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    Taking a Step Back: How to Apply for a Job When You’re Overqualified

    We’ve all heard the saying – sometimes you need to take a step back to take several steps forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to take many steps back, but in doing so, progress has been made in areas such as remote work scheduling, video conferencing technology, and understanding the challenges facing working parents. Unemployment has been a significant issue since the start of the pandemic, as a number of industries were hit hard and have yet to recover. As a result, employees have had to reprioritize in order to reenter the workforce.
    In a perfect world, a career path would have no bumps. Employees would move smoothly from one job to another, each with progressive titles, increasing responsibilities, and higher salaries. But things don’t always go as planned, and when unexpected layoffs occur and bills start piling up, it’s far less important to wait for the next big career opportunity than it is to just get back to work. Consequently, some unemployed workers and new grads have been forced to take a step back by applying for jobs for which they’re overqualified in order to eventually move forward.
    There are several reasons why employers may be hesitant to hire those whose knowledge, skills or experience exceed the requirements for their target role. However, there are ways job seekers can market themselves for such positions that can increase their chances of success. Let’s look at a few of each.
    Employer Concerns
    When asked about employers’ hesitancy to hire overqualified candidates, Jill Chapman, Senior Performance Consultant with Insperity Recruiting Services, provides several reasons. The first is compensation demands. Better qualified employees command higher salaries, and even if they’re willing to accept less for a lower-skilled role, chances are they’ll soon expect a raise. Another reason is that overqualified employees may be harder to manage or have more trouble taking direction than their less-experienced counterparts. A third reason is that overqualification could result in job dissatisfaction and boredom. While those who are unemployed may be willing to accept a lesser role in order to return to work, how long will they remain interested and engaged doing work they don’t find challenging? And finally, overqualified employees may simply use the position as a steppingstone or temporary filler until something better comes along.
    Customize Resumes
    Shifting focus to what candidates can do to ensure that more experience doesn’t yield fewer interviews, Chapman recommends applicants customize their resume for each role. Most job seekers already know to do this; however, when there’s a disparity between candidate experience and job requirements, it becomes even more important. In many cases, the skills or qualifications that make candidates overqualified may not be relevant to the position for which they’re applying and can be omitted from their resume. Rather than listing their most impressive career accomplishments, applicants should instead focus on areas of experience from past positions that directly relate to the new role’s duties and responsibilities. They can then use the resume’s summary section or bullet points under previous roles to highlight the relationship between past and future success.
    Include a Cover Letter
    Cover letters have become a hot topic of debate in recent years as to whether employers and recruiters actually read them. However, when it comes to communicating pertinent information such as why a seemingly overqualified candidate is interested in a particular position, they can be invaluable. Chapman suggests applicants use a cover letter to explain their interest in the role or company, citing specific elements of the job that are attractive, as well as reasons such as the company’s reputation, culture, work/life balance or even location. By showing that candidates have a genuine interest in the role and company and have taken the time to research them both thoroughly, employers will be more inclined to overlook their overqualification in favor of hiring loyal and dedicated employees.
    Prepare Responses in Advance
    Applicants should anticipate questions regarding their overqualification in interviews by preparing responses in advance. According to Chapman, citing a history of long-term employment with the same company can help temper employer concerns of job-hopping. Likewise, reiterating candidates’ interest in the role and company listed in their cover letter can work to their advantage. Finally, sharing references from previous employers can help convince hiring managers that candidates are applying for the right reasons and would be an asset to the company regardless of overqualification.
    Think Strategically
    Candidates can benefit from thinking strategically when applying for roles for which they may be overqualified, and convincing hiring managers to do the same. As Chapman points out, the scope of the position may grow in the future, and candidates with more experience or qualifications could easily grow with the role while taking on new responsibilities. This could benefit the company in the long run, allowing for faster growth and greater profitability than if they hire a less-experienced worker who requires more training or doesn’t possess the same potential for growth. In short, hiring an employee whose qualifications exceed the position’s requirements can be an investment in the company’s future.
    Due to the high unemployment rate resulting from COVID-19, job seekers are applying for more positions than in recent years. Naturally, those who are anxious to return to the workforce may expand the range of roles they would consider, including those for which they may be under- or overqualified. Employers now have their pick of candidates, and hiring those who are overqualified for a position can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Experienced job seekers must therefore learn to market themselves to employers while positioning their overqualification as an asset, not a drawback.
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    How Employers Can Maximize Engagement and Productivity for a Hybrid Workforce

    Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential employees across the U.S. have adjusted to working from home on a full-time basis. As companies plan for an eventual return to “normalcy,” many are navigating how to reintroduce their workforce to an office setting. However, the pandemic has seemingly demystified working from home, and many organizations are turning to a new hybrid model that combines remote work and office collaboration.
    In fact, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 56% of U.S. workers have jobs that enable them to work from home at least part of the time, and between 25% and 30% of the workforce will continue to work remotely multiple days per week when this year reaches its end. Hybrid work models – and a hybrid workforce – are here to stay. As such, it is more critical than ever before that companies invest in the wellness of their workforce and consider methods to retain and engage employees in this new paradigm. Employers need to provide the hybrid workforce with the proper tools and methods required to achieve sustained productivity and engagement, regardless of where they work.
    Physical Implications of an Employee’s Remote Workplace
    The impact of an employee’s workstation on his or her physical health is no secret; physical therapists are experiencing a surge of patients complaining about head, neck, shoulder, and back pain linked to ergonomically unsound home office setups – and in one survey, 92 percent of chiropractors said that patients are reporting more neck pain, back pain or other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) since the COVID-19 stay-at-home guidance first began last year – and this is only expected to increase over the next 12 to 18 months. Considering the average cost of an individual ergonomic claim in the U.S. is approximately $17,000, the health of the hybrid employee is posed to be a major issue for all businesses moving forward.
    Providing Employees with Effective Workplace Tools
    Though there are both health and cost-savings benefits associated with the appropriate remote workstation, most employers are unfortunately not doing enough to ensure their workforce is provided with the proper workstation tools. Effective tools to promote remote employee productivity and efficiency include reliable internet and intranet connectivity, a height-adjustable workstation, a second desktop display, and monitor arm for the display, and an ergonomically sound office chair. To achieve maximum value out of this investment, it’s imperative to train employees on proper use for the different components within their workstation. For example, as many as 93% of employees that have access to a height-adjustable workstation do not use them effectively – and simply providing employees with a stipend and directing them to a catalog to “pick out what they think they need” is not sufficient.
    Powering Employee Productivity Through Engagement Tools
    An incredibly effective way to leverage an employee’s workstation and encourage a workforce to use the workstations effectively is through a gamification strategy. Leveraging a gamification strategy is the process of taking something that already exists – such as a software application – and using gaming techniques, or gamification, to motivate consistent participation and long-term engagement. Gamification is increasingly leveraged within organizations in search of new ways to engage, teach, reward, and retain employees. Leveraging health and productivity challenges, for example, employees can work to reduce sedentary behavior and improve posture – keeping their workforce, healthy and engaged by being part of a team working towards a common goal – both in-office and at home This will lead to an overall increase in productivity.
    By Mike Kind, StanData CEO. 
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    How Has the Recruitment Process Changed in the New ‘Virtual’ World?

