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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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    Nudging the Way to Better Employee Wellbeing and Productivity

    As organizations face the prospect of offices reopening and start planning for the adoption of a hybrid (remote/ in-office) work environment, Richard Gregory, Senior Director at Avanade considers how ‘Nudge’ theory can empower employees to be the best they can be.
    For some time, organizations have known that they have needed to be more data-led and insights-driven, however, the biggest challenge is how to turn that into actions that will help move forward an organization at the pace and scale that it wants to operate at.
    Satya Nadella famously said last year, “We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” But many businesses were slow to change. As Covid-19 lockdowns were enforced across the globe and remote working took over, productivity took a dip as employees got to grips with a new way of working.
    It is here that Nudge theory can really help. Humans are inherently known to be averse to change, but through combining data and AI with behavioral science, organizations have the ability to ‘nudge’ employees to adopt certain practices that can help them achieve their goals faster.
    You cannot assume employees will embrace a hybrid environment
    We learned from the last year that it took around nine months for some employees to adapt to full-time remote working and a lot of people are still not fully productive in this environment. As such, we cannot assume that as the outlook remains positive, employees will be comfortable transitioning back to the office or to a hybrid way of working. What organizations need to realize is that unless you teach people how to work in a new environment and help them change their working practices to suit, many will never regain the same level of productivity. This is where Nudge theory becomes so critical because it is about helping employees subtly change their behavior. We don’t want people to go back into the office to collaborate like they always have done, organisations have a responsibility to take their employees on a journey of adapting to a new way of working.
    By combining a Nudge theory platform with tools that are used day-to-day, like Microsoft Outlook, Viva, and Teams, employees will not feel pressured and their wellbeing will be maintained. In the same way, a smartwatch encourages users to stand up after a period of inactivity – employees can benefit from fewer distractions and get personalized ‘nudges’ at the right moments, encouraging them to make small changes that can help improve their working behavior in the long term. Simple examples include automatic prompts to not send emails out of a person’s office hours, or booking focus time in employee’s calendars alerts to encourage more breaks, or booking time off for learning or exercise, known to help decrease stress levels. Nudge theory can help foster a more positive work culture for a global remote workforce and we, at Avanade, are already seeing improved employee productivity and resilience.
    Nudge theory combined with smart-space technology can boost innovation
    One of the noticeable impacts of the past year was that innovation was being impaired through the lack of those water-cooler moments with people outside of a team that sparks new ideas and thinking. While people are hoping to eventually return to the office, in many cases this will be a phased approach and those serendipitous meetings in the kitchen may still not return as many companies adopt a hybrid working environment with employees only in the office a few days a week or when there is a specific need. Without the knowledge of when people may be in office, colleagues still may not see each other for weeks or months. Nudge theory can, once again, help with this. The Nudge Platform can alert when work connections are in the office at the same time, also if people are scheduled to meet virtually but all are physically in the office, the Nudge Platform can automatically book an appropriate-sized meeting room. Going forward, we expect to see new office campuses and designs being created to encourage people to work better in this hybrid environment with Nudge theory incorporated.
    This is not about micro-managing employees
    However, a big challenge is to ensure that this technology is not used to ‘spy’ on employees. In the case of Avanade’s Nudge Theory Platform, the ethics behind the use of behavioral science has been thought about from the start, whether that be around data privacy or the approach taken to determine which behavioral traits to encourage. We passionately believe employees want to be the best they can be. Nudges are about removing the noise, reinforcing the right behaviors, and ultimately giving employees reminders at the right time and in the context of their work – without it becoming a “nag” platform. Ultimately this comes back to the values of the organization and the technology being used in the right way, for the right purpose, and with the right intent, which shouldn’t be a concern for leading organizations.
    Nudge Theory-based solutions have the potential to transform the behaviors across a whole organization. From improving sales capability, resilience, or even improving leadership or manager effectiveness post-training. Each employee is unique, and by utilizing the power of AI these solutions can be hyper-personalized to help every individual be the best they can be.
    By Richard Gregory, Senior Director at Avanade.
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    When Is It Okay to Quit a Job on the First Day?

