What Are The Benefits of a Mesh Chair?

If you’re looking at buying a new office chair but are confused by all the options out there it can be easy to give up and stick to something you know – which is more often than not a simple foam based task chair with a standard fabric upholstery.

But this isn’t always the best option and you could be missing out on a chair that not only suits you and looks after your body but it could also be the most cost effective solution for you too.

So, in a bid to make the chair buying process simpler for you, we’ve started with putting together an infographic to highlight the main benefits of owning a mesh chair – but do remember if you have any questions regarding the best chair for you or your staff, you can contact one of the team on 01293 510553.

Benefits of a Mesh Chair Infographic

What are the Benefits of a Mesh Chair

The Queen’s Speech and What It Could Mean For Educational Institutes – From Nurseries To Universities

The biggest area likely to affect the education sector this Parliament is that the government is working towards legislation being brought forward to not only give every child the best start to life by improving schools but also new powers to take over failing and “coasting” schools and turn them into academies. It is not yet clear exactly what it is that defines a school as “coasting” yet, but it was pointed out within the Queen’s speech that “A coasting definition will be set out in due course according to a number of factors”

So, how can you beat the “coasting” status before you even know what defines it?

You may have noticed recently that there has been increasingly more research into the importance of ergonomics at work and that this has more recently prompted studies to be carried out on the effects of ergonomics – or a lack thereof – in the classroom. There are two parts to the effects of these studies that are likely to be brought to the fore in the coming years due to the government’s plans and they might not be as obvious as you think.

We’ll start with perhaps the most obvious. It is now well documented that improved ergonomics in the classroom has a big impact on not only physical health but also cognitive development and achievement. Attention spans are improved which cuts down on boredom and disruptive behaviour, a positive attitude towards and willingness to study and work has been noted and higher achievement levels have been reached. With the new legislation being brought forward to convert failing or “coasting” schools into academies and barriers removed to speed up this process it is important that you are ahead of times and as prepared for your OFSTED inspection as you can be.

Yes, but why would ergonomics affect my OFSTED report?

The government are planning to continue to increase spending on the NHS by at least £8 billion a year by 2020. It was also pointed out in the Queen’s speech that there will be a greater focus on healthy living. According to various studies, including one carried out by Backcare UK, back pain is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing the NHS £1.3 million and the government £13 billion in benefits. A study by Leboeuf-Yde and Kyyik found that causes of lower back pain can start in childhood and it is hard to argue against this when you take into account that children sit in classroom chairs that are not kind to their forming bones for up to 80% of their time.

Apart from stress on and potential damage to a forming spine, a lack of ergonomics causes a lack of proper blood circulation, tense and problematic neck, back and shoulder muscles and constricted digestive organs. Even if these problems do not cause the child to need to see a doctor, these same problems and their effects can continue on into adulthood and it becomes highly likely that at some point the effects of poor ergonomics on the body will require a person to use some area of the NHS – and probably more than once, as many of this issues can become chronic.

If these visits can be prevented through intervention at early ages at a time where the government is trying to improve NHS services and relieve pressure then it makes sense to believe that proper ergonomics will become a requirement from educational institutes that will be reflected in OFSTED inspections – especially if there is also to be a focus on healthy living in general.

It is also important to realise that it is not just ergonomic furniture that can improve your OFSTED report – different furniture can have an impact on different areas of your report – even as things stand at the moment.

Firstly, as you are probably aware, you must let parents know about an OFSTED inspection and invite them to share their views on Parent View. Parents may bring up concerns that can easily be remedied through the correct furniture use/installation, for example, “I am concerned that my son/daughter is having to carry so many books around all day” or “I don’t feel my child’s belongings are safe”. Lockers can solve both of the problems, while tray storage can provide organised storage for text books, for example.

Inspectors are also required to take note of student opinions of the school and lessons. A school that is vibrant, feels spacious and is easy to navigate is likely to encourage positive feedback from pupils and is easily achieved through the choice of colour for furniture and correct storage facilities. Lastly, inspectors are required to observe throughout a range of situations outside of a normal lesson, including lunch/break and assembly times. Furniture that is simple and quick to set up and pack away for these times can help to make you appear efficient and organised, while provision of furniture that cannot be tampered with and/or become easily obstructive keeps safety high on your agenda.

It is also good to note that we have been breaking away from the sit still and listen type lessons for a long while now and the focus is shifting more towards creating active learning environments. Because of this, classroom furniture, in particular seating is required to be portable in weight and design.

It’s not just schools that are likely to be affected by the proposed changes to come

Another change outlined in the Queen’s speech is the provision of 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This means that nurseries and daycare centres are likely to be reviewed more closely, not only by the government but local authorities and now even more parents than before. The supply of proper equipment that will not only look after the soft, forming bones and spines of young children but that will also be functional and lasting will be both desired and to an extent, expected.

Finally, with no clear commitments to bringing down tuition fees, it is likely that students who do make the decision to continue into higher education – instead of opting for one of the proposed 3 million more apprenticeships to become available over the next five years – will be expecting the best for their money and they will probably have more room to be choosy, especially if universities find themselves struggling to to fill places. This means that they will expect their dorms to be suitably furnished, their lecture halls to cater to their needs and comfort and study/library areas to properly meet their expected standards.

