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June 2009 Archives

The U.S. Department of Labor announced this morning that for the week ending June 20, 2009, the advance figures for seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims increased to 627,000. While layoffs slowed in May, the unemployment rate has continued to increase, hitting 9.4 percent.

Using the new instant poll feature on the home page of phwa.org, we asked our visitors the following question:

Is your organization laying people off in response to the current economic crisis?

Here are the results...

poll1_layoffs_s.gifWhile this wasn't a scientific poll, 43 percent reporting that they're seeing layoffs at work is pretty striking.

In a larger survey the American Psychological Association conducted in April as part of its public education campaign, a smaller percentage of respondents (just over 30 percent) said their employers were laying people off, but 68 percent of employed Americans reported that their employers had taken steps such as putting a freeze on hiring or wages, laying off staff, reducing work hours, benefits or pay, requiring unpaid days off or increasing work hours in the past year as a result of the weak economy.

In response, employees across the country are hunkering down, sucking it up and doing whatever it takes to keep their jobs. Many are also spending work time surfing job boards and huddling behind closed doors to share the latest office rumors. It's no wonder employees are expecting the worst -- most of them are actually seeing it happen and are worried about what's coming next. 

These difficult economic times have produced a lot of uncertainty for employers and employees, alike. What are you doing to promote openness and effective two-way communication in your workplace? If you can't answer that question, you most likely have trouble brewing and when it surfaces, you won't be able to blame that on the economy.

Do you dread opening your email each morning? Trying to keep up with the demands of your inbox can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Effectively managing the time you spend on email isn’t about what’s best for everyone, it’s about finding what works for you.

Here are some tips you can try, or modify to fit your demands and preferences:

  1. Set aside time. Identify two to three chunks of 10-20 minutes a day when you can focus on checking and responding to emails, preferably not first thing in the morning, which can derail productivity. This doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can look at email during the day, just that you have allotted time for dealing with it.
  2. Winnow daily. Whether it’s during a break, or the end of the day, an uncluttered inbox will make you feel better, so make it a goal to get rid of stuff you don’t need – it’s liberating.
  3. Deal with it once. We are all guilty of scanning emails and letting them sit in our inbox for far too long. Break yourself of this habit. Once you open an email, deal with it. If you can read and respond in less than two minutes, just get it over with. If you’re not sure how to respond yet – file it.
  4. File. File. File. Email shouldn’t linger in your inbox. Set up a filing system that works for you and use it. Don’t make the mistake of creating too many folders – it’ll just get confusing. Three to four folders will suffice. Try a variation of “Action,” “Waiting” and “Archive” folder labels. 
  5. Simplify and code. Use the flagging, labeling and/or color-coding features of your email. Yellow can mean whatever you’d like it to mean, just keep it consistent. If you must keep email in your inbox, make sure you only keep the most recent message with the full thread, not each individual message on the same subject. You can also consider if it’s worth the time to change the subject line of emails you want to file or archive so the email content is clear, without having to skim it. 
  6. Use the search function. If you know you can rely on the search function of your email to retrieve what you’re searching for, you’ll be less likely to over-save stuff that “might” be important in your inbox or overload your “keep just in case” folder. Google Desktop does this well if the search feature within your email doesn’t impress you much. 
  7. Don’t miss important dates. What about an email that needs to be added to your calendar or task list? Move it right away, don’t let it sit in your inbox. It will take you less than 1 minute to do this. Just copy and paste – it doesn’t have to look pretty or have the correct formatting, just move it directly from your inbox into your calendar or task list and you can modify it later. Not sure if it’s important enough to make your calendar? If there’s a chance it might be, don’t think twice, just add it, you can always delete it, or ignore it later. 
  8. Take a deep breath, and hit “unsubscribe.” Unsubscribe yourself from anything that’s no longer relevant to you. That golf club you belonged to 5 years ago still sending you update emails? Click unsubscribe and you’ll eliminate the unwanted mail, time it takes to delete it and the guilt that comes with knowing you’ll never keep up with it anyways. 
  9. Divert the news. Try to get RSS of blogs, newsletters or other material that’s delivered to your inbox so you can subscribe and sort through it with your Reader instead of clogging up your inbox. Change how news comes to you. Or, create a rule that filters all news items directly to a News folder, so it never mingles with your emails (or gets lost in the mix). If you’re using Outlook, click here for how to set this up. 
  10. Is it necessary? Before you send that email or respond (again) on the same issue, ask yourself, would a phone call or visit be quicker? Or, can I table the issue and bring it up when we meet face-to-face next week? It’s so easy to just shoot off emails, so think before you hit send – no one likes an overfilled inbox.

