Tag Archives: work life balance

It doesn’t have to be like this

I’ve just got back from a weeks skiing in France.

We flew out of Bristol with Easy Jet.  Our flight was at 0700 and that meant a very early start. When we booked we didn’t realise the clocks went back the night before – that made it a really, really early start!

We arrived on time, checked in and went in search of breakfast. It was quite busy but we found a place to eat and joined the queue. It took some time but we made it to the front of the queue behind the till and waited to be served.

We must have been waiting there, patiently, for 10 minutes. OK maybe 5. Not one member of staff acknowledged or approached us. Finally we caught someones eye;

‘Excuse me… we’ve been waiting here for about 10 minutes’

‘Why’

That was it. That was the response. It was so shocking it was funny. He simply said ‘why’ and told us to join the end of the adjacent queue. He didn’t care one jot what we did. Even worse not one of his colleagues batted an eye – that’s obviously just how they do business. That’s how they treat their staff and how their staff treat their customers.

I like to think it was because of sleep deprivation however  (muttering under our breath) we joined the other queue.

bad service

We may have looked complacent at the time but in true British fashion and like 89% of other people who experience bad service we won’t go there again. We will also tell at least 10 other people about our experience – with 4 Adults in our party that’s at least 40 people. If like David Carroll however I use  you tube (United Breaks Guitars) to share my displeasure I could get my message to 500,000 people in only 3 days!

In this technological age it could take just one bad experience to wreck your reputation and your business.

That was the only instance of bad service we had ( considering we were in France and at the end of the season, that was actually very surprising!).

We had a wonderful time and returned with the usual stories of falling off lifts and wipe-outs. We also have an interesting couple of food related tales to do with a cheese fondue and profiteroles!

Snow and sun were plentiful but what made the holiday special was the people looking after us.

This was our first skiing holiday for a few years and we chose to go with a company called Ski Bonjour who promise the ‘ultimate chalet experience’. They delivered.

Hannah and Lou,  our ‘Chalet Girls’ were a delight.  Very welcoming, attentive, confident and good company. Nothing was too much trouble for them. One of our party is on a gluten free diet – every day gluten free cakes/biscuits were on offer after skiing and every meal was adapted.

They told us that they were well looked after by their Employer, Ski Bonjour, and it showed. Nothing appeared regimented or forced (although there were clearly some well established standards and routines).  And because they were happy so were we.

Next time I want something whether it’s a holiday, book or a cup of tea I’m going to buy it from the person with the smiliest face, or the smiliest voice. And like 86% of the population I’m prepared to pay extra for the service that goes with that smile.

For more evidence that happy engaged employees deliver better service take a look at engage for success. Then ask yourself if your employees make your customers feel the way you want them to?

…and if you need some help to find out just ask.

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It ain’t what you do its the way that you do it

…and that’s what gets results (courtesy of  Ella Fitzgerald or Bananarama depending on your musical tastes)

These words have been popping up all over the place recently – it started with the (excellent) video on the www.engageforsuccess.org website, then  the unfortunate playlist of a local radio station and more recently at a conference.

I couldn’t find the origins of this saying (other than song lyrics) but if you know different please let me know. I did however discover the origins of a few others in my search.

image‘Always a bridesmaid and never the bride’. That was apparently the result of an advert for mouthwash in the 1920’s!

Then I found two theories for the term ‘being on a good footing’. One is related simply to the size of your feet . The bigger your feet the greater your status. Interesting!

The other theory is that it goes back to trade apprentices; after their first day at work the apprentice had to invite their workmates for a drink. Of course they had to ‘foot’ the bill and it was said the more generous they were the ‘better footing’ they achieved with their new workmates!

These days it usually takes more than a beer to establish yourself at work. The relationship between Employer and Employee is more balanced too with the result that we are more selective about our jobs, the people we work with and the places we work.

Research shows that we don’t choose our employers for just one reason. It’s not just about the money (or the beer). People, and especially the best people, even in this climate, have a variety of criteria and need to be persuaded that as an Employer you will meet their needs and wants.

