You may have seen
our recent video with Jay Bhayani, talking about how discrimination applies to
mental health in the workplace. One of the things Jay touched on in her video,
was making reasonable adjustments at work.
It starts by identifying what counts as a disability
The requirement for you, as an employer, to be making
reasonable adjustments at work for disabled employees, is set out in The
Equality Act. It says that you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to
support employees with disabilities, to help them carry out their jobs.
“A person is considered disabled if they have ‘a physical or
mental impairment’ which has ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on
their ‘ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’” explains employment
lawyer Azizi. “This means that a mental illness, such as severe depression and
anxiety, could indeed be a covered disability under the Equality Act.”
This means that a disability does not need to be visible, in
order for it to be your responsibility to make reasonable adjustments.
Therefore, Azizi advises pro-actively engaging in discussion, using the
following six tips, in order to explore whether or not reasonable adjustments
might be necessary within your place of work.
Taking a pro-active approach to making reasonable adjustments at work
Making reasonable adjustments at work is not a passive
activity, according to Azizi. You should be actively seeking signs that
employees might need a little extra help.
“Some employers seem to think that they only need to make
reasonable adjustments once an employee approaches them to say they have a
disability” he explains. “But actually, a lot of the responsibility falls on
He says that there are six steps you should follow, as a
matter of best practice.
Six steps when making reasonable adjustments at work
Do not wait for them to approach you. This is especially true for employees who have a
mental health disorder, says Azizi. If you perceive that an employee has a
mental health disability, or if you have direct knowledge of this, then you
should initiate a respectful conversation, without being prompted by the
employee who is affected.
Ask for medical documentation. This is not because you’re trying to prove or
disprove an employee’s disability. Rather, it helps you to understand the
nature and the extent of their disability, so that you know which adjustments
might be best to make.
get hostile. Azizi
notes that it is easy to feel defensive when faced with the need to make
adjustments to your normal way of working. But you should treat each employee
with respect, and remember that the reasonable adjustments will actually help
them to perform their job better.
communications confidential. Unless
specifically discussed and agreed otherwise, Azizi warns that conversations
about an employee’s disability should be considered strictly confidential.
Avoid disclosing details without the employee’s permission.
Make it a
two-way discussion. Don’t
just dictate what you feel a reasonable adjustment might be. Let the employee
make suggestions about what they feel would be a reasonable adjustment, too –
after all, they are the one suffering the disability. Azizi says that you are
not obliged to meet their exact requests – however, you should not ignore them,
either. Consider each request carefully.
your engagements. Beyond
making sure you are pro-actively discussing these topics, and making it easy
for employees to engage, Azizi says you should document the discussions that
you have. This provides an audit trail, should anybody wish to question your
approach, further on down the line.
Examples of reasonable adjustments at work
“It’s difficult to provide a good, general example of what a
reasonable adjustment is” Azizi says, “because you should generally be
tailoring these adjustments to suit the individual. This is more than just a
However, there are a few common examples of reasonable
adjustments at work, which employers have used over the years to support
employees with disabilities:
Providing an assistant
Altering the work environment for accessibility
Altering the work schedule
Reassignment to a vacant position for which the
individual is qualified
Providing additional equipment or devices
Offering assistive equipment such as readers or
An unpaid extension of paid or unpaid leave
assistive animals in the workplace
supervisory methods (e.g. dividing complex tasks into smaller parts)
an adjustment or modification of examination, training materials or policies
To complete the series of video lectures
I’ve been collecting for you, all about mental health at work, we have a
special video from Employment Law specialist, Jay Bhiyani.
In this video, Jay talks about
discrimination against mental health at work, and about some of the policies
and procedures you should put in place. And not just for the purpose of
protecting your organisation against a lawsuit, but to also provide a better
working environment for the people you employ.
Jay Bhayani is the founder of Bhayani HR & Employment Law, and has over 25 years’ experience, dealing with all aspects of HR and employment matters. She specialises in complex and sensitive issues.