So, it seems that there may be yet more expectations for the educational sector to rise to despite other recent challenges. How do you feel about the new proposals and what will you do to rise to or perhaps even combat them?

How to Prepare Your Office for Success in the Year of the Ram – 2015

Happy Chinese New Year and welcome into the year of the Ram, 2015!

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, where we enter the year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat, whichever you prefer (“Yang” the Chinese word used to refer to the Ram actually means both “Sheep” and “Goat” too!).

The Chinese believe that each new year, and each of the animals which represent them, have different attributes belonging to them, such as certain personality traits, lucky numbers and colours and personal preferences. So it is believed that within a certain animal’s year, certain colours, moods and themes will run throughout the year and those that possess or observe them will be able to prosper.

So, what can you do in the Year of the Ram to help those in your office along the path to success?

Firstly, the lucky numbers of the Ram are 2 and 7.

You may have found it hard to escape recent reports of the importance of ergonomic or active sitting in avoiding a multitude of health problems such as musculoskeletal diseases/injuries, poor circulation, high blood pressure etc. So, why not channel the luck of the Ram and look after your health at the same time with Wave Office’s selection of Ergonomic and 24/7 chairs?  (see what we did there – 2 and 7!)

You may be wondering what a 24/7 chair is. Simply put, it is a chair that is intended for use by those who are required to sit for extended periods of time – generally 8 or more hours. Some of the chairs in our range are endorsed by Chiropractors and all of the chairs are designed to provide support and comfort to your muscles and skeletal system allowing you to avoid aches and pains or even irreversible damage.

Oh, and did we mention, the chairs come with a varying colour palette? The Ram’s lucky colours are Red, Brown and Purple, just so you know!

But what about the mood of the office in the Year of the Ram?

In the same vein, the Ram’s personality is both calm and creative, so this is the year to prosper with these traits. However, we know this can be hard to achieve in an office environment that may not stimulate you creative side. But don’t panic! There’s chairs that are proven to boost concentration and keep the blood flowing to give that creative brain the juice it needs to turn it’s cogs!

Wave Office supply a range of HAG seating which is designed with comfort, practicality, concentration and ergonomics in mind. The Capisco chair for example, was inspired by the design of the horse rider’s saddle and allows for a whole variety of sitting positions (including backwards!) whilst providing proper support. No one is more active whilst sat down than a jockey in the saddle and it’s this movement that the Capisco encourages that keeps oxygen and blood flow levels at an optimum, allowing your brain to function the best that it can. Pretty clever for a chair! You can snap this up in a Ram’s lucky colour too!

 

Photo: Pär Gunnarson Photo: Pär Gunnarson   Photo: Pär Gunnarson

 

Because of his creative personality, the Ram loves teamwork but he also values privacy and space to think. This is a difficult balance to strike in the workplace, particularly if your office is open plan. But we have the solution!

Acoustic office pods and seating is the ideal way to create quiet meeting spaces or private areas where employees can concentrate and work individually to flourish this year. The Den range by Ocee Design provides a selection of pod and screen designs to suit both purpose and space and can be configured in whichever way you wish. Likewise, the Take Up acoustic seating range provides a quiet sanctuary in any area of the workplace for meetings, phone calls, individual working and even dining. You can also choose to integrate power and data modules directly into the seating so that you can simply move your device into the seating area when you need some quiet time and get on with your work as easily as if you were at your noisy desk!

DEN DININGTake_Up_TKUMD_2

One final note on the Ram

The Ram is not afraid of spending money to achieve a first class appearance and this is something that is important in business no matter which year we are in. So, as well as being able to update your office with furniture to boost your prosperity this year, we can also carry out entire workplace refurbishments, from building works to CAD planning and maintenance to help you to achieve a happier and more functional office space.

So now it’s up to you – how will you make the Year of the Ram work for you?

The Impact of Office Furniture on Creativity and Productivity

January, and indeed, the first few months of the year are always hard. Chances are your employees are only just beginning to get back into the swing of things – outwardly. They’ve remembered all their passwords and their diary is now full and organised after a week’s worth of blindly fumbling through the workday.

However, they’re probably still sluggish, a little upset that they’re not still at home in their PJs stuffing Quality Street. There’s nothing much to look forward to in January and absences are likely to be pretty high with colds spreading like wild fire around the office – oh,  and probably everyone is unashamedly suffering from a little bit of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) now that Christmas is gone and it’s freezing!

So, productivity and creativity definitely need a very big boost…but how?

The good news is, you don’t need to become a master of psychology and you don’t need to plan any team building days – people are still struggling to get out of bed – be gentle!

The set up of your office and the equipment and furniture available is one of the easiest ways to help boost productivity and get those creative brains back into gear. Communication can also be greatly improved with the correct office layout and communication means more ideas and better morale!

