Women comprise half of the workforce, with totals of 74 million working women in the US last year, and over 15 million in the UK. That’s why it is alarming that 81% of women reported feeling like they couldn’t speak up and expect reasonable adjustments to be made for their health by their employers. As an employer, knowing how to support women’s health results in a healthier work community. Not to mention higher productivity, greater retention and increased engagement – but this is only possible if employers understand these needs and how to begin actively eradicating the taboos surrounding them.

Here are just some of the health issues that employers need to know about:

  • Fertility Treatment – it was recently discovered that 1 in 6 people worldwide struggle with their fertility, and so using fertility treatments (medical, surgical and assisted conception) is becoming increasingly common. And even those who don’t struggle, such as same-sex couples, will be using these treatments if they choose to have a child. Employers knowing the effects of treatments such as IVF will mean they can better support and be flexible to the needs of these staff members. This is especially important considering that a quarter (24%) of women who told their employer about their fertility treatment did not receive any support at work.  
  • Pregnancy –  ensure that, as an employer, you have the right support and transition measures in place for female employees while they are pregnant, when they are returning back to work, and accommodating for needs such as breastfeeding and childcare.
  • Menopausethree out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. With menopause support just starting to become more discussed in a workplace setting due to a significant rise in midlife workers, it is now more important than ever to have menopause support policies in place to attract and retain this pool of skilled talent.
  • Menstruation – recent research from Deloitte found that nearly a fifth of women who have taken time off for period pain did not share this as the reason with their employer. As well as this, 28% of those who suffer from endometriosis (a menstrual condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside of the uterus) said they had to change or leave their job as there was not enough support and/or the culture of the workplace wasn’t open enough for these issues to be discussed.
  • Hormonal Treatment – it is very common for transgender women to have estrogen hormone therapy, and this requires having regular injections of estrogen. These can cause many side effects that are similar to that of menopause, including mood swings, hot flashes, anxiety, and migraines. Understanding the treatments that some trans women opt to use will allow you as an employer to gain a deeper understanding of how you can better support and optimize these staff members.  

These are just some of the health concerns that women find themselves dealing with, but there are so many others. And as an employer, it can sometimes be difficult to have a deep understanding of every single health issue that affects women. This is why it is imperative that leaders are striving to create a culture where their employees feel safe, valued, and able to express any needs or concerns they have. This allows for an employer to make the effort to seek guidance and training to assist and support where they can. This will result in a happier, healthier workforce who are going to be more engaged, more loyal, and more productive, and serve as a reminder that women should not be made to feel ashamed about their health.

If you would like to discuss training around these issues, as well as policy-making guidance and culture strategies, please get in touch with me at victoria.sprenger@orgshakers.com

At the beginning of February, I was fortunate enough to become the mother to a beautiful baby girl. Now, as my maternity leave has come to an end, I am also fortunate enough to be transitioning back into my work very smoothly.

A lot of employers may believe that supporting mothers returning to work starts the first day they get back, but this is a common misconception. Before returning, it is a great idea to be touching base with your employee – see how they’re feeling about coming back to work, how they’re feeling in general, and get a feel for how deep they want to dive back in upon their return. This mental health check-in can be so helpful for an employer to gain a real insight into what is going to be the best and smoothest way to support a mother as she transitions back into work mode.

This doesn’t mean, however, that employers should be consistently in contact. While a check-in should be essential, it is just as important to respect that time that the mother is away with their baby. Maternity leave can sometimes be misconstrued as vacation, but it isn’t by any means.

In terms of the actual period of return, the most important thing an employer can do is keep a open line of communication. Every mother is going to have a unique experience, and so the ability to offer flexibility is going to be so vital. Some mothers are going to need time to express if they are breastfeeding, and so it is important that for in-office work, there is a dedicated and private space for this to happen.

