Do Your Lunch Breaks Promote Employee Productivity?

November 28th, 2014

Unless your company is exempt from standard rules regarding working hours, your full-time employees are entitled to a 30 minute lunch break for every seven to eight hours they spend on the clock. In most workplaces, employees typically work a 7.5 hour shift each day (or more) and spend about 30 minutes to an hour of that time eating lunch at their desks, going to restaurants, eating food they carried from home, or going out to buy lunch and returning to eat it in the office. Employees may also spend this hour taking care of personal errands.

It may be unwise or intrusive to regulate this hour too aggressively—For example, to require all employees to eat in the company cafeteria, or to prevent employees from leaving the building during this time. But if your team’s lunch hour customs seem to be undermining general workplace productivity, here are a few tips that can keep the practice within bounds.

Pay attention to what your employees are doing during this hour.

You don’t need a sign-in sheet and you don’t need to force employees to report to you regarding their lunch habits, but as a manager, feel free to pay attention to what’s going on during this time. Who’s eating with whom? Who stays in and who goes out? Who are the leaders and who tends to get left behind? Do employees use the break room to eat lunch or do they avoid it?

Discourage those who straggle back to work.

There’s not much difference between a 60 minute break and a 65 minute break. But if that extra five minutes stretches to 30 or more and employees take advantage of this blurry line, feel free to dust off and enforce your neglected lunch hour policy. Many employees who would never dream of showing up later than 9:00 each morning are very casual about when they return from lunch.

Make your break room/ lunch room inviting.

As the parent of any teenager knows, the more welcoming and comfortable your home, the less likely your children are to disappear and congregate elsewhere. If you keep your break room pleasant (clean, roomy, set apart from hallways and foot traffic, no irritating noises or flickering fluorescent lights), then your employees will be more likely to eat lunch on site. This can build workplace comradery and also ease the transition back onto company time.

Eat with them…sometimes.

Managers are wise to avoid crowding their teams during the lunch hour. Don’t follow them, sit down with them uninvited, or join them every single day. But if you eat with your staff now and then, you’ll be keeping communication channels open and informal. By all means, make a practice of ordering sandwiches or pizza for everyone periodically, or taking individual employees out to restaurants and picking up the tab.

For more on how to shape your lunch hour in to a team-building or morale boosting experience (or at the very least, a welcome break), reach out to the staffing and management experts at Personnel Services Unlimited.

Identifying Performance Problems in the Workplace

June 20th, 2014

If you already have an annual performance review process in place, then you’re on the right track to a productive and efficient workforce. A yearly one-on-one session between every employee and his or her manager can help workers set and achieve goals, and can also help managers identify and correct performance problems before they become expensive disasters. The best annual performance reviews are documented, fair, positive, and built around measurable success metrics.

But despite their benefits, annual reviews may not be quite enough to keep your company ahead of the competition. Here are a few additional steps that can help you address and head off performance problems before they start…all year long.

1. Don’t let confused employees continue their course of action.

Keep your door, ears, and mind open, and employees will come to you with questions and requests for directions and clarification. Close off any of the three, and employees will be afraid to ask questions. They’ll make assumptions instead, and if you’re like most managers, this isn’t what you want.

2. Track baseline metrics accurately.

Your successful employees process more XYZ forms per hour, and your weaker links process fewer forms per hour and make more mistakes along the way. But before you can identify the slower workers, you’ll have to answer three questions: What is the average per-hour form processing rate in your workplace? What’s the average industry-wide? And what are the workplace and industry averages for error rates?

3. Recognize requests for help and feedback as a sign of strength, not weakness.

When employees come to you for help, support, and an open conversation about how they’re doing, step up. Provide what they need. And recognize that despite what other productivity metrics suggest, these are the valuable employees you want on your team—not the silent grinds who never struggle and never strive to improve.

4. When managers and coworkers complain, listen.

It’s not easy to complain to the boss about a disruptive or unproductive coworker. Nobody wants to do this. It’s also not easy to ask for managerial support when a direct report can’t seem to get it together. When employees and managers come to you with complaints about a weak or unproductive team member, take action. Sit down with the person, get both sides of the story, and fix the problem.

5. Give informal feedback all year long.

Formal reviews should happen once (and certainly no more than twice) per year. But informal verbal feedback is always appropriate, and when it’s positive and constructive, it’s always appreciated.

For more on how to stop productivity problems and get them resolved before it’s too late, reach out to the staffing and management experts at PSU.

Supplementing Your Staff with Temporary Employees

March 28th, 2014

There are several reasons why companies choose to take on temporary and contingent employees instead of hiring permanent, full time staff. And for each common situation, there are a few tips that hiring managers are wise to keep in mind. Whether you’re engaging in a complex transition, reshaping your workforce, or looking for support during a quick burst of activity that you expect to subside, temporary employees can offer a perfect, low-risk solution to your labor needs.

Staffing Transitions

You just lost a key member of your team, and the world won’t stop and wait while you launch a lengthy, meticulous search for a highly skilled replacement. But don’t worry; a recruiting firm can help you cover the gap with a capable, experienced employee on a temporary contract. And in the meantime, the same firm can help you publicize your open position and screen potential applicants.

Hiring Jitters

Maybe you’ve made some expensive hiring mistakes in the past. Or maybe during the recent economic downturn, you had to shrink the size of your workforce by letting loyal employees go. In either case, the experience can be traumatic and unpleasant. And now that you’re in a position of growth, you’re hesitant to take on permanent new team members who you may not be able to keep. The future is uncertain, and you’re looking for ways to manage your risk and grow your company at the same time. Temporary staffing contracts can easily become permanent if all goes well. If not, they keep risk and commitments to a minimum.

Temporary Labor Demand

Your busy season happens predictably during a few months out of the year (summer, the holidays, etc), and during this time, your business triples and you need extra hands to share the work and process a flood of orders. But when the season ends, your needs subside and your extra hands become idle hands. A temporary recruiting agency can help you deal with the overflow while keeping your expenses down and your business lean.

Project Assistance

You need to expand and consolidate your IT network after a recent merger. Or you need to implement a new back office management software system in a one-time, six-month operation. Or you need to clean out your warehouse and relocate inventory after a flood. Whatever you need, an experienced staffing agency can provide you with a ready team that can offer the specific, complex skill sets you’re looking for. Again, if you decide to take on some of your temporary employees on a permanent basis, you can. But if your needs drop when your project ends, the agency can accommodate you and also find new positions for your extra staff.

If any of the situations above describe your hiring needs, don’t wait. Contact the NC staffing and workforce specialists at PSU and arrange a consultation today.

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