Did you know that offering employees the opportunity to bring their pets to work is a current trend? It’s true! According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nine percent of employers already have an office policy allowing pets. This includes some well-recognized employers-of-choice such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Workday.
The fact is that the percentage of workplaces with a pet-friendly policy has more than doubled in the past four years. Benefits experts believe that this percentage will continue to increase in the future.
Why you may ask? According to a business magazine called Chief Executive, the next generation of business professionals want it. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that more than 66 percent of human resource decision makers said that potential candidates asked if the workspace was pet-friendly during their interview process.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. A pet-friendly environment can benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer may see increased retention, loyalty, productivity, and morale in their staff. On the other hand, the employee may experience decreased stress and absenteeism, according to a recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. As an added bonus, when you allow pets in the office, employees may be more engaged and willing to work a full day. The policy eliminates their need to worry about rushing home to check-in on their pet.
If you already have a program like this or are looking to start one, consider effective communications a key element of its success. Here are some ways to make sure you’re engaging employees appropriately:
Make Sure Every Employee’s Voice is Heard
In order for a pet-friendly workspace to be successful, employees need to feel included. With this in mind, be sure to remember everybody might not have a pet or feel comfortable around animals. That’s why it’s important to find out where people are. Do this by talking to coworkers who might be worried about this implementation, are allergic, or have any questions or concerns. Engage them in a short online poll, focus groups or informal meetings to get their thoughts. Use what you learn to inform not only the program, but communications strategy. Arm managers with talking points so they know how to approach people on their teams who may be skeptical.
Design a “Frequently Asked Questions” Document That Lays Out Program Guidelines
One of the most important steps in creating this type of policy is making sure that the guidelines are clear. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a user-friendly tool for distributing information in a way that can be scanned, easy to revisit, and quickly updated as questions come your way. Start with the questions you expect you’ll get the most. Write them in the way employees would ask them to make the information intuitive for search. Update often to aid in eliminating any confusion.
Get the Word Out Through the Appropriate Media
How you decide to spread the word to your employees is crucial. Are you going to send out a mass email? Post a flyer in the break room? Hold a company-wide meeting? Post it on your company’s intranet? There are many different ways to tell your employees about this new policy, but some may be more fitting for your company than others. The goal is to meet employees where you know they go most. This ensures that you are reaching as many people as possible. Even though younger workers tend to value this pet-friendly program most, not all want to receive information on line. Because we all learn differently, the best approach is to use a mix of approaches, from online to traditional. This guarantees that you connect with everybody somewhere.
Create Clear Messaging That Includes the Ground Rules
No matter how you decide to share information, remember that consistency is key. Reiterate the ground rules and key aspects of the policy often and through a variety of media so employees always know what to expect. If your message is direct, concise, and clear, employees are more likely to be receptive. Something to keep in mind is that when you begin to tire of the information, employees are just starting to get it.
Communicating the Pet-Friendly Policy in Recruitment
Your current workers aren’t the only ones who should know about this new policy. Promote it to job-searching millennials who, as we now know, are looking for pet-friendly offices. Talk to your Human Resources team to see how you can best communicate this policy in the recruitment process. That may include adding it to job postings on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, putting it in the employee handbook and promoting it at job fairs. This could be a real deal maker for some candidates and in a tight job market, that counts!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when educating your employees on how to embrace a pet-friendly office. Note that your communications strategy is crucial when explaining any new policy. Communicate well so you can set employees and your program up for real success.
Today’s workforce has many generations. To reach all employees, you need to consider each group has its own communication preferences. For example, Baby Boomers prefer to talk over the phone or in-person, says the Plainview Herald. Millennials, on the other hand, want to text, according to the employee engagement app, Crew.
Sandwiched between these groups, Gen X employees can be easily forgotten. Don’t let that happen with your communications. Gen Xers, as they are commonly called, were born between 1965 and 1980. They make up 60 percent of the American workforce, according to HR platform Rise. Understand and optimize the communication styles of Gen X employees and you’ll have more engaged employees.
You’ve Got Mail
That AOL call is nostalgic music to Gen X ears. These employees want to hear from you via email. After all, they are the first generation to incorporate email into their daily lives.
