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Apr 292010
 
working; sick

Image by coaxeus via Flickr

UK study finds that going to work when sick could cost your employer more than if you stayed at home!

Absenteeism is a common and much reported problem for employers around the world, costs companies millions of Euro every year and has a negative impact on everyone in an organisation. If your colleagues don’t turn up for work, that puts pressure on you, because somebody has to pick up the slack.

What we rarely hear anything about though is the flip side of the same coin: the potential impact of people who attend work when they’re genuinely too sick to do the job.

Perhaps partly because of the rising profile of absenteeism in the workplace, increasing numbers of employees struggle in to work when they would be both physically and psychologically better off taking the day off to recover. According to a pioneering report from UK based employment think tank The Work Foundation, the cost of this sickness presence — or "presenteeism" as they call it — could match or potentially exceed the UK£13bn bill for sickness absence that UK businesses have to foot.

While sickness absence is widely measured and monitored across the public and private sectors, and many businesses are focussed on reducing absenteeism, this report suggests there’s a lack of understanding surrounding "presenteeism", and organisations are generally oblivious to its hidden costs. The authors point out that businesses who don’t address presenteeism in the workplace could be missing out on opportunities to boost productivity and improve employee health and wellbeing.

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Mar 022010
 

working two jobs... recession beater with a heavy price According to research by employment law consultancy firm Peninsula Ireland almost four in every ten Irish workers are having to take on extra work to balance their personal finances.

As the ranks of Ireland’s unemployed continue to swell, those people still in work are forced to work longer hours, or even take on a second job to meet the challenging economic realities of life in post-celtic-tiger Ireland. The survey of 837 workers on the island of Ireland took place in January and February of this year, with 39% of respondents admitting to holding down a second job, up 16% on a similar survey the firm conducted last year.

"In theory [a second job] is a good idea," said Mr Alan Price, managing director with Peninsula Ireland. "A second job means higher income, but it can pose problems for both the boss and the employee. HR laws need to be looked at to ensure that no one is breaking the law by working too many hours in one week," he said.

"Another problem you face is employee fatigue and this may well become a health and safety concern, so it’s something that both the employee and the employer need to address."

Spending more time at work means less time at home, and that brings other pressures to bear on families already struggling to cope.

“Working longer hours may not necessarily be good for your health, and people can get easily overwhelmed when they take on a second job,” commented Mr Price. "Before considering a second job look at all the risks and weigh up the benefits. It may well be that you will be in a worse-off situation, especially after taking into account travel, taxes, any other expenses,

“Think about the lack of quality time at home and any implications on your health; there really is a lot to take into account.”

If money is the primary motivator for the second Job, workers may be better served looking at opportunities to increase their earning potential in their primary role, advised Mr Price.

“There may be better ways to improve marketability, training and education,” he said. "Look to see if there are extra skills required for jobs that pay more money, such as supervisory roles. Have you expressed an interest to your employer that you would like to be considered for these better-paid roles?”

Anyone considering taking on an additional job would do well to heed the advice and consider the long term consequences rather than just the short term gain of a boosted income. Long hours, frayed nerves and exhaustion can have serious legal and safety implications, could adversely impact your performance in your primary job and potentially exact a heavy personal toll on you and your family. If you’re considering another job to plug a shortfall in your finances make sure you explore all of the options available to you, and are aware of the potential pitfalls before you make the decision.

Feb 022010
 
3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept

Image by lumaxart via Flickr

There’s a general perception in business that a tough, no-nonsense, target driven approach is the key to effective leadership through tough economic times. But new research from the UK challenges that long-held assumption, and suggests instead that it’s leaders who concentrate on building effective relationships with their teams who really stand out when the going gets tough

According to UK workplace think-tank The Work Foundation, effective leaders put people and relationships front-and-centre as they strive to tackle the challenges of the recession. Based on over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews, the two-year study, "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership", proves that highly people-centred leaders, rather than their target-obsessed, autocratic counterparts that consistently deliver outstanding performance in organisations.

