The Do’s and Don’ts of the Office Christmas Party

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Office Christmas Party

The office Christmas party is the biggest event of the year in the work social calendar. It’s the opportunity show your employees your appreciation for their hard work throughout the year, and it’s the chance for your team to let their hair down and celebrate their achievements. It can also be a place where new friends are made as people get the chance to mix socially with others outside their immediate teams. But it can also be an HR nightmare! It’s often a time when frustrations that have been built up throughout the year are released, and the presence of alcohol can really fan the flames of any bad behaviour.

To help you plan the perfect, and problem free Christmas party, follow our simple ten step guide.

1. Don’t skimp. If you are going to throw a Christmas party, it’s important that it falls within budget, but it’s also vital that your employees feel that they are really appreciated. A good Christmas party can be an excellent retention tool, and also a way to demonstrate your company’s fantastic social culture. A few sausage rolls and an hour early finish is not going to cut it and may run the risk of having the opposite of effect, leaving your team with a bitterness that can last well into the new year.

2. Be personal. If your budget doesn’t stretch to lavish celebrations that’s fine. But try and give your event the personal touch by downing tools early and getting the whole team involved in games and light-hearted fun. Perhaps get each manager to personally acknowledge each of their team member’s achievements or share funny stories. Remember to take the opportunity to ensure your leadership team stand up and thank your employees for their hard work and reward them with a Christmas gift as a token of your appreciation.

3. Make sure everyone is invited. It’s so important to make sure everyone feels included in the celebrations so they feel appreciated. You may have employees on holiday at the time or on long term maternity leave, but they should be included none the less.

4. The party is a work related event. Treat it as such. The same rules you employ for all work events are just as relevant here and employees should be reminded of so. You should have a policy for work events that outline inappropriate behaviour such as aggression, lewd remarks, unwanted advances and misconduct. Employees should be aware that their actions could lead to disciplinary proceedings.

5. Allocate managers to monitor alcohol consumption. There may be some employees who take the free bar too far. Ensuring you have some managers on the lookout for any excess will allow you to keep control of consumption and prevent alcohol-related problems before they arise.

6. Make sure your party is inclusive. You should make sure all your staff feel welcome. Perhaps some do not drink, or others do not celebrate Christmas at all. Make sure you think about these members of staff as taking the time to consider their needs will make them feel truly appreciated and included in the celebrations.

7. Investigate and take action. In the unfortunate event that someone oversteps the mark at your party, it is your duty as an employer to investigate the situation and take action. Just because it is the Christmas party does not mean it’s a free for all for antisocial behaviour and you have a responsibility to the rest of your team to ensure any misconduct is dealt with in line with your disciplinary policies.

8. Office romances. Love can often blossom between employees at the Christmas party. In a recent survey, 55% of people admitted to a festive kiss with another employee. Perhaps it’s all that mistletoe! Be clear on your stance on office relationships. If you require them to be disclosed, make that known and take action if necessary.

9. Be careful of social media. Social media can be an excellent way of demonstrating your company’s amazing culture by sharing photos and updates from your party. On the flipside, it’s important to have control over what is shared. Inappropriate photos can damage your reputation. Also, some employees may have grievances with their embarrassing photos being shared online. Ensure you have a carefully considered social media policy in your business to protect yourself and your staff.

10. Deal with staff absences. If your Christmas party falls on a weekday, it’s no surprise that you may find yourself with surprising numbers of absences the next day. Your teams should be reminded that the following day is just like any other work day and that they will be expected to act professionally and arrive on time. Use your HR team to deal with any unauthorised absences.

By following these simple rules, your employees should leave your Christmas party full of festive spirit, without leaving any nasty HR headaches for you to deal with. For further advice on dealing with HR concerns during the Christmas period contact us on 0330 555 1139 or by email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Go to Bed! A Manager’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation

Go to Bed! A Manager’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation and work

We have all seen it; the employee who slumps into their swivel chair, bags under their eyes as they gulp down a luke warm latte. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem in the UK with 1 in 5 people at any given time feeling fatigued and run down. A recent study conducted by the Rand Foundation with the University of Cambridge suggests that those who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night are far less productive than those who get 7 or 8 hours of sleep.