When crafting your email, don’t forget WIIFM—“What’s in it for me?” That question is important across all generations. However, Generation X is especially curious about the personal impact of benefits. Gen X is also cost conscious, considering they lived through two recessions. Use your messaging to show the value of benefits, especially buy-up perks, like critical illness insurance or voluntary life insurance. This group reacts negatively to “hard sell” communications. See your role as a consultant. Give Gen X employees the facts they need to make smart benefits decisions.
The Social Network
While you may think social media and Millennials go hand in hand, Generation X spends its fair share of time online. One AdWeek survey found 75 percent routinely use social media, with Facebook being their preferred network. Do you take advantage of social media as an employee communications tool? Encourage your Gen X staff to follow the company. Or, consider creating private groups for employees and post need-to-know info.
Beyond social media, this group watches online videos. Almost 79 percent of Gen Xers stream or download at least one video each month. Keep the communication styles of Gen X employees in mind when preparing communications. A brief explainer video about a new benefit could be the ticket to educate these workers.
Hey, Mr. Postman!
While Gen X values digital, they are also receptive to printed communications. In a white paper from Independent Agent, 75 percent call pieces mailed to home valuable. A study from the US Postal Service found 60 percent of Gen Xers look for their mail every day, compared to 43 percent of Millennials.
When planning your communications mix for Generation X, include printed materials. This tactic also reaches their spouses, whom research shows both use benefits and are highly influential in choosing them. With 70 percent of this group married, spouses can play a big part in getting your message across.
I’m Going to Need for You to Come in on Saturday
What’s one way to lose a Gen X employee’s attention? Unnecessary meetings. This generation doesn’t respond to long, in-person sessions and prefers a no-nonsense attitude. Since other groups like face-to-face sessions, meetings are unavoidable. For the most effective cross-generational meetings, remember the adage, “Be brief, be bright, be gone.” Before organizing a one-on-one encounter with a Gen Xer, ask if you could convey the message via email instead.
While it’s important to appeal to Gen X workers, you need to consider the communication styles of the entire workforce. The good news is that there’s often overlap. Most groups like to be reached through a diverse mix of media. They respond well to messages that focus on how they’ll benefit. If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be well-suited to reach all audiences, including Gen Xers.
Gen X has called itself the forgotten generation. Don’t leave them behind with your messages. Concise, educational communications that emphasize value are the way to get their attention.
May is Mental Health Month. Your employee’s mental well-being matters year-round. But this month is an opportune time to communicate with your employees about how you support them.
Good mental health is not just necessary for your workers’ total well-being, but it also benefits you as an employer. Mental health conditions contribute to 62 percent of missed work days. That’s according to the 1,850 U.S. employed adults surveyed for the 2019 Unum Mental Health Report.
Whether you have a fully-developed set of benefits that address mental health in the workplace, or offer employees general wellness resources, communications is key. Here are some great programs and messages to promote as part of a communications strategy around Mental Health Month.
Teach Employees How to Use the Employee Assistance Program
Your company may offer its workers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Such programs often include several free sessions with professional therapist or counselor. This is gold, especially for someone who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn or have a lot of money to spend.
Sadly, many employees don’t understand that an EAP is part of their benefits. The Unum report found only 38 percent of employees knew they had access to an EAP. It’s up to you to help them understand its offerings and advantages.
Use messaging to explain the program benefits and reassure employees about confidentiality. Privacy matters. Sixty-one percent of employees said there was a social stigma in the workplace towards colleagues with mental health issues. Design a mail-to-home postcard that explains step-by-step how to use the EAP. Since most EAP’s extend to dependents that communications method gets home to spouses so they know can take advantage.
Encourage Employees to Take a Stress Reduction Class
A program doesn’t need to be specifically about mental health in the workplace for employees to benefit. Mindfulness can benefit all staff, regardless if they have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Consider hosting wellness seminars. With the help of strong communications and promotion, they will be well attended and regarded by employees. I have personally benefited from a Stress Reduction session and a Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation session sponsored by my company.
There are lots of ways to promote these seminars, like email, posters and desk drop flyers. It’s also important to:
- Engage frontline managers. Give them the details to understand the impact of stress management on employee well-being and performance. Employees need to feel confident that their managers support their decision to take the time to attend a session
- Create a seamless sign-up process so employees can enroll easily and directly. This will make them more likely to take action.
