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    New Flexible Working Bill is Neither Flexible, Workable, Or Even New

    Proponents of flexible working were exhilarated in July by news that the Flexible Working Bill had received Royal Assent, paving the way for it to become part of the law of the land. Certainly, the UK government was keen to advertise the benefits of the bill, promising that it meant workers across the country would enjoy more freedom and control over the way they work.
    Unfortunately, the truth is the new bill leaves much to be desired and is unlikely to contribute much positive momentum to the flexible work revolution.
    The contents of the bill
    The first thing to mention is that this is not technically a new law at all, but an amendment to the existing Employment Rights Act 1996. And rather than granting workers a new right to flexible work, the main purpose of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 – to give it its full title – is to make changes to the existing statutory right of employees to request flexible work. The Act is unlikely to come into force until mid-2024, but what exactly are these changes and how will they benefit workers?
    The first change is to increase the number of times an employee can request switching to a flexible working arrangement. Currently, employees can only make one request in any 12-month period. This will increase to two.
    Second, employees can expect faster outcomes, as employers will now only have two months to consider and respond to a request, instead of three under the current law.
    Third, employees will no longer be required to explain what impact their request will have or need to offer suggestions for how to mitigate any impact when making a flexible work request.
    It is also expected that employees will be able to make a flexible work request on day one of their job, instead of having to wait 26 weeks before asking. However, this is not contained in the Act itself, but will be set out in secondary legislation that is expected to come into force at the same time as the Act.
    But why has the UK government made these amendments to this process? Is there that much demand for flexible work?
    The flexible work revolution
    The term “flexible work” is broad. It doesn’t just refer to working from home or working remotely, but also to having flexible start and stop times that suit an employee’s need. Offering flexibility is intended to reduce stress and offer a better work-life balance, and employers may consider offering it to attract new talent or retain existing staff.
    Most research points to a huge, untapped demand for more flexible working arrangements. For instance, LinkedIn data indicated that the demand for remote work (just one form of flexible work, but also a common one) vastly outstrips the supply of remote work roles.
    Remote work is particularly popular as it offers workers the choice to live wherever they choose, without limiting their career prospects. Remote workers use it to spend more time with their family instead of commuting, live closer to relatives, or travelling to different countries while remaining employed.
    But the benefits of remote work also extend to employers. Businesses that adopt distributed workforce models have a much larger pool of talent available to them, including skilled workers living overseas. Companies can build international work teams as a first step to entering new markets or offer round-the-clock services to customers in different time zones.
    Our own research on the topic, the 2023 Remote Workforce Report, highlighted several advantages offered by remote work. Based on a survey of 1,000 decision-makers around the world, the report found that 69% of employers who have adopted remote work experienced increased staff retention, while 57% stated it was easier to hire and retain talent with a remote workforce. Furthermore, 72% of employers with an international remote workforce said that productivity had increased – this challenges the common assumption that remote work is less productive.
    Boosting productivity and generating cost-savings through increased retention are win-win for businesses that embrace remote work. But it can also be a competitive advantage: with more and more workers seeking flexible work arrangements, offering workers this flexibility can help attract talent away from competitors.
    Given this context, should we view the flexible working bill as a major step forward? Not necessarily.
    A missed opportunity
    The truth is the legislative changes in the Act are not enough to have a real impact on workers. The Act is merely tweaking an existing process for requesting flexible work – a process that is needlessly bureaucratic and painstakingly slow (it should not take an employer more than two weeks to consult with relevant stakeholders regarding flexible arrangements, let alone two months).
    A key problem is that the Act still ultimately gives employers the right to reject an employee’s request. The fact a worker can now make multiple requests a year is unlikely to sway an employer who is sceptical about the benefits of flexible work.
    Businesses could also face a bureaucratic headache if multiple employees all make flexible working requests, as each request will need to be processed individually. Adopting simple company-wide policies for flexible work could help organisations avoid this time-consuming paperwork.
    The UK government should have looked to European peers who have established more flexible rights for workers. It is particularly difficult in the Netherlands for employers to reject a flexible work request, while workers in Finland have the right to start or finish their work three hours earlier or later than their core working hours and most employees can choose where and when they work for at least 50% of their working hours.
    So while the Flexible Working Bill is something of a missed opportunity, all is not lost. The flexible working revolution is marching on; more and more companies are recognising this trend and offering greater flexibility options to their workers in order to attract talent and retain skilled workers. It is these forward-looking companies that are going to race ahead of the competition.