This situation of course puts the manager into a difficult position; how do you deal with a tired employee? It is difficult to handle given that sleep isn’t usually the problem but rather what is causing the lack of sleep and is it the managers place to know? Understandably the new father will be tired getting up to feed baby, the employee who is going through a divorce may be having sleepless nights, none the employees fault but still leaves productivity lacking. We have been looking at the top ways companies and managers deal with tired employees and have come up with a handy guide;

Spot the signs

Depending on the management style of an organisation it can be easy to miss that an employee’s fall in productivity is owing to them not getting enough sleep. Being able to spot that an employee is lacking in sleep will change your view of the negative effects of it, failing to do this may just leave you disappointed at the employee which will only add to their problems. Common signs include:

  • Mistakes the employee wouldn’t usually make such as spelling.
  • Forgetting things they usually remember such as meetings, appointments or details such as email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Increased caffeine intake, they constantly have a coffee on their desk or have more coffee breaks than they usually would.
  • The employee becomes noticeably clumsy.
  • Emotional or angry outbursts.
  • Increased sickness and/or sickness absence.
  • The employee keeps falling asleep! If you keep seeing the employee dozing off at their desk.

Of course we all have days when we would rather be in bed and the trick is to spot those who have a problem with sleep generally rather than those who just have the odd day of fatigue. Spotting the signs is the first step to understanding why an employee is tired which is what the problem is rather than the sleep deprivation itself.

Wellness and Health Oriented

A healthy employee is a productive one and it is within the employers interests to foster a culture of mindfulness at work. Educating employees on healthy practices, especially in relation to sleep, helps not only to prevent sickness absence but also builds a happier and more productive workforce. Having a health culture doesn’t mean a short seminar or sticking up some posters around the office, it means having a clear and structured way of encouraging healthy practices in the workplace. You can be as creative as you like in finding ways to help your staff be healthy from workplace sports teams to providing fresh fruit. Here are just some ways we have heard about;

Wellness charters – a visible set of wellness principles that employees and employers agree to, this could include a culture of openness in which employees agree to come to their managers when they feel their health is affecting their work or their work is affecting their health. Charters should always include how the employer will resolve, or attempt to address issues.

Active workplaces – as mentioned above a sports team is a great way of getting employees active whilst at the same time building on team work. Activity days are also a great way of getting employees out and pulling them out of their routines and comfort zones. Having a regular activity day on work time doing something that is a bit out of everyone’s box will help employees to discover the fun in being active.

Whatever it is you come with the most important thing to put across to your employees is that you genuinely care about their health and have made a commitment to make your workforce healthy. A healthy culture in the workplace is not something that can be achieved quickly, however the benefits of a workforce mindful of it’s health will ultimately benefit the bottom line.

Tighten up overtime

Whilst for many employers overtime is essential it is also a way for already tired employees to become exhausted. This problem is pertinent amount tired employees with money troubles, to fix the very problem keeping them awake at night take on extra hours which only makes them more tired. It is a good idea to take a look at your over-time policies to be on approval only and cap hours.

Ask

If you see a pattern of sleep deprivation then the quickest way to resolve the situation is to ask. It is important that asking is done in a caring and concerned way rather than disappointed and angry.   Again the most likely scenario is that the employee’s lack of sleep is owing to something in their personal life or their lifestyle, being angry at either won’t help to solve the problem. Asking the employee about sleep will help you to understand their attitude towards it and at the very least open a dialogue for them to talk about it and realise it is a problem.

Occupational Health

In order to help the employee you might suggest referring them to your Occupational Health provider who will provide you as the employer guidance on managing the issue, but you need to get the employee’s consent before you refer.

Employee Assistance

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place then you could think about mentioning it to the employee. Most EAP providers operate a confidential helpline and advice service to employees who might be having debt, emotional or any other worries.

Annual leave and time off

Make sure your employees take their contracted annual leave during the leave year. Also monitor their working hours and patterns to ensure they are taking enough time off to recharge. It could be as simple as needing a week away to take charge again and recharge those tired old batteries.

St Patrick’s Day: Time for a Holiday?

St Patrick’s Day: Time for a Holiday?

St Patrick’s Day is once again upon us and this Thursday people around the world will be dressed in green and gold, Guinness in hand and post probably having a good’ol time. Whilst not a public holiday in most of the world should workers be given the day off anyway? Would this increase productivity?

A recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute suggests that a majority of workers are cancelling out their own statutory leave every year owing to the advent of handheld devices. Smartphones and tablets were responsible for 4 out of 5 of the 1,500 managers surveyed working an extra hour a day answering out-of-hours emails and going over documents. The extra hours equate to just over 29 days per year cancelling the 28 statutory days leave. The study also suggested that putting in too many hours leads to work related injury, both physical and mental, and may result in burnout.