    It is fair to say that 2020 shook recruitment (along with most other sectors) to its core. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to the recruitment industry that were expected to take years have happened in mere months.
    But now that we are almost halfway through 2021, are these changes likely to stick around?
    Out of necessity, many employees were forced to work from home for the majority of last year. But this necessity has created new opportunity, with many companies realizing business can carry on, as usual, no matter where their teams are based. Now, many organizations are adopting an increasingly hybrid approach to the workplace.
    As such, the definition of ‘workplace’ has changed dramatically — a lasting change that will undoubtedly continue long after the pandemic is over.
    But what does this momentous shift mean for financial and accountancy recruitment going forward? In short — digitization.
    The rise of hybrid working
    Thanks to the pandemic, the traditional hiring process has been flipped on its head, with many recruiters (and clients and candidates) scrambling to adapt to a fully remote experience. But remote work has become the new norm for many, meaning virtual recruiting is not going anywhere.
    The past year has seen many companies take a haphazard approach to recruitment, attempting to hastily fill talent gaps in a panic. However, digital hiring solutions such as online assessments and video interviewing should not be seen as a short-term patch for the COVID-19 era. Instead, they should form part of a long-term hiring strategy. Virtual recruitment requires just as much care and attention as traditional hiring options, and retention should always be a top priority. The cost of a bad hire is monumental, so it is essential to get recruitment right the first time.
    With hybrid working on the rise, many firms are now also casting the net wider when recruiting new hires. As a result, recruiters must adopt hiring technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to enhance the recruitment process and improve efficiency when sifting through a larger candidate pool. For instance, algorithms and AI can automate the CV screening process to ensure all candidates are replied to and even schedule interviews. Candidates expect a smoother experience when applying online, and in 2021, there are no excuses for clunky application processes or not getting back to candidates.
    However, despite advances in technology, it is vital to keep recruitment personal. Attention to candidates makes for a lasting workforce, which is why an effective hiring process should still include people at both ends. Rather than replacing human connection, intelligent automation should supplement the recruitment process by filtering through data quickly, transparently, and without error.
    On-screen talent assessment and selection
    Although the recruitment world has changed dramatically over the past year, the hiring process itself still follows the same steps — albeit with some adjustments to ensure the caliber of hires when recruiting virtually.
    Social media and online job sites have long played a crucial role in sourcing candidates and will be instrumental in remote recruiting, opening up an entirely new world of finance and accounting candidates to consider. For senior positions which may not be advertised due to sensitivity, recruiters can also use social media platforms like LinkedIn to ‘headhunt’ talent, combining their connections and expertise to source the best candidates for the role.
    Given that new hires are now less likely than ever to engage with recruiters face-to-face before onboarding, post-2020 recruitment must also be able to assess and select talent effectively from a distance. As a result, there is a growing demand for online psychometric and aptitude assessments as recruitment tools. When recruiting remotely, it is also important to translate the organization’s culture and values into tests or surveys to determine whether a candidate is a good ‘fit’ and will stay with the company.
    Even with advancements in technology, this screening process can take a long time and requires close attention to detail to ensure only the best candidates with the relevant qualifications and skills for the role are put forward to the client.
    The final hurdle
    With remote hiring becoming the norm, we can expect to see in-person job interviews become a later stage of the recruitment process when both the recruiter and the candidate are sure the role is a good fit.
    It is, therefore, vital for recruiters to maximize new assessment tools available to facilitate virtual recruitment. Unlike email or telephone interviews, video interviews give the recruiter a more comprehensive perspective of potential candidates. With video conferencing now widely accepted, the interaction can still be personalized and used to establish a connection. As there is no travel involved with digital interviews, they are also easier to schedule and can be recorded and shared amongst relevant stakeholders (with the candidate’s permission) to enhance the selection process.
    Plus, everyone’s time is precious. From a candidate’s perspective, it is much easier to find the time for a virtual interview, meaning they can accommodate availability sooner than in person. With the traditional recruitment process, many hybrid candidates would discount themselves due to availability and having to come up with a plausible reason as to why they were not present at work. With virtual recruitment, this is no longer a problem.
    Taking the recruitment process further
    To ensure the quality of new hires, it is imperative that organizations take the time to adapt the traditional hiring process to the new, more digital way of working.
    But why stop once new hires have accepted the job offer? In order to retain these recruits, equal efforts should be put into post-hire talent acquisition as the pre-hire onboarding process.
    When done right, remote recruiting can not only save time, free up resources, lower hiring costs, and provide opportunities to broaden the pool of candidates — but it can also ensure companies RETAIN staff.
    After all, is that not what good recruitment is all about?
    With over 50 years of experience, Howett Thorpe has evolved to become one of the South East’s premier accounting and finance recruitment agencies — offering workforce solutions across multiple specialisms. The agency also has a strong foothold in practice and business support roles, such as office admin and HR.
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    How to Retain Your Best Female Workers During COVID-19