    By Sam Ross, VP General Counsel at Remote.
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    9 Do’s and Don’ts of Asking Questions in Job Interviews

    The path from unemployment to employment has several steps, and for most, the first step after application is the job interview. The primary function of the interview is to allow the hiring manager to interact with candidates in order to determine if their qualifications and experience are a fit for the job’s requirements, as well as how they might fit into or add to the company’s culture and values.
    However, the job interview has a secondary function, but equally important for job seekers – the chance to interview the interviewer. The questions job seekers choose to ask in the interview are of paramount importance for two reasons:

    They demonstrate candidates’ preparation for the interview and interest in the job and company.
    They balance the scales in candidates’ favor, allowing them to determine if the job and company are truly a good fit for them.

    As a job seeker, choosing the right interview questions should be part of your interview preparation. Though there are many articles and blogs listing questions that candidates should ask in interviews, choosing the right ones and tailoring them to the role, the employer and your individual needs will help set you apart from the competition. Let’s look at nine best practices for asking questions in job interviews.
    1. Ask About Job Duties and Expectations
    Hiring managers love inquisitive minds. They want to know you’re interested in the role beyond what you’ve been told and that you’re anxious to learn more. Prepare questions on what the role will involve and what will be expected of you.
    2. Ask About Learning and Growth Opportunities
    Employers don’t want to hire people who are satisfied working the same job for the rest of their careers. They want to hire employees who are interested in constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Show the interviewer that this is a priority by asking about training, continuing education, and mentoring opportunities.
    3. Ask About Company Culture and Values
    Asking a generic question about a company’s culture is predictable, but tailoring the question based on elements of the culture that the company is known for or that interest you shows you’re familiar with the employer brand. Every company has values that are ingrained in their culture and essential to their employees. By showing interest in them and how they align with your values, you show that you’re interested in more than just a paycheck.
    4. Ask About Success
    Finding out how the interviewer defines success, what makes others successful at the company, and what will define success in the role for which you’re interviewing demonstrates your interest in achieving the same.
    5. Ask Follow-Up Questions
    While preparing questions in advance is essential to a successful job interview, it’s also a good idea to ask questions based on topics that you just discussed with the hiring manager. By following up on these topics later in the interview, it shows you were astute enough to take note of specific details in the conversation, and inquisitive enough to want to know more.
    6. Don’t Ask Anything That’s Easy to Research
    By asking overly simplistic questions about the company that can be answered with a quick Google search, it shows you weren’t willing to do any advance research or put any thought into preparing your questions. The same goes for questions about the role that can be answered by reading the job description.
    7. Don’t Ask About Salary or Time Off
    It’s never a good idea to convey a “what can YOU do for ME” attitude in a job interview, and calling attention to salary, benefits, or time off does just that. Though you will make the ultimate decision as to whether or not to accept an offer, keep the focus on the job, the company, and how you can contribute to both until the interviewer broaches these subjects or after an offer is made.
    8. Don’t Ask Anything Predictable
    If a question is general enough to be asked by any candidate at any job interview for any company, it’s probably not a good question. Spend time preparing your questions to ensure they are unique to your situation; they make the interviewer think and show you did your homework.
    9. Don’t Ask Anything Controversial or Negative
    If the company or one of its leaders has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons, don’t call attention to it in the job interview. Though this may be a valid reason for rejecting a job offer, posing questions to the interviewer about scandalous news or controversial topics won’t work in your favor.
    How you respond to a hiring manager’s inevitable closing interview question, “Do you have any questions for me?” can make or break your chances of landing a job offer. In addition, it’s an often-underutilized opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of and interest in the job and company, gain an advantage over your competition, and determine whether or not it’s where you want to spend the next several years of your career. By preparing questions in advance tailored around subjects that employers use as determining hiring factors, you can control the direction of the interview and, as a result, the direction of your career.
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    Leveraging AI for Employee Mental Wellbeing

    As organizations strive to attract and retain top talent, it’s crucial to recognize the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in supporting employee mental wellbeing.
    Going beyond its role as a productivity tool, there’s untapped potential in AI to support employee mental health in the workplace. But how safe is it to hand over such responsibility to AI? And when should human intervention take place?
    In the modern workplace, mental health has gained significant recognition for its importance. Employers now understand that the wellbeing of their employees extends beyond physical health. Mental health plays a crucial role in overall productivity, engagement, and success. For the newest generation entering the workforce today, mental health support is a must, not a nice to have.
    Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is essential because it directly impacts employee wellbeing and happiness. A positive and supportive work environment that promotes mental wellbeing fosters a sense of belonging, reduces stress levels, and improves job satisfaction.
    The role of AI in workplace mental wellbeing
    AI-powered solutions, such as virtual assistants, have the potential to revolutionize mental wellbeing support in the workplace. However, there are currently no tools dedicated to mental health support. While there are anecdotal instances of people using the likes of ChatGPT for support, the tool isn’t designed for such use cases. As such, there is a need for generative AI capabilities to be utilized in a considered way to ensure appropriate measures are in place to enhance the user experience.
    The challenge in creating an AI-enabled assistant for mental health support lies in ensuring that it is designed by individuals who possess a deep understanding of the intricacies of therapy and coaching practices. Developing an AI-powered assistant that can effectively provide support, guidance, and empathy requires a comprehensive knowledge of psychological principles and therapeutic techniques.
    To create an AI-enabled assistant that can engage in meaningful and effective conversations, developers must work closely with clinicians who have a profound understanding of various therapeutic techniques. This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is widely recognized as an effective treatment for a range of mental health concerns.
    This understanding enables the AI-powered assistant to follow evidence-based practices and techniques that promote positive change and empower users to overcome challenges.
    Building an AI assistant dedicated to mental wellbeing
    With these challenges in mind, I could see an opportunity to develop an AI-assisted tool specifically designed for mental wellbeing. Not only this, but a mental health support tool that could be deployed in the workplace, bringing the benefits of AI that leverages therapeutic best practices to employees and employers alike.
    As part of this process, I set the following requirements for such an AI-enabled assistant:

    Ethical guidelines: Align AI systems with internationally recognised ethical guidelines for psychological practice to ensure user privacy, data protection, and confidentiality.
    Compliance: Follow relevant data protection and privacy laws to safeguard user data and maintain transparency in data collection and usage.
    Robust algorithm design: Develop AI algorithms that prioritise user wellbeing and avoid biases that could perpetuate harm or discrimination.
    Human oversight: Establish clear protocols for when AI should hand over to human professionals, such as during critical or complex mental health situations.

    Following months of work, the result was EMMA, an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant for mental health and personal growth support.
    Harnessing the power of Azure Cognitive Services and generative AI, combined with our own advanced sentiment analysis, EMMA provides immediate always-on support, encouragement, and guidance for a range of mental health concerns and personal development goals, through text-based conversations.
    Attracting and retaining talent with AI-powered mental wellbeing
    This development is great news for employees, but how can it help with the recruitment process? Well, I believe organisations that prioritise employee wellbeing and leverage innovative solutions like AI can differentiate themselves in the talent market.
    Prospective employees are increasingly seeking employers that genuinely care about their mental health. So, highlighting the availability of AI-powered mental wellbeing support during the recruitment process can showcase an organisation’s commitment to employee wellness, attracting top talent who value a supportive work environment.
    AI-enabled tools can also play a pivotal role in fostering a positive work culture that promotes employee wellbeing. By offering constant support, guidance, and resources, AI-powered assistants create an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and understood. This can contribute to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty, ultimately reducing turnover and enhancing the overall work experience.
    Of course, addressing mental wellbeing concerns through AI-enabled support can significantly impact employee performance and productivity. When employees feel supported and access resources that enhance their mental wellbeing, they are better equipped to manage stress, maintain focus, and bring their best selves to work. This, in turn, helps to improve individual and team productivity, leading to better overall organizational performance.
    AI-enabled tools truly offer significant potential for supporting employee mental wellbeing in the workplace, making it valuable for talent attraction and retention. By embracing the role of AI as a tool for human enhancement, organizations can create workplaces where individuals thrive and reach their full potential.
    By Asim Amin, Founder and CEO of Plumm.
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    Cybersecurity is an HR Responsibility, Too

    Cybercrime is a constant source of fear and frustration in the modern world of business. The number of attacks are increasing as the tactics used by cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated. And the potential damage to companies is also rising, with the global average cost of a data breach rising to $4.35m in 2022, according to IBM.  
    There are various factors driving the surge in cybercrime, but one recent study linked the increasing risk of cyberattacks to the shift toward remote work in recent years, as the typical remote workspace is insufficiently protected, creating cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Furthermore, because remote workers rely on digital communication tools to do their work, they are more susceptible to phishing and social engineering attacks. The study also claims that because remote workers are not physically in the office together, they may find it more challenging to communicate with colleagues and verify the information or requests made in phishing emails.
