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How to address poor time management with employees

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“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”

“Something more important came up”

“I don’t have time right now. I’ll do it later”

Sound familiar? If employees are providing these common excuses when you ask them for an update on a task or project, you may need to address their time management.

Upon hearing that the work is not complete, or not even started, your instant reaction might very well be to tut, sigh or scold them for not doing what you had asked. It is an annoying situation after all, and could be holding up other important work. But as natural as this reaction may feel, it won’t immediately solve the problem. You are still without the work and the likelihood is that if you don’t address this situation it will be a recurring one.

Ironically you might feel as though you don’t have the time for such an intervention. But leading by example will not only solve the problem going forwards, but also foster trust and respect from your workforce.

Getting to the root of the problem

Although the employee has said that they didn’t have the time to do what was asked of them, there could be various reasons behind this that prevented the work from being completed on time. You’ll want to ask them why they didn’t have the time, in order to better understand and decide on your next steps.

Five common causes of deadline delays

1. They are not prioritising their workload
Time management requires structure and discipline. It could be that they are procrastinating or unsure of how to prioritise their tasks in the most efficient way.

2.They are distracted by co-workers
Colleagues who are friends can distract each other with non-work-related chatter. Or co-workers asking them for help could be getting in the way of their own tasks. This can cause problems with focus and concentration.

3.They honestly don’t have the time
A heavy workload can cause problems with productivity and efficiency. Whilst work is piling up, the employee could also be suffering from stress.

4.They are ill-equipped to complete the work
Out-of-date systems and manual processes can double the time needed to complete a task.

5.They are unskilled or lethargic
And not the right person for the job.

Taking the time to rectify

Each of these examples requires its own remedy. After sitting down with an employee and asking them some questions about their workday, the direction that you need to take may become quite clear.

Reviewing seating plans and systems can be a great way to improve efficiencies for the whole team, and could be a good place to start. Time management training with regular support afterwards can be very effective. And, of course, dealing with unproductive employees is an absolute priority for you.

If you would like to discuss how to improve efficiencies for your workforce, introduce time management training to your team, or implement a performance improvement plan for an individual, get in touch with your local HR Dept today.

How to support an employee who is caring for a dependant

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As many as one in ten of us is providing unpaid care for a sick or elderly relative. This can be in addition to paid employment, so it is possible that you may have some carers amongst your workforce.

Unsupported employees with caring duties can experience problems with focus, productivity and attendance. Some even feel that they must quit work altogether. The worrying statistic is that two in three carers have seen their own health suffer as a result of caring, which can lead to burnout.

With the right strategy in place this can be overcome, and you can retain and support your caring employees. Good management understands their circumstances, aiming to help them work well and reach their potential.

Additionally, if they are a resident primary carer of a person or child with a disability, they are protected under The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2011 and may be legally entitled to specific leave for caring responsibilities, or the right to be considered for flexible working. It’s important to stay informed to avoid discrimination.

A sensitive subject

It might not be obvious which of your employees are balancing their work with caring responsibilities, as some people like to separate their personal and professional lives. Therefore, if the topic does arise, manage it with compassion and confidentiality.

Ways in which you can help an employee who is caring for a dependant

Here are our suggestions for supporting an employee who is caring for a dependant and helping them to be more productive.

Support and empathy

Regular catch-ups with employees allow them the opportunity to discuss anything that might be troubling them or affecting their performance. If it is apparent that caring responsibilities are affecting their well-being you can signpost support services and let them know that they are not alone. Charities such as Family Carers Ireland list help and advice.

If you manage a leadership team, consider providing them with training on carers’ employment rights so that they feel equipped and able to manage effectively.

Flexible working

Offering flexible work arrangements to employees is a great way to show your support of a good work-life balance. A change as simple as a later start allowing the carer to get the dependant dressed and given breakfast can make all the difference. Employees who are able to work well around other commitments are less likely to need time off.

Carer’s leave

Some care demands can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. And so the Carer’s Leave Act 2001 allows employees to take unpaid temporary time off to care for a dependant in need of full-time care and attention.  There are rules relating to carer’s leave and specific criteria as to who should be classed as a dependant, ask us if you are unsure.

 

The benefits to your business of supporting an employee who cares for a dependant

Taking care of employees is taking care of your business. Understanding the unique needs of your workforce can result in strong staff retention, a boost in productivity and the economy. If you would like further advice and support on how to manage the carers amongst your team and the importance of doing so, contact your local HR Dept today.

How would you rate your workplace well-being?

