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The EP blog features a different article each edition that focuses on an issue of interest to employability professionals and front line advisors.

 

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The EP Blog

Posted By Lisa Link, 16 January 2018

Must Know Strategies For Achieving Work-Life Balance

by Lisa Link, Executive Director of Enrolment for Cornerstone University's Traditional Undergraduate Admissions Office

These days, the term “work-life balance” is everywhere, and everyone from life coaches to corporate CEOs are talking about it. The term is a bit loosely defined, but it generally refers to how well you do (or don’t) manage responsibilities and relationships harmoniously throughout your life. When responsibilities become too great or too overwhelming, the relationships you have with family, friends, and with yourself can begin to suffer.  

In a recent interview with Forbes about his new book, Rethink Work, author Eric Termuende describes the ways that work/life balance is evolving:

It used to be work-life balance, now it is work-life integration (or just life, and work is woven in). The forces shaping it are the accessibility of information and the ability to work from more places at more times of the day. Organizations need to tell a more holistic story about how they go about doing the work, why, and who with. We can now work from more locations, during more times of the day, from more devices than ever before. The conversation used to be about just work; now it is much, much bigger.

Finding the right equilibrium between life and work isn’t about the number of hours you devo to one or the other. It’s about establishing a general set of priorities in your life and committing the time you have outside of work toward improving and maintaining what’s important to you.  

That balance will inevitably shift at times, because life is unpredictable and you can’t plan for everything. But by focusing on clearly defined goals instead of rigid schedules, you can eventually achieve a balanced and more flexible lifestyle.  

Is work/life balance really that important? Yes. As Tim Kehl notes:

Today work-life balance ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes -- second only to compensation, and workers who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than employees who feel overworked.

What Steps Can You Take to Improving Work/Life Balance?

The first step to improving life outside of work is breaking the cycle of overworking and overstressing. Whether you’re a workaholic, overachiever, or perfectionist, finding a good work-life balance requires learning to leave your work at the office.  

If you’re the type that habitually brings your work home and spends too much time thinking about the job when you’re off the clock, then adding variety and quality to the rest of your life will help to minimize the prominence your job already has.

Consider the effort and dedication going into your work and seriously evaluate what you’re getting back out of it. While it might be reasonable to work a fifty hour week for a few months while trying to earn a promotion, working those hours non-stop for little in return is not.  

You might be the type that strives for perfection or always goes above and beyond what’s asked, but without any payoff, the cost is your own happiness and well-being.   Ease that notion in the workplace and apply that same determination and drive to areas of your life that will make you happier and more fulfilled.

Turn Off Your Devices

Schedule time to turn off the phones, tablets, and e-readers and then stick to it.  For some people, it’s nearly impossible to detach from work with all the devices available and notifications coming in around the clock. But, it can be highly beneficial to find some time each day to go device-free.Recent evidence indicates that evenings may be the best time of day to do it.

A 2015 study of roughly fifteen hundred American adults showed more than nine out of ten people use devices at or near bedtime, and that the use of these devices interferes with both the quality and quantity of sleep they get. Minimizing your device use at night will help take your mind off work and could result in better, more restful sleep and better productivity during the day.

Exercise

Find some time to exercise every single day. Experts agree that increasing your physical activity has a multitude of benefits for health and stress management. As of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that only about one in five Americans are participating in the amount of aerobic and strengthening exercise that’s recommended and it’s not surprising that work-life balance suffers as a result.  

Proper exercise and physical fitness reaps immediate benefits in the form of stress relief, endorphin release, and increased functional capacity. Exercising regularly improves long-term outcomes of work-life balance by preventing future health problems and injuries while improving quality and longevity of life.

Practice Mindfulness

Practice mindfulness and self-reflection. In recent years, mindfulness has become a hot topic for discussion and the concept has been applied to various facets of day-to-day life, even as a useful tactic in weight loss management.  

Mindfulness is a form of meditative practice.Introducing any kind of meditation into your life can result in reduced stress, better attention and concentration, and calmer thinking. Stretching, yoga, breathing exercises, and traditional meditation are all ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily schedule.

Evaluate Your Relationships

Recognize which relationships are important to you and invest more time in cultivating them. One of the best ways to counter feeling like your obligations outweigh your enjoyment in life is by focusing your energy and attention toward your existing relationships.

The relationship with self is often overlooked but is easily one of the most important.  Start by recognizing the factors and activities important to you and then consistently make time for them. When you’re happy with your own sense of accomplishment, focus that positivity into more quality time spent with friends and family.  

