Whistle while you work
Savvy employers are realising that happy staff are more productive. Some firms now offer advice on health, money and even love
But it’s not just about the work environment. Kuehne + Nagel pays attention to external factors affecting happiness, too. When the April 2009 supplementary budget and universal social charge created “general discontent” among staff, the company brought in a tax adviser to help staff sort out their tax credits.
“In two years we’ve returned €113,000 to the 130 staff that participated,” says McCabe. “If I’m honest I’ve had girls dancing around the place here, kissing people and saying thank you. We’ve had families that were able to go to Disney on their holidays and young people getting €800 or €900 back who were so excited about it. It’s given a huge feelgood factor.”
The company has since gone a step further. Since 2012 it has paid for a debt-resolution service for employees whose performance is being affected by debt worries.
“They’ve come to me and said, ‘I’m struggling at the moment. I’m afraid I might make mistakes that cost the business money’,” says McCabe. “In one example, an employee told me they were in dire straits. She said, ‘My husband has lost his job, we have a second property that we can’t rent, he’s depressed, I’m falling to pieces, my marriage is falling to pieces.’ Those are the kinds of stories we are hearing fairly regularly.” Providing an expert to negotiate with banks on behalf of employees is taking the pressure off.
“I just couldn’t put a word on it,” says McCabe. “I’ve had conversations with staff who have said we’ve saved their marriage or we’ve saved their mental health. It’s been a phenomenal success.
“We’re a logistics company. We move product for large blue-chip companies in Ireland, but we don’t have trucks or planes or ships. All we have is people,” says McCabe. “Our success is down to them, so we need to make sure they are content and happy. Then they give us more. Absenteeism here is less than 1 per cent. We don’t have staff turnover worth talking about.”
Guidance on love
Whatever about money advice, surely no sane, litigation-fearing employer would stray into doling out guidance on love? Brendan Madden, chief executive of Relationships Ireland and speaker at this week’s conference, says that’s exactly what some employers are doing.
“Romantic relationships, ranging from casual dating to marriage, have enormous potential to affect people’s mental and physical health and, in turn, their job performance,” says Madden. He told delegates how by offering support and advice to employees, through professional assistance programmes, they could improve employee wellbeing and happiness.
“There is a spill-over effect between work life and home life that is well established,” says Madden. “Stresses at work have an impact at home, and stresses and pressures at home have an impact at work.”
He says relationship flashpoints affecting employee happiness and productivity include working mothers who face a “second shift” once home, new fathers stressed by limited paternity leave, or the difficulties of working couples in negotiating a fair sharing of the domestic burden.