It’s 2:13 a.m., roughly a week after my daughter, Maya, was born. I haven’t slept for more than three hours at a time. Complex sentences don’t make sense anymore. Only simple phrases will do: Verb noun. Soothe baby. Change diaper. Feed baby.
Seven days. That’s all it took for me to go from productive professional to barely functioning, monosyllabic diaper machine. Yet, for all the difficulties, I consider myself lucky. If I were like most employees in the United States workforce, seven days is all I would have – I’d have to be right back to work the following week.
If my company were like most in the country, I’d be burdened by two kinds of guilt: The guilt of having left work for seven days to take care of my family and the guilt of having to go back to work and leave my family. Call it the paternal leave guilt sandwich.
Thankfully, I’m not in this situation. I work at a company that values its employees and gives real, meaningful benefits. Let me say that differently: My company gives us benefits, not perks. There’s an important difference. Benefits are things like health insurance, paternity leave, and paid sick leave.
These days, you’ll hear more about perks than you will about benefits. Things like ping-pong tables, fridges stacked full of Red Bull and Perrier, video games, and other vanity items. What the employer is signaling to you with these items is clear: We’re cool! We’re hip! Join us, and you too can play ping-pong all the time! It’s an attractive signal, especially to young employees.
It’s also a siren song. Why? These benefits have diminishing returns. You simply don’t value a foosball table as much the 10th time you’ve played as the first time. More than that, you start to realize that many of the perks that attract employees don’t actually help – and may cause more harm than good.
I worked in all different types of employment situations: agencies, tech shops, accelerators, start-ups and more. In most of those cases, the idea of paternity leave is fanciful. Mothers barely receive paid leave; fathers were laughed out of the room for even asking about it. Paternity leave shouldn’t kill your career.
Standard protocol in the US is that most companies give their employees 14 days paid leave for mothers and nothing for dads.
In South Africa – we have different maternity rules – find out more here.
Why is that? Aren’t fathers just as important to raising children as mothers? Should it really be career suicide to take time off to raise your children? Let’s be honest: In today’s environment, it feels like taking any time off at all is a sign of weakness.
Our role models portray themselves as workaholics. Consider Michael Bloomberg’s advice to young people: “Arrive early, stay late, eat lunch at your desk.” Implied in his comment is more advice: Don’t take vacations; don’t recharge; put in the non-stop hours and “succeed.” As tech blogger and editor Brad McCarty observed of his own breakneck work life, he was trying to “prove to my bosses that I’m the person they want to keep around, because I’m going to work harder and be more loyal to the company.”
In this kind of climate, a father’s role in raising a newborn is optional, and the mother returns to work as soon as possible. Ignored is the fact that having both parents present is crucial to the success of the baby’s development.
Is it any wonder, then, that the “benefits” at so many companies aren’t benefits at all, but ploys to get you to work longer? Dry cleaning and laundry services available on-site? Great – now you can put in a few more hours a week, because your clothes will be cleaned for you. Free pizza for the long hours you put in on that important project on Friday? Fantastic – no lunch break, meaning more work we can extract from you. These so-called perks, in other words, tend to be Trojan Horses. While you’re chewing away on pizza and having your laundry delivered to your office, the company and its leaders are smiling because you are still in your office.
Benefits should help you live both a sustainable and a productive life. They should not simply be a way of getting you to stay in the office just a few more hours.
Mercifully, some of these habits are beginning to change, and they are changing for a simple reason: The war for talent. While competing to hire and retain the best talent, fast-growing and progressive companies – household names such as Netflix, Google and Facebook – have caught up to the needs of a modern family.
Speaking from personal experience, one of the primary benefits an employee cares about is the vacation and leave policy. At Tuft & Needle, both mothers and fathers are given the option of truly substantial paid leave – months, not weeks – after their child is born.
This complements the company’s broader, extremely flexible vacation policy that allows them to bring their best, most balanced and focused selves to work. That policy means more than just a nice nod to vacations.
Vacation policies often have an “unlimited” label, yet employees rarely utilise the benefit because they feel pressure to take less time off. This “pressure” may be a real symptom of the atmosphere or a self-imposed burden based on imagined perceptions by their coworkers.
Tuft & Needle is trying to solve this by strongly encouraging its employees – through words and, more importantly, through actions – to take at least 25 days off per year.
If you do see a lot of fancy perks, ask yourself a simple question: Are those video game rooms, complimentary massages, or free dry cleanings really benefiting you – or are they making it so you’ll never leave the office?
You might be giving in to perks that don’t benefit you at all.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Day Zero And Your Employees – What An Entrepreneur Needs To Know
With Day Zero pushed out to 2019, entrepreneurs in the Western Cape are still left with one concerning question: “What will happen to my business should the water supply still run dry?”
