Let’s make 2022 a happy year

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A traditional toast is to ‘health, wealth and happiness’, three key elements to life for many people. As the clinking of glasses bringing in the new year fades into the distance, many people use this time as a fresh start and a time to set goals and make resolutions. Many of these focus around health and wealth, but what goals can we set ourselves to improve being happy?

Dr Anthony Clare, perhaps best remembered for presenting BBC Radio 4’s ‘In the Psychiatrist’s Chair’, devised his seven steps to happiness. And, as we start 2022, I thought it was a good time to share them.  Obviously, happiness is hard to quantify, but his tips might just give you something to think about.

Number one: cultivate a passion

I think this one is particularly important as if you have something you are passionate about, it helps you develop a positive mindset. This is very important, as it will help keep you focused on the good, when you are potentially facing challenges in other areas. Dr Clare also thought that to have something you enjoyed was a very important part in his model of happiness.

Number two: be a leaf on a tree

By this he means you need to be part of something bigger than yourself. A leaf separated from its tree has the advantage that it floats about a bit, but it’s disconnected, and it eventually dies. You have to be both an individual – to have a sense that you are unique, and you matter – and you need to be connected to a bigger organism – a family, a community, a network, a company. Building and maintaining your network – both from a personal and professional perspective is so important.

Number three: avoid introspection

The Christmas break is often a time of reflection and evaluation, and many people decide to start the process of a career change in the new year. However, Dr Clare advises on avoiding too much introspection, as people want to be around other people that are interested in things beyond themselves.

Number four: don’t resist change

Change is important. It is natural to be wary of change, but people who are fearful of change are rarely happy. Change can be positive and good for you. You need variety, flexibility, the unexpected because these things will challenge you.

Number five: live for the moment

Look at the things that you want to do, that you keep postponing. Dr Clare recommended doing what makes you happy. So, don’t postpone the things that you want to do, or what you think is worthwhile. Make them happen. From a professional point of view, think about what training you would like or what career move you want. What do you need to do to make this happen?

Number six: audit your happiness

We all find ourselves doing tasks that take time, but don’t necessarily provide benefits. Work out how much of each day you are spending doing things that don’t make you happy. If you find it is taking more than half of your time, then think about what you can do to change it.

Number seven: if you want to be happy, be happy

Act it, play the part, put on a happy face. Start thinking differently. If you are feeling negative, say, ‘I am going to be positive,’ and that can trigger a change in how you feel.

These seven steps won’t work for everyone, but being mindful of how you are feeling, specially as we head through January – often a tricky month anyway – may help you improve your happiness and approach the new year in a positive frame of mind.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Outplacement testimonial: Bridging the career gap between past and future

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When Catherine (name changed) started working with Career Evolution, we had to address the knock her confidence had taken before we could start working with her to find her next career move.

She explained:

“It has been a rollercoaster of a journey. Before I started working with Sue, I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong or why it was happening to me. I felt abandoned. Fortunately, the company I was working with agreed to provide outplacement support for me, and things started to improve once I met Sue.

“The first thing she had me do was understand my own individual story. She also worked with me to help me overcome the self-doubt I was experiencing and identify my skills and become confident in them again.

“Sue provided me with a framework for a structured approach. If being made redundant enables you to draft the next chapter of your life, then Sue is the editor reviewing it! She worked with me to sense check and edit everything that I was doing. She provided advice and definitely kept me action-focused and research-based.

“Throughout this time, Sue has been a consistent and constant presence. Basically, she has provided me with a bridge from the past to the future. Being made redundant is a difficult experience and moving on from that is a hard process. Sue has kept me accountable throughout – even when I didn’t want to be – and enabled me to articulate my own experience into chunks of knowledge and transferable skills I could use to position myself going forward.

“I think the biggest benefits of working with Career Evolution was that fact that Sue understands the rules and laws of getting a job. She can advise on the practicalities of fashioning your CV and approaching interviews, and how to leverage your network. She makes you really think about what you want to do next, and she allows you to truly believe in what you should be doing and the type of role you should be securing next.

