August Edition of Designated Digest

August Edition of Designated Digest

Hello everyone and welcome to the August edition of our monthly newsletter.

Did anybody else blink and miss July?! Perhaps it was all that hot weather. In the news, this week scientists warned that Britain could swelter under its first 40C day within 10 years as massive heatwaves become more frequent due to global warming and rising carbon emissions. In this month’s newsletter, we look at the effect virtual business support has on sustainability. With United Nations believing that 14 of its 17 sustainable development goals can be solved or advanced through virtual work, it’s definitely something we must continue to talk about as well as act upon.

Some of our clients are able to continue to work remotely or take on a hybrid solution and others will be returning to their place of work, so we look at preventing burnout as you return to work.

As always if this newsletter sparks some new ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team who would be happy to discuss them with you. Best wishes and enjoy the rest of the great British summer!

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July Edition of Designated Digest

July Edition of Designated Digest

Hello everyone and welcome to the July edition of our monthly newsletter.

We would like to start off with some positive news we heard this week, London’s busiest shopping area, Oxford Circus is set to undergo a makeover, transforming some of its cluttered spaces to leafy-green pedestrian-only areas.

Similar plans are set to take place in Birmingham, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris. Ideal for taking a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city and allowing your mind to wander. On that note, we look this month at mental health in the workplace. Mental health affects around one in four people in the UK in any given year, so we feel it is a topic that needs to be discussed regularly.

As we return to a more normal working pattern, schedules are busier than ever whilst we play catch up, so we dive into the top 10 reasons to consider hiring a Virtual PA in 2021.

As always, stay safe and we look forward to talking with you soon.

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Nurture your staffs mental health

Nurture your staffs mental health

Mental Health

From the start of the Covid pandemic, we have been very aware of concerns relating to mental health and the increased number of people suffering from mental health problems.

This has largely been due to lockdown and the impact that has had, and we have heard how it has affected everybody, both young and old.

It is important that we gain the best understanding so that as leaders, managers and role models, we can help and support our people – and to know what support is available for those who need it.

Before Covid, we knew mental health-related issues were the most common cause of long-term sickness in UK workplaces.

Surveys performed by the Chart­ered Institute of Personnel and Develop­ment (CIPD) in 2019 reported that the impact of stress, in particular, had increased, with 37% of respondents saying that stress-related absence had increased in the last year. They concluded: ‘Work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost in 2018-19.’

As well as sickness absence, poor mental health at work can lead to increased staff turnover, reduced engagement and high absenteeism.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in the UK in any given year.

As we recover from Covid, there is much evidence to suggest that the pandemic and measures taken to manage it, such as lockdown and social distancing, will have a significant impact upon the mental health of employees and the impact may be felt for months or even years.

How will Covid-19 affect our mental health?
We do not yet know what the exact impacts of the pandemic on our mental health will be. People have been affected in different ways: many feeling isolated, others are fearful about catching the virus themselves and also anxious about their family and friends.

Employees in healthcare have been working long hours with few rest periods in very difficult circumstances throughout the pandemic and have possibly not had the time or opportunity to reflect on their own well-being.

This long-term stress has taken a toll and continues to do so. Our best defence against mental health is resilience, but, to maintain resilience, individuals need time to recuperate.

Lockdown’s impact
Mind, the mental health charity, reported that over half of adults and over two-thirds of young people said their mental health declined during lockdown. Young people and those with pre-existing mental health conditions were particularly affected.

The health impacts of lockdown include findings of fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions, poor work-life balance, reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption. In relation to workplace mental health specifically, employees were reporting reduced motivation, loss of purpose, anxiety and isolation.

Evidence from previous quarantine situations also suggest that there are long-lasting effects on mental health.

Working from home
Many people have been working from home during the pandemic and while most have found this to be more productive, still one-in-three people have found the opposite, according to research by MetLife UK.

Almost one-in-three (32%) workers admit that their productivity has declined as a result of the shift to home working. Of these employees, two in five (41%) believe that their mental well-being has impacted their productivity levels. The impact is understood to have been more apparent for younger groups aged below 30 and also older women aged 50 plus.

There is also a marked difference between the statistics reported by employees and those reported by employers. Employers believe there has been a greater decline in productivity, with 56% of employers reporting that they perceive their employees’ personal well-being has impacted their productivity levels. This is significantly higher than the 32% of workers who reported their productivity has declined.

Productivity is absolutely key in any business, and therefore it follows that we should be concerned about our employees’ mental health and how this affects the productivity of our teams.