If you’re not sure why we’ve been
publishing a lot of mental health at work content recently, then you should
watch my video about
Last week, I shared a video of myself talking about why you should talk about mental health in the workplace. This week, I’d like to follow that up, with a video from ex-Mental Health Nurse, Stacy Thomson, who is here to talk about how we should be changing the narrative on mental health in the workplace.
In this video, Stacy talks about how the
phrase ‘mental health’ does not only apply to the mentally ill. And actually,
we all have ‘mental health’ – it exists within all of us, as a sliding scale,
that can even fluctuate daily.
Stacy Thomson is now part of The Performance Club – a business dedicated to helping enhance mental health and wellbeing.
There are three reasons why I believe you
should start the conversation about mental health in the workplace. These
Mental health problems are
growing and evolving
We don’t always see the signs
until it’s too late
Talking about mental health
will not create a mental health problem
On the 10th April, I gave a live presentation as part of The Future of People Conference 2019. During my presentation, I explained the above three points in full detail, in the hope that it might encourage you to start a conversation about mental health in the workplace.
The above video is a live recording of my
presentation, exactly as it was broadcast on the 10th April.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper: How to build a culture of employee wellbeing - YouTube
Here’s what a culture of employee wellbeing
Sushi at your desk
Ping pong tables
So what exactly is a culture of employee
If anybody is qualified to answer this question, it is Professor Sir Cary Cooper. As “the media’s first choice for comment on workplace issues”, he hardly needs any introduction.
Hit play to learn his favourite tips on enhancing employee wellbeing. And if you enjoy this video, you might enjoy reading Professor Cooper’s more detailed thoughts on why you should stop sending emails after hours.
Public health laws in the UK say that enclosed workplaces and public places must be smoke free. But beyond this, there’s not much written in law that stops your employees from stepping outside, and lighting a cigarette. But should you let them, or should you try to create a totally smoke free workplace?
Dr David Roomes is the Chief Medical Officer at engineering company Rolls-Royce, employing over 55,000 people. Rolls-Royce takes employee wellbeing very seriously. And creating a smoke free workplace is exactly what Dr Roomes did, in an effort to promote better health and wellbeing for his employees.
Health and wellbeing is best when it is simple
“People overcomplicate health and
wellbeing” says Dr Roomes, “but actually, the four things you can do to make
the biggest difference, are simple.”
Dr Roomes says that the key to better
health and wellbeing, are:
As an ex-smoker, that last point got my
brain ticking. How the hell do you stop employees from smoking? Is it a
personal freedom you should put up with, or should you be taking matters into
your own hands, for the greater good?
Going smoke free across the board
“At Rolls-Royce, we have taken the approach
of going globally smoke free” Dr Roomes tells me. “What that means is not just
not smoking in buildings, but not smoking on any real-estate that we own or
Dr Roomes recognises that people have the
right to smoke, but says that does not mean they should have the right to smoke
on company premises.
“What we previously had was smoking
shelters” he says. “But while we recognise that they are not doing anything
‘wrong’ by smoking – it is perfectly legal – we decided that they should be
doing it on their own time, and away from our premises.”
Why pay to promote self harm?
But if the company had previously provided
smoking shelters, I wondered why the change of heart? Dr Roomes told me that he
doesn’t believe it is right for a company to collude with self harm.
“It’s harmful” he says, fully aware that
this is not news to anybody. “Yet companies spend thousands putting up a
smoking shelter – you’re investing thousands of pounds to enable smoking!
You’re actually paying to help people self-harm.”
Thinking I was being clever, I asked Dr Roomes
if it is not the same as providing free chocolate. He laughed – he’d heard this
“Well, there is a safe amount of chocolate
you can eat” he says. “There is no health benefit to cigarette smoking.”
Don’t just pull the rug out from under their feet
While I fully support measures that improve
health and wellbeing in the workplace, I couldn’t help but feel as if a sudden
smoke free workplace might be too much of a shock to the system. After all, if
we took this back a couple of years, and somebody suddenly told me that I
wasn’t allowed to smoke on company premises anymore, it’s safe to say I would
be pretty pissed off.
