The working environment has changed over the last twenty years and still continues to do so. What was an acceptable and appropriate leadership style ten years ago is outdated today on both an organisational and an employee level. The time is long gone where leaders could tell their staff what to do, make all the decisions for them, and micro-manage how and when people perform their tasks.
Companies have recognised that innovative, out-of-the-box thinking will make them survive as well as outperform their competitors, and changing the working culture from a stoic authoritarian to a more transparent, fair and dynamic style is certainly a positive and supportive step for their employees. Further flattening the organisational hierarchy structure allows for information to flow faster, freely and more accurately; thereby implementing effective employee engagement and well-being strategies that support and encourage people to be creative in solving today’s working challenges.
Employees are responding positively, albeit sometimes hesitantly, to the change of having permission to actively contribute to finding solutions. Their voices have been stifled for so long that there is doubt and uncertainty if this is for real. Managers play a crucial role in encouraging innovative thinking, employee participation and active voicing of ideas through their leadership styles.
If managers want to remain relevant and be promoted, adopting a coaching mind-set will be of tremendous value to their career and their team’s performance. This will be seen when they encourage employees to think for themselves, make their own decisions and be accountable for their actions. Of course, things won’t always go according to plan, and that is where managers have to shift from a “tell and fix-it” mind-set to a coaching mind-set. A coaching mind-set is built on the foundation of inquiry, listening, questioning and trusting. Let’s explore each one in more depth.
Inquiry: To gather all the facts and establish what happened and what didn’t, without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Equally to not judge the person or situation. Remaining neutral, open-minded and detached are learned behaviours that take time to master. Think of it as being a detective who has to find all the facts in a “murder” mystery. The obvious person isn’t necessarily always the murder. During your investigation, you make lots of enquiries, and people will tell you what you need and want to hear. You must be able to see the bigger picture and not be roped into the story.
Listening: To hear and learn something new, which differs from listening to have a fact confirmed. When you listen for what is not being said, you have to focus and tune into the other person’s communication wave length, acutely focusing on their body language, tone of voice, use of words, facial expressions and, hand gestures. In the same process observing yourself and understanding your listening intent, periodically checking in that you remain open-minded, curious and non-judgemental.
Questioning: If the inquiry and listening steps have been done well, the third step may come a lot easier. But a question doesn’t always equal a question. The art to questioning is to formulate your questions in such a way that they get information and an understanding of the person’s thought process. Being curious without blame or accusation is the ideal balance. Reframing from posing closed questions that can be answered with either a yes or no doesn’t help us to get a better understanding of why a person did what they did. The question and listening phase is a gentle dance that continues until an inspiring solution or a new idea forms.
Trusting: The final stage is trusting that through the manager’s enquiry, listening and guided questioning, the employee has established where in their thought process or behaviour they have gone off course, and have identified how to deal with the problem at hand. This will allow the employee to discover their shortcoming as well as how to correct it, and is intrinsically motivating for the employee. In addition, it encourages them to deepen their thinking and find solutions to current working challenges.
Coaching is a very powerful tool that managers can learn and master so that they can drive employee commitment, accountability and job satisfaction. External coach training schools provide excellent in-depth training; however. these may be more appropriate for individuals wishing to pursue a permanent coaching career. There are also many well-written books which cover this topic.
You could also get in touch with us – we are well-equipped to train and instil a coaching mind-set for your managers and your company.
We know all about absenteeism and how a high absence from work can impact on company outcomes. We know a lot less, however, about presenteeism. What is presenteeism you might ask? This is when employees remain at work despite being ill or incapacitated by chronic illnesses such as migraines, IBS, burnout or depression.
The implications of presenteeism have been shown to have a more detrimental effect to the bottom line and to productivity than absenteeism, with billions of Rands lost every year. The absenteeism to presenteeism relationship can be seen as an iceberg effect, where the numbers of sick leave days taken is minimal in comparison to the rate of presenteeism. And while measuring absenteeism is an easy numbers game, accounting for declined productivity and reduced engagement from presenteeism is a much more challenging task.
When staff are struggling with their health and continue working, their capacity for high quality and quantity of work can take a detrimental dip. This is a challenge for many employers, who may not even be aware of their employees reduced health. We cannot see from the outside when people are unwell, we assume that people manage their own health and that they would not be at work if they were unwell, however the truth is that up to 50% of employees in South Africa attend work when their health is compromised. This not only negatively impacts the health of the individual, it can increase the spread of disease in the workplace which can quickly become a drain on team and company resources.
