Posts Tagged ‘Work’

Get Fit at Your Desk

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I’ve spoken about how much time we spend sitting and the negative impact it has on our lives. A big one being on our fitness levels. Sitting clearly can’t make us fit or that’s what we think!  Yes, you can get fit at your desk, if you don’t mind attracting attention and jeopardising your image and sensible reputation at the same time!

Ready to give it a go?

Let’s start with some gentle desk yoga and stretches to ease tension, improve posture and get the blood flowing.  

Sit with two feet flat on the floor and bum pressed into back of chair.

Seated Crescent Moon Pose

This lovely side stretch helps ease neck and shoulder tension.  Simply lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers wide. Lean to the right, taking 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side for another 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat as many times you need.

Wrist and Finger Stretches

Tapping away at a computer and cause tension to build up in the muscles and tendons in the fingers, hands, and wrists, so extra blood flow to these areas is always appreciated.  Every couple of hours try these two movements:

  • Extend the arms to the sides or overhead and draw 5 to 10 circles inward and outward through the wrists. Next, quickly spread the fingers and close the fists, repeating this 5 to 10 times to shake off any excess tension.
  • Stretch each arm out and bend the wrist inward then outward, counter-stretching with your other hand. Hold each side 5 to 10 breaths.

Desk Plank Pose

Place your hands shoulder width distance or wider at the desk edge. Step your feet back until your feet are directly under your hips as you create a pleasant feeling traction for your spine. Hold 5 to 10 breaths and let this pose help you undo all the negative effects of sitting. (Only do this if your desk is fixed into position.)

Rubber Neck
Sit up tall and drop your right ear down towards your right shoulder (you don’t have to touch it!) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side.  Bring your head back to the upright position before doing the next stretch.

Turn your head the left and try and look over your shoulder and hold for a few seconds … repeat on the right.

Starting with your head again in the upright position, drop your chin down towards your chest and gently roll your head from side to side.

Shrugs
Your colleagues might think you are reacting to something you are reading with this one but it’s a great tension reliever. Raise both shoulders up towards your ears and hold for a few seconds and release, repeat as many times as you need to.

Chest Opener
Bring your hands behind your back, press your palms together, sit up tall and hold for 5–10 seconds. A little like a backward praying pose.

Knee Press
This one stretches out the glutes. With your right ankle on your left knee, gently press against the right knee a few times. Swap over to the left side and repeat.

Now that you’re all warmed up it’s time for the real exercise to begin. Grab a glass of water and get moving and ignore the funny looks you might get!

 Walk/Jog/Run in Place

You do have to stand up for this but can stay at your desk. Just start moving as quickly as you can for 30–45 seconds, between 3–5 times. Walking, jogging or running on the spot will get the heart pumping.

 Push-Ups

Don’t panic you will not have to lie on office floor to do this.  Use your desk or a wall and push up from it doing 10 – 20 reps at a time.

 Squats

These are great for toning and shaping, simply stand up and sit back down and repeat 10 – 20 times.

 Jumping

Jumping with both feet at once, or alternate if that is too difficult, pretend you’re jumping over a rope. Increase the intensity by adding some arm movements.

Calf Raises

Stand up behind your chair and hold on for support. Raise your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor. Do 3 sets of 10.

 Glute Squeeze

This is a really easy one to do and no one will even know you are doing it!  Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and hold for 10–30 seconds. Do as many as you can as often as you can.

 Shoulder Press

Find a heavy book or small box that weighs a hold it at shoulder height and then raise it all the way overhead. Do this about 10 times and repeat 3 times.

 Wall Sit

Another easy but really effective one. Stand with your back against the wall and slowly lower yourself into a seated position and hold for 10–30 seconds at a time and feel the burn.

 Lunges

Do this at your desk by putting one leg in front of the other and gently lowering the knee of your back leg down towards the floor. Try between 10 and 15 per leg.  Alternatively, you can lunge your way around the office, long corridors are good spaces.  You might get some strange looks!

Try some or all of these as often as you can so they become part of your everyday routine.

And remember to do some work during or in between exercises and not only will your fitness levels increase but so should your productivity and performance. Get your colleagues moving too, a bit of competitiveness and camaraderie will keep you motivated.

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Food for Thought

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

This common expression has been around since the late 1800’s taking the idea of digestion from the stomach and transferring it to the brain. Having used this expression recently it got me thinking, no pun intended, on the effects of food on our mind and subsequently productivity and performance.

We are all familiar with the daily cycle of peaks and slumps, and although we often attribute them to food – I am hungry or I am too full – we don’t think about why exactly they are happening. Different types of food react differently with our bodies and therefore the type of fuel we put into ourselves will have varying results. Premium fuel equals premium performance! 