“Don’t be fooled though. It isn’t Sue doing the work, it’s you! I found that I was at my desk for six hours a day or more– working hard! However, it worked. Within four months – of hard work – I secured a job that I am very excited to be starting in the new year. Sue’s work with me was invaluable. She really helped me get rid of the noise and find clarity.”

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Preventing illness – knowing when to take a break

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As we enter autumn and winter, many of us will get our annual cold. With many of us still working from home, it’s interesting to look at how employees and employers cope when faced with the challenge of ‘being off work’ due to illness, when you are already working from home. To begin with, how can you be ‘not at work’ when you live there? If you don’t turn your computer on, are you not at work? If you don’t walk into your office space at home, are you not at work? It’s a minefield that warrants some clarification for everyone concerned.

All being well

With the widespread adoption of working from home if you are able to, there has been an increased level of honesty and trust introduced into the conversation. You know in yourself when you’re not firing on all cylinders and meeting your usual standards of productivity. But conveying that to your employer is not always as simple as it sounds.

There are a multitude of ailments that can impact you – particularly in the current economic and social climate – and not all of these are readily apparent. They can be mental health issues, such as anxiety and stress, which are more difficult to identify, articulate into symptoms, and then treat. Also, one illness can feed into another, so stress can lead to anxiety, which can lead to depression, for example.

Having time to yourself

We’ve already looked in earlier articles at making sure that you and your employees are not working without respite. It’s important to acknowledge the necessity for taking a holiday, ‘a week off’, even if you’re just day-tripping in the car or doing some DIY around the house. It’s a switch-off from work and a mental ‘change of scene’ – a break from working life. Mental health and wellbeing are perhaps even more important in the present time. And acknowledging some time to yourself will allow you recharge your batteries – this will help with both your physical and mental health.

It’s equally important that if you are unwell, you should recognise the fact and take the time off you need to get better. It’s one thing working through a cold from the comfort of your home. But if you suffer an illness with flu or something more serious, then you shouldn’t be trying to get that report out from your sickbed, or be constantly checking your emails. You will get better quicker if you take the time you need to get on top of your symptoms and seek out treatment for them where necessary.

People talk about the everyday stress and anxiety, as well as the physical strains of the last 18 months. Any job has all the usual stresses of meeting deadlines, managing workloads and working efficiently. To do it properly you need to make sure that everyone, from managers to staff, are able to be at their best. That means knowing when to step back for a moment and take a break. The benefits will be felt for all concerned in the long-term.

Overcoming ‘them and us’ – how to address tensions between WFH and office-based staff

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Amid all the turmoil, the pandemic and how it’s been handled has divided opinion. People have found themselves in various camps – for example, essential worker or furloughed worker, or able to work from home (WFH) or not. If you’re in one camp, by definition you can’t be in the other. And businesses and their owners have found themselves stuck in the middle of all this, to a certain extent, balancing government guidance with common sense. They want what’s best and right for their business, but also what’s the best outcomes for their employees too.

Several different elements influence opinion on each side. To return to work do you need to be fully vaccinated? And does that include the new bonus booster? Is all this at your employer’s discretion or is it up to you? Do you need masks and social distancing in the workplace – and is everyone unified and comfortable with these across-the-board rules?

Friction in the workplace

Many aren’t comfortable and the WFH culture has caused as much division as the problems it has solved. People who are able to continue to WFH are doing so, but many companies have decided that the initiative is finished, and their staff should be in the office during normal hours again without excuse. This doesn’t work for everyone however. Families with young children, for example, have become used to the ease with which they could carry out childcare, or else take their youngsters to and from school. Or to help care for elderly relatives. The flexibility for many people, especially those with a long commute, has been welcome – as long as there is no compromise with regards to work output.

Many offices have already decided to adapt their working model and jettison office space. Superfluous offices are now lying idle, which is causing a business quandary of its own for landlords. Others have moved furniture around, to rearrange layouts to give staff more space, only for but a fraction of them to return to the office. This is creating a very ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture between workers, which is resulting in tension in the workplace.

