, so let’s challenge some of these notions:

  • Violent Tendencies – multiple studies have shown that most people with this condition don’t exhibit violent behavior. In fact, one study found that 19 out of 20 people with schizophrenia had no incidence of violence over a two-year period.
  • Episodes – schizophrenic episodes are unique to the individual and vary significantly from person to person. They will not always include delusions or hallucinations, but it’s important to be aware of the different ways that symptoms can manifest during an episode.
  • Treatment – while medication can be essential for managing the disorder, it isn’t the only method of treatment. People with schizophrenia benefit from multiple support strategies, such as social support, engaging in meaningful work/activities, and having a routine – these can all help reduce the impact of the condition and improve wellbeing.
  • Work – even though schizophrenia can be a disabling condition, it doesn’t mean that individuals affected by it can’t work, they just need to have the right support and accommodations in place. As mentioned above, meaningful work can be a crucial part of stabilizing symptoms.

It is estimated that about 10-15% of people with schizophrenia are in the workforce, but 70% would actively like to be working. The aforementioned misconceptions, and the lack of proper support and adjustments, can act as barriers for those with this disorder to find a job. If employers are able to offer reasonable adjustments – opportunities to work remotely, regular breaks, quiet workspaces, flexibility – this can lend towards the successful onboarding of an employee with schizophrenia. Along with this, there are a few essentials that employers and HR leaders need to know:

  • Hiring – schizophrenia is protected under the Equality Act in the UK and the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US, so just like with any potential candidate, hiring managers will need to assess whether their qualifications, experience, and attitude are right for the job and will be able to do the job with the right accommodations. Individuals with schizophrenia can sometimes have difficulty engaging in teamwork, goal setting, and focusing, and these factors tend to act as barriers for those with the disorder from getting and maintaining a job. But having the right accommodations can help overcome this. For example, when someone with schizophrenia has an episode, they will not be functional, but to help remedy this in the future, employers can work with their treatment providers to help determine and mitigate potential triggers of an episode in the workplace.
  • Talking About Schizophrenia – hiring someone with schizophrenia must remain confidential unless the employee opts to share their diagnosis with others. If they do, it can be useful to provide additional training/education about the condition to avoid the risk of employees believing the many misconceptions discussed above. This training could include highlighting the accommodations in place to help ensure workflow isn’t disrupted, and how to recognize a schizophrenic episode and what to do in that situation.
  • Mental Health Support – many employers now offer mental health support as part of their benefit packages, most notable in the form on an employee assistance program. These can be a great way of ensuring that an employee with schizophrenia has access to therapy, and can help employers identify triggers for episodes which they can then work towards mitigating.

If you would like to discuss how we can help support and train you in the onboarding and inclusion of employees with schizophrenia, or any other mental health disorders, please get in touch with us.

Every year, 12 billion working days are lost worldwide to depression and anxiety, costing the global economy $1 trillion, predominantly due to the debilitating effects they have on productivity.

As we continue to see employers make strides towards creating psychologically safe workplace cultures, a key component for supporting the immediate needs of employee wellbeing is an employee assistance program (EAP). EAPs are outsourced mental wellbeing services that are designed to support employees who are facing personal or professional issues, and will tend to offer services such as counselling, a 24/7 support line, work-life balance support, legal and financial advice, referral services, and manager training.

With the importance of mental wellbeing continuing to rise, what should HR consider when selecting an EAP for their organization?

Firstly, it’s essential to assess the scope of services offered by the EAP, which should be as broad as possible to include more complex support such as substance abuse assistance and crisis intervention services. By offering diverse services, employees are more likely to find the support they need, enhancing their overall wellbeing and, in turn, reducing absenteeism.

In addition, HR needs to consider the accessibility of the service. Employees should be able to easily access the support they need when needed, whether through phone consultations, online resources, or in-person counselling sessions. Having this user-friendly platform and streamlined referral process will encourage employees to utilize the program and seek assistance without hesitation.

The privacy and confidentiality policies of the EAP provider should also be considered. It’s important that employees feel comfortable seeking help without fear of their personal information being disclosed to employers or team members, as this will help to build trust with the program and ensure that it is properly utilized.

Another consideration would be the cultural competence of the provider. A diverse workforce requires culturally sensitive support services that are inclusive and respectful of different backgrounds and beliefs. Partnering with an EAP provider that understands and respects these cultural nuances ensures that all employees are receiving appropriate and effective assistance tailored to their unique needs.

