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How to accentuate the positive

Article by Jane Hulme, HR director - Unum UK

These days it can be hard to look on the bright side of life. War in Ukraine, global warming, double digit inflation and the fluctuating state of the economy are all weighing heavily on people’s minds. It’s all too easy to see a glass half empty and sink into a completely negative mindset to match. But a positive outlook can be beneficial to individuals and to businesses alike: research has shown that the happiest employees take less sick leave, are six times more energised and twice as productive as their least happy colleagues.1

  1. Recognise and reward

A little appreciation can go a long way so employers who don’t already have a staff recognition scheme could be missing a trick. Employees who are recognised for a task well done are likely to feel energised and motivated, increasing job satisfaction. Reward schemes celebrating successes can create a culture of appreciation, be a draw to prospective employees and act as an anchor to others who might be considering moving on. And happier employees are likely to influence one another’s behaviours, creating a generally more cheerful work environment.

Positive moves
Endorphins help your body avoid pain and increase feelings of pleasure; lack of endorphins can cause anxiety, depression and sleeping issues. The good news is, physical exercise stimulates endorphin release, so getting moving is great for boosting your mood. Encourage your people to take regular breaks and get up and move; instigate walking meetings, mindfulness breaks or offer onsite fitness classes during lunch hours. Health and wellness challenges are also a fun way to promote a bit of competition and team building, such as the eight glasses of water a day challenge. Finally, it’s not healthy for people to stay in one fixed position – sitting or standing – for too long, so offering adjustable sit-stand desks allows employees to easily switch between the two whilst working.

Detox the digital
So many of us live on our phones these days — checking social media, catching up on emails, monitoring the news. It’s hard to get away from all the woes of the world when you’re permanently plugged in. Hybrid working has blurred the lines between ‘working from home’ and ‘living at work’, so it can be hard for employees to switch off. If you have an employee who is working consistently outside ‘normal’ hours then consider talking to them about how you can help them work more flexibly, manage their workload and work/life balance more effectively.

Develop a sense of community spirit
One of the positive takeaways from the pandemic was the sense of community spirit we discovered. Many people enjoyed a real feeling of accomplishment and a new purpose helping their neighbours in times of adversity. Company charity partnerships are a great way of getting everyone involved, bringing a business and its local community together for a positive purpose. If this isn’t practical, encouraging payroll giving provides an excellent opportunity for employees to do some good in the world.

Lead by example
Bring your game face to work and show those around you the power of a positive mindset. Make an effort to use positive language when you talk to people, smile more, make eye contact and remember to say: ‘thank you’. In the same way that your reward scheme could help build employees’ trust and appreciation, a little kindness in the workplace goes a long way to keeping people happy in their jobs.

These are undeniably uncertain times and for many people life is pretty tough right now. But with a few tweaks to our daily life most of us can improve our health and wellbeing and face the future with a more positive outlook — which is good for employees, and good for employers too.

    Jane leads strategies that support Unum’s goal of attracting, developing and retaining our talented team of people. The HR function she oversees works in partnership with the business to shape our culture and ways of working covering a range of topics from organisation design and development, diversity and inclusion, talent management, wellbeing and employee engagement. Jane joined Unum in February 2021 as Head of Business Partnering before becoming the UK HR Director in March 2022. Before Unum, Jane worked across various sectors in senior HR roles, including Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Liz Earle and most recently Eaton Industrial Corporation.”

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