Why annual leave is good for business.

Summer is just around the corner and undoubtedly there will be many of your colleagues who have booked time off to enjoy holidays abroad or downtime at home throughout the year. However each year 40% of workers don’t take their full allocation of annual leave and over 30% will work while on holidays. There is an abundance of reasons why employees don’t use their well-earned days off but there are negative consequences to this pattern of behaviour.

For the individual, untaken leave equates to an increased risk of burnout. Time away from work, unplugged from the ecosystem of always on emailing and IM chatter is vital to allow the mind to recuperate. Just like labourers or professional athletes, thinking workers need an “off season” to rest and recharge. When the boundaries are pushed by long stints of time without a break, it results in increased stress, decreased morale, cynicism and disengagement, which translates into organisational level challenges including absenteeism and presenteeism.

Research has found that employees who take breaks in general (lunch breaks, walking breaks etc.) are more engaged and committed to their place of employment, with 81% of respondents having a strong desire to be an active member in their organisation. Holiday breaks yield a similar positive result. In a 2016 study of its own workforce, Ernest & Young  found that for every additional 10 hours of holidays taken by employees, performance metrics went up an average of 8%. 

While taking breaks can yield a more relaxed, creative and productive workforce there are often apprehensive employees who will worry about accumulated workload or the stress of planning a holiday. Organisations can help address these issues by providing services to assist in the holiday planning stages and by ensuring comprehensive policies and practices are in place to manage the holidaying employee’s workload in their absence. It can be beneficial to incentivise full use of annual leave days too.  For example, GE Healthcare give a fifth week of leave in the year following an employee using their full allocation of leave the previous year.  

Author: Sara Glynn, Customer Success & Marketing Manager @Wrkit

Why wellness programmes need to address financial wellbeing

Over the past two years, we have seen an increasing number of corporates turning attention to employee wellbeing. Reassuringly, there is a greater tendency toward long term sustainable wellbeing strategies, moving away from the traditional annual wellbeing week. Most organisations we meet offer their employees a diverse range of talks, supports such as EAP, and fitness programmes. However, a truly holistic wellness programme needs to go one step further to include financial wellbeing supports. According to the findings of a 2016 Financial Wellness Survey, “finances play a leading role in elevating stress levels for 52% of employees”. Hence there is a significant need to incorporate financial wellness initiatives to help employees manage debt, reduce stress and live happier lives.

Here are five services you can consider for your financial wellness programme.

  1. Literature and free supports: make sure there is literature available for all to access. Services such as MABS offer free advice for people managing debt and offer a free helpline. Keep this information visible throughout the year.
  2. Seminars: talks and seminars are a great way to educate a large audience. There is a myriad of experts who can give high level advice around budgeting and saving. Given the sensitive nature of money and debt these talks should be skills based and offer something for those who may not be in debt as well as those who are.
  3. 1 to 1 consultation:  consultations provide a unique opportunity for individuals to discuss their personal money challenges. Advisors will be in a position to help identify upcoming expenses and put a plan in place to ensure future financial goals are achieved.
  4. Offer discounts: any opportunity where you can help your workforce to reduce their everyday cost of living will contribute toward less stress and an overall happier workforce. Employee discount platforms will help individuals save on everything from grocery shopping, to fuel and holidays to family excursions to the cinema.
  5. Pensions: planning for future financial security can help reduce money worries, however in recent years there has been a concerning downward trend in the number of adults with private pensions and for most people, the state pension alone will not suffice. Offering pension contributions is vital and ensuring employees understand where their money is going, potential return, and risks will alleviate concerns and increase the numbers of people availing of this benefit.

Financial wellness programmes should be designed to demystify the world of financial planning and equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to manage debt and save for the future.

Author: Peter Jenkinson, CEO @ Wrkit

Wrkit specialise in the creation of better, healthier working environments. Our platform connects global, remote and local teams through five modules; Surveys, Recognition, POWR, Learning and Savings. Speak to an Engagement Specialist today – info@wrkit.com

Combating presenteeism in the workplace

Presenteeism is the phenomenon of employees coming into work when they are sick or injured, instead of staying at home. It has also been termed “sickness presence”, and it is thought that workers in ill-health are likely to be ineffective and unproductive, which can result in increased financial costs and stress-related absenteeism in the long run – it is estimated that presenteeism costs the UK economy up to £15.1 billion annually.

Therefore, addressing presenteeism in the workplace is something that should be taken seriously. There is some preliminary but promising evidence that workplace health promotion may be effective in improving presenteeism. By promoting a healthy workplace, and by being conscious of the factors that may contribute to presenteeism, organisations can target this phenomenon, enhance productivity, and improve overall employee well-being in the workplace.

Organisational policies

Certain organisational policies may play a role in presenteeism. Policies regarding sick leave, sick pay, and attendance may lead to employees feeling like they cannot be absent from work. In particular, a lack of paid sick leave and disciplinary “trigger points” with regards to absent episodes are thought to foster presenteeism. It is important that employers review such policies to ensure that sickness presence is not encouraged over legitimate sick leave.

