Are long working hours getting you down? It’s more than likely. New research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found that people who work more than 39 hours a week are endangering their health.

Around two out of three Australians in full-time employment work more than 40 hours a week. Often that’s before unpaid work, such as caring for children and domestic work, is considered. The ANU researchers suggest that a major cultural shift regarding long working hours, as well as employer action, is needed to resolve the problems affecting work-life balance. Change is not going to happen overnight.

So, in the meantime, what can you do at the individual level to promote your health and wellness at work? There are a number of aspects to consider, including physical, emotional and occupational wellness. Here are 10 steps you can take to kick-start your personal health and wellness journey.

  1. Eat healthily

You’ve probably heard the same a hundred times before, but eating well is an essential part of health and wellness. Swap the junk food for a healthy sandwich or salad, and replace your stash of chocolate bars and chips with nutritious snacks. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

  1. Get enough sleep

The National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends an average of 7-9 hours for adults aged 18-64 years old, and 7-8 hours for the 65+ population. Other factors to consider include sticking to a sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and turning off electronic equipment, such as mobile phones, before bed.

  1. Exercise daily

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, wrote a great article about the benefits of exercise at work, referring to it as a “clear win-win – in terms of health, morale and productivity”. You could walk or cycle to work, for example, or head to the gym during your lunch break. A spot of exercise each day should refresh you and improve your concentration.

  1. Make time for family and friends

Think about scheduling time for family and friends. This could be as simple as a blocking out a couple of evenings each week, or planning an activity on a scheduled day off. By freeing up time in advance, you are actively creating balance during your busy working week. And sharing quality moments with those you care about most.

  1. Reduce stress

Work and excessive stress often go hand in hand. There are many approaches to tackling stress levels, including nearly every tip on this list. Additional tried-and-tested ways to regain a sense of control include deep breathing, mediation and yoga. Some people find it useful to write or speak daily positive affirmations, such as “I am fantastic at my job.”

  1. Share ideas

Feeling valued at work is a key part of health and wellness. So share your talents and creativity with your colleagues and line manager. You could suggest a different way of approaching a task that would enhance productivity or increase profit. You could also take up opportunities to learn new skills to further your sense of worth (as well as your career).

  1. Adapt your role

Now could be the time to talk with your employer if your workload is too great, or hours too long. Many companies are open to flexible working practices. Establish if others in your workplace are working part-time or have shifted roles. These precedents suggest that your employer would be open to discussing alternatives for you too.

  1. Ask for a career break

Step back from your situation by taking time out of the workplace. Many companies offer sabbaticals to valued employees, or you may be eligible for long-service leave. Make the most of your time away by doing something different. And take the time to reflect on where you want to go with your job and your career.

  1. Act with your voice

Major change to working conditions nearly always comes through collective action. Discuss the need for reduced working hours with your colleagues at work, join your union and/or lobby the government for change. In doing so, your individual voice becomes one of many, all acting with the same end goal in mind.

  1. Change jobs

If you are unhappy in your current job, and cannot see a way to improve the situation, consider changing jobs. You may well find your ideal role in another workplace, with a workload and hours to suit. So take a deep breath and start looking.

How do you promote your health and wellness at work? We’d love you to share your experiences and suggestions.

Whistle Blower

Starting on 1 January 2020, public companies, large proprietary companies and trustees of registrable superannuation entities will be required to have a whistle-blower policy in place. This is part of a move to ensure greater protections for whistle-blowers under the Corporations Act 2001.

Money laundering, fraud, financial irregularities, criminal damage against property – these are just some of the types of misconduct that can take place in a corporate environment. Whistle-blowers play an important role in uncovering and reporting these activities, but individuals are often unwilling to speak out for personal and financial reasons.