Healthy social bonds promote a sense of belonging, acceptance, and mental well-being.

Once You’re Balanced, How Do You Maintain It?

Accountability is the most important factor in keeping your life balanced between work and everything else. Some of the mechanisms we use for coping with stress might not be healthy, but they are habitual.  

Likewise, busy routines build behavioural habits that contribute to lack of interaction between family members and weakened relationships. Habits have to be broken and failure is bound to happen from time to time.  

It’s important to discuss changes to your lifestyle with other members of your household so they can offer support, feedback, and help you measure progress. Weekly or monthly family meetings or daily meals together provide an opportunity to discuss the effects that the changes have on everyone involved.  Household members feel considered, respected, and part of the team in working together to implement the solution.

Another way to measure your progress is by keeping a short diary of how you’re feeling each day. Doing so provides insight into changes within yourself over time and is a good way to evaluate and track your success.

How Can You Find Balance at Work?

The notion of proper work-life balance has spread rapidly in recent years, resulting in many companies embracing more flexible policies that would’ve been discarded as unproductive in the past.

These days, employers are realizing the long-term benefits of happy, productive employees and advertising their company culture as part of their benefits packages. The last decade has seen both small and large corporations begin to offer extras like:

  • flex hours and days
  • telecommuting full- or part-time  
  • open-office work environments with collective workgroups
  • on-site cafeterias and daycares
  • employee enrichment activities like picnics and retreats

Southwest Airlines is one company that consistently makes the list of Fortune 500 entities recognized for their positive approach to work-life balance and their WorkPerks package makes that clear. They’ve instituted programs related to health and wellness, positive employee morale, and civic responsibility. Employees that work there have financial incentives for pursuing a healthy lifestyle, opportunities to volunteer in their communities, and even an employee-to-employee gratitude program called SWAG.  

Surprisingly, Chevron is another great example of a company culture. It provides health and fitness centers on site or through health-club memberships. It also gives employees access to other health-oriented programs like massages and personal training. They also consistently insist that employees take regular breaks.

Not surprisingly, Facebook also provides perks that can help employees maintain work-life balance. They provide complementary, stock options, open office space, on-site laundry, and a strong focus on teamwork and open communication.

If you don’t work for a company that provides any of these benefits, it’s worth discussing some work-life balance concepts with your Human Resources Department. While you probably won’t exact immediate change, most employers appreciate feedback and should be willing to discuss how they might make improvements.

Unfortunately, for some people, the reality of their job is that the hours are set, their position doesn’t offer advancement opportunity, and other career paths are not available to them.

Conclusion

If you’re stuck in a position that gives you little control and you don’t have other prospects or options, the best tactic is to incorporate stress-busting activities like exercise, enrichment, and meditation. Reducing your anxiety and focusing on what you accomplish outside of work will help minimize the lack of control you feel at work and shift your focus to other parts of your life.

Finding organisation in the chaos of everyday life can be challenging and change doesn’t usually happen easily, or overnight. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.  From discord, find harmony.  In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” Establishing a different balance takes determination, patience, and commitment.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to regain control.

 

[This article was first published on Cornerstone University's website

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The EP Blog

Posted By Liz Sewell FIEP, Get Ready For Work & Belina Consulting, 28 December 2017

Women Returners to Work and what the sector can do to help

At the ERSA Conference in December I attended the ‘Returners to Work’ Breakout session hosted by Elizabeth Taylor, CEO of Bootstrap Enterprises, Caitlin O’Kelly of the Government Equalities Office and Rosie Ferguson, CEO of Gingerbread.  It was inspiring to hear from these women, all committed to making a difference to other people’s lives and I felt very proud to be part of an industry that, despite facing uncertain times with Brexit and with unknown challenges ahead, are driving forward and still thinking of new and innovative ways we can help improve outcomes for people and their families.

Returning to work can be a very daunting prospect, not least because as a society we do not always make it easy for people, particularly women, to return to work. Women are still often the primary carers for children and/or elderly relatives and 1 in 4 families is headed by a single parent. This can cause obstacles and barriers to finding suitable employment and there are many considerations they need to make first such as:

  • How do I access suitable and flexible childcare?
  • What if my child is ill? What do I do about school holidays?
  • How will it affect my benefits?
  • What if English isn’t my first language?

These are all important factors that women need to address and as employability specialists our job is to help support women in finding solutions to these problems and taking them through the practical steps. This is often the easy part! 

