Archive for December, 2008

Stress: it’s necessary to keep you sharp!

December 31, 2008

Do you know stress can be beneficial if used properly? It can harm in a big way, that’s what makes stress management so important.

Business is stressful and sometimes it can really get on your nerves. Learning to channel that stress to get a productive staff is just one of the things that corporate have to learn to do. Sometimes companies arrange stress management courses to get their hard working staff back in the saddle. But it’s better for you to learn a few of the tips and tricks of stress management so that you can implement them in your daily life and your own work ethic.

Stress: it’s necessary to keep you sharp!

Being on edge, keeps you ready for any eventualities that come up at a chaotic day in your office. Stress prepares you to react to situations immediately and of course provides stimulation to think and act. However, too much stress puts a severe load on your health and your heart and burnouts become common! It’s a better idea to learn to channel this stress into a more productive manner. And here’s how most stress management courses teach their students.

Identify stressors- Find out what causes the stress and then isolate your reaction to it. Is it your boss giving unreasonable deadlines or is it a difficult office relationship with co-workers? What ever the stimulant, recognize the fact that it stresses you out and before the situation develops learn to control your emotions and your anger.

Use stress management techniques- once you’ve recognized what’s causing the stress, you’ve got to learn to control the problem and here’s how you can do it.

1.    Humor- Laugh it off! Nothing can be so serious that you can’t just step down and take some time to laugh at simple things in life. Find something which will make you laugh and keep it stored on your computer. If you feel the situation might make you lose your temper then its time to distract yourself with some laughter remedy.

2.    Brisk walks- This might be difficult to do but its better than doing something you might regret later on. Doing something physical like taking a walk or just working out can significantly control stress levels by distracting your mind from office problems.

3.    Have a hobby- One co-worker keeps an airplane model assembly kit at his desk. According to him when the stress becomes unbearable, the task of focusing on the tiny parts of the airplane assembly models just makes him relax and focus on the problem which is causing the stress.

4.    Turn stress into a motivator- Use the charged energy levels produced by increased adrenaline to do your job positively. Stress does make your brain sharper and you could be surprised at how focused you can get if you let go of all emotions related to stress like anger and tiredness!

Of course one of the best ways to control stress is to remove the stressor! But not all of us can quit our jobs just because they are stressful. What you can do is reduce all other aggravators like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine and get healthy! That way you get healthy and more ready to deal with any type of stress! Makes sense, right!

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit


B of I says it will recover all its debts from chain

December 31, 2008
The administrators intend to continue to trade Zavvi UK with a view to selling all or part of it as a going concern.
The administrators intend to continue to trade Zavvi UK with a view to selling all or part of it as a going concern.
Photograph: Eric Luke

COLM KEENA Public Affairs CorrespondentBANK OF Ireland has said it expects to recover all of its debts from Woolworths, the UK retail chain expected to close all of its outlets in the coming week.

Burdale, a UK-based subsidiary of the bank, loaned £385 million (€396 million) to Woolworths in January. However, a spokesman for the bank said the debt had been substantially repaid to Burdale and it expected to recover all of its money.

Woolworths is expected to close all of its stores – about 800 outlets – between now and January 5th with the loss of some 27,000 jobs.

Burdale is an asset-based lending business and its loans to Woolworths are collateralised against the non-property assets of the group. As Woolworths stock is sold, Burdale expects to recover the remainder of its debt.

Burdale was founded in 1992 and became part of the Bank of Ireland group in 2005. It is based in London and operates in the US as well as the UK and Ireland.

UK-based retailer Adams Childrenswear, which has outlets around the Republic, is expected to go into administration shortly as a result of pressure from creditors that include Burdale. Burdale advanced £10 million to Adams, which is owned by Northern Ireland businessman John Shannon.

Mr Shannon, who is reported to be owed £20 million by the group, brought the retailer out of administration last year. It has more than 300 outlets including 31 in the Republic and 12 in the North.

Calls to the Adams headquarters in England yesterday went unanswered. The spokesman for the Bank of Ireland said that again the bank expected to recover all its funds. The spokesman said that, contrary to some reports, Burdale does not have a direct exposure to Zavvi, a retail group that placed its UK operating companies in administration on Christmas Eve.

The group, formerly Virgin Megastores, has more than 120 outlets in the UK and was the subject of a reportedly £1 management buyout last year. Its 11 outlets in the Republic are not affected by the appointment of the administrator.

