Ask StratEx HR: Drinking at the Office – A Recipe for Disaster?

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Drinking at the office isn’t just for Don Draper anymore. More and more organizations are starting to implement practices that allow for drinking at the office, including office happy hours and kegs on tap.

Check out this recent submission to Ask a StratExpert, which dips into this intoxicating issue.

Dear StratEx HR,

Recently, we started to allow drinking at the office and have supplied alcohol for employees in the kitchen. It’s a nice way for our employees to wind down at the end of the day, and it fits our company culture.

Last week, an employee started drinking late in the afternoon and fell asleep in a client meeting! How can we prevent this from happening again (or getting worse) but still allow employees to have a casual drink?

Sincerely,
Boozin’ my Mind

Dear Boozin’,

As employees’ work schedules become more flexible and employees may be occasionally working later in the evening or on the weekend, employers may choose to provide provisions so their employees can have a drink (or a few). Some organizations claim the practice is good for employee morale and bonding – and may even claim that informal socializing can lead to better functioning teams and increased creativity.

While most employees will do just fine in using their own discretion to know when and how much to drink, there are several ways you can keep the lid on those that may overindulge on drinks in the office.

1. There’s a time and place for everything
Allowing employees to consume alcohol at any time can open you up to a host of liabilities as an employer. The easiest way to prevent any issues is to designate a specific day of the week and a time as the office “Happy Hour”. Placing limits on this time frame and keeping this time closer to the end of the workday, or even after hours, will minimize the disruption for everyone.

2. Know your limits
Be sure to communicate to employees that once the pre-set time of the Happy Hour is up, they’ll need to take the party offsite. This will protect you from potential liability that can come along with late-night drinking. If employees are provided a “shift drink” in a restaurant or hospitality setting, be sure employees serving the drinks are aware of the limit and are consistently trained to recognize when someone has been overserved.

beer_blog_askstratexhr3. Keep hard liquor off the table
If providing an open bar, offering up beer and wine still gives employees a way to have a few drinks without the potential risks that rounds of shots can bring.

4. Provide alternatives
Providing snacks and non-alcoholic beverages is a smart option for the many employees who may choose not to drink for a multitude of religious, health, or personal reasons. Plus, having food and other hydration options can come in handy to prevent employees from being overserved.

5. Arrange for transportation
All employees should be made aware that driving while intoxicated is strictly prohibited. Encourage employees to carpool with a designated driver, take a cab, use public transportation, or walk if possible. To limit your liability as an employer, either allow employees to expense cab rides home for events where drinking takes place or adhere to a strict no drinking and driving policy.

6. Stick to the rules
Be sure to clearly communicate all these policies in your company handbook so that employees are informed, and follow through to ensure you have sign-off that all employees are aware of expectations.

7. Consistency is key
Reliably following the guidelines laid out in your policy (including progressive discipline, if necessary) will get everyone on the same page. A violation of policy should result in the same progressive discipline steps, based on the severity of the violation – regardless of who the offending employee is.

By setting a time and place for drinking at the office and keeping the lines of communication open when it comes to new policies, you can create a policy that works best for your organization. The key is to tailor the policy to fit your organization’s culture and expectations, and to be consistent in responding to violations before any potential issues arise.

Cheers!
StratEx HR

Why Your Workplace Needs Yoga

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old practice that combines meditation, focused breathing, and mindful movement. While the concept of yoga is nothing new, there has been a recent shift towards incorporating these principles in the workplace through office yoga. We were thrilled to launch our own office yoga program, NamaStratEx, in April!yoga

Backed by science

Most people who have taken a yoga class experience a wide range of benefits from their practice, and these benefits not only lead to improved work performance, they are backed up by a multitude of scientific research.

Enhanced physical well-being
Yoga can improve employees’ physical fitness through increased flexibility and physical strength. Many people may believe that they cannot do yoga because they are not flexible. However, these very people can benefit the most from yoga because it will improve their flexibility! The combination of increased strength that comes from holding yoga postures and bodyweight exercises, combined with stretching to lengthen muscles, leads to significant improvement in physical fitness.

Lowered muscle tension
Back pain is one of the most common workplace complaints for people with desk jobs, but practicing yoga can relieve head, neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, high blood pressure, and more. An 8-week study gave one group a 50-minute yoga class once a week while a control group did not practice yoga. The yoga group reported significantly less back pain and lower stress than the control group, as well as greater self-assurance and concentration.

Improved morale
Practicing meditation and yoga can improve employee morale, job satisfaction, and concentration. In a study of 160 engineers in India, half of employees practiced yoga for one hour daily, while the other half heard lectures in management theory and engaged in light exercise. At the end of 10 weeks, the yoga group showed significantly improved positivity compared to the control group, as well as lowered levels of counterproductive work activities.

