Employee depression & decreased productivity at work

We've just past Thanksgiving and now Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve/Day, and other festivities are fast approaching. This sounds great for most, but for some of your employees the holidays are the most depressing time of year. Emotional slumps, while pronounced during the holiday season, happen to people all through the year. These down turns can spell disaster for employee productivity. You're not a counselor and you are working on your own anger management issues, so how can you help get that off kilter employee get back on track?

Consider investing in an EAP, employee assistance program. Whether you are lager or small employer making these services available through your HR department can be a life saver. The employee program usually offers a combination of:

Employee Counseling:

  • Confidential telephone consultations
  • Access to online resource library
  • In person counseling for each member of the family

Work-Life Balance Services

  • Legal / financial issues & planning
  • Parent education
  • Adoption assistance
  • Day care referrals
  • Senior housing referrals
  • College planning

Personal Challenge Services

  • Work related issues
  • Marital & family problems
  • Anger & stress management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Parenting challenges
  • Alcohol & drug problems

How much you ask? A whole lot less than lost productivity, absenteeism, or a law suit if something really goes wrong in the office. To answer your question directly, most plans are under $5.00 per employee per month. Well worth making available so you can focus on growing the business and supporting your staff who are in it with you.

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Grow your business with a culture of Thanksgiving

We all have been guilty of it at one time or another. From founders to front line employee. Complaining about customers. This should not be tolerated under any circumstances. None. If you want more customers that are more profitable an attitude of thanks giving must be part of your culture. This ideas is so relevant in our hyper social society that Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a book call The Thank You Economy.

You know as a business owner you don't have one boss but many. You work for every client and they pay you. Employees on the other hand view you as the provider of their pay. It is easy for them to fall into the trap of complaining about clients because of that loss of connection between their lively hood and a customer's continued patronage.

To continue being thankful for all of your clients you must maintain do the following:

  • Set clear expectations on what you provide.
  • Train customers and employees on the best ways to communicate with each other.
  • Share the tangible impact of each new client and the loss of a client with employees when that happens too. "If we add X number of clients we will be able to hire more, start profit sharing, open a new office, etc."
  • Be willing to part ways with clients that detract from your goals. Some customers are not worth the hassle despite the revenue. If fact by helping that customer find a better provider for their needs you free up time, talent, and resources to grow your business. This can happen by service your other clients better of focusing on adding new clients who fit your business model.


Direct deposit is the halfway point to paperless payroll

Employ better payroll delivery methods to simplify pay day. Now that you have 100% participation in direct deposit among your staff it is time to take the next step. Electronic pay stubs is the logical progression making your life easier and employee pay safer.

One frustration I have heard many times from payroll administrators is the annoyance of repeat requests for old pay stubs. In one office the head of HR had a stack of unclaimed pay stubs that her employees never bothered to pick. Why should they? The money is in their account and that is what really matters right? Then there was the employee who's glove compartment was overflowing with old pay stubs that never made it home.

Paperless payroll is a solution to these challenges.

Electronic pay stubs were once the luxury of the Fortune 500. Now even the smallest of employers can take advantage of the technology. When using a modern payroll service your staff can receive their pay stub via email. That email will contain a secure link to a .pdf that is ready to print or be saved to their personal computer. Alternatively, employers can give their staff access to a portal so they can view pay stubs. Those stubs are archive and can be reprinted on demand. This option also provides copies of previous W-2s as well.

Paperless payroll offers many benefits:

  • No lost pay stub or employees bugging you for copies. They can be retrieved & saved at any time.
  • Sensitive employee data won't fall out of the car or a bag. It won't be readily available for people to pick up when lost. Most identity theft happen when paper containing ID information ends up in the wrong hands, not from computer hacking. 
  • You are doing your part for the environment in three ways. 
    • No trees were harmed in the processing of your payroll.
    • No C02 were emitted in the delivery of your payroll.
    • You can lessen the clutter in your office and your mind by eliminating reports and unclaimed pay stubs.
  • Paperless payroll is cool. I over heard two young professionals reveling in the idea that they could look at their pay stubs from their iPhones. Yes, there is an app for that too.
Employ better tools so your staff can focus on the job at hand: acquiring and retaining better clients, and generating better profits. 


How to give your staff a raise at no cost

In the age of direct deposit and emailed encrypted pay stubs there are still many U.S. workers that don't have bank accounts. This fact has been a boon for "alternative financial service" industry better known as check cashing stores. Unfortunately, this causes pain that workers may believe they just have to live with.

Be a super hero and give you un-banked employees an instant raise.

Partner with your bank: Invite your banker in to talk to your staff. Have them educate on the value of having a bank account. It is key that people are educated on the safety of FDIC insured accounts. Many people who are new to America often don't trust the banking system so they choose to deal strictly in cash where ever possible. The conversation should end with a comparison between account fees and fees associated with retail check cashing.

Offer Pay cards: Pay cards are debit cards that are loaded with an employee's net pay each period via direct deposit. The cards are usually marked with a major provider's logo like Visa so they are widely accepted. Common transactions like cash withdrawals and purchases are free. Other transactions like transferring money do have fees. If managed properly an employee will come out ahead compared to check cashing services.

The money your staff can save in check cashing fees by having a bank account or pay card can have a material effect on their day to day lives. Employ better payment methods, every dollar counts.


The workplace: It's a jungle in there

Wow, I just watched 20/20's "Workplace Confidential" and it makes the employee-employer relationship  look like a Discover Channel show. Given the media's over dramatize to make a point, the piece would seem to paint the work place as a chaotic mess. Over my career I have experienced environments that I was glad to leave at the end of the meeting. All roads lead back to the employer when this stuff happens.

After seeing the full episode I came up with ways to help you keep your workplace a place for profits.

Establish a formal and routine review process. This process needs to be a two way street. One question I like my staff to answer before we end a review is, What would you like to see me stop, start, or continue doing to help you reach your goals? The feedback is valuable and asking the question shows respect.

Install a rubber room. Everyone needs some space to blow off steam and vent or just checkout for a few minutes. If rubber walls in the supply closet don't appeal to you try a ping pong table, video games, or other diversion tactic.

Exercise program. Sponsor a company walking club. There are many options to based on the interests of your staff and the level of involvement you'd like to take. Ask Christine & Darien, they can point you in the right direction.

Install bright lines. Large employers that are more likely to be plagued by some of these issue have Bight Line policies. Policy on activities like dating in the workplace is spelled out in such a way that no one can say they didn't understand. These bright lines are talked about so much that you could never say you didn't know. Put them in place they could be some of your best protection.

Remember your job as an employer is to set up people to succeed so they can deliver a superior consumer experience, and increase profits.


Track time without wasting it

When operating a small your resources are limited. Your biggest enemy is a the passage of time. So why in the world would you spend it managing time cards?

In a medical office here are some of the steps involved. Employees fill in paper timesheets, each week you audit them, you have to chase people to get them to tell you about missing entries, they you recalculate the totals, and submit them to the awesome payroll company you use. You do have an awesome payroll company right? Then just before you submit payroll you notice that some of the start / stop times that are written in don't quite match. Yes, the dredded buddy punching.

This process consumes a ton of time for even the smallest staff size. That time should be used instead to build your business. Invest in a SaaS cloud computing option. Employees "punch" in and out from a static web page. If buddy punching is a concern you can install a biometric hand or thumb reader. You can audit these electronic time cards daily or weekly. A good system will highlight missed punch and give you other metrics to better manage staffing levels among other things.

By putting a modern time and attendance system in your office you will put time back on your side, stay in compliance with State & Federal labor laws, and build trust with our employees.

For more information about setting up a good system leave a comment so that I share more regarding your specific situation.


Your best employees would pay to do their job

Stop looking for candidates who spend time & money looking for a job. Your next great hire is paying to do what they love right now and they spend a ton of time advertising it. There is an affinity group for all manner of hobbies that are easily accessible due to the social web. In each of these networks people build rich profiles about their hobbies. Build relationships with these networks and you will have passionate profitable employees at your finger tips.

  • A knitting supply retailer has a branded community site with over 30,000 members. If used correctly they should never have to pay to fill a position at any level in the company. 
  • Local bike shops have done this for years. The kid who is always hanging around ends up sweeping floors, then becomes a technician, and eventually buys the shop when the current owner retires.
  • IT staff can be found through any number of online forums. Check out and ask for help, you are now interviewing a candidate while getting a problem solved.
  • If you need someone with a creative background hang out at Users are showcasing their portfolio for you to see right from you desk. This site is such an authority that many animation and comic book companies demand to see your deviateart work before you can interview.
"I don't have a branded community or retail shop to turn consumers into employees." There still may be an answer for you. There is a network for just about everything. Join groups on that are related you business. Offering employment opportunities adds value to the group which will increase it's member and your pool of candidates from which to pluck your next great employee.

When commission & overtime cause a payroll mess

By law employers are required to provide a description of all pay types and pay rates on their employee's check stub. Any reputable payroll company will have this covered. What has stumped some of them is the following scenario.
When calculating the regular rate of pay, CA Department of Industrial Relations says the following:

The "regular rate of pay" is the compensation an employee normally earns for the work they perform. The regular rate of pay includes a number of different kinds of remuneration, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.

Both commissions and bonuses must be included in this calculation provided the bonus is nondiscretionary and it is based upon hours worked, production or proficiency.
Johnny, a hourly employee works as a sales person and earns commissions on sales. As a non-exempt employee Johnny earns over time when he works more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week.

Here is where the problems can start. Lets assume that Johnny worked 45 hours in the week, at $10.00 per hour, and earned commission of $400.00. His gross wage for the week would be 40 regular hours x $10.00, 5 over time hours at $15.00, plus the $400.00 for a total of $875.00.

On the surface my calculation above makes sense, but it is wrong. In 45 hours of work Johnny earned $875.00. The base rate used to calculate overtime is not $10.00 per hour ; it is actually $875.00/45 hours or $19.44 per hour. When calculating the overtime $19.44 x 1.5 x 5 hours is the proper way to calculate wages.

Here is the last hurdle to make this work and keep everything legal. Every week Johnny's total hours worked and commissions earnings will be different. The true rate used to calculate Johnny's overtime must shown on the pay stub so he can confirm accuracy. Your payroll system will need to be able to a) do the calculation each pay period and b) display that calculated rate on stub.

In the end you didn't start you business to be an expert in what makes a legal pay stub. So leave a comment or contact me direct and I can help you invest in the right tools that make you a better employer and keep your staff focused on delivering excellent experiences that keep your fans coming back.


Employee health & the link to profitablity

As business owners hopefully you are now setting goals for your enterprise in the new year. Give the shifts in healthcare the health of your staff should be on the table in that goal setting process. I spoke to Christine and Darien of ROIwellness on the value of a companies' involvement in the health of their staff. Here are some of their thoughts health in the work place and what in means to you.

EB: Please give a little background on who you are. Education, hometown, family, activities, etc.

Christine~ I'm from a town, south of San Francisco called Daly City. I got my BS in Exercise Physiology from UC Davis and MBA from Univ. of Phoenix. 

Darien~ I grew up in in a town called Oakland, CA. I attended UC Davis, where I studied Nutrition Science, ran track, played a little football, and became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Upon completion of my studies I was blessed with the opportunity to compete in track and field on the elite level.

I am happily married, and I have 2 amazing daughters.

I love to play golf, and I love to exercise- all kind of fitness activities!

EB: Why are you passionate about fitness and how did you enter corporate wellness as an area of focus?

Christine~ As a young child, I was not encouraged to be athletic. In fact, I was discouraged and made to feel like I had no athletic capability. I feel, more than ever with the staggering obesity rate in children and in adults, that active lifestyles should be encouraged, and people should feel empowered to live it! When I was awarded a corporate wellness internship with Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems at Hewlett-Packard, I discovered I am able to affect more people and their families in that forum.

