By Ashley Snodgrass, Employee Benefits Analyst
Employers are reaching for new tactics in the war for talent. Beyond a rich benefit package, solid leadership, and opportunities to improve, employers are innovating to set themselves apart from the competition.
I write as neither an advocate nor adversary of this movement. My goal is not to highlight the challenges or the benefits. Instead, I invite you to investigate the motives behind the movement, and evaluate whether why or why not the four-day work week would benefit your company.
First, let’s understand the definition of the four-day work week. The idea is not to shift to a 10-hour day schedule, 4 hours a week, for the same 40-hour work week. Instead, a 34-hour work week (4 days a week, 8.5 hours a day) is commonly proposed. The intention is still to maintain the same level of productivity as in a 40-hour work week, same level of pay, but with a renewed focus on work-life balance, with three days off each week.
Companies who are trying this out have been met with a wealth of benefits. Increased retention, increased applicants for jobs, and improved wellness among employees to name a few. The first pioneering companies paved the way with such success, that entire countries are now considering the data, and running their own tests. Currently, the U.K. launched a six-month experiment with 70 companies to test out the four-day work week.
I’ve included links to several articles below that highlight the four-day work week. I encourage you to read through them when evaluating the needs of your company.
Resource Round Up: About the Four Day Work Week
By Shayla Teague, Individual and Family Benefits Consultant
I had the opportunity recently to take a life changing course on social styles through the Wilson Learning Company. This course forced me to take a deep dive into my own communication style and learn to recognize the communication styles of others. It has helped me to not take offense to people that have different styles than my own and flex to their style of communication. All around, this has allowed me to foster more meaningful dialogue, especially in high-stress conversations.
There are four main styles: Analytical, Driver, Amiable, and Expressive. Each style sits in an area of a quadrant that determines if their communication style is more assertive or less assertive and more task oriented or more relationship oriented. Knowing where you sit on the quadrant can help you understand your communication style. This is done through a test offered by Wilson Learning. I will explain each style in more detail.
Tends to work in facts and figures, needs more time to analyze a project, often more serious in demeanor, likely explains in great detail. A person with a dominant analytical personality tends to be less assertive and more task oriented. They aren’t too comfortable discussing emotions. They are likely to ask vs. tell. “Will you please provide the CPA Report.”
More results focused. They don’t need all the details in how you got to the end result, they just want the end result. They value actions and results and don’t need to spend a lot of time on the planning aspect. A driver tends to be more assertive and more task oriented. They don’t like to hear emotion when it comes to work. They are likely to tell vs. ask. “I need the CPA report by 2pm.”
Tend to have high empathy, avoid conflict, want the general consensus of the group, and are team and relationship focused. An amiable person will really focus on how a decision will impact the people in a group. They are less assertive and more relationship oriented. Communications likely focus more on emotion and feelings.
Tend to be more animated and impulsive. They tend to have many ideas and have a hard time sticking to just one. Expressive personalities have a lot of ambition and enthusiasm, however they tend to be more spontaneous. They are more assertive and more relationship oriented.
People do not fit in a box, so we all are not one of these categories and some of our traits likely fit into all four. Everyone has a dominate style and a secondary style and your style is likely to remain the same throughout your adult life. During the course we watched videos of the most extreme scenarios as we were learning to recognize other people’s styles by their behavior, communication and even hand gestures or how much eye contact they make.
My dominant personality is analytical as you may have already caught onto by the writing style of this article. The analytical in the video was portrayed as rigid and standoffish. We were asked if any of us disagreed with our style and I raised my hand and continued to explain why there is NO WAY I could be a dominant analytical. A colleague of mine interjected and pointed out, “Shayla, you are analyzing why you are not an analytical.” Alas, I had to concede to that.
So how does this all play into communication? Surely, we are all aware that people are different and have different ways of communicating. That is where flexing to other styles comes into play and why it is helpful to be able to identify another person’s style. I had a supervisor that was a driver, driver. That means both his dominant and his secondary style fell within the driver quadrant. I always wanted to go into major detail about all the steps that I took to complete a project. It was disheartening for me when he just wanted the results and thought my e-mails were too long. It can be exhausting for a driver to listen to all the details when they just want you to get to the point. Because of the training I was able to recognize him as a driver and so I was able to adjust the way that I communicated projects with him. I could just give him the necessary information and leave out the fluff. If I am communicating the same project to an amiable style, they may think I am being abrasive by communicating in this manner. I may want to keep some of the fluff or emotion in my communication.
Knowing your style and being able to recognize the style of others can help communication immensely. This is especially the case if you are in a supervisory role. Flexing to the style of your employee can help them feel valued and heard.
Source and link to Wilson Learning Course and Handbook:
By Shayla Teague, Individual and Family Benefits Consultant
We recently packed up and moved our RISQ office for the second time in 2 years. After two moves so close together, it became obvious to me that my environment was playing a huge role in how I felt at work and how much I got done.