A whistle-blower policy provides a clear framework for all employees in an organisation. It should aim to promote whistle-blowing best practice in the workplace and encourage disclosure, contributing to a more ethical corporate culture. Amongst others, the policy must:

  • Identify people, within the company and externally, who can receive whistle-blower reports
  • Advise whistle-blowers how to make a disclosure
  • Include details on how your company will investigate whistle-blower reports
  • Provide information on legal protections available to whistle-blowers
  • Outline how your company will support and protect whistle-blowers

To find out more, take a look at this useful Regulatory Guide released by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). It provides information on designing a whistle-blower policy that complies with the legal obligations, as well as tips for implementing and maintaining this policy in the workplace.

Pay Rise

You’ve been in your job for a couple of years and you’re thriving. You’re smashing all your targets, and ticking all the boxes in your performance appraisals, but your success is not reflected in your pay package. Rather than threatening to down tools unless you receive more $$$ on the spot, hang in there and plan ahead. Here is our step-to-step guide to asking for and getting the pay rise you deserve.

BUILD A STRONG CASE
First, check out your job description. Are you meeting and exceeding all the requirements of your role? Have you taken on additional responsibilities that are not mentioned in your job description? Have you made suggestions that have been implemented in the workplace? If yes to any of these questions, then start to build your case. Make a list of your achievements and, if possible, quantify them. Highlight how many benchtops your team have made; specify the total client billings you have generated over the last six months.

Next, look outside your workplace at the wider employment market. Look at job ads for similar roles in the area; study online salary surveys and trends. Find out whether you could potentially earn more elsewhere and note important data. This research will not only help you to justify your request for an increase, it will also help your boss escalate that request to senior management.

BOOK A MEETING WITH YOUR BOSS
Rather than catching your boss on the hop, book a meeting with her and specify that you are wanting to discuss your performance and pay. Timing is crucial here. Fix a day when your boss is not submerged with work; you want her to be open to discussion. Equally, ensure that the current business climate in your workplace is conducive to talk of a pay rise. If the CFO has just quit, or a merger is looming on the horizon, you’d be best to hold off!

BE PREPARED TO SELL YOURSELF
If you don’t ask, you won’t get it! Asking for a pay rise can be a confronting and challenging experience, which is why some employees never get around to it. But you’ve done your homework and you know you’re worth it. So, go into that meeting with courage and confidence. Be upfront about what you bring to your role and the company and support your argument with the research you have carried out. Have a clear idea of the pay package you are after but go in higher so there is room for negotiation. Once you’ve stated your case, ensure you listen to what your boss has to say and respond appropriately. This should not be a battle, but a reasoned discussion between two professionals with a positive outcome for both sides: you receive your pay rise and your boss gets to keep a valued employee on her team.

CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS
All being well, you’ll get the pay rise you are asking for, but what if the response is ‘no’? Don’t lose your cool! First, ask your boss what you can do to achieve that increase in six months’ time. Perhaps there is an aspect of your role where she feels further development is required or perhaps she is privy to company information about future expense cuts and frozen pay. In both instances, consider whether you are best off staying in the role and working your way towards a new pay review or looking around for a new position in another company.

Good luck! We hope you get the pay rise you deserve.

Dress For Success

We have all heard the expression, ‘First Impressions last’ well this is very true especially at interview stage. You have made it this far through the recruitment process so don’t throw away your chance on poor outfit choice!

It can be hard to know what to wear for your interview when in doubt, we say here at Optimal Recruitment, its always better to be overdressed than under-dressed.  You should always stay away from denim and leave your hat and flip flops at home.

A three-piece suit is not always needed and what you wear does depend on where your interviewing and what image of yourself you want to portray. The best interview outfit is clean, well-fitting, appropriate for the company’s culture, and not attention-getting. We want the hiring manager to be discussing your skills and experience not your sparkly top or tattoos.

