An antidote to ‘the saddest day of the year’

Do the things that make you feel better.

This may be the trickiest post-Christmas period for many years. Usually, we talk about how difficult it can be to get back into the swing of things after the Christmas break, but there are always ways to overcome that initial slump. Some companies save their ‘Christmas’ parties until the New Year, and others use this time to re-evaluate goals and targets and to inject some positivity and action into their teams.

This year is different. This year, we’re recovering from the hammering that most businesses took in 2020. This year, we have gone pretty much straight from Christmas into a lockdown. The fact that many people predicted this would happen doesn’t make it any easier when it does. This year, the lockdown is accompanied by a scarier strain of the virus, bad weather and a fair amount of cynicism.

The importance of being optimistic

There’s a lot to be optimistic about, however. The roll out of vaccines means that we can start to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We are seeing lots of posts from friends about how relieved they are that elderly parents and relatives are starting to be vaccinated. Even though it may take a while to roll out completely, it’s a huge scientific success story, and a real symbol of what can be done when countries collaborate and finance is made immediately available.

We know that, if you’re sitting at home, on your own or juggling home schooling or caring for a vulnerable person, you might not feel very optimistic. You’re likely to feel physically and emotionally tired. That means you’ll find it hard to concentrate; your sleep might be suffering; you might have mood swings and you might find it difficult to motivate yourself. And then you switch on the news or your social media and you see that you’re about to hit ‘the saddest day of the year’ – Blue Monday.

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday falls on the third Monday of January. It was conceived by Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005, after he created a formula that looked at criteria including bad weather, dark nights, lack of money or post-Christmas debt and the falling away of initial enthusiasm about new year resolutions.

But this is just a formula – it’s not an instruction. We encourage everyone to stay as mentally optimistic as they can, even in really tough times. If you’re an employer, perhaps Blue Monday is a good day to check in on all your teams, giving some details of your plans, asking how they are doing and helping to keep morale high.

If you’re working from home, or are a key worker and finding it hard to keep going, here are some simple techniques that might help:

  • Get some exercise – you can exercise locally under lockdown. Take a new route, take pictures of the nature around you – you can do this even in the heart of the city – and look around you rather than down at your feet. If you can’t do this, just 10 minutes dancing in the kitchen or doing some stretches will help to take you out of the room for a while and focus on something else.
  • Have a non-work conversation – this might seem tricky when we’re all locked down, but perhaps all you need to do is give someone a call. Someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Or someone that you promised to call and haven’t. Or just someone you speak to regularly who you know can give you a bit of a boost.
  • Give back – again, difficult if money is tight, but perhaps this can be the day that you donate to the food bank, give some money to a homeless charity or decide to support something that’s close to your heart. Perhaps sign up for a virtual charity challenge to help focus your mind?
  • Be kind to yourself – we’re conditioned to feel that we’re not doing enough. That we should always be working and if we’re not working, we should be cleaning or organising or planning. In fact, what you need is some time for yourself. Do whatever makes you happy: watch TV; read a book; have a bath; play with the kids; do some gaming. Just take a bit of time out.
  • Think ahead – this will end. It’s pretty miserable now for many of us, but it will end. So why not make a list of the things you’d love to do when you’re able? It might be a hug with your parents; it might be a day at the beach; it might be a night out with your friends, or a long-awaited holiday. Making your list will make you feel much better and it gives you a sense of purpose.

Blue Monday is just a day. It comes and goes like any other day. This year, we have additional troubles to bear, but by looking out for each other, taking some time out, getting some fresh air and not piling pressure on ourselves, we can ensure that we can build our resilience and come out the other side with a better understanding of what’s really important to us.


Motivating your staff for 2021

Photo by Lindsay Lenard on Unsplash

There’s not an HR manager in the country – possibly in the world – who hasn’t been extremely challenged by the events of this year.

Often responsible for managing the transition to working from home, ensuring ongoing health and wellbeing, organising changes to holidays and benefits, thinking about safe office spaces and considering how best to return to the office, HR professionals are now turning towards the coming year and planning how to maintain motivation during a further period of change.