When I first started working for RISQ, our office had a bright, white, grey, and teal color scheme, with a ton of natural light in almost every part of the office. Our first move brought us into an older building with floor to ceiling wood paneling throughout which put most of the windows out of sight. Even though the office was nice, the lack of natural light took a toll on my mood. Now, we are happily settling into our brand-new office with a bright white and grey color scheme. There are also plenty of windows and sunlight bouncing around our glass walls. I feel great at work again, which makes it all the more apparent how much the color scheme and lighting of an office can affect my mood and productivity.
As Americans, we spend over 2,000 hours per year at work. For many of us work is essentially a second home and we sometimes see coworkers more than our own family. If our environments play such a large role in how happy and productive we are, wouldn’t you want to provide an environment that best fosters these traits? Here is an article with some ideas on how to create the right environment to boost productivity with your employees: https://teresadeberry.com/the-physical-work-environment-impacts-the-employee-experience/
By Elva Perez, Account Specialist
If you can’t tell already from my last Blog post about plants, and this one about plants, then I’ll just come out and say it. I’m clearly the “crazy plant lady” in the office. This is the first career that I’ve gotten my own working space to make my own. Of course, as the crazy plant lady, the first thing I did was bring in plants to put on my desk. I function better if my area closely resembles a mini growing jungle. My colleagues who walk by really appreciate the beauty and let me know that it’s pure joy seeing the greenery. It brings them peace (and more oxygen) to their day!
I’ve been with RISQ Consulting for about 6 months now, and one of the many things I am learning about is the concept of being “Lean”. While Lean has nothing to do with plants directly, I definitely believe that plants have everything to do with helping you BE Lean. Here is a great read I found about being “lean and green” in your work environment.
By Jennifer Outcelt, Creative Content Architect
[This infomercial is brought to you by: Music.]
“Do you have work to do? Do you have hearing ears? If you answered “Yes” to both of these questions, then you need the newest technological advancement in workplace productivity. MUSIC!
Music comes in all sorts of styles, tempos, and harmonies to fit everyone’s needs. We’ve got classical, pop, funk, country, rock, new-age, new-age-classical, pop-country, funky-pop, alternative-rock-funk-fusion with a new-age tune and country twang! We’ve got brilliant bands busting bombastic beats! We’ve got groovy guitarist greats getting Grammys! We’ve got rare rhythm recordings released recently reflecting refrains referenced from Ringo’s riffs. We’ve got it all!
We’ve got music guaranteed to boost your work productivity or your money back!
So come on down to the internet, where we store literally everything, and get your music today!”
[Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post]
Many people claim that music helps them focus better at work, but it’s hard to objectively pin point why, or if music is even a controlling variable at all. Some studies have shown an increase in productivity leading us to normalize music in the workplace. Employers are becoming much more comfortable allowing employees to listen to music at their desks or through headphones during work hours. Just listen to this satisfied employee from Initech.
“I was told that I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven, I told bill that if Sandra is going to listen to her headphones while she’s filing then I should be able to listen to the radio while I’m collating, so I don’t see why I should have to turn down the radio because I enjoy listening at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven.” – Milton, Office Space
While music certainly seems to enhance focus at times, it can also take it away. There is a ton of history behind music and productivity and even more ambiguity around it’s true effects. Here is a fantastic article from the BBC that tunes in to this history and our society’s current view on music and productivity.
By Angela Baker, Employee Benefits Account Manager
When I started my working life, the only plants in the office were the occasional dusty, limp palm. In recent years it seems as if every new office, café, and public building has a green wall. The research shows this is not just another office design fad. There is a budding business case for bringing a plethora of flora into the office, in terms of reduced costs, increased employee wellbeing, and happiness.
Studies have shown that simply adding some greenery in the form of indoor plants can have major positive benefits for employees and their organizations. The same goes for remote or home workers, too.
Why does having a plant in the office increase productivity? The answer is simple:
People like plants.
We enjoy being among nature. Humans have an innate desire to be connected with the natural world, which scientists call “Biophilia”. Unfortunately, the spaces we tend to spend most of our days in – workplaces – tend to be weeded of much of this connection to the natural environment. Some workplaces can feel sterile and subconsciously unsettling.
Office plants help to bridge the gap between the green environment we crave and the utilitarian commercial setting. Plants make your office feel more like a place your employees would enjoy being in, such as a garden.
When our RISQ Consulting employee benefits office relocated last year all the office plants were lined up in the new office for the taking. Everyone was calling dibs on plans for their desk, and it was like diving for the hot new toy for Christmas. Not quite that crazy, but close! Good thing we all like each other.
I found this great article (below) from the BBC website that really took root in my mind. Check out why you shouldn’t shrug at shrubs, or frown at ferns! Learn why showering your workspace with flowers will help your productivity grow.