“We did not pull the rug out from under
anybody’s feet” Dr Roomes reassures me. “We put a two-year lead time into
introducing the policy, and we put into place smoking cessation support
programmes for those people who wanted to quit.”
Dr Roomes says that as well as being a
personal freedom, smoking is an addiction – you can’t just deal with the
problem by pretending it’s not there. So if you plan to introduce a smoke free
workplace yourself, then make sure you give employees plenty of notice, and put
the support programme into place to help them quit if they want to.
Encourage employees to quit smoking for a healthier
You can’t – and shouldn’t – try to force
employees to quit smoking. But if you can successfully encourage them to make
this big life change, you and they will reap the rewards.
“There are so many benefits to stopping
smoking” says Dr Roomes “and they’re not just physical. Stopping smoking
improves bloodflow to the brain, which supports better mental health.”
If you think mental health in the workplace
is just another fad, think again. We’re becoming a nation of tech junkies, and
according to leading neuroscientist, Baroness Susan Greenfield, our brains are
physically changing as a result.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution you can
use, which will help employees to physically reverse the damage caused by
addiction to technology, and the demand for instant gratification.
Plasticity separates humans from machines – so why don’t
we know what it is?
The biggest difference between human brains
and artificial brains, is that human brains physically grow and shrink, to
adapt to the tasks we are asking it to do. This is something called ‘plasticity’,
and when Baroness Greenfield explained it to me at UNLEASH London 2019, it was
the first time I’d ever heard of it.
“It’s been a known phenomenon for a very
long time” she told me over coffee, “but not many people are aware of it. The
brain is understandable by everyone, but the sad fact is that it’s not taught
Greenfield says that just like physical exercise increases muscle strength, the parts of our brain that we exercise the most, will also become our strongest. It’s why London taxi drivers have an enlarged hippocampus, for example. But what does this have to do with mental health in the workplace?
Addiction is a form of
Plasticity doesn’t just apply to positive things, such as skilful navigation. It also applies to negative, self-destructive behaviours. And experts such as Marina Wolf, professor of behavioural neuroscience, tend to agree that addiction is simply another form of neural plasticity.
According to Greenfield, a brain scan of a
gambling addict will likely show growth in the areas that handle dopamine
production and delivery. And actually, this is not exclusive to gamblers – it
is true of addiction in general. Including addiction to technology.
And this is where this all circles back to
mental health in the workplace – and how it’s not just a fad, but a problem
that is literally, physically growing.
Technology is turning your workforce into a mob of
reckless thrill seekers
We are in the middle of the 4th
industrial revolution, and with it comes opportunity. But with it also comes
danger – in the form of flashing lights and glowing screens.
From Candy Crush to World of Warcraft, as a
species we have perfected the art of in-the-moment, hyper sensational pleasure.
We have figured out the precise ingredients needed to stimulate our senses in
the here and now, and to keep ourselves hooked to our own inventions.
“More people than ever are craving instant
feedback and immediate gratification” says Baroness Greenfield. “There is
research that tells us people would prefer to be electrocuted, than to feel
nothing at all. We are actually addicted to fast, furious stimulation.”
Greenfield says that concepts such as
gamification are causing a glassy-eyed nation of tech junkies, who are
constantly seeking their next fix, their next achievement, their next thrill.
She also says that if you scan the brain of a tech addict, it will look
disturbingly similar to the brain of a gambling addict, a food addict or a drug
Technology addiction is not harmless
You might be thinking that “technology
addiction” is a relatively harmless phrase. After all, it’s not like the other
You’re not handing your salary to the
casino bosses. You’re not eating your way to a heart attack. And you’re
certainly not screwing your vital organs up by putting harmful chemicals into
But actually, Greenfield tells me that just
like any addiction, technology addiction is harmful. And not just because it
can swallow months of your life, demanding you to complete pointless tasks in
an attempt to harvest your data.
“It changes the way we behave” she says.
“Addicts have short attention spans, and display more reckless behaviour with
less awareness of risk.”