The findings could have profound implications for how organisations assess and measure the performance of their leaders; for the criteria used to select potential leaders, and the training and development techniques used to foster effective leadership; and on the way individuals approach their own personal development at work.

"The evidence from our research indicates there needs to be a paradigm shift for all leaders who remain fixated on numbers and targets," explained lead author Penny Tamkin. "Outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy. Instead of one-to-one meetings centred on tasks, they seek to understand people and their motives. Instead of developing others through training and advice, they do this through challenge and support. They manage performance holistically, attending to the mood and behaviour of their people as well as organisational objectives. And instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first."

Six high-profile UK organisations took part in the study, including EDF Energy, Guardian Media Group, Tesco and Unilever. One of the most striking elements to emerge from the research was the stark contrast between the behaviour of merely "good" and truly "outstanding" leaders. Until all the interviews were completed and analysed, researchers were unaware of whether the leaders participating in the study were deemed "outstanding" or "good" in terms of their achievements and how they were perceived by those reporting directly to them.

"Outstanding leaders are focussed on performance but they see people as the means of achieving great performance and themselves as enablers," added author Gemma Pearson. "They don’t seek out the limelight for themselves but challenge, stretch and champion others, giving them the space and support to excel."

The report reveals three key principles that were common to outstanding leaders in the study group:

  • They think and act systemically, seeing the whole picture rather than compartmentalising
  • They see people as the sole route to performance and are deeply people and relationship centred rather than just people oriented
  • They are self-confident without being arrogant; they are aware of their strengths and their position of influence, yet use these for the benefit of their organisation and its people.

"Our findings strongly suggest that an approach which connects leaders to people and people to purpose defines outstanding leadership. Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organisations too," said Tamkin.

The full report "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership" is available for download from www.theworkfoundation.com.

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Jan 282010
 
E-mail in notes

Image by dampeebe via Flickr

While it may seem that e-mail’s pre-eminence as a digital communications medium is waning as other, more "sexy" Internet applications grab the limelight, the truth is that e-mail is still the stalwart of business communication, and it’s likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

E-mail’s near instant delivery, the ability to send messages to groups of recipients simultaneously, and the ability to seamlessly attach business documents, files and photos has resulted in a highly flexible, incredibly valuable business tool. There are now, arguably, more effective ways to do all of those things — but when you consider the way that e-mail combines them into a single application that is practically ubiquitous throughout the business world, and you begin to see that it will be some time before real time collaboration and social media usurpers topple the king of business communication from its throne.

While e-mail is, undeniably, a great asset to business, keeping your corporate inbox under control can be a challenge, and dealing with incoming e-mail inefficiently can be an enormous time waster.

A survey of global members by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) revealed that people generally believe that they receive too much e-mail, send too much e-mail and that the time they spend dealing with unimportant e-mail every day has a detrimental affect on their productivity.

Over 80% of respondents admitted that they constantly monitor their incoming e-mail throughout the working day, 40% indicated they spent at least two hours in a typical working day responding to e-mail , and over a third said they spend 3 hours or more doing so.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly monitoring, sorting and replying to a never-ending stream of e-mail, and unless you take control of your electronic inbox, before long you’ll realist that it’s actually controlling you.

Take control of your inbox

  • Make a positive start: try and avoid checking your e-mail as soon as you arrive at your desk in the morning. Pick something more productive to work on first — achieve something tangible before firing up your e-mail client. Making a productive start to the day will help you to maintain your focus throughout the day.
  • A time and a place: constant monitoring: of e-mail is a major distraction. Instead of listening for the "ding-dong" tone of a new message landing in your inbox, try checking it three or four times a day at prescribed times. Set aside designated periods for dealing with e-mail, and stick to them. Not only will you be less distracted, you’ll find that when you do deal with your incoming mail you do so in a more focussed and productive manner.
  • Use your tools: most e-mail software comes with a series built in filters that can automatically block unwanted mail and sort the mail you do want into specific folders for you. Most of your regular e-mail can be auto-magically sorted in this way, leaving your inbox less cluttered (if you’re not sure about using filters ask your IT department or a tech-savvy colleague for help).
  • Only answer if necessary: before hitting reply, consider whether a response is really necessary. Will your message contribute something positive, or simply clog up someone else’s inbox, probably prompting another unnecessary reply in return?
  • Reply to the right people: if you absolutely must reply to an e-mail, steer clear of the "Reply to All" option, which will copy your response to every recipient of the original e-mail . Unless that’s absolutely necessary, simply send your reply to the sender, and spare everyone elses inbox an unnecessary message.
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Dec 212009
 
More Bad News ...

Image via Wikipedia

You can view Communicating bad news at work – Part 1 here.

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Chances are you’ve read or heard more bad news on the jobs front over the last week. There’s no getting around it, things are tough out there for employers and employees alike, and are likely to remain so for the short term.

Sooner or later in your working life your going to encounter bad news, and, if you’re progressing in your career, and are responsible for a team of people, the job of communicating that bad news to others is going to fall on your shoulders. This week we continue with our tips to help make passing on bad news at work a little less painful for everyone involved.

  • Speed and consistency are paramount: when you’re communicating bad news you can’t rely on the trickle-down approach to spread the word — have a plan for getting a consistent, coherent message to all relevant people in the organisation as soon as possible once the news breaks. The last thing you want is delays feeding rumour and speculation.
  • A little compassion goes a long way: you’re probably sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and genuinely regret the circumstances that make it necessary. But the pressure of passing on the bad news can easily mask that. Don’t let it. Showing that you empathise with people, and telling them that you’re sorry about a situation isn’t an admission of guilt or liability. It simply shows that you care.

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Sep 212009
 
James, I think your cover's blown!

Image by laverrue via Flickr

Getting a new boss can be almost as daunting as getting a new job. Depending on how you felt about your old boss you may or may not welcome change, but change, as always, means uncertainty… and that’s uncomfortable.

If you’ve got a new boss starting at work, it always pays to approach the transition professionally, and to manage your relationship with them effectively right from the start.

Apart from yourself, your immediate superior is the person who has the biggest direct impact on your career. It’s your boss who sets the benchmarks against which your work will be measured, your boss who assesses your performance, your boss who communicates your achievements (or otherwise) to others, and your boss who controls the resources you need to do your job effectively. Keeping him or her on-side from the start is generally a good idea. But how do you manage a new boss?

  • Expect and accept change: your incoming boss will almost certainly do things differently to your old one, accept that things are going to change, be proactive. Remember that no matter what sort of relationship you had with your old boss, you’re starting with a clean slate now, and that’s often a good thing. By managing the transition carefully you can help yourself, your new boss and your entire team to get back into the swing of things quickly.
  • First impressions are crucial: that clean slate won’t stay clean for long… so you want to make sure you make a positive first impression. One of the best ways to do that is to make it as easy for your new boss to fit into their new role… remember, while you’re getting a new boss, they’re often starting a brand new job. They’re new, and you know the ropes, so help them to settle in by offering useful pointers and constructive advice where appropriate. Remember to offer suggestions, rather than instruction.

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Sep 072009
 
E-mail in notes

Image by dampeebe via Flickr

E-mail is something that’s become so ubiquitous in the workplace these days that we hardly give a second thought to how it’s revolutionised the way businesses communicate.

According to recent figures published by technology market research firm The Radicati Group worldwide email traffic will reach 247 billion messages per day in 2009, growing to a staggering 507 billion messages per day by 2013. That means that this year we’ll be sending 2,858,796 e-mails every single second, 37% of them business e-mails. That’s a lot of communication!