Often a bigger barrier many women can have when thinking of returning to work is the way they feel about working. When women are not working they can often feel guilty, isolated and with a reduced sense of worth. Caring for children or relatives often means that their education or training has been interrupted which can lead to reducing their options for work or study. Society even labels people who cannot work due to unpaid caring responsibilities as ‘economically inactive’, suggesting they are simply doing nothing of any value. 

As a sector, we have a job to do to help women build their confidence and self-esteem. Not only do women often feel guilty about not working, they often feel guilty about wanting or needing to work too, due to the change this can have on their family unit.  Belina specialise in confidence building training for returners to work but things like work experience and volunteering can help too. As a sector, we also need to promote the concept of work and the benefits it can bring.  The reason I choose to do the job I do is because I firmly believe that women are better off in work than they are out of work but there is still much to do to engage employers and help them adapt and adjust to improve their offering to women.

Women have a tremendous amount to offer the workforce in terms of their experience, their resilience and their ability to multi-task. Employers have much to benefit from this but they also need to be conscious of the fact that, as main carers their children’s welfare will always be their primary concern. 

In her podcast with FE News, Gingerbread’s Rosie Ferguson made some really important points and suggestions about ways employers can help returners to work highlighting flexibility as one of the areas employers should address and how they can re-assess roles to see if they could be more flexible to accommodate returners to work or parents.  She also mentioned how offering schemes such as the Childcare Deposit scheme can be really attractive to returners to work.

Flexibility in the workplace is key to attracting women returners to work but whilst legislation is in place for people to ask for flexibility this is often quite a difficult thing to do in practice. Employers can help by raising the question themselves in interviews and speaking to women about how they might be best accommodated to fit in with childcare. This alleviates the need for the interviewee to bring the question up themselves and to feel they are being a ‘difficult employee’ from day one.

By thinking through a role in advance Employers can also save themselves money.  Not all roles have to be 35 hours a week, they could potentially be done between 10 and 3 each day.  Employers need to be more creative.

Gingerbread are championing the idea of employers setting up a Deposit Guarantee Scheme where employers lend the upfront cost of childcare in the way they would a Travelcard loan. This would be a great help in taking away some of the initial barriers to returning to work.

It is about time society recognised the contribution women returners to work have to offer and the many skills they have acquired as parents. There are many things employers can do to better accommodate women returners to work and we need them to believe in the benefits they can bring them.  More importantly, we need women to believe in themselves too and the benefits that the right kind of work can bring to them and their families.   

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Careers Strategy Published

Posted By Heather Ette, 13 December 2017

Government’s careers strategy published after two-year wait

The Minister for Skills, Anne Milton, finally launched the Government’s careers strategy at the Career Development Institute’s conference two weeks ago, outlining their plans for tackling the current inconsistencies in provision for both young people and adults.

The Career Development Institute welcomes the Government’s new careers strategy but is disappointed about the lack of support for impartial careers guidance. The strategy includes several measures to improve the careers support for young people in schools and colleges, but it falls short of the ambitions set out by the former Minister responsible for careers, Robert Halfon, to bring greater coherence across the age range and to provide lifelong careers support.

The CDI welcomes the expectations that all schools and colleges should:

  • use the Gatsby benchmarks to review and plan their careers programmes
  • publish details of their careers programme on their website
  • have a named Careers Leader
  • work towards the updated Quality in Careers Standard.

During the past two years the CDI have made a number of recommendations to the DfE and are pleased that some of these have been picked up in the strategy. The Careers & Enterprise Company is to be given a broader remit, to provide support to schools across all eight benchmarks, not just the two that focus on engaging with employers. £5M is to be invested in 20 ‘careers hubs’ to extend the good practice developed through the Gatsby pilot in the North East LEP to other areas of the country, £4M is to be made available to fund training for careers leaders in schools and colleges and a further £2M will be spent on projects to test best practice in primary schools and in work with young people with special educational needs and disabilities. And, not before time, a new National Careers Service website will be developed next year.

The CDI remain concerned, however, at the lack of any measures to improve the quantity and quality of career guidance for individuals. The strategy insists that guidance must be delivered by qualified practitioners but fails to include any incentives for schools to increase the amount of career guidance for pupils or to reverse the worrying decline in the careers adviser workforce. It is not at all clear how young people who, for whatever reason, are no longer in school can access the career guidance they need and neither is there any attention paid to the provision of career guidance to young people on apprenticeships or other work-based training programmes.