Depending on their reliance on municipal water, entrepreneurs could potentially find themselves without the ability to generate revenue in the absence of water. During this time, they will still be expected to pay staff a salary, creating a potentially untenable situation for certain businesses.
It is imperative that entrepreneurs in the Western Cape region start early discussions with their employees to find possible solutions that can be implemented should Day Zero actually hit. CDH provides the following possibilities to consider:
To pay or not to pay, that is the question
The duty of the employer to pay remuneration continues as long as the employee tenders his or her services. This is also the case where an employee is prevented from working, due to an unanticipated or unpreventable act such as a natural disaster.
An employer would have to pay its employees that tender work even if it cannot provide them with any work. Fortunately for employers, labour law recognises certain measures that can be taken to minimise this burden. The two most common are short-time and the temporary suspension of payment of remuneration. It is also important to note that these two measures can only be implemented if all parties concerned have agreed to it.
Short-time is a system of work that is used for periods when there is little or no work. The system recognises that paying an employee for periods when he or she is not working places undue strain on the financial position of the employer and the employee.
Employees may either agree to short-time in a contract of employment, or an employer may enter into a collective agreement regulating short-time with a union representing the affected employees.
A temporary suspension of payment of remuneration may be implemented when there is some prospect of the work situation improving in the near future and the employer being able to provide the employee with work. This may be implemented as an alternative to a dismissal.
Where there is no agreement to these alternatives an entrepreneur will have to engage with his or her employees, explain the company’s position and attempt to secure an agreement in this regard. If an employer is unable to do so, he or she may have to consider retrenchments.
Can you retrench employees as a result of Day Zero?
This is a difficult question. An employer will have to consider whether employees’ inability to work will be for a prolonged period.
There is no way of knowing how long a drought will continue. With the unpredictable effects of global warming, the weather has become increasingly difficult to forecast. The World Wildlife Fund anticipates that if the Western Cape region receives the same rainfall pattern as last year, the drought will continue for six months.
The Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995 allows an employer to retrench employees for ‘operational requirements’. Operational requirements are defined as requirements based on economic, technological, structural or similar needs.
In order to establish that an ‘operational requirements’ dismissal is substantively fair, an employer must determine that genuine operational requirements exist. If the anticipated consequence of the drought is that a business may not be able to continue with its operations – without access to municipal water – this would constitute an operational requirement.
In conclusion, CDH advises entrepreneurs in the region whose business is heavily reliant on water to consider entering into working arrangements with their employees for the duration of the drought. This will ensure that the entrepreneur and the employee are both in agreement regarding available options should Day Zero occur. It will also help provide a sustainable alternative to retrenchments.
10 Corny But Undeniably True And Inspiring Quotes About Teamwork
As Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.” He ought to know.
With two games remaining, my daughter’s soccer team is in second place. They’ve won nine games and lost only one – to the team in third place.
Although that team doesn’t not have as many star players as our side, they beat us on the admittedly widely held but elusive principle that sharing the ball leads to more goals (and better defense) than impressive dribbling or individuality.
In other words, their 11 played better as a team than the three remarkable players on my daughter’s team. Granted, the third-place team probably dropped more games than we did because playing as an effective team in consecutive games is harder to do. After all, it’s easier for a few great players to show up to every game (as we have mostly done) than a reliable team.
In any case, my daughter’s “club” will square off against the first place team this weekend. I suspect they’ll lose unless they listen to Michael Jordan: “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.”
The same is true in business and life in general.
If we want to “win championships” in both of those, we have to get others involved, pass more, risk failure, allow teammates to learn from their mistakes by letting them commit them and putting the needs of the group above our own selfish aspirations.
To that end, I encourage you, my daughter’s soccer team and everyone else interested in winning to consider and internalise my 10 favourite quotes on the importance of competing as a team. Some are a bit corny. All are true.
Your Team Will Succeed Only If They Trust Each Other
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break.
Bureaucracy exists were trust doesn’t. Excessive process and micromanaging exist because people don’t trust each other to do what’s right and what’s needed. In a digital era where social tools make you more visible and accessible, you make personal and business decisions based on trust daily.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, often identified as the benchmark of trust measurement, recently identified that there has been a “loss of trust: The willingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break. In business, trust is one of the most valuable and complex of all your assets. It solidifies your relationships with all people and leads an organisation to thrive. As Richard Branson often says, “Learn to look out for your staff first, and the rest will follow.”
Let me share with you eight principles that determine whom and how you trust in the workplace.
1. How people handle failure
Within an organisation, when people trust each other, their energy is invested in minimising damage and getting on with it.