WFH vs office-based?

Should it be one rule for one employee, another for another? If it suits one person to work from home, but another to be in the office nine-to-five, which one of them is right? Each individual case is different. These are the kind of challenges facing HR departments and professionals, as we go forward out of the pandemic. Diffusing these opposite views and bringing staff together again to work as a cohesive whole is not going to as easy as first thought.

A new dilemma

It’s creating a new dilemma for HR professionals and undue stress for staff. Some people are resigning if they are not being listened to on their WFH demands, while others are dismayed that the firm they stopped working for in the office (in March 2020 to WFT) is now a pale shadow of its former self on their return. It’s a fortunate person indeed that feels no sense of change on the other side of this pandemic. But what’s important now is making staff feel comfortable, wanted and most of all confident in the company’s future – and to feel part of that future too.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Stronger together – mergers and acquisitions

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There’s a lot for businesses to take in at the moment. The autumn is traditionally a very busy time of year for many companies, with the end of the summer holiday season and the rush to get everything completed before that next big deadline – Christmas. Due to all the hectic activity, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on looking ahead while you’re in the vortex of the here and now. But it’s important to look to the future and plan out ways to ensure resilience against challenges that are no doubt on the horizon. Currently there is a lot of mergers and acquisitions activity in the marketplace.

Championing change

The logistics of two companies blending into one by whatever means is a challenge for HR managers and employees alike. Whenever mergers and acquisitions (M&As) take place, there is always upheaval. This disturbance can bring with it its own challenges – changes that will have to be navigated by all parties.

Keeping all employees updated with the latest communications is important and identifying Change Ambassadors, representing different parts of the business can prove very effective.  If clear benefits can be seen and demonstrated, staff will generally be more onside. Sharing information throughout the company is key to this and transparency between management levels must be maintained. This will engender trust and provide everyone with a clear picture of the state of play. As mergers and acquisitions take place, progress can be fast or slow – but whatever the pace, it will bring with it change and your company should be prepared for it when it happens.

Now’s the time to futureproof

At Career Evolution, we can help you, your HR managers and employees navigate the turmoil that often surrounds large scale business changes. Our Consultants and Coaches can help you find the right balance of intervention from ‘Navigating Change Workshops’, identifying and supporting the role of Change Ambassadors, and, if roles are made redundant, support those individuals at all levels who will have to exit the business.

If you would like to find out how we can help, please contact us today.

One for all or one for one? Combating silo mentality in the workplace

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It is far too easy for silos to develop in the workplace. When this happens, it can lead to a lack of communication and common goals between teams, the hoarding of knowledge and a breakdown of trust. It can all have a major impact on overall team morale. Unfortunately, a workplace silo mentality isn’t restricted to certain sectors. It is a well-known and documented phenomenon across almost every sector there is.

The perfect storm

When you add the challenges of the recent pandemic to the historic challenges of a business you can create the perfect storm for silos to establish. This is true even in companies where this previously wasn’t a problem.  Companies and employees are tackling the combined challenges of trying to keep businesses going with teams working in the office, working on the factory floor, working from home, or even up until very recently, on furlough.

The opportunity to work from home has been embraced by many people. However, not every role can lend itself to being sited away of the official place of work.  Some roles, for say in manufacturing, require employees to be present in the factory. Other roles, such as receptionists and front of house roles, need to be based in-situ. Otherwise, how can they welcome visitors and all the other jobs that require face-to-face interactions?

In businesses where there is a clear split between employees that can work from home and those that can’t, it’s important that this differentiation is acknowledged and addressed. If it’s ignored, it has the potential to lead to further divides, and workplace cohesion and employee engagement will suffer.

Creating a unified team – remotely

Even with the current challenges facing businesses, it is still possible to get the different areas of the business working together. Key to this is good communication. It’s amazing the difference that open and honest communications can make with your team. Explain the rationale behind why certain people have the flexibility to work from home and others haven’t. If the business reason and approach is clear, people are often more accepting of the situation.