Here’s a couple of facts for you:

– Comfortable, well-lit and well-ventilated offices see an increase of up to 16% in productivity, 24% in job satisfaction and a notable decrease in absenteeism

– The average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers and documents, causing stress and confusion and heavily impacting productivity

Ergonomic chairs, such as the patented, chiropractor approved, Chiro Plus Ultimate, help to  decrease back, neck, shoulder and pelvic pain and help to prevent musculoskeletal disorders which are a leading cause of lost work days in the UK. The correct chair boosts productivity by increasing oxygen flow to the brain, improving circulation and alleviating distracting aches and pains

Aside from these points, the layout of your office should also be considered. Is every department in the right place? Does everyone have access to the things they need, i.e the right files to hand?

The lighting of the office or workspace is incredibly important but it also seems a daunting and expensive component to change if it is not right. Natural light is best, with the addition of task lighting, i.e lamps, for reading and note taking making it even better. Overhead lighting is the most popular choice but it is also the worst form of lighting, contributing to headaches, eyestrain and fatigue. However, changing the lighting doesn’t need to be as scary as you think and there are plenty of options to improve this area of your office without complete upheaval.

The culture of your company can easily be improved by generally brightening up the area or providing an area for breaks that properly allow for a brain recharge! Relax, you don’t have to get all Google about it and put slides and ball pits into the mix. Rest and play areas are easily created and have a massively positive impact on morale.

These breakout areas can strengthen working relationships and allow employees to feel refreshed and productive. These areas are also great for particularly corporate offices that have many important visitors or wish to portray a strictly professional demeanor. Hide them away in “staff only” sections of your office and even utilise the space to remind people of company values through adding aesthetic signs, quotes and images to walls.

So, if you feel your office needs a little pick me up, or you think that the benefit of happy, productive and creative staff is invaluable then give Wave Office a call. With years of experience in refurbishing offices, designing and planning space, as well as providing furniture that is specifically tailored to the needs of your workplace, we’re confident that we can get your office out of the January Blues and into a prosperous 2015!

Sit Stand Desks; What Are The Benefits and Will They Become The Norm?

Dr Mike Loosemoore (Lead Consultant in Exercise Medicine at The Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health) claims that standing for three hours a day is as good for you as running ten marathons per year. Doesn’t sound too arduous, right? But what can you do if your job or daily routine requires you to be at a desk for the duration of your day?

We’ve long known that standing for long periods of time has damaging effects on your health resulting in conditions such as varicose veins, lower back pain and disorders and an increased risk of stroke. However, it is only in more recent years that the effects of sitting for prolonged periods have been found to be just as, if not more, damaging than standing.

Even going to the gym and working out intensely each day after work (no, thanks) doesn’t offset the damage that sitting during the day has done to your body. Plus, sitting burns a measly, one calorie per minute, so those Malteasers that “aren’t so bad for you” will take it out of you trying to burn them off at the gym.

But the weight isn’t all there is to worry about. When you sit for prolonged periods of the day (this is including driving to and from work, watching television, eating dinner etc.), your good cholesterol is lowered, your metabolism slows, insulin becomes less effective and the likelihood of heart disease and type 2 Diabetes increase.

So what are you supposed to do if both sitting and standing becomes damaging after extended periods?

Cue the sit/stand desk.

Many companies are now aware of the effect of good, and indeed, bad health on the morale and productivity of staff, and staff themselves are aware of the effects that certain working situations can have on their body and are beginning to demand the aids that they need to counteract these effects.

Sit/stand desks come in a variety of forms – either manual, if you really want to stretch your office workout, or electric for ease of use. The introduction of these desks means that users have the option of how to work based on their own preferences and comfort, medical history and informed choice as to the effects of each position.

It is recommended that for every hour a person spends sitting,  they should spend a minimum of ten minutes standing. If standing for longer, most find it comfortable to raise one leg and rest their foot on a stool or something similar to relieve pressure from their feet and legs alternately.

However, just as an ergonomically designed chair will never see it’s user reap its full benefits if they have not received correct training in how and when to adjust the chair, height adjustable desks are of no use unless the set-up comes with more than just an assemble and plug-in job. Those installing the desks, such as us at Wave Office, should understand the benefits of sit/stand desks and how they should be used by individuals depending on their circumstance.

There are also many applications and software that can help people to get into the habit of standing and sitting at appropriate times based on the type of work that they are carrying out and the time they have spent in a particular position. Check these out if you’re unsure where to start:

Even without this software, it’s easy to set a simple alarm on your phone or PC that can remind you when your allocated sitting or standing time is up and it’s time to change.

What are your views? Do you think height adjustable or sit/stand desks will become common place in office based professions, or even beyond?

 

 

 

How A Chair Can Improve Health and Performance

“The human body is an anatomical miracle. And the better we take care of our bodies, the better we perform. That is as true when it comes to sporting activities as it is for when we are carrying out what we might assume are the most routine of tasks, such as sitting. When we sit in a chair that takes into account our body’s natural ease of movement, we breathe better. When we breathe better, it’s easier for us to concentrate and we perform better.”

RH Chairs, Scandinavian Business Seating

Recently, Scandinavian Business Seating cooperated with Anna-Lisa Osvalder, Professor of Product and Production Development – Design and Human Factors, Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, to lead a scientific study into the effect of the RH Logic 400 Chair on office worker’s health and performance.