Lastly, HR needs to be cost-effective when choosing an EAP. While investing in employee wellbeing yields long-term benefits (such as improved productivity and engagement), it’s essential to evaluate the return on investment of different program options.

Once a program has been selected, don’t hesitate to gauge employee satisfaction with it. Ask those employees who have used the services and get a sense of whether it is making a difference for them – and identify areas where it could be improved. An EAP should evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of the workforce, and having consistent feedback helps to ensure it remains a valuable investment.

If you would like to discuss how we can support your company with choosing the best EAP – or any other wellbeing support you may need – please get in touch with us.

Health and safety in the workplace has always been paramount, but in recent years the agenda of health and safety has evolved. This is because in the post-COVID era, many employers have realized that psychological safety plays an important role in optimizing team and organization performance. This sentiment is echoed by the workforce; an overwhelming 89% of employees believe that psychological safety in the workplace is essential.  

The term psychological safety was coined by Amy C. Edmondson, professor for leadership and management at the Harvard Business Review. She defines this as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking”. In other words, employees feel free to brainstorm out loud, voice half-finished thoughts, and openly challenge the status quo.

What tends to get misconstrued, however, is the idea that a psychologically safe work environment is one where everyone is always nice and agreeable. While psychological safety encourages openness and the freedom to express any and all ideas without fear of judgment, it does not diminish the importance of debate and disagreement. Instead, it is about creating an environment where everyone knows that disagreements can be worked through and resolved together.

Knowing what you are trying to achieve from creating psychological safety is extremely helpful when it comes to strategically mapping out the path to get there. The above definition can serve as a starting point; specific considerations may be taken into account based on a company’s unique culture.

So, when building psychological safety, where is the best place to start?

First, a leader must have a realistic and accurate understanding of their personal impact on the workforce. For almost 70% of people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or doctor, so it is important for a manager to be able to acknowledge and accept the role they play – and the influence they have – in creating a healthy working environment.

Next, define the desired outcome from creating psychological safety. From there, pinpoint the behavioral and organizational culture changes that need to be made to achieve the desired outcome. Several key components of psychological safety involve skills such as active listening, compassion, recognition, and inclusion. But it is also about feeling safe to be wrong, to take risks without fear of retaliation, and to work through healthy challenges rather than defending against accusation.

Creating this environment takes time. Those employers who are willing to make the effort to delve beneath the surface level needs of psychological safety are the ones who can unlock its greater benefits: increased productivity, higher engagement, fewer absences, more effective collaboration, and a stronger commitment to the organization.

Psychological safety cannot be built overnight, and mapping the path to achieve it requires intentional and thoughtful action – as well as the right support. This is where OrgShakers can help, from coaching your leaders to identify their impact on the team to pinpointing exactly what cultural strategies will best align with the needs of your company to ensure employees feel psychologically safe at work.

If you would like to discuss our services in more detail, please get in touch with me at amanda@orgshakers.com

The US Surgeon General recently declared an ‘epidemic of loneliness and isolation’ in the US. Meanwhile, in the UK, a new study discovered that a third of workers have a high mental health risk which is being driven by workplace loneliness.

The above statistic is very telling of the fact that a person’s work life plays a huge part in helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness. After all, we spend a vast majority of our time at work, so it’s no wonder that the relationships we form there would have influence over our health and wellbeing.

So, what can employers do to help foster social connection in the workplace?

Firstly, striking a balance between in-person and remote working. Hybrid work has proven to be favorable, but it has its drawbacks; whilst some find it allows them to have a better work-life balance, others have cited that working digitally can contribute to feelings of loneliness. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this, but it seems that employers who are creating opportunities for social interaction to take place will help to ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation.

However, it’s important to remember that if you want employees to come into work physically, there must be a purpose behind it! Make sure you are doing the more collaborative, innovative work on those days in the office, and not work that they could very easily do from home.

Secondly, it can always be good for employers to host team building events. Not only does this allow for departments within a company to mix and mingle, but it also allows for employees to have the opportunity to bond over something that is not work-related.

It is important to consider that those who have been feeling lonely may also be feeling less confident in their socialising abilities, and so this should be kept in mind when deciding on an exercise that could unite employees.

