Daily Commute

28 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

Been busy interviewing this week …… some candidates were local while others would have significant daily commutes.

This got me thinking, why are employees willing to travel so far to work? Are there fewer jobs available, or are people choosing to live out of London? If they are choosing to live further out, is it because property is cheaper, or is it a lifestyle decision? Is the cost of commuting off-set against cheaper housing outside of London and higher salaries within London?

Whatever the reasons, the reality is most people no longer live within walking distance of work, this has implications for both employers and employees.

What do commuting employees do during their journey? If by car, the time could be used for thinking, planning and organising. Hands-free technology means phone calls are possible, but must be done safely. Companies are increasingly worried about employees using phones in the car, even if hands-free. The risk of corporate manslaughter charges being brought against Company Directors if an employee on a business call has an accident is increasingly real. More of our clients are asking for policies which ban the use of phones while driving both personal and company cars.

So what about the train? Providing a seat is available, employees could catch up on reading, journals, legal documents, presentations etc., peace and quiet for drafting documents, checking emails and planning. Care must be taken and due respect given to privacy when working in a public space. Commuters have been known to leave laptops, top secret papers etc. on a train. Who is in the next seat, who do they work for and what value may your papers have to them! Phone calls on a train or public place may also expose your business to risk. Very often phone calls can be heard throughout the carriage and while stories of your fellow travellers social life may be amusing, someone could benefit from overhearing confidential company information. Working on the train may have its advantages, but care should be taken!

Employers, recruiting someone who lives two hours away need to consider the implications.  An advantage may be they work on their journey, but travelling four hours a day may result in exhaustion and no social life as long days take their toll. Employees may be less flexible about working late, two trains per hour may mean they do not want to stay and finish something vital.

There are children who only see their father or mother at weekends, gone by the time they wake up and asleep by the time they come home. Increasingly, this is not what families want, but many are prepared to accept it while securing jobs closer to home is increasingly difficult to do.

Mediocre Managers

08 Apr
by Brenda, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

Mediocre Managers – how much damage could they do?

If a Manager is mediocre, surely that’s better than completely useless? Let’s think about that……

What skills and attributes does a Manager need?

Looking at this from four points of view:
The Business
An Employee
The HR Department or Senior Management
The Customer

Google ‘Manager’ and the definitions and descriptions are endless, but some key ones include:

  • A leader first and foremost, someone people feel happy to follow
  • Ability to manage a team on a day to day basis
  • Excellent coaching and training skills
  • Knowledge of the business, products & systems
  • Good time management, ability to prioritise
  • Problem solver / decision maker
  • Approachability – door always open
  • Good communicator and listener
  • Empathetic – able to put themselves in the person’s shoes
  • Well presented, with good verbal and written skills

Quite a long list and by no means exhaustive, so what would happen if the person managing your team, speaking to your customers or managing you just doesn’t measure up?

This could lead to all sorts of problems. Employees may leave because they have been poorly treated or do not feel they have enough support. Backlogs may occur as work is not dealt with in a timely fashion, and wrong decisions may be made affecting your business. Customers may not get the first class service they pay for and buy less from you, or worse still stop using your company completely. Remember, bad news travels a whole lot faster than good!

And finally, your HR department or Senior Management may have a whole raft of problems to deal with including performance management,disciplinaries, grievances and dismissals. Prevention is better than cure!

Thinking about each key area in turn

The Business

Recruitment is key when looking for the right person. Really think about what you want the person to achieve in your business. Get your job description and advert right. When recruiting, plan out what you want to ask, key questions that are relevant to your business and take time to make a decision.

Once you have the person on board, draw up a performance plan, training plan and an agreed schedule of 121’s.  By catching a problem early, such as a poorly performing Manger, you can use timely and specific interventions and prevent long term damage to your business. Your training plan can address areas of weakness and development. Training can come in lots of different formats, from attending external courses, mentoring / shadowing, reading manuals and online information etc. Take advantage of whatever is out there to turn your Manager into the person who is going to shine!

Having a performance management plan in place will allow you to assess performance regularly and if there is an issue and the person just isn’t measuring up, will give you the evidence to take further action in the form of a disciplinary and even dismissal.