The study saw a group of 48 full-time office computer workers from two different companies participate in a five week trial of the RH Logic 400 chair, sitting in it every day for the entirety of the time they were required to be at their desks. Each week, participants filled out an extensive questionnaire during which they would answer questions based on how they felt the chair was influencing their work. Another 36 people participated as a control group for the study.

The study is important in providing proof that the right task chair can increase productivity and lower absence costs. Many companies are reluctant to move away from the simple office chairs that they currently provide to staff simply because they cost a little extra. However, when we consider the loss of productivity and the amount of paid absence leave that results from pain and or injury at work – particularly musculoskeletal disorders – the “extra” cost, is not really extra at all.

A study undertaken by the Fit For Work Coalition UK, “Taking the Strain: The Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Work and Home Life” found that of the 809 people that took part in the study (all of who have MSDs), there was an average of a 43.9% loss of productivity per person. Of those in the study who were not in work, 57.4% had been the primary earner for the household and two thirds of the households are now dependent on welfare. Just under 60% of the study group said that they feel MSDs stop them from reaching their full potential at work.

Along with this information and the fact that MSDs are the leading cause for sickness absence in the UK, it is easy to see why spending a little extra on a chair – many of which, including the RH Logic 400, are generally repairable and more durable than their cheaper counterparts – will not actually impact on a business as much as ignoring the issue of ergonomics will.

Rh Logic 400 Ergonomic Task Chairs, Part of the Chalmer's Study, Scandinavian Business Seating

RH Logic 400 Ergonomic Chairs Included in the Chalmer’s Study

The RH Logic 400 is an ergonomically designed chair, specifically created for use in any environment where productivity stemming from employee well being is key to success. The chair is one of the most environmentally sound in it’s class and still manages to feature a number of controls for individual adjustments offering a variety of possible sitting postures.

During the study, half of the participants reported that they felt neck and shoulder strain had reduced within the first few weeks of the study – after five weeks the perceived strain was lessened by 20-25% for necks and 10-15% for shoulders. Participants who had reported long-term problems with their necks/shoulders said their symptoms were reduced by 30-40% over the study period.

11281_fit_300

RH Logic 400 In Use

Lower back pain can be a problem for those who sit with legs crossed or do not have the correct lumbar support on their chairs. The RH Logic 400 has a generous lumbar support with the height of the backrest being easily adjustable, while the tapered design and “tredts” cushion still allows the user’s body to move freely. In the study, over 30% said they felt that lower back pain – particularly in the right side of the body – had reduced. This was supported by half of the participants reporting a general comfort increase of 20%, while a third graded the increase at 30%.

More than 70% of those who took part in the study reported that they felt the RH Logic 400 had impacted on their working situation positively, almost 75% felt that their working technique had improved and a third said that their performance had increased while time pressure decreased.

It is important to remember that MSDs are not the only issues caused by a lack of ergonomics and even if no physical injury or illness is caused through improper posture and seated positions, it is vital to realise that comfort and discomfort are not mutually exclusive.

“Discomfort is associated with biomechanical factors (joint angles, muscle contractions, pressure distribution) that produce feelings of pain, soreness, numbness, stiffness and so on…eliminating physical constraints can reduce discomfort , but this does not necessarily produce comfort…

Comfort is associated with feelings of relaxation and well-being…The absence of these feelings will not lead to discomfort because adverse biomechanical conditions are necessary for this”

 L.Zhang, M. Helander, & C. Drury (1996) “Identifying Factors of Comfort and Discomfort in Sitting.” Human Factors. Volume: 38. Issue: 3. pg 377-389

This is where the RH Logic 400 comes into it’s own, with a design that goes beyond what is required to simply cease discomfort and focuses on factors to create and increase comfort. The seat, which is available in two sizes, includes a layer of wool which provides increased ventilation, making it cooler than conventional pads; a waterfall seat edge to reduce pressure to the underside of the thighs, improving circulation and optional armrests with adjustable height and depth which are recommended for providing relief for shoulders. These are amongst many other features that make the RH Logic 400 an exceptional task chair.


To see the whole study carried out by Anna-Lisa Osvalder, alongside Professor Anders Colmsjö, at Stockholm University and Susanne Hedin from “Ergonomhuset”, follow the links below.

Chalmers study RH Logic 400 White Paper – Shortened summary of the study

ChalmersUK – Infographic regarding findings of the study

RH Logic 400 report Chalmers – Full, detailed report on the study

A Designer’s View On The Changes To Come

Currently, there is much focus on changing workplace environments and working patterns and an uncertainty that seems to go hand-in-hand with excitement around what the future of working Britain, and indeed, the world will look like

In light of this, Wave Office spoke to Julie Berdou, an Interior Designer in her early twenties. Having now completed her final year of BA (hons) Interior Design and Technology (Cass School of Art Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University),  Julie is excited by a future career in the field or the possibility of completing a masters programme and has shared the process behind her final projects with us.