We need to do our best to understand the issues that our teams are facing and support them by implementing management strategies to reduce the impact in the workplace.

Understanding the issue
As mentioned previously, there seems to be a huge amount of information stating the enormity of the mental health problem caused by Covid, but there does not appear to be much research yet giving us useful data to understand the specifics of the issues and indeed how to address them.

One of the greatest challenges is that individuals are often unlikely to ask for help when they need it.

As managers and leaders, we need to work hard to encourage openness and make it easier and more comfortable for people to ask for help.

HR management
Large companies will have in-house HR departments providing expert support and who will be defining organisational strategies to help their managers and leaders deal with mental health issues in the workplace.

For smaller organisations, there is less support available and managers will need to address these issues themselves.

In an attempt to provide a useful guide, our HR managers have provided some input that I hope will be of value.

What is workplace mental health?
Mental health, like physical health, fluctuates over time and there are degrees of severity. Symptoms include struggling with low mood, anxiety and stress, and we know stress can contribute to other illnesses.

Conditions include depression, anxiety, phobias and bipolar, which tend to continue over a prolonged period.

As employers, one of our objectives should be to help individuals feel comfortable in talking about how they feel. In doing so, we must avoid attempting to diagnose and instead focus on discussing how the issues impact the employee’s work and their work-life with a view to agreeing on a plan to provide additional support.

A range of measures will need to be introduced and a good starting point for any manager developing their strategy is to understand our legal responsibilities as an employer.

Legal duties
These legal duties set the minimum requirements and must be adhered to, but there is a wealth of evidence arguing that employers who go above and beyond will benefit from improvements in employee engagement, reduced absence, reduction in staff turnover and improved organisational culture.

Employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, including mental health and well-being.

The UK Health and Safety Executive defines work-related stress as a reaction to excessive pressure or another type of demand placed on an individual at work. It is the employer’s duty to assess the risk of stress-related mental health issues arising from work and to take measures to control the risk.

Employees who have a mental health condition may be disabled and will therefore be protected from discrimination during employment as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, which may include amendments to working hours, location of work, changes to duties and the provision of additional equipment.

Prevention is always better than cure, but obviously, in the case of mental health issues, prevention is not necessarily within the employer’s control; however, there are early actions that can be taken.

Supporting the mental health of employees, is vital and it is warranted to take a pro-active approach.

Preventative measures largely relate to improving organisational culture by increased communication so that mental health issues can be more easily addressed and supporting managers by ensuring they are well informed, as they will play a pivotal role in the handling of any issues. (See box below).

Providing support
Managers need to know the typical signs and symptoms of poor or declining mental health exhibited in the working environment.

These can include the following:

  • Workaholic tendencies: Working long hours without breaks;
  • Increased absence due to sickness;
  • Any uncharacteristic behaviour: Emotional responses to situations which could include tearfulness or anger;
  • Withdrawing from others on the team.

Any of these behaviours in isolation clearly do not imply that an individual has a mental health issue, but they do provide an opportunity for a manager to discuss well-being with an individual, which could prove to be valuable in preventing a potential issue.

When a manager holds a one-to-one discussion with an individual, it is important they do not jump to any conclusions. Ideally, the conversation will start with an open discussion about how the employee is feeling, although we know that people are often reluctant to talk openly.

Within an organisation where mental health and well-being are discussed regularly, hopefully, the employee will feel more able to be open and honest.

When an individual asks for help, it is important that help and support is made available in a timely manner.

In a large organisation, the HR department may become involved to provide support and potentially the occupational health team, if needed.

In a smaller organisation, it may be relevant to seek advice from outside organisations and there are many suitable providers.

Throughout any discussion of this nature, the manager must be non-judgemental. It is very clear that all people managers have a serious responsibility in their employees’ well-being, and they will also need to be supported and guided through this process.

Support available
The Chartered Institute of Person­nel Directors provides a wealth of information on its website and it is a valuable resource for all managers dealing with HR issues.

Over the coming months, we will have access to much more data regarding the long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As leaders, we will need to learn and evolve to ensure we provide the best support possible so that we can continue to lead successful, high-performing companies and teams.

If you would like any further information in relation to this article, please do get in touch. I am always very happy to help and I am sure that my team of HR professionals will also be able to help with most workplace well-being questions.