“At this time Zavvi Ireland is not subject to any formal insolvency proceedings,” a spokeswoman said. The outlets in the Republic employ 201 permanent staff and 95 temporary staff.

Zavvi appointed administrators from Ernst Young on Christmas Eve to the companies running its 125 UK stores where 2,363 permanent staff are employed and 1,052 temporary staff.

In a statement the group said that on November 27th “Entertainment UK Limited (EUK), the group’s main supplier, went into administration. Since this time the group has been unable to source stock in the usual way and has been forced to enter into new trading arrangements.

“The directors understand it is unlikely that EUK will be sold as a going concern and the Zavvi group has continued to experience significant difficulty in obtaining stock on favourable credit terms. This has resulted in considerable working capital difficulties as a result of the failure of EUK, in addition to continuing operating losses.”

The administrators intend to continue to trade Zavvi UK with a view to selling all or part of its business as a going concern.

Civil servants off sick most in workplace

December 31, 2008

More sick leave is taken by people working in the public service than in the private sector.

And one of the highest rate of absenteeism is among staff at the Department of Social and Family Affairs, who take more than double the average amount taken in private firms.

The department had an absenteeism rate of 7.1pc missed days through sick leave. This contrasts with the average private sector rate of 3.5 days per year for certified and uncertified sick leave.

Almost all major public sector employers have higher absenteeism rates than the private sector, with exceptions.

Medical and dental staff in the health service had an absenteeism rate of just 0.93pc. Nurses had a sick leave rate of 5.69pc and “other patient and client care” recorded a rate of 7pc.

But of 60 public sector bodies surveyed, including ministerial departments, county and city councils, the HSE, FAS and RTE, 47 have higher absenteeism rates than the national average for the private sector.


Apart from the Irish Prison Service, support staff such as porters, carers, cleaners and caterers within the health service lost 8pc of their working year to sick leave.

A HSE chief warned recently that there was no alternative but to change work practices and reduce absenteeism, to help slash hundreds of millions in pay costs.

The Comptroller and Auditor General had launched an investigation into civil service absenteeism due to concerns that some civil servants might be taking sick days unnecessarily.

Of the 34 county and city councils across the country, 28 have absenteeism rates of more than 3.5pc. But Wicklow, Galway and Clare County Councils have lower sick leave rates than the private sector.

The lowest level of absenteeism among Government departments was in the Department of Finance at 2.52 pc. Also, RTE (2.42pc), the Courts Service, and Failte Ireland (2.16pc) have significantly lower rates than the private sector.

Other public sector bodies surveyed, included gardai — 4.32 pc; primary teachers — 4.6 pc; secondary teachers — 6.3 pc; FAS — 4.45 pc; the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office had higher rates.

– Alan O’Keeffe 

Secrets of successful CIOs

December 15, 2008

The CIOs of major organisations are facing difficult challenges, having to manage IT organisations that are very different from those that have traditionally existed, in a challenging economic environment,write Hugo Trépant and Martin Roets of Booz & Company.

Senior executives are increasingly divided when debating the most appropriate response. Facing constrained budgets, more competitive pressure and greater external scrutiny, decision makers are split into two camps. On one side are those searching for powerful cost-reduction drivers and overall efficiency enhancers. On the other are adherents of rapid, continuous innovation and top-line growth.

IT is seen by both groups as a crucial element to achieving these goals, posing tough new challenges for the CIO. Global businesses are struggling with a host of critical questions about managing IT, including:


• How can we benefit from the process efficiencies provided by a centralised IT department, while meeting unique business unit requirements?

• What is the best way is to align IT and business strategies?

• How can we get the most out of our IT organisation?

What are the secrets of successful IT organisations?

Speculation about how to best address these issues is ongoing, but facts are elusive. To provide empirical answers, Booz & Company is carrying out a global survey, using an IT specific adaptation of our organisational performance tool – the OrgDNA Profiler. Over 2,000 executives responded to date to questions about their IT organisational structure, decision rights, information and motivators. The key findings point to steps that CIOs can take to address the challenges of managing today’s IT organisation:

• Restructuring is not a silver bullet. Over the past 15 years, IT organisations have adopted various structures while evolving from centralised IT organisations that rarely communicate with the business, to more distributed shared services organisations with customer focus. Our results show that the resulting hybrid structures often struggle, being pulled in conflicting directions, and sacrificing both the efficiency of a centralised structure as well as the flexibility of shared services. Will restructuring again help IT organisations meet the varied demands they now face? Evidence of effective centralised and distributed organisations suggests that it won’t. Contrary to what most decision-makers believe, the secret to an effective IT organisation isn’t just structure.