How do you manage your email? What tips do you have to share?

People Management just published an article Police HR ‘needs to upgrade to survive’ that warns HR departments to add value to police work or risk being budgeted out in the current economic climate.

While a police department might not be the first type of employer you think of as creating a healthy work environment, there are some law enforcement agencies that are doing just that.

In 2008, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) received the Ontario Psychological Association's provincial-level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award for its efforts to promote employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and earlier this year, TPS was presented with a Best Practices Honor from the American Psychological Association for the way it handles its selection process for promotions.

Read more about about the promotional interview process and be sure to check out the profile of TPS psychologist, Dr. Carol Vipari to learn about how TPS demonstrates its dedication to serving and protecting the members of its force and the people of Toronto.

Summer is almost here. What better time to get outside and go exploring – maybe even take a vacation.

Employees know taking time out for healthy behaviors pays dividends in the form of good physical and mental health and also boosts productivity at work, but it’s hard to make the time. When money’s tight, day trips and mini-vacations can provide much needed relief, so don’t be afraid to use your vacation time, even if it’s only in small chunks, it’s vital to recharge.

Camping is also an affordable way to get away for a few days, especially if you have kids (just don’t forget to pack essentials like bug spray and smores). First time camper? This article might alleviate some of your fears if the words “Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!” come to mind.

The National Park Service (NPS) just made connecting with nature easier by offering Fee-Free Weekends to more than 100 National Parks this summer. Outdoorsy and affordable – I like it!

One of my personal favorites on the list is Assateague Island National Seashore. It’s only a short drive from Washington, DC and has beautiful beaches, trails, camping and wild horses that roam around waiting for their next photo op.

Assateague  Island, Maryland

 

And to check out some cool hiking trails in your area, check out Backpacker Magazine’s Interactive Map.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

If you've ever broken a piece of your good china, only to find out the pattern is no longer available, you're probably familiar with Replacements, Ltd. What you may not know, however, is that the world’s largest supplier of old and new dinnerware has something even more precious than an inventory of 13 million pieces -- its employees.

With outstanding training and development opportunities, employee councils that get the workforce involved, health care benefits that are extended to same- and opposite-sex domestic partners, a bring-your-pet-to-work policy and more, Replacements, Ltd. has a strong reputation as an employer of choice.

Additionally, the company actively participates in community causes and is committed to diversity and inclusion (Replacements, Ltd. is known as a LGBT-friendly workplace and more than 25% of employees speak a language other than English).

All this has not gone unnoticed. Replacements, Ltd. is frequently recognized for its employment practices and was the American Psychological Association's 2009 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winner in the Medium For-Profit Category.

Check out this highlight reel from our 2009 award ceremony.

 

And if you think this is all touchy-feely stuff, consider this...

Replacements, Ltd.'s sales grew from $150,000 in 1981 to more than $85 million in 2007. How's that for taking care of employees and the bottom line?

In an ideal world, decisions can be made within a carefully structured chain of command. When a sales opportunity comes in, the business sends out a sales representative. When the potential customer has unusual needs, the sales representative gathers information that is shared with his manager. Key members of the organization, who look for a “good fit” within the goals and resources of the company, carefully evaluate the information. That information is relayed back to the sales representative who communicates the decision to the potential customer. This very organized, and carefully considered approach ensures that the company is focused on its goals and acting in an consistent manner. In an ideal world. One that does not exist.

In the real world, decision making is much more difficult. Decisions that are not made in a timely fashion often result in lost opportunities. And the definition of a “timely fashion” is constantly changing.

The goal of making sure that decisions are in concert with organizational goals and are consistent is a hallmark of successful companies. This may be even more important in these difficult economic times when many business leaders struggle with being so afraid to make a mistake that they may make the mistake of not acting.

In Wisconsin, one of the companies we recognized for a best practice in our Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, Inacom, approached this problem in a unique way. The leadership of Inacom identified the core principles of the company by creating 3 brief but powerful value statements. These value statements were shared with every employee – and printed on the back of the ID badges employees wear. If the employee was faced with a decision and they could identify that the decision was in line with the core principles of the company, they were empowered to make the decision on the spot. This decision was communicated to their superior as soon as possible.

Not every decision has been flawless (that does not even happen in the ideal world scenario) but it has been extremely beneficial for the company overall. They have been able to make decisions quickly and often were able to act on opportunities before the competition as a result. The most important benefit, though, is improved relationships with their customers who have grown to trust an organization that is responsive to their needs. They make better decisions, in the real world, through engaged employees who understand the values this company holds most important.