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

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day takes place annually on September 10th. The aim of this day, which is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), is to raise awareness worldwide that suicide is preventable.

Thousands of lives are lost to and are left devastated by suicide every year, but the IASP are aiming to show that this does not have to be the case. There are many ways that you can get involved this year, both inside and outside of the workplace, in order to promote understanding about suicide, and to support those affected by suicide.

Cycle Around the Globe

An initiative called Cycle Around the Globe is being organised by the IASP, as part of World Suicide Prevention Day, to raise awareness of the risks of suicide and to raise money for suicide prevention activities. The aim is to collectively cycle around the globe (40,075 km), between the 1st and 17th September, and to raise vital funds for the IASP while doing so. The cycling can be done by anyone and in any place – more information on the challenge and to register can be found here. This is a challenge that could be made office-wide and could be undertaken by colleagues together – in terms of racking up the km on the bike, raising funds, and generally spreading awareness of the cause around the organisation.

Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Mental health first aid is the help offered to a person who is developing mental health difficulties until appropriate professional treatment is received. Both individuals and organisations can receive Mental Health First Aid training – the workplace training teaches managers, supervisors, and individuals how to assist a co-worker who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. Engaging in such training in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day will contribute to an organisation’s wellness culture, will help staff to feel valued and supported, and will contribute to improved relationships between managers and employees. More information can be found here.

Other Fundraising and Supporting Options

Small steps can make a big difference, especially in the workplace. Why not organise a bake sale, a book sale, a coffee morning, a talent show, or a silent auction, and donate any funds raised to charities working towards suicide prevention. A list of organisations working on suicide reduction in your local area can be found on the Samaritans website – for example, a list of the organisations in Ireland can be found here.

Other activities which can be done in the workplace to support this cause include: holding workshops and seminars in suicide and depression awareness; organising a memorial service or event to remember those who have died by suicide; amending organisational policies to ensure that adequate mental health support is provided to colleagues; or providing workplace education emphasising the factors which contribute to good mental health, such as physical activity, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep. A comprehensive list of activities provided by the IASP which can be undertaken to support World Suicide Prevention Day can be found here.

Sources

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/wspd/en/

https://www.iasp.info/wspd/pdf/2018/2018_wspd_suggested_activities.pdf

https://iasp.info/wspd2018/cycle-around-the-globe/

https://www.mhfaireland.ie/workplace

 

Guest Author: Dr Jennifer Fennel, Counselling Psychologist

 

Sitting Disease

Modern life, work, and technological advances mean that many of us spend a large amount of time being sedentary every day – in fact, it is thought that the average person spends up to 12 hours a day sitting down. However, the human body is designed to move, not to be sedentary, and such physical inactivity can have very real consequences for us, such as sitting disease.

What is sitting disease?

Sitting disease is a term used to describe the ill-effects of an overly-sedentary lifestyle. Excessive sitting has been linked to a host of health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and cholesterol, as well as to a greater risk of death, compared to those who do not spend that long sitting down.

The link between exercise and sitting disease

Unfortunately for most of us, it is thought that exercise does not compensate for excessive sitting. This means that, even if we get the recommended amount of physical activity, we can still suffer from sitting-related health issues, if we spend too much time being sedentary. This therefore presents employers and organisations with a difficult challenge, in terms of addressing this issue.

The workplace

Sitting disease has real implications for organisations – it is in the best interests of employers to target physical inactivity in the workplace, as the ill health effects of employees’ excessive sitting can lead to reduced productivity and huge financial costs.

What can be done?

There are a lot of individual choices that people can make, to increase the amount of time they spend standing or moving – such as exercising when watching TV or when talking on the phone. There are also steps that organisations can take, in order to encourage people to get moving more in the workplace:

Providing education: this could include educating employees to recognise the warning signs of sitting disease (such as slouching, back pain, weight gain, and lack of energy and focus), as well as educating them on the health risks associated with excessive sitting and the potential benefits associated with more activity throughout the workday (such as weight loss and increased productivity)

Encourage physical activity in the workplace: this can be done by facilitating walking meetings, lunchtime walks or exercise classes, and, most importantly, regular movement throughout the day – employees can be encouraged to utilise calendar reminders and phone apps to stimulate them to move around for one to three minutes every half hour. Gentle exercises, such as leg raises, glute squeezes, and wall sits, can also be incorporated into the workday

Invest in products: organisations can provide products to encourage less sitting in the workplace, such as standing desks, stability balls, and pedometers

Make it fun: inactivity can be tackled in creative and fun ways, which will make employees more likely to engage. Examples include prizes for those who have taken the most steps that week/month or organising special or unusual exercise classes every few weeks.