What might 2021 look like?

With the positive news that a vaccine is now rolling out across the UK, employers and HR professionals may be starting to think about how things might start to return to ‘normal’. This is a great goal – we have been back in our offices since June and it has made a huge difference to our business to be able to work together – and it needs to be carefully planned.

  • Getting the vaccine – there’s a priority list for people to receive the vaccine. Healthy people under 50, many of which might make up your workforce, are a long way down that priority list, so the first thing to consider is how safe it might be to return to work. Employers shouldn’t mandate that their staff have the vaccine, and so should still be thinking about providing a Covid-safe workspace for any employees who want to return to the office.
  • Supporting choice – it’s important to listen to your employees and how they feel. Although 2021 might see an improvement in the way we can interact together, not every employee will want to return to the office. Many might have benefitted from the change in work-life balance offered by home working and will want to retain that flexibility. As you move into 2021, think about how you can support the choices of all your employees.
  • Reward and recognition – a recent survey by Willis Towers Watson showed that more than 50% of respondents agreed that their pay, reward and recognition strategies are still assuming an office-based or geographical location employee group. This means that schemes are unlikely to be as relevant or as motivational as they may have been when you conceived them. So now’s the time to think about how you motivate, reward and recognised people who are working in different circumstances.
  • Maintaining connections – one of the most important roles for HR and internal communications professionals this year has been keeping people connected when they are working remotely. Maintaining team spirit, managing wellbeing and keeping a sense of purpose have all been critical to keeping people productive and your business on track. As we head into 2021, this should remain at the top of your list – it’s likely that at least a proportion of your staff will remain remote for many months, and so need certainty in the processes and policies that support and protect them.

2021 may still be a year of uncertainty but, unlike 2020, it is uncertainty that we can plan for to a certain extent. If you need any support or advice to help you manage pay, rewards or productivity during 2021, contact us for an initial chat today.


Why it’s a serious risk to ignore candidate screening and referencing

Pre-employment screening and referencing should be a key part of your recruitment process. Aside from the fact that you have a legal obligation to make certain checks, screening also ensures that the person you are employing is who they claim to be – with the qualifications, experience and background they claim to have.

As many businesses have discovered to their cost, failing to properly screen and reference candidates can lead to a range of issues – from theft and fraud to violent or unsafe behaviour. And for businesses employing someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, there are both civil and legal consequences that could seriously damage your reputation.

Making screening part of your process

Our advice is to make sure that pre-employment reference and screening is a habitual part of your recruitment process. For many businesses, this process can be explained in a simple flowchart – you can work on this alongside your HR adviser or recruitment agency to make sure it covers all your requirements.

The screening and referencing part of the process may come in at different stages for different businesses. For most businesses, however, these checks take place pre-employment – once the candidate has been selected and the offer made. In these circumstances, the offer is usually ‘conditional’. This means that the business requires successful screening and referencing results, as well as satisfactory personal references, before the offer is made final.

What screening checks are necessary?

The range of checks that you want to include in your process are likely to be tailored to the type of business you run, but there are some that you are legally obliged to do. You have a legal duty to make sure that anyone you employ has the right to work in the UK. It’s important to note that, whatever the circumstances, you can be subject to both civil and criminal penalties if you are found to be employing someone who does not have that right. Civil fines can be up to £20,000. And as far as the criminal legislation is concerned, you can face unlimited fines and a prison term of up to five years if you are found to have knowingly employed someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK.

So, at the very least, you should ask prospective employees to supply their original right-to-work documents. You should then take ‘all reasonable steps’ to make sure that the document is genuine, and relates to the individual applying for the job. You also need to check that the document allows that person to work in the type of role they are applying for. Once you are satisfied, you need to copy the document and keep it in a secure format that cannot be altered.

Even for those who have an automatic right to work in the UK, you should check identity via passport or driving licence, and make sure that the candidate has the qualifications and work experience they claim. Sadly, it’s not unusual for people to lie on their CV – and this may be even more prevalent at a time where many people are applying for job roles.

