Friday, 15 January 2021

Why soft skills are important for workplace wellbeing

Often in busy work environments there is so much pressure placed on achieving goals and hitting targets that the wellbeing of employees gets forgotten. There could be many reasons why this occurs but ultimately, this kind of responsibility lies with the management and their ability to use soft skills to nurture, inspire, and motivate their workforce. In a study by Gallup, it was found that "about 50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job to get away from their manager".

In order for a business to retain and maintain the wellbeing of staff, it’s vital for employees to feel a level of trust and respect towards their line manager. For many of us, we are much more likely to enjoy job satisfaction and go the extra mile when we are given support not only within our role but also for our mental wellbeing.

How to improve leadership soft skills?

Let’s not forget that managers are also human and might need assistance from time to time to improve their soft skills in order to ensure a happy and positive workplace. Being given help to better their emotional intelligence, communication skills, and interpersonal skills will stand them in good stead for being a respected leader that can maintain a healthy and inclusive workplace culture.

Get to know your team

Although it’s important to have a professional relationship with your employees, it’s equally as important to understand them on a personal level. Finding out what motivates a person, how they respond to stress, or understanding how they communicate with others can help you manage their workload and environment effectively.

Learn to listen properly

Especially when our jobs are busy and stressful, it’s easy to neglect the wellbeing of others, but by taking time out to listen to your staff’s needs or feelings, you can manage workloads much more effectively.

Give considered and empathic feedback

Not only can constructive feedback be beneficial to employees, but it can also help managers understand how they can improve workflow and productivity. It may be that a member of staff is struggling with one particular role, so rather than reprimanding them, ask them if there’s another area they feel they would excel in. Not only does this give them more job satisfaction, but it also gives them the confidence that you have considered their wellbeing.

Developing your own soft skills

Become more aware of an employee’s emotional needs by looking out for any subtle signs that may arise from personal issues, stress, or anxiety. Is someone quieter than usual, are they interacting less with others, do they look tired, are they more agitated than normal? These can all be signs that a member of your team is off-kilter and might need to air their thoughts to you in a private and confidential environment.









Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Tips for hiring the right candidate

Making sure you hire the right candidate is not only important to the financial success of your business, but it is also vital for creating an environment where work colleagues can work together amicably and efficiently. Choosing the wrong person for the job can be seriously damaging, not to mention costly, and could negatively impact the culture of your current workplace and employees. Research published in the journal Personnel Psychology, which analysed 200 individual studies, showed that employees who were compatible with the culture of the workplace would stay longer at the company, were more satisfied in their role and performed better overall.

Negative impacts of hiring the wrong person:
  1. Missed deadlines may lose future contracts
  2. Time and money are lost from correcting mistakes
  3. Toxic work environment
  4. Stress on managers’ and employees’ mental wellbeing
To avoid these issues, try not to rush the hiring process and make sure you have everything in place before you start the selection process. Understandably, you’re never going to please everyone with your choice of employee, so you need to figure out what’s most important for the role and the company. Trying to find someone who has the ideal skill set as well as being able to integrate harmoniously into the culture of the company can be a tricky task so we have a few pointers that might make your selection process less challenging.

Create a checklist

Make a comprehensive list of all the skills and personal qualities you would like the right candidate to possess before you begin advertising the job role. Consider who they are most likely going to be working alongside in their role and perhaps even ask those employees what kind of person would benefit them in their job.

Introduce candidates to present employees

At the interview stage, it’s always a good idea to introduce candidates to other members of your team. How they interact with other people, especially when it’s not the person interviewing them, can be very telling of their personality and communication skills.

Check previous career commitment

If you’re wanting to employ someone for the long term, someone who isn’t going to abandon you when the going gets tough or because they constantly strive for a new work environment, pay particular attention to the duration of their previous job roles, whether that’s on their CV or during the interview. If there are signs they seem unable to hold down a position for a considerable period of time, make sure you get to the bottom of why this is the case. If you find yourself having to go through the advertising, interviewing and selection process again a few months down the line, it will be a further expense as well as time consuming.