There is a difference between reckless
behaviour, and calculated risk-taking. One is generally good for business, the
other generally isn’t. And Greenfield says that a workforce of addicts is far
more likely to lean towards reckless behaviours, with poor risk calculation, in
an attempt to find that next dopamine hit.
Technology should be delivering an enriched version of the
So is the solution to a workforce full of
addicts with short attention spans, to simply remove technology from the equation?
Probably not. And actually, technology does
an awful lot for us. And besides, if you throw a smoker’s cigarettes away, it’s
not going to take away their addiction.
Baroness Greenfield says that instead, we
should be looking at how we design, build, promote, and use technology.
“Technology is helpful to a lot of people
in a lot of ways” she says. “But instead of replacing our lives with a new
virtual world, we should be using tech to deliver an enriched version of the
You can help repair tech-addicted brains by telling more
Throughout my entire conversation with
Baroness Greenfield, I had one burning question on my lips: If we are
physically destroying our brains with addiction, then how can we start to
repair the damage? How can we encourage employees to reduce the need for
instant gratification, and how can we use this knowledge to improve mental
health in the workplace?
The answer, says Greenfield, is narrative.
Telling more stories, and engaging in more activities with a clear beginning,
middle and end.
“You can give people back their identity,
by giving them a better sense of past, present and future” she explains. “The
current world is dependent on the moment. The screen is popular because it is
hypersensational, faster, brighter, noisier… more extreme. And the way you beat
that, is by giving people back a life story, a frame of past present and
future, and a sense of time passing.”
Story-based activities to encourage in the workplace
Here are a list of suggested activities for
employees, which Baroness Greenfield says could help reduce the need for
instant gratification, and improve mental health in the workplace.
“These are all activities that require you
to pace your time” she explains. “They also have a clear beginning, middle and
end. Besides, you can’t get on the phone while you’re serving at tennis, can
She also adds that in our personal lives,
we should be giving more hugs, picking more flowers, and climbing more trees.
Why? Because you’re making these decisions, you’re in control, and the smells,
the colours and the sensations that these sorts of activities deliver, have a
wonderful impact on wellbeing.
About Baroness Susan Greenfield
Baroness Greenfield is a leading
neuroscientist, who holds 32 honorary degrees from UK and foreign universities.
Her life work focuses on finding a cure for
Alzheimer’s, and she has written many books which have helped people to
understand the brain better, and even inspired many others to become
When Google’s Chief Decision Scientist, Cassie Kozyrkov, took the stage at UNLEASH London 2019, I knew we were in for a treat. And the presentation she delivered, on mastering business intelligence, did not disappoint. In fact, it got me thinking about the future of artificial intelligence and HR.
Cassie’s presentation at UNLEASH London
helped me further articulate some of my thoughts in this area. In particular, how
artificial intelligence and HR will influence each other, in the years to come
– and how we must be careful not to see AI as a lazy solution to our human
Let’s explore in more detail.
AI is just another tool
When I use the phrase “artificial
intelligence and HR working together”, perhaps it conjures up an image of two
different entities, a robot and a human, each with different skills, different
abilities, and different thoughts and feelings, working together. But, spoiler
alert, it turns out that we don’t actually “work together with robots”. Well,
at least no more than we “work together with hammers”.
People often talk about AI and robots, as
if they are living, conscious beings. But according to Kozyrkov, although it
might feel like robots are scarily close to becoming our equals – or even our
superiors – artificial intelligence is still just another tool.
Google’s Cassie Kozyrkov breaks down big data, AI and Machine Learning at UNLEASH 2019
“Tools we choose to use are always better
than humans at something” she explains. “We use them to let ourselves do more.
AI is just another tool, and the way you use it is up to you.”
Kozyrkov uses the example that we don’t
work together witha hammer. We use a hammer to help us do a job.
Because, let’s face it, hitting nails in with bare fists isn’t a particularly
And AI is no different. Just like a hammer,
AI is better at doing things for us, such as crunching lots of data in a short
space of time. Just like a hammer, AI is just another tool we have invented, to
help us do a job we are not very good at.