Checks for specific sectors

Workers in some sectors need to go through particular screening and referencing checks to make sure that they meet regulatory requirements. These might include the medical, insurance, banking and financial services sectors, where the regulator requires specific checks on criminal background and industry-relevant qualifications or registrations.

If your business operates in a regulated sector, your business and reputation is at significant risk if you employ someone who doesn’t meet the relevant criteria. That’s why it’s important that you are up to date with the latest requirements and invest in reliable screening services that meet your regulator’s requirements.

Getting ahead of the game

It can be daunting to run screening and referencing checks yourself – particularly if you don’t have an in-house HR function. And yet you are still required to check out all the candidates you make job offers to.

So it makes sense to get ahead of the game by outsourcing the screening and referencing part of your process to a trusted partner. This can be a specialist consultancy like Objective HR, which has all the legislative insight and access to the latest screening tools.

All our checks are carried out to recognised standards, including BS7858, and we manage sector-specific checks such as FCA, SMCR, PCI-DSS, Airside and the Care Quality Commission. In addition, we can run identity, qualification, criminal, DBS and employment history checks, giving you a thorough and individual report on each candidate.

To find out more, take a look at our dedicated screening and referencing service, or contact us today.

 


Our guide to better interviews

Improve your interview skills

Whatever side of the desk you’re on, you can probably up your game for your next interview. For employers, it’s important to take the time to find the right candidate, so that you spend your recruitment budget wisely and build a strong team. For candidates, the right approach to interview can significantly enhance your chances of getting an offer – even if you don’t meet all the criteria on paper.

With years of expertise in finding candidates and interviewing on behalf of clients, we’ve been able to compile a list of advice and tips that can help anyone involved in an interview to work towards the best outcome. Of course, we can’t guarantee that you’ll get the job, or make the best hire, but we can absolutely share some tips that will help to point you in the right direction.

These tips apply just as much to the new way of interviewing – via Zoom or Teams or other online platforms – as they do for traditional face-to-face interviews. Body language, tone of voice and interaction remain just as important. So you can apply this advice straight away, no matter who you’re interviewing, how or when.

For interviewers

Be aware of bias – unconscious bias is all about the decisions you take and opinions you form without even realising it. Understanding your own potential biases and working hard to overcome them is no easy task, but it’s vital for conducting a better interview. We’d take exception to being told we are biased about some things, but the fact remains that we often are. According to Psychology Today, some of these biases include:

  • The perceived physical attractiveness of the candidate
  • The perceived things you may feel you have in common with the candidate
  • The stereotypes you may hold about gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, qualifications and religion
  • The assumptions you may make based on dress, voice and non-verbal signals

In order to overcome bias, and remembering that the way that candidates behave in interview is highly influenced by stress and nerves, you need to have a clear structure for the interview that is consistent across all the candidates you see. This means you will have a standardised basis for looking back at the interviews to make a decision. In theory, it should also mean that you can hand your notes to someone who wasn’t in the interview and they should be able to see who is the best candidate.

Our top tips

  1. Really prepare for the interview. Know exactly what you are looking for in the right candidate, in terms of qualifications, experience, attitude and willingness to develop. Read the candidate’s CV thoroughly, along with any other material they have been asked to submit. Look for particular areas that may need further investigation or that you think are particularly relevant to the role.
  2. Set a standard list of questions. You need to be able to compare candidates after the interview process and this will be easier if you ask them the same things. You can go off-topic to explore answers, but you should to your list to make sure you are gathering all the most relevant information. Finally, keep your questions open, so that you give the candidate a chance to explain or expand, rather than just giving ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
  3. Listen to your candidate. The most common problem with interviewers is a failure to listen. Instead, you’re focused on getting through the questions on your list and, in your mind, you’ve already decided what ‘golden’ responses you are looking for. We can pretty much guarantee that if you don’t listen and concentrate on the answers your candidates give, you’ll end up hiring the wrong person. As a leader, you should be able to listen to an answer and see how it reveals something that might be useful or flags up a warning sign.
  4. Set expectations – tell the candidate at the start how long you expect the interview to last and what you will be covering. If you are introducing other elements into the interview, such as the opportunity to meet other members of the team, a presentation, a test or a group challenge, you should let them know. Obviously, for some interviews, you will have spoken to the candidate ahead of time if there’s anything you expect them to prepare in advance.
  5. Stay on the right side of the law – there are questions that you are not allowed to ask in interviews because they are discriminatory. Stick to the attributes, qualifications and experience for the role.