 

Guest Author, Jennifer Fennell, Counseling Psychologist

Sources

http://www.juststand.org/the-facts/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/sitting-disease-is-killing-us-and-exercise-doesnt-help/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/much-sitting-linked-heart-disease-diabetes-premature-death-201501227618

https://updesk.com/blogs/news/4-subtle-signs-you-may-have-sitting-disease

Employee engagement – where do I start!?

The term “employee engagement” appears in leadership and HR literature the world over. It is a topic which comes up in every one of our client conversations, however the term seems to hold a very different meaning from one organisation to the next.

A Google search for employee engagement will yield a myriad of definitions, for example UK voluntary movement Engage for Success, defines employee engagement as “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” While other definitions might vary from this, the overarching theme is an emotional connection between an employee and their employer organisation.

When addressing employee engagement, an organisation should aim to strategically implement sustainable programmes, initiatives and tools which will result in an employee having a sense of purpose and belonging. Something which will challenge the success of even the most holistic engagement strategy, is a lack of definition around company values and purpose. Engagement is intrinsically connected to the values of an organisation, so when considering engagement, the first place an organisation should start is with their own values.: the glue which will keep people invested (long-term) in the overall business mission.

With clear values and purpose, tools such as an employee survey can be leveraged to gain insights into the culture and mindset of a workforce. The eNPS (employee net promoter score) will provide a very basic understanding of engagement; how likely your workforce is to recommend your organisation as a place to work. Detailed survey questions assessing; workplace inclusion, wellbeing, communication, recognition and career development will provide a greater understanding of an organisation’s needs.

For organisations of all sizes and industries effectively administered surveys will help guide better business decisions. Utilising the feedback, an organisation can determine clear engagement objectives and a strategic approach to boost employee satisfaction. While the prospect of an employee engagement strategy might be daunting at first, with the right building blocks in place the planning process becomes easier and more systematic.

At Wrkit we specialise in the creation of better, healthier working environments using our online suite of data driven employee engagement and retention tools – Surveys, Recognition, Wellbeing (POWR), Learning and Lifestyle Savings. Headquartered in Dublin (Ireland), with offices in London and Boston, we serve local and multi-national companies around the globe. Let our experience guide your next steps, get in touch today info@wrkit.com.

 

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit

How NEAT is your workforce?

As obesity and related disease increases globally, so too do the associated costs incurred by employers and governments. When it comes to exercise and activity the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. For many employees however, it is difficult to meet this recommendation.

Increasingly employer organisations are implementing wellness initiatives designed to help tackle the obesity epidemic which allow employees to incorporate exercise into their working day – reduced gym membership, complimentary exercise classes, corporate exercise challenges etc. There are big business benefits associated with having a fit workforce but what about a NEAT workforce?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than those done with the specific intention of developing or maintain fitness. Movement of some level is a necessity for everyone, however a sedentary lifestyle mean adults of similar sizes can have markedly variable NEAT levels – up to 2,000 calories per day.

Simply moving more and sitting less can boost a person’s health whether they are a couch potato or leading a more active life. There are easy ways to incorporate NEAT activities at work and behaviours which should be encouraged. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Make company-wide ‘appointments to move’ – Sitting for extended periods of time can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Encourage on the hour ‘walk abouts’.
  2. Invest in company pedometers – a lot of your team might already have these built into their mobile phones but providing company sponsored pedometers means you can set team targets and daily goals.
  3. Use the stairs – use posters and other communication channels to get people choosing the stairs.
  4. Meetings on foot – walking and standing meetings are becoming increasingly common. If there is an option to get people moving in their own meetings encourage that behaviour.
  5. Make sitting a strength – invest in some stability balls, these are great to help build core strength and burn calories.
  6. Offer standing desks – a few standing hot desks dotted throughout the office space will give people the option for a real change of scenery and will help improve their NEAT.

Author: Sara Glynn –Wrkit Marketing Executive