• ‘Entrepreneur/innovator’ CIOs are more successful than ‘utility manager’ CIOs. We found a striking relationship between the CIO role and the effectiveness of IT. Most organisations with utility manager CIOs (ie. those that provide a commoditised service) are seen as not translating important decisions into action quickly, with little clarity around decision making and frequent second-guessing of decisions. By contrast, most entrepreneur/innovator CIOs (ie. those that enable IT to be a driver of revenue growth) were linked with rapid execution of decisions, awareness of which decisions people are responsible for, and less second guessing. IT organisations run by utility managers are seen as weak, whereas those led by entrepreneur/innovators are seen as robust.

• Proximity breeds power. Organisations in which the CIO reports directly to the CEO are more likely to be classed as having strong execution capabilities than those where the CIO doesn’t report to the C-suite. They are able to translate decisions into action more quickly, react to change more adeptly, align IT and business priorities more tightly and are better at fulfilling business requirements. Also, information is more likely to get to top management quickly. The conclusion? The closer the CIO is to the CEO, the stronger the IT organisation will be.

The UK CIO under pressure

Our survey results reveal that globally, many IT organisations are not performing well when we consider the survey output by geography, however, it becomes clear that CIOs in the UK are really struggling: only 25% of UK respondents portrayed their IT organisations as healthy.

The problems facing UK CIOs can be grouped in a few distinct areas:

1. UK CIOs have less access to their CEOs than their colleagues elsewhere.

2. UK respondents highlighted a severe deficiency of information flow through their organisations, and line managers suffer from inadequate access to suitable metrics.

3. Decision making in these organisations is particularly weak, with persistent second guessing of decisions and a chronic inability to convert decisions into action.

4. Although UK organisations offer IT staff a range of motivators, these do not appear well calibrated, with a low correlation between performance and reward.

Problem areas for UK IT organisations

It is therefore hardly surprising that UK IT organisations are less likely to fulfil business requirements than their peers in other geographies. Poor information flows mean that they do not fully understand what the business wants, and struggle to communicate what IT can offer. Without effective decision making IT organisations have difficulty prioritising effectively, and do not maximise the impact of IT investment. Without effective motivation, IT organisations are unlikely to realise their staff’s full potential and risk losing of key individuals.

What should CIOs do?

Many IT organisations default to treating structure first. But most restructuring efforts fail to consider the three other determinants of an organisation’s DNA: information, decision rights and motivators. Booz & Company has identified ways of addressing these levers, linked to the role of the CIO. Fundamentally, CIOs need to be proactive to ensure that they are well informed and engaged with the business.

Find ways to get the CIO closer to the CEO

Ideally the CIO should report to the CEO or other senior executive in order to ensure an effective flow of information between the business and IT. To link IT priorities with the business strategy of the company, the CIO should be a member of the executive committee and a participant in the strategic planning process. Reporting to a senior executive is particularly important in industries steeped in information technology. Reciprocally, the IT governing body should include business executives. It’s important not only that the CIO understands the business strategy, but also that the CEO and business unit heads appreciate IT’s capabilities and constraints.

If formal access to senior business leadership is not readily available, CIOs need to be proactive in order to be heard and informed. This could be achieved by being more assertive and striving for a regular audience with senior decision makers or it could be accomplished through diplomatic means, using executives with aligned business interests to convey the essential information between business and IT.

With links between business and IT established at a senior level, alignment can be put in place through the rest of the organisation. Using experienced IT staff to liaise with business units should ensure that practical, realistic standards and services are established and communicated. Interaction at every level should keep line IT staff informed of strategic priorities and goals, and convey the status of key initiatives and performance against specific, IT-reliant and business-focused metrics.

Put decision processes in place to facilitate innovation

CIOs should avoid being subservient to the business, and consequently being pushed into “Utility Manager” roles by simply acquiescing to business unit demands. The IT organisation’s ability to innovate effectively can be greatly enhanced through a well defined investment decision process.

