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People Matter December 2017

The importance of a work-life balance at Christmas

Christmas is one of the few times of year that many of us can really switch off from work. After all, there’s nothing more festive than shutting up shop, putting on a Christmas movie and being overly-optimistic about the number of mince pies you can eat. However, a recent study of 3,000 workers found that 54% of employees check their emails during holidays – and 69% are expected to work outside of office hours.

Mobile phone and laptop use has risen dramatically over the last couple of decades – and whilst they enable flexible working, many cite these as being the main reasons why we find it hard to switch off when we’re not in the workplace.

Another study found that the average worker failed to use six days of paid leave each year – so it is important to ensure your staff take the opportunity to unplug from work and use their annual leave throughout the year. After all, a well-rested workforce is a productive one. Global accounting firm Ernst & Young even found that for every ten hours an employee takes off from work, their annual performance rating goes up by eight percent.

So, instead of rushing around the office and turning up the pressure this Christmas, it might be more beneficial to encourage your staff to focus on their ‘must do’ list rather than their ‘nice to do’ list. This way they can achieve their important objectives, then switch off and have a relaxing break.

When done correctly, flexible working practices can bring benefits to both the business and employees. In the new year you could consider flexible working arrangements that work for both them and you – such as working from home, or an earlier start and finish time for those with young children.

If you would like advice about flexible working arrangements and how these could work for your business, contact The HR Dept for more information.

How Blue Monday can affect your workforce

The term ‘Blue Monday’ might immediately make you think of the New Order song, but it’s also a date in the calendar. Often referred to as the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday generally falls on the third Monday of January, placing 2018’s on 15 January.

Staff will be back from the Christmas break and the post-festive blues may well have set in. Throw cold evenings, short days and empty bank accounts into the mix, and you could find yourself with a rather demotivated workforce.

A distracted workforce is bad for any business. But whilst it’s not an employer’s responsibility to manage the mood or finances of employees, there are some practical things you can consider to ensure productivity doesn’t suffer.

More than 85% of workers in Ireland feel financial stress, with one million Irish employees struggling to make ends meet according to a survey commissioned by For people in these circumstances, the extra cost pressures of Christmas will exacerbate this. Some employers are known to offer employees loans in this period to help them get by.

Other employers provide an EAP (employee assistance programme) to their staff throughout the year, which typically consists of a confidential helpline and counselling services. It provides support and advice on a range of issues which might include money and mental health problems. They are a cost-effective way of helping your workforce and consequently your business.

If your team has the January blues, we can help. We can advise on how to manage a productive, happy workforce – including setting up an EAP.

Workers rate money and time as their biggest motivators

A survey conducted by Purely Digital found that increases in money and annual leave are the biggest motivators amongst employees.

The results revealed that 39.1% of workers were driven most by a financial reward, whilst 36.9% preferred more annual leave, 16% favoured activity days and 15% were incentivised by free products.

Although it’s not a big surprise that money is a major motivator amongst employees, it often ends up only being a short-term incentive after the feel-good factor fades.

There is good value for business owners in considering longer term initiatives such as a flexi-time policy that suits employees’ ongoing lifestyles. Thinking creatively about how you can reward staff can generate real value for you and them, and also differentiate you as an employer.

The HR Dept can advise you on a suitable and desirable employee benefits package that will really engage your workforce. Contact us for more information.

Breastfeeding mother claims gender discrimination

A court has heard that an employer turned down a Spanish nurse’s request to adjust her working pattern as she was breastfeeding. She was concerned about the shift rotation system and exposure to radiation, infections and stress.

After a risk assessment was undertaken by her employer, her request was denied. However, the Court of Justice of the European Union declared that the employer had failed to undertake a risk assessment of the employee’s specific circumstances, as required by law, and had simply assessed her job role. It was therefore found that the employer’s actions constituted as gender discrimination.

Maternity laws can be complex, and it is essential you comply fully. The courts take a dim view to breaches, deeming them discriminatory which can lead to large fines. For guidance, call The HR Dept.

Financially-strained staff in the workplace

After the spend-fest that is Christmas, it’s not surprising that some people can become worried and anxious about their personal financial situation.

According to a survey, Irish workers lose an average of 37 minutes each day worrying about money, and four in ten of those who are financially strained are having trouble sleeping. Furthermore, 78% of employers have noticed an impact on their staff’s ability to work effectively due to money worries.

Some companies offer their staff flexibility around their December and January pay dates to help offset the financial burden that Christmas brings. You might also find it beneficial to have conversations with staff at risk of financial stress about how you can help them focus on work and not be distracted by their financial concerns.

If you need advice on how to offer financial flexibility, contact The HR Dept.

Start planning now for next year’s recruitment

Many businesses will start the recruiting process in January – but one of the tricks to ensure this runs smoothly is to start planning your hiring strategy before Christmas.

Planning early will ensure your recruitment strategy is in line with your business plan, for instance having the right team to meet your goals and the budgets to make the process run smoothly.

If you want to take on employees and kick off the new year in the best way possible, your local HR Dept adviser can help with recruiting and onboarding staff.

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