A new National Careers Service will be procured by October 2018, with a continued emphasis on support for adults with low qualifications and special needs. The Government will invest in Career Learning Pilots to test ways of engaging adults with low skills in learning. However, we remain a long way from achieving the “careers system that works for everyone” that Robert Halfon wanted. The CDI believes this can only be achieved by establishing the all-age careers guidance service that the Coalition Government promised in November 2010.

The CDI will continue to work with the Government and other partners to implement the new strategy but also continue to press for a truly universal careers service that our young people and adults need to succeed in their careers in the 21st Century.

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Engaging employers in employability and skills programmes

Posted By Dr Jo Ingold, 08 December 2017

Engaging employers in employability and skills programmes

by Dr Jo Ingold (Leeds University Business School)

Employers are critical to the success of employability programmes. But there’s been surprisingly little research about employers’ perspectives about them. Following a survey we conducted of over 1,500 employers in the UK and Denmark, we’ve just carried out more than 100 in-depth interviews with employers and providers delivering employability programmes in both countries.

Employers’ perspectives on employability programmes

Employers were generally positive about employing unemployed candidates but were not so positive about employability programmes, particularly in the UK. A critical difference between the countries was that, while every Danish employer we interviewed had taken part in at least one programme (often in more), among UK employers participation was more sporadic. UK employers were most familiar with apprenticeships above other provision. A key reason for not engaging in programmes was that employers thought there were inappropriate to their needs. They were put off by the large number of programmes and providers, lack of knowledge about them, lack of clarity about their value, and about how to access them. The most popular reasons for engaging were to access an alternative recruitment channel, to develop talent and to ‘give people a chance’.

Critically, employers felt that benefit conditionality and employability programmes could ‘tarnish’ candidates and were dissatisfied about receiving large numbers of job applications as a result of conditionality and entitlement conditions. The lack of a tailored service could sometimes resulted in employers being sent candidates who were of ‘poor quality’, unsuitable, or ill-prepared.

Employers were generally positive about employing disabled people, although only a small number of UK employers had done so, and not necessarily through employability programmes. In Denmark the Flexjobs scheme for disabled people (offering subsidized jobs under special conditions, in-work support and reduced working hours) was popular with employers. Importantly, in both countries very few employers had made changes to their recruitment and selection processes to encourage candidates from disadvantaged groups, despite recognising the shortcomings of the standard application and interview method.

UK employers didn’t feel that employability programmes were designed with their needs in mind and, compared with Danish employers, UK employers had very low trust in public policies. This left more ‘gaps’ to be filled by providers through the development of ‘inter-personal’ relationships with employers, based on trust. But, although these relationships were critical to employer engagement, they were also fragile. Once relationships between employers and providers were established, their ongoing management was critically important and UK employers particularly liked having a ‘single point of contact’.

Policy recommendations

  • In their current form, programmes are not working very effectively for employers. Employers still lack knowledge about programmes, do not recognise their potential benefits and consider them inappropriate to their needs.
  • A smaller number of programmes with more continuity and stability but less complexity and fragmentation would make it easier for employers to engage.
  • Changes need to be made to avoid employers receiving large numbers of job applications from benefit claimants in order to fulfil conditionality requirements, as this is damaging to employers’ views of initiatives. A critical aspect of this is better targeting of applications to employers.
  • Devolution is a critical opportunity to improve employer engagement in the design and implementation of initiatives and to devise programmes that are responsive to local needs.
  • More employers need to be equipped with information about ways to make their recruitment and selection processes more inclusive and effective.
  • To maximise resources and to provide a better service to employers, we need more mechanisms for sharing evidence-based good practice across different providers, programmes, cohorts and areas.

Dr Jo Ingold, Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Public Policy, Leeds University Business School.

This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. More information about the research can be found here.

The final research report will be launched on 13 December 2017 at an event in Westminster for policymakers, practitioners and academics. More information about the event can be found here.

 

 

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Budget Roundup 2017

Posted By George Selmer FIEP, 26 November 2017

Thin gruel with the promise of thin gruel tomorrow

by George Selmer FIEP

From the perspective of the employment and skills sectors, this is a bleak budget. Given the economic outlook, this is bad news for everyone.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has downgraded its productivity growth forecasts. This means that it has also revised down its economic growth forecasts. To cap it all off, they then expect this to lead to a rise in unemployment. As Duncan Melville from the Learning & Work Institute commented, ‘this is not a happy outlook for the UK.’

