As we settle into the New Year, many of us will have taken time to reflect about how we can improve our lives ready to set our direction for 2018.   With employees now spending more time at work than ever before, this means some will inevitably look to the workplace to see how they can make time in the office become more purposeful.  For the brave hearted, this can mean a dramatic change of lifestyle – we’ve all heard of people who have resigned to do voluntary work or retrain for a completely new career direction. But for many employees such a lifestyle jump is not feasible – either because such a change feels overwhelming, or because they simply need to bring in a salary to pay the mortgage and feed the children, and so need to maintain the status quo.  


The latter group represent a challenge for the leaders and management of today, because unless these employees find purpose in their working day, they may still turn up and take their pay cheque, but will become disengaged and less productive.  The days of autocratic leadership styles are for the most part long gone, as educated and media savvy employees have become more likely to ask “why” of their employers.  And with Millennials now forming the largest living generation in the workforce, there has been a huge shift from wanting money alone, to making work “count”.   


According to the Harvard Business Review, this is not something we should ignore if we want a happy, healthy and productive workforce because “Having a sense of purpose in our life is critical to well-being. In fact, in a longitudinal study researchers found that people who demonstrate a sense of purpose in their lives have a 15% lower risk of death.” 

The problem is that our own sense of individual purpose is rarely aligned with top level corporate objectives. Even when we buy-into an organisation’s wider social commitments, it can still be difficult to get a sense of satisfaction and purpose in the day to day grind of work.   

The key is to bring purpose back into this “grind”, by finding ways to increase motivation and sense of worth at work.  We may not all have the resource for drastic life changes, but it is within us all to reframe our working day for the better. 


1.     Gain Awareness: to understand what makes each employee tick.  There are many personality and communication models that can help with this.  Once you fully understand individuals you can assign roles according to the different strengths and preferences within a team. 

2.     Dial up the best bits: Everyone has parts of the job they thrive on (that they’d like to more of) and parts they leave to the bottom of the list (that they’d like to do less of). Being aware of each individual’s wish list means you can try to re-allocate tasks within the team, or at least increase the parts they enjoy. 

3.     Support side projects:  It is becoming more common now to see side projects supported at work.  Allowing employees to work on something that is outside of their usual role provides motivation and breaks up the day to day role. For some it may be more study, for others it could be about being involved in organisation committees for social events.

4.     Review job titles: Sometimes the way an employee perceives their role can be detrimental to their sense of contribution and thereby affect performance. But a bit of cognitive re-framing can make a difference. A 2016 CNN article pointed to research around some hospital staff who chose their job titles. The work was the same for everyone involving tasks such as cleaning bed pans, but those who liked their work more were those who saw their role as critical in healing patients and assigned themselves titles such as “caregivers”. 

5.     Allow legacy creators:  Making a change to leave something better than when you started can provide great purpose.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a big game changer – for example someone could champion the alteration of a process at work that improves the working day for others around them.  Therefore, a business should foster a culture that encourages challenge and change to allow this to happen. 


Part of the leadership role is to tune into employees and understand what makes everyone tick, so that the right tasks can be fit to each person, rather than fitting people to jobs that don’t motivate them.   If businesses can help to add purpose to every individual’s role, employee productivity and longevity can only improve.  

If you would like to discuss how you could to add more purpose to your team, please get in touch.

How will business face the problem of presenteeism?

Most of us have experienced days at work, when we are not flowing at our best, but with the increasing pressures in the workplace and the need to achieve more with less, presenteeism is becoming a real issue for business.

Many organisations have measures in place to track working days lost due to illness. However, by focusing on reducing absenteeism, are we neglecting evidence that suggests presenteeism is also on the increase and is indeed more prevalent?  According to a US study (Dixon 2005) employee burn out and lost productivity were 7.5 times greater from presentees than from absentees.

What is Presenteeism?

Difficult to define, the broad definition is “time at work when ill”. This includes physical illness as well as mental health and fatigue.  And because employees are physically “at work” it can be difficult to measure the problem. Whatever businesses do to tackle this, the key is to recognise the commercial risk it presents and the need to prevent it.

The risks of Presenteeism

As companies strive to compete harder, employees are often those who feel the strain and a company / team culture is created where they feel less able to take time off.  This impacts on:

  1. The Employee: a working employee that’s unwell will be unable to perform as well, will take longer to recover and can end up with long term sickness problems. On top of this they may find themselves in a downward spiral as they turn to medication to disguise the problem (which can impact effectiveness/safety of using equipment) or caffeine, alcohol and sugar to cope and get through their day – all of which can have a negative impact on their personal wellbeing, health and their body’s ability to repair itself
  2. The Team: Unwell employees can pass on illness to those around them. Even if not physically ill, their presenteeism and demotivation caused by mental ill health such as stress can impact on the morale of the wider team and company culture
  3. The Business: A business with a workforce suffering from low morale is a difficult business to recruit into. Presenteeism also has a significant bearing on productivity and the bottom line. According to Hemp (2004) it can cause a 30% reduction in productivity, so clearly it is not a problem to be taken lightly if an organisation wants sustainability

The causes of Presenteeism

There are many studies that have researched the factors causing presenteeism, some of which are summarised below:

–        Job insecurity: the fear of losing a job if the hours aren’t put in

–        Needs of others:  if an employee’s role impacts directly on others’ ability to do their roles

–        Concern for colleagues: of imposing extra workload on others

–        Pressures of workload: the stress of workload building up while absent

–        Superiors’ behaviour: and how they manage their time.  Are they taking time off when they need to or are they presentees too?