The top 10 reasons you should consider hiring a Virtual PA in 2021

The top 10 reasons you should consider hiring a Virtual PA in 2021

We all hate having to do our business ‘housekeeping’ chores; whether it’s organising your filing, sorting out your business cards, typing up letters or just simply getting your tax return done… the list is endless. So how can a virtual PA help you become more effective, more efficiently?

Any why is it more important to consider hiring a virtual PA in 2021 than in previous years? 

 

Top Ten Reasons to use a Designated Virtual PA 

 

  1. Got a big presentation to do? Let the professionals take charge!

With minimal supervision, we can turn around a document in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or even Canva and turn it from a jumble of numbers and words into a coherent work of art, fit for any boardroom. As businesses more from kitchen table to a more corporate environment, it’s more important than every before to keep teams engaged. No death by PowerPoint over here thank you!

 

  1. Flummoxed by figures, or simply no time to file that tax return?

Why not get us to take a look at the books and help you get back on track, whilst you concentrate on making the big bucks. Though many of us have been busier than ever working from home, we were used to being distraction free. As we move back into the office those small pesky tasks you forgot about will creep back in and can swallow your time. 

 

  1. Give us an inch and we’ll go the extra mile 

We are never happier than when we have a new project to get our teeth into; whether it’s investigating new business opportunities, or following up existing leads, we like to help you make a difference. We know that some of the most important business research can fall to the bottom of the list, especially when you’re playing catch up in 2021. Let us cover this area for you and stay on top of what your competitors are doing whilst you focus on the day to day running of your business. 

 

  1. Lost for words?

As a team of experienced professionals, we are well-versed in the art of creating compelling copy and putting together savvy sales pitches. 

Writing copy is time-consuming, especially when post-pandemic, we need to be more aware and sensitive than ever to our customers, clients and colleagues work/personal situations. 

 

  1. We do it, so you don’t have to! 

Don’t have time to enter all those potentially lucrative prospects into your system? All we need is a list and we can upload, annotate and amend to your heart’s content. 

 

  1. All dressed up and nowhere to go?

Networking can be a time-consuming activity, but just one well-connected contact can pay dividends. We can help advise on which groups are suitable and research any hidden costs or lucrative opportunities that you hadn’t considered. 

 

  1. Let us organise your life, leaving you free to concentrate on what makes your business tick.

We can coordinate meetings, arrange travel, type up minutes, compile documents, respond to email on your behalf and even contact previous clients for their feedback on your product or service. 

Particuarly this year when there are so many rules and regulations which are ever-changing and differ depending on where you would like to go. Our PA’s are in touch with highly experienced travel professionals who can ensure both business and pleasure trips are fully managed. 

 

  1. Raise your game and we’ll up your ante! 

We can search for, and post, relevant, interesting, compelling content onto your social network profile pages, with the click of a mouse and the tap of the keyboard. We can also help you optimise your pages, reach out to your contacts and keep your pages fresh and relevant – leaving you free to go and do the networking you were born to do! 

 

  1. Take the chaos out of conferences

Use us to project manage your corporate events. We get to grips with the gritty details, ensuring no glass is left unfilled. Whether you need client hospitality, private banquets, or large scale exhibitions organised, we are there to calmly communicate and coordinate with your clients and suppliers. 

 

  1. Ever get that sinking feeling?

The superpowers of a good PA are often overlooked; whether it be the ability to efficiently manage calls, whilst juggling emails and monitoring a jam-packed diary, or tracking down lost and forgotten receipts. Being able to depend upon a reliable set of hands, eyes and ears can be the difference between staying on top, or getting mired in an administrative nightmare. Never is that more apparent when you are in desperate need and don’t know where to turn. Enter, Designated! We are often able to put you in touch with fellow super-powered assistants, potentially looking for a step up, down or change in direction. We can also vet CVs, write up job adverts or simply field responses until you have time to start interviewing. 

 

So, if you are looking for your next PA or just know you need help but can’t justify the cost of hiring someone on a full-time basis, perhaps going ‘virtual’ is the best way forward – after all, you’ve only got time to lose. Get in touch and chat to us about how we can help. 

 

June Edition of Designated Digest

June Edition of Designated Digest

As we step into June we have lots to look forward to, not least Coronavirus restrictions being relaxed as of the 21st. Though we must all be responsible and keep our health at the forefront of our minds, it is exciting to start planning our next chapters, both personal and professional.

Over the past 12 months, we have had to socially distance ourselves from our teams, but in a lot of ways, it has forged tighter bonds allowing teamwork and productivity to flourish.

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April newsletter

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