You also need to think about what you are trying to achieve as a business. How different areas and individuals can contribute and collaborate to make this happen. Even your remote teams can collaborate, as platforms like Zoom and Teams have made this much easier. You might also want to consider opportunities for team training or even softer activities to get people working and talking together.

Your senior management team will play a vital role in making this all happen. So, you might want to consider what support they need to enable them to work in this different environment and break down any of the barriers that have developed over the last 18 months.  Contact us today to see how we can help with coaching and navigating change.

No-fly zone: can things return to normal when things still aren’t?

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Employers and employees are currently moving through unchartered territories.  As the working world tries to return to a semblance of normal, there are constant obstacles to enabling this to happen.  Whether it’s the conversation around return to the office vs. working from home, or the expectation of face-to-face meetings and live events returning, just how can businesses return to ‘normal’, when the situation still isn’t?

Mixed messages

Much of the pandemic has been filled with mixed messages and employees can be forgiven for being confused about what is wanted or expected from them. In addition, these expectations are now sometimes at odds with what people have got used to or feel comfortable with. While there is no right answer to these issues, one of the most important things as an employer you can do now, is try and ensure your business expectations are clearly communicated and that the opportunity for discussion is available to your entire team.

Changing policies

Compounding the uncertainty is the very recent introduction of new policies for employees, including the right to request remote or flexible working from their first day of employment. These new rights provide a positive move forward for employees balancing work life and home life, and their introduction has been promoted widely. However, the criteria on which employers can agree or refuse a request to work remotely are less clear, which if not handled correctly, has the potential to lead to further uncertainty, misunderstandings and resentment.

Travel bans

The confusion continues when you look at the scenario of face-to-face meetings, events and traveling for work. Again, this is creating confusion and consternation for employers and employees alike. The pandemic has shown that technology can enable close collaboration without leaving your home, but there are still many situations where in-person meetings are incredibly valuable.

While some companies still have blanket travel bans in place – which, ostensibly is for the safety of their employees, but is also in fact saving the business substantial amounts of money in terms of time, travel, accommodation and subsistence – others are pushing their teams to do more than what they necessarily feel comfortable with. Again, there isn’t a clear-cut solution to. Government guidance is ambiguous and business needs differ from company to company.

Finding your way in the ‘new normal’

It is easy to get lost in the economic, health, and ethical decisions of the current business landscape. In truth, the ultimate outcome to this new ‘normal’ may well turn out to be a compromise – a hybrid solution that takes all the different elements into consideration. However, one thing is certain, open communication with your team is crucial to enabling you to find your way through the maze and discover the right balance for both the business and the individual.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Preparing for the end of furlough

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The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) comes to an end on 30 September 2021. This has provided a lifeline for many businesses and their employees over the last 18 months and furlough’s imminent finish will be a source of much trepidation and further uncertainty for anyone involved.

What happens now?

Businesses are now faced with the difficult process of ensuring their teams are aware of the situation and understand what happens next. While the scheme has ensured the continued employment for many people throughout the pandemic, its conclusion may mark the start of a different story.

We have had a look at the Government’s advice so far, and would like to share some of the advice provided by HMRC:

What should my business do when the scheme closes?

When furlough comes to an end, you will need to decide on one of three courses of action for employees that have not been working:

  • Bring your employees back to work on their agreed terms and conditions,
  • Agree any changes to their terms and conditions with them, or
  • Consider ending their employment.

However, it is very important to remember, that when making decisions about how and when to end furlough arrangements, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

When is my businesses last claim for the CJRS?

The last day that your business will be able to claim for is 30th September. Final claims for September must be submitted by Thursday 14th October.

Can I claim CJRS for employees on notice periods?

No. Employers cannot claim CJRS grants for any days an employee is serving a contractual or statutory notice period, including notice of retirement, resignation or redundancy.

If you do need to make any roles redundant, you must remember that normal redundancy rules and protections apply to furloughed employees.

Restructuring and redundancy can be an extremely difficult time for both employees and employers.