As well as this, it is fairly common for a mother’s mental health to be affected after giving birth. Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression, and what is less talked about but is just as prevalent is that 10-15% of new mothers suffer from postpartum anxiety (which involves worrying all day, everyday that something is wrong or could be wrong with your baby, and this can lead to suffocating feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and the exhibition of agoraphobic tendencies). If an employer recognises signs of a new mother struggling with these conditions, or it has been communicated to them, it is important to have the right support in place – which could be an in-house employee assistance program – or to direct them to the right place for external support such as Mind and/or Postpartum Support International.

I think as a final point, employers must be vigilant to the biases and preconceived notions that come with a female worker becoming a mother. There is a shift that takes place, and it can sometimes feel like your identity and your place in a company enters a state of flux after returning from maternity leave. Opportunities can feel scarcer and harder to reach because of biases like, ‘oh, she won’t have time for that with the baby’ or ‘she’s got enough on her plate with the baby’. This is probably why 41% of working parents believed that being a parent was holding them back from a promotion at work. So, in this sense, it is important to look at the culture of an organization and ensure that these mindsets are not instilled or prevalent, and instead coach the perception that it is possible to exist as both a mother and a worker – the two are interlaced, they are not parallel.

Knowing how to properly support working parents means employers will know how to effectively optimize their performance and productivity right from the outset. The transition back to work is going to set a tone for the coming months, and so striving to make this smooth and easy for the mother (or parent) returning will pay off for both employer and employee. To discuss how to implement these strategies into your workplace, please get in touch with me at stephanie.rodriguez@orgshakers.com

When an employee passes away, it is difficult to know what to do and how to respond – especially as an employer. It is important, however, that leaders approach the bereavement as compassionately and as empathetically as possible, as failing to do so can have a noticeable and long-lasting impact on the workforce.

There are three main areas that employers need to address if a staff member dies, and these will allow the organization to offer its support and condolences, while also dealing with the legal and administrative implications.

1. Supporting the family of the staff member:

Upon hearing the news, employers should reach out to the family of the employee and offer their sympathy, as well as ask if there is anything they can do to help. After this initial contact, a more formal set of condolences can be sent – potentially in the form of flowers, or a book of condolences from the team.

It may also be appropriate to ask the family about the best way to commemorate their loved one at work – this will help highlight how valued they were as a team member and that the family is in the employer’s thoughts. Additionally, if the family agree, colleagues may wish to attend the funeral to pay their respects and have some closure.

It is also important to ensure that the family are aware of who and how to get in contact with the company in regard to the legalities of a sudden termination of employment due to these circumstances (such as pay, pension, life insurance).

2. Supporting colleagues:

It is very likely that some employees are going to be hit hard by the loss of a colleague, especially those who were particularly close to the deceased. It may be appropriate to consider offering compassionate leave to those greatly affected, as well as either directing them to in-house support services (such as Employee Assistance Programs) or external services such as Mind or the Good Grief Trust.

Be mindful that employees may grieve differently. If employers notice a dip in productivity or a change in the quality of an individual’s output, they should consider having a one-on-one meeting to see what they can do to help. From an inclusion perspective, religious and cultural beliefs can also influence how someone grieves, so this has to be taken into account (for instance, if someone requires a space to pray).

3. Dealing with the formalities:

From an organizational perspective, it is important for employers to ensure that they are taking the necessary and correct legal and administrative steps after the loss of an employee. While it can seem harsh, it is important that employers formally terminate the contract of the deceased staff member. This will be marked down as their ‘leaving date’ from a payroll perspective, and they should be paid the remainder of their salary for the month, as well as any accrued holiday pay.

Employers must also contact pension providers and notify their revenue service of the employee’s passing, as well as pass on the appropriate information about life insurance benefits the employee may have been receiving to their next of kin.

Dealing with the death of a co-worker is difficult and can have reverberating effects on colleagues and the wider organization. HR plays a vital role in helping to respond to, manage, and mitigate these effects, and so if you would like to discuss how we can help assist you in consolidating policies around this topic, please get in touch with us.

After recently examining the reality of unlimited paid time off (PTO), it got me thinking about the concept of ‘time off work’ as a whole. Having true time off work would (or should) mean that for the time that an employee has opted to take off, their responsibilities should be covered by another member of staff. However, the reality is, when people take PTO, they find themselves either cramming to do the work they are going to miss before they go, or rushing to catch up when they return.

