A trial of the 4-day working week commenced last year in the UK, and 90% of participating businesses have opted to stick with it.

This has naturally created interest around the prospect of a 4-day working week and what this might look like, with one statistic standing out: a recent poll led by Hays discovered that almost two-thirds of workers would prefer to shift from a 5-day week to an office-based 4-day week – and a third of employers would be more likely to make the switch if all four days were spent in the workplace.

So, could this be the ‘Great Resolution’ that employers have been searching for?

It is no secret that since emerging from the pandemic, many employers have been resistant to embedding hybrid and remote working models into their business practices. But after many attempts to rope employees back into the office, the dust seems to finally be settling, with hybrid work looking like it’s here to stay. And yet now, with the possibility of a 4-day week being adopted, is this going to be used as an opportunity for employers to strike a deal with their workers?

Well, some evidence suggests it still may not be enough. For one thing, over a third of workers have said they would resign if they were told to return to the office full-time. And the reason for this can be found in IWG’s ground-breaking study, which discovered that hybrid workers are the healthiest workers – they are exercising more, sleeping better, and eating more healthily than ever. It’s not surprising, therefore, that employees are reluctant to return to in-office full time.

But it seems, at the root of this tussle, that there is a bigger issue. Employers are seemingly suffering from what has been dubbed ‘productivity paranoia’, in which they are convinced that their employees are not being as productive working from home as they would be onsite.

A study by Microsoft confirmed this, with 87% of hybrid employees claiming they were more productive, whereas only 12% of leaders said they had full confidence that their teams were actually being productive.

However, by consistently demonstrating this lack of trust in their people, leaders risk having a negative impact on productivity and engagement. According to a study in Harvard Business Review, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement and 40% less burnout.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship – especially those formed in the workplace. It is clear that most employees have the means of being just as productive from home as they do in the office, so their willingness to have a 4-day work week solely in-office may be driven by a desire to rekindle a trusting relationship with their boss than a concern for their ability to do the job.

The bottom line, however, is that as the prospect of a 4-day working week – remote, hybrid, or in the office – inches closer to reality, it is important for employers to consider how they can optimize this to attract, retain and motivate the talent their organization needs.

If you would like support with managing hybrid working policies, as well as solidifying trust into your organization’s culture, please get in touch with us here.

An employer’s paid time off (PTO) policy is critical when it comes to attracting new talent – a recent study found that PTO was the second most compelling benefit a company could offer.

This can inevitably lead to the consideration of unlimited PTO. It is already a particularly popular policy amongst US tech, media, and finance companies (a recent survey of 200 of these businesses found that 20% of them were already offering some form of unlimited PTO). As well as this, from a more generalised perspective, workplace discussions of unlimited PTO have risen by 75% since 2019, highlighting its increasing popularity.

But is it the best policy for your organization?

The problem with unlimited PTO is that it can easily sound better than it actually is. The prospect of having no set vacation days is an attractive one – it implies that the company values employee wellbeing – but this may be more in theory than in practice. A lot of the time, employers will probably find staff actually taking less time off then they usually would if they had been allotted a set amount of vacation days. This is primarily because employees don’t know how much is too much, despite the policy indicating that there is no such thing. No one will want to look like the person who takes a lot of time off, as this may reflect badly on their work ethic, and so staff can end up working more.

However, this doesn’t mean that unlimited PTO cannot be successful – but it has to be delivered in a certain way in order for employees to actually feel comfortable and entitled to take it.

For one thing, leaders who lead by example are going to set the cultural tone for their workforce. If employees see their line-managers, team leaders and executive staff enjoying the benefits of unlimited PTO openly, they are going to feel much more relaxed in indulging in this perk.

Secondly, if a business is going to adopt an unlimited PTO policy, a great thing to do would be to also enforce a minimum amount of vacation days every employee must take. This demonstrates how taking time off for oneself is a value that the company holds, and means that everyone is getting time off and not overworking themselves.

Lastly, this policy also requires effective performance coaching to be in place. If a manager notices someone falling behind on their work who is also taking a noticeable amount of PTO, this can lead to missed deadlines and output issues. Leaders having the ability to coach individual performance means shifting from an ‘hours someone is putting in’ mindset to an ‘output someone is producing’ mindset. This way, employees will understand that their vacation time is unlimited, but has to be worked around project deadlines to ensure output remains consistent. This offers staff autonomy and flexibility over their time without a loss in productivity.