CIOs should put a demand management body in place that has senior business and IT staff representation to select and prioritise IT investments. Each investment pool should have a governance body to allocate funds among competing options on an objective basis based on strategic fit, return on investment and risk. Funding procedures should explicitly link each IT investment to a stated business benefit, and performance in delivering that benefit should be tracked over time. Organisations should fund projects in phases that require repeated approval to move forward. Ensuring that investment is controlled and focused on business objectives while empowering IT staff to innovate should result in the CIO taking on an entrepreneurial role.

Optimise the motivation of IT employees

In addition to improving information flows between IT and the business, and creating mechanisms to prioritise innovation, CIOs should focus on their role as leaders of the IT organisation. In particular, there is a need to maximise the effectiveness of their staff. Career paths and training programmes should be designed that encourage the development of core skills as well as the retention and development of key employees. For example, paths and pay structures should be created that do not require technical experts such as architects to become managers to progress in the organisation access should be provided to targeted training courses in key skills and provide real rewards for completing them and employee rewards should be linked to the strategic goals of the overall enterprise, in addition to IT-centric performance metrics.

The successful CIO

Booz & Company’s research on organisational effectiveness suggests that entrepreneurial and innovative CIOs who report to senior executives are making dramatic strides in improving execution. The advice to senior IT managers is therefore not simply to default to structural solutions: they are more likely to succeed by proactively positioning themselves close to senior business executives to improve information flow by empowering their IT organisations to innovate through well-structured investment decision processes and by increasing employee effectiveness by instituting appropriate motivators that reward performance.

(source :

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Employee benefits & Threat to childcare vouchers

December 14, 2008

childcare tax break worth thousands of pounds a year is under threat because of new employment laws.

Childcare vouchers offered to tens of thousands of UK workers via ‘salary sacrifice’ workplace schemes have become a popular way to help young families. But a new equality rule requiring that these vouchers continue to be supplied during an employee’s maternity leave could send the cost of the scheme soaring.

It all turns on an Equal Opportunities Commission case last year that led to a High Court ruling harmonising pay and benefits rights between men and women. The subsequent change to the rules, which took effect from 5 October, entitles women to keep all their job benefits during maternity leave, including childcare vouchers. Previously, voucher payments did not have to be made during maternity leave and were usually suspended as soon as the employee went on leave.

However, this in turn now means that any mother-to-be who already has a child and is claiming childcare vouchers, or who is ‘buying’ them early to stock up in anticipation of future high childcare costs, can now ask her company to carry on paying for the tax-free benefit.

‘It’s possible that employers would have to pick up the cost of the vouchers throughout the entire maternity period, adding another unexpected cost at a time of recession, and forcing some employers to reconsider the benefits,’ warns Steve Herbert, head of employee benefitsat adviser Origen.

Some businesses are already agonising over what to do. ‘We’re looking at a new range of benefits for staff but aren’t sure about keeping child vouchers in there,’ says Carole Goldsmith, group human resources director at Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. ‘The vouchers are a great benefit to offer, but if we end up with all the extra cost while the employee is on maternity it’s an issue of affordability we have to think long and hard about.’

Sue Styles, organisational development manager at Molecular Products in Thaxted, Essex, agrees: ‘The risk of the additional costs has certainly made me reconsider proposing we adopt these as one of our choices. That’s a great shame, as ultimately the people who lose by this issue are the very ones vouchers are designed to help.’

Staff who already benefit from the vouchers are anxious that they could end up paying higher childcare bills. On, an online advice and chat site, plenty of members fear they will lose out. ‘I am now worried about how long it will take for my employer and others to cotton on and risk withdrawing from what is a really good scheme,’ says one.

Another says: ‘In the long run it will be bad news to many working parents as companies will decide they cannot afford the burden of funding this.’

Tim Randles, head of employment at solicitors Laytons, says: ‘No one is challenging the correctness of the High Court ruling; it’s the impact of the new rules that is very difficult to offset.’

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said that the vouchers should be seen by businesses as a broader benefit that improves staff retention, reduces absenteeism and creates a more motivated workforce, ‘all of which have cost savings for the employer’.

If, in a worst-case scenario, employers abandon the vouchers and force the government to give up the scheme, it won’t be the first time a ‘salary sacrifice’ plan has bitten the dust. The Home Computer Initiative, a 2004 government scheme taken up by 500,000 workers, was unplugged in 2006 after the Treasury decided that its cost – a £300m tax bill – was too high.