    Given this potentially increased risk, should companies cease remote work? Doing so would come with its own costs, as remote work has been shown to lead to increased productivity and staff retention. Our survey of 1,004 HR and business decision-makers and workers across the world found that 69% of employers with a distributed remote workforce said that employee retention had increased since their business adopted the practice. Meanwhile, 72% of companies with an international remote workforce stated that productivity has risen since adopting a distributed model.
    So, what should companies do to improve their cyber defenses without sacrificing the benefits of remote work? Organizations might assume that their cybersecurity is solely a concern for the IT department, but this is not the case. In fact, focusing too heavily on technology will ignore the most important element of cybersecurity: your people. 
    According to another IBM study, 95% of cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error. So, if the people in an organization are the weakest link, then it is also the responsibility of HR to improve cybersecurity and help implement the practices needed to safeguard valuable data. HR has an invaluable role to play in preventing data breaches, and HR leaders must step up and help protect their organizations from cyber risks. 
    But what steps should HR take to address this issue? The first thing needed is to develop a culture of corporate cybersecurity safety through partnerships between HR leaders, internal IT teams, and data protection specialists. Cooperation across departments is essential.  
    One way in which HR can actively contribute is by partnering with IT to establish more refined access levels based on the organizational structure, including the employee’s level and department. By doing so, HR can assist in controlling and regulating access to specific types of information and actions. This collaborative effort between HR and IT aims to safeguard sensitive data by granting access privileges only to those individuals who genuinely require it to fulfill their job responsibilities. The principle of least privilege serves as a guiding principle, emphasizing that the intent is not to exclude individuals or withhold knowledge from employees, but rather to acknowledge that employees in different departments, such as marketing and finance or accounting, do not require unrestricted access to each other’s data. This principle should help to limit the potential damage of a data breach caused by any single employee.
    Next, HR can use recruitment, onboarding, and ongoing training as opportunities to ensure staff are aware of their responsibilities towards cybersecurity across the organization.
    For instance, recruitment is an opportunity to probe candidates for any potential red flags, given that employee misconduct is a common cause of data breaches. Running background checks on applicants to verify the accuracy of their employment and education history and screening for any history of criminal activity or policy violations is essential.
    HR departments themselves must also be careful during the recruitment period not to fall for a ransomware or phishing attack disguised as a resume or cover letter. And if they are to conduct virtual interviews with candidates, then HR teams must ensure they have appropriate network security measures in place, and confirm any recruitment software being used is installed with the latest security updates. 
    Similarly, the onboarding phase is a crucial moment for HR to help protect sensitive information. HR must keep a record of all the equipment a new employee receives and ensure it is returned if and when the employee leaves the company, so they do not take away any sensitive data. New recruits must also be made aware of important safety precautions, such as how to spot phishing emails and how to build strong, unique passwords. 
    Again, HR must also be careful during the onboarding phase, as they will receive a large amount of personally identifiable information from the new employee, usually via email or fax. HR departments must ensure such communications are encrypted before personal data is collected and stored.  
    Finally, training is a significant opportunity to invest in ongoing cybersecurity education so your team can establish and maintain best practices. Employees need regular reminders about the dangers posed by weak passwords and phishing emails. This training is also an opportunity to teach staff about the latest hacking methods used by cybercriminals and how to stay safe while working remotely. For instance, public Wi-Fi can represent a major risk, and although remote workers may enjoy the flexibility to work from a cafe or public space, they are safer using their smartphone as a hotspot rather than connecting to an unknown network.
    At Remote, all staff are required to undergo training within their first 30 days of employment and annually thereafter, to ensure they understand security policies, procedures, and best practices. Investing in your workforce through training helps to create trust among your employees, who are your first line of defence against a cybersecurity breach. 
    Companies do not have to grapple with this task alone; they can work with trusted partners who can help to protect their data while continuing to employ an internationally dispersed workforce. Employer of record (EOR) service providers can help organizations grow secure global teams, while also ensuring employers are compliant with local and international data protection laws in the markets where they operate. This frees companies to focus on managing and growing their business.
    There are further advantages of collaborating with companies like Remote, who have complete ownership over their end-to-end operations, as opposed to relying on third-party entities. This approach is particularly beneficial because it allows them to have complete control over the data and mitigates the risk of uncertain data handling practices. Remote sought out ISO27001 certification as well as the SOC2 Type II, the world’s best-known, internationally recognized standard for information security management systems, to demonstrate our commitment to information security and providing a secure platform for our customers. As EORs handle sensitive employee data, including personal information, financial records, and legal documents, these certifications provide a standardized and independent confirmation, so employers can be confident that rigorous security measures protect their employee information.