One of Julie’s projects, WW – A Mobile WorkPlace That Connects, is perhaps one of the most pivotal design ideas in expressing how future generations will choose to work and how the face of business will change. WW is Julie’s response to the RSA Student Design Awards and Tomorrow’s Workspace brief. The transparent work spaces are designed to be placed in busy areas and accessible to those who require an office space between meetings, to impress potential investors or customers and grab some extra publicity (there is an option to display your logo on the wall whilst you work there). With fixed office spaces set to become more of a rarity, WW also caters to those who can’t afford to rent space in places such as London but do spend a lot of business time there.

The concepts for the configuration of WW make sure that it meets Generation Y’s demands for:

  • Connection (the Wall)
  • Collaboration (the Fold Out Wall)
  • Contemplation and focus (the X Work Wall)
  • Community (Fixed Cube)

The design also takes into consideration what consumers in Generation Y will and do demand. With social media an integral part of most marketing plans now, consumers expect to identify a brand’s personality, be able to interact with a company and to gain almost instantaneous answers. The most successful brands in recent years have pushed the boundaries in social media and created the opportunity for more affinity and brand recognition from consumers. Working at a WW workstation will give the impression that the company has nothing to hide, is flexible and up-to-date and is confident enough to allow people to see the faces behind a brand.

Julie also took into account the fact that the next working generation will place a high importance on energy efficiency and combating global warming. WW uses solar cell technology and LED lights among other features and a high level of material research was carried out. All of this was calculated and researched alongside the possible profits, the budget and the amount of noise pollution inside and outside of the hubs.

WW Fixed Cube, In-situ Concept London

WW Fixed Cube, In-situ Concept London

Perhaps an even bigger triumph for WW is that, as Julie discovered, these work spaces appeal to not just Generation Y, but their predecessors – Knowledge Workers, Baby Boomers and Silver Talent – who loved the concept and would be happy to work in such places. Finding this opportunity to blend the working generations is crucial during the crossover and will help troughs in morale and productivity. As Julie points out herself, the current and ongoing changes to the workforce are not without their issues:

“In terms of mobile working I think a challenge that needs to be overcome is how to establish trust between employees themselves. One employee not physically being in the office, but working on the go, could be seen by another as them not working at all (If I can’t see XYZ, XYZ is probably not working.). It’s up to HR, management and leadership to develop strategies that deal with such issues”

Another of Julie’s projects – the Adaptive Workspace Hub was a response to abandoned architecture and dereliction; the application site is the former flour mill, Millenium Mills, West Silvertown.

The derelict flour mill is not only a reflection of Newham, an area currently dealing with deprivation, unemployment and youth violence, but also of the transition between working generations and the changes they will bring. Generation Y and those to come after will change the face and the mechanics of the workforce, just as Julie has done with Adaptive Workspace Hub.

WorkspaceHUB design concept

WorkspaceHUB design concept

Julie’s aim with the Hub was to create a place designed to meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce, offering break-out and social areas with quiet, personal spaces for those seeking them. The result was a high segmentation and choice concept that allowed individuals to personalise their work style and provided areas that aided concentration, facilitated collaboration and provided an escape from work to recuperate, something Julie puts a high importance on herself:

“I achieve my best results when working in a physical environment that is adaptable to my needs. Sometimes I need to concentrate on a particular task, that’s when I need my personal desk, chair, laptop and a calm but personalised environment with a sense of ownership. Then I also need to interact with people, talk about my ideas. I want to get inspired by other peoples work and I also want to help inspire others with mine. Recuperation is immensely important too, there are only so many hours of working, concentrating and collaborating I can do before my brain shuts down and I need a break. I believe the workspace of the future should cater to these needs and respond with a series of adaptable workspaces that allow for people to concentrate, collaborate and contemplate when it is appropriate for them”

 

It’s a tough but exciting time for designers, leaders and employees alike, there are changes in practice and experience for all concerned and as Julie points out, “the physical working environment is only part of a complex matter – leaders especially should recognise their workforce’s needs and characteristics in order to boost productivity”. “It is key that individuals can personalise their work style and work in a variety of ergonomic positions (seated, standing, reclining) that allow for a healthier work style”.

In fact, only recently a top Doctor – Professor John Ashton –  has declared that britain should only be working a four day week to reduce stress. It is clear from this and the recent Government change to flexible working that health and a good work-life balance are key in achieving a harmonious and productive workplace and are key factors in a new era of business.

There is no denying that we are entering a new and influential period in our work lives and it will be almost impossible not to be affected by this. The bottom line from Julie is that:

“Gen Y has definitely had an impact on what I do in terms of a designer and is shaping the workforce and its design considerably”

To find out more about Julie's work connect with her on any of the following: 
Twitter: @JulieBerdou   LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/julieberdou
Behance: https://www.behance.net/julieberdou

 

How Will the New Flexible Work Legislation Affect the Workplace?

As of 30th June 2014 every employee with more than 26 weeks service has the right to request flexible working from their employer, but what does this mean and how will it affect the workplace?