- Offer both in-person and online sessions that capture remote workers, too. Or, if budgets allow, offer repeat sessions at different times of day or different times of year.
Remind Employees to Take a Break
Time away from the office is important for mental well-being. Even the occasional short break throughout the day can make a difference. Encourage employees to take them.
- Promote mobile apps, like Calm or Headspace, that help employees get the most from brief moments of revitalization. Write and distribute a communication about these options. With some guidance, staff might be motivated to download one.
- If your office is close to a walking path, or park , encourage them to get out in nature, which research shows has a restorative effect. Start a lunch-time walking club that can be done outside or even inside, if the weather is bad. This has the added benefit of socialization, which also boosts mood. A flyer on the breakroom fridge would be an eye-catching way to communicate about this program.
Vacation time is crucial for mental health. Remind employees about your vacation time policy and help them understand why it’s important. Feature the voices of senior leadership in communications so employees know they support time off. Since May is the time many people start planning their summer vacations, it’s a great time to drill down into this message. Also remind folks about your employee discount program and how to save on rental cars, hotels, attractions, etc.
Promote Charitable Efforts
Use your voice as a company to support mental health in the workplace and let employees know it’s a priority. Make a corporate donation to an organization that promotes mental well-being. Or, you may want a more hands-on approach. Organize a company team to participate in a charitable outing, like the National Alliance for Mental Health walk or the Out of the Darkness walks from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In this case, you need consistent communications both inside and outside of Mental Health Month. Create a how-to tool kit for managers, so they can talk up charitable events at team meetings and engage participation. The presence of leadership at such events is a morale booster. If you’ve done a walk before, ask staff to share photos. Post them on the company intranet to raise feelings of camaraderie. If this is the company’s first time, no need to reinvent the wheel. Many charities have media packages to download and distribute.
Mental health in the workplace matters to everybody—those who struggle with their own mental health issues and those who want to support them. Take the time this month and every month to communicate that your company values its workers’ total well-being.
Poor communications results in an average of $62.4 million wasted per company every year. There are many factors that contribute to poor communications. One notorious example is excessive use of business buzzwords. Such jargon consists of technical terms that are so overused that they have lost meaning, such as “ideate” and “disruptive.” Many business buzzwords started as industry terminology, but have lost substance through widespread use.
Why Do People Use Jargon?
Approximately 65% of American workers use jargon at least two to three times a week. People use this language to emulate how others in their industry talk or shorthand for communications. However, more common reasons for why people actually use business buzzwords are:
- They want to sound professional or intelligent.
- They want to hide unpleasant messages or dodge questions.
- They are trying to be politically correct.
- They find it easier than thinking of a more precise word.
Why Should You Stop Using Jargon?
Jargon results in in vague messages. In a 2017 survey by American Express, 88% of respondents admitted they only pretend to understand office jargon. Meanwhile, nearly 50% of this group also said that they use such phrases frequently. “The single biggest problem in communication,” said playwright George Bernard Shaw, “is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Avoiding buzzwords in business writing can be beneficial. Your communications will have a greater impact:
- You will sound more sincere. A study by New York University found that subjects perceived complex sentences with jargon to be less truthful than clear and concise sentences.
- You will minimize confusion. With so many ways to interpret jargon, it is likely that your recipient walks away with a different understanding of what you had intended.
- You will connect more personally. Using jargon with someone from outside your industry can make them feel excluded. Overuse of jargon can also make you sound robotic and inhuman. Even in business, people expect a more conversational tone. Meet employees where they are.
- You will sound less pretentious. Jargon-filled language can seem annoying and fake. If your messages are filled with double talk, employees might not be receptive. That can lead to a breakdown of trust.
How to Improve Your Communications
For heavy users of jargon, changing your ways won’t happen overnight. Start to pay closer attention to what you say or write. Often, a second look will help you avoid buzzwords in business writing.
When you create communications, remember the following tips to better connect with your audience:
- Know your audience. If you are talking to a technical audience about a technical subject, then, of course, incorporate technical language. However, if your audience is a mixed group or if your communication is about a non-technical matter, keep it simple. No matter whom you’re talking to, nobody wants to have to read your sentences twice in order to understand them.
