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    Adapt or Fail: Why Employers Need to Redesign their Workplace Culture

    The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way people live and work — forcing British businesses to pivot to new, digital, and remote ways of working. But, while many of these continue to manage, how many will truly thrive in the months – and perhaps years – to come?
    Today, as many companies pass the eight-month mark of remote working, and with no clear end in sight, working from home is no longer the exception, it’s the rule. But despite the advantages remote working has to offer, our latest research revealed that ‘hidden fractures’ are emerging among workforces, which risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity.
    To ensure their businesses remain resilient – and prevent them from being permanently held back – it’s clear that employers need to take a proactive approach to manage and, in some cases repair, their workplace culture. The time to take action and rethink the employee experience is now; and here are four things employers should focus on:
    Design for remote
    First and foremost, business leaders need to design for remote. Indeed, when it comes to creating a positive company culture – that’s vital for a stable workforce – the same old tactics that were used pre-pandemic won’t work. Employers need to redesign the employee experience to ensure that people feel supported and connected with other team members as well as part of the same experience, wherever they are.
    For instance, just because your workforce isn’t together in the office, it doesn’t mean you can’t create meaningful experiences at key moments in employee life-cycles – at a distance. That could involve providing a new hire with a starter pack and a virtual buddy during onboarding, sending a bottle of fizz to newly promoted staff, or bringing the team together virtually to give a heartfelt farewell to a colleague who’s leaving. If effectively supported, these key moments can positively shape sentiment towards employers, roles, and colleagues.
    Continuously build familiarity
    When people are working in the office, familiarity — that is, feeling part of a team and being able to talk to colleagues and be heard — helps breed successful teamwork and a trust-based culture. But with everyone working from home, it’s easy for relationships to become momentary and transactional — a short video call here or an instant-message there, followed by weeks of nothing. And yet, familiarity is a critical outcome of employee experience, so businesses need to find new ways to weave it into every touchpoint.
    In our research we found that things like recognition for work well-done (33%) and being able to access support and guidance when needed (31%) aren’t just ‘nice to haves’ — they are the most important elements for creating a next-level workplace culture. When these are absent, the workplace culture is viewed as negative – and trust levels nosedive.
    But it doesn’t have to be this way – employers can continue to build and nurture relationships and instill a sense of familiarity by other means. Digital culture platforms, for example, could offer the solution many are looking for. These allow employers to create a space – outside of work channels – dedicated to building culture and familiarity, that all employees can participate in, as and when they please. If they’re to re-create familiarity in their remote workforce, businesses need to think differently and innovatively about how they can keep workplace connections alive and drive meaningful conversations and interaction.
    Strengthen employee networks
    As much as relationship-building is important, it’s also vital to nurture and support the development of peer networks that employees are reliant on for support, guidance, and reassurance. In fact, the cracks in networks are already starting to show, with 51% of employees saying they feel it’s harder to reach out for help from teammates when working from home. This should be a key concern for employers because when employees feel unable to lean on their peers for support and guidance, they can become increasingly anxious and more reliant on their Line Managers as a result. This, in turn, can create pressure points within the organization, causing productivity to plummet.
    Pre-pandemic, peer networks that extended outside of work teams were commonplace – something that has been altered by home-working. At a time when many people feel less visible and connected, it’s clear that businesses need to re-examine their remote working models and create the right channels to ensure employees feel seen, heard, supported, and trusted – and to help them to connect and thrive.
    One way to do this is by celebrating and acknowledging employee wins and achievements in a way that is long-lasting and is seen and heard by everyone across the business. Whether it’s highlighting their achievements over a company-wide video call or updating the team on a digital newsfeed that can be read by the whole organization, employees will feel recognized and appreciated. It’s by adopting these types of creative culture initiatives that employers can help remote workers to feel more ingrained in their business and encourage a more positive and connected workplace culture, no matter where employees are working.
    Measure and track culture
    Finally, in order for employers to effectively keep their finger on the pulse of workplace culture, it’s critical that they measure employee experience and culture. But traditional employee surveys aren’t necessarily the best option, as they’re often slow to implement and can cause survey fatigue when overused. Instead, managers and business leaders should look for ways to harness real-time and consistent culture analytics. By implementing pulse surveys more intelligently (and less frequently) they can benchmark measurements and use findings to help build and maintain an effective and happy remote workforce.
    For many organizations, returning full-time to an office is unlikely to happen any time soon and we believe that in the longer-term many companies will embrace hybrid working practices, as employees look to get the best of both worlds during their working week. But whether businesses are planning for it or not, it’s important to realize that remote working is here to stay, and not just in the short term. In order to protect their workplace culture and their company, employers need to redesign their thinking and adapt their employee experience to this new reality. Those that fail to evolve risk being held back and those that embrace the change will stay one step ahead, now and in the future.
    By Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem.

