Keep Employees Focused in a Noisy Environment

December 26th, 2014

There are two types of noise related stress in the workplace. The first is a level of ambient noise that can actually be considered a threat to worker health and safety, the kind that often occurs in warehouses, processing facilities, and workplaces near aircraft, trucks or other large machinery. This type of noise is a serious problem that you’ll need to address (if you haven’t already) with the help of your operations, HR and legal teams.

But there’s another type of noise pollution as well—one that’s not as harmful to your employees, but just as harmful to your bottom line. This type can be considered “distraction noise” and is associated with the bustle and constant conversations that take place in open-concept workspaces. If your employees are becoming distracted and scatted as a result of the sounds in the air around them, keep these considerations in mind.

1. Don’t put the burden of a solution on your employees.

Don’t foist the problem off on your workers by asking them to whisper their conversations into the phone or speak and move only during defined break periods. If your workplace is generally noisy, take responsibility. Change the layout and décor so a conversation held at normal volume won’t overwhelm a cubicle neighbor. Consider adding soundproof walls, carpeting the floor, and putting up more privacy shields.

2 Generate talk-friendly spaces.

Can your employees freely move in and out of conference rooms if they wish to have private chats? Or are these rooms rigidly scheduled? Can employees talk openly in break areas without being overheard at a work desk positioned two feet away? Do you sometimes find employees huddling in the hallway beside the elevator in order to talk on their cell phones? If so, create more spaces that can accommodate these activities.

3. Don’t crowd your workers.

Invest in space. If you can’t fit your current employees comfortably in your current workspace and they’re climbing on top of each other, smelling each other’s tuna breath, and spending the entire day involuntarily eavesdropping, then it’s time for a bigger location. In the meantime, make sure the employees with the highest need for privacy and security are granted priority access to quiet office space.

For more on how to make both large and small changes that can improve your productivity and protect your employees from distraction, contact the staffing experts at PSU.

How Spot and Address Employee Seasonal Stress

December 19th, 2014

The coldest and shortest days of the winter bring two important things to office: the festivity of the holidays, and the stress and struggle associated with cold, short days. Both of these lead to a cascade of events and changes that have a larger impact on the business environment than managers often realize. For example, the arrival of a new fiscal year often brings performance reviews and annual budgeting, which in turn bring reflection, renewal, and sometimes high turnover.

Employees who ask for raises and promotions need to choose a course of action if these requests are denied, so many of them step on to the job market at this time. Some companies experience a spike in orders during the holidays, and some experience the opposite—a lull during which the pace slows down and a skeleton crew takes over. In either case, the holiday season can be very stressful, and wise managers recognize the signs and fight back against employee burnout.

1. Look and listen.

When employees sound or look exhausted, it’s because they’re exhausted; it’s not because they’re lazy. Keep an eye out for obvious signs, like drawn expressions, tense moods, and an increase in sick days. Don’t underestimate the power of a word of encouragement.

2. Anticipate personnel issues.

If your employee is expecting a great review and a raise, and you know that he’s going to leave the meeting disappointed, embarrassed, and concerned about the future, get ready for anything. Resilience means different things to different people. Some chastised employees will redouble their efforts to please and impress their supervisors…but many will start looking for new jobs. And some will sulk and stagnate until they settle on a course of action. Stay flexible while your teams reshuffle and reevaluate their relationships with you.

3. Fight illness and injuries.

You can’t control emotional stress or work related stress, but you can exercise a small degree of control over physical illness and injury. Keep your walkways, parking lots and entranceways clean and dry to prevent falls, and be generous with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Keep dispensers handy and full, and encourage employees to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze and stay home when they feel sick.

4. Pay attention to scheduling and work distribution.

Keep schedules and work tightly controlled and closely monitored. Don’t let projects fall too heavily on one team member while another takes two hour lunches and disappears for days at a time.