It is also very important for employers to be clear about how an unlimited PTO policy goes hand-in-hand with their absence policies – establish the difference between things such as maternity and other leave of absence programs otherwise extended leave may just be taken in paid vacation.

Something to note is that in an increasingly remote and hybrid working world, unlimited PTO may not necessarily be something that’s needed. Instead, companies could look at endorsing flexible working patterns – have a set amount of days whereby an employee can fully check-out from work and be off the grid, but then outside of that, companies should work with their staff to be flexible to their individual needs. This way, PTO can be made to work for everyone, and avoids those feelings of guilt about taking too much time off.

If you would like to discuss how to optimize your PTO policies and overall benefit packages, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at Brittany@orgshakers.com

By Brittany Burton and Victoria Sprenger

Once upon a time, three young women found themselves struggling at work. Tired, isolated, and cold, the three were in need of support from their employers during these trying times:

“Burnout Beauty”

The first of our tales follows a young professional named Aurora. In wake of her company’s compensation review, their team had let some members go, and she now found herself working out-of-hours in order to ensure she was deemed a reliable employee.

But not too long passed before Aurora noticed she was starting to burnout. And she wasn’t alone – the effects of this ‘always-on’ culture have led to 43% of global workers also experiencing burnout.

She found herself feeling exhausted, fighting off the need for a workday nap, but didn’t want to admit to this in case it made her look incapable.

How can Aurora’s employer help her?

Firstly, they may consider the implementation of policies that will remove outside hours correspondence to help to set boundaries around constant contact. This attitude then needs to be embedded into the culture of her workplace, so that it becomes more than just a policy, but also a commonly held mindset.

As well as this, her line-manager should be setting up regular one-to-one’s which are solely dedicated to hearing what she has to say. Having this time to discuss her individual needs and concerns will help her employer to understand what support they can offer her, as well as highlighting that they value her wellbeing.

“Beauty and the Bricks”

Our next tale is about Belle, a fresh-out-of-university employee who has just started her first job, which is full-time remote working.

At first, she loves it. The freedom, the flexibility; she felt like her organization truly trusted her, and she didn’t disappoint them. But after a few months, she began to notice a sense of detachment – Belle was lonely.

81% of younger workers also expressed genuine concerns about loneliness over the prospect of working fully remotely. It was difficult to make connections, and sometimes, Belle even found herself talking to the clocks and the candles.

So, what can Belle’s employer do to support her?

When a company is fully remote, it is important that they plan regular in-person gatherings. These could be on a quarterly basis, and can be purpose-driven or simply for team building. Either way, having these events will help foster a sense of connection amongst employees, and can act as a better ice breaker than a Zoom call.

It is also important with remote work to try and recreate those ‘water-cooler’ moments as much as possible. With the only interaction being pre-set meetings with a pre-set agenda, it is difficult and awkward to find time to just simply chat, catch-up and leave room for natural ideas to form. Promote the idea of setting up meetings with no particular goal in mind to recreate that space for creative idea exchanges, as well as chances for people to get to know their colleagues that little bit better.

As well as this, employers should encourage their team to not be afraid to get creative with where they decide to work remotely from!

“No More Glass Slippers”

Lastly, we have Ella. With the inflation rates soaring to 11.1% and perpetuating the cost-of-living crisis, she finds herself struggling to stretch her paycheck far enough to pay bills, eat, and keep the heating on to stave off the winter. Not to mention the pets.

Ella hasn’t had much experience supporting herself financially, and so her spending habits have been sporadic at times. She even resorted to selling her favorite glass slippers on Poshmark for the extra cash.

How can Ella’s employer help her through these trying times?

In a time of economic uncertainty, many companies are also struggling to find the means of offering their staff more money. But there are a range of different things companies can do to help shave off costs for their employees here and there.

For example, employers could consider moving to more remote work to help people like Ella save money on commuting. If this isn’t possible, then offering a loan for a yearly travel pass that the employee pays back monthly can make travel a lot more affordable – and it also means that they are saving money with their energy bills by being out of their house.

Promoting the use of apps that help younger workers like Ella to track spending habits and expenses can also make a big difference – knowing how to use your money effectively is a skill that needs nurturing, and apps like Mint can be very effective at teaching this.

Right now, leaders are having to deal with new issues emerging from all corners of their company. And so, to ensure that employees like Aurora, Belle and Ella get their happily ever after’s, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us about any HR-related concerns you might be having, as we would love to share our magic.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Napping at work is not a new phenomenon. 42.7% of US employees have admitted that they regularly nap at work, and a separate study found that the average remote-working Briton was taking three lunchtime naps per week.