At 3Ease we believe it’s SMEs not large companies who can offer the best candidates what they want;

  1. Interesting work – with less bureaucracy and more flexibility there’s more opportunity in an SME to take responsibility for a wider range of tasks and practice a variety of experiences and skills.
  2. To get involved – in a smaller environment ideas and feedback are easier to share so its easier to join in and feel you are making a real contribution to the business.
  3. To feel that their job is important – it’s easier to make a difference when you can see where your job fits in, watch your ideas being implemented and follow projects through from start to finish. That helps build pride too.
  4. Believe that their Employer cares about them – working in an SME means everyone is more visible enabling people to build more individual and stronger working relationships.
  5. By their nature SME’s tend to be more innovative, responsive and flexible – and in our experience that results in a better work life balance too.

Not every workplace is the same but SMEs have a natural advantage when it comes to delivering the right results for their people and their customers.

If you want to find out how other Employers are attracting the best people in to their business then take part in the 3Ease SME Benefits Survey.  Covering everything from pensions, bonus’, overtime and holidays to flexible working, medical insurance and child care vouchers  – all participating organisations receive a full report for only £25.

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The worst job you ever had?

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What made that job so bad?

Apparently most people leave their jobs for at least one of the following reasons;

  • Poor relationship with Manager
  • No opportunity to grow or progress
  • Work life balance

When did you last feel like that?

Now, and be honest, how was your performance affected? I bet you weren’t doing your best – may be leaving work a little earlier, putting in less effort, making a few more mistakes and perhaps missing some deadlines.
It’s the New Year – traditionally the time people return to work with resolutions like getting a new job! So perhaps now is the time to ask how your employees are feeling about their jobs
  • Will the Christmas break have made them think they want to spend more time with their families?
  • Are they getting the training they need or want?
  • Are they doing the kind of work they want to do?
  • What do they think of their manager (and their colleagues)
  • Would they be willing to come in early, or leave late, just to make sure that job got finished?

What would it be like if they ‘loved’ their job and they were proud of what they did? They certainly wouldn’t be thinking of leaving would they?

What’s more scary – asking your people how they feel or watching them leave (and seeing the impact that has on your business)?

It’s not too late to find out what your people think. It’s not too late to encourage them to stay.

For further information on using 3Ease to ask what your people think talk to michelle@3ease.com / 01635 246214 / http://www.3ease.com

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Should work be fun?

Fun (noun) Enjoyment, amusement, light-hearted pleasure.

There are a couple of jobs that really stand out in my career and my over riding recollection is that they were fun!

Now, be honest, how many of you automatically said to yourselves ‘you can’t have been working very hard if it was fun’? More often than not ‘work’ and ‘fun’ are seen as exclusive. And fun is certainly not something you do when you’re under pressure to resolve a problem or have a deadline to meet.image

I can assure you I worked very hard. Part of a well respected team and successful company I thought nothing of regularly working 10  – 12 hour days. My job was varied, stimulating and very challenging; I was given complete autonomy, and responsibility, for some significant projects that took me right out  of my comfort zone. I learn’t loads. I worked with a great team of people and had a very supportive and encouraging manager. I did it because I enjoyed it. I was engaged.

It’s been recognised for a long time that having fun makes you a more efficient learner. (A principle effectively employed in playgroups and nursery schools but less prevalent as you progress through school to more ‘serious’ qualification focused learning). Research shows that when you enjoy what you are doing it stimulates learning and long term memory. When you are bored you are not having fun and you are not learning!

Fun helps create passion and energy and that’s what drives and motivates most of us to get things done.  We are more productive, effective and creative when we enjoy ourselves.

Having fun is an effective way to relieve stress, it enhances communication, helps build   relationships and a common identity.

Fun and engagement are inextricably linked with learning and performance.

As we approach the New Year perhaps now is a good time to ask yourself the following two questions

  1. are your employees having fun?
  2. how much more effective would your people and your organisation be if they were?