But, we can’t be surprised. We’ve been heading here since the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review. March’s Budget had very little new to say about employment and skills. And, at the General Election, neither of the main parties had very much to say about active labour policy - as I wrote at the time. I did note five key things that stood out in the Conservative manifesto, and so let’s take a look at last week’s Budget against those themes.

"They’re done with radical welfare reform.”

There are some welcome changes to Universal Credit, meaning that people will have to wait less time for their money. But the changes are nowhere near substantial enough. The £3bn cuts to the UC work incentives have not been reversed and the freeze on working age benefits remains in place. The system remains a pale and ineffective shadow of the original principle - which was to bring fairness and simplicity to the system and to make the transition from benefits to work pay.

"They’re hoping to reduce the disability employment gap.”

And hope they continue to. The Work and Health Programme will make a dent, but - as I’ve written before - simply lacks the resource needed to make an impact. You can’t deliver social and economic change through hope. It requires a plan, commitment and investment.

"They’re up for incentivising employers.”

The Conservative manifesto pledge to support the recruitment of unemployed or disadvantaged individuals through a one-year holiday on National Insurance contributions doesn’t seem to have made it into the administration’s first Budget.

“They’re aware of the EU funding gap.”

They might well be, but there was no mention of any plans that committed the government to meeting it. I’ve written before about the huge social and economic impact that will simply disappear in the absence of the European Social Fund or a successor.

“There’s a real drive on productivity and skills.”

There’s a lot of talk about it, yes. Most of the devolution deals contain plenty of plans for a range of talking shops to supposedly integrate employment and skills better.

But, the initial funding for a National Retraining Scheme doesn’t make any long-term commitments and there’s little other significant investment in what can only be described as a national crisis - given that we are now at the back end of the worst decade for UK productivity since the Napoleonic wars.

There’s continued muttering about talking about increasing the flexibility of the Apprenticeship Levy, but no real action - and certainly no response that would install some confidence in a market that is struggling to recover from the cliff-edge it hurtled over in May 2017. The 3 million target looks increasingly difficult, the overall amount of money in the Levy is forecast to be less than previously expected and there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that the Levy gets spent.

We are where we are

The nightmare scenario is that we will continue to cut investment in education, training and employment support right up to and through the point in the economic cycle when we will need it most - having already under-invested our way sluggishly out of the last downturn.

Stephen Evans described this as a ‘baby-steps’ budget, which gives an optimistic sense that we might be moving in the right direction - albeit too slowly. I’m not sure that I share Stephen’s optimism (or, perhaps, his diplomacy!) My fear is that we have a government that is swamped by Brexit, lacking substance behind what vision it has and too tired to deliver any of it. I hope that I am wrong.

In the face of all this, we must keep doing what we do best, do it better and continue to fight for both our own survival and the citizens that deserve world-class education and employment support services.

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VRA Webinar - Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

Posted By Heather Ette, 25 November 2017

VRA Webinar - Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

Tuesday, 28th November 2017 - 11.00am

The Vocational Rehabilitation Association welcomes you to the last webinar of 2017. We are pleased to have Beth Husted & Danielle Crooks from Unum presenting this session.

You can register for this webinar here

 

The webinar will focus on the growing awareness of and the importance of good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Not simply because it’s the “right thing to do”, but because recognising, valuing, improving and protecting mental wellbeing in the workplace makes sound business sense.

In our webinar we will explore:

  • why mental health is a universal asset for individuals, organisations and society
  • the ways many businesses currently respond to mental distress expressed by staff
  • how to set up a broad, good practice roadmap that recognises the complexity and variety of mental health
  • how you can give line managers the necessary tools and time to help identify, manage and prevent poor mental health in the workplace.

Danielle Crooks - earned MSc in Biomechanics, moving into rehabilitation completing case work for clients in the insurance industry. She transitioned into her current role as a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant. She currently works with clients to help them implement prevention initiatives into the workplace delivering workshop materials covering prevalent absence topics. She specialises in delivery of early intervention case management supporting individuals back into the workplace with tailored return to work plans and solutions.