The skill of the decision maker determines the results
But while AI is good for crunching data,
finding patterns, and predicting future behaviours, it is still very much
limited by the skill of the decision maker. And if you’re wondering who the
decision maker is in this context, it is the person who programmed the AI.
“Unreliable workers can be better workers,
if they have bad decision makers as managers” says Kozyrkov. “This is because
when they are given bad instructions, they don’t execute them reliably! Put a
reliable worker under a bad manager, and you’ll get a reliable execution of bad
decisions. And if you put AI in the hands of a bad instruction giver, you will
get the most reliable worker of all – and you will have a super reliable,
scaled-up version of those bad decisions!”
In other words, while AI is very good at
executing commands, you have to be certain that the commands being given, are
good. Otherwise, AI can end up actually hindering your success.
Predicting an employee’s
ability to meet key performance indicators
Executing repetitive HR admin
tasks with no human error
But while this all sounds very positive,
it’s not always as clear cut as it sounds. Why? Because not only is this all
influenced by the way the AI has been programmed, but it is also influenced by
the people in charge of collecting and producing the data the AI is processing.
Data is still just a biased text book
“Why do we give Data a capital D!?”
Kozyrkov asked the room at UNLEASH London. “Data is just another biased text
book, written by humans. And if you want to reach the right conclusion, you
need to have different text books, written by different groups, with different biases.”
Simply using AI to process data will not do
magical things. You won’t instantly remove bias from the recruitment process,
simply by using AI. You have to feed the right datasets into the right
“You need diversity of data” says Kozyrkov.
“Even with big data, diversity is still super important. If you’re not careful,
you will end up with nothing more than an echo chamber, replicating the
thoughts and biases of the people who put the dataset together.”
AI won’t solve HR’s problems, but you can still use it as
Just because we now have the programming
skills, the computing power, and the quantities of data to use machine
learning, doesn’t mean that we are suddenly going to solve all of our HR
issues. Our datasets are still full of bias that we can’t even see, and our
robots are still restricted by the people giving them their instructions.
But if you blindly trust AI and big data to
solve your HR issues, then you’re probably setting yourself up for
Or maybe you’re not. After all, if you create
an echo chamber of bias, then the results you’re getting will feel right, because
they align with your own beliefs. And you’re therefore probably not going to
notice that there is anything wrong.
Top performers are the future leaders of your company, and it is
advisable to start mentoring them as early in their careers as possible.
But how do you approach this?
Will flying your team to Germany to
attend some kind of conference make them stay with your company longer?
What you can do instead is ask your people how
they want to develop and how you
could support them in their pursuit.
At Zety, each and every employee has
access to a personal development fund.
This allows our people to spend a
certain amount of money on any personal development opportunities that they
For example, it could be attending a local marketing conference, hosting
a Google Analytics workshop, etc.
When your people know you genuinely
care about them and their professional growth, they reciprocate allowing for a
Pro Tip: Consider using Individual Development
Plan (IDP), which is a great tool to assist employees in their both
professional and personal development.
Outline career advancement
A job is attractive as long as it
allows a person to develop professionally. That is why your people should have
a clear idea of their career opportunities within the company.
Even taking into account such factors as remuneration, position, and industry, a study run by Glassdoor showed that employees who filled the same position for too long are much more likely to switch to another company for further career growth.
One large company listed on Glassdoor
solved the problem. Here is how they did it.
The high-performance employees were
given access to private forums headed by the CEO, who discussed the most
pressing issues facing the company.
The employees shared their thoughts
and offered their solutions to the problems, which not only increased the
transparency and the level of engagement
but also allowed the top management to communicate with the rising stars.
At Zety, we developed a clear policy
for landing a promotion within the company.
So what criteria do we keep in mind
when promoting our employees? There are several of them, actually.
Professional experience within the
Topnotch performance backed up by 2
performance reviews (we tend to avoid
promoting employees based on recent wins no matter how major they might be).
as well as leadership/managerial skills that would match the minimum
requirements to fill in the position.