If you would like to see more fun and better results in your workplace then get in touch with michelle@3ease.com we’d love to talk to you.

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Employee Absence does not make the heart grow fonder!

Sickness, holidays, sickness absence…this topic has been all over the news so I thought it would be useful to offer some practical advice and say don’t despair it’s not as bad as it seems.

The recent European ruling in ANGED v FASGA and others held that workers who fall ill during their holiday may take this time as sick leave and reschedule their holiday to another time.

To minimise the risk of this I suggest you consider updating your sickness procedure to include the following:

  1. Require that people provide a sickness/fit note, at their own expense, to cover each day of pre-booked holiday that they are off sick for
  2. To qualify it should be clear that their sickness has actually made them unfit for work i.e. an ear infection may stop someone swimming while on holiday but does not mean that they cannot do their job!
  3. Clarify in your policy that this does not apply to any additional leave provided at the discretion of the company/in excess of the working time regulations.
  4. Remember that unless you have a company sick pay scheme employees will only qualify for Statutory Sick Pay and this is not payable for the first 3 days of sickness absence.
  5. If you have a company sick pay scheme you may find it beneficial to make payments under the scheme discretionary rather than contractual; this may not be possible for existing staff but should be a consideration for new employees.

Another important case NHS V Larner means that employees on long term sick leave can continue to accrue annual leave and are automatically allowed to carry it forward. Most organisations don’t let their employees carry over leave from one year to the next but this case means that people returning to work after sickness can!

What is perhaps worse is the implication that employees on long term absence whose employment is terminated can claim payment for all the holiday they have accrued during the period of their absence: so someone who has been off sick for 2 years would be entitled to be paid for 8 weeks holiday. There is no guidance, yet, on how far back employees can claim.

So what can you do?

  1. Make it clear in your contracts that only statutory holiday entitlement may be carried over.
  2. Consider compelling employees to take annual leave while on sick leave, and pay them accordingly: this will at least spread the cost however it is not yet clear whether this would be allowable under the ruling.
  3. Act promptly in respect of long term sickness issues: take appropriate and reasonable action to minimise the accrual of annual leave from one year to the next.

Of course this isn’t all you should be thinking about.

Prevention is better than cure and research shows that employee engagement is one remedy you can’t afford to ignore.

Did you know Employers lost about 131 million working days as a result of sickness in 2011: that’s 4.5 days per person. 57% of people say they take time when they are not actually ill; 23% report sick due to relationship issues, 25% because they just want a day off and 6% to avoid a problem at work.

Do you know what the average number of days sickness is in your organisation?  Most SME’s don’t.

Did you know that organisations with a higher proportion of engaged employees suffer 50% less sickness absence than organisations with more disengaged employees?

To find out how to create an environment that drives performance (and attendance) then just ask3ease for more information or michelle@3ease.com

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Is it OK to be emotional at work?

Please don’t tell me you’ve never got annoyed by something or someone at work… I wouldn’t believe you. We all get like that at some point.

Depending on the strength of feeling some of us will have a grumble to a colleague to get it off our chest: someone who shares the same values as us and will understand how we feel. And, when we look back, we’ll often justify our emotions by saying things like ‘I wouldn’t feel like that if I didn’t care’. This is quite normal on an occasional basis and doesn’t affect how we perform or how we feel about our jobs and the work we do.

But imagine if we didn’t have someone to talk to. What if we got annoyed or frustrated by something, or someone at work on a more frequent basis? What affect would that have on our work? How would it affect other people?

Emotion isn’t really acceptable in the workplace is it? People who show their emotions are often seen as negative, weak and unable to handle pressure. We all have to deal with negative emotions sometimes and most of us have found ways of controlling them so they don’t ‘get the better of us’: it’s an unwritten rule that ‘professionals’ control their emotions  in meetings, phone-calls and emails.

Of course some emotions are more acceptable e.g. excitement, optimism. When ‘controlled’ and ‘professionally’ managed  these emotions are considered to be positive attributes in the workplace.