Beth Rose Husted -began her career as an Occupational Therapist working across services from Stroke Rehab to cancer care, Chronic Fatigue and Rapid Response. She specialised in Vocational Rehabilitation 9 years ago supporting return to work. She now manages the Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Team; overseeing the Specialised Assessments outsourcing service, developing and managing the Employer Training programme (On Course), supporting the development and proposition of the Rehabilitation team and managing a team of Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Consultants.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

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The EP Blog

Posted By Richard Frost, Mindful Employer, 12 October 2017

Supporting Mental Wellbeing at Work

Last week’s World Mental Health Day focussed on the workplace and once again raised the importance of equipping employers to be able to support staff experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. New research by the Centre for Mental Health estimates the cost of mental ill health to employers is now a staggering £34.9bn per year – that’s £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy. Just two weeks ago, I was delivering training to an organisation whose workforce had been hit hard by the suicide of two members of staff within days of each other.

Every day thousands of employers are dealing with situations which, aside from impacting on the business itself, often result not only in distress, but also a sense of inadequacy how to respond to what’s happening.

Held on 10th October every year, World Mental Health Day is one of several occasions which can help focus our thoughts on this important area. Similarly, National Stress Awareness Day (1st November 2017) and Time to Talk Day (1st February 2018) will be helpful events. But they have to be occasions where action is stimulated for the long term, not just 24 hours – and, of course, that does happen.

One such way is the sharing of good practice – of letting other people know what works. For example, MINDFUL EMPLOYER Charter signatory, Gateshead College recently had a new member of staff start and while initially they didn't declare their mental illness, it was highlighted during their standard pre-employment health check. The employee suffered from anxiety, particularly when faced with new, unknown situations. This was triggered when they started with the College. Following a supportive meeting with their Line Manager and an appointment with the Occupational Health nurse, a number of strategies were implemented to support the employee, including the allocation of a mentor, regular check ins with their Line Manager and for a temporary period, reduced working hours. The employee is now happily engaged at work and no further concerns have been identified.

And Bootle-based signatory, Sovini Group provide a range of initiatives to support the mental wellbeing of their staff – maybe there’s some ideas for employers you are in contact with:

  • Employee Assistance Programme available to all staff and their families which includes counselling (face to face / telephone etc).
  • Occupational Health Advisor on site once a fortnight. Employees are able to self-refer if required.
  • Feel Good Programme e.g. Mental Health Awareness week (massages, Yoga, Mental Health charity talk, laughology), Sovini Games (week-long series of team building events).
  • Meditation sessions every fortnight during lunch hour. • Mindfulness programme (for Executive Management Team).
  • Excellent office environment including a gym, bistro, quiet room.
  • Work/Life Balance Charter encouraging all staff to develop a healthy and productive work/life balance, which includes encouraging not sending emails outside of work hours.
  • 5 ways to well-being.
  • Reward and Recognition schemes – e.g. Show Some Love (anonymous compliments on Valentine’s Day), Employee of the Month, Customer compliments, Birthday cards, staff socials.

Often very practical, inexpensive and simple things can make the difference. Amidst the hustle and bustle of busyness, the benefits and trials of emails and IT, the targets and the demands, we forget to take lunch breaks, to give ourselves and other people time. Keeping in touch with people when they are off sick, sending a card and flowers, letting people know they are not forgotten.

As I wrote in my article for IEP in May 2017, the importance of equipping line managers is particularly crucial. A line manager’s job is to manage not be a counsellor or a therapist and many find it difficult to help a member of staff who is experiencing mental health issues – especially when it comes to having the conversation. There is after all no reason at all why a manager should automatically know what to do. Staff having monthly 1:1 time with their line manager is crucial – not just to talk about work but to have those ‘how are you’ conversations to build up trust and relationships – so if it ever comes to talking about something really difficult (like mental ill health) then both employee and manager feel more confident and secure and able to respond.

Contact:

Richard Frost, Lead, MINDFUL EMPLOYER

www.mindfulemployer.net

info@mindfulemployer.net

Tel: 01392 677064

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The EP Blog

Posted By Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning and Work Institute, 14 July 2017
Updated: 11 July 2017

How too much insecurity at work is bad for business

New research from Learning and Work Institute shows that insecure work grew between 2011 and 2016 and may be reducing productivity growth.

Insecure work is one of the topics of our time. For some, increased flexibility over work can be a real benefit. For others, insecurity can make it difficult to make ends meet, to plan for the future, and to build a career.

New research by the Learning and Work Institute, commissioned by the TUC, shows one in ten workers is in some form of insecure work. Today 3.1 million people are in insecure work, up around half a million over the last decade. This includes those in zero hours contracts, but also low paid self-employed, those employed through agencies, and temporary workers.