What is salary sacrifice?

‘Salary sacrifice’ might sound like a painful workplace punishment, but it helps plenty of struggling parents.

Where companies offer such schemes, you ‘sacrifice’ or swap a portion of your gross salary for the equivalent sum, free of income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs), to use on a benefit on offer. This can include childcare vouchers, the cost of a bicycle, pension contributions, or even subsidised canteen food. Your employer also benefits by saving on the NICs it would have otherwise had to pay on that part of your salary.

If your employer provides such a scheme, either itself or through one of many voucher providers, up to £243 worth of childcare a month can be ‘sacrificed’ – or paid for – with these vouchers. Each parent is entitled to this allowance, so two working parents could secure a monthly £486 in tax-free vouchers.

You can only redeem the vouchers at childcare providers on an approved list, ranging from an outside nursery or creche to a nanny, childminder or after-school care; family members or friends who are unqualified minders will not be able to take the vouchers as payment.

Be careful, though: if you have a low family income, your post-tax salary could affect your entitlement to the ‘childcare’ element of working tax credit.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Methods to cope with stress at work.

December 14, 2008

Stress affects us in almost every area of our lives.  The greatest source of stress for many people is the workplace.  Having too heavy a workload, infrequent breaks, or tasks that don’t use employees’ abilities can create stress.  Relationships at work can be stressful due to lack of teamwork or assistance from managers and coworkers.  An employee worried about keeping his or her job or being frustrated about lack of opportunity to advance in the field can feel stressed.

Signs of stress include feelings of anxiety or depression, the loss of interest in work or loss of desire to go to work, and having trouble concentrating at work.  Aches and pains and using alcohol or drugs to cope with work problems are also indicators of stress.

While at work, there are many techniques one can employ to control levels of stress.  Start your day on a positive note.  Eat a good meal, get up ten minutes earlier so you can leave the house early or on time, and listen to music on the way to work.  This can help you enter the office with a bright outlook.  Tailor your workday to include breaks and time away from  your desk.

Try to prioritise work tasks.  List your assignments or tasks in order of priority.  Complete the unpleasant tasks first so the rest of your day can be more enjoyable. 

Take a walk at lunch.  This can give you a change of environment as well as some physical activity, which has been shown to reduce effects of stress on the body.  Exercising outside of work can lead to stress reduction at work.

Throughout the day, eat food that will keep you satisfied and full and that will help maintain your blood sugar level.  Try to eat a balance of carbohydrates and protein as opposed to candy from the office sweet dish.

While at your desk, try to focus on only one task.  Multitasking sometimes feels necessary at work, but it can be unproductive.  Try allotting a chunk of time for one activity.  For example, set aside thirty minutes to work on a project without interruption.  Then move to another task for a period of time before returning to the first project.  You may find that you work more quickly when you don’t allow yourself to be interrupted by phone calls or other tasks that arise.

Practise good communication skills.  When your boss overloads you, ask him or her what the highest priority is, so you do not feel the stress of trying to do too much.  Find ways to delegate when possible.  If you have the opportunity to train someone else to do your tasks, think of it as an opportunity to help him or her grow and the opportunity to lighten your workload and make room for more challenging tasks in the future.

Take responsibility for changing the things that are within your control.  When you focus on what you can do to affect your workplace, you can stop yourself from being frustrated by other factors.  

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Stress cannot be defeated, but it can be managed if you know how.

December 9, 2008


Dealing With Stress at Work

It doesn’t matter where you live whether it is abroad or over here at the UK, stress will always be present in every day’s work environment.  Even if you love your job, there will always be some instances where tough moments can put you in a pitch or sudden deadlines need to be met depending on the job. Stress can be present along the way when attempting to accomplish business objectives as well.

Stress can be considered by many to be very difficult to eliminate. The reason why it is hard is because you simply cannot eliminate it to begin with. It is all about dealing with your stress and managing your stress properly so you can workaround that and still get the job done.

Stress management is all about knowledge and technique in coping with stress and manipulating it so the impact is lesser. Although stress itself cannot be directly eliminated, there are some nifty tricks to avoid it and keep them to a minimum level.