Underlying the research on presenteeism is the assumption that employees do not take their jobs lightly, most people want to work hard and produce results, they are also concerned about job security and thus would rather continue working if they can (even if at reduced capacity).
Due to the economic situation globally and locally, many South Africans fear that they could loose their jobs to healthier counterparts if they were to expose their health conditions and thus would rather remain at work when they are unable to function at their optimum. The research shows that people would rather show up than appear to have dropped the ball. The reality, however, is that employees whose health is compromised, have reduced capabilities to execute work tasks which results in the reduced quantity and quality of their work outputs. Many managers are sceptic of employees who take sick leave or show “weakness” or “vulnerability” at work and the culture of “strong or be gone” further increases the likelihood that employees will not take time off during periods of serious illness.
For this reason, the word presenteeism and the growing body of research exploring this phenomenon is gaining traction and warrants the attention of managers, leaders and HR professionals alike.
Depression requires even more awareness as mental health is a larger societal issue than it first appears. The challenge with depression is that externally someone may look in good health however as we know with depression, they are most definitely not ok. This is a huge challenge for managers and HR professional as the indicators of illness are less obvious and require an acute level of transparency, monitoring and observation.
The South African Anxiety and Depression Group recently released the results of their study exploring the prevalence of depression in the South African workplace. They found that 1 in 4 people in South Africa are diagnosed with depression, while 80% of people suffering with depression continued to work during their last episode. And while these numbers alone offer a big eye opener the real shock is when we realise how depression influences our capabilities to perform a job.
74% of people suffering from depression reported reduced cognitive capacity including indecisiveness, poor memory, reduced problem-solving ability, slower thinking speed and difficulty concentrating. This substantial reduction in their cognitive capacity makes completing even simple tasks more time-consuming resulting in a low quality final product.
So how do we address this illusive issue in the workplace? It is important to first notice the signs and symptoms. Below are some of these key signs and symptoms.
Common Signs of Employee Presenteeism (Optima Global Health, 2013)
- Reduced work quality
- Reduced productivity
- Delayed performance in meeting deadlines
- Absence and tardiness
- Changes to relationships that were previously positive
- Changes in behaviour- irritability, short fused, disengaged, socially withdrawn
Common Symptoms of Presenteeism on a Company (Optima Global Health, 2013)
- Drop in productivity despite no changes in employee numbers
- Increased use of employee assistance programs
- Increased expenses from absenteeism
Do you identify some of these factors in your workplace? If so there this may be the time to consider how you can lower the presenteeism in your company. There are many factors which influence presenteeism however the suggestions below are some concrete ways you can start implementing to build a healthier and more engaged workforce.
6 Ways to Address Presenteeism at Work
- Promote a culture of transparency and acceptance that encourages disclosure of chronic conditions.
- Provide employee assistance services including a health professional referral network. Promote awareness and use of these support services.
- Educate your staff on depression and burnout and the cognitive symptoms that result from mental illness.
- Encourage teams to get to know each other better and to be observant of changes in their colleagues, ensure this is not a reporting communication style but rather a mutual support network.
- Talk openly with your employees about changes in their behaviour without eliciting fear of job insecurity
- Look at creative ways to manage a healthy organisational climate- introduce new health policies, recognition systems, workload balance procedures etc.
Presenteeism is one of the most silent drains on companies in the current economic climate. We live in a time when people are under pressure to perform constantly and keep their jobs. With this in mind, the expense of presenteeism in the workplace is ever increasing, with 50% of people reporting attending work when their health is compromised. The stigma around sick leave, mental illness and chronic diseases are a core reason for this phenomenon which can be influenced through education, transparency and policy development. The 6 strategies mentioned above are key to addressing this issue and supporting a healthy, productive and positive workplace.
Is presenteeism an issue in your workplace? Or have you personally experienced it? Please share your experiences and strategies with us in the comments block below.