Don’t rely purely on someone’s CV

Of course, most of us use our CV to showcase the best of our achievements but it’s not unheard of for some to perhaps exaggerate or, in some instances, completely fabricate work experiences. So, although CVs are generally a good indication of a candidate’s skillset and experience, make sure you don’t wholly rely on it. It might be a good idea to set a task that tests the relevant skills needed for the job during the interview stage or alternatively ask candidates how they would respond in certain key situations. This way, the candidate will need to think on their feet, and you can get a sense of how they would respond if they were appointed to the role. 

Keep it conversational

You will find out more about candidates if you keep the interview process conversational and relaxed rather than confrontational. The job website Indeed suggests spending 5-10 minutes at the start of the interview to build rapport with the candidate. You could ask if they had any difficulties finding the location, how their day is going, or comment on something you have in common with them. You want to see if the person you are interviewing has the skills but you also want to employ someone who fits into your team and your organisation as a whole. You will only be able to determine this by having a conversation with them, so keep it professional but friendly.

Have more than one interviewer

Involving other members of staff in the interview process and decision making can provide different perspectives and could highlight either positives or negatives that when interviewing alone, you might miss.

Check social media

It might seem intrusive to check up on a person through their social media but if they set their profiles to public then they are open to public viewing. You might very well find some important giveaways about a person’s true character, whether that be good or not so good.

Make sure you request references and do background checks

This may seem like an obvious tip, but it can be tempting to put references and background checks on the back burner once you have the ideal candidate in mind. Regardless of how well suited you think a person is to the job, always request references from previous employers and follow through with background checks as you could learn something that may tip the scales.

During every part of the hiring process, remember to take your time and don’t rush into anything, even if you need to find someone urgently, as it could lose you even more time in the long run if you cut corners. 


Getting the right people working for your organisation is the key to success. 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Keeping your team engaged during the festive season

In the build up to the festive season, people often start to feel excited and become wrapped up in the happy atmosphere. However, sometimes too much excitement can create a lack of focus and motivation in employees, which results in them becoming distracted in their work as they start to wind down for the holidays.

The run up to the Christmas period is often one of the busiest times for businesses as there are deadlines to be met and loose ends to be tied up. Of course, this kind of pressure can affect the health and wellbeing of employers and management so it’s important to keep employees engaged and operations running as smoothly as possible without being a killjoy and dampening staff morale. A report by Gallup found that companies with highly engaged employees resulted in 21% greater profitability.

Fortunately, there are ways you can protect your own and employees’ wellbeing while keeping them engaged at the same time.

Tips for maintaining engagement

  • Embrace the season and decorate the workplace. A brightly decorated workspace can lift people’s moods and by encouraging staff to help with the decorations during their lunch break, they can get into the spirit of Christmas without it eating into their working hours. This kind of activity is also a good team building exercise and great for (socially distanced) engagement. You could reward them with festive treats (although not too much or you might find them becoming a little bit giddy!) 
  • Play festive music in the week before the holidays, but perhaps not so loudly as to distract them from their work!
  • Arrange a Secret Santa with the promise of exchanging gifts at the end of a working day to motivate employees to complete their work first.
  • Organise a staff party on the last day before the holidays with awards and prizes for the most motivated employees. This is sure to make them eager to meet their deadlines prior to the award ceremony and will keep them engaged as well as making them feel appreciated at the same time. Make sure you also celebrate their achievements from the past year. In a survey by Glassdoor, 53% of those who took part said that appreciation from their boss would make them more likely to stay working at the company.
  • Send personlised Christmas cards thanking your employees for their efforts throughout the year. This small gesture can have a huge impact on someone’s wellbeing, particularly if they suffer from a lack of self-confidence or experience feelings of loneliness at this time of year.
  • Make the last day in the workplace a more relaxed working day - perhaps watch a film, host a quiz or a organise a few party games during extended break times. 

You’ll be amazed at how motivated and engaged your employees become if there’s a promise of an early finish or other rewards involved!