Time Management

When there is just too much on your plate, try to better manage your time by slicing your tasks in manageable pieces. The skill lies mostly on the motivation to take the initiative to manage the timeframe of tasks because when you see a piece of what you need to do, the stress level won’t be as high as seeing the whole picture and having to let you face it head on. By taking your time on divided tasks, you can get exposed to minimal stress, and then when you are done, the stress fades and the next task takes place.

Clean Work Environment

Whether your business environment is a cubicle or a large room filled with your officemates, it is very important to keep things organized and clean. Picture a situation where you need to submit a report by the end of the day and all of your materials are scattered from drawer to drawer and you can’t find what you need and sort them all out. It stresses you out for the fact that things are missing and it stresses you more because of the deadline. Keeping everything clean allows you to work easier and with confidence.

 Take Advantage of Breaks 

All busy workers deserve to have their break time. And that time is there for a reason and one of those reasons is for stress relief. Instead of outworking yourself to do more things, do your body a favor and give it some rest or grab your favorite snack and keep the mind clear of things that need to be done even for just a bit. Thinking about it too much can act as a catalyst in stress increase and make you more time conscious which is something that can be quite distracting. 

It is important to make sure that your stress levels don’t get dangerously low as it gets increasingly difficult to overcome it. Keep managing your stress wisely so a portion of your mind stays focused and confident to accomplish what you need to do in your business.



Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Learn about the benefits an employee assistance program can offer

December 8, 2008

It is a growing trend for businesses to offer employee assistance programs for their employees.  These programs are usually prepaid by the employer for confidential use by all employees, and in many cases the plan includes employee family members.  In most cases, a program would be offered in addition to health care benefits provided to employees.  The employee assistance program addresses problems with health or concerns outside of work that can affect an employees work performance.

Although there is a cost to the employer for this type of plan, employee assistance programs can prove to be cost-effective.  If an employee is successfully treated through these supplemental programs, the employer can benefit from improved job performance and a decreased rate of absenteeism and job turnover.  A lower rate of turnover due to improved health conditions and emotional conditions of employees can save a company recruiting and hiring costs.  An employee assistance program can also be an attractive offering for potential employees.  Some studies have shown a savings of six to ten times the amount spent on an employee assistance program.

Generally, employers do not know which employees are using the employee assistance program.  The employer pays for the services to be available to employees, and the employee is able to be treated for his or her health concerns without feeling ramifications in the workplace. 

Assessment, counselling, and referrals as needed are the tasks of employee assistance programs.  A twenty-four hour phone line is available for employees with immediate needs.  Short term counselling is provided for employees, couples, and members of their households.  If a more severe condition is present, a referral to another professional can be provided.  Employers can find programs of different cost that offer only a phone line for employees and programs that offer a full spectrum of treatment and support. 

Some issues that an employee assistance program might address are drug use and addiction, alcohol use and addiction, workplace relationships or conflicts, emotional distress or depression, financial concerns, and a number of other stressors outside the work environment.  For example, an employee who had concerns about his aging parents could contact the phone help line to talk to someone about his concerns. If there were still concerns on the employee’s part, counselling sessions could take place to help him deal with his concerns and make plans for his parents’ future.  If, after a short term of counselling the problem proved to be more deeply troubling, the counsellor could refer the employee to another professional.  Alleviating these concerns for the employee could improve his productivity and focus at work, eliminate the need to miss days of work to deal with his concerns for his parents, and improve his quality of life and ability to relate to other employees.

By decreasing the effects of stressful medical and emotional conditions, employers are able to improve not only the work performance of employees, but their enjoyment and quality of life.

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Staff absenteeism runs a great cost. Find some methods to combat staff absenteeism at the office.

December 6, 2008


Staff absenteeism can cost money for large and small businesses alike.  Although absenteeism among staff members is lower for companies that have fewer than one hundred employees, every business is affected by sick days.  The rates of absenteeism in the workplace are on the rise.  As a business owner, there are several steps that one can take to cut back on staff absences. 

The first step is to determine the cause of absenteeism among staff members.  Certainly some days missed are due to illness, but many businesses find that employees use illness as an excuse when it is not the case.  Business owners may discover that employees take a full day off because they need to attend an appointment or an event for their child.  Stress in the workplace is a large contributor to some employees’ urge to miss a day of work.  The need to be away from the office or a co-worker can outweigh the need to complete a task or a project.  Often, the stress in the workplace can come from a supervisor or manager.  Finally, low job satisfaction has been found to be a cause of absenteeism.  Doing a repetitive or boring job on a daily basis does not challenge the employee or use the skills he or she offers.  