    According to a recent Mckinsey report, the global pandemic has disproportionately impacted female employees. Women are 1.8 times more likely to lose or feel forced to leave their jobs due to COVID-19 than their male counterparts.
    There are many reasons for this, one being the rise in unpaid caring responsibilities for children and loved ones, a role which is still filled most often by women. Furthermore, research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that women are approximately one-third more likely to work in a sector that has been forced to close due to COVID-19.
    If employers fail to tackle this issue head-on, they could lose some of their best workers, and there could be a regressive impact on gender equality in the workplace.
    What You Can Do as an Employer
    Businesses across almost every sector are facing challenging times economically, strategically, and operationally. It can be tempting to squeeze as much productivity out of each employee as possible.
    But in the long-term, retaining the most qualified and experienced staff will cut recruitment costs, boost the company brand and help the business ride out the tumultuous months ahead.
    So, how can you support your female employees to continue working?
    1. Redefine “Flexible Working”
    Many employers believe that they offer flexible working, but in these unprecedented times, a new, more radical approach is needed. Allowing remote working and providing the home office technology and support to do so is now a given.
    Employers must go further by offering employees the option to reduce their hours temporarily, even swapping from a full-time role to part-time. Job-sharing might also be a solution for some people. If an individual is struggling to meet their work quota but cannot afford to drop their hours, employers could consider paying their full-time salary for fewer hours — this may seem disingenuous at a time when the budget is already thinly stretched, but factor in the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training new staff, and the logic becomes clear.
    Flexible working is especially important for female workers who often assume the primary care role for children and family members. The freedom to finish a little early, swap working days, or reduce hours could make the difference between an employee remaining with the company or feel forced to leave.
    2. Consider Individual Circumstances
    COVID-19 and its ramifications are impacting everybody differently. “Fair” leadership does not always mean treating people exactly the same.
    Your employees’ needs will vary significantly. Perhaps one person is caring for a partner with COVID-19 and caring for their children alongside work, while another is struggling with their mental health due to the restrictions on social interactions. COVID-19 affects men and women differently — men are more likely to die after contracting the virus, partly because they account for a higher percentage of “key roles”. In part, women have a higher risk of unemployment due to the nature of their work being less easy to do remotely. It’s unlikely that the same solution will meet the needs of both employees.
    Adopting a case-by-case approach to supporting people will allow you to boost employee engagement and retention.
    3. Reassess Your Approach to Performance Management
    An employee should not be penalized for switching to a flexible working schedule that suits them or accepting an offer to reduce their hours temporarily. Leaders must adapt their means of monitoring and measuring performance, setting goals, and developing staff to accommodate individual ways of working.
    Over the past year, organizations have been forced to rapidly update their performance management process in response to the pandemic and the rise in remote working. As the primary carers in many households, women should not have to sacrifice their future career prospects or miss out on recognition and rewards because the responsibility has fallen to them for childcare during the pandemic.
    Performance management should be an ongoing conversation that includes agile goals that can be easily adapted to meet the changing needs of the business and the individual.
    4. Embrace New Ways of Working
    If a significant number of your employees are working remotely and very likely juggling their professional and home lives simultaneously, now is the time to review employee expectations and ways of working.
    While a flexible approach to work is essential for many people, it can help to impose more structure in some aspects of daily operations. For example, setting aside a fixed period each day or week for internal meetings can help parents plan their work around childcare commitments.
    It’s also important to review the technology, process, and systems in use. An office-based role where colleagues are a short walk away from each other is a completely different environment to one in which people are communicating entirely online. Avoid “death by email” by switching to a short-form, real-time communication platform such as Slack. This can reduce time — Slack messages tend to be short and relatively informal and boost employee engagement, team working, and morale.
    After decades of improving gender equality in the workplace and narrowing the gender pay gap, COVID-19 threatens to force progress backward by ousting women from their jobs. Employers must put effort into retaining female employees for the long-term benefit of their businesses and keeping society moving forward.
    Stuart Hearn is a speaker, people management specialist, and the CEO & Founder of performance-tech company Clear Review. With 20 years’ HR experience, both as an HR Director at Sony Music and a consultant, he has spent the last 10 years helping organizations to embed practices that engage, develop and retain their people.
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    How the Pandemic Has Affected the Future of Work