For example, have staff take part in some volunteer work for the day. This ultimately removes the pressure of socialising as there will be things to attend to, but at the same time it is an environment that is outside of the workplace, and so will hopefully help to encourage more organic connections to form. Plus, it contributes positively to an employer’s corporate social responsibility initiatives!

Lastly, having mental health support programs in place. Those employers who have invested in Employee Assistance Programs will be able to signpost staff that are struggling through the correct channels to get them support with their wellbeing. Choosing not to invest in mental health support can sometimes seem like a necessary sacrifice to cut costs, but ultimately, the worsening mental health of employees will end up costing employers so much more in the long run. One study even estimates that stress-related absenteeism attributed to loneliness costs employers $154 billion annually in the US.

Those employers who are actively investing in supporting and preventing loneliness are helping to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff. There are many studies that suggest that stronger social ties are linked to increasing the likelihood of an individual’s overall survival by as much as 50%. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that our brains actually function better when we’re interacting with others and experience togetherness. In contrast, when people feel lonelier, they tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can leave them much more susceptible to burnout.

Whilst loneliness may seem like a trivial issue, it can have a huge effect on the productivity of your teams, as well as their engagement levels. When your people are your most valuable asset, investing in their wellbeing will likely prove to be the best way of optimizing their capabilities.

If you would like to discuss how we can help implement strategies to mitigate workplace loneliness, please get in touch with me at Brittany@orgshakers.com

Many of us are likely familiar with the famous collection of photographs, Lunch atop a Skyscraper, which depict a group of workers in very precarious – and notably unsafe – positions during the construction of the Empire State Building in 1932.

Charles Clyde Ebbets

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Whilst the images are visually stunning, they also highlight a key fact about the state of health and safety regulations almost 100 years ago – they were nearly non-existent!

But over the years, the importance of health and safety in the workplace has increased exponentially all across the world.

In the US, occupational health and safety truly began in 1970, with the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, and was further improved in 1971 with the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which helped to transform the health and safety landscape into what we now see today.

Similarly, in the UK, the first notion of health and safety becoming a legal issue was in 1833 with the introduction of the Factories Act. However, health and safety was only truly brought to the forefront and addressed on a mass scale with the passing of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974.

A common thread throughout the history of health and safety at work is that it has always been focused on the physical safety of workers. Today, with new laws in place and with the help of HR, physical risks at work have been significantly mitigated.

This begs the question – what is the next step in the evolution of health and safety?

And the answer that’s emerging is psychological health and safety.

A hundred years ago, the idea of considering one’s mental health a matter of safety at work may have seemed strange – especially to those high-altitude workers accustomed to leaping between girders! – but in the modern world, mental health is a growing area of focus.

One study found that 89% of employees now believe that psychological safety in the workplace is essential. The concern for mental health has been catapulted to the forefront for many due to the pandemic, which brought into perspective the importance of feeling content and supported at work, as it made many realize that life is short and they want the best out of it (we subsequently dubbed this the ‘carpe diem’ mindset).

With psychological safety now lining up alongside wider health and safety concerns for employers, the role of HR in managing this expanding wellbeing portfolio is paramount to ensure that employees are getting the support they need.

If you would like to discuss how we can guide you in this process to ensure that the health and safety needs of your workplace – whether physical or psychological – are being met, please get in touch with us.

The HR is focused on managing every aspect of an organization’s ‘human’ capital.

As the importance of this historically under-optimized resource has been realized, however, we have seen the role of HR grow exponentially, especially as the scope of diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to expand alongside the almost perpetual introduction of new and emerging technologies.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that a fifth (22%) of HR directors are feeling ‘very stressed’, and almost three in ten (28%) feel there are too many demands on their time. The survey by Barnett Waddingham went on to reveal that 17% were unable to keep up with the pace of change at work.

And this raises an age-old question for HR professionals: when we start to burn out, who is our HR?

The answer can differ depending on what type of HR professional you actually are.

For those in-house corporate HR leaders, there are likely going to be internal support networks at the company they work for which they will have access to. Just as they will assist in implementing strategies to help reduce burnout amongst employees, these same strategies can be used to help alleviate their own stresses. Additionally, those that are members of the CIPD have access to a 24/7 helpline for any support they need (and for those HR professionals over in the US, SHMR members are offered a similar service!).