Starting off my work week with a calming yoga class is just the right ingredient towards a productive, relaxed mindset!” -StratExian Chelsea Garot

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Less stress, more energy
It is not always possible to completely avoid or eliminate stress, and some stress is not always a bad thing. However, yoga provides techniques for employees to more effectively manage stress and has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Not only do employees get a break from work-related or personal sources of anxiety during a yoga class, they also gain tools to react more calmly in demanding situations off the mat. Studies in the Journal of Occupational Psychology and the Journal of Occupational Medicine have shown that stress reduction programs, such as meditation and yoga programs, have been effective in reducing work-related strain and can improve employees’ energy levels and sleep quality over time.

Office yoga is such a fun way to bring each team together, strengthen bonds and release stress after a long day! I leave feeling rejuvenated.” -StratExian CJ Inglin

Improve your company’s bottom line

High levels of emotional stress in the workplace, along with muscle pain and other physical ailments, can interfere with employees’ performance, productivity, and overall well-being. By providing employees the tools to cope with emotional stress and physical tension that can build up throughout the workday, organizations who offer office yoga actually end up improving upon their bottom line.

Doing yoga after work is a great way to unwind, relax and reverse the negative effects of sitting at a computer all day! It’s also fun to bond coworkers together outside of your typical happy hour event.” -StratExian Emily Quinn

stratex-serves_sqNamaStratEx gives back

An office yoga program is a great way to encourage a healthy lifestyle, demonstrate to employees that you are invested in their well-being, and even give back to the community. For example, as part of our StratEx Serves initiative, all of our yoga classes are donation-based, and all donations go directly to a cause of employees’ choosing.

Low barrier to entry

Along with these significant benefits, office yoga requires very little equipment and can be done just about anywhere. The only things you truly need are a certified instructor and mats for employees to practice on. Employees who are yoga experts can practice alongside beginner students, and employees can also learn several basic postures and then practice on their own while traveling, on their lunch break, or at home.

Many organizations and individual instructors focus solely on providing yoga in an office setting, so whether you are looking to expand your existing wellness program or simply provide a physical and mental benefit to your employees, consider giving office yoga a try.

Namaste!

Is It Time to Rethink your Performance Review Strategy?

95 percent of managers say they are dissatisfied with their performance review process, and 59 percent of employees feel annual performance reviews are not worth the time invested.

Companies like GE, Microsoft, Accenture, and Netflix are doing away with the annual performance review in favor of more ongoing, informal check-ins. While the traditional performance review process typically involves managers rating their employees’ performance in specific areas of the role, the alternative model involves more frequent, informal conversations between employees and supervisors.

Two businesspeople sitting indoors with coffee laptop and folderFor example, Deloitte recently unveiled a restructured performance review system focused on providing up-to-date, individualized feedback to employees. The process eliminated annual reviews, ranking systems, and numbered rating scales, replacing them with a strengths-oriented, streamlined, four-question review.

Instead of asking managers to rate employee’s skills on a five-point scale, they ask managers to respond to: “If it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus” or “Given what I know if this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team”.

These questions focus on the manager’s action instead of their thoughts on the employee’s skills, which greatly reduces the subjective, ambiguous nature of rankings-based assessments.

This approach can be customized for any organization through an in-depth analysis of your organization’s goals and how employees can best contribute to the achievement of those strategic objectives.

There are a few reasons for this recent shift in strategy:

  1. Many organizations find they benefit from more consistent, real-time feedback between employees and managers, and the information gathered can still be used to inform decisions on raises, bonuses, and promotions.
  2. This updated process is also helpful for disciplining and terminating employees, as it provides more robust documentation and specific examples than the traditional model.
  3. A more ongoing performance review process prevents employees from expecting an automatic annual raise as part of the review process.

If you utilize the annual performance review process and find it beneficial to your company, there’s no need to scrap it- as long as your employees and managers are having ongoing, two-way conversations about performance and engagement. Regardless, there are steps you can take to either supplement your current process or create a new policy through this continuous improvement-based strategy, which will provide you with more up-to-date information and more motivated employees.

Here are a few common performance review issues and different options for addressing them with the updated model:PerfReviewBlog

In the end, your performance review process should be designed in a way that works best for your employees, which has different meanings for different organizations.

When making these decisions, HR managers and executives should consider which strategy will facilitate the most effective progress tracking and ongoing feedback. Having this information on hand will help develop specific, actionable steps for continuous improvement on the part of employees, managers, and teams.

Your quarterly or monthly reviews can be created, tracked, and reviewed through the Performance Review module in eStratEx to yield the most beneficial feedback from employees, peers, and managers. Weekly or daily updates can be added through the Quick Notes feature, providing managers with a simple way to track each employee’s performance on a continuing basis. Regardless of your performance review approach, StratEx will custom-design the process from start to finish – reach out to your HR Account Manager or Service Team for help!

Sources:

  1. SHRM- If the Annual Performance Review Is on Its Way Out, What Can Replace It?
  2. Harvard Business Review- Reinventing Performance Management
  3. CEB Global- Faulty Performance Review Processeses Cost Companies as Much as $35M Annually

6 Steps to Creating a Wellness Program for Your Company

What drives performance?

How can health add organizational
and employee value?