    The fourth industrial revolution has shifted our world into a new digital era and the pandemic has accelerated this from a movement to an immediate necessity. Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and Oxford Economics’ Work Ahead most recent report, The Work Ahead: Digital First (to Last), examines the most significant trends and tactics for businesses around the world to be aware of and act on if they are to ensure a successful future of work.
    What is clear, now more than ever, is that companies that lagged behind on their digital transformation and those that have not evolved to keep up in this digital era are sure to be hit the hardest, with some at risk of becoming obsolete. In fact, half (49%) of global businesses expect COVID-19 to destroy traditional, non-digital business, as well as those that do not move online aggressively enough. The findings of the report confirm that digital competency is key for the future of work.
    Other findings include:
    The effect of the pandemic on employer/employee relationships
    Business leaders cited employee safety (59%) and worker recognition (58%) as their current key priorities. Employee compensation and safety are understandably a top priority, given how the pandemic has changed the business landscape and forced many companies to make difficult decisions when it comes to staff. But this might change over time as new economic and labor dynamics shape workforce strategies, with new compensation models coming into play.
    However, the pandemic has also shown a need for greater social protections, with almost half of business leaders (45%) expecting better access to pay and benefits for freelancers. More than two-fifths (43%) also expect a drop in pay for highly paid executives. There is no doubt, however, that one of the biggest influences of the pandemic is business leaders’ acceptance of home-working, as two-fifths (41%) foresee HR policies having to be adapted to account for more flexible approaches to remote working in the future.
    The skills needed for advancing in careers are shifting
    The pandemic has left society in a period of existential doubt. Technology has not only caused an adjustment in how we work but galvanized how we think about it. It has raised questions around how we are valued and remain valuable in a world where machines are increasingly automating mundane work.
    The concept of “upskilling” is one that has increased in popularity – centered around human talent acquiring skills and proficiency that even the smartest machines cannot be equipped with. When revisiting our report from 2016, business leaders then were less receptive to the importance of innovation, the ability to create new and better ways of working. However, this concept has grown in recognition among business leaders and is now regarded as the most important skill for succeeding at work.
    On the other hand, “strategic thinking” is a skill that has significantly dropped in importance when compared to 2016, falling from second-ranked to the fifth most important skill for business leaders. This likely reflects the current appetite for disruptive ways of thinking.
    A new appreciation of technologies impact on work and society
    We are clearly entering a new stage in our relationship with technology. A decade into this new digital era and business leaders voice a greater appreciation for the promise and peril inherent in modern technology. There is a better understanding of the power of technology, with more agreeing that digital technologies will positively impact their employment, whether by protecting them from being replaced by robots and AI (44%) or helping them stay employed (46%).
    Unexpectedly, the report showed a decline in business leaders’ belief that digital technologies increase personal efficiency and productivity – in the range of 30 to 40%. This shows insight into the reality of our “always switched on” frame of mind brought on by technology. The additional layers of technology we are now subject to in our virtual working worlds have created an environment where employees are working longer hours, working more intensely, and juggling more demands, but these layers seem to be having the knock-on effect of making many of us less efficient and productive.
    Digital is not the silver bullet we once thought it was
    The core components at the center of this digitized world are the 3 A’s – AI, automation, and analytics. The report revealed that the further business leaders move into their technology implementations, the more they appear to be recognizing that none is a “silver bullet” that can be easily deployed to produce magical results.
    Developing this more mature appreciation for what digital technologies can actually do is an important step of the digital journey for every organization. While companies initially dragged their feet and debated how seriously they should take these 3 A’s, there is now no doubt that combined, they are critical for every organization to stay in business in the great post-COVID reset.
    We are now deep in the era of “digital in practice”
    It is all well and good to think about the future of work, but this report shows how important it is for businesses to act, and now. When COVID-19 took over our lives, business leaders had to scrutinize everything from how and where employees worked, to how they engaged with customers, to which products and services were viable as customer needs and behaviors switched, quite literally, overnight. It is clear now that those businesses with data mastery at their core were the best at pivoting, adapting, and reinventing themselves on the fly.
    And for the companies that are lagging? Digital transformation is no longer a journey, but a key component in staying relevant and fit for purpose. For the businesses that do not consider themselves to be “modern”, you soon will be – otherwise, you could face extinction in this digital era.
    By Euan Davis, European Lead for Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