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    What Student Job Seekers Really Want from Recruitment Post COVID-19

    A new report reveals how marketing and recruitment processes should be organized to ensure your business is attractive to student job seekers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2020 are facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to trying to secure their place on the career ladder. Debut and the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) came together to survey 2,000 students about what they wanted to find from employers, their attitudes to COVID-19, and how they feel about their career prospects.
    One of the stand-out findings from the report shows that despite the pandemic and all of its challenges, 94% of students are excited to start work, with 42% still confident they will find their dream job upon completion of education.
    A rapidly changing world has led to rapidly changing career paths
    Before the pandemic hit, most students had a solid idea of how they would like their careers to go, including the paths they were going to take to get there. Now, 6 months on from the start of the pandemic, 57% of students say they are changing their ideas around their careers in light of the new challenges. Students are still determined to make the most of the opportunities presented to them though, with 74% still strongly focused on their career path, even if it’s not in the direction they originally thought it would take.
    Fair treatment is the most important factor when choosing a job
    For 98% of young job seekers and students surveyed, receiving fair treatment in the workplace was the most important factor when choosing a job or employer to work for. Being fair to your employees and mindful of the struggles they have faced in this over-competitive job market will go a long way to help them feel valued.
    Many have also stated how they would like to work for an organization that would allow them to ‘have it all’. Simply put they would like to work for an organization that provides a clear career path, work/life balance, interesting work, decent pay, and a strong stance on ethical standards while working alongside like-minded people.
    Communication and the recruitment process
    Students and young job seekers prefer formal methods of communication such as email and LinkedIn to be used when talking to prospective employers about their employment choices, with 95% and 90% respectively, in agreement with these channels. Some students said they would be comfortable with employers communicating with them through blogs (37%), Instagram (36%), Twitter (33%), or Facebook (28%) however most are skeptical about this approach as they feel it encroaches on their more personal platforms. Make sure you’re approachable yet professional in your communication methods with prospective employees, as the wrong type of method could turn them away from your organization.
    During the recruitment process itself, 91% of respondents said they preferred a face-to-face approach, but with the limitations on face-to-face interactions the pandemic has set on people, there is a greater emphasis on calls and video interviews. Luckily 86% said they were comfortable with an online approach where it was necessary, but the main concern was that a third of students don’t trust employers to actually treat them fairly during the recruitment process. We’re all going through a difficult time right now and it’s worth remembering that these students are potentially facing challenges no other generation has done before them, so empathy could go a long way during your recruitment process.
    Job seekers are hungry for information
    When communicating with potential employees, make sure you are providing them with as much information as possible about how to succeed in the recruitment process and what information you’re looking for in applications. Remember, when someone is looking for a job they aren’t just selling themselves to you, you’ve got to sell yourself to them too to make them want to work for you. Providing information on your company’s culture, including testimonials from current employees, career prospects, training, and social opportunities are key things to communicate during the recruitment process.
    Now more than ever though, students and job seekers are interested in what an organization is doing for charities and community work. They are looking for opportunities to get involved in volunteering as part of the positions they are applying for, to help the initiatives throughout the company.
    Excitement and enthusiasm are high despite the challenges
    Overall, despite everything that 2020 has thrown at them, 94% of students are excited to get started in the world of work, with 93% even willing to start remotely if they need to. There seems to be a great understanding amongst students that they need to be flexible and adaptable in the current climate, even if that means starting off their careers at home, getting involved in online inductions, and remote working for now if needed.
    The main worry seems to be focused on finding the opportunities available to them rather than making the most of the opportunities that are presented to them.
    Michele Trusolino is co-founder and chief operating officer of Debut, the student careers app that is revolutionizing the recruitment sector.