–        Working culture: the fear of absence being regarded as poor performance

–        Work environment: The physical workspace and its impact on wellbeing, as well as the team culture (harmony v conflict and discrimination)

Prevention of Presenteeism

In October, ACAS launched their new guidelines on promoting positive mental health in the workplace, putting the onus firmly on business to address these issues. Here’s our 3 step process to addressing the problem: 

  1. AWARENESS: The first step is in increasing awareness of this issue throughout the business at all levels.  If ignored, it becomes so engrained in company culture that it is not recognised, and worse still, not addressed
  1. MANAGEMENT TRAINING: Next it’s time to put wellbeing on the agenda for employees. This involves educating management and supervisors so that they are able to foster a culture of support.   This also requires training to ensure management acts as a role model in managing its own absence and presence – setting an example that it is ok to be absent when required
  1. PREVENTION: By recognising this as a productivity issue and finding the potential factors causing presenteeism. Companies need to develop on-going programmes and processes to support employee wellbeing, including the environment, work space, team culture, and employee self-care (physical and mental)


If you’d like any help in implementing a proactive approach to reducing presenteeism within your business, please contact us: (UK) (S. Africa)


How can businesses proactively face the problem of mental health at work?

On 10th October 2017, The World Health Organisation (WHO) launches its annual Mental Health Day, with the focus this year on mental health in the workplace.

A rapidly growing problem, this is not something that “happens to other people”.  According to the WHO, 300 million people suffer globally from depression, making it the world’s leading cause of disability.  260 million people live with anxiety disorders and many with both.  It’s now estimated that the cost to global business is in the region of US$1 trillion due to loss of productivity.

With stating that work is the leading cause of stress in the UK, it’s time for business to shake up and take a proactive approach to tackling these alarming statistics.

Why is it happening?

So have we just become a flaky race? Put quite simply, NO!

Never have we worked faster, under more pressure or faced more uncertainty.   As mentioned in our previous blog on “A modern problem of stress” our environment has changed more in the last 50 years than it evolved over the previous 2000 years. This places inevitable pressure on us all, as we struggle to keep up with the pace and find new strategies to cope with modern working practices and pressures – yet often employee investment focuses on developing the competences needed to increase productivity, rather than on preventing productivity problems.  We are no longer equipped to deal with the world around us and few of us are receiving help to do so.

What’s the impact?

Aside from the massive humanitarian problem and cost to our health services, stress at work is clearly costing the business bottom line in lost productivity, through absenteeism, demotivated staff and is a spiraling problem.   Often people will turn to other things to help them cope such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine and sugar.  Additionally, they can end up with a poor diet and no time for physical exercise, all amounting to a detrimental effect on their physical and mental wellbeing, thus aggravating the problem and impacting on productivity further.   As the CEO of Mind stated “work related mental health problems are an issue too important for business to ignore”

What can businesses do about stress at work?

For organisations that want to step up and take responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to this problem, we recommend a proactive approach for prevention and management of stress:

  1. Actively encourage a culture where employees feel they can talk about stress and have a structure in place to deal with signs of stress from the early stages onwards.
  2. Create a workspace environment that promotes wellbeing and team communication to promote creativity and productivity, and at the same time reduce conflict.
  3. Increase awareness within the organisation of the signs of stress and have systems in place for employees to recognise their own triggers for stress and how to deal with them.

It’s worth noting that stress doesn’t have to be all bad.  A little stress can take us out of our comfort zone to challenge and develop us.  The key is to get the right balance and to support employees in finding the right level of stress and using it to work for them, not against them.

If you’d like any help in implementing a proactive approach to stress in the workplace, please contact: (UK) (S. Africa)


The Importance of Wellbeing at Work


According to Psychologist Dr Slaski, our environment has changed more in the last 50 years than it evolved over the previous 2000 years. This places inevitable pressure on us all, as we struggle to keep up with the pace and find new strategies to cope with modern working practices and pressures.

The problem is we don’t always cope and as a result UK business loses 11.7 million days* due to work related stress, which accounts for 45% of all illness absenteeism. If the health of our workforce is not addressed, business will become unsustainable

Promoting wellbeing should be seen as a way to secure a business’s future. We believe it is self-funding due to the long term benefits it can produce:


  1. Better attendance – with both reduced absenteeism and reduced presenteeism
  2. Increased productivity – to impact the bottom line
  3. Staff loyalty and engagement – throughout the business
  4. Creativity and business contribution – from everyone at all levels
  5. Harmonious teams – who have the scope and support to deliver
  6. A strong business culture – that attracts and keeps the best people
  7. Millennial readiness – to suit the changing dynamics and needs of the workforce


We believe the issue of stress in the workplace is not set to disappear anytime soon. It is therefore important for the sustainability of businesses, that they take this issue seriously for 3 key reasons

  • According to, 1 in 4 adults will suffer mental health problems at some time. With stress and mental health now at the top of the leader board as key reasons for staff absenteeism and staff turnover, businesses can’t afford to ignore wellbeing.
  • In March 2017, the Institute of Directors announced that a new survey showed 54% of its members have been approached by staff suffering mental ill health. Yet just 14% have a formal mental health policy in place and fewer than 1 in 5 offer line management training. (ref
    • As people continue to spend more time at work, they look more to their workplace to provide a sense of purpose in their life.
    • Without purpose people lack motivation to perform at the top of their game and are more likely to experience stress and anxiety at work
    • Businesses are recruiting more Millennials, who have a new outlook on work. They expect and seek work-life integration, social responsibility and more purpose in employment.
    • Businesses need to find ways to support their wellbeing if they are going to hold onto this innovative but ready to job hop generation, as well as manage and harmonise their integration into wider teams from different generations with different views on the work place (ref

A Model of works stress. Source: adapted from Palmer, Cooper and Thomas (2001).

If you’d like to discuss how we could improve your business wellbeing, please contact us

*Source: The HSE Report 2016 referencing the Labour Force Survey 2015/2016