Category Archives: Productivity

11 million days and counting

11 million days and counting
By Helen Taylor

Over 11 million days each year are lost due to work-related stress according to the Health and Safety Executive. The true socio-economic impact of these lost days each year is probably not fully quantifiable but the scale of the loss must mean the impact is significant. Employers can therefore no longer afford to ignore this problem and focus just on physical well-being.


Unfortunately, the law on stress is not set out in one place and is piecemeal, which means it is often difficult for employers to fully appreciate the scope of their obligations. Duties are set out in various pieces of legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. A further dimension is added as employers also have implied duties, including the obligation to provide a safe system of work. Taking these duties as a whole, employers must however ensure that their staff are not exposed to excessive levels of stress when at work.


A nod to these legal duties in terms of working practices may minimise the risk of a legal claim but may not provide the support staff need. In tackling the issue, management needs to address the main contributors to workplace stress such as excessive workloads, long hours, bullying and harassment; all these factors should not be ignored as they have a negative impact on staff retention and engagement, absence levels and productivity.
Given the scale of the problem, employers do need to act. A shift in approach does not need to involve a large amount of time and resources. As a starting point, there are some simple but effective strategies that can be adopted:

– Have clear polices which create a supportive working culture and provide managers with guidance as to how to deal with performance management, bullying and attendance issues.

– Encourage more conversations about stress. Talking will help you to understand the causes and therefore put in place the right support when it is most needed.

While these simple steps may provide a solution today, employers will also need to gear up and look to the future.

Winning workplace

Management research and HR studies are identifying that changing demographics mean employers will need to consider new ways of supporting staff by being more aware of their needs and wishes to create the winning workplace. One thing is clear, employees want to ensure that they have both the mental and physical wellbeing to work for as long as possible in the most productive and efficient way. To attract and retain the best talent, the means of providing the right workplace culture to support employees in fulfilling these aspirations will need to be at the top of the HR agenda.

In line with these findings, the government wants to encourage more discussions about disability and health conditions in the workplace. The introduction of a framework for reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing for larger employers although voluntary is one step in that direction.
If work related stress is the growing epidemic that the level of lost hours is indicating, then employers need to act now.

Helen Taylor is principal solicitor at FG Solicitors

Building a High Performance Work Culture Seminar

Building a High Performance Work Culture FG Solicitors

Date: Wednesday 13 April 2016

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am

Cost: Free including breakfast

Venue: FG Solicitors Offices, 2 Deanery Court, Grange Farm, Preston Deanery, Northampton, NN7 2DT

In our continuing series focusing on optimising staff management we invite you to our latest seminar – Building a High Performance Work Culture.

To see how your business goals can be achieved through maximising staff engagement and productivity, join us on 13 April when we will cover:

  • Tools for evaluating your existing performance management strategy
  • Building and maintaining a high performance culture
  • Creating an effective performance management process
  • A practical insight for managing poor performers
  • Reward and performance strategies

Please e-mail us to reserve your spot:

To discuss our next event or for any other enquiries, please contact us:

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

Engaging With Your Workforce

Engaging With Your WorkforceSUMMARY: Staff turnover can prove costly and also cause difficulties in attracting new recruits. It is therefore important that employers consider how they attract and retain the best talent.

Is it all about the money?

To have strongly defined recruitment and retention strategies an organisation needs to understand what motivates its staff.

Often it is mistakenly assumed that it is all about the money. This is not usually the case. One of our clients recently reported that an employee had turned down a job with a competitor, even though the salary was higher. The employee apparently had no qualms in turning down the offer because it was not just about the money.

Financial reward will undeniably play a significant role in any recruitment and retention strategy but there are many other factors which will influence an individual’s decision to stay or indeed join another organisation.

Why identify what motivates your workforce?

An organisation successful in retaining its current workforce is likely to be meeting the needs of its staff which, in turn, means it is probably also attracting new recruits. This organisation is likely to have taken the time to consider what drives individuals – identifying their needs, expectations, and values.

Whilst not purely a legal matter, we are often asked to advise on how an organisation can identify what is important to its staff and in particular, what steps can be taken to obtain employee feedback.