A new study from Pew Research Centre confirms this, as it found that 48% of US workers have vacation days that go unused, and 49% cited that this was because they were worried they might fall behind on work. Another survey discovered that 40% of men and 46% of women said that just thinking about the ‘mountain of work’ they would return to after a holiday was a major reason why they hadn’t used vacation days.

What we are seeing is that paid vacation is translating to ‘the days someone spends away from the office’, when it should be ‘the time someone spends away’. PTO is meant to be getting paid for a day where you would be working – but if employees are doing the work they would have missed before and after their time off, it defeats the purpose. This isn’t time away, it’s just a shifted schedule.

Having true time away from work is vital for the wellbeing of employees and for ensuring that the quality of their output remains strong for the organization. Research shows that nearly three quarters of people who take time off work report better emotional and physical health, happier relationships, and improved productivity.

So how can employers create a culture of true time away from work which allows people to remove themselves and return with ease?

  • Collaborate from the beginning – try not to have employees that are lone rangers on projects. A great way to think of this is by looking at theatre; every cast member will always have an understudy who knows how to do their role if need be. This same logic should be applied in the workplace, as it allows for developmental and mentoring opportunities for more junior staff members and relieves stress for the person taking time off.
  • Set communication boundaries – when someone is taking time off, boundaries need to be in place so that the employee taking time away doesn’t have to always be checking their phone for any work emergencies. This can be done from an IT perspective, by setting it up so that all work-related communications are blocked for that time off, and instead are being redirected to the person who is overseeing the employee’s work in their time away.
  • Briefing upon return – when an employee does come back to work, they should be coming back to a short, succinct brief from the person who has overseen their responsibilities to update them on the progress of their projects. This avoids the fear of returning to a mountain of work to do, and means that the employee has had the opportunity to truly disconnect, destress and enjoy their time away.
  • For smaller companies, it may be more difficult to have staff who can take over someone’s responsibilities. And so, it is very important in this instance to ensure that as an employer, you are recognising and rewarding your staff for taking the time to pre-prepare their work before their vacation. And while larger companies may have more people, this doesn’t cover up the fact that large companies can tend to have a more competitive culture, and so staff can sometimes be territorial over their work and not want someone to have the opportunity to take credit for it.

It is not all down to employers, however. Employees should try to plan their time off as much in advance as possible so that this transition can be as smooth for the company as it is for them.

If you would like to discuss PTO policies and workplace culture strategies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at Brittany@orgshakers.com

If you haven’t come across the term ‘quiet promotion’, it references the practice of employees assuming the responsibilities of a former colleague without formal recognition or compensation.

Sadly, this is not as uncommon as people might think. One recent study found that 67% of workers had taken on the responsibilities of a more senior colleague after that colleague left the company, while 78% had taken on additional workload without any additional compensation.

Quiet promotions can pose unintended consequences for the employee assuming these additional responsibilities, the leadership team, and the organization as a whole:

The Employee:

  • It is likely the employee will not have the bandwidth to assume greater responsibilities, and if the employee receives little-to-no communication around this need, it is unlikely that they will be able to remain productive in an environment of increased responsibility.
  • There could be training concerns over the employee – have they received the proper training to execute the new work/responsibilities?
  • Giving someone new responsibilities without effective coaching will lead to engagement concerns. Even if an employee understands how to facilitate the additional responsibilities, without overall vision and the opportunity to demonstrate new skills that could lead to future potential with the organization, the employee’s commitment to and trust in the organization are likely to falter.
  • All of this can lead to the employee potentially looking for other positions, which will result in a turnover cost that would be greater than the additional compensation saved through a quiet promotion. Turnover can cost up to 75% of a salary, and for more executive roles this number can rise to over 200% - which ultimately leads to a larger economic loss.