Job design

Job design features may also stimulate presenteeism. Employees in high-demand jobs may wish to maintain high levels of performance and may therefore engage in presenteeism when they are unwell. Job demands include the physical, cognitive, and social features of a role that require sustained physical and psychological effort – it is therefore imperative that the demands of a job are not so high that an employee feels under pressure to meet all of these demands, even when they are unwell.

Ease of replacement is another feature which impacts on presenteeism – if employees feel that sick leave will result in their work piling up, this will also trigger presenteeism. Reasons why other employees may not be able to assist with sick colleagues’ workloads include lean staffing, high specialisation, and a lack of cross-training. Furthermore, employees may be inclined to be present when they are unwell if they feel that it is unfair for colleagues to have to take on more work. All of these features influence whether or not an individual engages in presenteeism, and so management should provide opportunities for cross-training and should encourage communication among all staff regarding what is considered fair and reasonable with regards to the replacement of work.

Presenteeism cultures

Some studies have found that presenteeism cultures may contribute to sickness presence. In certain organisations, employees can experience presenteeism pressures, particularly when there exists “competitive presenteeism” cultures. Such cultures can demand long work hours, the foregoing of recuperation time after business trips, and working while sick. Management should ensure that competitive presenteeism is not encouraged.

Individual risk factors

It is also important to consider the individual factors which may put individuals at greater risk of presenteeism. It is thought that potential risk factors include a poor diet, a lack of exercise, high stress, certain health conditions, and poor relations with peers and management. It is therefore important that employers address these factors, by encouraging healthy food options, activity in the workplace, and open communication with all staff, as well as by educating employees on the importance of looking after their personal health and their workplace relationships.

Measuring presenteeism

Organisations face a challenge when it comes to actually measuring presenteeism, as there is currently no universal agreement on the most appropriate method for measuring the concept. However, several self-report measures have been developed, which may prove useful for organisations. These instruments require employees answering various questions with regards to the degree to which they believe that health issues hinder them in performing the tasks required of their roles. Examples of some of these measures which could be incorporated include the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ), Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI), and the Stanford Presenteeism Scale (SPS).

A positive work environment

It is thought that creating a positive work environment can help to reduce health risks and improve productivity in the workplace. While being aware of the organisational and individual factors which may contribute to presenteeism is important, it is just as vital to encourage a healthy and positive work environment, to defend against sickness presence. Workplace health promotion can have a variety of benefits for employers and employees alike, such as increased satisfaction and productivity, improved morale, reduced costs and turnover, and improved company profile. Some examples of workplace health promotion activities include:

  • Measures to improve the working environment, such as assessments and audits on manual handling, display screens, and stress
  • Organisational policies that encourage a work-life balance and that discourage sickness presence
  • Education for employees on health-related topics such as exercise, healthy eating, alcohol, smoking, stress, heart disease, and cancer
  • Health screenings for employees
  • Providing free or subsidised healthy food options
  • Encouraging employees to engage in physical activity throughout the day, e.g. during their lunch break
  • Providing health insurance and GP visits

Guest Author, Jennifer Fennell, Counseling Psychologist

Sources:

https://www.robertsoncooper.com/blog/entry/five-ways-to-reduce-presenteeism-in-the-workplace

https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2013/11000/Health_Risk_Factors_Associated_With_Presenteeism.10.aspx

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-11-395

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/job.630

Linking financial difficulty and mental health at work

A recent research project by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, sponsored by SalaryFinance, sets out the case for employers to provide practical support to employees experiencing financial difficulty, and how this could boost the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of their workforce.

The analysis found a clear link between financial difficulties and poor mental health. Not only do 45% of UK employees report at least one sign of poor mental health, but those with money worries are 50% more likely to report signs of poor mental health that affect their performance at work.

The research found that even less intense financial strain can have an impact on both wellbeing and productivity. 41% of employees who identified themselves as financially comfortable reported at least one sign of poor mental health. However, this number rises to 51% for those just about managing and to 67% for people in financial difficulty.

This is perhaps not surprising when considering the fragile financial situation of a large proportion of the UK workforce. Nearly 17 million working age people across the UK have savings of less than £100, meaning that something as simple as an unexpected repair bill can create a significant issue. Those with lower credit scores will often pay higher interest rates, exacerbating the issue and triggering a cycle of problem debt.

The consequences on an individual’s ability to work caused by financial worries include struggling to concentrate, losing sleep, feeling additional pressure and reduced motivation.

The results highlight a two-way street between concerns about money and mental health, suggesting action to improve financial resilience and alleviate problem debts could play an important role in preventing mental health problems in Britain’s workplaces.

The report suggests actions that employers can take to alleviate these issues for their employees:

  • Boost short term savings: Access to savings of just £1,000 could protect half a million households from problem debt.
  • Support access to affordable credit: Over half of the research participants suggested that the provision of affordable credit products through payroll would have helped them.
  • Foster financial capability: Access to financial tools and apps can help people manage their money more successfully.

The full research report – Overstretched, overdrawn, underserved – can be found at: www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/financialwellbeingatwork/