How to Create an Office Environment Employees Will Love

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April 19th, 2022

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FNOLThe pandemic forced many companies to shift to an all-remote staff, but many are returning to the office as the omicron surge wanes. Flexibility and the option to telework are here to stay, and employees are likely to divide their time between the office and at home. However, employees have grown used to their home offices. The layout is to their liking, snacks are readily available, and their productivity is impressive. If their workspace at the office falls short by comparison, they aren’t going to want to be there. It’s also likely to tank their engagement and hinder their work output.

Office spaces should energize and motivate employees rather than leaving them underwhelmed and apathetic. Here are several ideas to cultivate workspaces that employees will love.

Create Collaborative Spaces

Teams need spaces to engage, bounce around ideas, and form a cohesive plan. Depending on the company culture and space availability, employees may prefer to gather on comfortable couches in break rooms, meet at a round table, or book a formal closed-door meeting. Stocking these rooms with tools that inspire creative collaboration (e.g., whiteboards and dry erase markers) can maximize their effectiveness.

Define Quiet Productivity Areas

Many employees struggled with distractions from pets, kids, family members, or other people living in the house while telecommuting. The workplace should seek to eliminate these noisy interruptions for times when employees need to focus. Meeting rooms away from the main office thoroughfare work well for this purpose, or companies can designate a productivity space that discourages phone calls, loud conversations, music, etc.

Design Workspaces with Employee Wellbeing in Mind

Enhanced cleaning protocols became the norm as the pandemic progressed, but companies can do much more to make the workplace a relaxing and supportive environment. Dark workspaces can leave employees feeling lethargic and unproductive. Increasing natural lighting in workspaces does wonders for employees’ happiness and engagement. Companies can achieve this with easy and cost-effective changes, such as moving workspaces to well-lit areas, adding mirrors to reflect the light, or using bright lights that mimic natural sunlight if it isn’t possible to rearrange the office layout. Eliminating clutter can also improve employees’ moods, as visual clutter often overwhelms employees and increases their stress.

The change to exclusively telecommuting happened quickly, and employees had little time to adjust. Businesses have much more control over the return-to-office process. Creating a workspace that employees want to use doesn’t have to be grand or cost prohibitive. Simple changes to layout and lighting can improve employees’ mood, productivity, and desire to go to the office.

The office setting needs to support employees’ creativity, productivity, and mental wellbeing. If their home offices are better equipped, companies may struggle to transition their workforce back into the workplace. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about what influences employee attendance and how you can improve it.

4 Simple Steps to Improve Employee Attendance and Engagement

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April 5th, 2022

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absence reporting

COVID-19 has forever altered the concept of business as usual. Many businesses transitioned to a remote workforce at the onset of the pandemic. Now, some are reopening their offices, but employees expect to have continued flexibility. The pandemic isn’t over, and employees may still need flexible hours or the option to work remotely should COVID affect their household.

Employees’ mental health has also become a top priority for companies. Businesses are implementing several changes to reflect this trend, such as:

  • Offering mental health days
  • Adding mental health services to insurance plans
  • Encouraging employees to stay home when they feel unwell
  • Increasing PTO

Employee burnout is at an all-time high, and ignoring their mental health or work-life balance needs can lead to disengagement and rampant absenteeism. Consider implementing the following trends to sustain attendance and productivity:

  1. Remove the stigma of using PTO. Many employees feel like they can’t use their PTO without repercussions unless they give ample notice, such as taking time off for vacations. However, employees can’t predict mental health challenges or burnout. Fostering a culture that encourages employees to use PTO when they need it can help employees rest when they need to and return to work refreshed.
  2. Focus on employee retention. Many companies expend considerable energy on continually improving the customer experience, and employees deserve that same courtesy. Companies that consistently recognize their employees’ value and efforts experience greater employee loyalty and less absenteeism.
  3. Trust employees. Employees resent micromanagement, particularly while dealing with the stressors introduced by the pandemic. Provide clear productivity expectations and deadlines, but trust employees to manage their schedules. Companies can ensure projects stay on track by monitoring employees’ work output rather than scrutinizing or dissecting their work hours.
  4. Invest in absence management software. Absence management software helps businesses identify attendance trends and unusual absences. Employers can use this information to implement data-driven changes to improve attendance and employee engagement.