What can also be extremely helpful for those working in corporate HR is the recalibration of their role expectations. The world of HR is always expanding, and so as new considerations begin to come under HR’s scope of operation, it is important for these professionals to re-evaluate their job role with their employer and determine whether the increased workload needs to be distributed differently.

However, managing burnout when you are an independent HR consultant can be slightly trickier.

HR consultancy continues to gain popularity as a way of working for HR professionals (76% of organizations currently outsource one or more major HR function) which is why I founded the Leap Into HR Consulting programmes back in 2019 …to help senior HR professionals make that transition from corporate to consulting life (much like I did!).

A key part of the support we offer is understanding what you can do to alleviate stress and ward off those feelings of burnout that can come creeping in.

For one thing, being a consultant can often be perceived to be isolating. You do not have a team of head office functions behind you – so everything falls to you.

Juggling these many roles can be overwhelming, and what I have found to be truly effective in mitigating this sense of isolation is joining a community of consultants (either online or in person).

Having a sense of kinship can do wonders for your mental health, and it is so important to upkeep this when working in a consulting position.

Which leads me nicely onto my next point – you need to be in tune with yourself.

Understanding your needs and what makes you feel happy, healthy, and stimulated are going to be imperative tools for when you do feel a sense of burnout incoming. Be honest with your capabilities and set appropriate boundaries around your work to ensure that a work-life balance is being maintained that prioritizes your health and mental wellbeing. And considering that independent consultants have the additional worry of client retention and their own financial wellbeing on top of the burgeoning responsibilities that now fall to HR, it is imperative to have a wellbeing strategy in place for yourself.

If you would like to discuss HR wellbeing in greater detail and what services myself and OrgShakers can offer you, please get in touch with us.


Sarah Hamilton Gill Headshot

Sarah Hamilton-Gill FCIPD

Managing Director

Globus HR Consulting Ltd

sarahhg@globushrconsulting.co.uk

Sarah-Hamilton Gill is the Founder and Managing Director of Globus HR Consulting Ltd. With over 29 years of experience in HR consulting, Sarah is widely regarded as an expert in the field of coaching HR professionals who are taking the leap into the HR Consulting world.

If you ever find yourself feeling anxious, sad, and/or stressed out as your Sunday comes to a close, you may be experiencing the Sunday scaries.

These feelings can be brought on for a number of reasons, whether that be stress from the week of work one has ahead of them, sadness about having to say goodbye to the fun, relaxing weekend, or angst from personal problems that have to be shelved as the working week begins again.

This phenomenon is more common than employer might think; one LinkedIn survey found that 75% of working Americans say they experience the Sunday scaries. This is an alarming amount of people who are starting off their work week on a bad note, and this can translate into productivity and engagement levels.

Setting the right tone for the week ahead can make all the difference with keeping a team engaged. After all, studies show that happy employees are noticeably more productive, and so employers should be considering what they can do to change that feeling of dread Monday brings into a feeling of excitement.

This is where the Monday Mantra comes in; employers should start considering creating their own unique mantra’s that they can use to bring the team together and ensure that the working week is starting off on a positive, stress-free note. This can take shape in a number of different and creative ways:

  • Do a quick team meeting to start the day – this would see the team leader start Monday off by bringing everyone together and having an open discussion. Set goals for the week, ask what anyone in the team might need assistance with and where, and top this off with a fun and inspiring mantra that is rooted in the company’s mission. This can really help to recalibrate employees as they wean off the weekend and ease them into the week ahead, while also making it seem significantly less daunting.  
  • Check-in with 1:1s – it’s very likely that a company will have a system where they set up one-to-ones, and these are a great opportunity to discuss in a more private and confidential setting about any feelings of angst or stress someone may be having. It can sometimes be difficult for someone to switch out of their personal life persona and switch into their professional persona, especially those who have other responsibilities beyond the workplace, such as childcare or caring for a family member. If team leaders are able to discuss these needs openly and sensitively, they will be able to better offer support where they can.
  • Be clear about the support available – make sure that staff are aware of the mental wellbeing support that is available to them, whether that be an employee assistance program, externally outsourced support, or wellbeing apps such as Calm or Headspace to help manage anxiety.
  • Introduce ‘No Meetings Monday’ – a more creative approach to warding off the Sunday scaries could be the introduction of a ‘no meetings Monday’, as this has been seen to help improve productivity and ease employees back into work mode.
  • Have a ‘desk yoga’ session – Yoga is well-known to be an effective destressing tool for the body and the mind, so why not try and incorporate it into a Monday Mantra? Desk yoga is a fun new exercise which has been designed for someone to be able to do at their desk, making it perfect for setting the tone on a Monday morning!
  • Plan ahead to Monday – team leaders can also be coaching their employees to plan their Monday’s before they leave work on Friday. Part of the angst can come from the element of feeling a sudden flood of responsibility after a weekend away, and so if employees are planning out what their Monday will entail, this will likely make it much more approachable as a task.