Discovering the causes of absenteeism in your office can be done by soliciting some anonymous feedback.  Only each employee will be able to truthfully report why he or she took any unexcused days away from work.  Combined with the knowledge you gain from surveying your staff, look at specific departments that show high rates of absenteeism.  In this case, the supervisor may be the problem. 

If you find that one particular supervisor has a higher rate of absenteeism in his or her department, training the supervisor on how to prevent absenteeism as well as on how to communicate properly with employees could solve the problem. 

To prevent illness, a company could offer in-office flu vaccinations before flu season.  Also, a fitness area in the building or a discounted gym membership for staff can help build immune systems as well as help to reduce stress.  

Remember to treat employees with respect at all times.  Staying in touch with your employees about their work environment and their career aspirations can help open lines of communication, and could offer the possibility to meet the needs of your staff by providing challenging tasks for each employee. 

Flexible scheduling can be effective in reducing absenteeism.  Giving a staff member the ability to miss two hours in the middle of the day and make up that time at a later date could allow him to attend a performance at his child’s school and prevent him taking the entire day off.  

Also, consider incentives the company could offer to employees with good attendance records.  These could include an extra holiday of their choice or monetary compensation.  Although the company would incur a cost for these incentives, the cost could be far less than the cost of high rates of staff absenteeism.

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Stress management by learning to control stress triggers

December 3, 2008


We’ve all experienced feelings of stress in our lives, yet not many people take the time to consider effective stress management techniques. We relate stress as those moments where you feel like everything has become too much to handle and everything seems to crumble at the slightest provocation. 

Even though we all know what stress is – do you know how best to control and manage your stress levels?

Stress can be explained as the feelings of inability to cope with a situation or circumstance. In many cases of stress the situation may seem trivial to an outside party but it’s detrimental to the person experiencing those feelings.

This difference in perception about the level of crisis had led researchers to believe that stress management is largely reliant on the individual’s inner self-esteem and techniques for weathering through difficult situations.

There are several schools of thought regarding effective stress management. Because every person’s reaction to different stress triggers is different, there is no right or wrong way to handle stress – only the right way for you.

Understanding the reasons and triggers behind your stress can be a huge step forward in learning to control your levels of stress and handle them effectively.

 Job Stress Management

A highly demanding job or career can lead to very high levels of stress for people working in them and yet rarely will those people do enough to control those stress levels.

In many cases, the trigger for stress in these situations can be feeling under too much pressure from management to continually perform well. Other people report feeling as though there’s simply too much expected of them throughout the working day. Still others complain continually about needing an extra few hours in each day to get everything done. The common feeling among each of these situations is frustration.

Stress management for people in these kinds of situations can often be a matter of better time management and correct delegation. Constant interruptions by telephone or other colleagues can chew into precious time in which you could be getting things done.

If your workload is wearing you down, consider breaking your tasks down into prioritised lists and working through the most important issues first. Any less important tasks can either be done later or given to another staff member to assist. Leave the phone to the voice-mail if you can. Ignore emails until after you’ve completed the task you’re working on. Explain to colleagues that standing around gossiping takes more time than you have available. Talk to them when your work load is lowered.

Be sure to take a walk when your work day is over. You don’t need to jog or sprint. Just walk around the block or around the park. The simple act of walking can help to clear bottled up feelings of frustration, improve blood circulation and give you precious time to think things through without interruption.

Relationship Stress Management

Not everyone gets stressed at work. Many people feel stressed about their relationship or family life. A large number of women report feeling stressed about the demands of running a busy household and raising a family without enough support. Many feel their partners are unsympathetic and unhelpful and the pressures of day to day life begin to affect everything they do. 

Stress management for people in this situation could be partially helped with time management and effective delegation to other family members, but in relationship stress the overlying emotion isn’t always frustration, as with job stress. It’s often lack of self-esteem and low self-worth. Many women feel as though they lose themselves in order to care for the family first.

Learning to put your own needs first before those of your family is not considered selfish. It’s actually beneficial to everyone. If your own needs are well looked after, then you have more energy and more love to spread around to your family.

Take time to relax in the bath. Take a walk away from the chores and the family and enjoy the alone-time. These things don’t need to take all day – but just a few minutes away from the constant pressure can mean the difference between coping and falling apart.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit