Summer Lovin’

Gillian and Steve knew of one another, working for the same bank but in different departments, but hadn’t had a chance to converse in a non-professional setting until a weekend barbeque a mutual friend arranged for a group of her coworkers. After some drinks and casual conversation, Gillian and Steve had hit it off and over the next few weeks, engaged in a romantic relationship. Everything was going well until Steve’s attention was directed to another, having viewed the relationship as more of a fling. Gillian was less than pleased and proceeded to spread rumors at work, creating an uncomfortable working environment for anyone who had to interact with the two.

With more and more couples meeting at work, workplace romances may pop up at any time of year, but are especially abundant during the summer months with barbeques and other warm-weather activities presenting opportunities for employees to get together in casual settings. This time of year, reinforcing your policies pertaining to fraternization and appropriate conduct can mean the difference between a healthy team environment and one full of unproductive drama and gossip.

Avoiding these issues in paramount, and while it is near impossible to prevent workplace romances from occuring, ensuring that there are rules in place to prevent problems from arising is key. Ensure that your policies address relationships between supervisors and their subordinates and detail what is and is not appropriate conduct (including displays of affection, gossip and unproductive conversation, poor performance, and sharing confidential information).

Apply policies in a consistent manner and have in place a process for dealing with situations when things go wrong. Ideally, a conversation reminding both parties of policies pertaining to appropriate conduct will suffice, but when resentment still lingers and affects productivity, do not hesitate to take action. Administering appropriate disciplinary action may be what it takes to prevent the situation from escalating into a more serious case, such as sexual harassment or workplace violence.

While most summer flings come and go without a hitch, some can result in persisting bitterness and anger. Ensure that your policies and plans are in place to tackle any issues head on, and make certain that this is communicated effectively with your employees to allow them with the information to make responsible decisions for themselves.

Beating the Heat, One Flip-Flop at a Time

After taking some vacation time and enjoying a long weekend at the lake to beat the heat, Dean was not thrilled to rejoin the workforce on Monday, with summer temperatures still lingering in the unbearable low 100s. Deciding to take a little bit of the lake to work with him, Dean showed up wearing a pair of board shorts, a polo shirt, and some sandals, thinking that in light of the heat his boss wouldn’t mind some less professional attire. To his surprise, a Board meeting had been scheduled the previous week in his absence for Monday morning. Dean had no choice but to attend the meeting to discuss the status of a project with the suit-wearing Board Members, who were less than amused by his casual dress.

Trying to stay cool is a top priority for most of us when the sweltering heat of summer hits. At home, it is easy to kick back in a pair of shorts and some flip flops, but with many industries requiring professional attire in the workplace, how do you keep cool and avoid melting on the job?

Of course air conditioning and fans help, but many are tempted to wear office inappropriate attire when the temperatures rise. There are a number of ways to meet in the middle when dealing with inclement weather, a heat wave being just as troublesome as frigid conditions in the winter.

• Review Company Policies – This time of year, take the opportunity to review your company’s policies on personal appearance and attire. Consider modifying the policy to include exceptions, such as casual dress during inclement weather, and make certain to provide examples of what is/is not appropriate as part of this exception.

• Consider Telecommuting Options – With technology offering opportunities to work from home, many employees may prefer to stay in their temperature-regulated houses during heat waves. Staying comfortable will often mean more productivity, so allowing this option for applicable positions it is a great alternative to ensure that the job still gets done.

• Be Flexible – Warm weather dress codes can be difficult to define, let alone enforce. Make certain that some resolute standards are in place, then allow for some flexibility beyond that. Trust your employees to use good judgment in deciding what is and is not appropriate around those guidelines as every position and situation is different.

While the summer season is typically more laid back than its counterparts, communicate your policy (possibly modified for the warmer months) clearly to employees to avoid any problems. Make sure your employees know to use good judgment and inform them of the best rule of thumb when deciding if an article of clothing is appropriate or not: when in doubt, don’t.

I’m Meltinggg!

Working in an older house that has been converted into an office space has its pros and cons. Marissa has been working at a small law firm for a few years and while the space is typically freezing in the winter and incredibly stuffy in the summer, an oil heater and window air conditioning unit and desk fan typically keeps the space at bearable temperatures.

Last week, they were hit with an unusual heat wave for June, temperatures hitting the high 90s for three days straight. Also the first time she had to crank up the air conditioner, Marissa was dismayed when the unit shuddered and died after struggling to start up. With no air conditioning, the heat created a work environment that was far from ideal, causing tensions to rise and productivity to drop. With the ability to log into her work computer remotely from home, Marissa got the go ahead from her supervisor to work the remainder of the week from her house, in the comfort of a temperature-regulated home office.

