Get The Answers: Keeping your employees focused and happy

By Gill South, Suzanne Hall

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Suzanne Hall is the creator of online HR tool BE Intent. Photo / Supplied
Suzanne Hall is the creator of online HR tool BE Intent. Photo / Supplied

In small businesses, staff get to know each other and their problems very well. This can require some delicate handling on the part of the business owner but there is support out there for them.

What sorts of challenges do employers face keeping their employees motivated and focused at work?

Imagine Sally X. She hasn't slept well because she and her husband have argued about whether they can afford their insurance or not and she's really worried. The work hours of both have been cut down and one of the children has a school trip coming up that costs $100. Sally gets up feeling tired and argues with one of the kids about eating breakfast.

She arrives at work with her head full and a sense of anxiety. She sits down at her desk knowing that she has reports due and customers to call who are overdue paying their account, and it will be another day of hard conversations with people who are in the same situation she is. It's just another hard day and it's difficult to "get into the right head space". Knowing that she needs to put a "happy" face on, looking enthusiastic has become second nature.

It takes a few hours to get into her work and stop thinking about all her worries. This is a common scenario for many staff. Their productivity is suffering and motivation is difficult.

What happens to people's emotions in a working day? How can this distract them?

Our research on more than 8000 people across 12 industry sectors shows that 42 per cent of people are tired when they arrive at work, 16 per cent angry, 18 per cent confused. So many teams are starting the day already in a difficult emotional state. When people are under constant pressure this reduces their ability to communicate and make medium and long-term decisions. It impacts on the ability to problem-solve and communicate with both co-workers and customers.

What sorts of methods do you recommend to help staff engagement?

Educating staff in understanding that small 15 to 30-second breaks, joyful interactions and allowing the brain a change in focus for even half a minute each hour, can increase focus for the next 20 to 30 minutes.

We've developed a cloud-based program that combines positive "intents", exercises and e-training, so Sally X arrives at work, logs into her computer and gets asked "How do you need to feel today?" Sally has primed her brain to focus on solutions by this simple method. Then, through the tool, she can customise her own solutions, choosing a range of topics for personal and professional development that embed and bring "front of mind" what she needs for that day, every day. She gets positive reinforcement throughout the day, and feels more loyalty to her company because it understands that she has life issues that prey on her mind throughout the day.

Can this be used for small businesses of all kinds?

The companies most interested in using BE Intent are ones that are already in the Best Place to Work category, companies such as OMD and Fisher & Paykel Finance. The great thing about cloud computing and personalised service is that it doesn't matter if you have 10 staff or 100,000.

We can't get people away from their computers so use it as a tool to connect them to their own health and well-being as well as understanding their state of mind and feeling that they are in control of it.

- NZ Herald

We want to solve your business problems. From tax to recruitment, every week, with the help of specialists, we will answer your questions on any business topic. Send questions to Gill at:

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