Part of e-mail’s business appeal is the speed and convenience with which it lets us communicate with our colleagues around the office and around the globe. But that convenience and speed has a downside… and that’s a growing tedency to fire-off quick, ill-conceived, badly written and poorly thought out messages that reflect badly on you as an individual, your department, or worse, the entire organisation you work for. E-mail ettiquette is straightforward, but is often overlooked in our haste to get the message sent.

You ignore good e-mail etiquette at your peril: your message, your reputation, and even your job could be at stake.

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Aug 062009
 
Stressed Eric

Image via Wikipedia

Read about how to recognise workplace stress here

At home and at work there are countless things in our lives that cause us to become anxious and ultimately lead to stress. Things like our relationships with our family and our work colleagues, lack of sleep, a feeling of having too much to do and not enough time, not making the time to relax and unwind… the list is practically endless.

In the workplace stress inducing situations are rife. Common ones include strained working relationships, heavy workloads, long hours, unrealistic expectations, poor communications, insufficient or improper training or concerns about job security. Stress typically builds up when a variety of potentially stressful experiences combine to overwhelm us: when we perceive that we’re out of our depth and believe that we have little or no control.

One of the problems with trying to define exactly what causes stress is that its a subjective thing. We all have different stress thresholds and find different things stressful. Some people, for example, find the thought of changing jobs terrifying, while others relish the challenge such a change brings. What we find stressful  is a very personal thing.

The important thing is to recognise your own stress thresholds, and when your stress alarm bells start to ring, take steps to manage that stress before it starts to have a detrimental affect on your work, and more importantly your health. If you start to feel the pressure, here are a few things you could try to keep your stress levels under control.

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Aug 052009
 
Closed for business

Image by maistora via Flickr

The latest figures show that more Irish firms closed their doors in July than in any month so far this year. 151 firms became insolvent in July, a 33% increase on the figure for June and a surge of 132% on the same month last year. The construction sector, once again, was the worst hit by the insolvency spike — with reports suggesting a correlation with the traditional "builders holiday", and struggling firms choosing to avail of this traditionally quiet period to wind up their operations "under the radar".

The motor trade was also badly hit — with a 200% increase in insolvencies compared to June, and according to the insolvency news aggregator InsolvencyJournal.ie the numbers of Irish firms going out of business shows no sign of abating.

Retail insolvencies in July were up almost 50% in July, increasing sharply from a figure of 21 in June and almost triple the 11 insolvencies recorded in the sector during May. 131 retail companies have already gone out of business so far this year. In the hospitality sector insolvencies remained relatively consistent at 14, compared to 13 in June and 15 in May.

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Aug 052009
 
Swine Flu

Image by The Artifex via Flickr

Ireland seems to have avoided the brunt of the Influenza A(H1N1) swine flu pandemic to date. As of the 28th of July there were a total of 276 laboratory confirmed cases of the disease in the state, 38 of which were classed "in country" transmissions (passed from person to person within the country, as opposed to being picked up outside Ireland and brought in). That’s a fairly small number, but one of the characteristics of a pandemic is the tendency for small numbers to turn into big numbers very quickly.

Last week an estimated 1,500 suspected cases of swine flu were reported to Irish GPs, and a glance across the water to our nearest neighbour, Britain, which is top of the European league table for Swine Flu infections by quite some margin, reveals a worrying trend. There were an estimated 100,000 new cases of swine flu in the UK during the week ending the 19th of July. That’s almost double the figure for the week before, with the numbers typically doubling week-on-week. Meanwhile infections here continue to rise sharply, and public health officials warn that it’s only a matter of time before Ireland’s first swine flu related death occurs.

In Britain, the pandemic is already having an impact on the workplace. Figures released last week by absence management firm FirstCare revealed that 130,000 people stayed off work with cold and flu symptoms on the 14th of July, up from 45,000 a week earlier. Here the HSE is advising Irish businesses to gear up for increased absenteeism in the workplace as the pandemic takes hold.

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