When temperatures rise, it can be difficult to focus on anything but the stifling heat. It is a challenge to perform at your very best when you are distracted and physically uncomfortable. If providing your employees with the option to telecommute and work from home is something that your organization wants to implement, there are a few things you want to make sure you’ve done:

  • Review Your Policy – If you’re going to let your employees work from home, review or create a policy detailing what the expectations of working remotely are to ensure your employees stay on track and don’t abuse the privilege.
  • Communicate – With remote employees, it is more challenging to stay in touch as they aren’t physically there to talk with multiple times throughout the day. Make regular communication a priority (whether that be via email or phone) and schedule a time when your employee is in the office to catch up.
  • Be Consistent – Make sure you treat your remote employees the same as you do your employees who work onsite. Consistently apply the same expectations (as applicable to the job) to ensure your onsite employees are not resentful of remote employees who do not have to perform to the same standards.

When the heat of the summer months threatens to make the most sun-loving of us miserable, providing the option to telecommute can maintain good moods and productivity levels. A way to let your employees know that their needs are important to you and the organization, implementing this program (if done correctly) can be mutually beneficial. Contact HRCentral today for a review of your existing policy, or for the creation of a telecommuting program tailored to your organization.



The Beaches are Calling, and I Must Go!

Itching to try out some new camping gear her family recently invested in, Janet requested a number of Fridays off throughout the summer months, creating long weekends to go camping at the beach. As she requested the days off in advance, the majority of her requested time off was approved. However, some of her coworkers had already requested and been granted vacation on the same days Janet wanted off, and Janet was denied those days, the company operating on a “first come, first serve” basis for scheduling vacation.

When those weekends rolled around, Janet seemed to always have a cold, or a stomach bug, or some family emergency that prevented her from working her scheduled shifts. One weekend, Janet posted a number of photos to her social media account of her and her family swimming in the ocean and laughing around the campfire when she was supposedly suffering a severe allergy attack. The following week, Janet’s supervisor, who was already highly suspicious of the convenient timing of her illnesses, was made aware of Janet’s posts and promptly delivered a record of discussion, reiterating the company’s attendance and vacation policies, and warning Janet that subsequent abuse of the system would result in a written warning.

With summer kicking into high gear over the next few weeks as the weather continues to warm up, this scenario is one that managers see a lot of. Employees making up fake illnesses and creating all manner of excuses to get out of work to enjoy the sunshine is common over the summer months. While we cannot control the actions and behaviors of our employees, we do have the power to ensure that policies are in place to clearly communicate expectations and consequences.

Make sure that you have a PTO or vacation policy in place that outlines the process for requesting and scheduling time off. Additionally, your Handbook should have a section on absenteeism and tardiness, communicating processes for reporting absences or tardies, how the organization will deal with excessive absences, and what constitutes job abandonment.

Managing the summer months doesn’t have to be stressful for your organization or department. When your employees are aware of what is expected of them, are mindful of what the consequences are for violating policies, and when those policies are consistently applied, you can help ensure that everything runs smoothly during this time of year when everyone is antsy to get outside.

Contact HRCentral today for a review or update of your current Employee Handbook to ensure your polices are compliant and communicated effectively.

Underappreciated and Unmotivated

The deadline of a large salary survey for a client is looming at the end of the week and Katherine’s manager, Steve, has decided to go ahead with a planned vacation, leaving his team to complete and deliver the final project. Katherine has been Steve’s right hand with this project since the beginning, the client being a personal referral resulting in her being appointed as the primary contact within the company.

Unable to rearrange his plans, Steve left Katherine in charge of the final review of the report and delivering it to the client. With over 100 individual surveys to review for the final report, Katherine worked late into the night, multiple nights, with no assistance. Her overtime and dedication paid off, and the report was sent to the client by the end-of-day on Friday.

Upon his return, Steve nonchalantly thanked his team for getting the project sent out, then immediately shut himself in his office to catch up on emails and other tasks. Katherine was shocked that her hard work had gone unnoticed and was so blatantly unappreciated. Over the subsequent months, her motivation to put as much effort into her work tanked to the point of indifference and gradually, her productivity and overall confidence in her work started to diminish.

Feeling unappreciated can wreck the morale and drive of anyone. Steve’s failing to commend Katherine for the extra work and effort she put in and not praising her (either publicly or privately) led to the downhill spiral of a star employee.

Taking the time to acknowledge the efforts of your hardworking employees and communicating to them how much they are valued is a win-win. Underappreciated employees tend to be unmotivated and unproductive. On the flip side, valued and commended employees are those who genuinely want to go that extra mile and produce high quality work.

These factors should be a priority of all managers and are vital components in nurturing the growth and development of each and every individual. Providing genuine appreciation and acknowledging honest efforts increases morale, improves confidence and self-esteem, and helps ensure your employees maintain loyal and long-lasting relationships with you and the organization.