Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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How to Get Employees Motivated After a Long Weekend

With the long weekend fast approaching, many managers worry that their employees will experience a “lull” in motivation, which may result in a drop in productivity. One of the great challenges with long weekends is not only are we coming back to a four-day work week, but “vacation mode” typically kicks in before the long weekend begins. By Wednesday afternoon you’ve probably noticed water cooler chatter about long weekend plans. And, you can expect an early, mass exodus on Friday afternoon. In anticipation of the lack of productivity and early departures many large companies let employees go at 2pm the Friday of a long weekend. The company appears to be providing a great perk, when in essence, they’re not losing anything. Once the long weekend is over, it’s time to get back to work and I have some great tips to get your employees motivated, revved up and back into “work mode”.

 

Ask your employees what they did

Instead of your employees walking around daydreaming about their weekend adventures, ask them what they did. Allow them some space to talk about and relive the events of the weekend so they can mentally move forward. Once they talk about it they can get it off their minds and get down to business.

Help them set tasks

Even your most dedicated employees may have some trouble getting back into work mode. Take some time in the morning to review any ongoing work and clearly define the steps required to move forward. Discuss anything new that’s come up and set goals for the week.

Invite your employees to a brainstorming session

Brainstorming sessions get the creative juices flowing again after a long weekend. And, employees feel that their ideas are heard and valued and that they’re an important part of the team. It’s a great way to motivate your employees.

Praise your employees

Positive reinforcement is a great motivator. Spread positivity around and you’ll see an increase in motivation and productivity. 

Lead by example

As a leader it’s important to set the example. Let your employees see that you’re refreshed, recharged and raring to go. They’ll feed off your energy and mirror your positive attitude.

Give your employees something to look forward to

Right after a long weekend is an opportune time to talk about great events to look forward to –company picnic, summer boat cruise, potluck lunch, softball or Frisbee league, volunteer day… this changes the focus from the past to the future.

 

Do you let your employees leave early before a long weekend? Have you noticed a lull in employee motivation after a long weekend in the past?


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Tips to Surviving the Holidays: Dealing with Holiday Stress in the Workplace

Holiday stress tipsThe holiday season is about “good tidings”, the pleasure of gift-giving, and spending time with loved ones. Given the stress involved for many to ensure a happy holiday, many employees are feeling the burden of managing their personal lives in addition to their job workload.

A recent study of over 700 full-time employees found that a large percentage indicated that the biggest stressor during the holidays is work, but that the stress changes. The concern becomes whether work obligations will affect their holiday celebrations and many also feel stress from not being able to take time off from their job to prepare for and enjoy the holidays.

Time and money are two other large factors in an increase in stress during this busy season. Is there enough time for shopping, party planning, and cooking, in addition to their workload? The pressure of buying gifts is also a significant stressor for those concerned about being able to pay the bills the following month.

This increased stress can lead to lowered output at work. One survey showed that over 40% of respondents in management roles reported that productivity noticeably decreases the week before the holiday. There are multiple ways you can help lower the stress during the holidays, including some of these tips:

  • Be flexible – It is likely many employees will request time off around the holidays, so if possible, allow for these days by asking staff in advance if time is needed, to allow for smooth functioning in the workplace .
  • Simplify – Minimizing the number of workplace obligations when there is an increase in external holiday get-togethers can reduce stress. A festive workplace party doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be enjoyable.
  • Emphasize value – Appreciation is particularly effective when given during this busy season to maintain performance levels at work.
  • Offer assistance – If employees are showing a lack of focus or irritability, have a chat to find ways to manage their workload.
  • Relieve deadline pressure – Hiring extra hands, even temporarily, can help to alleviate stress on your permanent staff.

Whether it’s stress from work, family or finances, aiming to improve stressful situations within the workplace can create a more relaxed atmosphere with higher levels of productivity.

What is your business doing to alleviate employee stress within the workplace this holiday season?


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PTSD and Your Workplace: Tips to Understanding and Supporting Your Employees

PTSD blogThis past week, we were asked once again to commemorate Remembrance Day, and the men and women we have lost in battle, as well as those who have returned to Canadian soil with not just physical but also mental wounds. The citizens of Paris, and the world at large (mainly through 24/7 media), are currently being impacted by the senseless terrorism of this past weekend to the point where people may be asking themselves: “is the world at war?”