In some instances, employees who are frequently feeling the Sunday scaries may be a symptom of a deeper problem. This can either be an issue rooted in the company culture that is making them not want to come to work, or it could be a lack of motivation for the work they do. In both instances, we can help by conducting a cultural audit to identify where the issue may be and create strategies to tackle this. As well as coaching leaders to consider new ways of innovating the workday, such as creating ‘squiggle room’ with job crafting to breathe new life into a role.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at victoria.sprenger@orgshakers.com

Ah, January.

After a month packed with festive traditions, colorful lights, and more food than many of us would care to admit, it is quite natural to find yourself in a bit of a slump as the new year kicks off.

This feeling is known more commonly as the ‘January Blues’ (or the ‘Winter Woes’ if you love a little bit of alliteration). This is a common phenomenon where individuals experience a sense of depression, lethargy, or just a general decline in mood during the first month of the year. If we think of December as a rush of adrenaline, January is that feeling when the adrenaline wears off and reality comes creeping back in.

Whilst this sense of ‘feeling down’ can usually fade after getting back into the groove of things, for some it can linger longer. For example, financial stresses that may have been exacerbated by the holiday period are not going to vanish when we tip over into February. Equally, those that suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tend to struggle during these winter months.

So, when looking to re-engage employees in January and support their wellbeing during this post-festive slump, it is important for employers to view this month as a springboard for the momentum of their wellbeing strategy for the entire year, and not just fixate on wellbeing in January and then let this momentum wane as the year goes on.

And, let’s be honest, we can all be a bit guilty of this at this time of year! Some of us will have signed up for that new gym membership and started taking part in Veganuary only to discover that these resolutions quickly fizzle out. Suddenly the gym membership is just another card cluttering your wallet – and no amount of carrots and hummus can stop you daydreaming about cheese!

But in the same way persevering with the gym will improve your health, companies that maintain their wellbeing efforts throughout the whole year will find themselves with the strongest and most productive workforce, and will avoid falling into the trap of ‘wellbeing washing’.

Wellbeing washing is essentially when companies express their passion towards mental and physical health but don’t actually demonstrate this through their practices or actions. One study found that more than a third (35%) of businesses are perceived by their employees to be wellbeing washing.

The key to avoiding this slippery slope is consistency and clarity. Wellbeing is an issue that has moved up the corporate agenda in recent years – especially post-pandemic – and so it is important for employers to be consistent in their efforts to support the wellbeing needs of their workforce all year round.

And while having happy, healthy workers is already going to be good for brain health, innovative thinking, and boosting productivity, a study by Mind also discovered that 60% of workers think that if their employer made steps to support their wellbeing at work, it would increase their motivation and the likelihood of them recommending their company as a great place to work.

The best thing employers can do is be aware of those looming January blues and make it clear to their staff what support is on offer (either internally or externally) and how these services will help them with their specific needs. This keeps organizations true to their promises of bringing wellbeing to the forefront and creates a culture that promotes the mental and physical health of employees – all of which promotes a healthy business for the year to come.

If you would like to discuss how we can assist your business with its wellbeing strategies, please get in touch with us.

The taboos around health and wellbeing in the workplace are slowly beginning to shed their stigma; menopause policies are being discussed, mental health is being prioritized, and employers continue to look for innovate ways of boosting productivity through creating happier employees.

However, there are still some topics that are failing to be considered by a majority of employers – and one of these is a miscarriage leave policy.