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    How to Deal with Changing COVID-19 Regulations

    Research shows nearly half the population has reported feeling worried and stressed since the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic earlier this year.
    With new health and safety measures at work to familiarise yourself with, constantly changing government regulations, and the future of the physical workplace remaining unclear, it’s hardly a surprise the mental health of both employers and their staff has deteriorated.
    The effects of seasonal changes can be profound too. the length of daylight, the intensity of the sunlight, and how and where we spend our time can all impact our mental health.
    It’s common for people to feel more tired, unmotivated, and depleted in the colder months. Anxiety may also increase as these changes can create an unsettled response in the human body.
    I discuss the best employee mental health support businesses can provide to help individuals struggling with uncertainty.
    How uncertainty affects mental health
    ‘Is my job safe?’ ‘Will my pay be reduced?’ ’Will I be back in the office soon?” ‘Will we be in lockdown again?’
    The ongoing pandemic has contributed to many questions being raised, which we are yet to still find answers to – especially where the workplace is concerned. Because of this many are finding uncertainty more uncomfortable, especially as some employees now face uncertainty regarding multiple aspects of their lives, which may have previously felt within their control.
    Of course, nothing in life is entirely certain but for some, the current situation has triggered uncomfortable emotions and scientific research suggests it’s important businesses have strategies in place to support employees with uncertainty’s psychological and physical impact on the body.
    Research suggests there is a link between high intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive difficulties. Uncertainty can also have a physical impact on the body due to the ongoing impact of stress hormones.
    The physical effect includes impaired memory, diabetes, digestive functioning and impact on our cardiovascular system
    How can businesses provide the right emotional support for staff?
    Employee benefits propositions should be designed and updated with emotional support in mind, giving staff access to the tools they need to cope during stressful or uncertain periods.
    The emotional impact of COVID-19 on each employee will be different and the support on offer from employers should reflect this. However, worryingly, a recent survey revealed that only 15 percent of employers had asked staff to identify their needs during this difficult time.
    Understanding the workforce is therefore essential and enables employers to tailor the most useful benefits proposition. This means getting to know employees through surveys, online forums, and one-to-one chats, recognizing their needs and priorities.
    Offerings should include a combination of services that give employees access to specialists with whom they can discuss their difficulties and learn positive coping mechanisms.
    Highlight existing workplace offerings like employee assistance programs (EAPs) which offer direct, confidential contact with counselors and mental health experts.
    You could also consider inviting an expert to give a company talk on general coping mechanisms for anxiety. This may help those who are worried about speaking to managers or employers about their fears.
    If face-to-face offerings aren’t currently possible, telephone or online CBT sessions are useful in helping employees tackle unhelpful thinking patterns or in learning practical coping techniques. Consider investing in online workshops or webinars, which can assist everyone in recognizing signs of stress and equip them with the confidence and skills to support others.
    For example, emotional literacy training is an effective tool for boosting employee resilience by ensuring staff has a common language to discuss mental health.
    At Nuffield Health, over 12,000 employees (of 16,000) have successfully completed emotional literacy training. Following this training, 94 percent said they’d feel confident supporting a colleague showing signs of emotional distress.
    In conjunction, we also offer Mental Health Awareness training workshops. This develops Mental Health Champions in the workplace, who, in combination with line managers, are empowered to raise understanding around mental wellbeing and to help others access the right support at the right time.
    It’s also important to ensure connectivity for members of staff who are still self-isolating or if businesses remain working from home. Those continuing with prolonged remote working may face psychological hazards linked to increased loneliness and isolation.
    Supporting employees with remote therapy of their choosing, either by video, phone, or email, provides an additional expert support network while away from their colleagues.
    By Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.