 

For candidates

At a time when redundancies are being announced on an almost daily basis and there are hundreds of applicants for a single job role, it’s a real achievement to get to the interview stage of the process. And that’s often when the nerves kick in. At the moment, most interviews are happening via video call, which might mean that you can do them from the comfort of your own home, but also means that you’re at the mercy of the technology and that there are some new things to think about.

You may have already gone through a phone or video interview with a recruitment consultant – we speak to all of the candidates we shortlist to make sure that they are a good fit for the role and for the company. So that means you should have picked up quite a lot of background about both the company and the job you’ve applied for.

Our top tips

  1. Check your technology. If you’re interviewing online, try to use a tablet or laptop rather than your phone. Make sure you have checked that you have strong enough wifi, and if you don’t perhaps arrange to go to a friend or relative’s house where you can use stronger wifi. If you’re doing this, make sure it’s within the regulations and that you socially distance.
  2. Make an effort. Just because you’re interviewing online, you can’t assume that everything’s more relaxed. You still need to project a professional image, and that includes making sure you have a neutral background and good lighting so that there’s nothing to distract the interviewer from what you’re saying.
  3. Be prepared. Make sure you’ve checked out the company as thoroughly as you can. Look at the website, read their news pages, check out their product or service development. Follow them on social media and find out what’s important to them. Get used to their tone. You can look your interviewer up on LinkedIn now – there’s no excuse for being unprepared. By the same token, make sure you’re really confident about the role and what the company is looking for.
  4. Have your CV and any other documents ready to share. The beauty of an online interview is that you can share your screen to talk your interviewer through elements of your CV, or to showcase other work that you’ve done. If you’ve been asked to prepare a presentation, make sure it’s open on your screen and ready to go when it’s needed.
  5. Be engaged – look directly at the camera, if you’re interviewing online, or make regular eye-contact with your interviewer if it’s a face-to-face meeting. Be enthusiastic – but not over-the-top and engage positively with the questions. This is your chance to show how you can add to the business. We know that not everyone is outgoing, but if you are quieter or more introverted, you can still demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for the things that matter to you.
  6. Have some questions. This is standard interview advice, and that’s because it’s really important. Move away from basic questions about holiday or pay, and find at least three interesting questions to ask. These might be about learning and development programmes, or their attitude to sustainability, or their diversity programme. Ask questions that will help you to find out if this is a company you really want to work for.
  7. Make sure you know the next steps. You’ll want to know how soon you’ll find out about the decision and what feedback you might get. Be as relaxed as possible at the end of the interview – don’t bolt out of the door or leave the video meeting too quickly.

Whatever the role and whatever the circumstances, the interview is a critical part of the recruitment process for both sides. Approaching it with structure, preparedness and confidence can help everyone get the most from an interview, and can help both the interviewer and the interviewee learn valuable lessons for next time.

Find out more about our recruitment support here or contact us to see how we can help.


Are your children returning to school next week?

Children in England are heading back to school.

It’s been a strange – and challenging – few months for parents. You’ve not just had to manage home-schooling alongside working your everyday job at home; you’ve also had to deal with the ups and downs of children not being able to see their friends, not being able to go to their regular clubs and struggling with exam changes and the well-documented issues with results.

It’s also been a challenge for your children, who may have missed the structure and routine of school and may feel that they are going back in September disadvantaged by so much time off. And when they do go back, the school routine and layout will be different, so there’s lots to get used to.