Trauma can affect anyone, not just our brave soldiers, and the emotional scars can affect our personal and professional lives, deeply.

There are many difficult circumstances we all must cope with at some point in our lives, but some individuals will experience sudden or unexpected devastating events that can be psychologically impactful. When individuals with this kind of experience “re-live” the situation that caused fear and shock through: sleepless nights, nightmares and fear, loss of appetite, interest, concentration, and flashbacks among others – and these feelings persist in their daily lives long after the event – they may be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can be caused by a psychologically traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or serious injury to oneself or others. Often, the symptoms of PTSD can emerge even three months after the incident, and for some, a stressor can cause symptoms to surface years later. When symptoms are delayed, those with PTSD don’t often make the connection between the traumatic event and the feelings and behavioural symptoms.

These signs may first become apparent in the workplace as performance-related issues. There may be changes in behaviour that seem out of character, as well as social and interpersonal conflicts, resistance to authority, bullying, or emotional eruptions. Avoidance of certain activities (such as driving if involved in a car accident), sleep disruptions, difficulty concentrating, and being easily startled or irritated are some additional indicators of PTSD, and mental health issues such as depression or addictions may also be present.

Some occupations such as soldiers, firefighters, doctors, paramedics, police officers and nurses – namely first responders, have double the risk of experiencing PTSD, but the disorder can affect anyone. With about 8% of Canadians experiencing PTSD at some point in their lives, some of your employees could be suffering in silence, and that has a direct impact on their personal wellbeing, productivity, and on your organization.

People with PTSD may feel shame or guilt, and because of this, they may be hesitant to disclose. So how can you help your employees cope if they’re afraid to reach out? Ask your employee what would be helpful to him/her.

I’d like to share with you a number of tips to accommodate some of the more common issues that arise among sufferers of PTSD in the workplace:

  • Memory: provide employees with written instructions and meeting minutes, verbal prompts and reminders and encourage employees to use organizers and lists
  • Lack of concentration: reduce workplace distractions, increase natural lighting
  • Coping with stress: allow time off for counselling, assign a supervisor, manager, or mentor to answer employee questions. Encourage employees to walk away from frustrations and confrontations, allow frequent breaks
  • Working effectively with a supervisor: provide positive reinforcement, give clear expectations
  • Dealing with emotions: refer employees to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a safe haven to speak freely about PTSD
  • Panic attacks: allow employee to take a break and go somewhere s/he feels comfortable to use relaxation techniques or contact a support person. Identify and remove triggers (noises, smells, or visuals).

In what ways do you accommodate your employees? How are you raising awareness in the workplace of PTSD and resources that are available?


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Awareness of EAPs Can Significantly Increase Their Value

0 - blogIn the challenging busyness of our everyday life, workplace stresses and deadlines, caregiving to children and elderly parents, finances, and relationships, all can become an overwhelming experience. Remaining positive and still being able to offer your guidance at home to our loved ones and to our employees at work, can become a burden. Knowing where to turn for help is a large part of accessing help, but when our emotions are maxed, we don’t always remember what resources are available, their value to us, and how easily they can be accessed. This is exactly why EAP services are so essential for the wellbeing of your business and your employees to make it run effectively, and it underscores the importance of “spreading the word”.

As you may know, three of the biggest issues facing businesses today are employee retention, absenteeism, and loyalty. If your employees are struggling with personal issues and work issues, it only makes sense that they might be distracted from their work and, as a result, be less productive. It is often the case that these issues could sometimes be prevented, and utilizing an effective EAP can make your employees feel more supported, and give them the help and tools they need to improve their personal and professional lives to reduce these issues in the workplace.

Despite the fact that there are so many obvious benefits to having an EAP in your workplace, why are these programs still so underused or not even used at all? About 80% of Canadian employers have an EAP, but only 8% of employees actually make use of these services!

Why might your employees choose not to use your EAP, even though many of them would benefit from their services? I can think of four common responses:

  1. Our employees don’t think an EAP is entirely confidential.
  2. They don’t see EAPs as a preventative resource, just one to access in need.
  3. Our employees think their EAP only offers psychological support.
  4. They don’t even know it exists!

