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Going Green

According to a recent medical study, simply being exposed to pictures of plants and nature is enough to improve your mood. The study concluded that having windows that open to green space is more likely to improve your feelings of well-being over a scene which simply looks onto a brick wall.

Not every office space can have windows and moving to an office with a nice view, while preferable to many employees, is likely not practical. You can still take advantage of the conclusions of the study, however, by adding more plants and foliage to the office or even simply by having pictures and murals of nature hung around the office.

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Ontario Employment Standards Review

In recent blog posts I’ve been extolling the benefits of working less, providing wellness incentives, and paid sick leave banks in an effort to improve employee health which can lead to higher employee happiness and overall productivity. HR can and should be the driver of this inside your organization by crafting policy providing benefits and incentives to employees.

In a recent sneak peek of the Ontario government’s review of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, it seems that government doesn’t think that this is happening enough in private industry and is looking to craft into provincial law these very benefits.

According to some of the recommendations of the review, the Ontario government is thinking of making it mandatory for companies to provide some paid sick leave, a minimum of 3 weeks of paid vacation, and lowering the threshold for overtime pay to kick in. This may seem like it would put a higher burden on companies in terms of benefits they are required to pay, however, the hope is that ultimately the changes pay out in dividens to the company in terms of higher productivity from happier workers.

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Should HR promote wellness?

There have been numerous examples in the last few years of companies encouraging and rewarding employees for making healthy choices. Your company could negotiate group discounts with local fitness centres for reduced gym membership fees or provide gift cards and vouchers for healthier eating options. Why not help employees with the cost of smoking cessation programs and aids. Healthy employees are less likely to take time off and are more productive. Helping and incentivizing employees to be healthy can also improve employee happiness.

Are we working too much?

According to a recent study, when women work more than 34 hours per week and men work more than 47 hours a week, they were more likely to show signs of mental illness and symptoms of nervousness and depression. The reason for the gender gap seems to stem from the fact that women are also far more likely to spend time doing domestic chores and caretaking at home.
A case study of nurses that worked only 6 hours per day instead of the North American standard of 8 hours per day concluded that those employees working only 6 hours per day reported feeling happier and was less prone to taking time off for illness.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, working less may actually increase productivity and employee engagement.

An Argument for Sick Leave Banks

This year has been a particularly difficult flu season for many. The number of reported cases in the Toronto area is greater than it has been in the past few years. With that in mind, it is important to ensure that your company has a good sick leave strategy.
Many studies have shown that when a company does not offer a good policy for taking time off when an employee is sick, employees are more likely to come into the office when they are not feeling well for fear of losing out on pay. Sick employees spreading germs in the office ultimately leads to more employees being infected leading to a loss of productivity and costing the company more in the end.

Why HR is like Customer Service – Part 2

In the last blog post, I pointed out a connection between HR and customer service and how techniques from the CSR discipline can be used to enhance HR.

One main point is to understand your customer and to attempt to meet their needs as quickly as possbile. One of the keynote speakers in the field of customer service adapted to this principle by gathering as much relavent information as possible on the client into as few screens as possible. This is especially relavent when making key decisions related to compensation.

A good compensation planner can help gather all of your information into a single spot and process the information easily so that all key stakeholders have an appropriate view of the organization. Setting the high level variables such as budgets and performance pay targets at a high level then providing your managers with all of the necessary information related to your employees allows you to delegate responsibility. Given all of the information at a single glance provides managers with all of the tools they need to quickly and effectively set increase and bonus values and submit them for approval to upper levels of management.

Why HR is like Customer Service – Part 1

Recently I was in attendance at a conference on innovations in customer service. Many of the key topics were focused on gathering and using available data to better understand your customers and their needs as well as allowing the customer to better help themselves.

As I was listening to the presentations I realized that most of the strategies being discussed about customer service are also directly applicable to human resources. Then I finally made the realization that in a lot of ways human resources IS customer service but focused internally.

Just like customer service, human resources needs to understand who their customers (HR: employees) are and tailor their needs to fit. How do your clients prefer to communicate with you? Do they use email, fill out forms, call on the telephone? Make sure that you provide them with the methods of communication that they prefer to use.

Understanding your core demographic can be aided by a good dashboard that gives you real-time insights into your organization.

Right to disconnect

France has recently passed a bill which is meant to reform workers rights. While some of the new laws have been extremely unpopular, sparking mass protests, included in the reform package is a “right to disconnect”.

In my last post I discussed the idea of a work-life balance. In this new law, France attempts to break the digital tether with a law giving you the right to not answer your phone and emails after work hours; an enforced “quiet time”. In North America and around the world it seems that there is increasingly an expectation to always be available. With a cell phone or smart phone in nearly every pocket, the ability to connect with anyone using text, email and direct phone call instantly is easier than ever.

That begs the question – just because you can be reached instantly, does that mean that you should be expected to respond instantly? Do you stress out when you hear the notification chime on your phone hoping that you don’t miss something important? Some professions have scheduled “on call” and are paid extra for this time even if they don’t actually have to work during this period. Maybe employees should be negotiating extra pay into their contract if there is going to be an expectation to do work outside of work hours.

Work Life Blend

Quite often it is said that the key to staying healthy and happy at work is to have a good work life balance. This usually means that you should be keeping your working life and your home life separate and have the ability to turn work off when you leave the office for the day.
Increasingly, millennials and younger generations in the workforce are looking for a work/life blend. They are willing to put in those extra hours and answer emails after work from home but the opposite also needs to be true to maintain balance. As an employer, if you expect to intrude on your workforce during their leisure time then you should expect that their leisure time can also intrude on their time in the office.
Millennials are extremely social, starting families, and are starting to have increasing responsibilities outside of work and want the flexibility to take care of things as they come up. The key is balance. Strictly enforcing rules to restrict private life interactions in the workplace will most likely lead to resentful workers that simply hide their behavior.

The Social Media Background Check

Finding the right candidate to fill a position in your organization can be a challenge. Vetting a candidate for the skills that match your position and a personality that is the right fit for your organization can be vexing.

Increasingly, one of the easiest ways to vet a candidate is to do a quick search online and look up their social media presence. While many may agree that your personal life and your work life should be separate, more and more employers are taking action against employees over something that they’ve posted to social media. As well, hiring managers are scanning social media for the profiles of potential candidates and making judgments on what they find.

Not only are you required to educate yourself in the skills of the trade you plan on pursuing a career in but now you also need to become a personal social media manager to carefully cultivate an online persona that is attractive to employers as well.

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