The Employee

What do you do if your own line Manager is mediocre and not supporting you? Well, jumping ship may seem like a good idea if things have got really bad, but the only person who that will affect is you. So take action first.  If speaking to them is getting you no-where, then ask to speak to their line Manager, plan very carefully what you want to say, as you do not want to come across as whinging. Hopefully, that will instigate some changes.

The Customer

As a customer, what would you do if you were getting less than fantastic service from a person within a supplier? Well the obvious action is to complain, put your thoughts in writing, and be constructive about what has happened and why you are unhappy. Give the company the opportunity to respond and resolve. Ultimately, if you do not get a response you are happy with, vote with your feet.

HR or Senior Management

Finally, mediocrity can cause problems for HR and Senior Management of the Company too. If a Manager is not managing effectively, HR or a Senior Manager often has to pick up the pieces. Even something such as managing performance is time consuming, with more regular 121’s, Performance Improvement Plans and regular monitoring needed and if the situation is not resolved and a disciplinary or dismissal is needed, this will  be time consuming and sometimes  costly.

So a mediocre Manager really isn’t acceptable and can affect so many different areas of a business. Taking action quickly whatever your interaction can prevent / resolve things getting out of hand.

For more information on managing staff effectively and
putting policy into place please contact DOHR on 01923 504 100 or email

Work Experience

25 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

As a parent, I am keen for my child to get proper work experience within a corporate environment; as an employer I am keen that I hire suitably qualified staff who have real life work experience; but as an employer, can I provide the work experience that today’s youngsters need?


Knowing what employers value more is sometimes a difficult question, even for the employers themselves to answer. Do they want someone with an English degree or are they happy to take a 22 year old with 5 years work experience in an office environment?

At the end of the day, employers need to understand what skills and experience, knowledge and application a person would need to perform the job to the highest standards. There are plenty of teachers with a degree who have no idea how to interact effectively with young children, there are highly qualified doctors with no bedside manners at all and there are scientists with all the knowledge in the world, but no idea how to use their skill to help the world.

At the same time, there are businessmen who have no qualifications at all running some of the largest corporations in the world, there are healthcare assistants who bring light to the hearts of many and certainly have no formal training and there are nursery care assistants in whom we trust the care of our children who left school with only the minimal of qualifications, if we are lucky, yet they show a level of care and understanding that provides parents with security.

Being good at something is not just about studying the theory, it is knowing how to apply it and then practicing it again and again. There is a saying I have used for many many years: “Tell me and I will know, Show me and I will understand, involve me and I will remember” This applies to all aspects of life, but knowing how to behave in the workplace, how to turn up on time, dress appropriately, speak to people with respect and deliver on deadlines are all fundamental business skills that must not only be taught, but be practiced.

There are work experience schemes running in schools, collages and universities. If you are interested in finding out more about work experience, how to set up a scheme and what you would need to provide for a meaningful work experience ‘experience’, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Do I have to pay staff if they don’t come to work due to the snow?

18 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Absence, Annual Leave, Bad weather, Blog, pay, snow   |  No Comments

On days like today, when the snow is falling steadily and settling rapidly, we are often asked about withholding pay for absent staff.

Our first response is always “What does your contract say”? 

As a general rule, if staff are absent from work and it is not for pre arranged holiday, then as an employer, you are not required to pay for the missed day. If your contract indicates that you will, ‘for reasons beyond their control’ then you must!

In many cases, employers will work with employees to find the most appropriate compromise. Imagine a retail shop – you need to keep trading, so arranging to change the rosters so that people who can get to work do so and those who can’t, cover more shifts to make up the time once the snow has passed.

If you run an office based business, can employees work from home? A little forward planning might mean people taking laptops home when they wouldn’t normally and forwarding desk phones to mobiles, ‘just in case’.

If staff do make it into work and then their child’s school shuts, parents do have the right to unpaid time of to resolve family emergencies and a school closure would be considered to be just such an emergency.

One option that many employers explore is forcing staff to take the day as holiday. It is not possible to force holiday upon people with such short notice, however if an employee suggests it (rather than having the day unpaid) and you as the employer are comfortable with that approach, then there is no reason why the compromise can not be agreed.

So what then happens if the weather deteriorates during the day and you send your staff home, what are your obligations then? Well, if you close the office preventing staff from carrying out their duties, then you are not allowed to make any deduction from salary.