The right to request flexible working could see an estimated 20+ million asking to be considered for a variation in their working pattern including:

  • Working from home
  • Flexi-time hours
  • Job sharing
  • Shift working
  • Working from home

The right has been extended past parents and carers who were previously the only groups who had the right to request flexible working in an organisation that didn’t otherwise adopt a similar policy. The change is in light of recent revelations that flexible working is good for employee well-being and productivity and is expected by the government to be of particular interest to those approaching retirement age and the younger generation who are looking to fit in extra training or forms of education around their working life.

Unions and employment groups have welcomed the change alongside the government with Nick Clegg expressing his approval of the change.

“Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow. It’s about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families” Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

 

The change also falls in line with the “coming of age” of Generation Y, who have recently, or are just entering the workplace with a brand new set of ideologies and working methods that have already inspired changes in the workforce and the functionality of working spaces. There is no doubt that this generation will completely redefine what it is to work and how we do it and this is obviously something that is agreed with beyond their own generation, highlighted by this and other changes, such as the shared parental leave policy, due to pass next year.

However, although flexible working is a change that should appeal to almost every generation currently within the workforce, unlike some other changes that are not as widely supported beyond those in Gen Y, some are concerned about whether or not this change will actually boost morale, productivity and staff retention as well as predicted.

Because the new policy is only a right to request and not a right to receive flexible working, there have been clear regulations set out to ensure that employers consider requests fairly and this includes providing sufficient reasons for not being able to agree to the request which could be:

  • The additional costs to the company are unmanageable
  • The change may make the company unavailable to meet consumer demand
  • The reorganisation is impractical, unachievable or will cost the company too much time
  • The need to hire additional staff in order to fill the time left through flexible working

An employer must consider each request on it’s own merits and there is to be no bias or priority for parents or carers over any other employee asking for a form of flexible working. The regulations state that a company is liable to face a claim for indirect discrimination against either group if the ratio within their company is too heavily weighted towards one set of people without good reasons i.e, there are fewer parents/carers within the company than there are those without dependants.

Fraser Younsen, an employment law specialist highlights the problems that this may cause within the workplace.

“We’ve already seen an increase in the number of grievances filed by people who feel they are having to make up the work of colleagues working flexibly because they have children. With everyone able to request flexible working, the number of grievances is only set to rise”

 

As the FSB point out, competing requests could breed negativity and discontent within the workplace which, in turn, could have an impact on productivity, staff retention and morale.

The change could also have a negative impact on smaller businesses who may have to turn down requests by their employees due to the cost they may incur through making flexible working available. This my make it harder to attract and retain employees which could see small businesses struggle and possibly have to shut down, providing power and in some cases monopolisation to bigger corporate companies. This goes against recent shop local campaigns and will leave small business owners frustrated and those looking to set up an SME more wary of the implications and challenges they may face.

Once a right to flexible hours has been approved, the terms and conditions of employment are permenantly altered and cannot be changed back, unless otherwise agreed with the employer, so when considering requesting a change to your working pattern, it would pay to truly consider the impact that it could have on your life now and in the future, the impact it could have on the business and other employees (as well as your relationship with them), the ability to achieve your full potential, the impact on the productivity of your team and the ability to reach targets set by your employer.

Although many may see these changes as a welcome benefit, should employers do more than just fall in line with government regulations and consider extending and tailoring what is required of them legally to suit both their business and team and future-proof it?

Why Employee Retention Is Set To Be Big On Everyone’s Agenda

Whether you are an employer or an employee, the issue of employee retention is always a topic of importance; however, with the economy slowly improving in line with Generation Y who are already shaking things up in the workforce, employee retention is going to be a hot topic on everybody’s list.

So, as an employer, how can you give more to your employees, retain and attract the talent and still keep business and productivity a priority?

With the right to request flexible working – anything from flexi-time to job sharing – now law, any employee with more than 26 weeks service can request a change in their normal working pattern and an employer must give at least one of eight approved reasons, with proof, as to why the request is rejected in order to decline.

This right was previously only given to parents of children up to 17 years of age and those with dependents, such as carers. Now, there is to be no priority given to these groups over anyone else who wishes to ask for flexible working and companies have been told to expect to face a claim for indirect discrimination if they are found to be too heavily weighted in a certain group’s favour with no good explanation, (i.e all employees are without children, therefore you cannot grant those with children flexible working).

The new legislation is worrying some, such as the FSB, who say that competing or rejected requests could do exactly the opposite of what the government proposes and lower productivity and morale and breed negativity.

So, what can you do if you can’t meet the requests for flexible working because, especially if you’re a SME, you’ll find it hard to cover the costs of allowing this? How can you adapt your own policies to help those that government legislation hasn’t helped and keep them loyal to your business for as long as possible?

Sabrina Parsons is CEO at Eugene, an Oregon based software company. The title of her blog page “Mommy CEO” may give you some ideas as to how she’s adapted her business to support herself and her employees. As she says in her blog:

” any privilege I get in the office, is extended to all employees” Sabrina Parsons, Kids at Work? Why It Works and Helps Women (and Men!) Succeed”

She appears to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to being fair to employees and has chosen not to adopt the attitude of an authoritarian style manager, something that Generation Y – who will predictably make up the majority of her staff base in due course-  will not stand for.