Passion is an emotion admired in business. It conjures up a picture of someone successful, a person with energy and drive.

Passion:  “strong and barely controllable emotion”

Passionate:  “having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs”

Oxford Dictionary

Employers want to employ people with passion. Passionate people are more innovative, more committed, apply greater effort and perform better. Passion at work is used to describe positive emotions.

Of course just because you’re passionate you’re not automatically better at relationships, more honest, skilled or talented. Passion is an emotion just like the others and passionate people can behave just as well, or as badly, as any other ’emotional’ people – the purpose and intent behind the emotion remains key.

As an Employer you can’t simply demand passion, or expect it: employee passion describes a positive emotion that, like employee engagement, results from how people feel about things like the work they do, relationships with their colleagues and manager and opportunities for learning.

Anyway there you have it  – it’s OK to be passionate at work. Passion is an emotional state in demand by employers (because passionate people are better performers).

So are your people emotional or passionate?

If you want to find out how to attract passionate people to work with you and if you’d like to know how to create an environment where passion (and therefore performance) will flourish then the simplest way to find out is ask: 3ease for more information or michelle@3ease.com

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When only the best will do

Deciding to recruit a new employee is a big decision and most of us would agree it’s important to get it right. Choosing the wrong person would be a waste of time, effort and money and impact on business performance.

Would you employ someone who

  • turned up late for interview?
  • argued with you during their interview?
  • couldn’t remember what job they had applied for?
  • looked like they had just crawled out of bed?
  • didn’t convince you they could do the job (or that they wanted to learn)?
  • wouldn’t get on with your other staff?
  • bad mouthed their last employer?

Why is that so many people do?

Time and time again I’ve seen managers justify these very decisions because they ‘don’t have time to wait’.

These are the kinds of behaviours we associate with disengaged employees. Disengaged employees make mistakes, miss deadlines, let down their colleagues and customers and don’t care. Believe me you have time to wait!

So if you’re thinking about recruiting do yourself, your business and your team a favour, don’t compromise.

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Are your people rejuvenated or disengaged after their holiday?

Holidays are good for you – 84% of us agree.

For most of us they’re an opportunity to take a break, change the routine, switch off and relax. Apparently 70% of people said, in a survey last year, they went on holiday to ‘escape’ from work. I thought the wording was a bit strong until I read that 67% of us say it takes up to 4 days to stop worrying about work!

It’s hardly surprising, once we’ve wound down, we then want to have deep and meaningful conversations about our lives and our futures. Our favourite topics are work life balance and getting fitter (yep I definitely had that discussion more than once over the dinner table while enjoying my nightly 3 course dinner).

Those conversations inevitably lead us on to making some mid year resolutions – spend more time with the kids/spouse/dog, leave work earlier, get fit, get a new job.

Will your employees return to work raring to go or raring to leave? What impact will that have on your business?

Do you know what people think of the worklife balance in your organisation? The simplest way to find out is to ask…

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thoughts from 3ease

Half way through an incredibly busy and exciting year for 3ease and looking back I am really proud of the huge amount we have achieved in this short period of time.

Now’s the time for a little R&R: I’m looking forward to a break, the opportunity to spend time with my family and switch off knowing that I’ll come back all the better for it.

Unfortunately not everyone views holidays in the same way as illustrated by the results of a recent survey I saw;

  • One in four managers think it’s acceptable to call employees while they’re on holiday
  • Staff who haven’t gone to far-off destinations are considered “fair game” for texts, phone calls and emails
  • One in three managers believe staff should expect to be called while on holiday if they’ve failed to tie things up properly before leaving.
  • One in ten managers think that employees provided with a company mobile phone should expect to receive calls when on leave.

Remember that the manager, employee relationship is a key driver of happiness and engagement at work. If you want to (start to) ruin your relationship with your people then attacking their personal time is a great place to start!

And if you’re still not convinced that this matters consider another survey which found that 50% of life changing decisions (like moving house, getting married &  changing jobs !) are made following a decision made on holiday.

What will you do?

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