Is this the new normal?

The state of things as we knew them at the start of the year is clearly not going to return for some time. You may still be furloughed, or you may be working at home. Redundancy and job insecurity are widespread and reports suggest that many people in the UK feel less well-off financially than they did in January.

School closures have meant that is has been difficult for parents to juggle work and child-care, especially where one or both parents – whether living together or not – are still working full-time away from the home as key workers, or as businesses start to return to the office.

So, getting the children back to school might be a relief all round, but you will need to have some contingency plans in place, in case of local lockdowns and school re-closures, in case your own business changes the way it works, or in case someone in your household tests positive for the virus and you have to isolate for a period of time. Things you might want to think about include:

  • Dedicated space to work at home: can you provide a dedicated space for your children to work if they need to stay at home? Even if it has to be shared, this will help them to have some space to do any work set for them.
  • Childcare options: if schools close as part of a local lockdown, what are your childcare options? Can you speak to your employer about flexible working or going back to work from home if you need to? Can your children’s other parent do the same?
  • Playing by the rules: lockdown easing means that we are coming into contact with many more people. So it’s important to observe rules for wearing face masks, hand sanitising, social distancing and gatherings to help reduce the risk of infection. You should also make sure that you know what rules the schools are implementing so that you can keep you and your family as safe as possible.

Now is a great time to speak to your employer about how you might manage a range of potential circumstances as we go into autumn and winter. And if you’re an employer, make sure you have spoken individually to all of your employees, and have a risk assessment and clear plan in place to help keep your business running whilst also taking your employees’ caring responsibilities into account.

For help and advice with returning to work, managing changes to employee contracts or drawing up new policies to deal with the current situation, contact us today.


Have you been affected by CV fraud?

As we move into a position where a large number of people are going to be job-hunting and some employers need to take on increasing numbers of staff, it’s important to make sure that your business is not losing money because of fraudulent candidates.

Research has showed that around 20% of CVs have some sort of misdirection on them, and feedback from employers has highlighted that nearly 50% have experienced candidates who lied about their degree qualifications.

CV and job application fraud has a knock-on effect on your business and finances. If someone is prepared to lie on their CV, they are less likely to be trustworthy employees. And if they have lied about their qualifications, they may not have the essential knowledge, skills and capability that you require for the position.

Fraud in the digital age

Whilst it’s true that it’s harder to commit CV or job application fraud now that so much information is available online for third party sources, it doesn’t seem to have prevented some candidates from trying to get one over on employers.

This type of fraud is often discovered too late: the employee has been hired, paid and invested in. In order to correct the problem you’ll have to spend time and money on dismissing the original employee and starting your recruitment all over again.

  • That’s why it’s so important to have a rigorous screening and referencing programme as part of your recruitment process. And it’s not just about having the process in place; it’s about making it clear to candidates that you will be checking their details for accuracy and honesty. This helps your business in a number of ways:
    Discourages fraudulent candidates from applying for your jobs
  • Enhances your reputation as an employer that values honesty and transparency
  • Gives you confidence that you are spending your recruitment budget efficiently and wisely
  • Builds a strong relationship between you and your candidates/new hires
  • Allows you to concentrate on growing your business successfully

 

What does screening and referencing offer?

Screening and referencing allows you to make sure that your candidates are who they say they are. It also gives you the opportunity to ensure your candidates have the right to work in the UK – which will become particularly important on January 1st 2021, when new immigration procedures come into force – and it means you can check qualifications, experience and professional memberships.

Screening as part of your recruitment process helps to give your candidates confidence in your process and gives your business confidence in the candidates, and it should be built into your recruitment process as a matter of course.


Does home-working affect teamwork and socialisation?

We’ve been thrust into a situation where homeworking has become the norm for many. But is it the best option for everyone? Not necessarily. There are lots of reasons why homeworking is good; studies show that some people are more productive when working from home, for example. But equally, not everyone has enough space to work well from home; not everyone has a good-enough broadband connection; not everyone wants to stay at home all the time.