- Use simple language. Be clear and concise. Limit your use of jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations. A good rule to follow for general communications is to make sure that a ninth grader or lower can understand you. Popular media, like Reader’s Digest, is written at that grade level. Microsoft Word will tell you the reading level of your document.
- Take a communication audit. Look at the last email that you sent. Do you spot any of The Hartford’s “60 Business Buzzwords to Delete from Your Vocabulary”? If so, maybe it’s time for a change.
Think carefully about your word choices. Don’t isolate your audience with business buzzwords.
Work-life balance is not just a buzzword. It matters to both your employee’s mental and physical health and the well-being of your company. The National Institute of Occupational Health showed businesses lose over $300 billion each year from absenteeism and turnover caused by overwork.
Employees who achieve balance are more productive and loyal. One study from TINYpulse showed they were 10 percent more likely to stay with their employer.
The connection between communications and improved work-life balance for employees can be powerful. As the employer, you need to let them know that you care about them holistically. Trust us when we tell you, this is a message that will resonate. We see its impact every day in the work we do for our clients. Research also bears it out. A study from Robert Half shows 39 percent of respondents believe creating balance is the employer’s responsibility
So how can you get in on it? Create communications to encourage improved work-life balance. Show your investment in employees’ happiness and well-being. Use clear messaging that encourages employees to lead their best lives at home and work.
Ask Employees What They Need
So many of our clients insist they know how their employees think and feel on a particular issue. Yet, they’re often surprised by the results when we send out feedback surveys and conduct focus groups.
If you want to know how employees feel about work-life balance in your organization, ask them. Host a focus group or distribute a survey where people can share their thoughts in a confidential setting.
What you learn just may surprise you. A study done by Workplace Trends says 67 percent of human resources’ professionals think their employees have strong work-life balance. Only 45 percent of employees agree.
Ask what programs or resources could help them. How can your organization encourage improved work-life balance? Is it flexible schedules? Onsite wellness offerings, like a meditation class? Access to personal financial planning help? More voluntary benefits to increase peace of mind?
Be prepared to set expectations. Let employees know that their feedback is valuable. While you may not be able to act on everything they want, explain what you can put into place. Be transparent and send regular updates about your progress. Even if the news isn’t always good, share it. Employees think more positively about employers they can trust to tell the truth. They can spot deflection or sugar coating from a mile a way
Educate About Offerings
Create a communications campaign around underutilized programs and benefits that help employees achieve improved work-life balance. One example is your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs are great to help employees manage the daily issues of living, like time management.
Maintain conversations with employees year round, not just during Open Enrollment. Employees might be consumed by the “winter blues.” Show them how the EAP can be a resource for mental health issues.
If you offer a corporate discount program, send reminders as summer gets closer. Teach employees how to use the program to save on hotels, amusement parks and flights. Vacations are a great way to promote family bonding and leave your workers refreshed and renewed. In fact, one study by Alertness Solutions found reaction times went up by 40 percent after vacation. This means people perceive, process and respond to information quicker. Employees are more focused, which benefits your organization.
Share these messages through a variety of channels to connect with the audience in as many ways as possible. One employee might take action after reading an email. Another might be inspired by a poster in the break room. Make sure each channel includes What’s In It For Me? (which should be the focus of all your communications) Put the employees’ needs first, so you grab people’s attention and they keep reading
Share Work-Life Balance Stories
Communications to encourage improved work-life balance can take many forms. Don’t neglect the power of story! Show employees how their colleagues engage in work-life balance.
Collect stories and photos from willing participants who balance work with outside interests. Does someone volunteer weekly at an animal shelter? Maybe someone is training for her first marathon? Share their stories on the company intranet to help workers find colleagues with similar interests. They can connect with each other and build new, beneficial relationships.
Encourage front line managers to share their stories with their teams. They can seed conversations about ways to lead to lead healthy and balanced lives. If managers model work-life balance, employees will understand it’s important to take time for themselves.
By communicating with employees about improved work-life balance, you show your company supports their well-being. Urge staff to grow both inside and of their jobs. Their performance—and your bottom line—will benefit.