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Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.


The scary truth about HR

Despite its pivotal role in organizational dynamics, the vast majority of employees are afraid of HR representatives

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WHO’S THE SCARIEST person in the office? Is it your direct supervisor? Maybe. What about the head-honcho CEO? Quite possibly.


But according to a new survey from MyPerfectResume, the most widely feared department in the office is the one that, on paper, is supposed to have your back: human resources.


“Eighty-six per cent of workers are afraid of HR representatives,” the survey found. Thirty-seven per cent had doubts about confidentiality, while 31 per cent believed that going to HR would invite repercussions. What’s more, 90 per cent of workers who did go to HR felt that their issues weren’t adequately addressed.


“This fear isn’t merely a matter of apprehension; it stems from inadequate support and potential consequences, among other things,” the report stated.


Workplace experts suggest that over the years HR has grown into too complex a department in many offices, and this can scare off employees. “Human resources is such a multi-faceted department that it can be really tricky for employees to decipher, like, what the heck are these HR professional team members doing, and how, if at all, can they help me?” HR Answers’ founder Niki Ramirez told Digiday.


Another factor is that many people understand HR to be primarily working for the company, not necessarily its workers.


“In truth, HR does not exist to help employees, although much of what we do and how we do it achieves that goal,” wrote former HR professional Martin Yate. “While HR is often seen as employee-centric, all you have to do is follow the money to see who it really serves.”


Not that it necessarily has to be that way, noted Ilyssa DeCasperis, chief people officer at Metrolink. “A lot of employees view the HR department as the principal’s office,” she said. The first step to reversing this perception is restoring trust, she suggested, but also making HR seem like an office filled with, well, humans.


“Be human, and resourceful. Be gracious and empathetic, even in the most difficult of conversations. In the end, it’s all about people.” 


The summer slowdown: When productivity takes a vacation

While summer flex policies are generally seen as positive, they can add stress if they’re not managed correctly

LAST WEEK, IT was hot in London and much of North America. Summer is officially here, and boy was it making itself known. For many of us, it might have felt like the heat was getting to our brains, making work feel like even more of a slog. And it’s probably not over ― the summer productivity slump is coming.


A little more than four in ten (42 per cent) Canadian workers acknowledge openly that they’re less productive in the summer, according to a new survey from Dayforce, which polled 2,800 full-time employees in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.


A lot of it is to be expected. People, especially parents, have a lot more on their social and familial plates during the summertime. The outdoors beckon. Patios are calling your name. You probably won’t hustle through walking the dog like you would in the middle of January.


But what Dayforce’s research found is that the measures workplaces are taking to try to accommodate the summer months aren’t working as well as intended. The most popular adaptation is flexibility, in the form of summer Fridays, more WFH options and flexibility in the schedule.


“It’s clear that workers appreciate these policies,” Dayforce found. “[But] most employees say they can’t always take advantage of them,” and those that do “feel there are negative aspects.”


A whopping 86 per cent say they can’t take advantage of the flexibility to maintain productivity throughout the summer. A third feel they are simply too busy to take time off, while 31 per cent feel that the flexibility itself makes workplaces less productive, since coworkers are less reachable.


What some experts are saying is that workplaces need to take less of a one-size-fits-all approach to summer slumps. “The answer is not to change flexibility during the summer, and not at other times,” advised Anil Verma, industrial relations professor at the Rotman School. “The answer is to consult the workers. You consult people and see what their needs are, and you also communicate to them what the demand patterns are.” 

Terry Talks: Why employee wellbeing matters now more than ever

GreenShield has published its first Health Outcomes Report, highlighting a 132 per cent surge in mental health claims and a 14 per cent uptick in chronic disease-related drug claims among Canadian workers since the pandemic. More than ever before, a focus on nurturing employee wellbeing is critical to developing workplace resilience.



WFH: Work from hairdressers?

The increased popularity of midday salon and barbershop appointments has become an open secret at remote and hybrid workplaces

IT'S UNDENIABLE THAT working from home has seen staff on the clock nip out for the odd coffee or two, get on top of house chores or ― for some ― even take a nap while on company time.


However, earlier this year a viral TikTok saw a boss from Brisbane answering a video call with her young assistant, who's clearly having her hair washed at the salon. The video pulled back the curtain on something that’s become increasingly commonplace: employees fitting in a hair appointment while they’re on the clock ―and in many cases still working.


“I thought it was hilarious, and had a good laugh about it,” the boss, Lucinda Bayly, said of the interaction. “As long as you’re getting your work done, I don’t see the harm,” said Davidson.


Not surprisingly, salons and barbershops are taking notice, and are happy to help. “We installed USB ports and extra sockets at every station,” salon owner Brooke Evans told the Financial Times. “Everybody brings their laptop and does their work.”


Another posted to social media with a similar take: “Just come in, bring your laptop, bring some AirPods and ask for a quiet appointment,” said @quesofunditto. “I promise you no one will ever be upset that you are squeezing your hair in during your workday.”

“Ninety per cent of the time, I don’t tell my job that I have an appointment scheduled,” noted one non-profit sector employee in their 20s. “It does make it a little nerve-racking and a little risky.”


And to that point, hitting the salon mid-workday naturally raises issues of what and what is not acceptable while on company time, but at the end of the day much of it, as always, comes down to communication and well-defined expectations.


“It’s not about slacking off, it’s about autonomy,” wrote David McGinn in the Globe and Mail. “When you are able to organize your day so that you can go to a doctor’s appointment…without feeling hurried or guilty, you are enjoying schedule control.”


A spy by any other name

Federal employees are uneasy as a robot meant to optimize workspaces prowls the office

YOU MIGHT HAVE read that federal employees and their office managers are in a bit of a war of words right now, especially in Ottawa, over the recent directive that will send civil servants back to their offices three days a week (up from two) starting in September.


The latest battlefront in the war? A little device public servants have dubbed “the little robot” that some believe is spying on them.


The technology is part of a platform known as VirBrix, and it is designed to roam around the office autonomously to gather data on the environment. One of its features ― the one federal managers are using it for ― is to take pictures as it roams and, using AI, report back on the usage rates of the office. It also collects data on environmental factors like light levels, noise, temperature, etc.


The government minister in charge here, Jean-Yves Duclos, told CBC that the robot is designed to “evaluate which spaces are the most used and which spaces are not used, so we can better arrange them.”


The workers have, well, a different interpretation.


“It’s a spy. The robot is a spy for management,” said Bruce Roy, head of the Government Services Union. “People feel observed all the time.”


It’s not the first time this issue has been raised, either – public servants also fought with managers when a couple hundred desk sensors were installed to monitor compliance with RTO orders.


RTO compliance monitoring, or “bossware” technology, has become a flashpoint between employers and employees of late. Last year an EY survey found that half of all offices were tracking wifi logins or badge swipes to monitor attendance, while 44 per cent were deploying some kind of AI tech, though didn’t break down what that meant. There are even water coolers that have been designed to give a sense of office attendance.


Whether “the little robot” is actually producing meaningful data is another debate, but it appears that for public servants, the robot might be around for a little longer: Leased by the taxpayer to the tune of $40,000 and first deployed in March, it is scheduled to be set loose in federal offices again this July and October. 


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