How can you encourage a change in your employees’ perceptions of using an EAP? How do you make your employees aware of what exactly an EAP is, and the benefits of using the services they provide? Well, I’d start by addressing the above four misconceptions:

  1. Access to your EAP is 100% confidential. As an organization, it’s important to communicate this to employees. An EAP cannot confirm nor deny an employee’s participation in the EAP without written consent from the employee(within legal limitations).
  2. Break the stigma in your organization! Reassure employees that no one is immune to experiencing personal issues on and off the job, and that seeking assistance before issues become unmanageable is beneficial to them personally and professionally.
  3. Reiterate to your employees that their EAP is so much more than counselling – it also provides coaching, legal, financial, nutritional services, and management support at no cost to them. .
  4. Make your EAP provider’s phone number available, and let your employees know that all they need to do is make the call 24/7.
    1. Ensure employees are aware of the full range of services available to them, using any and all communication channels. There is a direct correlation between the promotion of your EAP and the utilization of your EAP. Make EAP education a part of your employee onboarding and training process. Don’t let employee wellness and productivity suffer when help is readily available.

Education and communication are the best ways to encourage employee use of your EAP and overcome any stigma attached to it. As your employees start to understand that your EAP is a completely confidential service to help them deal with life’s challenges before they become too much to handle, awareness and acceptance will increase, and trust and comfort will be engendered. The use of your EAP will rise, in turn increasing employee wellness and productivity.

Are employees in your organization encouraged to reach out for help, even before issues become difficult to manage? What tools does your organization have in place that can be used to communicate EAP benefits? What other ways of communicating the EAP to employees can you suggest for an organization?


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Tips to Encourage Inclusion: How to Make Your Employees Feel At Home… At Work

InclusionFrom shootings at schools, to closing of borders in Europe, to crises in the Middle East, to political debates, to heated discussions on the wearing of niqabs, it has been some time since we have seen so much intolerance on a global scale.

Tolerance can be broadly understood as remaining open-minded and accepting of others’ differences in backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. This translates into a workplace where employees know they are treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and without discrimination or harassment.

A truly equitable and open organization ensures that its policies adhere to the legislation surrounding race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age and physical ability. Today, tolerance and inclusiveness are essential values for any business to encourage among its employees in order to ensure the long-term success of the organization.

Lack of tolerance in the workplace slows or prevents team and company progress, encourages unethical behaviour, and increases hostility between employees. Encouraging workplace tolerance is invaluable for the overall wellbeing of the organization, and I’d like to share the benefits of doing so with you:

  1. Open, honest communication
  2. Creativity stemming from the open exchange of ideas from across a broad range of backgrounds and expertise
  3. Respect and trust
  4. Teamwork, cooperation, and coordination
  5. Loyalty and satisfaction

 
Perhaps the most crucial business implication of increased workplace tolerance is the retention of highly committed and productive employees. As many businesses are learning, tolerance is tied to the bottom line of the organization. When employees feel included and valued, they develop a greater degree of loyalty to the business, and the work that they produce is of a higher quality.

By endeavouring to create a sense of inclusiveness in your company, hiring staff that reflects the diversity of your community is one way to start. All staff should attend mandatory training in “cultural sensitivity”, and maintain business with the same approach. Teams can arrange potlucks with cuisine from different staff members’ cultural backgrounds each month, or feature a staff member’s “story” in their internal newsletter to introduce them to the organization, , thereby creating a sense of welcome.

Ultimately, a company culture that is free from prejudice and encourages greater tolerance and inclusiveness, results in greater understanding and better working relationships between employees, higher employee satisfaction and productivity, and a more attractive and lucrative business.

What is your business doing to foster a culture of inclusion? Is your organization polarized? Could your business be doing more?


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5 Tips to Keeping the Glass Half-Full During Turbulent Times

ASP TuesdayHow do you maintain positivity in a world that can be seemingly negative?

Watching the news, I am inundated with a series of negative events after another. Just recently, China’s stock market crash is being felt throughout the world.

This challenge of maintaining the glass half-full attitude can even come from the simple transition of summer to the inevitable winter. It can come from adjusting from the slower more relaxed summer hours to the busier regular hours.