The Leadership Team:

  • Choosing to quietly promote can fracture the relationships that management have with their employees. There is a surreptitious element to a quiet promotion, and this can cause employees to question the trust they have in their leaders, leading to a range of miscommunication issues later down the line.
  • If leaders are choosing to quietly promote, they are likely missing the opportunity to analyze the role of the employee who departed the company. There is unrecognized opportunity to study the role of that person and assess whether there were any obsolete or inefficient processes in their responsibilities. This can be used as a starting point to decide whether the organization needs someone to replace this role or whether the actual usefulness of it can be fulfilled and absorbed by others. This then needs to be communicated with the prospective employee(s) taking on these new responsibilities, with considerations for future compensation and advancement, tied to successful performance of the new skills and responsibilities.  

The Organization:

  • Mismanaging a separating employee’s transition can have ripple effects on the productivity of a department, as outlined above. Additionally, these effects are not likely sequestered at the department-level; there are impacts and potential output concerns for the organization as a whole.
  • Pay philosophy and performance motivation become weakened if employees are quietly being given more work to do without formal measurements of success, which is linked to the organization’s total rewards. Even if the employee is taking on a larger workload for a short amount of time while the company seeks a replacement, then ensure that gratitude is expressed to this employee through recognition programs, a one-off bonus, or additional benefits.

When it comes down to it, quiet promotions are unlikely to create cost savings for an organization. While initially it may seem like a smart move to save some money, especially in economically trying times, ultimately the costs associated with the loss of productivity, engagement, and potential increased turnover do not compare to the cost of effectively leading an organization through transition and providing rewarding career opportunities for committed and loyal employees.

If you would like to discuss strategies for supporting your business with its turnover rate, or how to manage an employee separation in a cost-effective manner, please do get in touch with me at victoria.sprenger@orgshakers.com

Today’s economic and social climate plays a big role in perpetuating stress in the workplace. Executives who know how to leverage personal pressure while effectively managing stressed employees possess a vital skillset, particularly in a cost-of-living or organizational identity crisis.

For example, leaders who successfully practice healthy personal habits and foster wellbeing in their organization’s workforce hold a significant competitive advantage. Knowing how to manage their own feelings of stress can also increase an executive’s longevity in the demanding world of c-suite leadership.

The above global report recently found 41% of senior leaders were stressed, and 69% of executives were thinking about quitting because of their wellbeing. Therefore, effective stress management can be key for reducing executive turnover. And in the same breath, stress management in the C-suite will have a trickle-down effect on their company. The idea of ‘follow the leader’ rings true in today’s world of work – if the C-suite is experiencing burnout from stress overload, how can they also effectively mitigate the stress levels of those who work with and for them?

This article focuses on three of the actions C-suite leaders can take to leverage the tensions inherent in their roles as organizational leaders. For information around mitigation of stress in the workforce, check out our article here.

How can executives leverage personal stress?

Know the Difference:

Savvy executives start by recognizing the difference between feeling stress and feeling pressure. A certain level of pressure and expectation is inherent in any executive role. This tension is often motivating and a beneficial by-product of personal and organizational success (e.g., company growth). When working in a high-stakes position, however, stress can easily mask itself as ‘just part of the job’, when this isn’t the case. By correctly identifying stress versus pressure, senior leaders can take advantage of tension-ridden scenarios through innovation, perseverance, and focus.  They can rally flagging troops to achieve objectives and recharge themselves by accomplishing challenging goals or navigating rough waters. Conversely, failing to identify personal stress can result in questionable decisions, divisive behavior, and decreasing productivity and morale. Choosing the most effective path forward begins with correct identification of stress vs. pressure.

Schedule for Health:

Stress management has been heavily researched, and a myriad of resources, training, techniques, and approaches exist, and this is because stress is known to have negative effects on the body and the mind. Chances are, most C-suite executives have studied and built their stress management skills over the course of their career. Executives can be experts in ways to mitigate stress in their organization while failing to prioritize their personal physical and mental health management. One study found CEOs work an average of 79% of all weekend days, 70% of their vacation days, and 62.5 hours per week. Knowing how to best mitigate stress helps lessen negative influence, but only if stress management is a scheduled, prioritized, and practiced part of an executive’s daily routine.