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    Fresh Perspectives for Post-Pandemic Working

    Forecasting like the weather is fraught with difficulty, but at least the Met Office has decades of data, advanced modeling technology all combined with huge experience. Forecasting the future of work, how people will work, and what the workplace will look like – in the context of a global pandemic – is completely unprecedented. A bit like trying to foresee a hurricane making landfall at Hastings.
    Certainly, offices will not die nor disappear, but the experience of the past few months has seen a huge behavioral change, particularly during the hard lockdown. The proven viability of working remotely at scale means the way we work and the way we use offices needs to adapt.  But, before jumping into solutions-mode, we should recognize technology-driven change was already in train. Over the last decade, it has resulted in a massive shift from fixed to fluid. Covid-19 has added fuel to the fire. It is the single greatest change accelerator in the world of work, and the domain of real estate, for more than 100 years.
    To help readers of Undercover Recruiter gain some fresh perspectives; I suggest that the following thoughts may help re-shape your views on work, the workforce, and the workplace. They are all premised on my core belief that whatever emerges post-COVID-19 it will be much more people-centric than ever before.
    1. There may not be ‘a new normal’.
    A reservoir of printer’s ink has been expended on the discourse of returning to work and getting back to a new normal. I wonder are we looking at this through blinkers? The winds of massive change in terms of how we work were already starting to gust before the pandemic. Working away from the office has severely dented the Principle of Presenteeism, the last bastion of traditional management; which strengthens these winds to gale force. I believe we are facing a new reality which calls for a lot of fresh thinking about how we do things.
    2. Are we seeing only part of the picture in the current debate about the merits of office versus home/remote working?
    In recent months the bi-polar debate of working from home versus a return to the office has attracted a host of media commentary. Yet I suggest that this debate is only part of the picture. The pandemic enforced experiment of working beyond the confines of the traditional office demonstrates that we now have a real choice about where and when we work.  It has also raised many other questions.
    3. Can we move away from our fixation on the physical aspect of work and see the wood for the trees.
    Whilst there is much to commend the office in terms of collaboration, creativity, and the social aspects of how we work, we do need to revisit its overall purpose. The key question in my mind is the fixed nature of the pre-pandemic system – everything revolved around a fixed physical place with four walls. What about the potential of multiple workplace dimensions rather than the traditional either/or choice – the office or work from home?  Can we think about alternative ways of how we carry out office-type work today?
    4. Now is the time to shift to outcomes-focused work.
    Surely, we can all recognize the benefits to be derived from alternative working practices which, in themselves, can produce meaningful outcomes and measurable impact – irrespective of the physical space where people are working.
    5. Do we need to join the dots?
    The propensity for silo thinking and ‘protecting our own turf’ prevails in lots of organizations. Has the time arrived to break down these barriers?  In the interest of coming up with a more sustainable and sensible view of the convergence of work, the workforce, and the workplace.
    6. Necessity is the mother of all invention.
    We have all been forced to change in 2020, and I wonder could we discover new or different ways of doing things?  The nature of work and how we use both spaces and places have been fundamentally affected by the crisis and a return to the old world is unlikely.  By using this time to think and reflect, could we invent some fresh thinking about workplaces, work, and the workforce?
    Our world is changing, work is changing; therefore, the built environment needs to adjust. Now is the time to re-set, re-assess and re-imagine.  But it will be much wider than just buildings as I said at the start, it will all be about the talent and their new-found choice.  I think we are seeing not an era of change, but the change of an era.
    Where is My Office?: Reimagining the Workplace for the 21st Century by Chris Kane, in collaboration with Eugenia Anastassiou, is published by Bloomsbury Business on 15 October 2020. Available at Bloomsbury.com and at all good bookshops.

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    Supporting Long-Term Remote Working Post COVID-19