As a business owner and manager, the challenge is trying to keep our employees happy and positive as this has a huge impact on their ability to be productive. This can be particularly true if the job requires front line interaction with your customers.

In light of recent troubling news events, I’ve drawn up a list of 5 simple actions you can implement to encourage a positive workforce.

  1. Recharge the batteries

Low energy can be a barrier to maintaining a positive outlook. If you sense fatigue among your workforce, you may need to reenergize them. For example, giving staff the option to work from home one day a month, or the ability to leave early on Fridays of a long weekend, can be just what is needed to provide balance to your employees.

  1. Create a company team/club/activity

Company softball teams are a great way to boost health and morale within the organization. Softball teams are the most popular but it can just as easily be a hockey team, a bowling team, a book reading club, or any activity that involves group cooperation. The purpose of these activities is to create fun and also encourage employees to support each other by thinking positively (cheering). You may even want to consider running a team activity where you give back to the community like Habitat for Humanity.

  1. Praise and acknowledge

There is a level of uncertainty brought about by difficult economic times. For some employees it may cause uneasiness about job security, prospects, and career progression. Therefore, it is even more important that you assure your employees through recognition of their work. This can be done from a small scale through cards or treats to remind your staff that you appreciate their work, or even on a a bigger scale by implementing an employee recognition program (e.g. Employee of the Month).

  1. Hire a professional

Depending on your workplace environment and the situation you may want to consider reaching out to a professional to mediate. Look to your EAP services for motivational speakers, seminars, counselling programs, personal coaching, or even a nutritionist. Your employees will appreciate all the resources you can bring to them, particularly if they are feeling stressed.

  1. Last thing: It starts with you.

As a leader within your organization, employees look at you to set the tone. As a decision-maker you have the ability to influence the direction and culture of the organization. Therefore, as Gandhi famously said, “you need to be the change that you wish to see!”

What is your mindset? Is the glass half empty or half-full?


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Top 10 Reasons for an EAP – Insight from an EAP Expert Part 2

cutout-peopleFollowing up on my last blog, here are the balance of the top 10 reasons to consider having an effective Employee Assistance Program.

#6 Reduced Turnover

A high turnover of employees can be costly for any company. Effective EAPs reduce the turnover of employees by managing work related and personal stress. EAPs improve the working environment in terms of morale and company support ensuring employees are well looked after and less likely to leave their jobs. And it gives the company a recruitment advantage in your industry!

#7 Reduced Accidents at Work

It is easy to see how accidents can happen at work when you’re stressed. A person suffering from stress-related symptoms will often experience difficulty with concentration, mental focus and physical function. This can be a dangerous combination in any environment but especially in safety-sensitive positions. An effective EAP is equipped to prevent this from occurring or at least prevent it from reoccurring. EAPs look after the mental health and ability of your employees ensuring that they are able to function at the expected level.

#8 Resolution of Work Related Problems

External stress often results in a reduction in work place performance. Problems within the working environment lead to absenteeism, high turnover and low morale. Effective EAPs look after the  psychological health of employees developing strategies for coping with external stress as well as work related stress. An EAP will help employees develop the skills they need to cope with all types of work related stress. In turn this reduces the impact of work related stress as there is a quick resolution.

#9 Improved Work Performance

Companies employing the services of a professional EAP have not only experienced increases in productivity but also in quality of work. Work performance is greatly affected by stress and personal problems often escalate into personal problems. An effective EAP manages these problems and ensures employee issues are quickly resolved. This means fewer mistakes at work, high quality output and an overall increase in work place performance.

#10 Professional Services

Effective EAPs are extremely responsive and connect troubled employees to professional services. The great thing about an EAP is they are able to connect employees directly with these services and the first appointment will occur within a few days close to the employee’s home or place of work.  Telephonic and video counselling is also available if employees prefer.  Crisis situations like violence, suicide attempts and, child abuse are addressed on the spot at the time of the first call This means that your employees are getting the help they need, when they need it and where they need it!

In the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing some advice, tips and industry insights on employee mental health and wellness in your workplace.

How About You?
Do you have an EAP? If not, why not? If so, has the program helped you resolve any current issues?  I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments below.