October is an unusual month in the workspace. We’re fast approaching the end of the year, and it’s amazing to think that we may have as few as 75 working days or 10 weeks left before 2017 work projects need to be completed. We ferociously push through to the finish line; our intention is focused, but our overall energy levels are low. Some people haven’t taken a holiday during the year and are snappy, moody and edgy. Team vibes may be delicate and a tad sensitive. It’s not that easy to be working in an environment where everybody is walking around on egg shells.
At this time of the year, team interventions and company fun days are planned to celebrate the year’s achievements and accomplishments. Celebrating is extremely necessary and is not done often enough. It lifts the energy, boosts morale, acknowledges people’s efforts, and it’s often a festive day.
However, a year-end celebration has an organisational feel to it. They’re generally fun activities with no intention of learning, understanding or improving anything in the team’s performance, productivity or effectiveness.
That being said, the year-end function might be weeks away and your team needs uplifting and some light-hearted fun right now – something that will ease the tension, and make everybody laugh out loud. This kind of fun doesn’t have a long lifespan, but should raise the team’s level of happiness for a few days. It will make the workload and work pressure, collaboration and communication easier.
Statistics show that children laugh up to 400 times a day, while adults as few as 20 times; a staggering 2,000% difference
Often, when we work with teams, we are amazed how little the team members know about each other. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to become best friends, but getting to know about your team member’s hobbies and social activities gives a good understanding how they think, what they value and appreciate in life, and what makes them happy.
To get to know your team, you can use this quick team activity called “I am proud”. Pair up in twos, sit opposite each other and for five minutes share moments in your life that you are proud of; and then swop around. You’ll be amazed at how this lifts the energy levels and leaves positive lasting moments.
Every second employee leaves their organisation because of a lack of recognition. This is a staggering figure when one considers recognition to be quick, not expensive or extremely time consuming. It needs some planning and thought; that’s all.
So, the last fun team building activity to try is to create a recognition day where every team member says two or three things that they want to recognise each team member in the team for. Let each person stand up and give feedback to the person. There will be laughter, maybe tears, but there will definitely be moments of appreciation and recognition.
Fun team activities don’t always have to be planned in advance; they can be impromptu for an hour. What matters is their underlying intent and getting the team involved.
What are you going to do to lighten up your team’s spirits?
Money is a resource that we all need to have to live and survive on earth. It’s the commodity that allows us to satisfy our needs; well certainly our basic needs anyway. Our “wants” might be occasionally or partially fulfilled. Our needs and wants continue to grow as we satisfy them which brings them into the ever spiralling paradox of scarcity.
Have you ever wondered why money ever came into existence? Surely it was never intended to cause misery, diversity and classification in the world. But it did. We might work to earn money to support our families and lifestyle. We may not even enjoy our work, but we endure it to survive. That is a sad reality for many individuals.
Often we wonder why people haven’t become happier while the world has become wealthier. Compared to seventy years ago, we have much more technology, better health care, and a higher standard of education, etc. The world now is more advanced than what our grandparents ever knew. However, we have not become happier. In actual fact, according to research conducted, we have become unhappier.
Why is that? Let’s look at some facts:
- We aren’t comparing like for like. As our wealth increases so do our standards. We can’t compare today with the 1950s because the world has evolved too much.
- It’s human nature to use benchmarks to measure ourselves against. When it comes to wealth and especially the more fluid element of money, we use our friends, family and social networks to compare ourselves against. If our friends are wealthier than us it impacts on our happiness. If it’s the other way around, we feel happier. It’s crazy but the saying “Keeping up with the Jones” rings true in this case.
- We adapt to having money and need a certain level to remain happy. Building more wealth gives our happiness level a short-term boost of up to four to six months and then we settle back to our happiness level before the boost. Humans habituate quickly and money is no different.
That’s all good, but when does money make us happy?
Money raises our level of happiness under three circumstances.
- When we haven’t met our basic needs and acquiring more money enables us to do so. Researchers say that the annual income per person mark is around $20,000, which equates to approximately R350,000. In South Africa the majority of citizens are on $10,000. So for a developing country like South Africa, money matters.
- If we share our money with less fortunate people, our happiness level increases because it provides a positive emotion of giving. It’s a reason why the elite wealthy donate money for charitable work. They recall the positive experience which they savour and store in their memory. Money buys happiness if spent on others.
- People spend money to savour a long-term experience (such as a holiday). It usually involves a build-up of planning, anticipating and then experiencing, with the end result of having to share and relive the memory with someone. This process builds our happiness with the emphasis being on the experience.