    For new employees, the first day of work is always full of surprises. Unless you’re a “boomerang” who has worked for the company in the past, it’s impossible to know what to expect from a new role and employer. Unfortunately, some may find there are more bad surprises than good when starting a new job. Those who feel pressured to accept an offer due to prolonged unemployment or financial need could find their rush to reenter the workforce results in accepting a job that is less than ideal and leaves them feeling regretful or overwhelmed. For others who take their time and do their due diligence, sometimes it’s just obvious things won’t work out right from the start.
    Most employees know that under normal circumstances, quitting a job during or after the first day of work is a huge career misstep. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an unsuccessful hire can cost an employer up to 30 percent of the employee’s salary, not to mention the time required to restart the recruiting process from scratch. In addition, employees who decide to quit on their first day appear unreliable, indifferent to employers’ needs, and unconcerned about burning bridges in their career.
    However, there are always exceptions, and though it should be a last resort and worst-case scenario, there are times when leaving after one day on the job is a better decision than sticking it out. Let’s look at a few reasons why an employee’s first day should also be the last.
    In a perfect world, employers should lead by example, particularly when onboarding new hires. Unfortunately, some employers prioritize high profits over high morals. This could be due to widespread corruption in the company, or simply one rogue manager with misplaced priorities. Either way, if employees are asked to do something illegal or dishonest on their first day, it’s likely just the tip of the iceberg, and the chances of things improving and leading to a long and successful career with the organization are slim. Employees should never be asked to compromise their ethics by an employer, and any future employers that question their reason for leaving should understand and respect their integrity for doing so.
    False Advertising
    It’s understandable that a new job might include a few duties that the employee wasn’t expecting, just as responsibilities may be added as the employee adjusts and the role grows. However, for some jobs that may be unpleasant, difficult to fill or may experience high turnover, employers could be inclined to advertise the role as something it’s not in order to boost candidate response or avoid paying an appropriate salary. Employees who fall victim to this “bait and switch” should not feel obligated to remain in a role that was misrepresented, and should be wary of working for an employer that relies on dishonest recruiting practices to fill open positions.
    Money Issues
    Just as an employer may be tempted to misrepresent job responsibilities in order to make the recruiting process a little easier, so too might they be inclined to misrepresent a job’s salary. By reducing the salary, an employer may hope to get more for less by taking advantage of new hires who can’t afford to restart their job search. Another tactic is to charge new employees for training. While some states allow employers to require workers to pay for training, job scammers posing as legitimate businesses may charge unsuspecting new hires for training for jobs that don’t actually exist, or simply to make money off of training fees. Employees who are asked to pay for training immediately when starting a job should exercise extreme caution.
    Toxic Environment
    The most obvious reason to leave a job without looking back is if the work environment is so toxic it poses a threat to employees’ mental or physical health. Usually, the effects of working in a toxic environment build up over time until eventually, employees feel they can no longer take it and begin a new job search. In the case that the company’s toxic culture is evident on the first day, employees should trust their instincts and leave. Toxic work environments often get worse before they get better, and those that get better may take years. Employees’ time is much better spent looking for a job where they will be truly happy than hoping one that makes them miserable will improve.
    Most employees know that when starting a new job, they should approach it with a sense of commitment and not just as a trial to determine whether it’s worth staying. However, even those who do everything right in their job search may land in a role that’s not a good fit, and leaving immediately is the best option. Those employees should take comfort in knowing that it’s not necessary to list a position on their resume that they only worked for one day, and leaving after several months would be much more difficult to explain to future employers. Everyone is entitled to an occasional misstep in their career path. As long as it doesn’t become a pattern, it’s better to remain a job seeker for a few weeks or months than to remain an unhappy employee for years.
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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 to Support Staff’s Mental Health When Working from Home

    Since the announcement on the 22nd February 2021 that lockdown restrictions will be easing, there has been a 466.67% increase in Google searches for “returning to office”.
    Over the last year, the UK has had to adapt to a new way of working, especially with mental health affecting so many people working from home. A study done by Harvey Nash shows that 1 in 3 people reported that their mental health has deteriorated, while 26 percent of UK tech professionals have said that they are experiencing even higher levels of stress than they did before the pandemic.
    Researcher at the Institution of Organisational Safety and Health (IOSH) Kirsty Iliffe and leading commercial space provider, Bruntwood Works, have provided advice and some lessons learned from the past lockdowns when it comes to supporting employees mental health.
    Kirsty says; “The ongoing stress of the pandemic could lead to both physical and psychological damage and even depression and anxiety,” she goes on to add; As employers, organizations have a duty of care to help their employees and in many countries, they have a legal obligation to do so.”
    “It’s important that organizations are aware of the potential mental ill-health implications and ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in supporting their teams.”
    1 – Have regular, honest one-to-ones
    Lockdown has changed the way we schedule our days. Previously, a manager’s office door was always open. Now, our communication has dwindled as the lockdowns go on, and we get used to working from home.
    Effective one-to-ones under the new measures look fundamentally different; they should be open, honest conversations about how we feel, what we’re worried about, and — most importantly — what’s helping us through it.
    “Keep in regular contact with remote workers,” says Kirsty. “This will help to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s a good way to ensure that workers are well and that they understand any information and instructions presented to them.”
    During these conversations, you should let your staff set the agenda. This is the time for managers to listen more than anything else. Establishing a safe space where employees feel heard, can be a lifeline for those who are struggling.
    2 – Bring the office perks home with you
    Back in the office, business owners spent a lot of time understanding how their employees’ environment affected their productivity, meaning they were creating office perks that would encourage a friendly and productive environment, but when we entered lockdown this wasn’t an option anymore.
    Companies should continue to boost staff morale by finding ways to continue those perks outside of the office.
    Here are some of the most common office perks — and how you can replicate them remotely:

    Gym memberships — If the gyms are closed run a virtual fitness club instead. Share your results using a smartphone app and incentivize the winner with prizes like an afternoon off or an Amazon voucher.
    Free food — Used to getting free snacks or meals at the office? Send your staff vouchers to order themselves a tasty lunch a couple of times a month.
    Great internet — Most modern offices have fast internet speeds to cope with staff being logged on eight hours a day, but it’s tricky to replicate that at home. Invest in some signal boosters for staff who are having trouble with their home internet connection.
    Office games — Missing the foosball table in the office? Luckily, there’s a ton of virtual games you can challenge teammates to instead. You can play Pictionary, Scrabble, and even chess online. Start a leaderboard to see who’s doing best on your team!

    3 – Share some good news
    When everyone was first put into lockdown, we were obsessively connected to the news cycle, which was mainly negative news being fed to us. Continually being exposed to negative statistics greatly impacted the outlooks and moods of workers. To combat this, companies should share the good news as regularly as possible.
    Jo Gallagher, People Business Partner at Bruntwood Works says the company has made practical efforts to share more good news. “Every day, right across the business we’re seeing, hearing, and reading some great colleagues’ stories on our staff conversation platform, Universe. We’ve welcomed a few new Bruntwood Works babies, we’ve embraced new learning opportunities and we’ve seen how our customers are supporting the fight against COVID-19.”
    When reading through the press it may not be easy to come across positive news, as a business you can share stories of staff achievements and acts of kindness. Doing so will help lift moods and it may also help to prevent their mental health from deteriorating.
    4 – Keep your (virtual) door open
    When we were in an office environment, employees often mixed with different teams and senior team members, whether that was whilst making a coffee or having lunch.
    Since we are working remotely that just isn’t possible anymore. Setting up measures that bridge the gap between the teams and senior members is important to make sure those relationships are still present.
    “Communicate the organizational plan,” advises Kirsty: “be open and honest with all employees. Explain what the organization is doing to help protect its employees, their families and friends, and the organization itself.”
    Opening these channels of communication helps your team feel more closely connected with what the business is doing. It gives them a chance to have their say during a time when very little seems to be in their control.
    One of the best ways to do this is to have virtual ‘open door’ times for senior staff. During these sessions — perhaps a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon — company directors should keep their calendars free and be prepared to chat with any staff members who want to talk. It could be about the business’s performance, staff concerns, or even new ideas for how the team can move forward.
    5 – Don’t give up on social events
    Social events were simple before the lockdown. Teams would go out for a few drinks or maybe a fun activity and everyone would have a chance to get to know each other a little better.
    As we can not attend any social events, it becomes easy for companies to stop hosting and creating staff socials. Leaders need to look for new options available to them.
    Schedule regular social events with your team. Anything that lets you keep in touch without the conversation centering around work will help support your team’s mental health. Here are some virtual socializing ideas your business can try:

    Virtual coffee sessions
    Zoom evening drinks
    Friday afternoon quizzes
    A TV and film recommendations group
    30-day music challenges
    Virtual book clubs.

    One step at a time
    “People have personal triggers; some are better to carry on working while others simply need some downtime. There is also the social stigma that many feel around talking about their struggles.
    Kirsty from IOSH highlights that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to maintaining your team’s mental health because everyone is different.
    This being the case, businesses need to be in tune with their staff on an individual level. The only way to do that? Take a genuine interest in each and every member of your team.
    “Some decisions can only be made by the individual, such as whether to go off sick or to continue working.”
    “Make sure you’re investing in those relationships, regardless of the new obstacles in the way. That needs to be the number one priority of any company right now,” says Jo Gallagher from Bruntwood Works. “If you really care about how your staff is coping, finding the right support measures for them will quickly follow.”
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    Want to Be More Productive at Work? Pop Music is the Answer

    The nation’s working practices have changed dramatically in the last year, with many employees now working from home on a semi-permanent basis, and for those who can’t, they’re facing new working conditions with PPE becoming compulsory.
    Given the circumstances, it is imperative to keep your workforce as motivated as possible and be sympathetic to the changing situation. There are many factors that come into play when creating the optimum atmosphere for a productive workday, whether it is at home or at the office, with music being a key part of this.
    Sodexo Engage surveyed 2000 employees in the UK to discover the most recommended genre of music they listen to in order to stay productive. With its upbeat and rhythmic tones, pop music topped the charts closely followed by pumped-up rock and beat-driven dance.
    Table 1: The top ten most recommended music genres for productivity


    % listening to this genre











    Hip Hop










    Surprisingly, although historically discussed as a prime genre to improve focus, classical music just made the top 5. However, out of the most recommended artists, Mozart made the top three with the show-stopping Figaro’s Wedding being mentioned as a must-listen.

    Recommendations for every mood
    When it comes to recommended artists there is something for every mood. If your team is looking for some motivational morale-boosting goodness then the British rock band Queen, who charted in first, has the goods. Their motivational beats like ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ were just some of the hits recommended by respondents. Equally, if they’re in need of some calm and chilled out vibes, then second place Ed Sheeran is perfect with ‘Thinking Out Loud’.
    Pop music is the most productive genre no matter what the task
    The task you are doing very much dictates the type of music that is a benefit to you. Upbeat pop music is the most popular by task breakdown across the board including writing (36%), reading (18%), manual labor (34%), and administrative work (32%), however, we do see other genres creep into the mix as well. Work that requires a more focused mind, such as reading and writing, see the soothing sounds of classical music feature. Classical often offers a calm and light feel with instrumental tones, in fact, 38% of respondents prefer to listen to instrumental music when trying to be productive.
    Engineers are the most passionate professionals

    Not all music genres are favorites for everyone and when working in a communal setting, we often have to listen to the same tunes. Engineers are the most passionate profession with 38% of respondents admitting to arguing with colleagues over what to listen to whilst on the job. Sales reps (33%), bank workers (30%), and tradespeople (29%) also made the top five most passionate professions.
    Keeping remote workers motivated by music
    Music can offer your employees an outlet for release and an opportunity to get pumped up for the day or a big project. It’s very important to offer suggestions to your employees, on how they can best balance their workload and keep up their motivation, particularly whilst working from home. In fact, 56% of respondents said music makes them feel less lonely when working from home and 61% also said it helps boost their morale.
    Using music to help boost productivity certainly has its benefits, and Sodexo Engage has used its insights to create a “Productivity Playlist” for you to share with your employees or use yourself.
    Commenting on the research, Emma Yearwood, Director of HR at Sodexo Engage says:

    During this time it’s so important to help employees feel motivated, positive, and productive in their role. With music being a strong commonality in the workplace across the world, some professionals have missed out on this as we are forced to work from home during lockdown.
    Between pop and rock music, it was a close call, but with pop being a style of music that resonates with different professions, the results prove just how popular it is in the workplace.
    Given the variety of music artists that made the top ten recommendations, such as Queen, Ed Sheeran, Abba, Oasis and Coldplay, it goes to show that getting your working surroundings right is so important in ensuring your employees can work happily and feel positive about the task they’re undertaking.

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    Working from Home: One Year in Review

    When recruiting, if you’re not adapting to working trends along with the nation, someone else will. So how is the working world settling into its new routine after a year of lockdowns and restrictions?
    Whilst many think people prefer working from home, you’ll actually find there are mixed opinions. Some like ditching the commute and having flexibility, others miss face-to-face interaction and getting out of the house.
    Office design experts, Diamond Interiors, have reviewed a chaotic working year to see how the nation has adapted and predicts what’s next for the working world.
    What has working from home changed for good?
    Flexibility certainly sticks out as a big winner. Without a doubt, people are appreciating the ability to spend more time at home, especially those with children. Businessman and founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson has been pushing CEOs to adopt more flexible working models even before the pandemic:
    “I’m a big believer that with the technology we have today, balancing family and business should be easier, not harder. Both partners should be able to work, realize their potential and raise a family; and flexible working enables people … to do this.”
    Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, sees “the future as being more flexible” and realizes the importance of cutting down commuting for his staff:
    “It’s always made me wonder when I see people commuting two hours and away from their family and friends on a Friday, you realize they can’t have plans… So I think we could do better.”
    Not only does working from home cut out commute times, but it can also cut down costs considerably. With travel costs, petrol, transport and then the daily or weekly lunchtime dining – it all adds up. At home, you’re not tempted by office lunch takeaways, local eateries, or having to spend money on actually getting to and from work.
    However, money transfers to increased electricity, heating, and internet usage. But, how does it compare?
    If you look at a worker who typically drives into a city every workday – such as Bolton to Manchester – that’s around 26 miles of driving every day (13 miles there and back). You’re looking at around £50 in unleaded fuel being saved a month by working from home. For a train commuter traveling from Bolton to Manchester, who uses a monthly season ticket, that’s around £105 saved or £120 without using a monthly season ticket.
    But, you’re probably spending that back on electricity and gas over the month by staying in more. As of April 2019, the average dual fuel variable tariff was estimated at £104.50 a month. This is before the pandemic and government-mandated lockdowns. Now that more people are working from home, with more hours using electricity for work on computers, homebrews, daily microwave pings, lights and so on, that figure is probably rising by at least 50%, if not doubling – especially during those winter months and cold spells.
    How has homeworking affected productivity?
    Gabriele Musella, CEO, and Cofounder of Coinrule, notes a positive, saying working from home “has increased my productivity level. I can stretch out and schedule my work conveniently and work in a more relaxed environment.”
    Others, however, have noticed the strain on productivity homeworking brings, like Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of Diamond Interiors: “We’ve seen employers struggle and noticed an impact. The office environment brings teams together and is where productivity thrives. That spark fades out when staff are distanced from each other; sadly business can suffer.”
    Pichai (Google’s CEO), echoes this by valuing the office for face-to-face interaction and “being together… when you have to solve hard problems and create something new.” He wants to “create more flexibility and more hybrid models” since the company’s internal survey interestingly found quite a split in the favoring of working remotely and in the office.
    Are we entering a new hybrid-working age?
    Salesforce – a cloud-based SaaS company – supports a hybrid work model, claiming “the 9-to-5 workday is dead.” But, they also understand the difficulties of working from home, “especially for those with families at home or for those who are feeling isolated.”
    Big-tech companies are also following suit with Twitter announcing early on that staff can work from home “forever.” However, employees can work in the office when it’s safe to do so.
    With isolation impacting mental health, increased office FOMO, and balancing out costs, it seems the work-from-home shift will be a sliding one, rather than a complete switch. People are enjoying more flexibility at home, but want the best of both worlds. Only time will tell what the future of the working world will look like.
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    How Employee Benefits Will Change Post-Flexible Working