    Integrating cybersecurity into company culture must be an endeavour tackled by the whole organisation, not just the IT team. The HR department has a key role to play in building a solid and safe foundation for a business to grow its globally distributed workforce.
    By Marcelo Lebre, COO and co-founder of Remote.
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    How to Stress Better at Work (…Yes, There is a Balance)

    It is undeniable: stress is widespread across today’s workplaces.
    A Mental Health Foundation survey found that 74 percent of adults experiencing chronic stress felt ‘unable to cope’ as a result, impacting their daily lives and careers. And since the pandemic, there has been an explosive 25 percent increase in the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
    According to research, in the workplace, this translates to 17 million days of absenteeism, citing that on average, each person needed to take 16.5 days off from work.
    However, according to the concept of eustress (“good stress”), there is a positive form of psychological stress, which could help individuals feel more motivated, productive, and happier in the workplace.
    Why eustress is best
    Negative workplace stress is a costly oversight for businesses, but when moderate levels of stress result in short, productive bursts of energy in your daily life – that is eustress.
    Eustress has positive workplace outcomes for those able to identify how it manifests; it lowers procrastination when completing a specific task at work.
    Eustress enhances well-being as the person gains career satisfaction through productivity. There is a vital balance at play that makes for a healthy work environment if organizations support and encourage it.
    Exploiting the power of eustress in the workplace
    As explained, a hallmark of eustress is that it presents in short bursts of productivity. Biologically, our brains have a better-developed response to tasks when we know that we have a break on the horizon.
    The best way to harness eustress is to manage the day and its tasks by setting 25-minute timers throughout and rewarding yourself with a short break.
    During these breaks, it is recommended to move the body and have a change of scenery. This enables one to move from that eustress psychological state to one with a sense of achievement, allowing them to switch off.
    For example, a quick walk around the block and returning to make a cup of tea before beginning work again helps to eliminate stress build-up making it easier to start the next task on our list.
    Why chronic stress is bad
    Two hormones are in circulation when we are stressed: cortisol and adrenaline.
    They host an essential function in the body and trigger us to enter ‘fight or flight’ mode which is intended to be temporary. Long-term exposure to cortisol, in particular, will eventually begin to have negative effects on mental and physical health.
    In a workplace context, continual chronic stress will impact one’s ability to work effectively and productively. Oftentimes, colleagues who are experiencing long-term chronic stress will present with the following: brain fog, irritability, oversensitivity, and the inability to concentrate and retain information.
    Moreover, physical and mental health-related manifestations are well-recorded. These include high blood pressure, inflammation within the body, and aches and pains like tight chest pains, anxiety, and depression.
    Train for triggers
    Managers and executives are responsible for identifying these signals among their colleagues and being responsive. Keeping employees educated on the mental health support resources available is critical.
    Emotional literacy training is an effective tool to boost employee resilience by ensuring staff have a common language to discuss distress. It can improve managers’ abilities to support their employees, equipping them with knowledge, self-awareness, and empathy, making them better listeners.
    Bespoke employee benefits
    Responsible employers should offer an array of options tailored to the workforce and based on employee feedback.
    Where signs of burnout are recognized, employers should signpost employees towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioral therapy sessions (CBT), which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them explore and understand the factors which are impacting their health and wellbeing.
    These offerings show conversations about stress and mental health are both welcomed and expected which in turn ensures early intervention and uptake among staff.
    By Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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    Developing Skills in Today’s Workforce for Tomorrow’s Data Challenges

    As businesses are put under more pressure to deliver more with fewer resources, ensuring they’re equipped with a refined and skilled data-literate workforce is crucial. An uptake in technology adoption will mean very little, if only a fraction of the workforce has the skills needed to reap the benefits. With upskilling and training integral parts of technological advancement, it’s vital to ensure that all workers are able to question and understand how to use the data and insights received from any new technology.
    PwCs CEO research has recently revealed that 61% of CEOs’ tech investment is focused on transforming (rather than just maintaining) their current business to ensure they can endure today’s economic turbulence. As they seek to gather and provide the necessary skills to remain competitive and relevant on a global scale, the skills shortage presents an ever-changing challenge for companies. While some skills gaps have closed, new shortages have emerged. This is also true for data analysis. With data everywhere and every department in every business trying to work with data, the challenge is due to a great demand for, but an equally significant shortage of, highly qualified data scientists.
    Building a workforce from within, not from scratch
    As businesses grow and the demand for data analysts increases, the options business leaders can take to differentiate themselves is simple: grow what is already present. Tackling the data skills shortage is a journey. While companies often look outwards for technical solutions, the key component to successfully developing a broader data-literate workforce comes from within.
    Delivering the decision intelligence required to deliver split-second business insights in real-time requires employees who can competently work with data. These workers don’t need advanced coding skills but instead are often the in-department experts. Knowledge workers in the line of business are an often-untapped resource. With hard-won domain expertise and the ability to effectively combine this knowledge with code-friendly and/or code-free self-service technology, they can easily address their data problems creatively. Whether businesses have data on-premises, in the cloud, or somewhere in between, the combined approach of accessible self-service data platforms and data-literate knowledge workers can make data-literate workforces a reality.
    Data literacy and technology
    It’s been proven that we are not only operating in the greatest period of data generation in history but also in a remarkably disrupted global economic landscape. While this data surge provides new opportunities for delivering decision intelligence at scale, many businesses struggle to deliver the insights they need at the required speed and scale. Research completed by Statista proves this, as it showed that just 2% of the data produced and consumed in 2020 was saved – and retained – into 2021. This presents a huge opportunity for organizations across the world to train and upskill their current workforce in data literacy so they can understand, interpret, and apply data-driven insights to decision-making.
    Data literacy and the ability to harness analytics effectively are key to delivering value from data. Data literacy is also a crucial tool when it comes to developing the next generation of data science talent. It can make a huge difference in how data is interpreted or how AI algorithms are trained. But technology alone cannot solve what is a very human problem. Technology is only ever a facilitator of the human expertise behind it. The analytics skills gap won’t be resolved by teaching more people coding or buying more technology. Instead, business leaders need to focus on democratized analytics – the enablement of anyone in an organization to work with and deliver value from data.
    Upskilling is a continuous investment
    Developing data literacy and digital skills boils down to how business leaders engage these domain experts – allowing them to lean into analytic opportunities, discover new use cases, and deliver specific end results through a continuous cycle of improvement. Any company aiming to tackle its data skills shortage must focus on the journey: utilizing, upskilling, and enabling the knowledge workers they already employ to support existing data science teams. Domain experts understand the nitty-gritty of the business but might lack the technical knowledge to make data-based decisions. Upskilling this set of employees will levitate the business growth. They already possess the skills to make impactful business decisions; reskilling them with powerful analytical knowledge will provide them with the ability to back these decisions with data insights.
    As the need for data intelligence grows, industries must look at how they fulfill their data and analytics needs. The benefits of improving data literacy are plentiful; it helps businesses earn employee loyalty. It helps employees grow their careers as individuals by learning more efficient ways to use data; it helps businesses earn employee loyalty, as well as create a data-intelligent workforce capable of efficient decision-making. In this age of unprecedented data creation, the untapped potential of a data-driven workforce without a data science qualification is yet to be seen, but the possibilities are endless. Yet the upskilling and reskilling of all employees – from IT to sales, accounting, and marketing– in data literacy needs to be a continuous investment. Businesses that understand this will lead the charge by creating a culture of data literacy where anyone can leverage data for strategic decision-making without relying on skilled data workers. Those who fail to take these steps will quickly fall behind the competition.
    By Libby Duane Adams, Cofounder and Chief Advocacy Officer at Alteryx.
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    5 Ways to Encourage Mental Health Transparency in the Workplace

    This year 35 percent of UK employees said they called in sick due to poor mental health but gave another reason*. While this is a significant percentage, it is lower than the findings from Nuffield Health’s 2022 report, with the percentage previously being 39 percent.
    This is especially significant given that Nuffield Health’s 2023, ‘Healthier Nation Index’, also revealed that over 1 in 4 people (29%) now feel comfortable enough to disclose to their employer if they need time off due to poor mental health*. These latest findings suggest a positive shift in how employees are communicating with their workplaces about their emotional wellbeing.
    Whilst this still indicates that stigma remains a barrier for people talking about their Mental Health at work, it is a promising sign that people are beginning to speak out when they need more rest, emotional support, and time away from their desks.
    These findings are especially pertinent during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response, particularly in these current times of uncertainty. It’s essential to become aware of when we may need additional support with emotions such as anxiety so that it does not negatively impact our lives.
    I offer advice on how employers can play their part in creating a connected and transparent workplace, which prioritizes both physical and mental wellbeing:
    1. Notice when anxiety takes over.
    In the past year, 48 percent said their work had negatively impacted** their physical/mental health. Hence, it’s imperative companies are equipped to recognize signs of mental distress, like anxiety, in others.
    The symptoms of anxiety can be seen in various ways. Physical signs include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness. You might notice heightened emotions in the workplace, such as irritability or tearfulness.
    Employees experiencing anxiety may find it hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They may cancel annual leave last-minute – claiming they have too much on, to take holiday – work from home late at night or insist on coming into work when unwell.
    However, spending too much time at work is counter-productive, as it can result in us overlooking our physical and mental health. According to this year’s findings, 59 percent of Nuffield Health respondents said they were also less productive at work* when their mental health was poor.
    Just five minutes of conversation from employers reaching out to employees presenting with signs of anxiety or distress can have a positive impact.  This could be as simple as asking, ‘Are you OK?’ or offering more regular meetings to catch up on how they feel about their workloads.
    2. Keep talking.
    It is encouraging that more employees feel comfortable sharing with their employers when they are having problems with their mental health. However, 18 percent of us will still go to work one or two times a year when our mental health is poor, and 19 percent will go to work more than ten times a year when experiencing poor mental health.
    It’s good for managers to try and understand why individuals come to work despite experiencing reduced mental wellbeing.  The more we know about the actions of our teams, the more support we can put in place to help them and reduce behaviors like presenteeism.
    Aim to spend at least five minutes with employees each week, practicing ‘active listening’ – a skill that requires a genuine understanding and reflection of what’s being said and providing a considered response, especially for those experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
    Active listening means listening attentively to what’s being said and showing understanding by paraphrasing and asking open questions to demonstrate your understanding.
    Employers may also consider offering Emotional Literacy Training to staff – equipping them with the skills needed to recognize signs of distress in others and themselves and the confidence to approach them. This way, they can nurture a workforce capable of identifying and tackling symptoms of anxiety in both themselves and others.
    3. #Find5
    Our 2023 study revealed 38 percent of people in the last 12 months had dedicated no time to supporting their mental health, which includes everyday self-care, activities like meditation, or speaking to a medical professional.
    This Mental Health Awareness Week, Nuffield Health is extending its ‘Find 5’ campaign to encourage individuals to ‘find 5 with 5’ – spending five extra minutes a day focusing on their physical and mental wellbeing for body and mind.
    In the same way, employers can play a huge role in creating an environment where employees feel a sense of connection and belonging by promoting campaigns that foster connectivity, team building and reduce stress.
    Our study shows individuals are becoming more aware of the benefits of exercise on overall wellbeing, with 27 percent saying that exercise lifts their mood and helps them feel less anxious or depressed.
    Encouraging employees to #find5 throughout the working day could also be as simple as promoting regular exercise in morning meetings or creating ideas to be distributed around the office or over email.
    In just five minutes, managers can also arrange, or raise awareness of, physical health screenings available in the office to uncover any underlying issues among employees.
    4. Be open about formal support.
    While meaningful social interaction plays a crucial role in reducing feelings of anxiety, professional support can also be invaluable. This may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that offer direct and confidential access to a mental health expert.
    Offering these services can help employees to understand and address feelings of anxiety using techniques such as challenging negative thoughts.
    It only takes five minutes to signpost employees towards the support on offer, along with guidance and encouragement on how to access the help available. This may be via email to employees, an office huddle, or a virtual ‘wellbeing hub’.
    We want mental health transparency to keep increasing beyond the 4 percent we have seen within the past year and openly communicating the options available shows employees that conversations about mental health are both welcomed and expected.
    5. Allow individuals to pick what’s best for them.
    Finally, it’s important to remember that no single intervention works for everyone. The key to supporting the workforce is flexibility.
    Employers should be flexible with letting staff choose five minutes of self-care each day, whether simply stretching at their desk, going for a brisk five-minute walk between meetings, or finding five minutes to do a short, guided meditation or breathing exercises.
    Similarly, employers need to be flexible in how their teams choose to communicate with them. Encourage individuals to use a communication style that works best for them – whether it’s an in-person meeting or a phone call – this will make it easier for people to come forward and share their experiences.
    More flexibility means workplaces can cater to the individual and allow everyone to thrive and overcome feelings of anxiety.