Successful executives schedule their health into their lives just as they would schedule shareholder meetings. Allocating specific time in the day to exercise, eat, and reflect is essential. There is no one set thing executives should do in the time they block out for themselves. Rather, it’s important to take that time and do something restful, rejuvenating, or just plain fun. Executives need balance as much as employees do, so establishing a clear work-life balance is instrumental to managing stress and mental health.

Be the Leader:

It is also important to remember that executives are role models – their behavior has a direct effect on the culture and tone of the company they oversee. If they are trying to promote values of mental and physical wellbeing while choosing not to comply themselves, their team will likely feel less comfortable asking for support or assistance when it is needed. The classic example? Coming to work when sick, but then encouraging staff to take the day off if they are unwell. This type of mixed message has a trickle-down effect on the organization and can elevate workforce stress levels.

While these actions may feel simple or obvious, getting started may not be easy. One path to greater personal and organizational wellbeing is through executive coaching.

Another is bringing a consultant on board to help identify effective health and welfare strategies. Taking action to intentionally manage stress and pressure can result in a domino-effect of improved productivity, organizational culture evolution, and improved attraction and retention rates.

Knowing how to manage stress at an executive level in a healthy manner can cascade down the hierarchy of your business and foster a healthy, happy, and productive workforce. To get in touch to discuss coaching for stress or implementing health and wellbeing strategies, please connect with me at amanda@orgshakers.com

It is not uncommon to feel stressed at work, and so how employers manage this can be vital to ensuring that their teams are being supported so they can produce their strongest output. CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report found that four-fifths (79%) of companies reported some stress-related absences over the last year (and this figure rises to 90% for larger organizations).  

So, what can leaders be doing to ward off these stresses?  

  • Leadership Alignment – during periods of economic uncertainty, it’s particularly important that management are aligned on the top priorities for their organization. We already know that the ongoing cost of living crisis is causing stress for employees– an ACAS survey found that three out of five (63%) employees felt stressed because of the rising cost of living – so it’s key that people have confidence in the long-term financial stability of the companies they work for. Having a strong leadership team who are all on the same page sets a great precedent for the overall tone of the business.  
  • Senior Executive Support – it’s not always easy for senior leaders to find that perfect balance between demonstrating optimism for the future of the business and being authentic and transparent with employees. But being calm and clear can prevent staff stressing over assumptions and ‘what ifs’. This reliability and consistency of behavior in higher-ups builds trust with teams, and so it’s important that the messages don’t appear to swing between good and bad news on different days – acknowledging the challenges and connecting them to the company strategy is key. Executive coaching can be a great way of supporting senior leaders as they process their own thoughts and feelings and explore options and solutions. 
  • ‘Re-recruiting’ Employees – amid mass layoffs, it is very normal for those employees who keep their job to suffer from ‘survivors guilt’. Remaining employees may also have to flex to focus on objectives that aren’t part of their preferred or original area of work, and this can lead to lower levels of motivation. A great way to mitigate this is to have an employee engagement strategy in place. Through regular check-ins, managers can both keep teams and individuals aligned to the bigger purpose and values of the organization as well as help people see how they are adding value, and recognize achievements, in the immediate term.  Running some ‘building resilience’ workshops alongside this can also help with the management of stress during an uncertain time.  
  • Encouraging Paid Time Off – PTO is a great way for employees to decompress, and if employers are encouraging this, it removes any potential awkwardness or guilt around asking. Especially in a hybrid and remote working world, where the boundaries of home and work can sometimes become blurry, it is necessary to reinforce the importance of taking personal time.  
  • Employee Assistance Programs – Having EAPs or mental wellness programs are also useful when dealing with an employee whose stress may require more targeted help from a specialist.  

Adopting these practices in your organization can be extremely beneficial to help proactively deal with stress in the workplace. With the working world continuing to evolve and grow in response to the pandemic and to economic fluctuations, ensuring that you have strong protocols in place to help employees manage stress is vital for the health and wellbeing of your people and your company. If you would like to get in touch about creating and implementing organizational strategies to combat stress, get in touch with me at anya@orgshakers.com  

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

From time to time, I’m sure all of us have been guilty of procrastinating. And if it is something that isn’t happening very often, then it doesn’t really do much harm.