Around 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, and this loss can have detrimental effects on the parents’ physical (if birthing) and mental health. Currently, in the US, there is no federal law that entitles parents to paid leave following the miscarriage of their unborn child; there is also no federal law which entitles parents, or workers in general, to paid bereavement leave. The only entitlement to leave that the mother or birthing person may have is Family and Medical Leave – which is only granted if there were medical complications during the miscarriage. This leave is also unpaid, the employee has to have been with their company for a year, and it does not extend to smaller employers (those with under 50 employees).

In the UK, if a child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy the birth mother is entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave or pay, and the birth father, partner of the birth mother, or adopter can have up to 2 weeks. If a miscarriage occurs in the first 24 weeks, there is no legal entitlement to statutory maternity, paternity, or parental bereavement leave.

Despite this, some companies are beginning to create specific policies surrounding miscarriage leave. In the US, mom-founded baby formula company Bobbie offer 3 weeks of paid leave to those who experience the loss of a child. Similarly in the UK, tech retailer Curry’s have introduced a 2-week paid leave policy for employees affected by pregnancy loss. Both employers extend this to both parents, and to same sex couples who have experienced a miscarriage through surrogacy.

These policies are something that employers on a global scale should be considering. Not only does it highlight your philosophy as an organization, but it demonstrates how much you value the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees. This alone is a great way of making your business a very attractive one to work for – especially in an age where many employees will choose where they work based on if their values are reflected there.

When it comes to formulating this policy, this is where OrgShakers can really help. A miscarriage policy may seem cut and paste, but there are many factors that need to be considered when constructing your own policy. For example, is someone entitled to more leave or less leave depending on how far into the pregnancy they were? Does the policy apply equally to mother and father? Does it account for same sex couples where neither is birthing? Will it be a subcategory of your existing bereavement or parental policy?

There is a lot to consider, but it is important to note that every miscarriage situation will be different and effect the people involved differently. Having a policy that offers a guideline around this can be extremely helpful, but it also needs to incorporate an element of flexibility based on individual circumstances to ensure that employees are getting the support they need.

If you would like to discuss how we can help design a miscarriage leave policy for your organization, please get in touch with me at Brittany@orgshakers.com

To understand the next step in the evolution of the workplace, we have to start in a place with apparently little or no connection to modern working practices – the middle of the last Ice Age.

Cro-Magnons – the first modern humans – arrived in Europe around 35,000 years ago. Nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in groups consisting of several families, they were sophisticated toolmakers using spears and flint knives. And, most importantly for our story of workplace evolution, they had sewing needles which they used to fashion clothes from animal skins which kept the ravages of the freezing Ice Age weather at bay.

So, imagine that one dark winter’s night one of our Cro-Magnons hit upon an idea to while away the hours sat round the campfire. They would produce a tapestry on an animal skin – about a yard in width – depicting that year’s key events.

From that point, of course, the yard-a-year tapestry would quickly become an annual tradition with the result that today our 35,000-year-old tapestry would be a few yards short of twenty miles long. So, what would this twenty-mile tapestry show us?

Well, by the time humans even came close to creating the concept of formal work, the tapestry would already be about twelve miles long (which equates to 60% of the history of modern humans). In other words, for the majority of modern human history ‘work’ was simply hunting and gathering – ah, the simple days.

However, after this point, we would begin to see a subtle change in the story on the tapestry. Although hunting and gathering remains the primary means of food production, we begin to see the first indications of animal domestication. This process builds and builds and triggers the Neolithic evolution – which sees the mass shift to agricultural practices and the liberation of the old ways of existence through the creation of trading. Trade, arguably, was the single biggest idea in the history of humankind, as it suddenly allowed for horizons to expand like never before, and people could begin to specialize and innovate in all the ways we now see today.

So, for most of this twenty-mile tapestry, the evolution of the workplace was a very gradual shift over many generations. However, at around the nineteen and three-quatre mile point things began to change and accelerate at a much more rapid pace – the Industrial revolution.

Kickstarted by Jethro Tull’s mechanized seed drill, humans began to invent technology that would enable them to venture away from agriculture and to other new emerging forms of employment. With the need for manual labor in agriculture having been dramatically reduced, workers were given the liberty to pursue a career in something beyond production.

This revolution took the working world by storm – at the dawn of the eighteenth century 76% of the population of England worked in agriculture, but by the mid-twentieth century it was down to just 4%.

And as we began to work in varying jobs, and the labor market expanded and contracted as new innovations and technologies were introduced, that takes us all the way up to today – where technology now plays such a vital role in the mass majority of jobs.