So how are businesses going to approach the issue of homeworking now? Here are some of the pros and cons that we’ve discovered through working with our clients during this period:

• Productivity – for many, homeworking has resulted in greater productivity. The lack of a morning and evening commute means that people can get straight to their desks, and often take less time for lunch and are less distracted during the day.

• Caring responsibilities – homeworking can be useful for those with caring responsibilities – either for children, parents or other relatives. Being in the home means they can manage any visits or appointments needed and can adjust their working hours if possible, to accommodate school runs. Studies have shown that people who work at home for this reason are often very productive because they are aware of the flexibility they enjoy from their employer. However, this is a balance: managers and business owners will want to make sure that the employer is able to perform all their tasks from home and won’t be disturbed or distracted by their other responsibilities.

• Teamwork – teams often work best when they are in the same place, so homeworking could have a negative effect on the way that teams work together. Keeping a remote team working closely together requires more planning, more effort and more measurement, so businesses offering this opportunity will need to make sure they are providing the support needed to keep teams together.

• New hires – working in the office is a positive part of the induction process for new hires. It gives them a chance to integrate into the business, to get to know the people they are working with and to have a sense of purpose from day one. Starting a new job remotely – as many people have discovered during the pandemic – is a strange and difficult way to begin a new job and, like managing teams, requires more effort from line managers to ensure that new hires are able to work well.

• Managing absence – it’s easier for work to be picked up by others when everyone is in the office. Handing over tasks or projects ahead of holidays, during a period of long-term absence or even just for a week’s sickness is much easier when everyone is in the same place. Managing work handovers remotely is more time-consuming and requires advance organisation.

In the end, of course, this is going to be a choice for each business, based on the type of business and the job role. But it’s more than likely that many employees will be asking either for full-time homeworking or a split between office and home and businesses need to have a plan in place to deal with this new way of doing things.


5 ways to manage returning employees

As lockdown eases and businesses of all types can return to work, employees need to be treated fairly and with respect.

Some employees may be anxious about returning to work at all; others may want to renegotiate working conditions so that they can work more often from home. Employees who have been shielding since March will be able to go back to work from August, and will need significant support in order to do so.

So, what must you do to manage these issues to make sure that your employees are taken care of and their concerns heard, whilst also making sure that your business can continue to run smoothly?

1. Understand individual positions

It’s important that employers listen to the individual concerns of employees. In smaller businesses, line managers, HR managers and even Managing Directors can have individual conversations with employees to find out how they feel about returning. In larger businesses, every employee should have the opportunity to express any concerns they have about returning to work.

2. Vary work patterns for furloughed workers

The changes in the government’s furlough scheme come into force in July. From then, employers can bring furloughed workers back into the business for any amount of time, whilst still claiming furlough payments for time not worked. Just as employees needed to agree to be put on furlough in the first place, they will need to agree the way in which they come back, particularly if they have anxieties as carers for vulnerable people.

3. Consider parental and carer responsibilities

With schools unlikely to return to full opening until September, those caring for children may need to be more flexible in their working patterns. Employers need to think about the circumstances of these employees and be as flexible as possible with encouraging return to work, varying contracts if necessary to protect the jobs of employees who need to continue flexible or home working in order to manage childcare.

4. Communicate clearly and often

One of the most common complaints from employees at times of change is the lack of communication. It’s extremely important to keep employees in the loop about your progress both in terms of returning to work and in terms of risk assessments and health and safety. Encouraging employees to ask questions and make suggestions about how they can work safely and productively will engage them in the process of returning to work and give them the information they need to make the right decisions about their own return.

5. Embrace new ways of working

Many employers have discovered that businesses can operate even when the office is shut. You may have discovered ways to streamline your processes or to save money on your office rental. The fact that everyone is now used to holding virtual meetings means that daily face-to-face working may not be as vital as before, and you now have the opportunity to improve productivity. Whilst for some businesses this may mean an eventual reduction in the workforce, for many employers, this presents an opportunity to save money, do things better and offer more flexibility to employees.

