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    5 Ways to Help Employees Manage the Psychological Stress of Hybrid Burnout

    COVID-19 changed many employees’ work routines, both in positive and negative ways.
    As a result of long-term remote working, many companies are considering introducing hybrid working models, giving staff the option of combining working from home with going into the office.
    However, hybrid working could also have a significant impact on employee mental health with many reporting symptoms of ‘hybrid burnout’.
    Burnout is defined as a phenomenon ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ In 2020 it became a recognized condition by the WHO.
    Hybrid burnout is the result of juggling long hours working from home with commutes to offices, which can not only be physically exhausting but also take a considerable toll on employee stress levels.
    But what can businesses do to help employees manage the physical and mental health implications of a hybrid working environment?
    1. Recognize the signs
    Individuals in management should become aware of the signs and symptoms caused by hybrid burnout, as well as what they can do to prevent or respond to it.
    Staff may become fatigued, forgetful, and struggle to concentrate, with so much going on around them. Early on, this may make people feel worried, irritable, on edge, or tense.
    Further down the line, this anxiety – caused by juggling multiple work environments- may become so severe that it affects professionals’ ability to work productively (or at all).
    There are also potential physical symptoms to consider, like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches.
    2. Assess company culture
    A Gallup study revealed the main causes of burnout are not the nature of the work itself, rather, how a person is treated and managed while they are working.
    Consider how different leadership approaches might impact employees. For example, behaviors like bias or unfair corporate policies can cause stress and lead to overworking, with staff feeling a need to ‘prove their worth’.
    Make certain that healthy work behaviors are modeled from the top. Help employees understand their value to the company and their contributions to the organization’s goals. Employees feel more valued, and display more motivation in the workplace if, and when, they understand their exact role in the greater purpose.
    Take a few minutes each week to update employees on company news and how your team’s actions are contributing to the company’s overall success.
    Also, make time to tell staff specifically what you value about their contributions. Try to build this into your regular routines, perhaps by starting your team meetings with shout-outs acknowledging the accomplishments of individual team members.
    3. Encourage conversations
    As well as ensuring all staff feels appreciated and comfortable in their roles, managers need to ensure they demonstrate to their teams that the business has an open, supportive and welcoming approach when staff are distressed or finding it difficult to cope.
    Employees need to feel conversations about difficulties surrounding work are both welcomed and expected.
    This requires employers to feel empowered to enable better conversations about mental health in the workplace. At Nuffield Health, we introduced Emotional Literacy training for all staff.
    92 percent of whom took the training stated they felt able to support a colleague in distress. Initiatives like this build an open community, and a common language, encouraging more people to say “I’m not OK” and ask others “Are you OK?”.
    Employees should also be signposted to any other designated people, like, mental health champions for additional support.
    4. Communicate set policies
    It’s important company policies that promote good work/life balance are widely communicated. With hybrid working, this means using multiple channels to ensure you reach all employees, whether it’s through company social media platforms, emails, or even by text alerts.
    Actively nurturing and promoting reasonable work hours, including, if necessary, encouraging employees to go home, when in the office late, or messaging them to ‘go offline’, at the end of their regular workday if you recognize a pattern of unhealthy overworking.
    Help assess workloads for those who feel pressured to remain working beyond normal business hours and let them know there is always support available and additional resources to help them manage mounting projects or multiple deadlines.
    Sometimes employees simply don’t realize these are things they are welcome to ask for.
    5. Provide professional emotional wellbeing support
    A recent Nuffield Health whitepaper revealed spending more than 2.5 days a week working away from the office can be associated with deterioration in co-worker relationships and job satisfaction.
    For those having difficulty with the balance between remote and office life, consider introducing professional wellbeing support like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and timely access to effective psychological therapy (such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).
    These interventions can be delivered remotely or face to face and give individuals access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns and “what if” thinking that may exacerbate stress and burnout in uncertain times.
    By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.
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    How Do You Recruit and Retain Flexible Workers?

    Since the pandemic hit, we’ve been inundated with research, articles, news, discussions, and content of all kinds around the dramatic shift in the world of work.
    And so here’s another for you.
    But perhaps with an idea that goes slightly against the grain.
    We’ve heard much about the steep rise in demand for flexible working, with LinkedIn reporting a 60% increase in searches for ‘remote work’ and a 189% growth in applications for these positions.
    And providing the option of flexible working appears to be vital not just for recruiting talent, but also for keeping it.
    74% of employees have said they would be less likely to leave a company if given the opportunity to work remotely.