This aligns well with results from our own poll, which found that 66% of respondents were either already doing it or open to the idea of it.

It is no surprise that with the significant rise of remote working, employees have started to feel more comfortable taking a nap. Your bed is quite literally a room away. But instead of this midday snooze being a surreptitious endeavour, should employers actually be encouraging their staff to do so?

In many cultures, napping in the middle of the day is already embedded. Most notably in Japan, where this practice is known as ‘inemuri’. Employers see it as a positive thing when staff are napping during the workday, as it highlights that they have been working hard.

In Spain and Italy, a ‘siesta’ or ‘riposo’ is woven into their workdays, at which point office workers, shops and restaurants will close down for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. However, while the word siesta translates to nap, this is actually a very common misconception, as most workers don’t have enough time to commute back home to sleep and then return.

Unless, like Japan, they were given space to sleep comfortably from the office itself. The Japanese have chairs that actually fold out into makeshift beds. And if this sounds surreal, it may be a shock to discover that huge companies have already installed designated areas for staff to catnap. Google make use of their ‘Shhh Zones’, while Amazon are using nap pods.

This encouragement of napping can reap a lot of business benefits – there is evidence to show that napping is great for brain health, as it can improve your mood, engagement levels and productivity, all the while reducing anxiety and physical/mental tension.

One study has even found that 55% of nappers were in managerial roles, compared with 41% of non-nappers. On top of this, over half of nappers (53%) had received promotions in the last year, whereas only 35% of non-nappers had.

This is because naps actually fit neatly into our body’s natural circadian rhythm. Psychologist and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, Sara Mednick, explains that people get a dip in the middle of the day where body temperature decreases and cognitive processes are not as strong. Typically, people would have a coffee around this time, but biologically this is your body telling you to take a rest. This stems from the fact that, historically, humans were biphasic (we slept twice a day) but we have now become monophasic (we sleep once, at night).

To clarify, this does not mean that an employee should be worked so hard that they feel physically exhausted. But our bodies are built to benefit from napping, and so it may be time to start challenging the stigma surrounding sleep at work, and examining whether encouraging napping could be a part of your wellbeing strategies to ward off burnout and boost productivity.  

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Dissociation is a way the mind copes with stress – and it is a way more common problem than most employers think, with up with to 75% of people experiencing a dissociative episode at some point.

In fact, even if you have never heard of dissociation, you will almost certainly have seen its impact on colleagues, and maybe even experienced it yourself!

There are a number of ways dissociation can manifest itself, and all of them have a negative impact on an individual’s performance and productivity:

  • Depersonalisation – the feeling of being outside yourself, watching actions, thoughts, and feelings from a distance.
  • Derealisation – the people and things around you may seem "lifeless" or "foggy".
  • Amnesia – not being able to remember information, past events, or even a learned talent or skill.

The stress and trauma caused by the pandemic triggered an increase in the levels of dissociation across the population creating a mental health legacy which is now being felt in the workplace. And the problem with this is that many misinterpret a dip in productivity as someone doing less – when they may actually need support.

So how can employers prevent dissociative episodes from impacting productivity?

The best place to start is awareness. By educating leaders and line-managers about dissociation and how to recognise it in themselves and their direct reports, you can begin to understand the issue and how it might be affecting your organization.

You can also share some simple methods for coping with dissociative episodes, for example, breathing exercises, stimulation toys, or music. There are many different grounding methods for bringing someone out of an episode and back into reality, but what works for each individual will be unique to them.

Having these conversations openly will help those who may not know how to cope with their dissociative symptoms, as well as contribute to eradicating the wider stigma around mental health. It will see productivity and engagement levels rise again, all the while strengthening the relationships between leaders and their teams.

If you would like to discuss training around dissociation and preventing it from affecting employee productivity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Zoom Fatigue refers to feelings of tiredness, worry or burnout due to the overuse of video calling platforms.

To help those who fall victim to this, we first need to understand what’s driving it.

It has become a norm for employers to ask their team to have their cameras turned on during a meeting.

Whether this is to mimic the feel of an office, to monitor whether people are actually paying attention, or to simply demonstrate an air of professionalism, the fact is that this is quite a common request being made in the remote and hybrid working world.

If we think about the practicalities of being on Zoom, it is essentially like being in a meeting with a mirror propped up in front of your face. Now, you have to speak to a whole room of people while also having to watch yourself!