The involved parties take responsibility without prompting and lead the conversation to see how the problem will be avoided in the future.
A recent Google study, Project Aristotle, was founded on the premise of understanding why certain teams in the workplace struggle while others thrive. Researchers determined that “psychological safety” is the key to building and fostering successful team.
When people don’t trust each other, blame and shame runs rapid through the tapestry of the organisation. Taking responsibility embraces your vulnerability and leads people to move forward together.
2. Accumulate trust deposits
Trust is like a flower. Once we step on a flower, it’s difficult to revive it. When you think about trust within a workplace, we know that when members trust each other to execute, teams are inherently productive.
When we want to create and build upon an environment that fosters trust, then what we say we will do, we do. We genuinely are curious and listen.
We are honest in how we provided feedback, without the sugar coating. And we don’t engage in gossip, eradicating the “I shouldn’t be saying this, but…” conversations. When we are visible and transparent in the workplace, we create a platform that invites shared thinking from all.
3. Work together to solve pain points
Most projects take more than one person to accomplish. Trusting colleagues is about letting go of the urge to be a lone ranger. Your team members have to be trusted to accomplish their tasks so you can complete yours.
Autonomy is only possible where there is trust. When you trust, you don’t expend much of your time and energy watching your back. Your energy is directed towards productivity and innovation.
Horst Schultze, one of the founders of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, epitomised what it meant to be a trust-building leader.
Every employee was provided with an induction to the organisation, coupled with extensive training and a $2000 discretionary fund they could use to solve a customer problem without checking with anyone. He honoured his people by collecting their stories in making a difference for customers.
Related: Team Building Without Time Wasting
A team with high trust inspires its members to retain trust through excellence. Time is spent on identifying and breaking through road blocks, inspiring people to share more and working together to resolve pain points.
4. Small actions over time
Trust is not a matter of technique, but of character. You are trusted because of your way of being, not because of your polished exteriors. Building a culture of trust in the workplace occurs one step at a time. It is the small actions over time.
As a leader wanting to build trust, talk about what you want, not what you don’t want. Lend your voice toward what you want to bring to make it happen. When you operate from a place of trust, you demonstrate a commitment toward trust.
You show others what can be by promoting the ideas, talents and contributions of those you work with. Focus on what people can do and help others succeed. Step toward trust from where you are.
5. Sharing stories
Trust can grow rapidly when someone shares with you something touching that happened earlier in their life. You start to build a shared empathy.
When you want to create trust in teams, initiate conversations or invest in team games that help you tell stories you want to tell.
You control what you want to share with colleagues that can break down the divide between people and teams and lead to more empathy. Sharing stories is one way to connect and build trust.
6. What can mice teach us
A study at NYU Langone showed that when mice were given oxytocin, they started caring for the other mice’s babies as if they were their own. The oxytocin hormone enhances bonding, and even after the mice’s oxytocin receptors were shut off, this behaviour continued.
Oxytocin, the trust molecule, can teach us a lot about working together as a team and building great working relationships leading to more trust in the workplace.
Related: Making The Team ‘Work’
The best way to build your team’s internal trust is to be transparent about the overall vision and progress of the business, showing people how and why their work is important. Leaders must provide guidance, schedule check-ins between colleagues, and make room for conversations that strengthen connections.
7. Monkey see, monkey do
Our brains are wired to place survival as the top priority. In the workplace, any person who can demonstrate that they can reduce or eliminate threats to other’s survival is deemed trustworthy.
When we watch someone else, our brain is activated in the same way that the brain of the person you are observing is activated, effectively through what is called “mirror neurons.”
This means you may unintentionally transfer your own feelings of distrust to others. The trick is you can’t fake trust. You must believe that your colleagues are trustworthy to transmit this signal to them. In return, their brain will start feeling trust towards you as a result.
8. Emotions impact trust levels in the workplace
There are many ways to treat your colleagues well, but one of the most important initiatives is creating a culture that makes it safe to make mistakes and openly debate and discuss issues without fear of retribution. Your colleagues will trust your ability to help them grow if they know that failures will be treated as teachable moments.
In a time of crisis, how you act in difficult times is the greatest measure of your integrity. Don’t wait to talk about a mistake that happened until everyone finds out about it on social media, and don’t sugarcoat what happened. Take swift action to right a wrong. Taking responsibility preserves trust.
Atlassian, a global software giant, built a culture where articulating why certain decisions are made is important in how they have built trust.
An “open company, no bullshit” value within the company has provided teams with access to information as quickly as possible, allowing employees to share and express their opinion without feeling they are going to get judged or pulled down. The company supports an environment where individuality is celebrated.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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