Importantly, we do not tolerate
promotions based on the subjective opinions of line managers. This is unfair
toward the rest of the employees and is detrimental to our culture.
So if you want to retain your best
specialists, you need to provide them with clear-cut career advancement
opportunities and position them as future leaders as early in their careers as
Max Woolf is a writer. He is passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and travelling to European countries. You can find him on LinkedIn.
When business is steady going, HR data is
steady flowing. But business is not always steady going – and sometimes, there’s
an influx of HR data. And whether that’s because of a recruitment drive, an
acquisition, or just a change of systems… dealing with large quantities of new
HR data is something you just have to do sometimes.
Why you need to mitigate the risks of missing data
When it comes to HR admin, human error is one of the costliest mistakes. But when you get a sudden influx of HR data, it can be easy to miss important details. Especially if you’re trying to input each line of data manually.
“As an employment attorney I am constantly
amazed at the lack of quality record keeping when it comes to employees” says
employment lawyer Richard Celler. “During an employment case, the discovery
process typically reveals missing records and incomplete forms. This is a sure
fire way to increase settlement amounts and lose employment lawsuits.”
But it’s not just the legal side that should drive you to keep accurate
records. Most of the HR data you hold, is probably held for a good reason – if
you’re missing things like address details, bank details, or next of kin
information, then you’re setting yourself up for potential disaster.
Digitalise the inbound flow of HR data
According to Nate Masterson, HR Manager for Maple Holistics, the first step to dealing with a mass influx of HR data, is making sure it all arrives in one consistent, digital format.
“It’s the best way to organise everything
and save space and resources” he explains. “It also makes it easy to sort
through. It’s common to receive an influx of HR data if your company is in the
process of recruiting, but if you only accept emailed resumes for example, it
will help simplify your system.”
During an acquisition, it’s OK to maintain separate
systems for a while
Acquisitions can be a lot to handle for HR.
One reason is because HR ends up scrambling to merge all HR data into one
uniform system. But while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the long run,
it’s not always the right answer immediately.
“Sudden and abrupt change can disrupt workflows” says Tammy Cohen, founder of InfoMart. “For HR departments dealing with a flood of data, particularly due to mergers or acquisitions, consolidating technology systems is simpler in the long run. But leaders should consider the needs of each business unit within their organisation, and allow them to maintain their current environment for a period of time.”
You have a lot to deal with already when a
merger or an acquisition is on its way. No need to further complicate this by
taking people out of the environments and systems they’re used to – at least,
not until the dust has settled.
Adding an influx of data requires a consistent process
Whether it’s a merger, an acquisition, a
recruitment drive, or something else completely, you need a consistent process
if you want to mitigate the risks of missing data. Now, depending on your HR
system will depend on how you do this.
Entering each line of data bit
Performing a bulk data upload
Requesting the service from
your HR software provider
You probably want to avoid entering each
line of data bit by bit, as this will require a dedicated data entry professional,
and runs you a greater risk of missing data. Of course, if you use a
paper-based HR system, or spreadsheets, then this may be your only option.
Paid service VS bulk data upload
If you are trying to add an influx of HR
data to a digital HR system, then the company supplying the software will most
likely offer a data load, normally as a paid extra service. This is because in
the background, your software provider will have a data specialist working on
transferring your data from one format to another.
But if you don’t want to pay for this kind
of service, or wait for your service provider to tell you it’s ready, then you
may want to enquire about the option of a bulk data upload that you can do
The way this works requires a bit of groundwork,
but not much. Generally, you just need to add your bulk data to a pre-prepared
spreadsheet template, and then check all fields match up. If done correctly,
this template should then correspond perfectly with the fields in your HR
system – as long as the template has been supplied by your software provider.
If you’ve created it yourself, this might not work so well!
So if you don’t want to risk making
mistakes with slow, manual data entry, and you don’t want to wait for a
professional to migrate your data for you, then ask for a data load template.
Not all HR software suppliers will offer this, but it won’t hurt to ask.