This can be particularly difficult for those of us who suffer from public self-consciousness, which is the tendency to fixate on how others are perceiving you.

Research published by Social Cognition builds on this idea, as it found that when people see their own faces on screen, they spend more time looking at themselves and thinking about how they appear than they do focusing on the conversation being had.

Interestingly, numerous studies have suggested that women are more likely to self-focus and feel anxiety when they are in the presence of a mirror. It wasn’t surprising, therefore, to see that a recent study from Stanford found that 1 in 7 women feel very fatigued after Zoom calls compared to 1 in 20 men. And the reason for women being disproportionately affected was because of the increase in ‘self-focused attention’, which is the heightened awareness of how one comes across or appears in a conversation.

The research also found that introverts suffered from Zoom Fatigue much more, as well as younger individuals and people of color. Looking at it from this perspective, enforcing the ‘cameras on’ rule in the workplace may be doing more harm than good, and could also be deemed as a problem of inclusion, considering different types of people are affected differently.

Looking at our own research, which found that over a quarter of respondents (28%) preferred to have their camera’s off during meetings, it may be time for companies to begin taking this into consideration if they haven’t already done so.

So, what are the ways an employer can combat Zoom Fatigue?

Firstly, making people aware of the ‘hide self-view’ option available on Zoom could be a simple and extremely helpful solution. This means that the person’s camera will still be on and they will be seen by everyone apart from themselves, and this can help with growing feelings of self-scrutiny. However, this may not work for all, as the idea of knowing people can still see you but you now cannot see yourself can induce anxiety in and of itself.

The second thing it comes down to is trust. If an employer trusts their staff, then they will be flexible towards having cameras on and off during a meeting, as they should trust that even if they cannot see someone it doesn’t mean they are not paying attention.

And finally, companies could also look at ways of trying to reduce video calls. Make use of simple voice calls and the chat box feature when you can, and move away from this virtual presenteeism mindset.

If you would like to discuss how to approach this topic in greater detail, you get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

With the pandemic altering the fundamental structure of work, many employers have been wading through several stages of grief as they realize there is no “returning to normal” and remote/hybrid working models are here to stay. As we venture into a new year – three years after the pandemic began – employers appear to be entering the final stage of grief: acceptance. And this ‘acceptance’ can help organizations thrive with the introducing of a Chief Remote Officer (CRO).

According to the State of Remote Work Report 2022, 60% of employers in the US require staff to work remotely or in a hybrid capacity.  Now is the time for employers to embed remote work into their foundations and use it as an organizational tool. Employers who are intentional about remote working strategies will be able to build, innovate, and leverage their benefits, and this means clearly establishing how remote work will fit into your company and its culture.

This is where a CRO proves incredibly valuable; having an executive leader dedicated to optimizing remote and hybrid workers ensures a business can create and accelerate opportunity. The CRO finds ways of leveraging remote work in a healthy, productive, and profitable way for employers and employees alike.

They also design policies and programs that remove an individual’s work location as a critical factor for success. With McKinsey finding over 90 million American workers now working remotely or in a hybrid setting, the need for a specialized executive to coordinate and care for this aspect of work has become even more necessary.

Many more responsibilities fall under a CRO – establishing the most effective communication protocols, exchanging and gaining access to shared data, maintaining the organization’s culture, and repurposing the workplace to meet today’s business and workforce needs. Expanding the C-suite to include this new role reflects how many companies’ dynamics have evolved since COVID. Employee needs have changed – people value their time, recognize its importance, and are largely in favor of a remote working lifestyle.

Establishing a role like the CRO allows an organization to move away from being constantly reactive to remote and hybrid work. It is a proactive approach to meeting today’s business and workforce needs. Now is the time to begin looking at how you can best leverage this organizational tool – whether that be from an economic perspective, a people strategy perspective, or to further your environmental, social, and governance agenda. To discuss this topic further, please get in touch with me at amanda@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Recently, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg laid off more than 11,000 employees due to a drop in profits, and this saw shares in the company sink by almost 20%. This is all without mentioning the anonymous reviews being left by former Meta employees on Blind – with one of them claiming that “the metaverse will be our slow death”. Suddenly, after months of being told that the metaverse is going to be the next step in the working world, people have begun to question this sentiment.

The metaverse is being marketed as the saving grace of hybrid, remote and global working. A digital space where users can interact with a face-to-face element from the comfort of their homes, allowing for company culture to remain intact, as well as revitalizing the ability to socialise with colleagues. It’s great on paper – but the whole point of the metaverse is its paperless allure.