However, in a world where remote working is continuously on the rise, being able to procrastinate is easier than ever. Resume-Now conducted a study which found that 42% of fully remote workers agreed that they got easily distracted when they were supposed to be working.

This is without the fact that, globally, an estimated 20% of adults are considered chronic procrastinators (this is defined as intentionally postponing a course of action despite knowing that this delay will have negative consequences).

This can be a cause for concern for employers, especially those with hybrid and remote working models. So how can they best respond to this and avoid a loss of productivity?

Firstly, understanding why people procrastinate is a great way of figuring out how to approach it. Neuroscientists have found that our brains battle between the limbic system (which controls our primal instincts) and the prefrontal cortex (which controls planning for the future). When strong emotions like anxiety or fear become overwhelming, our limbic systems can take charge, leading us to impulsively seek gratification in any immediate form, despite the consequences of doing so, i.e., falling behind on work or not meeting a deadline. Tim Urban simplified this idea in his popular TED talk, which described how we all have a ‘rational thinker’ that steers our thoughts, but procrastinators will also have an ‘instant gratification monkey’ which only wants to do fun things and doesn’t consider the drawbacks.

A lot of the time, chronic procrastination stems from feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety. If a manager notices an employee being less productive and missing deadlines consistently, this may be a sign that they are struggling and using procrastination as a short-term solution. One way to help solve this is through the introduction of microbreaks.  

A microbreak is essentially a five-minute break which allows an employee to rest their brain between tasks and take a moment for themselves. In a way, this would be employers actively encouraging procrastination, but in a more controlled and mental-health focused manner. If employees are being told to take microbreaks, they won’t find themselves feeling guilty because they wouldn’t consider it procrastinating. This shift in perception can make all the difference, and this is without the fact that microbreaks have been proven to improve engagement and productivity levels.

Another way employers can help staff ignore that pesky monkey is promoting the idea of segmenting their workdays. Cassie Holmes, an expert in time and happiness and author of Happier Hour, discusses the concept of employees dividing their day between ‘happy work’ (which is the work that fuels their passion and they enjoy doing) and ‘work-y work’ (the more repetitive, admin-like tasks). Managers can encourage those who tend to procrastinate to schedule specific time to do the parts of their job they love and the parts they may enjoy a little bit less. This way, the employee is less likely to feel guilty about ‘putting off’ the work-y work, because they know they already have specific time dedicated to doing it.

There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to responding to employee procrastination, and so it is important to consider various solutions. If you would like to discuss detailed strategies about boosting productivity and engagement and warding of procrastination monkeys, please get in touch with us.

Work can be an intimidating and frustrating experience for neurodivergent individuals, as they can struggle to fit in with coworkers and adhere to organizational culture expectations. Conversely, employers and colleagues can feel challenged when working with neurodivergent team members. Through awareness and a few workplace changes, the benefits connected to a neurodiverse workforce can be optimized.

As the world of work continues to evolve, neurodiversity is getting more attention. This begs the question - how will your organization adjust to employees’ growing demand for recognition and workplace modifications?

The best way to find an answer to this is by first understanding what neurodiversity is and looks like.

According to Harvard Medical School, “Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.” Statistically speaking, 15-20% of the world’s population is neurodivergent. Dyslexia, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represent, in order, the three most common types of neurodivergence.

So, how can an organization foster neurodiversity at work?