The picture varies significantly by sector. The focus is often on new technology platforms (like Uber) and zero hours contracts, but it is actually a much broader issue. The biggest numbers of people in insecure work are found in education, food and beverage, land transport, and retail. Meanwhile the biggest rises over the last five years have been in food and beverage services and residential care.

Pros and cons

The debate on new forms of work is often caricatured as being bad for people and good for employers. In practice, the picture is more nuanced. Flexible forms of work can benefit many people.

And our research shows that too much insecurity is bad for employers, with some evidence of lower productivity associated with greater use of insecure work (though it is difficult to say one causes the other).

Technology is likely to lead to further growth in these different forms of work. And of course insecurity is about more than the form of your employment contract – you can feel insecure in a full-time permanent job, and agency at work is a broader issue too.

So there is a business case for looking at insecure work. And this is also a national economic case: Britain’s poor productivity performance is one of the things holding back living standards and restricting the money available for public services.

What should we do?

The first point is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Flexibility can benefit both people and employers, and the diversity of employment opportunities is one of the UK’s strengths.

However, this is not universally the case, particularly where there is an imbalance of power between workers and employers. So secondly there is a big role for trade unions to find new forms of organization for people in new forms of work – our research shows only 15% of people in insecure work are in workplaces with unions, half the rates for more secure forms of work.

Thirdly, there are macroeconomic questions about the path of the National Minimum Wage and boosting productivity more generally. The research shows how the type and incidence of insecure work varies by sector. So a tailored approach by sector is needed – the Industrial Strategy provides a context for this.

New forms of work and insecure employment are big issues, rightly attracting much attention. Our research shows where the challenges lie, and the impact this can have on both people and prosperity. The Taylor Review will in many ways be a key part of the debate in how to respond, it should be the start not the end.

 

Written by Stephen Evans

Stephen Evans is CEO at the Learning and Work Institute, an independent policy and research organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion.

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The EP Blog

Posted By Gary Pettengell, CEO, Empowering-Communities, 15 June 2017

A multi-agency approach to offender rehabilitation

By Gary Pettengell, CEO, Empowering-Communities 

A disjointed prison system, coupled with a probation service in transition, is failing to tackle the growing epidemic of reoffending in the UK. It’s costing the taxpayer £15 billion every year and the government knows it’s a problem.

Ex-offenders often exit the prison gates with a lack of direction and end up spiralling back into a perpetual cycle of crime. The only sustainable solution is to adopt a multi-agency approach to rehabilitation. One that encourages various partners from the public, private and third sectors to work together and address the complex needs of every individual.

For example, it’s been proven that gainful employment reduces the chance of reoffending. Helping someone into work increases their self-esteem and financial independence. But it takes more than Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to make that happen, as everyone faces their own set of barriers.

Around a third of prisoners have learning difficulties and almost half have no school qualifications. Many leave prison with no permanent address and 49% suffer from anxiety or depression.

Education in prison

No-one is solely responsible for education and training. As it stands, a variety of diverse organisations provide different types of help.

  • OLASS providers teach basic English and maths skills.
  • Charities, such as Working Chance, help offenders to gain places on employment schemes.
  • Private companies, like Blue Sky, help people to move into work via a ‘release on temporary licence’.
  • Timpson and Virgin Trains offer in-prison academies.

It’s here that the collaboration needs to begin. All self-development activity should be logged in a shared system, which can be accessed by a range of partners. This would allow every relevant service to appreciate the nuances of each individual - from substance misuse charities to JCP Work Coaches.

We already work in this way with MOVEON East - a Norfolk-based charity that helps ex-offenders to prepare for work and find accommodation. Part of their role involves helping clients to open a bank account, obtain an ID or apply for a job when they’ve lost all of their paperwork.

They can only achieve this by collaborating with other organisations, such as the National Probation Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the Police, Stonham, the Matthew Project and support workers. Each agency logs into E-CINS and maintains a record of relevant interventions.

Toni Keryell-Emmerson, a MOVEON east Employment Adviser, explains:

“The clients benefit from a joined-up service that our team provides because there is constant communication with the team. Sometimes there are different versions of stories from the clients and having everything noted in E-CINS gives us the true picture. We can provide a united front as we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.”

It also reduces duplication, creates automatic referrals and allows data to be analysed across all three sectors.

The role of CRCs

The Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme involved outsourcing part of the Probation Service to 21 privately-run CRCs. These operate on a ‘payment-by-results’ contract with no built-in incentives relating to employment.

It’s led to a breakdown in communication within the former Probation Service itself with some reporting that they’re worried about sharing information - even within the same office.

