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Resolve to Make Your Office More Employee-Friendly in the New Year
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Like me, you may feel the new year is a great time to resolve to take on new challenges or make a few much needed changes. So why not make a similar resolution in your office?

Today, long hours in the workplace have become the norm. According to the Seamless Corporate Accounts, GrubHub Inc.’s leading online food-ordering and billing service for offices, Food in the Workplace Survey of over 1,200 professionals, 48% indicated that they work late nights and weekends some or all of the time. A Manpower Group poll showed similar findings, 67% of respondents indicated that they work longer hours than five years ago.

Couple long hours with a decline in physical interaction among employees —thanks to email, texting and instant messaging—and you begin to see an office of overworked, disengaged employees. And research shows that disengaged employees mean not only challenges with attracting and retaining great talent but an impact on the bottom line due to lower productivity and performance.

Don’t despair. Here are five easy ideas you can use to transform your office into the employee-friendly environment you know it can and should be.

Be Mindful of Your Employees’ Health and Well-Being

Let employees who are working longer hours know that their efforts are appreciated—but be mindful of employees who may be on the road to burnout. If overtime is ongoing in your office, make some changes that make employee health and well-being a priority and be on the lookout for ways to help your teams work smarter instead of longer. While late nights should be appreciated, managers should look for ways to minimize the fire drills or inefficiencies that contribute to excessive overtime.

Consider forming a wellness committee to plan activities that help employees stay mindful of their physical and mental health. Another idea is to host a “lunch and learn” with local health practitioners, such as a nutritionist or chiropractor, where employees can get healthy living tips. Companies could sponsor an in-office fitness class or simply encourage employees to stop and stretch every 30 minutes.

Don’t Let Your Employees Run on Empty

Sluggishness, irritability and inability to concentrate are just a few of the symptoms caused by meal skipping and poor food choices—symptoms you may be seeing in your office. According to a survey we conducted last year on the impact of food choices, professionals acknowledged they feel moody and less productive and have a hard time concentrating when they skip lunch or breakfast – yet it happens frequently. Thirty percent of professionals said they often skip breakfast due to lack of time or a busy morning work schedule, while 40 percent sometimes skip lunch due to heavy workloads.

While pizza, cookies and cupcakes are always well-received treats to boost morale, consider encouraging eating habits that boost productivity by offering healthy snacks at the office, serving food items at company meetings that positively support mental and physical sharpness, and/or establishing a meal program to help break the meal-skipping cycle.

Foster Relationships, Build Your Culture

To keep your employees engaged and sharing ideas, they need to stay connected and have a bond with each other, which can be challenging. Technology has brought more efficiency to offices but has also caused employees to physically interact less and less.

One of the simplest ways you can bring your employees together is by sharing a meal. Eating together forces face-to-face communication, which can help nurture collaboration and camaraderie. In fact, half (50 percent) of professionals in our annual Food in the Workplace Survey said sharing meals with colleagues helps foster a better working relationship and more than half (56 percent) indicated they would eat lunch with other colleagues if lunch (or another meal) were provided by the company. Birthdays, holidays and even sporting events can be turned into opportunities to bring some fun into the office. For example, host a March Madness party in the spring to motivate team building instead of employees sitting at their desks (pretending not to be) watching the games. I love to see our engineers, for example, sitting together every day and sharing lunch together. It is clear that the way they interact and nurture relationships informally pays huge dividends when they hunker down to meet a deadline.

Acknowledge Employee Achievements

Some find it hard to believe, but simply recognizing employees for their hard work can go miles in fostering happiness and engagement. Get to know your employees and express your thanks with a gift that is truly meaningful and shows you put in a little effort. Is she a serious foodie? Does he love adventures? A gift certificate to a 4-star restaurant, passes to a nearby theme park or simply extra PTO days may be the ‘thank you’ that speaks volumes to them. If you can, think about team rewards to further promote collaboration and team accomplishments. Remember, however you decide to reward your employees, make the thanks public so they can be noted by their colleagues.

Start Creating a Rewarding Environment

People spend more time at work than almost any other place, and the stress of long hours can lead to rising employee turnover rates and decreased performance. Research — and my own personal experience — shows that people are generally motivated to work harder and invest more of themselves in the business when they are excited about the work they are doing, when they are inspired by the people with whom they are working, and when there is potential for rewards — or perks — that are meaningful to them.

If they are going to be at the office for long hours, make them hours worth being there. It’s a win-win exchange that many organizations have adopted, offering employees a range of perks such as gym memberships, back-up childcare, meal programs, concierge services, on-site medical staff, dry cleaning services and even massages. When it comes to the rewards employees are most excited about, our survey found that gym or yoga memberships (42 percent) are most coveted, with food-based perks following close behind (38 percent).

With increasing competition for talented workers, maybe 2015 is the time to make your office more employee-friendly than ever.

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About The Author
Karen Miller
Karen Miller is SVP, People at GrubHub, where she is responsible for defining and executing the company’s people and HR strategies. Karen has more than 15 years of experience in organization development, including talent management, employee engagement, performance improvement, communication, facilitation, coaching and cultural transformation. She has a MA from Columbia University in organizational psychology.

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