Actec understands the attendance challenges businesses are facing as the pandemic continues to affect business operations. Our self-service absence-tracking mobile app captures all attendance data without the need to contact multiple departments or managers. Employees can also use the app to submit leave requests, either by phone, text, chat, or within the app itself. Contact us to discuss your absence reporting and tracking needs.

Top Reasons Why You Need Employee Attendance Tracking Software

Posted on

March 8th, 2022

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Employee absences have a ripple effect on productivity. Projects come to a halt if a team member isn’t present to complete their part. Other employees may pick up the slack to meet the project deadline, but their morale is likely to suffer under the increased workload. Other attendance issues can also sew discord among staff, such as an employee who regularly arrives late without consequences.

The Types of Attendance to Track

Certain employee absences are inevitable, such as an employee falling ill or using their vacation leave. However, failing to track all areas of attendance can create blind spots that lead to chronic absenteeism. The following are the primary attendance markers companies need to know:

  • Arriving late
  • Leaving early
  • No show without notice and without calling
  • Sick leave
  • Paid time off (PTO)

Some businesses offer other forms of leave, such as maternity leave, bereavement leave, and mental health days. Which metrics a company chooses to track depend largely on the company’s culture and attendance policy.

The Importance of Attendance Tracking Software

Manual attendance systems are too easy to fool. The most prevalent issue with manual systems is buddy punching. Employees may clock each other in or out to hide tardiness or early departures. Using a mobile app provides better attendance data and simplifies many aspects of absence management. A mobile app centralizes all leave requests, and it simplifies the process of requesting leave for employees.

Businesses can also use the data to identify attendance trends, which may uncover more significant issues. For example, if employees in a certain department arrive late and leave early consistently, it can indicate there is an issue with the manager. Addressing these issues early can prevent systemic absenteeism and potentially improve morale. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about improving absence management with our absence tracking mobile app.

The Number 1 Reason Companies Fail to Retain Employees

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November 23rd, 2021

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The pandemic forced many employees to reconsider their work situation. More time at home allowed people to view their career through a different lens, and many workers decided they’ve had enough of the stress of their job. However, a high rate of burnout isn’t the primary cause of the sudden deluge of employee turnover. Companies that are struggling to retain their workforce need to focus their efforts on the right place to reduce the number of resignations.

Don’t Bandage the Burnout

No company can afford to lose employees at a cyclic rate. However, the knee-jerk response to fix the perceived problem is often unhelpful. Offering better benefits or upgrading workspaces won’t sway the staggering 41% of workers considering leaving their job if their employers don’t address the root cause of their frustrations.

More often than not, a bad manager is the source of the problem. A recent study found that nearly two-thirds of employees considering a career change noted bad relations with their managers. Bad has multiple meanings for employees. They may feel that their managers don’t appreciate or value their work, that their primary boss is narcissistic, or that otherwise pleasant managers lack enough training to perform their job well.

How to Avoid Mass Resignations

The current job market is at direct odds with conventional beliefs about the employee-employer relationship. In the past, economic instability meant employers had most of the bargaining chips. Employees were often thankful to have a job at all and accepted situations they ordinarily wouldn’t to remain gainfully employed. In the pandemic era, employees are putting themselves first and refuse to remain in intolerable working conditions.

Avoiding resignations requires businesses to identify pain points, such as detrimental managers, and implement benefits that show the company cares about its employees. However, detecting toxic managers poses a significant challenge. Many employees would rather leave than face potential backlash for speaking out against their supervisors.

A simple way to find potential problems among the staff is to track attendance. Unhappy employees are more likely to arrive late, leave early, or miss work altogether. Businesses can use this information to identify troubling trends, such as an uptick in absences within a specific department. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about improving employee retention with absence reporting software.

5 Surprising Advantages of a Four-Day Workweek

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November 2nd, 2021

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Everyone loves a three-day weekend. Employees chat excitedly about their plans for their extra day off, and they often return to the office with more energy and vigor for their work than usual. With employee burnout worse than ever, many businesses are looking for new and creative ways to combat the problem. For most organizations, the four-day workweek yielded impressive and unexpected benefits.

Why a Four-Day Workweek?

Advancements in technology expedited how quickly employees can complete tasks. However, this doesn’t mean employees can necessarily perform more work without suffering from burnout. There are only so many tasks, processes, and projects a single person can juggle each workweek. Many are questioning the validity of a five-day workweek, as long hours don’t always translate to better productivity in the modern workforce.

Benefits of a Shorter Workweek

Companies may worry that productivity will suffer or that they’ll struggle to meet deadlines if they reduce employee hours to four days a week while still providing a five-day workweek salary. However, numerous countries around the world are giving the four-day workweek a try and report the following benefits:

  1. Happier employees. Many employees spend their two days off running errands, attending appointments, and tending to their life responsibilities that have to wait during the workweek. They have little time for leisure, and it tanks their productivity. The additional day off allows employees to do the things they love so they can recharge.
  2. Reduced costs for businesses and their employees. Utility bills drop significantly for companies, as employees are in the office less. Employees use less water, less electricity, and produce less trash, which yields direct savings. Employees also save money on gas, coffee, and going out to lunch.
  3. Increased loyalty. Employees value workplace flexibility, and a four-day workweek is a significant perk to dangle. It improves their motivation, job satisfaction, and loyalty to their employer.
  4. Better productivity. Unhappy employees are less likely to give their full focus to their work, and they are more likely to have attendance problems. They may arrive late, duck out early, take long breaks, or chat with their coworkers instead of doing their work. With a shorter workweek, productivity rises as employees are less prone to these attendance issues. Employees that work a four-day workweek are also more creative and use their work hours much more effectively.
  5. Fewer health-related absences. Employees suffering from burnout are more likely to call out of work due to their mental health. Mental health problems can affect physical health as well, leading to more infections and illnesses. Many employees reported an improvement in their wellbeing when working a four-day workweek compared to a five-day one.

Some businesses adopting a four-day workweek model split their employees so that some work Monday through Thursday while the others work Tuesday through Friday. This approach ensures companies are still available to their customers five days a week while maintaining a reduced workweek for all employees. Flexible work hours are just one of the ways to improve employees’ health, productivity, and attendance. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more ways to reduce absenteeism.

Top 4 Ways the Pandemic Reshaped Absence Management

Posted on

October 19th, 2021

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The pandemic has had an undeniable effect on absences and how companies manage them. More people called out of work in 2020 than they ever have in the past twenty years. Most of these absences have direct ties to COVID-19. Illness- and other medical-related absences rose by 45%, while absences related to childcare difficulties skyrocketed by 250%. Experts also speculate that extreme stress has led to higher-than-normal rates of burnout, which also lead to absences.

The shifting attendance landscape forced many businesses to reconsider their absence management strategies. Here are the most notable absences management trends of 2021:

  1. A rise in telehealth. The concept of virtual doctor appointments isn’t new, but the pandemic accelerated its acceptance as the norm. Virtual appointments allow employees to receive care and prescriptions for some ailments without exposing themselves to contagion-filled waiting rooms. Telehealth also provides greater access to much-needed mental health services.
  2. Mental health challenges. Although employees have greater access to virtual mental health services, there is still a stigma around receiving them. However, the mental stress of the pandemic is sending a surge of anxiety and depression through employees. Employers need to spread awareness and reduce the negative association with mental health services to help prevent a widespread mental health crisis in the workplace.
  3. Accommodation requests. Barring undue hardship, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to federally protected groups. However, prior to the pandemic, this usually applied to the location the employee worked (i.e., in the office). With so many employees still working from home, employers need to consider what employees need to do their job rather than where the work occurs.
  4. Transitional difficulties. Many companies are transitioning some of their employees back to the workplace due to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this shift won’t be easy for many employees. They may have musculoskeletal problems from prolonged use of non-ergonomic furniture (i.e., working at the kitchen table or from the couch). Employees may also struggle with a traditional eight-hour shift, as remote work allows them greater flexibility with their work hours.

The pandemic radically transformed business as usual for most organizations. Companies need to understand how these changes contribute to employees’ ongoing mental health and wellbeing. Failing to keep up with these trends will result in burnout and significant absenteeism. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about absence management in the wake of COVID-19.

How to Improve Employee Engagement with SMART Goals

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October 5th, 2021

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Every company has big-picture goals, but it’s not always a straightforward matter to achieve them. Managers may struggle to keep employees engaged, or employees may not understand their role in the process. Team- or company-wide goals are easy enough to grasp, but how to accomplish them becomes murky when broken down to the employee level. Using the SMART approach to setting goals can cut through this confusion and allow employees to engage with their work to the best of their ability.

Understanding SMART Goals

The SMART method isn’t a new concept, but many businesses fail to keep it in mind when setting goals. The SMART criteria are Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Using these elements allows companies to create measurable goals that outline what employees or teams need to accomplish on a specific timeline. The SMART approach also allows companies to provide clear markers of success, whether it’s a certain number of sales or a percentage increase in customer engagement because they can track the results.

  • S: Specific goals eliminate confusion by providing details on what the objective is, what team or employee is responsible for it, and what steps those individuals need to take next.
  • M: Measurable goals are much easier to quantify because they have data to examine. If a company sets a goal to increase social media engagement, it also needs to identify benchmarks of success. One additional customer comment compared to the month before technically constitutes an increase, but it’s not likely what the company had in mind. Setting measurable targets eliminates confusion on what counts as success.
  • A: Unrealistic goals will leave employees frustrated and destroy productivity. When companies reach this point in goal setting, they need to take a hard look at the feasibility of the goal. If the goal is too demanding or big in scale, employees will struggle to achieve it.
  • R: Employees won’t understand the point of a goal if it lacks relevancy. This part of the method explains why the goal is important to the company’s long-term success and how employees contribute to that end.
  • T: Employees need to know the timeline for achieving their goals. If they aren’t clear on when tasks are due to keep the goal on track, they’ll struggle to distribute their workload effectively. Similarly, if the timeline is too short, employees won’t be able to produce the quality of work required for true success.

When employees understand their role and tasks, why it matters, and what management expects of them, their productivity increases exponentially. Without knowing these things, they’re likely to flounder and disengage from their work. Disengaged employees don’t see the importance of what they do and are much less motivated to do their work. This kind of thinking can result in absenteeism, poor workplace morale, and lost profits. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about improving employee engagement and attendance.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations for Disability Related Absences?

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August 30th, 2021

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shutterstock_306793247 - CopyWhen an employee is absent on a frequent basis, many employers take steps to remediate the issue. If the problem continues, the employee may face disciplinary action. However, when the absences are due to a disability, employers need to take a different approach. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers clinical depression a disability. If an employee’s depression affects their ability to come into work, employers need to develop a plan to accommodate the employee without hurting office morale. This can prove even more nuanced when some or all of your workforce are remote.