Here are a few ideas to help you for your big day:

Interviewing at a Corporate Workplace

Suit all the way! The whole works, pants/ skirt or shirt, jacket and tie, polished shoes, heels or closed in shoes. Stockings if it’s a formal workplace, hair tied back and brushed, jewellery should be minimal, tattoos and piercings if you can cover them up, make up natural and light, carry a small purse not an oversized bag, keep cologne and perfume to a minimum. Try and avoid patterned and funky designs go for a solid suit colour or small pinstripes if you can. Light coloured or white shirts are best and pick a conservative tie, avoid bow ties at your interview. Wear matching socks, polish your shoes and make sure your belt matches your shoes.

Interviewing at a Casual Business Workplace

Chinos and Buttoned shirt with a collar. Skirt or dress (knee length ideally), covered shoes, block colour dress / shirt.  Hair should be combed and tied back from your face. Jewellery should be minimal and please don’t wear too much perfume cologne – we have all been stuck in a lift with someone over-powering our senses before. You don’t want the interviewer to be shuffling you out because they can’t breathe.

Interviewing for Outdoor Work

You can wear those jeans but make sure they are your best ones though with no holes, rips or fraying. Avoid t-shirts with slogans, never wear shorts to an interview unless you are applying for a lifeguard position.  Closed in shoes in good condition are best and please avoid thongs and hats.

You want to look neat and tidy and employable!

Interviewing for a job at a cafe, dress shop, or a start-up

It can be tricky when deciding what to wear for some job positions. You probably want to go casual and wear those Jeans but you really should leave them at home.  We suggest you wear trousers or chinos instead. There is no need for a tie but if you can, wear a collared shirt or buttoned shirt – ideally not a t-shirt.  Ladies choose a skirt, pants and a blouse.  Shoes – wear what suits your outfit but make sure they are in good condition – maybe give them a quick clean if they have lots of scuff marks.

In a nutshell:

  • Keep scented items — cologne, perfume, and aftershave to a minimum.
  • Ensure your nails are clean – especially if you are going for a position in hospitality.
  • Hair should be combed and tied back from your face.
  • Jewellery should be minimal
  • If the company you are interviewing for has a set uniform, try and dress similar to their style.
  • Keep the flashy, see through, ripped and torn clothes at home.
  • A good rule of thumb is to dress like your boss

No matter what you are wearing to your interview you want to look polished and respectable. Just remember you are more likely to be taken seriously when you present yourself in a professional manner and take the time to attend to the little details.

And as my Nana says Dress for success

Good Luck!

Interview Photo

You’ve screened the resumes and come up with a shortlist of applicants who can all do the job…on paper at least. So, how do you decide which candidate is ‘the one’? Interviews can provide employers with valuable information about an individual’s skills, motivation, achievements and cultural fit. Especially if you ask the right questions and allow candidates to do most of the talking.

Here are ten of our favourite questions to ask candidates at interview:

  1. Why are you interested in this role?

You want to separate out those candidates who have done their homework from the rest. You will find out which aspects of the position have appealed to them. Are these the same aspects that you believe are key to the role and to your company moving forward?

  1. What are the three most important attributes you bring to this role?

Flowing on neatly from #1, you will obtain further insights into candidates’ understanding of the role, and the contribution they could make. You can then assess whether what they offer fits with what you are looking for.

  1. Why are you leaving your current employer?

Candidates’ answers can reveal much about their attitudes, motivation and values at work. Your job is to establish whether their current experience has been a positive one and whether they are leaving for a good reason. If you have doubts, then probe carefully to find out more.

  1. What motivates you most in your current role?

You want to understand what makes candidates tick. They may be enthusiastic about new challenges, for example, or working in a strong team. Will these candidates find similar motivation in the role you are offering and, more broadly, in the culture of your company?

  1. What do you dislike the most about your current role?

Candidates generally find at least one aspect of their current role less enjoyable. It may be a mundane task, such as stuffing envelopes or totting up the petty cash. But it may be something more revealing – such as a candidate for a supervisor role who does not like dealing with conflict.

  1. Tell me about your greatest achievement in your career to date.

Strong candidates are passionate about their accomplishments and will relish the opportunity to talk about them. What they consider to be a great achievement will provide you with insights into their personality, values and working style.

  1. Describe a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted. What did you do?

An alternative to “What’s your greatest weakness?” which most candidates have anticipated and prepared for. Here, you are asking candidates for a concrete example of a difficult situation. Their responses will provide information about their problem-solving skills, ability to own an issue and, potentially, their interaction with others.

  1. How would your colleagues describe you at work?

Some candidates find it difficult to talk about their attributes and achievements, especially at interview. So instead, give them a chance to view themselves through the eyes of their co-workers. You will gain valuable insights into their personality, work ethic, and relationships with others in a team.

  1. Describe the best boss you have reported to.

Bosses vary in the way they supervise, organise, delegate and communicate. And candidates will vary in the way they respond to them. So find out the type of management style that best suits your candidates’ needs and personality. A candidate who is a self-starter, for example, would not be a good match for a micro-manager.

  1. Do you have any questions for me?

Well-prepared candidates will have done their homework, researched the role and company, and drafted a few questions. What candidates ask can provide information about what they consider important. Are they just after basic information, like salary, perks and vacation days? Or are they focused on company vision and opportunities for career progression?

Try incorporating some – or all – of these questions in your candidate interviews. They should help you separate the mismatches and maybes from the high potential candidate(s) who will thrive in your role.

Gap years have become an increasingly popular option among high school leavers in Australia. According to research by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, around 20% of students who complete high school opt to take a gap year before they go on to further education. Benefits of taking time out from study (and away from home) may include the development of work and life skills, a clearer idea of career goals, increased motivation and a deeper world view – all of which add to individual employability further down the track!

But, what about taking a career break at another life stage? Jacking it all in at 30 to follow your dream of working with the turtles in Costa Rica? Or, quitting your long-term job at 45 to explore outback Australia in a campervan? Yes, the year will no doubt be an adventure-packed, inspirational, life-fulfilling experience. But, how will potential employers view your time out when you are applying for jobs 12 months later?

Here are a few tips to consider so your gap year doesn’t leave a gaping hole in your career path.

  • Take a career break when there is something you really, truly want to do. Work alongside local teachers in a school in Ghana, sail around the world, protect the turtles! Make the right choice and your motivation, enthusiasm and commitment will shine through to potential employers on your return.
  • When it comes to job application time, be sure to mention your career break:
    • In your resume, include dates, job title and organisation (if relevant) and location. Then single out key tasks and achievements, as with any position, particularly those that may have value in the role you are going for. Many skills are transferable – your gap year experience should stand in your favour!
    • Briefly explain your time out in your cover letter – and then show motivation for returning to paid employment. Wording along these lines does both: “I have just returned from 3 months in Costa Rica where I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to help research and protect sea turtles. I am now keen to apply my skills and experience to the role of project officer in your organisation.”
  • At interview, reassure employers that you’re not going to disappear off on your travels in six months’ time, while emphasising the valuable skills you have gained during your career break. For example: “Sailing around the world has given me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills and work with others in challenging circumstances. It’s something I’d always wanted to do, but now I’m ready to put down roots and focus on my career in earnest.”

Taking a career break in your 30s or 40s (or at any other time) may be seen as risky and unconventional, but time away from your everyday routine can bring benefits both to you and to your future employer. Rather than leaving a gaping hole in your career path, a gap year can pave the way to the future you want and deserve.

