Paw turnout at work

Dogs3The tail definitely wags the dog at EDG. Pooch power drives the business, and not just on Bring Your Dog to Work Day, which this year is on 22 June. EDG’s three tail-wagging co-workers never miss the chance to assist in the smooth running of the business.

Having a national day to bring your dog to work is a transatlantic thing, with initiatives taking place in the UK and US.

The UK’s Bring Your Dog To Work Day has been organised since 2014 by Hownd, a natural pet care brand for dogs. It supports two charities – All Dogs Matter and Animals Asia. Hownd cites scientific studies that support claims pets can reduce a person’s stress levels at work. According to Hownd, workers who have taken part in the day report increased job satisfaction and improved team co-operation.

US-based Pet Sitters International (PSI), an educational association for professional pet sitters, started the stateside Take Your Dog To Work Day in 1999. Its survey of 1,000 pet owners found 78% thought a pet-friendly policy was an employee benefit. While 82% felt pets help reduce stress in the workplace, and 63% said pets at work could encourage colleagues to collaborate and interact more.

Significantly, just over half the respondents in PSI’s survey said a pet-friendly policy would be a deciding factor between two potential employers who were equal on all other counts.

Of course, you have to be very careful about how a dog day is organised, particularly the suitability of the workplace and the pets. You’ll need to consider the feelings of colleagues who don’t count themselves as canine lovers.

If you want further compelling benefits, Blue Cross, the animal welfare charity, offers tips for bringing dogs to work.

It’s not just dogs that can help us humans.

Charities like Pets as Therapy visit hospitals, nursing and care homes to improve patients’ health and wellbeing with animals. And calming, fluffy animals can help stressed students.

The charity Greatwood uses former racehorses to educate disadvantaged children and young adults with special educational needs. Riding for the Disabled Association also shows the transformative effect horses can have. And anyone can pop into a cat café for coffee and feline pampering.

With the dogs at work day approaching, why not take the lead? Suggest your boss opens the door to dogs. And don’t worry if colleagues think you’re a bit barking. Man’s best friend etc.

Humour at work? You’re having a laugh

Mad image 2A Google search for ‘humour at work’ reveals just two results. And one is for hummus at work.

Actually, that’s a rather poor attempt at humour. There are millions of Google results (95.9, 54.5 or 3.36 million, depending on which day you search). Whatever. Clearly, there’s no shortage of smarta***s out there.

Aparently, the ability to laugh with colleagues, laugh at yourself – just laugh – is fundamental to being human. It’s what sets us apart from animals. Try telling that to a hyena.

But how much humour, and when, are tricky questions.

A little light humour during dark periods of stress can work wonders. In a busy workplace, you can’t beat a bit of banter. Those one-liners or a running joke that wends its way back and forth can boost morale.

The funny thing is how seriously people take humour. Take these two events coming up in June and July 2018. Real rib ticklers, and there are probably plenty more like them.

The International Society for Humor Studies’ 30th annual conference should be a laugh a minute. Or 5,760 minutes – four days of academic presentations from theories on verbal humour to satire in politics.

If you prefer Wolverhampton to Tallinn this summer, there’s an international summer school on humour and laughter. It’ll get you up to speed on the theory and methods used in the scientific study of humour.

Is humour worth the effort? Evidence, as if it were needed, suggests it is.

Researchers at Wharton School discuss in a Wall Street Journal podcast how teams work better when they laugh and joke together. They say humour can improve productivity, although we’re not sure if that’s meant to be a joke.

Fortunately, there’s even a place for sarcasm, so long as it doesn’t turn nasty or negative. The Wharton School researchers found that being on the end of sarky comments can actually boost your own creativity and expand the way you think.

The researchers even say humour can improve your status at work – on the basis that you’re more confident and willing to get involved doing stuff that gets you noticed. Although some of the glummer senior execs we’ve worked with prove exceptions to this rule.

So, what kind of worker are you? The ‘pack up your troubles and just get happy’ or the ‘heavens knows I’m miserable now’ type?

Remember, your next joke could make all the difference to your career.

Flexible working works

Woman smiling - cropMaking a success of flexible working is a tough balancing act for both employer and employee. Pulling in one direction is the wish for a better work/life balance and in the other the desire to maintain productivity and a consistent quality of work. It relies on a combination of motivation, good planning and trust but despite the challenges, flexible working appears to be paying off for both sides.

The rapid development of business-friendly mobile technology and a cultural shift away from the rigid discipline of the typical 9-5 working day has accelerated the pace of change. Management fears that ‘out of sight’ means ‘out of mind’ and inevitably leads to a drop in productivity has never really materialised. Concerns that remote employees would feel isolated and even be psychologically damaged have proved unfounded.

A Gallup report shows remote workers are more productive. Nearly four in 10 employees surveyed said they spent time working remotely or in locations away from co-workers and felt more engaged. However, the report notes that there is a point of diminishing return for engaging remote workers with people who spend less than 20% of their time working remotely feeling the most engaged.

According to a study by Vodafone and the Royal Society of Arts, Britain’s economy could receive a £8. 1 billion shot in the arm from increased productivity if organisations and employees agreed to more flexible working hours.

In the past, opportunities for flexible working were restricted although nowadays more employees are able to consider the option. Recent research by the Institute of Leadership and Management found that at the top of the corporate hierarchy 77 per cent of chief executives and 54 per cent of senior managers work flexibly.

Despite this steady shift in attitudes, the Institute of Directors believes business leaders are not doing enough to harness the full potential of flexible working. A response to this challenge comes from the Agile Future Forum, which was set up by 22 companies to promote agile working practices that generate value for both employers and employees.