Balancing Accommodations and Attendance

A common issue employers face: when an employee requests more time off after exhausting their family medical leave and/or short-term disability leave. Numerous court cases show it is reasonable for employers to expect their employees to attend work on a regular basis. However, it is less clear what qualifies as reasonable accommodations for the employee to return to work.
A recent court case shed some light on this issue. An employee with depression and anxiety requested flexible start times as well as a 10-minute break for every two hours of work. The employee suffered from panic attacks and requested the accommodations to help calm down after anxiety attacks. The Court of Appeals found these accommodations were not reasonable for numerous reasons:

  • The employee worked in a customer service position requiring them to answer phone calls; the court determined regular attendance was necessary to complete the main function of this job
  • The court determined flexible start times with planned breaks was not reasonable because the employee’s panic attacks were unpredictable
  • The court found it was not reasonable for the employee to request more time off beyond their exhausted FMLA and disability leave because the employee’s physician could not give a specific time the employee could return to work

Employers need to evaluate each employee’s request with care before making a decision about accommodations. In the example above, the court provided some guidelines for where to draw the line, but each case is different. To learn more about absence management, contact the experts at Actec.

What is a Sick Day for Remote Employees?

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August 3rd, 2021

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The pandemic altered every business regardless of industry or size. Companies assembled their plans for a remote workforce and found new ways to operate when states began issuing stay-at-home orders. Part of this challenge was determining how to handle leave requests and attendance.

Why Are Remote Employees Working While Ill?

Working from home blurred the line between work and personal time, particularly for employees that don’t have a dedicated office. It made it easy to work outside of usual hours and increased the perception of always being available. Even before the pandemic, many employees would come to work while ill or return to work before fully recovering. Some of this is because many employees fear judgment from their colleagues or employers if they call out sick. Others feel the pressure to always be available to their customers.

How COVID-19 Changed Sick Days

The pandemic has further complicated what it means to take a sick day. In a traditional office setting, employees should stay home when ill to prevent spreading illness. Now that they’re already in their home, many feel guilty for requesting a sick day. One survey found that almost half of employees believe other illnesses are insignificant compared to COVID-19. Two-thirds of the respondents believe their employer would frown upon any employee who takes a sick day for anything less severe than COVID-19.

The Cost of Presenteeism

Presenteeism, working while ill, comes with a hefty cost. Productivity decreases nearly threefold when employees work while ill or in pain. They’re also more likely to need to take a sick day if they work while ill, further tanking efficiency.

Many businesses have responded by offering more paid time off during the pandemic or implementing personal days. Other companies are tackling the issue with a shift in company culture. They’re training management to be empathetic when an employee requests sick leave. They’re hoping to shift the perception that the company leadership wants their employees to get better for their health rather than to get back to work quickly.

The pandemic made all aspects of running a business harder than before, and managing attendance is no exception. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how our absence tracking mobile app can simplify absence management during the pandemic.

Integrated Absence Strategies to Control Costs and Reduce Risk

Posted on

June 21st, 2021

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Large corporations commonly realize tangible operational improvements utilizing a cohesive absence management strategy. A few of the notable benefits include cost reduction, improved employee communication, and increased productivity. But large corporations aren’t the only organizations that silo their absence management, disability programs, and other human resource tasks. Whether you’re an organization of 100 employees or 10,000, separating HR functions can lead to:

 

  • Duplicate forms required to satisfy regulatory requirements (more work)
  • Inefficiencies in returning employees to work after their leave expired (wasted labor)
  • HR staff struggling to track all the different types of leave (wasted time, increased risk)

These inefficiencies also lead to drop in their revenue. Numerous organizations have merged their absence reporting and absence management with disability management in order to coordinate claims tracking, integrate lost time data, and implement best practices across all HR operations. The result:

  • A reduction in overall costs
  • An understanding of employee leave and absence drivers
  • A company-wide increase in productivity

Another step in this integration process was to establish a centralized reporting center. The call center offers employees a phone number that will connect them with a representative capable of tracking all absence types and answering any absence-related questions. You don’t have to be a large corporation to leverage an integrated absence management program. Contact the experts at Actec to learn what an integrated call center can do for your business.