What we eat is almost all converted to glucose which in turn provides energy to our brain to keep it alert. When glucose is running low, we become hungry and find it difficult to concentrate and pay attention.  So, we eat! Very often our choice of food at this point is what will give us that much needed burst of energy the quickest – sugary, processed, calorie ridden, high fat – we all know the drill. And yes, they will give an immediate feeling of satiation, but it won’t last. The sugar crash that will inevitably come will make you feel weak, confused, anxious and the high calorie high fat foods will make you feel sluggish and sleepy, all contributing to poor performance and productivity.

The solution

Not allowing your energy levels to dip so low that you are not making informed healthy eating choices. Snacking (yes snacking which I’m quite fond of, my colleagues all know where my hidden goody drawer is, which I have to say does have several healthy options and not just the ubiquitous pack of biscuits), stops you from those big highs and dips and keeps the brain in a constant active, creative and productive state.

Food choices are the key ingredient to better performance with fruit and veg ranking high on the table. Research has shown that eating them throughout the day is great for the mind and the body. The British Journal of Health Psychology carried out a hugely interesting study where participants reported their food consumption, mood, and behaviours over a period of 13 days. Afterwards, researchers examined the way peoples’ food choices influenced their daily experiences. It concluded that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be.

The reason for this is they contain vital nutrients that promote the production of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation, and engagement.  Additionally, they provide antioxidants that minimize bodily inflammation, improve memory, and enhance mood.

What action can employers take:

  1. Have a supply of healthy snacks available for employees to eat throughout the day to maintain their energy levels.
  2. Encourage employees to make healthy lunch choices by having posters displayed in the kitchen area.
  3. If you’re buying lunch in have healthy options available and order early before employees are too hungry to make informed choices.

Here are some of the health choices you should be aiming to have in that goody drawer, kitchen cupboard, boardroom table and lunchbox:

Blueberries
These berries have a great combination of antioxidants and a high amount of gallic acid, which can protect our brain from degeneration and oxidative stress and boost our focus and memory.

Almonds

These tasty nuts are rich in healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, and plant protein. They support healthy brain function and prevent cognitive decline.

Whole grains

They will help you stay mentally alert all day long. Eat wholegrain cereals, rice, granary bread.

Pumpkin seeds

The seeds are rich in zinc which is vital for improving memory and thinking skills.

Dark chocolate

This is rich in flavonoids that increase blood flow to the brain. It can boost memory, attention span, and problem-solving skills.

Green tea

This contains theanine that can help you with focus and concentration.

Spinach
These greens contain a lot of antioxidants and can help improve learning capacity.

Broccoli
It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your thinking and boost your focus.

Sunflower seeds

They are considered to be an essential source of fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins and are a great food to fight fatigue and help you stay productive.

Food for thought indeed!!

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

The Benefits of Working Remotely

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

More employees want to work remotely, and employers are beginning to recognise the benefits.

Increasingly we hear people discuss the importance of work/life balance which is no surprise as companies try to maximise performance, while improvements in technology have created around the clock accessibility for employees.  It’s no wonder that people cite flexible working hours and remote working as important benefits to help them capitalise on their time.  They do not want to be desk bound Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, which very often is counterproductive anyway to their working environment if dealing with different time zones, out of hours activity and such like, and importantly doesn’t allow for many daily life events and activities.

70% of employees say flexible/remote working would make a job more attractive to them. 

Remote Working refers to any type of work that is performed outside of a traditional office or workplace. More and more people are choosing to work from home, if not every day then at least for part of their week, and some choose to work from co-working office spaces. This saves them valuable time as well as sparing them from commuting stress.

Currently there are 216,000 employees working remotely in Ireland and this figure is continually increasing.  As we approach full employment, employers will need to look at ways to encourage staff retention and incentivise the on-boarding of new talent.  The housing crisis is driving more people out of the cities and instead these people face a lengthy and costly commute.

Improvements in technology have made the employee more accessible wherever they are. Software that provides face to face meetings for multiple users in various locations, such as Skype which has become a normal part of any work day, saves a business on commute time and costs.  Office365, Dropbox, SharePoint and many others allow employees the same access from a remote location as they would have in their office.

Abodoo is a new global platform, created by Irish couple Vanessa Tierney and Ben Wainwright, a technology company that is at the forefront of encouraging SmartWorking.  In a recent interview with Silicon Republic, Vanessa Tierney is quoted as saying that “Dell, for example, has set a goal of having 50pc of its workforce working remotely by 2020. Cisco makes $277m annually in productivity savings by allowing remote working. And, here in Ireland, the likes of Shopify and Amazon all have substantial home-working teams.”

In a study conducted by YouGov, only 45% of employees said they get to work the hours that best suit them.  Of employees that are offered flexible working hours, 82% said it made them feel more positive about their job, while 79% said it was a reason to stay with their employer for longer.