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How well is your workforce? Reports have highlighted how work-related stress in Ireland is on the rise, with employee stress doubling over a five-year period. This suggests that workplace well-being in Ireland needs attention.

An always on culture can lead to increased workload with little time to switch off. Left unaddressed these sorts of issues lead to health problems such as stress, burnout and eventually increased absences.

There are several factors that can affect employee well-being with workload being just one. World Well-being Week, which runs from 24 – 28 June, presents a great opportunity to check-in with employees and reassess the overall well-being and happiness levels of your staff.

Why is workplace well-being so important?

First, as an employer, you are legally obliged to ensure the health and safety of your staff. Failure to comply puts you and your business at risk.

Second, people work better when they are happy. Healthy working environments help people to develop, while engaged and happy workers are more likely to be committed and more productive.

Third, employees are often the frontline of your business and typically manage relationships with customers and suppliers. If employees are not at their best, your company image can suffer.

How to improve workplace well-being in your business

Workplace well-being is comprised of health, good work, happiness and welfare. So in order to assess the well-being of your workplace it is a good idea to start by assessing each of these areas.

Health

From physical to mental health there are many ways in which you can manage and promote good health amongst your employees. Implementing an employee assistance programme, a cycle-to-work scheme or training on stress management are some good starting points.

Good work

Good work looks at an employee’s ability to do their job well and reach their potential. Hiring the right people is crucial for good work to take place, and regular reviews or 121s keep track of performance. Review job descriptions regularly to make sure that additional workload has not crept in over time. Moreover, promoting an inclusive culture and providing accessible workstations make a difference day-to-day.

Happiness

How engaged are your employees? This can be a good measure of happiness, as unhappy employees tend to be less interested in their work and can lack motivation. If you are concerned about morale, try organising a fun activity that promotes teamwork, or a schedule for engaging lunch-and-learn sessions.

Welfare

One in four employees have mental health issues causing stress and anxiety. These concerns may not always be work related but can have an impact on work. Providing access to an employee assistance programme can make a huge difference.

Best practice and policy

A well-being policy can show your commitment and dedication to employee well-being. It sets the tone for your organisational culture and can help to retain and attract the talent that your business needs to succeed. If you think your workplace well-being could do with an upgrade, get in touch with your local HR Dept today.

 

Top tips for managing remote workers

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There are many benefits to employing remote workers for your business, such as reduced overheads and better flexibility. But managing them comes with its own challenges. On-site employees jesting that their homeworker colleagues are “slacking”, and a lack of visibility on productivity are just some of the obstacles you might face when managing remote workers.

Whether you employ office staff that work from home on the odd occasion, operate teams overseas or supervise a large network of homeworkers, remote work needs dedicated management to suit a unique set of circumstances.

The rise of remote working

Perhaps you are yet to manage remote workers. But as the desire for flexibility picks up pace amongst today’s working population, you may find yourself managing people working remotely sooner than you think. Many people are seeking opportunities that offer a good work-life balance. Additionally, advances in technology continue to better our channels of communication and aid our ability to work well remotely.

Ultimately, hiring or appointing remote workers is your decision and will come down to the specific needs of your business.

Effective management of remote workers

If you’re considering widening your prospects for recruitment or would like to review your current management of employees working from home, see our top tips below.

Encourage transparency

A stigma of home working is that if you are not seen to be working, you can be perceived to not be working. This assumption can damage working relationships between co-workers and the morale of the person working from home, who may feel a need to overcompensate.

To overcome this, consider online solutions for tracking workflow and productivity. Having all employees update their progress, regardless of their location, via the same system, can improve transparency and productivity.

Using video calls to keep everyone in the loop

As with all employees, good communication is essential. This can be even more important when managing those working remotely. If your team is prone to having open discussions and making quick decisions, those working from home could be missing out.

For any important matters make sure to schedule a meeting and dial in the relevant remote workers. If you can add video to the call, even better. Participants are less likely to zone out if they are on camera and it’s nice to see a familiar face once in a while.

Promote inclusivity

Working remotely offers less of an opportunity to connect with colleagues and can sometimes be an isolating experience. It’s important that managers and co-workers remain mindful of this and include remote workers whenever possible.

Some simple ways of being inclusive can be remembering to invite homeworkers to socials or team away days, scheduling meet-ups between homeworkers or days when they can come to the office. Or even allowing them to claim back a home delivery if the whole team is enjoying a pizza reward.

 

Help with managing home workers

Happy and productive remote workers can be a real asset to your workforce when they are managed well. If you’re thinking of introducing remote working to your business and want to implement a remote worker policy, contact your local HR Dept today.