The UK government plans to introduce changes to flexible working in 2014 so it is more widely available. ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) notes that this will remove the current statutory procedure for considering requests. Instead employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner, however, they will be able to refuse requests on business grounds.

When you work away from your office you tend to face two key challenges: how to avoid distractions and maintain motivation. Forbes outlines several practical steps to maintain productivity, including taking a brisk walk around the block, a nap, a chat and even brushing your teeth. Freelance journalists are used to working alone and recommendations from this quarter include bringing structure to your day and having a dedicated work space.

Our favourite piece of advice for home-based flexible workers is to put on a pair of shoes when you sit at your desk rather than working in slippers (and definitely not the Homer Simpson pair you received for Christmas).

How strong is your resolve in 2014?

Enhanced movement cropDon’t worry. If you find it hard to stick to your new year resolution then you are in good company. Apparently, only 8% of people achieve their new year goal.

According to statistics from the University of Scranton, nearly a quarter of people say they have never succeeded in keeping any of their resolutions. Time magazine warns resolutions are bad for you and the Huffington Post does a great job comparing expectation with reality for the most popular resolution choices.

So how can you stick to your resolution?

We asked the top brains at EDG for a solution. How can you scrape through most of the year without breaking that all-important promise to yourself? The answer is simple – delay delivery of your ambitious aim until at least the summer. That way, you can ease in to the task if you remember to start losing weight/doing more exercise/reading more books or whatever you choose in good time to meet your deadline.

If fitness is your goal, a good incentive is to target a specific event. Many company employees are doing just that – with fundraising thrown in – by signing up to 10k charity runs, marathons or group activities like entering the annual Corporate Games, which take place in June. This event tends to put a smile on employers’ faces as well by offering a great team building and bonding experience that also boosts workplace productivity.

Our resolution for 2014 is less rigorous but equally challenging: improve our juggling skills.

Corporate games inspire employees

Every summer thousands of employees from hundreds of companies pit their wits and athletic abilities against rivals in popular corporate showdowns. But it is after competitors return to their desks from events like the UK Corporate Games (4-7 July) and the UK Challenge (20-23 June) that the lasting benefits emerge.

The drive to win is strong but so is the desire to enjoy an excellent opportunity for team building and camaraderie. The diverse line-up of sports and age-group categories at the UK Corporate Games illustrate its inclusive ethos: there’s something for all employees, including poker, dragon boat racing and tenpin bowling.

“The most competitive event by a long shot is the go-karting,” notes Ben Dobson, national sales manager for the four-day Corporate Games.

Intel reports that 96% of its participants said the UK Corporate Games boosted their morale. The fact that teams come back every year shows the event ticks the box marked motivation. “Many companies return with bigger teams as more employees want to get involved when they see what they can get out of it,” says Dobson.

According to Intelligent Sport, which organises the UK Challenge, 99% of participants at the 2012 event said they believed taking part improved their performance back in the workplace. The 54-hour Challenge, held in June in Dartmoor this year, tests teams’ strategic thinking, as well as their mental and physical strengths under time pressure.

The benefits of participating read like a Human Resources department’s ‘to-do’ list: individual skills development, job satisfaction, empowerment, retention and innovative thinking.

The feelgood factor that events like these generate can cascade across an organisation, especially when the build up, participation and positive feedback feature in internal communications. “Many companies actively promote and cover the Games in their newsletters and magazines. This is another important way of using the event to build and maintain motivation in the workplace,” says Dobson.

Tips for setting up a winning company team and getting it noticed:

• Nominate a team leader to co-ordinate recruitment, preparation and publicity. They need to be single-minded, wildly optimistic and a totally ruthless taskmaster

• Encourage buy-in from senior executives, preferably if they ‘walk the walk’ and actually join the team

• Sell the idea to colleagues by emphasising the health and personal development benefits as well as the networking opportunities

• Start a Facebook page and Twitter account to keep everyone in the know and involved

• Think about fundraising to invest in the all-important kit in corporate colours so you look the part

• Talk about what you are doing – constantly. Make sure your employee magazine gives you plenty of coverage. This story has everything editors love: people, passion, drama, excitement, team spirit and fun.



How cycling motivates business

You can’t beat the Tour de France, which started this weekend, as a great excuse to pedal out a plentiful supply of motivational business analogies. From capturing team spirit or honing a winning mentality to coping with the unknown, thriving under pressure and out-thinking your competitors.

Team GB cycling coach Sir David Brailsford’s much-admired aggregation of marginal gains, where a series of small improvements add up to big wins, is a convincing strategy businesses could apply to boost progress and productivity. Describing how solid teamwork helps deliver him to the front in the closing metres of a race, where he unleashes his devastating sprint, cyclist Mark Cavendish observes: “I’m just the exhaust, I’m the last thing, the thing that makes the most noise.”

As this year’s race unfolds why not add some cycling inspiration into your next team building session or liven up your PowerPoint presentations with inspiring images?

On a practical level, taking to two wheels with work colleagues can combine exercise and fundraising. That’s why cycling is such a great source of stories for internal and customer publications.

Check your company noticeboard or intranet and you’re bound to find details about people entering events, looking for support or seeking volunteers to join them. There are business opportunities, too. Find out what your key customers are doing on the bike and offer to support them. Longer rides in exotic locations generate great copy and dynamic images for publication.

You could ask your company to jump on board by sponsoring a team of employees to participate in a fundraising ride. There’s no shortage of useful information on where to ride or worthy causes to support. Print team t-shirts or cycling jerseys to broadcast your brand and the cause you are riding for.

For motivation and fun, you can’t beat a corporate peloton of colleagues cruising along together to show the world you support employee wellbeing and charity. And their tales will add a splash of colour to your company magazine.