Money creates synthetic happiness that fades quickly and then we need to buy more to keep having these highs. If we are seeking true happiness, we need to look for enduring versus fleeting happiness and we get that from building strong positive relationships with family, friends and social connections, participating in community projects, being physically and psychologically healthy, and experiencing more positive emotions than negative ones. Seek enduring happiness!
Money is like health; absence breeds misery.
Having it does not guarantee happiness.
Contact us for more information about achieving your personal development goals.
Leading a happy life is what parents wish for their children, family and friends. Happiness is a state most of us strive to achieve. What we often don’t realize is the art and science involved in becoming happy. Yes, we can develop and grow our level of happiness, but for that we need to understand what happiness is.
Seligman who is the father of Positive Psychology (the science of human flourishment and fulfilment) describes three pathways to happiness. They are commonly referred to as the three lives. Each pathway builds on from the previous and forms a natural level of progression. To transition from one happiness level to another is not an automatic natural cycle. Rather progression needs conscious and deliberate practice and effort. Similar to mastering a skill requires repetitive practice, routine and discipline, especially in the early stages until with time it becomes part of one’s lifestyle and persona. It becomes naturally part of ones being.
Life coaches explain the three happiness lives:
- A pleasant life – We live to experience positive and pleasurable feelings. We find mechanisms to maintain positive emotions. Our focus is on deriving pleasure to avoid the feeling of pain or suffering. We engage in activities that we feel comfortable in, but we get bored with them at some time and need more of it. The downside is that we plateau in our personal growth and self-development.
- A good life – Who doesn’t want to lead a good life? The good life focuses on two important components. 1) They are to establish what our strengths are and then to actively utilize them by setting new invigorating challenges. 2) We connect, participate and engage with our family and friends. We nurture and maintain relationships with people we deeply love and care for.
- A meaningful life is an extensive life where we give back to our community, society and world. We aim to focus on our virtues that are much bigger than ourselves. What precisely the “giving back” part is depends entirely on you and your values, passion and life purpose. This will differ from person to person and thus makes it subjective. It will be areas that give you personal and heartfelt meaning, happiness and fulfilment.
You can use Positive Psychology tools and techniques to support you in progressing from one life to another or to sustain the life you have chosen. Life is not a linear process and situations arise that can knock the wind out of our sails, but the more tools you have to build your happiness level the quicker you bounce back.
If you want to grow your happiness level and don’t know where to start, then look at our Craft Your Happiness Program for further assistance.
People are amazing species. As team coaches, we have seen how people are either energised or drained by the people that surround them. Often our days are made or ruined because of another person’s response to something or someone. This is most certainly the case of our average working environment. Statistically two thirds of employees are unhappy at their work place and that naturally makes them miserable colleagues to work with. If you had to guess right now what would you estimate the cost of your employee’s misery to be? The cost can be in financial terms, health, family and friends, hobbies etc.
Perhaps you have never thought about it in financial terms and we wonder if this can be tangibly measured. I mean how does one put a price on a bad mood, a negative attitude or a disengaged employee? We can visibly see it, sense it and observe the impact on others, our team or even on ourselves. Negative energy is a hungry monster that spreads like wild fire throughout our organisations. Leaders seldom look at employee unhappiness as a cost in financial, emotional and productivity terms. Perhaps the following statistics will change your thinking?
Unhappy employees: Statistics that leaders should know
- Take twice as much sick leave which equates to 6½ days in comparison to happy employees at 2½ days a year.
- Consider staying in their job for another twelve months. Happy employees are long-term thinkers and intend to remain on average another five years. The cost to recruit, train and bring the new employee up to the performance and production level is both financially and time consuming.
- Spend 25% time and effort on a task, the remaining 75% is idle non-productive time. In contrast happy employees spend 85% time on a task.
- Feel energised at work feel 30% energised whilst happy employees are energised 75% of the time.
These figures of employee turnover, absenteeism, engagement or commitment all convert to performance and the company’s bottom line. There might be some number crunching required from the HR department, but the cost of misery can be calculated. Companies can save between 10 and 15% of their annual employee cost by focusing on resolving items that cause misery.
Money can’t buy happiness
But happiness sure saves money!
Need more information about team coaching? Then contact us today.