The key concept surrounding neurodiversity is to improve inclusivity for all people. This requires recognition of each individual’s skills, abilities, and strengths, as well as support for their differences. Many organizations, supervisors, and teams may already be adjusting their routines and practices. Raising awareness and intentionally modifying etiquette can ensure employers and employees don’t miss out on the significant opportunities a neurodiverse workforce provides. Here are some examples of how to promote a neurodiverse work environment:

  • For Sound Sensitivity: provide quiet spaces or white noise areas, give advance notice of auditory disruptions such as loud noises or consistent sound (tapping, hammering) whenever possible, and allow noise-cancelling headphones to be worn in the workplace.
  • For Motion Sensitivity: conduct standing or walking meetings, allow fidget toys or other movement tools, provide stretch/yoga spaces for brief movement breaks, and invite alternative seating options (exercise balls, floor cushions, etc.).
  • For Touch Sensitivity: allow physical space differences (patting on back, no touching, handshakes or fist pumps only, 3-6 feet between people, etc.) and alternative surfaces and equipment (smooth or textured work surface, fabric/wood/metal/plastic seating, feel of writing utensil, etc.).

When an organization encourages a few basic “rules of the road”, it can dramatically increase employee engagement, innovation, creativity, and productivity. For example, DO place focus on communicating clearly and concisely – avoid implied messages or meaning. Be ready to break tasks down into small steps to ensure understanding and work with individuals to identify their preferred learning style; some may learn best with written instructions while others thrive through auditory direction. And, whenever possible, announce any changes to plans in advance to give people a chance to adjust to this change.

However, DON’T make assumptions. Before interpreting someone’s behavior, ask them about their preferences, needs, and goals. Inform people of workplace etiquette before accusing someone of rudeness or rule breaking, and provide the opportunity for individuals to ask clarifying questions that foster understanding.

Mentra has also put together a list of their ‘Top Ten Accommodations’ for neurodiverse employees that can be very helpful:

  1. Noise Cancelling Headphones
  2. Written, concise instructions
  3. Uninterrupted work time
  4. Interviewer experienced with neurodiversity
  5. Flexible schedule
  6. Email/Calendar organization
  7. Extra time
  8. Job coaching or mentoring
  9. Allowance of fidgeting devices
  10. Closed captioning and recorded meetings

Neurodivergent individuals may be overlooked in traditional recruiting practices and that is a definite loss in talent for organizations. Work environments that acknowledge and support neurodiversity can outperform their competitors through innovation, engagement, dedication, and output. But without the right tools, training (a recent study found that only 23% of HR professionals have had specific neurodiversity training in the last year), and workplace practices, many employers can find themselves struggling to gain access to this vast pool of talent. So, if you would like to discuss the best way to hire, onboard and include neurodivergent employees, get in touch with me at amanda@orgshakers.com

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

Nutrition and Hydration Week is an important reminder that what we eat and drink play a huge part in both our physical and mental wellbeing.

There is a wealth of information available to us today to inform how our bodies and minds work best, and what we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Admittedly some of the information is conflicting, and some downright wrong, but there is scientific consensus around many areas and yet we do not capitalise enough on this knowledge.

Feuerbach said, ‘we are what we eat’, and we now know this to be very true. So how does this knowledge apply to the world of work?

Well, although the health and wellbeing of employees has increasingly become a priority for employers, the Health and Safety Executive found that in the year 2021 to 2022 the UK was still losing over 17-million working days to work-related stress, depression and anxiety.

Although progressive organizations are implementing initiatives to address workplace factors which are harmful to employees’ mental health, few are focused how we might increase our resilience to these factors. And here there are some basic human needs we can, and should, pay attention to, including sleep, hydration, exercise, rest, and nutrition.

Ignoring these basic needs comes at a high cost to our health – today and in the future – which means that to optimize their wellbeing strategies, organizations should increasingly be promoting the importance of maintaining and improving physical and mental health.

While maintaining of the brain, hydrating of the body, and looking after the health of one’s gut may all sound like knowledge reserved for medical professionals, all these things can have noticeable effects on an employee’s productivity, engagement, and emotional state. And all are inextricably interlinked.

Mental and physical health can no longer be looked at in isolation from each other. For example, your gut health can play a very big role in the health and optimization of the brain – which has a direct effect on your mental health.

This is because all of us have a ‘gut-brain axis’. The two are connected both biochemically (the gut provides around 95% of the body’s serotonin, which controls feelings of happiness and wellbeing), and physically by the vagus nerve which connects more than 100 million nerve cells in the gut lining directly to the brain stem.