These are important issues employers and HR teams work to address every day. While the answers to these questions differ depending on the industry and company, organizations both large and small are using wellness programs to connect with employees, encourage healthy behavior across the organization, and instill long-term health benefits in an age of constantly-increasing healthcare costs.

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A majority of employers are already offering a wellness program in some respect:

  • 79% offer wellness resources and information
  • 47% provide health screening programs and coaching
  • 42% offer smoking cessation programs (source: SHRM.org)

Organizations are recognizing the potential benefits of wellness programs, but not all programs are successful in actually engaging employees and generating positive changes. Whether you have already designed and implemented a wellness program or are just beginning to consider the benefits a wellness program can bring to your organization, it helps to know what makes a wellness program most effective for everyone involved.

 

Step 1

Focus your program on all employees, not just those enrolled in certain plans.

Here’s where things tend to go wrong right off the bat for employers designing wellness programs. When wellness programs only focus on employees participating in medical coverage, you may be missing a huge segment of your workforce and are sending the message that you only value the well-being of those employees for cost-cutting purposes. Instead, encourage all employees to get involved with participation-based programs, healthy initiatives in the workplace, and suitable rewards when goals are met.

Step 2

Get buy-in from all levels of management and present your program with a consistent message.

Like anything else, if managers and executives don’t actively support the program, employees aren’t likely to support it either. Additionally, inconsistent communication and an unsupportive culture won’t do anything to motivate employees. Instead, get organizational leaders involved in communicating the program to employees and leading company-wide goals. This will encourage participation across the board, because employees who understand of the strategic priorities of your organization will value their membership more and will be more likely to get involved with wellness initiatives. Engage employees in different modes of communication such as email updates and newsletters, social media, and office postings for an effective message.

Step 3

Ensure your program has a reasonable chance of improving health for participating employees.

Your program shouldn’t be too difficult for employees to complete and should be based on medical facts and research. As an employer, the place to start encouraging healthy behavior is the workplace environment. You can accomplish this through providing healthier snacks and drinks, using onsite tobacco cessation assistance, or offering onsite nutrition or yoga classes. To make it easier for employees to participate in the program across multiple locations or even remotely, try offering other convenient options such as health coaching calls, a “Lunch and Learn” webinar series, online programs, a team-based step or weight-loss challenge, or a weekly newsletter with hot topics in health, fitness, and nutrition.

Step 4

Reward employees for healthy behavior, instead of just penalizing them for unhealthy behavior.

When the motivation for employees to participate is based on avoiding a penalty instead of improving their health, incentives aren’t seen as a reward. For example, when designing a tobacco cessation plan, focus on encouraging employee’s attempts to quit instead of punishing them for being smokers. If you provide cessation assistance and reward both quitting attempts and successful tobacco cessation, you’ll be much more likely to build a culture of health within your organization, encourage participation in your program, and demonstrate your commitment to improving your employee’s well-being. Rewards can be based on completing a specific action, such as a certain number of steps per day or a timed workout, or outcome-based, such as improvement in results of annual biometric screenings.

Step 5

Find out what most motivates your employees and encourage healthy actions accordingly.

This may depend on your company’s demographics, location, or corporate culture, but a quick anonymous survey of employees can help determine which rewards will be most effective in motivating your workforce. This is an easy way to tailor your wellness program to your organization’s unique resources and needs. 36% of large employers’ and 18% of small employers’ wellness programs offer financial incentives (source: Kaiser Family Foundation). Financial rewards can be in the form of gift cards, Health Spending Account contributions, fitness center membership contributions, or many other options as you see fit. Setting company or team-wide goals encourages participation on a wider level, and team-based rewards like event tickets or healthy team meals will motivate, boost morale, and encourage teamwork in other areas of the organization.

Step 6

Of course, there are plenty of compliance issues to consider.

It’s illegal to condition plan eligibility or discriminate against employees’ health coverage or pricing on the basis of a health factor such as health status, medical condition, genetic information, or disability. Be careful when designing your plan and working with health information – just because you comply with HIPAA doesn’t mean you comply with all other laws, such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), PPACA, ERISA, state and local laws, and federal tax code. Consider partnering with a vendor who specializes in administering wellness programs, and be sure to run any potential plan past your lawyer or legal team to ensure it is not in violation of any of these laws.

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Trying to do everything at once with your wellness program will overwhelm you, not to mention your employees. Take a progressive approach to build your program and encourage long-term, healthy changes. This tactic will ensure your employees achieve their optimal level of health. Try starting with a participation-based program, consistent communications, and employee wellness committee, and work your way up to an outcomes-based plan over the course of months (or even years!). Your program should help employees identify their personal health risks and provide them with tools and skills to lower those risks.

Remember: the goal is to encourage your employees’ accountability for their own health, which will lead to more successful, long-term health outcomes. With the right wellness program, you’ll find you can better motivate your employees to take charge of their well-being, cut costs for your organization and employees, and develop a stronger, more satisfied workforce along the way.

(Additional source: Towers Watson)