Managing maternity leave

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You’ve signed the card and waved an employee off into parenthood. But what happens next? Perhaps you hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, especially if the employee is taking the statutory maternity leave (SML) which is 26 weeks regardless of how long they have worked for you, with the right to take an additional 16 weeks unpaid additional maternity leave (AML), so they could be gone for a year.

However, saying “See you later!” with no further plans for communication during an employee’s maternity leave can be detrimental and risky for your business.

Pregnant employees and those on maternity or adoption leave have special protection, yet discrimination still happens. Statistics over in the UK report that up to 54,000 women are pushed out of their jobs each year due to pregnancy or maternity leave, and that 77% claim their careers have been negatively affected.

The importance of having a policy

Both employer and employees need to understand their rights and responsibilities during the pregnancy or adoption process. Having a policy in place that explains the process fully helps the employee and protects the company from discrimination claims.

What should your policy include?

So let’s take a look at what your policy should include before, during and after maternity leave.

Before the event
There are a number of statutory rights such as reasonable time off for antenatal visits. Therefore, your policy needs to explain how to book that time off. Detail when to produce the correct documentation and what statutory payments they may be eligible for. The policy needs to explain how much time off they can have and how they could share this with their partner (from Nov 2019). It should also include what benefits they will be entitled to during maternity or adoption leave.

You also must carry out a maternity risk assessment to ensure the health and safety of the employee during this time.

During maternity leave
Communication is key. Keeping in touch with employees who are out on maternity leave is a great way to promote inclusivity and is an important part of your family friendly policy. Good communication can help to ensure the employee still feels part of the company and keeps up to date with changes. You can invite them to training events, meetings and company socials.

Returning to work
An employee returning from maternity or adoption leave is automatically entitled to return to their existing role with the same terms and conditions of employment. Your policy needs to explain when they have to tell you if they wish to return early or if they wish to leave. Of course many wish to have a more flexible working arrangement once the demands of childcare hit. And so providing an understanding of how to apply for this is important.

The truth is the whole maternity, paternity and adoption process can be a bit of a minefield for you as an employer. So if you would like help managing this please call us.

Getting ahead with good mental health in your business

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As an employer you would not expect your employee to work as usual if they were suffering from a physical illness that caused them obvious pain. Unfortunately, when people are suffering from mental health issues such as depression the signs are not obvious, or necessarily even visible at all. Many choose to suffer in silence because of stigma.

Relationship breakdowns, financial worries, grief and many other issues can be the trigger. But the frightening statistic is that more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life due to workplace stress.

That’s close to half the working population. Whilst moderate stress is typical in the workplace and can help build resilience, pro-longed stress can be hugely problematic. It can lead to complications with a person’s physical and mental health.

Why workplace mental health matters

Employees who are struggling with their mental health may find it difficult to work well. Some even feel like they can’t come in to work at all. Increased absences can lead to their work colleagues starting to feel the strain of an increasing workload. This can create a domino effect of stress-related problems and before you know it, your business is suffering too.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and well-being of their staff. Failing to adequately address mental ill-health in your business can lead to a disability discrimination claim. In turn this can result in an equality legislation claim.  But even more important is the fact that happy staff are more productive.

Time to change

Good mental health should be aspired to like good physical health. The difficulty is that it is harder to know when someone is struggling with mental ill-health unless they tell you. Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not.

Without being intrusive or presumptuous, employers must address and tackle mental health matters in their workplace. Luckily there is support available to help with this.

Changes you can make today

There are steps you can take today to make a positive impact on the mental well-being of your employees. It could start with a simple “How are you?” to open the conversation about mental health. Regular 121s with your staff present the perfect opportunity to talk.

Your company culture can impact workplace well-being. Leading by example and fostering a mentally healthy workplace, which leaves no room for stigma or discrimination, let’s employees know that they are respected and working in a safe space.

Having a good EAP (employee assistance programme) in place is a really easy first step. This confidential and independent service can be provided to employees by the company and offer advice and counselling on a large range of issues.

Whilst ad-hoc activities like bowling or fun away days can help to boost morale from time to time, an EAP offers permanent and ongoing support.  Its not expensive but it punches way above its cost in terms of benefit to your business and your team.

Call us. There are costs associated with the mismanagement of workplace mental health. We will take the time to listen to the unique needs of your business and provide expert advice on how best you can support your employees and manage mental health in your business.

How to manage an employee under the influence of alcohol

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Did you know that Ireland’s consumption of spirits has risen by 21.48% in the past five years? Perhaps you are not too surprised by this statistic as going for a drink is known to be a popular Irish pastime.