Finally, remember that the negotiations and contract variations you make may only be temporary, so you’ll need to set review dates with each individual and keep track of how the new arrangements are working.

For help and advice with helping your employees return to work, just contact us today.


How are you managing employee holidays?

It might seem like a ridiculous question, given that we can’t travel or stay in other houses, but a holiday’s about more than ‘getting away’, and you should be aware of how you might manage employee holiday requests now and in the future.

This period has been hard work for everyone. Whatever you’ve been doing: on furlough, working normally, working longer hours, shielding, caring for a vulnerable family member or facing the possibility of making staff redundant – it’s been a trying and worrying few months.

And, although things are slowly starting to return to business, you and your employees will still need a break. Whilst there’s a limit to where you can travel, you can get to see friends and family, you can celebrate special events and you can take some time to relax and switch off.

Managing excess holiday

Employees can now carry leave over for the next two leave years, to take into account the fact that businesses are having to work differently to manage the impact of COVID-19.

Guidance on the government’s website states:
“Currently, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days’ holiday including bank holidays each year. However, most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years, meaning workers lose their holiday if they do not take it.

There is also an obligation on employers to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year – failure to do so could result in a financial penalty.
The regulations will allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.”

So employers will need to manage the carrying-over of leave whilst also making sure that employees take leave in a way that is sustainable for the business, and promotes their wellbeing.

How to talk to your people about holiday

Holiday is one of the most precious benefits that a company offers. Many companies offer more than the standard holiday entitlement, including things like a holiday on an employee’s birthday and holiday rewards as part of recognition schemes. There are also holiday buy-back schemes and all these variations will need to be taken into account.
If you have employees that want to take holiday at this point, accommodate them if you possibly can. It could be that they have had a stressful time and need to recuperate – or that they have had COVID-19 and want to make the most of recovery. Or it could be that the holiday time was booked in advance and they still want to take it, even if holiday plans have been cancelled.

Whilst you need to make sure that you have the staff and skills to help your business return to work or meet new demand, you have to balance this with the impact on your employees’ wellbeing from not taking a holiday until much later in the year.


CEOs and MDs need to be kinder to themselves

There’s been no shortage of articles online and in the press about ‘how to be a better leader’ during the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, leaders are having to do things differently and think about their business and their employees in a different way, but being inundated with articles and thought pieces telling you just how badly you could be doing doesn’t help.

In fact, our experience is that leaders are working harder than ever, whilst also making sure that their employees are taking time out, flexing work around caring responsibilities and looking after their mental and physical wellbeing.

Anecdotally, we’re hearing that bosses are working longer hours from home and keeping devices on so that they can respond to business and employee concerns at any time. They’re trying to keep track of the support on offer and preparing for a return to work, all whilst keeping the business operational in difficult times.

If you’re a leader whose business is still operating during this period, you’re likely to be busier than ever. You may have to re-structure your business completely – something that you usually have the luxury of doing over a significant period of time. Or you may have to change your operations to account for the restrictions in opening or social distancing. You may have re-focused your business into designing, developing or producing equipment and supplies to help support the health service, or you might have re-directed your drivers to help charities with food deliveries.

You may just be one of the fortunate businesses who have seen demand for certain products rise and are trying to meet that demand safely and with a sympathetic customer service experience.

Whatever the circumstances, it seems that leaders aren’t practicing what they preach to their staff. This means that when you do return to work you could be tired, mentally low and not really able to motivate and support your staff in what will be a tricky transition.

So, if you’ve been working 12-14 hour days for the past three months, from an office that you’ve put together at home, being in contact 24/7 and not taking any extra time off, perhaps now is the time to re-assess the way you work.

Take some days off. Put some boundaries around your working hours. Shut your office down in the evening and either put your laptop away or shut the door to the room it’s in so that you’re not tempted to check emails. Set specific times when you’ll be available for calls and stick to them.

Your people will respect that you’re taking some time for yourself – and taking the advice that you’re giving to them. And you’ll be in a better physical and mental place to take on the next challenge.