Remember that the festive season isn’t always a happy time for everyone, especially given the current Covid situation. By lightening the mood at work and offering thoughtful and personal rewards, you could have a positive impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing. If many of your employees will be working from home in December, be sure to adapt the above ideas by creating virtual online events instead.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Tips for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace

In 2018, Mind conducted a major study into mental health in the workplace. The findings were that 48% of everyone who took part in the survey had experienced some form of mental health issue in their present job role. More than ever, owing to the current pandemic, it is vital that employers put procedures in place to help tackle this widespread problem.

As an employer, you may become aware that one or more of your employees appears to be struggling with their mental health. This can throw you into a confusing situation as you carefully tread the line between providing support and infringing on an employee’s personal business. So, how can you provide support without unwittingly infringing on employee rights to privacy and autonomy?

Mental health procedures in the workplace

Having an existing framework in place before situations arise will put you and other staff in a good position to know how to assist employees. This framework should include:

Learning to recognise the signs

Although it can be difficult to recognise when an employee is suffering from mental health issues, there are signs that you can look out for which might bring about changes in behaviour. Perhaps they are taking longer to complete their work and missing deadlines, taking more sick days than usual, or are unable to communicate as they normally would with colleagues. A mental health awareness course can help both management and employees understand and manage mental health at work.

Planning

This should consist of an overall plan of steps to take should any employee experience mental health difficulties, and an individual plan for employees who have made management aware of what particular procedures help them in certain situations. Individuals that have made management aware of their pre-existing mental health conditions may want to provide a plan of things that can help their wellbeing. This may include access to a quiet room, minimal noise in the office, and staff awareness of triggers for this person.

Providing support without taking away an employee’s right to self-manage 

All staff should be made aware that they can reach out should they be experiencing any mental health difficulties. This could be to a line manager or a specifically trained mental health first aider in the workplace. If an employee approaches you, ask if they have any suggestions about how you can help them and suggest putting a plan in place to assist them day to day, and also should a crisis arise. Being in control of your own mental health wellbeing can be empowering and this should be encouraged.

Assessing levels of harm

Wherever possible, management should enable staff to have as much autonomy over their mental health needs as possible. Removing someone’s control over their own situation can be extremely distressing. However, if external factors have led to a person’s safety being at risk, you need to know when to intervene. If at any point a person is threatening to harm themselves or another person you will need to take prompt action.

Protecting those who help

Organisations can access specific training for staff who want to be mental health first aiders. Being a mental health first aider can be stressful and they can feel a huge sense of responsibility in this role. Managers need to ensure that these staff members are also given the support required. It is sensible to have more than one mental health first aider in the workplace so that if one is off work or not able to assist, another one can take their place. Make sure all staff know who these first aiders are so that there is no confusion about who should help in a crisis.


Make all employees aware of any resources both inside and outside work that they can make use of. Place these details on posters in communal areas of the workplace and also provide all staff with a copy via email or hardcopy. You can view a list of mental health charities who offer information or support here.

Visit First Psychology Assistance for details of our services for supporting employee mental health and wellbeing > 

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Managing a multi-generational work environment

The workplace environment has changed drastically in the past few decades, meaning that team leaders are now having to learn how to successfully manage multi-generational employees. People who would’ve once be long retired are working alongside teenage apprentices and young adults fresh from college. Throw into the mix individuals who change their career path in their late 20s and 30s and you could have an extremely diverse work environment. Learning to manage a multi-generational work environment is not only essential to ensure happy employees but is necessary to achieve peak productivity.

What problems are associated with a multi-generational workplace?