    By Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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    Advice for Achieving Your Career Goals (and Why It’s Often Wrong)

    If you read any work-related blog or website, you will likely find numerous articles offering advice on how to successfully achieve your career goals. After a while, much of the advice starts to sound the same because, well, much of it is the same. As long as you have the tenacity of a used car salesman, the positivity of Tony Robbins, and unlimited time and resources, the world is yours.
    In reality, careers are as unique as the individuals to whom they belong, which is why career advice is never “one size fits all.” Though clearly well-intentioned, life throws curve balls, and the advice that should be easily followed may come at the wrong time, may not be applicable to the reader, or may only include half the story.
    Let’s look at a few pieces of standard career advice, then examine their counterpoints that just might render them invalid.
    Don’t Procrastinate
    What’s standing between you and the career of your dreams? Only your willingness to pursue it! There’s no time like the present. Start by listing your goals, then work toward them each day. Don’t have time? Wake up a half-hour earlier. Stay up a half hour later. Make time. Then evaluate your progress at the end of each week. We make our own career opportunities. Don’t wait until tomorrow to make yours.
    Counterpoint: Everyone’s situation is different. Some thrive on minimal sleep, while others require a full eight hours to function. Some have plenty of free time, while others have family and personal responsibilities that require round-the-clock attention. Some attend college right out of high school, while others struggle to complete one class while working full-time. There are a number of reasons why now may not be the ideal time to pursue a new career, even if you want to. Consider your options, as well as your current situation and responsibilities. If pursuing the goals that a new career requires will make your life a living hell, it may be best to postpone it until you have more time to invest without detracting from your quality of life.
    Never Give Up
    Success doesn’t come overnight. Often, it takes years to achieve your goals. But this is no reason to get discouraged. You have to keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t expect too much too soon. Just keep pushing. Good things come to those who wait, and when you finally achieve your goals, success will be that much sweeter.
    Counterpoint: Not every goal is achievable, regardless of what motivational posters and self-help books would like you to believe. To achieve big goals, you must first create a plan consisting of small, achievable goals. If months or years go by and you still haven’t made any progress on even the smallest goals, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your larger goals, assess whether they’re realistic, and choose ones that are more aligned with your skills and abilities. There’s a difference between giving up and readjusting your sights, and sometimes the latter is necessary to achieve success.
    Don’t Fear Change
    You should never get too comfortable in your current role. If you do, it’s time to make a change. Comfort leads to complacency, and complacency is the enemy of progress. Don’t be afraid to change jobs, change companies, start a new business, or take a leap of faith. If these things scare you, you’re closing yourself off to new opportunities and ideas. In order to win big, you must bet big, and without risk, there can be no reward.
    Counterpoint: Sometimes, there’s a reason to avoid change. While it’s true that achieving great success often comes with risk, stories of failure and bankruptcy aren’t the ones people remember fondly. Major changes involving your career should be weighed carefully, taking into consideration how they will affect your finances, benefits, and job security if they don’t work out the way you hope. Ever since the Great Resignation normalized quitting and job hopping, serial optimists and armchair quarterbacks love to advocate for frequent change in pursuit of career goals. But just ask the decision makers behind New Coke and JCPenney’s coupon fiasco – sometimes the best change is no change.
    Avoid Perfection
    If you strive for perfection, don’t. You’ll never achieve it, and always trying to be perfect will cause you to second-guess yourself, miss deadlines, and ultimately prevent you from creating your best work. After all, you learn just as much from your mistakes as you do from your successes, and if you never allow yourself to make any, it prevents progress. Don’t be afraid to fail, then make the necessary corrections next time.
    Counterpoint: Though perfection may be unattainable, readiness and preparation are of paramount importance. Failing to prepare thoroughly could result in mistakes that damage your credibility and make you look unprofessional. This applies to work projects, presentations, resumes, job applications, or anything else that may affect your career or professional reputation. Remember, software isn’t useful if it’s full of bugs, authors aren’t respected if their writing is full of typos, and planes aren’t flightworthy if their designers and mechanics aren’t, well, perfectionists.
    There are two types of career advice. The dos and don’ts of job searching are universal. Customize your resume for each position, research the company before interviewing, network with others in your industry, etc. But when it comes to achieving career goals, advice often falls into a gray area. Why? Because everyone’s goals are different, and those with similar goals have different backgrounds and experiences. This is why it’s important to distinguish between the advice that is and isn’t applicable to your goals and personal situation. You can still learn valuable lessons even from the advice that doesn’t apply. However, every point has a counterpoint, and those whose goals intersect with these lessons will find the most success.
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