Taking stock, whilst providing an invaluable insight into what motivates individuals will also add further value – there is likely to be a greater feeling of inclusion leading to increased employee engagement; reduced absence levels; lower staff turnover; becoming known as a “good employer” to work for; less workplace conflict; fewer disciplinaries and grievances; less tribunal claims; increased productivity; higher profitability rates; and surprisingly some innovative ideas to improve the business may also be identified.

How to identify what makes a “great place to work”?

There are many different ways of gaining an increased understanding of the issues that are most important to individuals. For example,

  • through the running of employee forums, focus groups and staff meetings;
  • via suggestion boxes;
  • setting up dream/vision boarding exercises;
  • exit interviews; and
  • by implementing staff engagement surveys.

Staff engagement surveys usually offer the best opportunity to facilitate real business improvement on a more formal basis. Committing to such a formal process demonstrates to staff that they are being taken seriously. In turn, staff are more likely to want to contribute.

A survey can take the form of either a number of generic questions or more importantly, where needs and values are being identified, bespoke questions tailored to address particular or unique circumstances. Fundamentally, any questions must be aligned with the organisation’s overall strategy if the results are to add value. The results will also provide invaluable data to be benchmarked for comparison purposes including looking at industry specific data, to understand how the organisation performs alongside other organisations; this may be important when reviewing any recruitment and retention strategy.

Surveys can be carried out in a variety of different ways such as over the telephone, as paper based exercises or on-line. Some survey providers are now coming up with more creative ideas to get the required results. Important in all cases is that staff are provided with anonymity and the opportunity to offer their opinions on a confidential basis.

Before engaging in any exercise there are some key considerations:

  1. How will the process be managed and communicated?
  2. How will the expectations of participants be managed in terms of deliverable outcomes including sharing the results (warts and all)?
  3. Will there be a willingness to take action?

What might the results say?

The results of any staff feedback exercise are likely to identify that staff have a variety of different values.

If the focus has been on retention then it is likely to become clear that for many individuals money is not the main motivator. Increasingly catching up, and in some instances overtaking financial reward, main motivators are flexible working arrangements, homeworking, challenging and stimulating work, structured career development prospects and recognition for going above and beyond within peer groups.

The example referred to above supports these results; the employee cited a number of reasons for staying including a supportive culture, interesting and varied work, and a flexible working arrangement which provided a good work/life balance.

For some individuals money will be of paramount importance and for others it will be a flexible package. Get it right and the workforce will be more engaged and far more likely to stay; a highly engaged workforce is also likely to attract the best talent.

Contact Details

For more details please contact:

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

How the Working Time Regulations Can Work for You

Web update picture - lunch breakIn an increasingly fast paced world in which KPIs and targets dominate, and technological advances can create a 24/7 365 days per year working culture it is maybe unsurprising that a BUPA study has shown that just 30% of workers take a lunch break and that 28% don’t stop for a break at any time during the day. Although it has been reported elsewhere that this results in an additional 19 working days per year which employers benefit from at a nil cost other studies have shown that the loss of the lunch break actually loses UK companies close to £50 million a day in lost productivity.


With few exceptions all workers are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes when a day’s working time is more than six hours – often contracts go beyond this minimum entitlement and specify a one hour lunch break.


  1. Dip in productivity – reports have shown a dip of 40 minutes a day on average for those who skip lunch
  2. Increased number of sick leave days per year – it is reported that those remaining at their desk for prolonged periods are more likely to develop health problems ranging from back and neck pain to more serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease
  3. Increase in mistakes
  4. A loss in creativity


In short, employers should lead by example and encourage the taking of breaks. This can be achieved in a number of ways for example setting fixed time lunch breaks or implementing a system of flexible timed lunch breaks. Employers may also want to consider some innovative ways of introducing well-being initiatives during break times such as partnering with fitness trainers or health practitioners such as physiotherapists. These initiatives may also increase the take-up of lunch breaks by employees and ultimately achieve a significantly more productive and cost effective workforce.

Contact Details

For more details on the Working Time Regulations and how contracts can be drafted to maximise the benefits from the employer’s perspective please contact:

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.