The latest Insight newsletter is now available to read online

workplace insight newsletterIn this week’s issue; the UK takes a leading role in the development of the Internet of Things and the government publishes a guide to digital economy clusters; news that Europe’s commercial property market ‘sizzled’ during 2014 while a report suggests city leaders are the main obstacles to the implementation of urban infrastructure. Mark Eltringham derides more attempts to define the workplace of the future; Sara Bean warns that employers need to consider whether their workplace has an inclusive design; and as the winners of the first ever employee engagement awards are announced research reveals the cost of disengaged employees. Sign up to the newsletter via the subscription form in the right hand sidebar and follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.

Winners announced for first ever employee engagement awards

Winners announced for first ever employee engagement awards Hotel management company The Dorchester Collection has picked up The Investors in People Company of the Year Award, in the inaugural Employee Engagement Awards. Although awards programmes are as much about marketing and revenue as recognising talent and achievement, it’s clear that the launch of the first ever awards that recognise employee engagement reflects a growing realisation by employers that it’s an area to be taken seriously. As the economy improves, the labour market grows more competitive and businesses have to offer and be seen to be doing things differently, to create an engaging and rewarding working environment. Other notable winners include The University of Sheffield, which won the Wellness Award and Transport for London, for Project of the Year Award (Public sector).

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Staff calling in sick could be a symptom of management malaise

If your office seems strangely quiet this morning it might be due to the fact today is ‘national sickie day’. The first Monday in February is the day of the year which traditionally sees the highest number of workers calling in sick. It’s been argued that many of these people could in fact be looking for a new job, but whether your staff are sick or on a job interview, these absences may be indicative of a deeper problem, and it in all probability lies with the quality of their managers. According to recent research, one in seven people (16%) have had to take sick leave due to a bad manager and a fifth of people would turn down a job offer if their new manager had a bad reputation. The research also found that those who find themselves being poorly managed are more likely to take radical action and leave a job than tackle the issue with their HR department.

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Wellness programmes may be causing more problems than they solve

wellness backfiresFar from making employees healthier, a corporate focus on their wellness may actually be making them unhappier and more prone to illnesses. That is the conclusion of a new book published by two researchers at Cass Business School and Stockholm University. In the book, The Wellness Syndrome, the authors Andre Spicer and Carl Cederström claim that the fixation with monitoring wellbeing and initiating wellness programmes may be having the obverse effect to that intended. The book argues that an obsession with wellness obliges some people to pretend to be happy at work, even when they are not and that the pressure to fit with a corporate notion of what constitutes a ‘well’ person makes them depressed and anxious that they will be labelled by their employer and colleagues if they don’t fit an ideal.

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Employers over-estimate levels of staff happiness and engagement

 Employers over-estimate levels of staff happiness and engagementNearly half (46%) of employers believe their company is a great place to work compared with less than a third (31%) of staff, and UK staff have alarmingly low energy levels, a new survey has revealed. The data from MetLife’s UK Employee Benefits Trends Survey shows how highly employers rate recruitment and retention. Forty percent of UK companies say they will be affected by talent shortages over the next year and their key benefits challenges are retaining (41%) and hiring talent (37%). However, the greatest recruitment and retention challenge is the gap between employer and employee views. Although 32 percent of employees say they are loyal to their employer – just 22 percent believe their employer is loyal to them. In contrast 39 percent of employers’ believe their employees are loyal and 40 percent believe they are loyal to employees.

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Flexible working improves the quality and quantity of sleep

Flexible working improves the quality and quantity of sleep

Flexible working

Morning Sun by Edward Hopper

Giving employees more control over their work schedules may help curb sleep deficiency, according to health researchers in the US. A team led by Orfeu M. Buxton, associate professor of bio-behavioural health at Penn State University set out to explore the question of whether family-friendly work practices and other forms of flexible working had any impact on the quantity and quality of sleep. They results are published this month in the journal Sleep Health. Of the nearly 500 employees from an IT company surveyed over a period of a year, the researchers found that employees who were able to enjoy more control over their working day also enjoyed an average of eight minutes more sleep per night than those with rigid working hours. The research also found that participants’ perceptions of their sleep quality also improved.