When was the last time you sat down and updated job descriptions in your organisation? For many managers, this activity may not be very high on your priority list, but it should be! Well-written, up-to-date job descriptions (JDs) can be incredibly useful documents for setting and managing expectations in many areas, including:

  • Recruitment: Whether you are hiring internally or externally, a job description provides recruiting managers and candidates with a clear idea of what the role entails and what requirements and qualifications are needed. A JD is also an excellent source of information for writing job ads and briefing agencies.
  • Training: A comprehensive job description gives managers and employees an indication of individual training needs based on role requirements. A suitable training plan can then be drawn up to enable employees to perform their job with confidence and skill.
  • Performance Management: When it comes to that year-end appraisal, reach for those job descriptions. You can evaluate your employees against the expectations you have set out, see where they are succeeding, and establish areas for development.
  • Compensation: A JD should provide an indication of the expected salary range for a particular role. This can help prospective candidates to self-select during the recruitment process. It can also be useful for managers when it comes to discussing salary raises, e.g. providing justification for a lower increase if a job holder is not fully carrying out the responsibilities of the role, or not meeting certain requirements.

So, what should you include in a winning job description?

A comprehensive header: State the formal job title, job type, reporting relationship, division/department, work location, salary range.

Job summary: Provide a brief overview of the job’s purpose, expectations and objectives.

Duties and responsibilities: Start with the duties/responsibilities that take up the most time. Use a bulleted list so that content is easily readable; you can also split the list into categories.

Education & qualifications: Provide information on the education level/type and qualifications that are required for the job.

Knowledge, skills & abilities (KSAs): This should be a list of those KSAs that are required for the job. Note that although skills and abilities are often bundled together, there is a difference! Skills are measurable and observable, and may be acquired through training. Abilities are generally innate (and not learned through training). Here are some examples to get you started:

Knowledge: Knowledge of administrative processes, year-end accounting procedures, operational systems

Skills: Proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite, mechanical repair, accurate data entry,

Abilities: Preparing and maintaining records, working in a team, communicating effectively (written and spoken)

Physical/mental demands: Include any information that is specific to the job, such as heavy lifting, climbing stairs, standing for extended periods of time, public speaking, as well as the work environment (e.g. outdoor work, use of hazardous chemicals).

Tools/equipment used: If applicable, include any specific/specialist tools needed to do the job.

Signature: The employee should sign and date the job description to acknowledge they have read and understood it.

We’ve put together a neat job description template that you are welcome to download and complete for jobs within your organisation. Send us an email and we will share it with you. We hope you find it useful!

From 1 July 2019, the new national minimum wage (NMW) will be $740.80 per week or $19.49 per hour – an increase of 3.0%. A significant number of workers stand to benefit from the change. Currently around 2.2 million employees in Australia are paid the NMW or a modern award minimum wage, which is also set to increase by 3.0%.

Over the next few weeks, the Fair Work Commission will be providing more information about how the increase will affect modern awards. They will also be updating their pay tools with the new pay rates. So, keep your eyes on their website or subscribe to receive email updates from them about changes in your industry sector!

There are also some changes to penalty rates for Sunday work from 1 July 2019. These will affect employees paid under the Hospitality and Retail awards. Starting next month, full-time and part-time employees covered by the Hospitality award will receive 150% of their base pay rate, instead of 160%, for Sunday work.

Under the Retail award, employees will be affected by reductions to penalty rates for Sunday work from 1 July, as follows:

  • Full-time and part-time employees who aren’t shiftworkers will be paid 165% of their base pay rate for Sunday work, instead of 180%.
  • Casual employees who aren’t shiftworkers will be paid 175% of their base pay rate instead of 185%. This includes their casual loading.
  • Full-time and part-time shiftworkers will be will be paid 185% of their base pay rate instead of 195%.
  • Casual employees who are shiftworkers will be paid 215% of their base pay rate instead of 220%. This includes their casual loading.

Further changes to penalty rates for casual employees who aren’t shiftworkers will come into effect under the Retail award from 1 October this year. These retail employees will benefit from a 5% increase in penalty rates for Saturday work and Monday to Friday evening work from 6 pm.

Detailed information about the NMW changes can be found on the Fair Work Commission website.

Click here for more information about changes to penalty rates under the Hospitality award.

Click here for more information about changes to penalty rates under the Retail award.

We would love to hear what you think about the new national minimum wage ?