Two thirds of managers say that remote workers are more productive. 30% of remote workers say they work more efficiently due to fewer distractions.  And 82% of remote workers reported lower stress levels.  So, as this is a win situation for everyone, it’s a good idea for businesses who are not already allowing remote working to consider how to introduce it.  Businesses save on overheads, fewer desks, space and resources being required.

The Irish Independent reported recently that Kefron who employ more than 150 people in Ireland and the UK have enhanced their data storage, security and remote working capabilities.  Cork firm, Teamwork, estimates that 23% of its employees work remotely.

The roll-out of the National Broadband Plan will have a huge impact on the availability of high-speed broadband thereby making remote working an option for many more employees once their employers support it.

Roslyn Keogh, Project Manager

Sleep – Are you Getting Enough?

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Sleep, how often do you think about it, discuss it, get anxious about it and more importantly actually get it?  It’s a topical modern problem. In days gone by people went to bed when it got dark and got up with the dawn – simple, and routinely the best way to sleep.  Now we are so distracted with life whether it’s work, family time, technology, keeping up with day to day tasks, the time to sleep is lessening for many. And of course there is also the bravado and bragging rights of getting very little sleep – a bit like lunch is for wimps, sleep is for the lazy.  How wrong unfortunately that way of thinking is.

We may feel shutting ourselves out of the world for 7 or 8 hours is a waste of valuable living time, but it is proven that by not shutting down and repairing our bodies, our valuable living time could actually be a lot less.  And our awake state is by no means at it’s best, most productive and innovative it can be.

If we didn’t think sleep was so important why do we talk about it all the time? There are those that feel it’s a badge to say yeah I only got 3 hours sleep, I’m WRECKED but hey I’m working 15 hour days, going to the gym, doing a night class and fitting in family time and social outings – Life is for living! And then there are those who desperately want to sleep but can’t.  Both categories are functioning well below par.

“If you regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep, you’re not at your best,” says Thomas Balkin, PhD, director of behavioural biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. “The less sleep you get, the worse you do.”

What happens:

  • Attention span is diminished it’s harder to concentrate and your mind will wander. Staying focused becomes difficult for a sustained period of time.
  • Reaction time is longer which is a major cause of motor accidents, not being alert and able to react quickly and efficiently. For some jobs this can be a big problem.
  • Decision-making can be less rational and can result in poor choices or irresponsible action and poor judgement.
  • Memory function becomes lessened, even simple things like remembering details of an article you have just read. Map this to the work environment and things will be forgotten and missed.
  • Moods are affected with a tendency to think negatively, be grumpy, intolerant and superstitious.
  • Weigh gain is often a symptom as the hormones leptin and ghrelin which control our feelings of hunger and fullness are affected by sleep.

If the lack of sleep is a temporary situation, perhaps there is a new baby in the home or a particular life experience that is currently impacting sleep patterns, the effects can mostly be reversed. But longterm the damage can be critical.

  • An increased risk of heart attack and strokes
  • Raised risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic weigh gain
  • Lower sperm counts in men
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Skin ageing

In fact the list could go on and on…

So, what actually happens when we sleep that is so critical to our health and wellbeing:

Neuroscience says:

  • Our body is rebuilding, repairing and healing while we sleep
  • Our Inner battery gets powered up
  • Hormones recalibrate
  • Body flushes toxins from our brain
  • Brain processes and performs memory consolidation
  • Sleeping enhances our creativity
  • Sleeping clears and restores our mind
  • We even burn calories while we sleep

Suddenly the people bragging about existing on minimal sleep are not as great as they might like to think they are.  In fact with a few more hours sleep they certainly will be displaying better signs of greatness and most probably feeling greater with it!

As an employer you can most likely recognise the signs of sleep deprived colleagues quite easily. Here is what you can do about it:

  • Encourage employees to get some natural bright light during the day by taking a walk outside, the exercise and light will have an alerting effect. Open blinds and curtains to let in as much natural light as possible into the work environment.
  • Encourage employees to arrange important meetings or schedule critical pieces of work when they know they are at their brightest in the day, if possible.
  • Monitor caffeine intake, it may be needed to get started in the day but it can effect sleep for up to 8 to 10 hours.
  • Provide the opportunity if possible take a short power nap which can have an enormous reviving effect on those able to do so. Not everyone can shut off though for 10 minutes!
  • Have a technical power down policy, where employees are not encouraged to be sending late night emails or responding to messages.
  • Monitor workloads and be aware of employees who are taking on too much.
  • Be sympathetic and encourage any chronic sufferers to get help.