Which brings me to the question – do we actually need it? Aside from the new wave of HR-related issues that would have to be navigated, seeing the sudden drop in its financial potential has spotlighted the fact that the metaverse may be a solution looking for a problem.

When we look deeper into what it is offering, it is presenting itself as the next step after Zoom and Teams, but is it more of just a sidestep? Video calling allows for face-to-face communication and global communication with ease, and now, after lockdown, most people have been trained and come to terms with the ins and outs of remote work. Introducing the metaverse into the workplace – which does the same thing but sounds cooler – could bring on more confusion than it’s worth. It would require an entire new set of training for colleagues to understand how to use the virtual reality headsets, as well as the purchasing of said equipment.

And while avatars are meant to make interaction in the metaverse more personable, will they be able to capture the non-verbal cues that are just as telling as someone’s verbal communications? Or will it require employees to become fluent in Cybernese, the emerging non-verbal language of the digital world? On Zoom, we can still see facial expressions and, to a degree, examine body language, but would this be the case with an avatar that is mimicking your behavior, or would it require a new set of knowledge entirely?

There is obvious attraction for a digital world – and the strides that could be taken in more hands-on jobs (such as mechanical engineering and biomedicine) could be life-changing for the future. But in terms of office jobs, it may be pulling at the wrong lever. A recent poll that OrgShakers conducted seemingly confirms this, as 50% of respondents did not want to use the metaverse, 22% didn’t know what it was, and no one said they were excited about it.

And with products like Sneek – which allows remote workers to see their fellow colleagues as they work and jump into instant video chats with them – the concerns that hybrid work has brought are already being solved without the need to venture into a digital landscape.

As it stands, the metaverse’s integration into corporate life could go either way – but while up to this point I had been viewing it as a huge step forward in the way we work, I am now beginning to think that we all might be blinded by its hype.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

If you are thinking ‘what on earth is Cybernese?’ you may be surprised to discover that it is a rapidly evolving language that we all need to become fluent in – fast. Because Cybernese is the non-verbal, online language we have all begun to adopt since the mass exodus from the office to remote and hybrid work.

In the physical world, the idea that body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can communicate as much as the actual words coming out of your mouth is a familiar one. So, being able to ‘read’ people is an important skill which can give us valuable insights into what they actually think and feel about something (or someone).

With more and more interaction happening online, we are now having to interpret a whole new set of non-verbal signals – Cybernese.

For example, services like Zoom and Teams have become an integral part to working from home. And whilst now it is more difficult to decipher body language from just a person’s head and shoulders, there are other aspects of non-verbal Zoom etiquette which convey a whole new set of different meanings – intentional or otherwise.

Do you attend meetings with your camera off? A recent study found that 92% of US executives believed that employees who had their cameras off probably did not have a long-term future at their organization.

And what about the background you use when on a video call? What does it imply about you and the kind of worker you are?

It is no surprise that those who are already somewhat fluent in ‘Cybernese’ are Gen Z workers – they are digital-natives with an almost intuitive understanding of the internet and social media. Research shows that 98% of Gen Z own a smartphone, and almost all of them use social media in some form.  For younger workers, myself included, understanding all the non-verbal nuances in the digital world is something that we just know how to do – partly because we were the ones who invented them!

Take the emoji for instance. Originally conceived as icons to help add expressions to your text messages, many emojis now hold hidden meanings that are much less obvious to those who have not grown up using them. If your manager is sending you an eggplant emoji to tell you they are having a veggie parmigiana for dinner, this may not quite come across as intended…

Pre-pandemic, ‘Cybernese’ existed primarily as a means for young people to communicate amongst themselves without the older generation understanding what was being said. This is not a new idea; in the Victorian era flowers were used to send silent messages, with different flowers holding different meanings. Similarly, in 1970s New York, many gay men would use a handkerchief code to signal to each other. So, having a hidden, non-verbal language is not a new phenomenon – but what is new is the sudden need for this language to be understood by almost everyone in order to avoid any potential mishaps.

‘Cybernese’ could open a potential communication gap between staff – especially those from different generations – and so introducing a new set of training for digital non-verbal cues would be a great way to ensure that employers and employees alike know exactly how to market themselves. And with Gen Z steadily flowing into the workforce, as well as remote and hybrid working becoming more and more popular, now is the perfect time to seize this opportunity.

To get in touch with us and discuss this topic further, head over to our contact page.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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