    Companies like Twitter and Square recently announced their employees could work remotely forever. But, while remote working can provide many opportunities for the companies of today, longstanding adoption is only beneficial if the transition is completed in the right way.
    Here are the vital steps leaders should take to ensure successful, long-term remote working:
    Develop a culture of trust
    Culture is more important than ever in a virtual environment, not only because staff should feel connected to their teammates, but also so they know when to ‘clock-off’ after a day working from home.
    Businesses should consider offering a flexible, remote workday schedule, outside the traditional 9-5. One benefit is this provides flexibility to meet personal needs and family responsibilities conveniently. Being granted an environment where staff can better balance work with personal demands ensures improved concentration and productivity on tasks during work hours.
    If you’re looking to further align your remote working goals with employee needs and satisfaction, keeping regular dialogue and seeking feedback from employees can help a company better understand the sentiment of staff and which benefits they’d most appreciate during prolonged home working.
    Encourage exercise-related activities, at work, at home, and in the community
    It’s essential to ensure musculoskeletal health is protected while employees work from home. However, research shows more than half of employees receive no employer guidance on how to set up a workstation that supports healthy posture, despite employer’s having a legal obligation to look after the health of long-term desk workers.
    Employers should issue and check Display Screen Equipment assessments are completed and if possible, provide access to face to face and remote physiotherapy services to help both prevent and treat musculoskeletal issues.
    With more employees becoming engaged with fitness during lockdown, there is also an opportunity for businesses to capitalize on this momentum. Companies should help staff maintain enthusiasm for keeping active by making benefits available that facilitate this like access to both onsite and remote fitness services.
    Continue to support virtual mental health offerings
    Post lockdown, many companies reported online video counseling sessions became more popular among employees, showing many now feel comfortable accessing support for mental wellbeing via technology.
    Whether you do or do not already have emotional wellbeing services, it is an important time for all businesses to see which options are available that could make a real difference to your workforce. While those returning to the office may have access to face-to-face offerings, there are also plenty of wellness options that can be offered to staff remotely.
    These include cognitive behavior therapy, which can be delivered safely and effectively by phone, video, or email for flexibility and privacy. Other types of therapy, which are also safe, effective, and accessible remotely, include counseling (e.g., relationship, bereavement), interpersonal therapy, and access to psychiatric assessments.
    Expand staff healthcare support
    Many of today’s offices are filled to the brim with the latest technology, from standing desks to tech which enhances connectivity and workflow patterns around the office.  If these are available for those when in the office, businesses should extend the same courtesies to their remote workforce.
    Consider offering or expanding employee allowances to subsidize work-related purchases. Whether you find a way to provide the same office set up to your remote employees or provide a fixed regular sum paid as a salary or as expenses, so they can purchase what they see fit, assisting them in setting up a home office is a key perk.
    Some options for staff could include ergonomic chairs, extra monitors to help them process computer tasks more efficiently, and access to high-speed, adequate broadband. Not only are these helpful to staff but improving workstation ergonomics can reduce symptoms associated with musculoskeletal disorders and shows you are a responsible business, who cares about the health of your employees.
    By Kevin Thomson, Corporate Healthcare Director, Nuffield Health.

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    An Employer Brand Expert’s Post-Pandemic Forecast

    Regardless of the extent to which your business has been disrupted by COVID-19, we’ll all re-emerge from varying degrees of lockdown into a changing world. What does this mean for employer brand and its leaders?
    Simon Barrow, creator of employer brand, explores employer brand’s relevancy to a world in the midst of a crisis and massive change, including what employer brand managers must prioritize now in order to thrive.

    Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.
    Barrow was a brand manager and advertising CEO before he got the idea to adapt brand management to the more people-centered work of HR. Today, his work in employer brand has had a profound effect on business around the globe. Here’s what lies ahead, in his view, for employer brand managers.
    Your Company Will Be Judged for Its Crisis Response: When asked about the employer brand’s importance right now, Barrow’s answer is blunt: “It’s in times of trouble that it matters most.”
    Transparency Remains Key: Are members of senior management still earning what they were pre-COVID? Are employees being let go at all levels of an organization, or just those lower on the ladder?
    How and Where We Work Will Change: Post-Pandemic: The forced transition to working from home awakened many businesses to the feasibility (and, in some cases, benefits) of a remote workforce, as well as its limits.
    Purpose Will Become All-Important to Employer Brand: Company purpose, Barrow reminds us, is impossible to “spin” when it comes to the employer brand.
    For more from Simon Barrow, listen to his previous appearance on the Employer Branding Podcast and follow his work on LinkedIn. For more help identifying the values and culture you want to create in your company and refining your employer value proposition, reach out to us.

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    WFH Saves People 23.5 Days a Year Traveling

    Is remote working here to stay? While many people have predicted the rise of remote working over recent years, nobody expected it to rocket its way to the forefront as it has during 2020. It’s difficult to remember what life was like before the Coronavirus pandemic forced governments and businesses worldwide to implement drastic changes […] More

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    How COVID-19 Has Influenced Employer Brand Sentiment

    New data reveals just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has already impacted employer brand. Learn the key themes emerging in feedback from talent around the world. During this pandemic, we decided to do research using the Employer Brand Index methodology and understanding what really matters to talent during this time. Following the commentary, we could […] More