    So, just offer flexible working and all your talent acquisition and retention problems are solved, right?
    You of course know it’s not that simple.
    So, although the headlines read flexible working increases employee loyalty, it’s what’s under the headline that can be the difference between whether an employee chooses to stay or go.
    It’s how that flexible work is managed that’s key.
    Just because a team isn’t physically together 9 – 5 Monday to Friday, doesn’t mean company culture is abandoned. Especially since 77% of job seekers consider a company’s culture before applying and almost two-thirds of employees cite culture amongst the top reasons for staying in a job.
    So, whilst meeting that demand for flexible working is necessary, it can’t be offered in isolation. Think of it more as a strategy of recruiting and retaining talent. Here we run through the components that can make up that strategy.
    Ensure a strong line of communication
    This is obvious, we know. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial. Remote means no longer being able to turn to a colleague and get an immediate answer. Waiting ages for a reply or even not receiving one can be frustrating and slow down progress.
    This doesn’t mean immediate answers should be expected when working remotely. A downfall of working at home for some has been the expectation placed on them to be reachable and responsive 24/7. This, of course, is not what we’re suggesting.
    What we are saying is that there should be lots of opportunities for employees to reach out and get a response. So, that could be using a project management platform, setting up a WhatsApp group, and having weekly team meetings.
    Don’t abandon the onboarding process
    Hiring remotely comes with many obstacles. One of which is showing new recruits the ropes. But that first impression is key. Having a schedule set over 2 weeks that runs through projects, platforms, and meet and greets gives you a structure, plus the confidence that everything important has been covered.
    If meeting in person is an available option, take it. Even if it’s just one day, that physical meet can make all the difference to a new employee. If it’s not an option, then there’s always the trusty Zoom and screen shares.
    Celebrate employee success
    When an employee has done a great piece of work, gone above and beyond, or mastered a new skill, it’s easy to say well done when you walk past them in an office.
    It takes a little more time and conscious effort when remote. But only a little. And that small amount of extra effort can go a long way. So, be sure to send that email or publish that social media post to show your appreciation.
    Adopt a virtual open-door policy
    An open-door policy is often used as a way of encouraging effective communication, showing mutual respect, and building relationships. And just because you no longer have the physical door between you and your employees, doesn’t mean this sense of accessibility has to be lost.
    Make sure your employees know you’re available at the end of the phone, share your calendar, or add a Zoom link to your email signature that allows catch-ups to be booked with ease.
    Create a virtual water cooler
    We all know the cliche, office workers gathering around the water cooler to chat about their lives outside of work. General office chit-chat was a way for colleagues to build friendships. Being in the same room as someone all day meant talk wouldn’t just be about work, you could strike up a spontaneous conversation with someone with ease.
    And so, because flexible working can mean more varied schedules, there’s a risk that any conversation between colleagues only takes place when tasks need to be discussed. Spontaneity is lost and with it the chance to get to know one another.
    But that doesn’t have to be the case. Arrange Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls for colleagues to talk about anything but work. You could include activities and games, or simply keep it as a chance to just chat.
    Arrange meet-ups
    Why not go a step further than the virtual water cooler and organize in-person get-togethers? Team lunches or away days can be a real boost for morale and give you all the chance to create actual connections that can lead to more investment from your team.
    Help with home setup
    Wanting and being able to work from home are two separate things. That’s why it’s important to support your employees with their home office setup. Make sure they have all the equipment they need to work comfortably and effectively, such as a laptop, desk, chair, and phone. And if they don’t, offer to help.
    Offer expenses allowance
    Typically, tea and coffee are on tap when you’re in the office. A kettle, coffee, and tea bags are staple office items, being without would probably cause the same stir as an office without, say, computers.
    But when you work from home, you no longer get the free coffee and tea bonus. Then again, why shouldn’t you? Offering a small expenses allowance for team members gives them the option of working from a coffee shop, this way they still get the drinks and benefit from a change of scene.
    Make sure remote also means flexible
    Just because a company offers remote working, doesn’t mean flexibility is guaranteed. Directors may fear a loss of control and productivity when their employees are working from home, leading to micromanagement.
    A big reason why so many want the option to work remotely is that they want flexibility. They want to be able to work when they’re most productive, pick up their children, do the washing in their lunch break, and start earlier to finish earlier. Make sure your form of remote working incorporates this fundamental flexibility.
    To sum up
    People want flexible work. It’s a fact. But that doesn’t mean they want to be left alone (not all the time anyway). Merely offering flexible working won’t win you the top talent and ensure you keep it. It’s what comes with flexible working that counts. It’s the communication, the increased freedom, the chance to connect, and the continued support, that’s what makes the difference.
    By Amy Nelson, Commercial Director at Nelson Recruitment Services.
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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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    A Wake-Up Call: Tackling the Employee Insomnia Crisis

    When COVID-19 struck this time last year, most employees were forced to work from home. One of the results of enforced remote working is the rise in the number of people experiencing insomnia. One in four people reported sleepless nights and Google searches for the word “insomnia” surged significantly, with searches peaking most often during the early hours at 3am.
    Whilst COVID restrictions may be lessening, a natural return to healthy, regular sleep-wake cycles is not guaranteed in a new hybrid work environment.  In this article, I discuss the future of sleep in a post-pandemic workplace and why employers need to provide workplace support for better sleep.
    ‘Coronasomnia’ – why the nation is having trouble sleeping.
    The pandemic and social isolation have unsettled daily routines that usually serve as timekeepers for our natural body clocks. Keeping track of the time, and even the day, can be difficult without our usual time “anchors” like driving to the office, going to the gym after work, or picking up children from school.
    Research shows it can take four days to fully recover from just one hour of lost sleep. So, if we are ‘missing’ the recommended 7-9 hours, over time, a sleep deficit is caused. This makes it difficult to catch up on sleep and enhances the chances of sleep deprivation symptoms.
    Uncertainty also plays a significant part in affecting sleep, as it often causes anxiety that unsettles sleep as a racing mind keeps the body tossing and turning.  When will I get my vaccine? When can I travel or see my family? How long will lockdowns last? So much was (and still is) unknown.
    The impact of sleep deprivation on employee productivity and physical and emotional health
    Continuous poor sleep has a major impact on employee productivity with it estimated to cost the UK economy £37bn a year. Studies show that sleep deprivation leads to poor concentration and slower reaction times, which can lead to accidents and costly errors. From an emotional health viewpoint, lack of sleep results in higher levels of stress hormones in our bodies which, in turn, can increase feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression.
    Even if you receive enough sleep at night, if that sleep is of poor quality it can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated in the morning with decreased energy and concentration. 1-2 poor days of sleep per week increases the risk of employee absence by 171 percent.
    Physical symptoms of long-term sleep deprivation can manifest in a weakened immune system, causing regular infections and colds. Without adequate sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively reducing the body’s immune response.
    Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with more serious health problems like increased risks of certain cancers, heart disease, ulcers, and gastrointestinal issues.
    Will we sleep better in a ‘hybrid work environment?”
    Even as restrictions begin to ease, staff sleep patterns may not return to normal as more companies consider a ‘hybrid’ work environment. Many businesses already have a flexible working policy, but some will embrace a permanent blended’ working model, with employees continuing to work from home a few days a week.
    Although emotions such as anxiety and uncertainly may reduce, which could have a positive impact on sleep, if more employees continue to work from home, some permanent factors may continue to negatively affect sleep.
    For remote workers there is the ongoing risk of ‘leavism’, being unable to switch off or catching up on work outside of contractual working hours. This blurring of home-work boundaries can contaminate our sleep environment. For example, the bedroom doubling up as a workspace may become the norm, as more employees participate in ‘bedmin’ (finishing admin tasks while in bed).
    Supporting the future of employee sleep
    Employers can lessen some of the health and business risks associated with pandemic sleep disruption by making practical changes to employee work schedules. Avoid scheduling too many early calls and virtual meetings and frequently rotating shifts. For those who work night shifts, if they are rotating, do so in a forward rotation (morning, evening, night).
    Set expectations regarding working hours and consider the benefits of setting up an official sleep policy for your organization. Provide virtual talks and invite health experts to discuss the impact of poor sleep and how to support those experiencing sleep difficulties. For example, you could run a seminar on how exercise or management of unhelpful thinking can have a positive impact on sleep quality.
    Employers might also consider offering staff cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Whether someone already had chronic insomnia or it’s a recent onset from the pandemic, it’s a treatment that is evidence-based and has proven to be successful for a range of wellbeing difficulties including sleep.
    Providing whole of workforce education and self-help resources specifically for sleep (such as an online digital platform), will create an open dialogue around sleep concerns. This facilitates the development of effective support plans and will enable staff and managers to be aware of the benefits of setting healthy boundaries for a better work-life balance.
    By Gosia Bowling, Emotional Wellbeing Enhancement and Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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