In 2015, John, who works for the publicly-run National Probation Service, told The Guardian:

“There is this idea that because we’re separate organisations now we can’t allow the other organisation to see our work because it’s confidential, which is absolute nonsense because six months ago we were all working together.”

Rather than create more barriers, CRCs could be the at the very heart of ex-offender rehabilitation. Imagine if all practitioners could instantly gain an understanding of the complex issues facing every individual. They could collaborate with JCP, rehabilitation charities, housing associations, in-prison training providers and potential employers.

By tackling a problem from several different angles, you can address any underlying root causes. And if a former prisoner is keen to move on, we should do everything in our power to support them.

Empowering-Communities is sponsoring the Team of the Year Award with the IEP at the 2017 ERSA Awards on 29th June.

 

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The EP Blog

Posted By Dan Wright MIEP, CEO, Chartered Institution for Further Education, 06 June 2017

Why we must reinforce the professionalism of the Skills and Employability Sectors

by Dan Wright MIEP, CEO, Chartered Institution for Further Education

In 2004 I left the hospitality industry in which I had worked for many years to enter the world of work based learning, a field that was unfamiliar to me. Hospitality is a tough business. It requires people with skill, who are prepared to work unsocial hours and who have the ability to innovate and create. It constantly seeks talent, in an environment in which skills are at a premium.

The industry has for many years struggled with the challenge of addressing the skills gap. It has become increasingly dependent on a labour force recruited from overseas, and with the uncertainty of Brexit this solution can only be temporary. These issues it shares with many important industries, all of which are vital to the future success of our economy and the prosperity of the nation. The skills shortage continues to be one of the biggest concerns for employers. UK productivity levels remain stubbornly low. The situation is unsustainable.

When I made the career change I was amazed at how little specific knowledge I had of the Skills and Employability sector, and the support available from Government sponsored schemes. I and my former colleagues had been largely unaware of the wealth of recruitment and skills development support available to employers. To put it simply, it never came across my desk and I doubt that I was the exception.

It is little wonder therefore that until quite recently, many employers have had little real engagement with the skills agenda. For years, Government has tried to extract a contribution from employers with little success, suggesting that skills qualifications have been viewed with some scepticism. Many are still struggling with the implications of the Apprenticeship levy and what it means to them. Until recently, a third of UK employers that are eligible to pay the levy were not aware of its existence, and nearly a quarter of heads of apprenticeships are still not fully familiar with the new system.

So now the landscape has changed. Employers are having to fund Apprenticeship programmes and easy access of foreign skilled labour is set to diminish. This puts Employability, Skills and employer engagement at the heart of the economic agenda.

The FE sector has worked incredibly hard to drive the success of the skills agenda, and the contribution of the Employability industry to the success of the Work Programme has been nothing short of outstanding. Both sectors deserve greater recognition for the incredible work that they do, for their contribution, for the standards that they achieve and for the professionalism that they demonstrate.

British industry needs these skills to identify and develop the talent needed to thrive in a global economy. Employability and Skills providers must now reflect on how this can be messaged to industry leaders. We must do more to celebrate our achievements and to highlight the contribution made. We must reinforce the professionalism of the sectors and help employers understand that the work that is done is technically complex, demanding, highly skilled and most importantly that it adds value. The IEP and the Chartered Institution for Further Education were established to do just this.

Many believe that Skills and Employability are inextricably linked, but they are quite different disciplines. Some organisations are now becoming highly adept at working within both sectors. They are doing this by focussing on the challenges faced by employers, listening carefully to their organisational development needs and using their expertise to assist in the delivery of comprehensive strategies, which go beyond meeting the objectives of government initiatives. To do this they have developed networks of differing expertise which can provide a complete package of support. This has to be our thinking for the future.

Employers are now firmly in the driving seat but lack sufficient information concerning the support available to them. Their success firstly depends on their ability to identify and recruit well prepared work ready candidates and secondly to create the skills development programmes necessary to create a competitive work force. Attributes that the sectors have in abundance. Industry needs to be better informed of what is on offer. Experience tells me that many employers have little or no understanding of our complex work, and how it can support them, so the challenge for all of us is to ensure that industry is fully engaged, in a clear and concise manner that reflects demand.

The time to take advantage of this could not be better. It presents a great opportunity. If the skills of our respective sectors can be effectively promoted to business and industry we have the opportunity to play one of the most important social and economic roles in more than a generation.

 

This article first appeared in FE News

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