At Career Evolution, we are keen to help make the transition as painless as possible for everyone. If you would like to find out how we can help, please contact us today.

New role? How to have it all!

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Imagine the scenario. You have been offered a new role – or perhaps you just want to renegotiate the terms of your current job. Many people find it difficult to broach the subject of what they really want from a job, and rarely do two parties have exactly the same concept of what is fair, acceptable or derisory. So, having broached the subject, do you know how to approach negotiating a good deal for yourself?

Clean slate

If you are new to the company and the role, it is probably easier to set out your stall from the outset. You’ll have a benchmark of your previous roles, but you will also have a blank slate when it comes to negotiating style and position. You’ll probably have had plenty of time in the last 12-to-18 months to think about work and life. If you have been working from home, you may have discovered this is something you’d like to continue. Or if you’ve missed coming into the office, this might be something you’d like to resume. These aspects need to be discussed with your employer, as part of your long-term career development and package. But you also need to know and understand how you would like to live your life.

Take a pragmatic approach

For realistic negotiations, you need to be pragmatic in your demands and expectations. Your lifestyle is important, especially from a mental health point of view. There’s no point is working for a company you loath, in a role you dislike. But your discussion with your employer should also be balanced against your business self. What do you bring to the table? What are your strengths and what makes you unique and invaluable to your company? And most of all, does your employer agree with your summation?

Presenting your business case

When you open a discussion about terms and conditions, including salary, you must be prepared to state a realistic business case. This needs to be primarily focused on business need, rather than personal preference. It might be beneficial to seek out some advice to do this, from someone such as a career Consultant, which can help you outline how you’d like to handle the situation and your attitude to it.

A fresh pair of eyes can look at your current position and identify where your strong points and positions of strength for negotiation lie. Discussing them openly with a career expert will also give you a chance to rehearse your approach – in this was there will more chance you will be successful in your bid. Being confident in what you’d like the outcome to be and having realistic expectations will make you better placed to discuss and negotiate. It will also give you a more compelling case going forward, to realise your ambitions within the company.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Your trusted colleague

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Company changes and restructuring can sometimes lead to senior executives being offered outplacement support to help them recognise what they want next out of their career. No matter how senior a person is, it’s important to remember that everyone needs someone to hold them to account. Outplacement is much more than just ensuring your CV and interview skills are up to scratch.  Outplacement specialists like Career Evolution actually take the time to match you with a Consultant that not only has the necessary skills and experience to help you, but also has the right chemistry to work with you and get the best out of you too.

Knowing me, knowing you

Our expert Consultants have many years’ experience of all kinds of outplacement support and are also able to look at things from a holistic viewpoint, tailoring the service they provide to meet your individual requirements. We can provide the ongoing support and challenge to senior people, who are going through outplacement. In fact, clients in the past have described us as their ‘trusted colleague.’ Someone that ‘gets it’ and isn’t wary of holding them to account – in a positive way of course.

The independent nature of using an outplacement Consultant not only provides a fresh perspective, but it also means you are working with someone that know about you and understands what you are trying to achieve.

An independent eye

There is a natural assumption that if you are operating successfully in a senior role, then it stands to reason that your CV and interview skills will be equally impressive. However, all too often, this really isn’t the case.  In all likelihood, if you have been in your role for some time, then your CV may be out-of-date in terms of content, layout and approach. Reorganising your CV to adequately highlight your achievements is imperative, and our Consultants can help you to create an up-to-date CV that will be attractive to prospective employers. Sharpening your interview skills is also time very well spent. Your Consultant will also ensure that you are leveraging your network – both in person and online – and will help you make the most of your LinkedIn profile too.

Managing the marketplace

If we assume that CV and interview skills are sorted, managers might still be out of touch of what the marketplace is actually looking for. Being able to identify opportunities and demonstrate how a person can fit the criteria to find their perfect job is one of the most important roles an outplacement advisor can fulfil. When it comes to periods of transition, having a Consultant that you trust is crucial to ensuring your next step is the right one.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.