But one thing that we have noticed with the adoption and implementation of mechanization (from conveyor belts to sewing machines to computers) is also this idea that workers are ‘cogs in the mechanism’, and that an ‘optimized’ worker is one who acts like a machine – productive, consistent, and quick. But what happened in those years of technological advancements was that many employers were trying to make people work like machines (sometimes literally, as Ford’s production line proves), when in reality they should’ve been tapping into the key traits that are fundamentally human.

Yet if you look at what is happening now – with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) on a mass scale into the workplace – what we are actually seeing is that we’ve come full circle. We are now trying to make the technology human, and I think that AI is going to be the harbinger for this next step of the evolution of the workplace – the step towards the optimization of our humanity.

The overarching purpose of technological advancements in the workplace has always been to free-up time from repetitive, monotonous tasks so that employees can spend more time doing work that creates greater value for both them and their employer. In essence, the entire reason why we have continued to advance is so that we can get to a point where we have the luxury of time to focus on human capital and unlocking its full capabilities.

And we’re already starting to gradually see this shift on our tapestry; the pandemic had a massive impact on the working world, and sparked a re-evaluation of how we work and why we work. We saw a mindset shift amongst the workforce – a carpe diem effect. Suddenly we were all faced with our own mortality, and this made many realise that if they were going to spend a majority of their life working, they wanted to be doing something they cared about, something that gave them a good work life balance, something that supported them, and something fun.

For employers, this means focusing on workplace strategies that will enable better work-life balance (which improves engagement and reduces burnout), opportunities for job crafting (which creates opportunities for innovation), and support for physical and mental health. These areas are going to become key focal points as the workplace continues to evolve to become people-centric, so for those employers who are already beginning to optimize these, they are going to be ahead of the curve and become some of the most attractive organizations to work for in the market.

Steps are already starting to be taken, but they are baby steps. If you look at our recent poll which sought to discover the most effective way of supporting mental health in the workplace, over half of respondents (55%) cited flexible working, while 23% said mental health days, and 16% chose Employee Assistance Programs.

However, while these are great things, they can almost seem tokenistic. Having an allowance of leave for mental health is good, but is this really support? Same as with flexible working; employees can optimize their time better, but now that they are not physically around their team leaders, it’s harder for managers to be more attentive to someone they only see conditionally through a screen.

So, just as we had maintenance teams that would be on-call to fix any machines that malfunctioned, why should employers not consider the same concept for their people? Having an in-house psychotherapist whose sole responsibility is to support employees and feedback to managers with the appropriate reasonable adjustments will help employers create a real roadmap for support and optimization in the face of mental illness. We are already seeing schools begin to hire full-time counsellors and therapists for this very reason, so why should employers not consider doing the same?

As we continue to weave this tapestry of human history year by year, we can see that the last half mile has seen the most accelerated change. Now, as we begin to adapt the ideology of working smart in a technological and AI-advanced world, employers need to be preparing for the next step in the evolution of the workplace by placing their focus on their people power. That is the key to becoming an organization of tomorrow.

If you would like to discuss all things people strategy, our dedicated team of specialized HR professionals can assist you in all aspects – get in touch with us here.

The Healthier Nation Index report has recently been published, revealing some startling statistics about sleeping patterns.

People are now getting less than 6 hours a night of sleep – which is a sizeable difference to the 7-9 hours of sleep recommended by the UK’s National Health Service. This drop seems to be due to the fact that 45% of respondents reported they had got less sleep over the past 12-months than in previous years – and nearly half (49%) said that their sleep quality had also worsened.

These same respondents reported that their lack of sleep was having knock-on effects of feeling depressed, an increased likelihood of becoming unwell, struggling to eat healthily, failing to exercise, and low productivity levels.

The latter is because sleep loss can make it challenging to maintain focus, attention and vigilance. This happens due to the increase of ‘microsleeps’ (brief episodes of non-responsiveness that cause lapses in attention) someone will have during their day to compensate for sleep deprivation.

For employers, these findings are particularly worrying. Having sleep-deprived employees can lead to a decrease in productivity and engagement, an increase in absences – or both.