For more on how to keep your teams productive, healthy, and content during the holiday season, contact the staffing experts at PSU.

Networking: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Connections

December 12th, 2014

Your job search strategy is technically flawless, and you’re hitting all the right notes with your resume, your cover letter, your editing process, and your thorough reviews of every job post within your geographic range. But are you still missing out on one essential aspect of a successful search? If you aren’t leaning on your network—in addition to all of your other moves—then you may be overlooking critical opportunities to get your foot in the door. Keep these tips in mind and make the most of your real-world relationships.

Let people know that you’re looking.

This sounds simple, but for many people, it’s the hardest part of the entire process. Unemployment can make us feel vulnerable and can be isolating and embarrassing, but here’s a fact that may make these things less painful: Almost every professional person has experienced at least one job loss or a prolonged search for work by the time they reach the age of 35. So you’re not alone. And most people would rather help than judge. Share your news on Facebook, Twitter and any other channel that connects you to those who care about you.

Reach out to specific connections in the industry.

Your old professor may have forgotten about you after all these years—but maybe she hasn’t. Your former boss may hardly remember your name or may not have positive recollections about your work…but the opposite may also be true. Reach out to these people with respect, warmth, and self-direction. Then let them decide how to respond.

When you have an opportunity to socialize, go.

Don’t sit at home. You may not think a chance encounter with old friends will have any impact at all on your job search, but don’t make hasty assumptions. Keep your mind open and remember that every event can turn into a networking event. Polish your manners and conversational skills. Be friendly. Be nice. Ask others about themselves before you burden them with your life story. Find out what others need before you start asking for favors. Put others first, including their problems, their professions, their feelings, and their interests. Listen closely before you talk. You never know what you might learn, and you never how the new connections you form might help you in the future.

For more on how to summon the courage to reach out and win over those who may have the poser to support your job search, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

Workplace Conflict: What’s Your Role?

December 5th, 2014

The project isn’t going well, and the client isn’t happy. You gather your team for yet another confused, unproductive status update, and during this tense meeting, you start to understand the nature of the problem: Two members of the team just aren’t getting along. There’s a rift between them that they seem unable to resolve, and the longer the issue festers, the more upset the client becomes.

As a manager or supervisor, what’s your role in this conflict? Should you wade into the mire and act as a referee, listening carefully to every past grievance and every accumulated insult in order to help the two resolve their differences? Or should you stay out of it and simply demand that they act like adults and put the work first?

Depending on the nature of the conflict, your path will probably fall somewhere between these two extremes. As you search for a balance between hands-off and hands-on, keep these considerations in mind.

First, give them credit for trying.

Most young employees genuinely want to excel at their jobs and win the praise of their supervisors. So if the conflict is so deep that it prevents both parties from meeting this goal, there’s a strong chance they’ve already tried to work it out on their own. Sometimes interpersonal conflict is petty and silly…but sometimes it isn’t. If they’ve made an honest attempt to rise above it and they just can’t, it’s time to respect their efforts, recognize their limitations, and give them a hand.


Don’t lose yourself in this issue (you certainly don’t have time to act as a marriage counselor for hours on end.) But if possible, schedule a short meeting with both parties and let them clear the air. Listen to what they have to say. Keep a closed mouth and an open mind.

Lay down the law.

Be a wise, honest, and fair judge…but be a judge. If you simply dismiss them from your office insisting, once again, that they “work it out”, you’ll lose. The work won’t improve, you’ll lose their trust, and you may even lose one or both employees if they start searching elsewhere for another job. Your decision may not be perfect, but make a decision.

Enlist the help of HR and your legal team if necessary.

If the conflict involves workplace policy, pay scale issues, legal matters, or anything outside your area of expertise, don’t guess and muddle your way to an answer. Get qualified help.

Some interpersonal problems can be avoided if you hire the best possible teams in the first place. For more on how to build a functional workplace culture from the ground up, contact the staffing experts at PSU.

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