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People Matter October 2016

Promoting Mental Health

A recent survey of 20,00 people conducted by the charity Business in the Community uncovered some worrying trends. It revealed that 62% of workers believed their employment had contributed to physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms of poor mental health.

10 October was Mental Health Awareness Day. So this month is a good time to reflect on good mental health in the workplace.

The survey probed deeper and found that traditional channels which you might expect to help manage this problem were not being used. Only 11% of staff members had discussed mental health problems with line managers. Just one in four felt able to talk to any colleague at all about the matter. And while a quarter of employees said they had access to an employee assistance programme (EAP), only 2% had used one.

It suggests that businesses need to go further than just putting processes in place to manage mental health. If you have line managers, training in mental health awareness could be a big help here (32% of managers said they didn’t have enough) and building in time for one-to-one appraisals provides more opportunity to nurture staff and spot problems early.

If you invest in an EAP, don’t think of it as just a box ticking exercise: promote it internally to staff so they understand how it can help.

Finally, one of the basics to get right is workplace culture. Creating an environment where people get on with each other and enjoy their work is a great starting point for promoting mental health.

The HR Dept can assist with all of these solutions, helping you achieve a happy, productive workplace.

How not to recruit!

Remember the whole ‘Equality Acts 1998-2015’ thing? We’ll be talking about it in our Latest thinking on dress code article below. Well, an elite recruitment firm in London is in serious danger of breaching it, as well as being pretty offensive along the way, by advertising gender specific job roles – generally a big no-no under the Act, along with other protected characteristics.

For one PA position, in addition to listing a job specification, they also list bra size specifications – B-C cup in case you were wondering, and hair colour (brown). There’s no special provision in the Act to specify gender for a PA role, let alone such physical attributes. In a minority of professions, gender can be specified in a job advert, like prison guards. But for most job adverts, keep them open, keep them legal and you’ll have a great chance of ending up with the best candidate. The HR Dept can provide a full recruitment service, so get in touch.

Bad PR from exploitative contracts

Major employers have been straining the phrase “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” to the limit. Sports Direct has come under sustained attack for its employment practices, and now online fashion retailer ASOS has been accused of draconian working conditions. In a BuzzFeed News exposé, distribution centre staff complained of exhausting targets, embarrassing security checks and harsh pay-docking. XPO, the company that runs the distribution centre disputes this, but that hasn’t prevented negative news coverage. Badly worded or unfair employment contracts can cause all kinds of trouble for business owners. For a review of yours, contact The HR Dept.

Wedding dress Wednesday

Just the other week, female employees across Ireland were encouraged to come to work clothed in a wedding dress. A fun, light-hearted initiative, it was part of a campaign called #DaretoCare to raise awareness for the Irish Cancer Society.

Performing charitable acts in the workplace has been known to improve the well-being and morale of those involved. And not only does it help employees in this way, it also has a positive impact on businesses through corporate social responsibility.

By giving back to the community, it makes the area a better place for those who live and work there, but also enhances the standing of your business locally and raises company profile.

Charitable giving doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give money. There are other innovative ways to be charitable. For instance, by encouraging employees to devote time or skills within the community. Our Licensee in Newcastle generously advertised to do a free CV check for those who experienced fallout from the BHS scandal. It helped a group of people in need, whilst reflecting positively on her business in the local area.

Recent statistics suggest that companies could be doing much more to support charities. In one survey half of workers (48%) didn’t know whether their company donated or had taken part in any fundraising activities.

Companies who do partake in charitable giving tend to have higher employee retention rate and find it easier to attract staff. It is also recognised that leaders who express a philanthropic interest are considered all round better leaders, and are generally held in higher regard.

To explore how you can use HR to drive corporate social responsibility and employee engagement, get in touch with The HR Dept.

Annual holiday of a lifetime

We’ve all heard of the bonus as a way to incentivise staff. But one American company, SteelHouse, offers a bonus with a twist. $2,000 a year for each employee… but they must spend it on a holiday!

It takes some getting used to – some staff unsuccessfully requested that they just have the cash – but is rather ingenious if you can afford it. Not only does it virtually guarantee that your employees recharge their batteries and thus stay fresh for you, but it’s a fantastic tool for recruiting and retaining top talent. The company reports that only five out of 250 people have departed in the previous three years.

Well considered remuneration packages can be an innovative way to grow a business through HR. For expert advice, give us a call.

Are unisex toilets a good idea?

A law was recently passed in California mandating that single cubicle toilets be unisex. As most things American work their way across the Atlantic sooner or later, let’s consider unisex bathrooms in Irish workplaces.

One journalist conducted a finger in the air survey in her office and found that opinion was split by age rather than gender. Millennials were pretty comfortable sharing facilities whilst older generations liked their segregation. Interestingly, older men could not say why, whereas older women cited that their loos were a refuge, a private place to put on make-up, cleaner and even a place to cry.

Sounds like it’ll become less of an issue over time. Commercially there may be cost savings in introducing unisex bathrooms. But the biggest factor to consider is your workplace culture and whether unisex bathrooms would enhance or damage it.

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