By Jessica Carlson, Account Executive
Since March 2020 with the beginning of the Pandemic and the world shutting down, working from home has become more and more common. Even as we’re coming out of the pandemic more employers are not only allowing working from home, but some are requiring it. If you are like me, you struggled to be productive amid endless distractions. Dog must go out or will not stop barking, kids need to be fed, neighbors with people going in and out all day long, cats jumping in your lap in the middle of a zoom meeting, and the list goes on.
As soon as we could go back into the office I jumped at the chance, even if there was no one else there. But there are still days that’s it’s more convenient to not have to drive across town; so how have I been able to be productive on those days? I scoured the internet for tips and tricks. Some of the more effective tips I have listed here.
Set Up a Workstation
It’s important to have a space that is dedicated to work and only work. Try to find a spot that is away from the busyness of family life as they can distract you from focusing. You’ll want to make sure that you have all of tools you would normally have at the office, such as extra monitors. It is really difficult to go back to a single laptop monitor. And you will need to get a comfortable chair. After about a week of sitting at my table with a hard wood dining chair I borrowed my chair from the office. It was a life saver.
Stick to a Schedule
It is easy to log in early when all you have to do in the morning is turn on the computer. Or log off late when you do not have a commute home. For your own mental health, establish a routine and stick to it. Shut down your computer instead of leaving it on to check “just one more time”. Do not respond to emails when you’re watching a movie with your family. These boundaries are extremely important to separate your work and home life.
When you are in the office it’s easy to get up from your desk and have a quick walk about the office. When you are at home and a coworker needs you but you’re not readily available it’s easy to feel like people think you are slacking or not doing your job because you were not sitting at your computer at that exact moment that they tried to call you. If you do not take breaks you will start to feel worn down and fatigued. Get up! Take a walk. Go on a quick bike ride during lunch. Even if it’s just going outside for a few minutes of fresh air, do something to avoid the burn out.
The last, and possibly most important thing to help with productivity, is keeping connected. Communication can be difficult to maintain when your whole team works remotely. Schedule regular check in meetings. This has become a lot easier since Zoom and Microsoft Teams have come into play, since you can still meet face to face even if you’re not in the same place.
By Elva Perez, Account Specialist
Have you ever walk into someone’s home or office and see they have beautiful greenery and wished you had a green thumb?
Below is a list of the top ten plants that require little attention but have great benefits to have around your home or office:
- Snake Plant
- African Violet
- English Ivory
- ZZ plant
- Rex Begonia
- Tillandsia (air plant)
- Lucky Bamboo
House plants do more than just look pretty, there are numerous health benefits as well. They can help reduce stress, sharpen your attention, are therapeutic, can allow you to recover from illness faster, boost your productivity, improve your whole outlook on work, and improve air quality.
According to this Heathline article
“Multiple studies have found that plants in the workspace increase both productivity and creativity. One frequently cited study from 1996 found that students in a campus computer lab worked 12 percent faster and were less stressed when plants were placed nearby.
In a 2004 study, researchers challenged people to make creative word associations. They performed better when a plant was in the room with them.
And a 2007 study, showed that people with more plants in their workspace took fewer sick days and were more productive on the job.”
For the past 10 years I have been working on turning my home into a mini jungle. Every day, I walk into my house and I instantly feel the fresh air in my lungs and can’t help but feel stress-free!
By Alison Nelson, Sales and Marketing Coordinator
A couple weeks ago, I wandered over to a colleague’s desk where we started chatting up a storm of, non-work related, topics. A few minutes into our conversation, the Employee Benefits President of the company walked by and asked me what I was up to. I told him that I was taking a break. His only response was “that’s good, enjoy”, and I did. I chatted with my colleague for a while longer before I returned to my desk to tackle a report that I was working on. I didn’t think much of it until recently when a friend called me to vent about how she got in trouble with her boss for, well, doing the exact same thing I did.
If you’ve been following The Vantage Point, you probably have realized that RISQ prides itself on our unique leadership style and company culture. We’re not micromanaged, discouraged from socializing, and even goofing off isn’t frowned upon. The only caveat is that our work needs to be done correctly, on time, and, above all else, clients come first. While this rule may sometimes seem like insanity, especially when there’s a nerf-gun battle, someone is hopping around on an exercise ball, or you can’t reach the coffee maker because there is a string at eye-level from a string/cup phone that someone decided to make (and yes, all of those things have happened), there is a method to this madness.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can reduce employee stress, increase motivation, and improve engagement. All of which makes for a more productive workforce. According to this article, regular breaks can even help you process and retain information, help you get a better sense of the big-picture, and even inspire creativity! Still aren’t sure about letting your employees go break-crazy? Check out the below articles, which also conclude that, in a culture of “go-go-go”, frequently taking a step back, can make all the difference to employees.
By letting your employees take breaks, socialize, and even goof around, you’ll create a fun work environment and increase employee productivity. Sounds like a win-win to me!
You can learn more by clicking the links below-