With that in mind, you may expect that some of your employees enjoy a drink or two in their downtime. Depending on the culture of your company, it might even be commonplace that colleagues meet after work for drinks. Trouble can arise however when an employee blurs the lines between work and play and turns up to work under the influence of alcohol.

This is not only incredibly awkward and embarrassing, for them and onlookers, but it’s also a risky and potentially dangerous health and safety situation that needs to be dealt with quickly and legally.

Find out how best to deal with an employee who is potentially under the influence with our top tips below.

Investigate the situation

Meet immediately with the employee as soon as it is brought to your attention. There may be an innocent explanation as some medications can cause drowsiness and some illnesses can impair mobility. Therefore, it is important to assess the situation and establish whether the employee is under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed medication.

Refer to your policy

Having a policy that clearly sets out your company rules on drugs and alcohol in the workplace is essential and will help you work out what to do next. If the employee is under the influence of alcohol, you can refer to your policy and explain the steps. This may be a Gross misconduct issue that could result in summary dismissal.

It’s worth noting that if you or a manager provided the alcohol, say at a work event, you can be at risk of vicarious liability and can be implicated should any harm come to the employee. If the employee is obviously incapable of working safely then they should be sent home and not allowed to continue to work.  If this is not so clear, you might need to suspend on full pay and in either case, you need to investigate it thoroughly in line with your discipline procedures.

Investigate further

At a later date invite the employee to an investigative interview.  Interview witnesses and try to build a complete picture. Is it a one off following a personal problem or celebratory event or is there and under lying addiction? Does your policy have a support system in place for addiction?

The findings of these questions will define your next steps If having a drink is associated with your company culture, you may want to balance it out by providing your staff with health education on the effects of binge drinking.

Seek expert advice

Failing to manage an employee who is inebriated at work can cause even bigger problems. Random drug and alcohol testing is really recommended where driving or handling machinery is involved, and dismissing an employee with an alcohol addiction could lead to claims under the Equality Acts, for dismissal due to a disability.  We advise to proceed with caution and get expert advice before you react in the wrong way, no matter how understandable that may be.

If you’re in need of an alcohol policy, setting up testing or would like to train your managers on how to deal with alcohol in the workplace, contact your local HR Dept today.

 

Are your interviewing techniques a help or a hindrance?

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Interviews. You either look forward to doing them, dread them or get someone else to do them for you. Perhaps you feel you have nailed your interviewing technique by now and typically follow the same process every time. This is great… if your technique is a success and legally compliant.

It might surprise some employers to learn that employment law applies even before hiring an employee. From the moment you begin recruiting, you are bound by laws on discrimination and data protection.

Choosing the right questions can also be a challenge. In a limited length of time you’ll want to find out if they are the right person for the job, the right fit for your culture and to tell them more about your company. Believe it or not, some employers stumble here and get this part horribly wrong.

What not to ask in a job interview

Earlier this year a candidate tweeted about her brutal and humiliating interview during which she was quizzed about her childhood, her parents’ relationship and criticised for her posture.

Unsurprisingly the tweet went viral attracting attention and a BBC radio interview. Not to mention some bad PR for the company in question.

Inappropriate or invasive questions can make a candidate feel uncomfortable and some, such as “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?”, can be blatantly discriminatory and illegal. It’s best to avoid getting too familiar.

In another example, a Caribbean food chain is reported to have asked candidates to show off their limbo skills. Whilst it’s in the spirit of the company culture, this is a risky route for an interview. We would advise that interviewers avoid asking candidates to dance – unless it’s crucial to the job!

What can I ask a candidate?

There are plenty of acceptable questions that you can and should ask an interviewee, that won’t be harmful or embarrassing. We suggest having some prepared ahead of time.

You’ll want to prioritise questions that explore their skills and experience to find out if they are the best person for the job. Questions like “Can you elaborate on your relevant experience for this role?” or “What skills can you bring to this position?” will help you to make your decision.

Questions that instigate critical or creative thinking can also be useful, if they are necessary for the role requirements.

Naturally you’ll also want to know if the candidate will fit in well with your company culture. Open ended questions like “What are your hobbies?” can be a good ice breaker and are a safe way to find out more without being invasive. Also, a revelation such as regular participation in dangerous sports might tell you a lot more about a person.

Are my interview questions legal?

If you are unsure, it is always best to seek professional advice. If you are about to start a round of interviews and would like to check your technique first, why not run your questions past us or come on one of our training courses? Or if you would like a higher level of support, let us do the questioning for you.

What to do when an employee asks for a pay rise

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Just when everything seems to be ticking along nicely, you get a request from an employee asking for a pay rise. Sigh.