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    How Royal Caribbean Group Navigates Employer Branding

    “Adventure” isn’t just something Royal Caribbean Group offers its customers. It’s also a love shared by its employees, as well as the key to the brand’s exceptional success at engaging new and diverse talent.
    How do you find the perfect employee when you’re a company as intrepid as an international cruise line? Royal Caribbean Group’s Talent Marketing Manager, Thea Neal, has done it through practices like investing in team morale, practicing inclusion, taking a holistic view of the employee experience, and careful listening.
    The Challenge of Talent Marketing as a Cruise Line
    Building out an authentic employee value proposition for a single organization is difficult enough. It can be even harder when that organization houses six different brands, as is the case with Royal Caribbean Group. Employer brand leaders may encounter hesitancy, as Neal did, from more senior leaders who are wary of defining an EVP that may not feel relevant to all branches and levels.
    Invest in Morale
    To attract and retain the best talent, Royal Caribbean Group makes serious investments in its culture and employees’ well-being. Even during a pandemic, the company has found ways to preserve and adapt its office traditions, like happy hours (now virtual) and Halloween (a staff favorite).
    Practice Inclusion
    Prioritizing diversity and inclusion has helped Royal Caribbean Group attract employees from a range of backgrounds and identities. This has been a special focus of Neal’s team, which recruits talent from around the globe. Cultural context is always top-of-mind for Neal when formulating her employer brand strategy: “The employer brand that I put out in America needs to resonate just as well as the employer brand I put out in the Philippines or Indonesia,” she says.
    Consider the Whole Employee Journey
    Neal’s team frames the employee experience as a journey—in fact, the “Journey with us” tagline appears across Royal Caribbean Group’s careers site, social media accounts, and internal communications. This framing reflects the emphasis they place on supporting people throughout their time with the company, from candidate to alum, and not just on the recruitment process or the “sell.”
    Become a Better Listener
    Neal urges other employer brand leaders to listen to fellow employees as closely as possible, especially when their feedback disrupts your assumptions. “A lot of times, as employer brand folks, we have these rosy glasses on. Sometimes you need that real perspective from an employee to create something better, listen, and evolve,” Neal says.
    This approach to talent marketing has helped Royal Caribbean find perfect-fit candidates that join the family and stay for years (and voyages). These candidates-turned-colleagues share Neal’s love of seeing the world and helping others do the same. It’s a passion that unites the team, regardless of role; as Neal puts it, “Who doesn’t want to sell amazing memories and experiences?”

    To follow Thea Neal’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For data-driven insights into your company that you can act on, get in touch. We can help you develop strategies for making real change.