Because of this link, scientists have suggested that mental wellbeing is impacted by the health of the gut microbiome – a complex community of trillions of bacteria which and can vary enormously from person to person. And as the health of an individual’s gut biome is directly related to the food and drink we consume, a balanced diet can help maintain mental as well as physical wellbeing. 

Just like the gut, the brain needs to be nourished and cared for. If this is done correctly, then this has been proven to help improve energy levels, sharpen focus, reduce brain fog, strengthen memory and keep one’s mood balanced.

One of simplest and most effective ways of supporting our brains each day is through drinking sufficient water. Studies have found that as little as 1-2% body water loss directly affects the brain and can lead to cognitive impairment. Not making time to drink some water when working can quickly start to reduce mental focus and create muddled thinking.

So, what can employers do? Making sure you have fresh water readily available at workplaces is one thing, but we are working in a hybrid world now, so we need to support our employees’ wellness wherever they work.

Whilst it may seem counterintuitive in our ‘always on’, ‘always busy’, ‘do more work with less people’ working lives, employers should be encouraging (or in some organisations they are trying mandating) employees to take adequate breaks to rehydrate, eat and take some rest.

This should be seen as the gold standard if we want a healthy, engaged, energized, and productive workforce. Better for employees, customers, the organization, and society.

If employers seek to understand how to properly support the mind and body health of their employees, then they will be rewarded by employees working at their optimum.

This might start with encouraging ‘nudges’ such as free water bottles, but fundamentally we need to address what we know about basic human needs when designing work.

With Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report finding only 21% of workers are engaged with their work, or feel cared about by their employers, this would be a great time to consider all the benefits that a proactive approach to employee wellness has to offer.

If you would like to speak about this topic in more detail and discuss potential wellbeing strategies, please get in touch with us here!

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

Eating disorders can be a very taboo topic that have a lot of incorrect connotations, and because of this, many employers may not consider them to be a cause for concern in the workplace.

But the reality of eating disorders is that they affect around 1.25 million people in the UK, and almost 30 million in the US. Most assume they are something that are exclusive to teenage girls, but surprisingly they are known to affect adults more than younger people, with 25% of sufferers being men. Therefore, it is very likely that some employees may be suffering silently, and this can lead to a sudden increase in absences and a dip in productivity.

However, it can be hard to identify those who are at risk, as most people with an eating disorder are not visibly underweight. This is because we tend to associate ‘eating disorders’ with anorexia, but there are many other easily-concealed ones, such as bulimia, binge eating and ‘other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)’.

So, what are the signs and what should employers be doing?

There are a range of symptoms that an employee may be exhibiting which can indicate that they are struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Feeling anxiety/stress around food – this can take the form of not wanting to eat with others, obsessively calorie counting/exercising, constantly eating, or avoiding having to see their own image (wanting to have their camera off during meetings).
  • Withdrawing from social situations – usually these situations revolve a lot around food and drink, so avoiding them allows a person to have more control over their diet.
  • Routine and stability at work – people with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists and may struggle to cope with sudden change as this could not be predicted and planned for.
  • Increased absence – those who suffer from any of these disorders are likely to have poorer health as they can have a compromising effect on the immune system.

If a member of staff or a manager begins to notice any of these signs, paired with a change in productivity and engagement, then the best approach would be for the suspected person’s line manager to set up a one-to-one meeting with them.

Ensure that the conversation is centred around their affected performance, and then ask them why this might be. If a manager goes in trying to diagnose someone with an eating disorder, this can either make the person feel like they are being accused of something, or there may be an entirely different reason for their sudden change in behavior. Let them lead the conversation and the issue will organically come to light.

If they do discover that the person is indeed struggling with an eating disorder, be sure to reassure them as an employer that you want to support them, not judge them. The manager can then signpost them to a GP or an external source of support, such as Beat (UK based) or National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA, US based).

If you would like to discuss how we can help boost productivity through the implementation of policies around mental wellbeing in your workplace, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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

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