It could be right on time, perhaps you have been reviewing wages. Or, it’s caught you off guard and you’re left feeling stunned. A flustered “You must be joking!” can cause you even bigger problems. So it’s best to fight off any impulsive urges and take time to consider your response carefully.

At this stage, a simple acknowledgment and commitment to follow up should suffice. After which you can consider the below in order to provide a constructive and thoughtful reply.

Find out why

Ultimately when an employee asks for more money it suggests that they are unhappy with their employment. You’ll need to know the reasons behind this in order to manage the situation and find the best possible solution.

For example, are they struggling financially and don’t know what else to do? Do they feel undervalued or believe other staff are paid more? Do they believe that their salary isn’t competitive?  Are they willing to take on more work? Each of these situations necessitates a specific response.

Consider your options

Has the request prompted you to review your current salary offering? Perhaps now is the time to carry out a job evaluation on all roles and look at competitive salaries locally. Job evaluation helps you to develop salary bands, creating a fair pay system and preventing gender pay issues. You then need a pay policy to guide you. It will also help staff understand the process of how salaries are reviewed, and with performance management objectives achieved, how they may increase their salary at the next review.

Is the employee capable of taking on additional duties that would warrant an increase, and could that opportunity be offered?

It may transpire that the employee in question is receiving a competitive and fair wage for their role and you do not have the need to alter their responsibilities. But if you would like to show them they are valued, a non-monetary reward could go a long way.

With delicate situations, such as an employee struggling financially, a pay rise might not be justified. But, even so a different kind of support could be really helpful. An employee assistance programme can help here.

Communicate clearly

When it comes to delivering the news, good or bad, be sure to do so compassionately and make sure your explanation is clear. Acknowledge their determination for the initial request and clearly point out the reasons behind your decision.

It’s possible that your answer might lead to some difficult conversations. If you would like us to carry out the job evaluation for you, do enlist the help of your local HR Dept.

Three questions on staffing public holidays in your business

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With public holidays approaching, you may well be wondering how best to manage your workforce to keep business running as usual.

Depending on the nature of your business, staff could either expect to have the usual public holidays off or be keen to get their leave requests approved. Some may have even been vocalising their important plans for some time now, in the hope that it will give them the edge over their colleagues. Others might desire holiday at either end of the bank holidays to extend their break, or could have cottoned on to this year’s rare calendar quirk: 17 days off using just 9 days holiday.

These situations can also raise questions about payment of overtime and holiday entitlement. Weren’t public holidays supposed to be relaxing?

They still can be. With some processes in place and knowledge of how best to manage your workforce around public holidays, you can ensure minimal disruption to your business and avoid a holiday headache. We have answered some of the most common questions on this topic below.

One: Do I have to give my staff public holidays off?

Typically, many businesses decide to close on public holidays and most employees are entitled to paid leave. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 outlines the rules relating to holiday entitlement and public holidays.

Employees are entitled to one of the following and it is up to you as their employer to decide which one is most suitable for your business.

  • A paid day off on that day.
  • A paid day off within a month of that day.
  • An additional day of annual leave.
  • An additional day’s pay.

You may find that employees have an opinion on which one they would like and so it’s best to communicate with them well in advance of the holiday in question.

Rules differ for part-time employees and come down to hours worked in the weeks leading up to a public holiday and usual days of working. Ask us if you are unsure.

Two: My business is open on a public holiday; how do I balance holiday requests?

This can be tricky for a small or medium sized business. You need your business to operate, but will equally want to be fair to your workforce. Staff contracts should explain the rules surrounding work on public holidays and the following tips can help you to balance any requests for leave:

  • Use a fair process for approving holiday requests such as first come first served. Although a year in advance might not be so fair so beware the early birds.
  • Don’t disregard religious reasons for requesting holiday, it could lead to discrimination.
  • Encourage workers to make plans to avoid disappointment.
  • Use a holiday management system like The HR toolkit which comes with a holiday calendar.

Three: Do I need to adjust pay for those working on a public holiday?

If working on a public holiday is mandatory in your business the terms must be outlined in your employment contracts. You will need to adjust pay for those working unless they are receiving an extra day of leave instead. It’s important to note that the extra day off must be taken within one month of the public holiday in question.

Have unanswered questions?

As an employer it is your responsibility to provide workers with the correct holiday entitlement. Getting it wrong can see you facing an employment tribunal claim for breaching the law.

If you manage a diverse workforce who work a range of hours and days, calculating holiday can be complex. If you have unanswered questions regarding staffing on bank holidays, we can help.