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    Giving Back: The Importance of CSR Efforts During COVID-19 Restrictions

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a measure of how businesses stay socially accountable. It is a cornerstone of the identity of many brands, helping shape a positive reputation.
    It is also a key tool in the war for talent, with modern employees valuing companies that make a positive impact and give back to society.
    So, as the current coronavirus pandemic continues to impact businesses, it is crucial CSR efforts aren’t put on the back burner. Instead, businesses should tailor their plans to meet the demands of the new normal.
    The value of CSR
    Modern consumers are more socially conscious than ever, with 70 percent claiming they want to know the brands they shop with are doing their bit to support social and environmental issues.
    Businesses who neglect their responsibility – without a clear and actionable plan for giving back to the local and wider community – are at risk of being left behind and suffering a damaged reputation.
    CSR isn’t just a box-ticking exercise but provides demonstrable value for people. And while it may not be measurable for businesses in revenue or ROI, without it, they will see consumers heading elsewhere.
    Among the benefits of investing in a CSR strategy is creating an accessible ‘human’ identity, which offers valued personalization for consumers. Shoppers enjoy playing their part by supporting businesses that share their success with those who need it.
    It also allows businesses to meet the needs of modern employees. These days, workers want to feel they are part of something bigger than just an office. CSR efforts allow employees to channel empathy, understanding, and support into their work.
    Now more than ever, with so many impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important those with the resources to provide support to others, do so. While some businesses may not be able to maintain pre-pandemic efforts, they can adjust their CSR offering to provide support in different ways.
    Addressing the challenges
    For thriving businesses, CSR efforts become more viable – whether it’s contributing a more substantial charity pot, or employing a larger team, freeing up members to engage in community work.
    However, when circumstances change, it’s often these non-core business activities that suffer. For example, firms actively cut down on CSR activities during the 2008 global recession.
    As businesses look to cut costs and get back in the green, leaders are forced to justify every outgoing to stakeholders. For these investors – who are often further removed from the business and its local community – CSR efforts can appear a justifiable cutback.
    Not only has the coronavirus pandemic delivered these harsh economic challenges but it also creates additional roadblocks in health and safety. For those which focus their efforts on in-kind giving – for example, volunteering in the community or hosting fundraising events – it’s not safe to continue these efforts in the short-term.
    Shifting the CSR approach
    In times like these, CSR is more important than ever. Businesses have a chance to give back to those who have supported their growth pre-pandemic. Leaders must simply realign their efforts to suit the current climate.
    While some in-person initiatives may be ruled out, like local volunteering days or community clean-up schemes, businesses can still contribute to their communities.
    For example, businesses could take advantage of the office being closed by donating their typical utility fees to local charities.
    Some of our clients have even donated their Christmas party budgets this year – with traditional large office gatherings not possible – and have welcomed positive feedback from employees who are on-board with the gesture.
    However, it doesn’t have to be financial support. The software company, R3, redirected their fortnightly kitchen delivery to three homeless shelters over the pandemic. This saw over £15,000 worth of cereals, fruits, drinks, and more donated to those in need. They also redirected fruit deliveries to local NHS services as a token of their appreciation.
    Consider how your business can give back. Donating items or surplus stock to those hit by the pandemic or offering a discount to local customers or emergency services staff are examples of gestures available to those unable to make financial contributions.
    It’s also important to understand the indirect impact of the business. For example, some of our clients have conducted audits of their partners and suppliers to make sure they’re working with like-minded firms that place similar emphasis on CSR.
    The employee impact
    Considering the importance of social responsibility to modern workers, it’s crucial businesses communicate ongoing CSR strategies and commitments, even as they change.
    This may include inviting employees to participate in the strategy from the start. Consider sending an email to staff, discussing the company’s ongoing CSR policy. Welcome suggestions on new initiatives and local causes which the business can support.
    While it may not be possible to act on every suggestion, businesses can still work with employees to find different ways to make a difference or plan for future efforts. It’s not about solving all the world’s problems but making a genuine difference to as many people as possible.
    Publish a regular round-up of business CSR activities for interested employees. This could be via email and include case studies and images of activities undertaken by the business, as well as information on how individuals can get involved.
    This should also include quotes and case studies from recipients or scheme partners, to help readers understand the scale, reach, and impact of the work.
    It’s been a challenging year and one which has reminded us of the importance of social awareness and support. Businesses currently have a real opportunity to use their CSR efforts to unite the workforce.
    Those able to effectively communicate an accessible and relevant CSR strategy will reap the rewards of an engaged and fulfilled workforce, in talent retention and productivity.
     By Andrew Jones, Head of Everyday Essentials, Express Vending.