If you are aware of the phrase “OK boomer” you will have some insight into how different generations may regard one another. The term 'boomer' relates to people born in the two decades after World War II. Boomers are thought to be out of touch with today’s generation. Besides boomers, there are other generations that have been given names, all of whom you may find in the same workplace:

Traditionalists – born between 1922 and 1945
Boomers or baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
Generation Y or millennials– born between 1981 and 1997
Gen Z – born between 1998 and present day

It is understandable to think that a multi-generational workplace will face problems, after all, each generation will have experienced different technologies and ways of doing things in a work environment. Problems can arise from prejudices of each generation born from presuming they are too traditional or non-PC, or conversely, too modern or liberal. Other difficulties can arise from one generation not being experienced in using certain technologies, and other generations ignoring tried and tested ways of approaching specific elements of work. For example, it may be presumed that older generations may not be fully aware of the benefits of social media, while younger generations may be perceived as being too reliant on modern technology. Clashes such as these require competent management to avoid confusion and frustration between colleagues.

How do I manage multiple generations successfully?

You will be relieved to know that there are ways to create a cohesive workforce made up of many generations.

Don’t make presumptions

It is all too easy to presume that younger candidates will be more capable when it comes to modern technologies and online media. However, it should never be presumed that other generations are not as up to date with technological advances. Bear in mind that the older generations have also lived through changing technologies. In the same way, don’t believe that Gen Zs couldn’t possibly live without their mobile devices or that they are easily distracted by social media updates. Treat each employee as an individual and listen to their unique experiences to ascertain how they will complement your workplace.

Encourage inter-generational mentoring

Like any workplace, employees may have very different experiences and qualifications. Use this to your advantage by encouraging employees to share their skills with one another. For example, one generation may not realise the importance of social communication etiquette, and another could be lacking the real-life interpersonal skills still required in today’s work environments. By delivering this in the form of mutually beneficial mentorships you are ensuring that employees don’t feel patronised.

Ascertain the goals and ambitions of each employee

There are many benefits to having a multi-generational workforce, especially when you know what each employee wants from their work. Younger generations without commitments may be more willing to travel and be keen to be given opportunities to do so. Those with family commitments may not want to be away for long periods of time and their skills could be better used elsewhere. However, it is essential that you don’t just presume, and as a manager you need to ascertain what each employee wants.

Be flexible

Being aware of the many potential differences between generations in the workplace allows you to get the most out of your employees. By being flexible with your approach to each employee and acknowledging their strengths, weaknesses and individual needs, you can provide management that will benefit not only them, but your entire workforce.



Friday, 16 October 2020

Inspirational ways to Prevent Employee Burnout

As an employer you will undoubtedly want your workforce to be a happy and productive one. Yet it is all too easy to forget that your employees have other things going on in their lives even if they are extremely dedicated to their job. Failing to address the issue of employee burnout can lead companies to lose some of their best employees. There are many ways to prevent things getting on top of your employees and to ensure they remain motivated and enthusiastic.


What is “burnout”?

According to The Mayo Clinic, job burnout is

“A state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

There are many symptoms of burnout, including:

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lethargy
  • Being prone to physical illnesses
  • Substance abuse


How do I prevent burnout in the workplace?


Boost morale

If an employee isn’t enjoying their work, or feels they aren’t appreciated, then chances are, their work is going to suffer. This is especially true when an employee is feeling over worked. It’s important to let your staff know when they are doing a good job. There are several ways to do this:

  • Set targets to challenge staff so they can feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Acknowledge achievements and goals at weekly team meetings
  • Give rewards – this can be extra time off work or physical rewards such as vouchers or trips away
  • Reward teams as well as individuals so that colleagues are encouraged to work together 
  • Emphasise how important your staff are by rewarding them on a regular basis – provide Friday afternoon treats and host team trips away


Encourage conversations about wellness

Make it clear that employees can come to you to discuss their needs and concerns. You can provide these opportunities via weekly meetings with individuals in addition to teams. Don’t wait for burnout to happen but promote wellness as part of the workplace culture.

You can do this by:

  • Emphasising that you are available to discuss each employee's individual requirements, including discussions about how the workplace can be adapted to assist with mental health needs, physical needs, and personal commitments.
  • Offer flexibility – research conducted by the University of Manchester shows that both employees and their managers thought that flexibility increased a person’s efficiency, work effort, and focus. The study also found that flexibility led to a healthy life/work balance.
  • Provide meditation, yoga or exercise classes that staff can take during their lunch break or before or after work– The NHS states that exercise has many health benefits, both mental and physical.
  • Encourage employees to take five-minute screen breaks every hour to avoid potential eye strain.