Darien~ Ever since I can remember I've always had some affiliation with sports and fitness. Some of my fondest moments as a youth are of little league baseball games, playing in high school homecoming football games, and competing in track meets around the world. All this exposure has naturally led me to an athletic and fitness lifestyle. Upon retiring from competitive running, personal training was a easy transition from from one career to the next. As a certified fitness professional from 2001-2008 I had the opportunity to aid numerous people achieve their fitness goals. By assisting my clients achieve their fitness goals it left me yearning to help more people. It was this yearning that led me to training the employees of companies and realized that there was an industry for what I was doing and it was called "corporate wellness".

EB: At what size does an employer need to consider a corporate wellness program?

Christine~ If you have employees, you ought to have a wellness program!

Darien~ If a company has as few as 1 employee, then that company should have a wellness program of some sort.

EB: Tell me about the basics of a good wellness program?

Christine~ A good wellness program addresses the goals and interests of the organization while ensuring improvement of employee health. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Therefore, a great wellness program also utilizes strategies that engage the greatest population of employees possible.

Darien~ A good wellness program should address the needs of the entire population while staying consistent with the vision of company.

EB: What tangible benefits can an employer expect from a wellness program? Give an example.

Christine/ Darien~ To list just a few: 
• greater employee productivity and morale
• improved team synergy
• lowered health care costs
• reduced costs due to workers compensation, absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents
• reduced employee turnover rate; thus reflecting a greater talent retention rate

EB: What are the key components of corporate wellness?

• a plan
• assessment of efficacy
• maximal employee engagement
• return on investment

Darien~ A few key components are 1) senior management support, 2) a plan of direction, 3) thorough assessment of the employees lifestyle and the need/ interest of the company, 4) program evaluations, 5) maximum employee participation, and 6) Return On Investment!

EB: What are the top 3-4 reasons employers are prompted to have enlist your services?

• I need creative ways to show employees they are appreciated that is conscientious of a budget.
• To prevent employees from overusing health benefits.
• Prevent workplace accidents 
• Improve employee productivity

Darien~ 1) employers need to reduce overall health care expenditures, 2) team building needs to occur, and 3) a reduction of presenteeism along with absenteeism is needed. 

EB: What should I be looking for and asking when considering hiring a company to run a program?

Darien~ Some things to consider when choosing a wellness company are 1) who does the program cater to and who can participate in the wellness programs activities, 2) how does the wellness company charge for their services ( ex. per employee or by programs), and what programs are offered by the wellness company. 

EB: As a small business owner are there any free or low cost alternative to ?

Christine~ Absolutely!!! We have both free and low-cost program options that are fun.

Subscribe to Employbetter for to hear more from pros like Christine and Darien on a variety of employee performance subjects.

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Five ways to increase employee engagement

  • Dump merit increases and replace them with knowledge bonuses. An employee's tenure may just be an indication of how long you have been wasting money. The more they are engaged the industry/company their value increases and they should be paid accordingly.
  • Have cross functional champions: Require people in accounting to know how to demo a product. Have some one in marketing become an expert in shipping. Mix it up, people will get to know each other better as wells a develop respect for other functions in the firm.
  • Don't let people hide in company meetings. Tap two or more people to present at the next meeting. Provide the parameters such as allotted time, subject, etc. On the day of the meeting only select one person to present. At a minimum those who could have been called upon will be engaged and alert.
  • Everyone loves to be center stage and have people view them as a resource. Give someone the responsibility of being  the "go to" person on a function of the business. To validate their expertise, management should go to this person for information and advice as well as peers.
  • Go public with contributions. Post new sales in the conference room not just the sales office. Use a central whiteboard or high mounted monitor so everyone can see who makes it rain. Keep track of the sales that come from other departments as well. The same tactic can be used for other metrics like new knowledge added to the company wiki, customer satisfaction surveys, and more.