According to the World Health Organisation the actual number of hours needed for adult sleep is 8 hours 36 mins.  Working backwards from your normal wake-up time I’m guessing most readers (me included) will have to start getting into the PJs a bit earlier tonight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Worker Wins Appeal Over Fixed-Term vs. Fixed-Purpose Contract

Monday, September 17th, 2018

The Labour Court has decided to over-turn and award the appeal of a clerical officer, working at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, who was wrongly assigned a contract of indefinite duration by the Work Relations Commission (WRC) earlier in the year.

The appeal has highlighted an important distinction between fixed-term and fixed-purpose contracts.

Fixed-Term

According to the SFA, a fixed term contract of employment is when the employee has a contract directly with an employer with the end outcome being one of the following; a specific end date, completion of a task or the occurrence of a specific event.

Fixed-Purpose

A fixed purpose contract is similar in that, the employee has a contract with the employer but is only employed to carry out a specific purpose, and once that specific job is completed, the contract will cease.

In this case, the WRC determined the worker had amassed a length of employment- through continuous fixed-term contracts, to be classed as a contract of indefinite duration as per the Fixed-Term Work Act 2003.

However, the Clerical Officer had been employed to work a fixed-purpose contract- to facilitate the implementation of a scheme, with no end date referred to, compared to a fixed-term contract. It was argued that the Fixed-Term Act – which covers the umbrella term of fixed/specified -purpose contract, does not mention anything to prevent a fixed-purpose contract from lasting more than the 4-year limit of a fixed-term contract. The Court stated that given the contract of employment specified a fixed-purpose, not a fixed-term, the employee did not fall under the 4-year fixed-term contract limit, and therefore, did not require a change of contract to indefinite duration.

This has raised concerns in relation to the interpretation of the fixed-term contract Law, in relation to specified-purpose contracts. This is an important benchmark – please contact Voltedge Management for further information and advice.

(FTD184 Labour Court Case)

For more details email info@voltedge.ie or call +353 1 5252914 and ask for Ingrid.

Your HR Questions Answered

Monday, October 16th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: Do I have to pay employees who didn’t come to work or even make an effort to work from home during the hurricane weather conditions, and what about the following day too if they say they can’t travel?

A: We are very fortunate here in Ireland that extreme weather conditions are an exception, however Monday 16th October 2017 will be remembered for the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Ophelia and sadly the tragic loss of life. As an employer, you do have a duty of care to your staff to ensure they can attend for work safely. These current weather conditions are outside anyone’s control so it is very much up to each employer to decide how to deal with this issue, just like the snow storm we had in December 2010.

Best practice suggests you offer employees the opportunity to work from home, which doesn’t require them to make any journey out in these conditions for work reasons. The Taoiseach reaffirmed in a media briefing that all public service employees would be paid for Monday 16th as their services were closed across the country, and clarified that private sector companies could decide for themselves but referenced the provision for force majeure leave in such circumstances. Our advice is to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of your staff as a priority, and I’m sure the backlog of work will be worked through by your valued employees over the coming days.

Q: I need to ask an employee to change the work she does, as part of the business is diminishing and we need her to work more on reception as our reception has become much busier.  She currently is an Administrator and does a small amount of reception work. We will now need her to do more work on reception, and we know she will not want to do this. Can she request redundancy?

A: If this is a clear business need, you have no option but to change her job content. If the job is not changing significantly (i.e. less than 50%), then you should explain the rationale and help her understand that this is a minor change in her role, and you hope that she will be happy to understand this in line with the business needs.

If the position is changing radically (i.e. over 50%) you should inform her that her current position is no longer viable, and you are now offering her an alternative position as receptionist with some administration work. If she is not prepared to take this new position, then you should state that she will be able to take redundancy.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.

Your HR Questions Answered

Monday, February 13th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively and every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: I have a new employee who is on a 6-month probation – she is an administrator. She is not really working out -can I just give her 1 weeks’ notice and tell her to leave?

A: There is a pre-conceived notion that probation allows employers to terminate an employee who is on probation for little or no reason and that there is no come-back.

Unfortunately, this is not true, and we are seeing more and more cases (mainly brought under the discrimination legislation) where aggrieved ex-employees have said that they were not treated fairly during their probation period.

The golden rules are:

  • Have a clear probation clause in the contract, giving the option to extend probation up to a maximum of 11 months. The probation should allow for a one week notice period during the probation time.
  • Have a good job description so that the employee fully understands the job they are supposed to be doing.
  • Meet the employee at least every 2 weeks during the probation period to review how they are getting on, talk about any issues, clarify if the employee is not doing the work expected/or not doing the work well enough, and give them objectives to improve.
  • If the employee is not suitable, make sure that they understand that their probation performance is not reaching an acceptable level, and that they may not pass probation. When informing them that they are unsuccessful and that you are giving them notice, be very clear about the reasons and that you have supported them through the process.
  • And finally, treat the employee fairly and be supportive. This can be a challenging time for the employee, and with your support, most new employees will make the grade.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.