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    Post-COVID Office Perks to Attract New Talent

    2020 shook us all, with a pandemic that turned our working world upside down. Employers have had to shift to an office design that accommodates social distancing, but they’re also bringing in new office perks to help make the transition back to the office more inviting for new and existing talent, and better for their employees’ wellness as well as productivity. Let’s take a look at how to make your office more inviting to new recruits.
    Office pods
    Social distancing is paramount for COVID-secure office space and the office pod helps with this greatly. Employees can be separated from one another in their own breakout spaces in pods to get on with tasks. Cell pods allow workers to see through their glass pods, have doors open or shut, so they’re not totally shut off but can still practice social distancing and separation.
    Instagrammable areas
    This speaks mainly to the Gen Z and millennials that are on Instagram, making daily updates, always capturing quirky design, meals, or fun businesses. Offices are changing to provide perks that will attract and entice employees to choose them over other companies in competitive job markets. Areas with fun design, abstract interior, quirky stencil wall art, biophilic decor, or even unique, modern sofas and funky corners are capture-worthy. Don’t be afraid to be different in your office design, add originality and fun with those instagrammable pieces.
    Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of office refurbishment company, Diamond Interiors, says that a place of work isn’t just that anymore:

    “Long gone are the days of cubicles, beige walls, and the nine to five. Nowadays workplaces are fun, dynamic, and have a strong focus on perks and benefits. When dealing with staff, whether they’ve been with you for years or are having their first interview, you have to make a good impression on them as much as the other way around.
    Making your office an aesthetically pleasing place is just as important as getting the work done and going home on time. So if you want to attract and keep the best talent, make sure you make your office an enjoyable place to be.”

    Relaxation rooms
    Whether it’s an office library, a hygge room, or a simple chillout room, companies are seeing the benefits of giving employees space to relax for breaks, lunches, or for times they may need to separate and work quietly. These are perfect for showing a high consideration for staff mental health and wellness.
    Games rooms
    A great office perk to have is a games room. You don’t need to go all out, it could be simply providing a games console, TV, and some comfy office sofas. But, to make it top-level, add some quirky games features like mini snooker tables, desk games, ping pong tables, and puzzles – even a fun jigsaw puzzle.
    Social spaces
    These can be integrated with games rooms but also can be areas where you allow staff to be a little more social. In a post-COVID working environment, it’s all about guidance, policies, and signposting. Make sure to keep clear signs and symbols to show where is off-limits, for instance, mark off where seating is off-limits to maintain social distancing. A social space may have newspapers, magazines, and reading materials to help with social work conversations, especially materials that are niche to certain industries.
    Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, stresses how beneficial office perks like games rooms and social spaces are to employees’ mental health:

    “The allow employees to disconnect from role-related tasks and take a break, allowing them to connect more fully to the next task when they return. It also facilitates non-work-related communication, which is an essential element of social connection and workplace relationships. Social spaces can also reduce stress, allowing employees to move from their desk and change the scene.”

    Positive effects on staff
    As Chambers points out, the mental effects of office perks are extremely positive for staff – enabling them to reconnect with each other and build healthy working relationships. He also understands how they work in sync with improved productivity. For instance, social spaces and rooms for activities “create an important break in our working patterns that allow us to remove ourselves from cognitive work tasks and regenerate, so we have the ability to return to work with more focus, concentration, and energy.”
    Chambers goes on to highlight that office perks, or rather employers who value them, allow “employees who may not often get to talk a chance to connect”. They also come with creative, productive benefits as “many innovative ideas have come from a workplace social as the typical barriers of work are eroded. These relationship links forge greater company morale, give employees a feeling of connection and purpose outside of work, and give employees something to anticipate and look forward to.”
    There’s no doubt that 2021 is going to be unlike any year we’ve experienced so far. The only thing we can do is make the most of it and try to work as efficiently and safely as possible. What do you think of these 2021 office trends?

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