As an ideal, your contracts of employment or employee handbook, should document a policy and procedure relating to snow days.

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your employees are working in a healthy and safe environment. Be mindful of field based staff and drivers. Don’t force them to work if it is not safe for them to do so, as you could end up with a corporate manslaughter case on your hands. Issue advice about bad weather driving and ensure they have emergency provisions in their vehicles. Be prepared to cover accommodation costs if your mobile staff get caught away from home stranded by the snow.

We Do HR – Making the Workplace a Better Place to be

08 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Health and Safety, HR, HR Policy, HR Support, Human Resources, Recruitment   |  No Comments

I am on a mission…..

Our strapline is “Making the workplace a better place to be” – but what does that mean?

Over the years, the management of people within a business has had many different names; the most familiar used today are “personnel” and “Human Resources (HR)”.  Whatever you choose to call it, staff have always been managed to a greater or lesser extent and whoever you talk to will always have stories about good and bad managers.

So, why our strapline?

Whether you are the employer or the employee, working in a ‘good’ place makes life far more bearable. We all spend too much of our time at work not to be happy. Doing a job which satisfies and challenges us, working alongside people who’s company we enjoy are both essential elements of a good workplace, but so is the working environment, including business culture and management ethos.

When we work with business owners, we ensure that we fully understand not only the business issues within the company, but the working environment as well:

  • If a company wants to remain informal, then we help them to develop and/or reinforce an approach which is a ‘soft-touch’, but compliant with employment legislation. This is often the request of small or family owned businesses.
  • If a company wants to build a base for rapid expansion, then we will ensure all of the HR policies and procedures form a foundation which is solid and easily scalable.
  • If a company doesn’t know what they want, but has an increasing number of employee relations issues, then we will review what is currently happening, understand the cause of the issues and work with the business owners and / or managers to put into place robust, transparent and well-communicated HR policies, procedures, processes and practices.

This approach to HR Management provides line managers with a mandate to manage, making the workplace better for them. At the same time, employees understand what is expected of them for example: hours of work, dress code, health and safety and sickness notification; and what commitments the company has made with respect to terms and conditions of employment and HR policies such as disciplinaries, grievances, sick pay and leave, annual leave, health and safety, discrimination etc.

‘Making the workplace a better place to be’ may take on many different guises and change over time. At DOHR we ensure we know what the workplace looks like now and how it needs to look in the future. Implementing good HR practices, we work very closely with business owners and managers to realise the vision, to reduce risk to the business and make their workplace a better place to be.

Three-quarters of computer users still not sitting pretty

01 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Employers, Health, Health and Safety   |  No Comments

Around 75 per cent of regular computer users still aren’t aware of the principles of good workstation posture, according to research carried out by Clearworld Health & Safety. The consequences of poor posture include neck, back and shoulder pain, as well as joint problems and even increased stress.

Having prepared risk assessments for over 10,000 regular computer users, I consistently find that a tiny minority of computer users experience no problems at all.

Computers are as integral to our lives as phones and TVs, yet the majority of people still don’t seem to be aware of how to use them safely. A few simple changes in the way you sit at your desk can easily prevent the onset of long-term health problems.

Following these five simple tips will help you remain safely seated at work:

  • Make sure the height of your chair is adjusted so your elbows are level with the desk and the backrest is at a comfortable angle.
  • There’s an art to sitting properly! Perching on the edge of the chair or leaning forward provides no support for your back. Sit as far back in the chair as possible, so you can feel the backrest support where your back curves inwards.
  • Prevent twisting and stretching by ensuring the PC screen is directly in front of you, with the keyboard and mouse close enough to have your arms in a comfortable L-shape.
  • Accessorise if necessary. If your feet aren’t resting flat on the floor, get a footrest. If your wrists are titled upwards when using the keyboard or mouse, get a wrist rest.
  • Screen breaks should be taken for about five minutes an hour – this can simply mean letting your eyes focus on a different part of the room.

Many owners of small companies aren’t aware that they are legally obliged to have up-to-date health and safety documentation (including workstation risk assessments) if they employ five people or more. For a competent risk assessor to carry out these risk assessments, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.

Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.

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