Sabrina allows her staff to bring their children into the office when their child care plans haven’t worked out or when it is the school holidays. She is eager to stress that it is not an alternative to a nursery, but means that on those inevitable days when there are hiccups with childcare plans, her staff don’t have to miss work, they don’t have to feel torn between their family and work and productivity is less affected.

The fact that her employees can enjoy these family friendly policies (including flexi-time and an office environment complete with comfy couches and crayons) has allowed Sabrina to enjoy a loyal workforce with little staff turnover. Revenue from the company’s flagship product also grew by 106% in 12 months. Parsons attributes this to a happy team which now includes 4 working fathers who are taking advantage of the policies on offer.

In regards to employee retention she advises that the simplest way to apply the right strategies to your own business is to:

“think about the real things that matter to employees and give access to talent that you are or could be losing”

It is true that the hard to replace talent will be in high demand and with the improvements of the economy, they won’t find it hard to find somewhere else to go if your strategies aren’t working for them and their lifestyle. If you think that employees are stuck between a rock and a hard place and will be grateful for what they’ve got, you’re wrong and your business will suffer for any outdated policies, particularly when Generation Y are fully integrated into the workforce. There is no running away.

Even scarier and potentially more detrimental to your employee turnover rate is the social era that we’re living in. It is now even easier for candidates to find a new job with friends able to suggest roles they’ve heard of at the touch of a button and mailing lists that can match a candidate and a job together. The existence of sites such as LinkedIn, means that one of your employees could be headhunted at any time, without even being aware themselves that they wanted to change their job or that there was a better role out there for them.

It is also true that the upcoming Generation Y and indeed many currently in the workforce share similar wants and needs in how they think they should feel about their job. Here, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a useful model for grouping your employees and assessing their needs – however, remember that this is not a hard and fast rule and some form of personalisation is still required for employees to feel engaged and important within the business.

Applying Maslow's Hierachy of Needs to Employee Retention (1)

  • Base – Survival: Disengaged, only turn up to work for the money, carry out the bare minimal in a day and would leave for another job very easily
  • Level 1 – Security: Interested in overtime to meet financial needs but still disengaged and dislike their job
  • Level 2 – Belonging: Almost engaged, know they are part of something bigger but may still leave if tempted
  • Level 3 – Importance: Engaged, feel important, will only leave for a very good offer
  • Top Level – Self Actualisation (estimated only 15% of the workforce reach this point currently): Highly engaged and love their job

You may think disengaged employees are not such a catastrophe for your field of work; some job markets, such as retail, which generally employs a high level of part-time or student staff,  are aware that employee turnover is high and don’t mind this because there are still “bodies in spaces”, but disengaged employees actually cost the UK economy between £52- £70 million annually. Plus, employees who have stayed with the same company move up the value curve and become an appreciating asset to companies with a higher productivity rate and better knowledge than those who are simply part of an accepted “employment cycle”.

Even if a productivity rate is of no importance to you, realising the cost of losing an employee may make you think twice about improving your employee retention plans. It is estimated that it can cost up to 1.5-2x an employee’s annual salary through the process of losing one worker and employing another:

  • Hiring a new starter costs money and time through advertising the role, interviewing candidates etc
  • The cost to a company on training a new recruit (2-3 years worth of training in some form, costs around 10%-20% of the recruit’s annual salary)
  • The loss of productivity through spending time on the hiring process and training up the new prospect (it is estimated that around 1-2 years of productivity is lost during this time) and letting the team find a new way of working with a new member
  • Loss of engagement from other employees who see a high turnover rate and become discouraged
  • Customer service level loss and cost of errors made through new recruit learning the job

So, how do you move your employees from survival or security level up to importance or even self-actualisation level?

– Make pathways to self-actualisation clear for all employees, don’t allow them to think that this point of the hierarchy is only available to a select few or the “elite”. Equip them with autonomy and independence whilst motivating them with clear objectives. This is especially important to Generation Y who crave career growth and varied, interesting roles where they are challenged and can learn.

– Another important factor for Gen Y and indeed most other working generations is continuous and instantaneous feedback. Many companies are beginning to realise this and put a priority on token gifts and handwritten notes, rather than solely recognising talent at annually organised events.

– Make the company’s mission and vision clear to all employees and, if practical, highlight the ways in which each team or individual member can contribute towards this bigger picture. This makes them feel important and the sense of achievement they will fell when a goal is reached will boost morale and self-esteem – they are one step closer to self actualisation and there is a clear opportunity for active engagement.

– Be an available coach and mentor, rather than a deligater or adopting a management style akin to dictatorship. In a recent Hays Recruitment Experts study, 51% of their respondents said that having a manager who they feel can and will mentor them to reach their full potential is the type of person who they will be most productive for.

– Operate an open door policy and make time to listen to employee’s suggestions, ideas or concerns. This gives you an opportunity to get to know staff and build an appreciated rapport, meaning they are less likely to want to leave and at the minimum, they won’t want to let you down.

– In light of the above point, HOLD THAT FOLLOW UP MEETING! There is no point in listening to your employees if you do not follow up the matter with them after a reasonable amount of time. Not making time for this meeting, even if you were unable to do anything about an issue or an idea, is worse than not being available to listen to them in the first place; they feel let down and forgotten about and thus they don’t feel important or valued.