Recruitment giant Reed.co.uk found that 54% of workers forgo an average of 3 days leave a year and a quarter of Brits would rather forfeit the occasional day of than leave work unfinished or fall behind. There are many reasons workers choose not to take annual leave days and often this is attached to company ethos around the matter; many employees feel guilty about taking statutory leave, further they dread returning to an overflowing inbox and an intensified workload. Studies also suggest that staff who don’t want to take their statutory leave, rolling it into the next year, end up taking sick days which balances the figure out in any case.

The average French worker clocks 1,500 hours per year and can expect to receive 30 days paid vacation. Traditionally the french working week equals 35 hours and any hours worked after this are be considered overtime. The Office of National Statistics released a report in 2013 showing that on average the British worker is 27-31% less productive per hour than their French and German counterparts. Whilst this cannot be attributed to annual leave alone the figures certainly suggest a less is more approach has been paying off on the continent. French companies spend more on labour saving practices rather than recruiting meaning they get more for their money out of their workers per hour.

Some firms have started to adopt unlimited holiday policies which allow employees to take off as much time as they want provided their work gets done. Global giant Virgin is one such company, CEO and magnate Richard Branson notes in his book ‘The Virgin Way’; 

“It is left to the employee to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred percent comfortable … that their absence will not in any way damage the business — or, for that matter, their careers!”

The model is results focused and companies who also adopt a similar system, such as Netflix, expect employees to be high performing rewarding performance with holiday. At Netflix nobody tracks employee’s time; instead of micromanaging how employees do their work the employee is given autonomy over how they manage their time, this is said to promote a more efficient and responsible workforce. A focus is placed on results and managers are kept in the loop though effective communication and accountability policies. It is believed that unlimited holiday attracts talent and pays off in terms of retention and reduced sickness.

However there has been growing concern that this does more harm than good as the lack of a clearly defined annual leave policy makes employees question; how much is too much holiday? Employees are reluctant to take up leave as they feel their asking for leave will have an impact on their career prospects. The lack of clear guidance can lead to employee’s over working themselves which can have the opposite effect on their health and well-being that unlimited holiday is supposed to promote.

Annual leave policies are extremely important for any business given the potentially damaging effects of getting it wrong. It seems that company culture towards leave can have a real impact on employee wellbeing and of course productivity and sickness.

CrosseHR provides consultancy services  to businesses and can help address policy issues, managing leave and sickness as well as improving employee relations. Call 0330 555 1139 or email us at hello@crossehr.co.uk, you can also follow us on twitter for HR highlights, insights and updates.

Stress busting

Stress busting

I came across this fantastic info graphic (don’t you just love them) about managing stress in the workplace drafted by Unum UK.

Every organisation should have a policy on dealing with stress (Crosse HR can help with this). Dealing with stress is a fact of life and should be an integral part of every organisation’s Wellness and wellbeing programme. Show you care. Start with this.

This infographic was crafted by Unum UK. Unum UK helps manage stress at work as part of employee benefits.
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Goodbye Fit Note Hello Fit Plan

Goodbye Fit Note Hello Fit Plan

Did you know that Fit Notes are to become a think of the past very soon (August 15 in London)? They are to be replaced by the latest clear sky thinking, the Fit Plan. You might well be wondering as I did when I first heard of it at an excellent sickness seminar run by Gordon Dadds.

How will the Fit Plan work?

Ok, the Fit Plan works like this. After the 7 day continuous sickness, the employee goes off to the GP to get what would have been their Fit Note. Instead the GP assesses whether or not they need to be referred to the Government’s own Occupational Health advisers, and devise a Fit Plan. This is then taken off to their employers who will decide whether or not to take the advice offered on the Fit Plan.

A Fit Plan does not replace your own Occupational Health referral process, rather it runs alongside it. My advice is to continue holding your Return to Work interviews, adhering to your sickness absence policy, referring to Occupational Health where necessary and treat the Fit Plan in much the same way as you would a Fit Note.

Any questions or issues you might have in managing sickness absence in the workplace with or without a Fit Note or Fit Plan, then contact us here at CrosseHR and we will be happy to help. Its another case of wait and see I believe. Until you actually see it work in practice, and have a few test cases at Tribunal, its hard to see how it will work in practice. More of this later …