    Before the pandemic, flexible working was seen as the ultimate benefit. Whether it was the option to work remotely or to take advantage of a company’s flexi-hours policy, it was lauded as a fantastic perk for any role. Flexibility was offered to many, but not all workers (46% of UK workers weren’t offered any flexible working options in 2018), making it all the more desirable to those who were living without it. However, due to the dramatic shift we’ve seen in the past 12 months, this type of flexibility seems is undoubtedly here to stay. If it’s the norm, not the exception, what benefits should employers look at offering instead?
    We recently hosted a webinar with four HR experts: Founder and Managing Principal at IA, Mark Stelzner; Group HR Director at Reward Gateway, Robert Hicks; Founder of Play Consulting, Marcus Thornley; and Saskia Donald, an HR professional with over 20 years’ experience. They discussed the need for employers to shift their employee benefits to better reflect individuals’ priorities. Find the key benefits below.
    Wellbeing will remain a huge player in the benefits game moving forward and, as Robert explained, “firms [who] do wellbeing well will see talent stay, and those who don’t will struggle”. Due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, employees are now more in tune with their personal wellbeing and will look to their employer to help them cope. It’s important your clients view wellbeing holistically, taking into account mental, physical, financial, and social wellbeing.
    In terms of mental wellbeing, companies looking to improve their offering can implement many different solutions, including training a mental health first aider, creating online resources, organizing structured training sessions, or even simply offering a subscription to a meditation app.
    However, it’s not enough to simply have these resources available – clients should also lead by example when it comes to looking after their employees’ mental health. Mark described a recent moment where he recognized his employees needed him to lead the way during a period of acute stress: “I immediately put a message out to my entire team [to]… cancel every meeting if you need to and take care of yourself and your family.” Your clients should understand their employees will need support in different ways at different times; by allowing them space to pause and reset, they will prove they care about their workers’ mental wellbeing.
    It’s essential to remember the other forms of wellbeing as well. For example, if your client is looking to promote physical wellbeing, they could implement a cycle-to-work scheme or hire a trainer to deliver virtual yoga/Pilates/meditation sessions. Similarly, by taking into account financial stressors and doing their part to alleviate them, employers could potentially offer a one-off stipend to help workers set up their home workspace, courses, and education around budgeting/pension funds, or access to a financial advisor.
    There are a myriad of different options for those looking to introduce these benefits – the important thing to get right is recognizing the need to do so. Simply put, according to Robert, workers will ask their employers, “what are you doing to help me with my job, be effective and help me cope with all of my challenges?”
    Learning and development (L&D)
    Throughout the past 12 months, many of us have turned to online courses to develop skills or learn something new. According to Marcus, he’s seen “a lot of uptake in our business around learning… [it’s] never been [in] higher demand as it has been through lockdown”. There are a number of ways employers can encourage their staff to learn. Some of the better examples include allocating an annual amount for a person’s L+D and allow them to use it as they see fit; making online training documents available via a remote HR platform; or identifying those in the business with strong skills in a particular area and asking them to lead a presentation or seminar. At Tiger, the latter has worked particularly well: consultants have presented to the wider business on a variety of topics, from Brexit regulations to the importance of personal brand.
    Remote benefits
    While it’s not surprising we’re seeing more benefits to help employees set up their home workspaces, this trend is here to stay. Many employers are now offering a stipend for workers to spend on better working equipment, but Marcus believes this benefit may evolve in the future to include “home utility grants – electricity, Wi-Fi, gas.” Not only will it appeal to those struggling financially due to the pandemic, but it will ensure workers feel truly looked after by their employer.
    Two months into 2021, the global pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our lives and work. As recruiters, our knowledge of this uncertain market has never been more essential. By remaining abreast of benefits changes, you’ll be in a better position to advise your clients and help them attract the best candidates moving forward.

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