– New challenges are also highly important in employee retention. The idea of “a job for life” barely exists nowadays and will be even more of a rarity once Generation Y are at their peak in the work place. Recent research has shown that by the age of 38 most Gen Y employees will have had at least 14 different jobs which equates to a new role every 1-2 years.

– Many companies who have a low staff turnover rate engage the notion that “people leave managers, not jobs” and just as external customers would stop using their company if they provided poor customer service, they recognise that the same effort should be put in to retaining and pleasing their internal customers.

– Finally, an area that is receiving a lot of focus recently – a vital part of employee retention but in no way the only policy to be implemented – is redesigning the office space. Provide your staff with quiet areas for focusing, break-out areas for relaxing and both comfortable and formal collaborative spaces to cater to all working generations and personality types. Many companies are finding that changing the work space not only improves morale and boosts productivity but also reduces costs such as power usage reduction, reduction in the total work space cost per person and lower absenteeism (something that can force your hand into creating high staff turnover due to sickness policies if absenteeism is high).

What do you do within your business to improve employee retention and what experiences as an employer or an employee have you had when it comes to efforts to keep staff turnover low?

 

 

 

Who Are Generation Y and Why Should We Be Creating Office Spaces To Meet Their Needs?

As Generation Y Come of Age, How Must Our Work Spaces Adapt?

By the end of the decade we can expect to see a complete turn around in the ethics, demands and requirements of those who are of working age. It is estimated that this shift in the workplace paradigm will see the amount of “Baby Boomers” in the work place fall from 50% to 25% and an increase of Generation-Y workers (otherwise known as Millennials) from 25% to 50% – and that’s just within the next six years.

So who are Generation-Y, why must we change our ways for them and how do we attract and retain them into our workforce?

Generation-Y are those who were born between 1983-1995 and were teenagers around the same time as the new millennium, when the internet was becoming faster and more prevalent in day-to-day life and technology was advancing at an almost alarming rate. In their lifetime so far we’ve gone from walkmans to mp3 players to Bluetooth speakers. Their first phone is likely to have been the Nokia 8210 or even the 3310 with only Snake and Space Impact as standard and in those short few years they will have gone through phone after phone until they reached the iPhone 5s with fingerprint recognition.

From the rapid expansion and improvement of technology, the speed of the internet and the vast amount of information readily available at the fingertips of a whole generation, you will understand why Generation-Y are the creative, adaptable and flexible people that they are. This is the generation that both expect and in many ways demand:

  • Engaging work places that in many cases should feel like a home from home and almost residential in nature
  • Flexible meeting rooms and plenty of social, collaborative space available
  • Be free to handle their work schedules and work in a way that both suits them and allows them to be the most productive
  • Higher pay and better benefits in an interesting and challenging job role that suits their lifestyle and needs
  • Up to date technology
  • Continuous and instant feedback from management without authoritative management styles
  • Be able to recognise and tend to their own needs, breaking when they want to, working socially or alone when they need to etc

Providing Generation-Y with new challenges in the work place is of the highest importance. It is estimated that by the time a millennial is 38 years old he or she will have had at least 14 different jobs; this equates to a new job every 1-2 years. The challenge in employing this generation is employee retention.

In a survey by Hays Recruitment Experts, 60% of their Generation Y respondents said that having interesting work was the most important factor when considering a new role or assessing the level of satisfaction that they have in their current job, 47% said they look for their leader to be motivational and 50% said that feeling valued and appreciated is of most importance when considering job satisfaction. Remodelling the office to suit the flexibility and lust for collaborative work of Gen Y employees goes a long way to recognising these needs. Many companies worry that by doing this, they make their work space seem unprofessional and too relaxed. This couldn’t be further from the truth and by staying ahead of the game now, they will reap the rewards ten-fold in the future.

Cisco, a global networking equipment designer and manufacturer, began redesigning their office spaces in 2004 when Generation Y were about to or had just joined the work force and within a few years the vast majority of their work places had been remodelled to adapt to the needs of the new generation and to increase productivity. For Cisco, productivity wasn’t the only thing to improve, absence rates fell and employee turnover decreased; they also noticed that the total workplace resource cost per person dropped by 50%.

Generation-Y is a results focused generation and puts less emphasis on the structure of the working day as opposed to what is achieved within it. If they spend three hours and achieve the results they needed to or preferably go beyond this, why should they be tied to a desk for seven hours? If they know they are more productive sitting in a comfortable, collaborative environment with technology on-tap, why will they sit in silence, squirrelling away behind a desk divider. They won’t do it and will see anywhere that is not catering to this way of working as wasting time that they could be achieving something valuable in. Choy, a Generation Y employee at Cisco said “The Cisco culture isn’t about putting in ‘face time’ at the office, it’s about meeting deadlines and getting results”.

However you feel about it, Generation Y are well and truly shaking up the work place and if your company isn’t embracing the demands of the new workforce, you’re going to fall behind. It’s time to get planning and empower both a new generation and your business.