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Regular exercise doesn’t reduce the risks of prolonged sedentary work

sedentary workAnybody who thinks that regular gym visits mitigate the ill effects of prolonged sitting at work is likely to be dead wrong. That is the key finding of a new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. The meta-analysis of 47 studies set out to explore the possible correlation between physical activity and the conditions most commonly associated with sedentary lifestyles including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The results of the analysis showed that the crucial factor was not the level of physical activity away from the workplace but rather the length of time spent sitting while at work. The Canadian academics behind the study are calling for more research to establish just how much sedentary work is too much as a way of reducing the risks which they identify as a 15 to 20 percent higher risk of heart disease and cancer and up to a 90 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.

Good communication is essential to ensure workplace health and safety

health and safetyLast week the HSE marked its 40th anniversary with a series of warnings about the continuing importance of maintaining health and safety. While the number of people killed at work has fallen dramatically since the HSE was launched, it’s important employers don’t get complacent. A lack of education among the workforce about the adequate measures to take when considering health and safety can still make a huge difference. Good communication is vital, so provide in depth, yet cohesive and easy to follow Health and Safety guides, including useful information like fire blanket locations, fire exits, what to do in an emergency and emergency phone numbers which are handed out to all employees. Regular talks about the importance of health and safety should be conducted every few months to reiterate health and safety messages.

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‘Squeezed generation’ of middle-aged workers take most sick days

 

Employers’ concerns regarding the ageing workforce are usually based on the belief older workers will tend to struggle more with health problems. However, new data from AXA PPP healthcare reveals it’s the middle band of workers (30-49) that take more sick days than any other age group; averaging 2.3 sick days in the past six months; with a quarter of these workers taking three or four days off sick. Twelve per cent of this middle age group have taken the equivalent of a working week off sick (5 or 6 days) in the past six months, double the number of 18-29 year olds (6%) and just 5 per cent of those 50-69. This ‘squeezed generation,’ faced with the pressures of balancing work and home, takes least positive steps to help ensure good health; has a fairly negative outlook regarding their jobs and is more stressed than other age group.

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Bosses failing to tackle workplace bullying say staff

Employers failing to tackle workplace bullying, according to majority of staff The majority (91 percent) of staff polled on bullying at work say their employers do not deal adequately with the problem and over three quarters (78 percent) are reluctant to complain for fear of their job. According to charity Family Lives, the anxiety associated with workplace bullying greatly affects emotional health and wellbeing. Of the 1,500 workers it polled, 73 percent said the bullying was verbal, including threats, whereas 60 percent felt the bullying was social, including being excluded, ignored and isolated. Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents witnessed bullying at work with 43 percent stating they were bullied by their line manager, 38 percent bullied by a colleague and 20 percent bullied by SMT or CEO.

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Heavy workloads blamed as two thirds of staff fail to take statutory work break

Heavy workloads blamed as two thirds of staff fail to take work breaksAlmost two thirds of UK staff are not able to take their legally required minimum break. In a Bupa study of 2,000 full-time workers – 64 per cent claimed they are not always able to take their legally required 20-minute break when working six hours or more. Less than a third (29%) of employees are taking a full hour for lunch every day and worryingly, over a quarter (28%) of workers never take a breather of any kind during their working day. The main reason UK workers are not taking a break is the weight of their workload. The research shows that two in five (43%) employees believe they have too much work to pause for a few minutes. Managers are also setting a bad example as a quarter (24%) of employees see their boss not taking lunch and feel pressure to do the same.

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Connecting to the workplace out of office hours can damage wellbeing

Out of office hours workplace connectivity damages employees' wellbeingThe use of tech outside of office hours can have a detrimental effects on workers’ wellbeing according to a paper presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Glasgow. A meta-analysis by Svenja Schlachter and colleagues from the University of Surrey sought to determine the effects of being constantly “switched on” for work and found a blurring of boundaries between work and private life. The research showed that employees use a number of devices outside of office hours in the hope that staying “switched on” will increase flexibility and efficiency and because they believe there is a strong expectation to be available 24/7. This often has a negative effect on their work-life balance and increases stress.

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