In the spirit of Sleeptember, here’s some advice on how employers can play their part in enhancing sleep quality amongst their workforce:

  • Build sleep into wider wellbeing strategies – review current wellbeing strategies and pinpoint where initiatives that aim to improve sleep can be woven in. These will tend to compliment other areas of wellbeing, such as nutrition, brain health, and exercise. Offering line managers training around recognising the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation is also key to ensuring that the right people are actually taking these strategies into account in their daily lives, as some may not be aware that they are having difficulties in the first place.
  • Signpost to the right support – managers that can identify those in need of support with their sleeping patterns will then need to know the best course of action to help. Having general lifestyle strategies is a great first step, and these can be implemented in innovative ways (for example, life insurance broker YuLife have gamified their experience to keep employees active physically and mentally), but sometimes there may be something deeper underlying at the root cause of sleep deprivation. Ensuring that they know the right channels to filter them through – whether that be internal (Employee Assistance Programs) or external (counselling, insomnia therapy), having the knowledge around this topic is the key to combatting it.
  • Follow the leader – an experiment conducted a few years ago discovered that those who were sleep deprived were considered 13% less charismatic as leaders. This was linked to the fact that when we get enough sleep, we’re likely to feel positive and this positive energy gets transmitted to the people around us. So, to have the organization’s leaders promoting good sleep is one thing, but ensuring they do it themselves is equally as important.

There are also some more experimental strategies that employers can consider; one which is increasingly gaining popularity is the idea of encouraging naps during the workday (which you can read about in more depth here). But the key takeaway from this is that, as a company is only as strong as its people, good sleep plays a vital role in the overall performance of the business.

If you would like to discuss how we can help train and support leadership around the implementation of sleep strategies, please get in touch with us!

It is probably well known by now that happy employees are more productive – in fact, according to research from Oxford University, those employees that are happier are around 13% more productive.

But ‘happiness’ is one of those elusive terms, in the sense that it can relate to a lot of different factors. For employers to figure out how they can contribute to creating happier, and in turn more productive, teams they need to consider what the ingredients for a happy employee might be.

So, what could employers be throwing into the mix to produce a happy employee?

  • Aligning values – nowadays, employees want their values to align with their employers. One study found that 56% of workers won’t even consider a workplace that doesn’t share their values, and this suggests that a key aspect to an employee being happy at their place of work is feeling like they are amongst likeminded people. This highlights the importance of companies having clear mission statements, values, and goals that are openly shared during the recruitment and onboarding process, to demonstrate what the company is passionate about and, as a result, attract the most suitable talent.
  • A sense of purpose – purpose is a driving force for feeling happy. Not only does a sense of purpose tend to foster positive emotions, it also leads to employees feeling like their work is more meaningful and so they are more productive as a result. Leaders should lead with a sense of purpose, and continually be reminding staff what it is that their role does to contribute to the bigger picture. This can help foster this sense of purpose and value, as it is outlining exactly how their role makes a difference to the organization and the world beyond it.
  • Recognition – recognition is a great way of reminding staff how much they are valued for what they do and give to a company. While having formal recognition programs and procedures in place is a great thing, recognition can also be as simple as saying ‘thank you’ and showing appreciation in real time. This can make all the difference to someone’s mood, and promote a positive affirmation culture amongst teams as well.
  • Intersectional inclusion – in addition to recognition for one’s efforts, it is so important for employers to be able to recognise the intersectionality of different employees. Ensuring that a culture of inclusion and belonging are created in the workplace will mean that each individual feels that they can bring their entire self to work every day, and will be appreciated for their differences and understood on a deeper, individual level. Those that feel seen at work are much more likely to be happy where they work and retained in the future.
  • Human touch – while I appreciate the value of clear policies, so that everyone has the clarity they need around the way things work in an organization, some of the most moving stories I’ve heard in my career have been when companies know when to apply that human touch in unforeseen circumstances. For example, being flexible about bereavement policies and offering an employee the time they need rather than a strict numerical amount. This generates significant loyalty amongst staff, improving their happiness for where they work, and subsequently their retention likelihood.

There is no one size fits all approach to making every employee happy, but there are a range of different ingredients that should be consistently leveraged to ensure the best results. Once an employer is able to perfect this recipe for happiness and contentment in their workplace, they will see sharp increases in productivity, loyalty, trust, and retention.

If you would like to discuss how OrgShakers can help you embed these ‘happiness strategies’ into your workplace, please get in touch with me at anya@orgshakers.com  

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