Give clear directions and expectations

Some people suffer from job burnout because they aren’t sure of managerial expectations or what their role should be. As a manager, you need to let employees know what their role entails and the amount of autonomy expected within this role. Provide detailed job and role descriptions and always speak with staff if anything changes about their roles and expectations. Again, team and individual meetings can help ensure clear communication about such matters.

Consider implementing regular employee support 

Employees are a key asset of any organisation and it makes sense to help them stay healthy. Consider providing a wellness MOT to support employees maintain wellbeing and to promote good mental health. Research has demonstrated that a proactive approach to wellbeing and mental health pays dividends. It supports improved performance and identifies any problems or issues at the earliest possible stage.


Thursday, 1 October 2020

Finding the courage to change your career

There are many reasons you may be contemplating changing your career. The catalyst for this change may not have even been your choice. If you’ve had the same career for many years, it can become part of your identity and the idea of changing this can be extremely daunting. If you dread the thought of going to work each morning, there is obviously a problem that needs to be solved. People can be adversely affected by the pressure of unrealistic workloads, or by an unpleasant work environment. However, there are ways you can embrace the new chapter in your life and find the courage to do so wholeheartedly.

Why change career?

According to the employment search site, Flexjobs, the five top reasons people choose to change career are:

  • Pay – many people simply want more money and realise that a different career path can lead to this.
  • Recognition - lack of recognition for being a good employee can make people feel unappreciated.
  • Promotion – if there isn’t the possibility to advance in your current role, you could feel stuck in a rut with nothing to look forward to.
  • Stress – Some professionals will feel the toll of a stressful occupation and may yearn for less responsibility. 
  • Flexible hours – striking the right work/life balance can be tricky if you have rigid work hours. A flexible role would be more appealing to those wanting or needing less rigidity and more freedom.

The impact of the work environment on your mental health

Spending each day in a job you don’t enjoy, or even detest, can have a significant impact on your mental health. When you hate the thought of the working week beginning yet again you may experience sleepless nights, anxiety and even depression. An excessive workload or responsibilities can lead to exhaustion both physically and mentally. When you recognise that your current role is having a negative effect on your wellbeing, you may consider a change of career.

How a negative work environment can affect existing mental health difficulties

According to the Health and Safety Executive:

“Work-related stress can aggravate an existing mental health problem, making it more difficult to control. If work-related stress reaches a point where it has triggered an existing mental health problem, it becomes hard to separate one from the other.”

Problems such as anxiety, stress and depression can all be exacerbated by a heavy workload, work pressures, and difficult managers or colleagues. If your workplace isn’t open to transparent conversations about mental health and assistance at work, you may find it difficult to change the circumstances.

Is your current role damaging your self-esteem?

Stress and anxiety aren’t the only problems created by a negative work environment, and you may find your confidence depleting as you tackle a building workload, or unsupportive colleagues and line managers. As your self-esteem decreases so does your confidence that you will be able to switch careers.

Fight the fear of the unknown by taking positive steps

It can be very stressful to think about leaving a secure job to plunge into an entirely new career – but it can also be very exciting. There are numerous steps you can take that will encourage better mental health and give you the courage to change career:

  • Speak to your support network outside work such as family and friends. Let them know what you are feeling and how a change of career will enrich your life. Having their support will help build the courage to take steps to find a new and better career
  • Use visualisation exercises to see what your future could be like once you make the change
  • Make a pros and cons list to determine the reality of your current situation versus what you envisage will happen when you change careers. Once you can see how much better life will be once you find a job you actually like, you will have more confidence to make the change.
  • Take time away from the situation completely. If possible, book a few days away among nature and meditate on what really matters to you. Even short walks in woodland or forests can help centre your thoughts.

Positive actions such as those mentioned above can help to build confidence in yourself and the decisions you make.