Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Why Showing Up Isn’t Always Helpful

Just because an employee is physically in the office doesn’t mean that person is actively contributing. An employee who is sick, exhausted, distraught, or distracted can easily cause problems for you and your team.

Onsite doesn’t mean on task

Productivity was easy to measure when we only thought in terms of showing up. An employee was either at work or off work. Simple, right?

But today’s workplaces are more complex. Technology allows employees to keep up with work anytime, anywhere. And companies are starting to realize that just because employees are physically onsite doesn’t mean they’re being productive or efficient.

Measuring productivity in this new environment is tricky, and weighing the impact of presenteeism on overall company performance can be even more difficult. It’s been estimated that presenteeism costs companies somewhere between 150 and 250 billion dollars annually.

The good news is there are things you can do to address the issue of presenteeism in your workplace. Here are a few ways to get started:

Examine your org chart

Running lean is one thing, but if one person calling in sick means your business can’t function, that’s a big problem. And if your team is constantly overworked, they’re more likely to get sick or show up tired and/or distracted.

  • Have you gotten in the habit of leaving positions unfilled?
  • Are you constantly asking your current employees to take on more?

Skimping on staff may serve you well in the short term, but if you want a happy, healthy, and fully present workforce, you’ll need to make sure you have enough team members to take on everything you want to get done.

Provide (and encourage!) paid time off

Discouraging staff from staying home when they are sick may seem like a cost saving idea, but the reality of having a sick person at work is rarely productive or pleasant. It can also lead to a string of employees ending up sick instead of just one. Talk about lost productivity!

Foster a culture that supports health and wellness by encouraging employees to stay home when they are ill. When an employee calls in sick, express genuine concern for their wellbeing rather than demanding they get back to work as soon as possible.

Instead of separating out sick days and vacation days, consider moving to a paid time off policy that allows employees to be out for any reason. When employees have a bank of PTO to use as they wish, they can take time off to see a doctor for a preventative exam or stay home and rest before an illness intensifies.

Employees may also feel more comfortable about taking time off to address a family member’s illness, stay home with a sick child, care for an elderly parent, or resolve a personal issue that would otherwise hinder their in-office productivity.

Focus on employee wellbeing

Wellbeing means more than giving everyone a fitbit and calling it a day.

True wellbeing encompasses physical, mental, and financial health. Take a look at your overall approach to employee wellness. Is it just lip service or is it woven into your organizational culture?

  • Is your workplace culture positive and inviting or caustic and overbearing?
  • Are staff workloads manageable or is your team too run-down to perform?
  • What is your turnover like? Do your employees stick around, look for advancement, and refer their friends? Or do you need to install a revolving door?
  • Is your compensation structure competitive in your market and industry? Are you relieving financial stress for your employees, or are you adding to it?
  • Evaluate your current health insurance plan. Are high deductibles and co-pays discouraging employees from visiting the doctor for preventive care? Do you offer convenient solutions like online enrollment and Telehealth?
  • Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place to address mental health and stress concerns?

Committing to workplace wellbeing can be very good for business. Healthy employees have lover levels of absenteeism and presenteeism, and higher levels of engagement and retention. Companies who focus on happy, healthy workplaces will also have an advantage when it comes to recruiting talent.

So what are you waiting for? Start cultivating a company worth committing to, and a team that shows up for your business in all the right ways.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Stressed Employees? You Should Fix That.

We all know that stress has negative effects on individual health. But stressed out employees can have a huge impact on the health of your business as well.

  • Workers who are stressed are more likely to develop health problems and miss shifts. When they do show up, they often have trouble concentrating, making decisions, meeting deadlines, and getting along with their colleagues and coworkers.
  • According to the Stress in America Survey, individuals who are highly stressed about money are more likely to say they engage in unhealthy behaviors to manage their stress. This can add additional strain on employers in the form of increased absenteeism and presenteeism, higher risk of accidents, and spiraling healthcare and liability expenses.
  • And if that’s not enough to worry about, stress also plays a key role in employee turnover. A recent Monster.com poll reported that 42% of respondents have purposely changed jobs due to a stressful work environment, and 35% of respondents have thought about it.

It’s not hard to imagine how having even a few high-stress staff members can drastically affect business productivity, morale, and success.

What can employers do about it?

More than you might think.

Because stress is so often work related, organizations have the power to make a significant difference in the level of stress experienced by their employees. You can create a less stressful working atmosphere with some carefully targeted changes. If you know where to start.

There is some fascinating research out there showing that employee and employer perceptions of workplace stressors are actually quite different.

Long story short: Don’t try to “fix” your workplace stress problems until you’ve clearly identified what they are. Not only could you waste a lot of time and energy focusing on things that aren’t of concern, you could set yourself back even further by appearing to be out of touch.

If you really want to know what’s stressing your staff out, just ask them. Once you can accurately pinpoint the issues, you’ll be able to address them accordingly.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do today to help alleviate workplace stress:

Lead by example. Energy is contagious. Are you spreading anger and anxiety or encouragement and empathy? Are you burning the candle at both ends or modeling a healthy balance? Your employees will follow in your footsteps. Make sure you’re on the right path.

Give your team the tools to be successful. Whether it’s a new software program, a cell phone upgrade, or an ergonomic desk chair, anything that makes the job more efficient and the workload more manageable will help relieve employee stress. (Bonus: Your employees may finally be able to check off more of those elusive To Do list items!)

Evaluate staffing levels. Has production been increasing while your staff continues to shrink? Have you let people go and not replaced them? While you may view these things as evidence of a brilliant streamlining effort, it could also be that your current staff feels overworked, disengaged and on the verge of burnout. Sometimes what the team (and the business) really needs is an extra set of hands.

Appreciate your people. Thank you cards and bonuses are nice, but if your employees need to work a second job every weekend, they’re not going to be refreshed and focused come Monday morning. Hire good people and pay them what they are worth. Offer employee benefits, retirement and paid time off programs. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. And compensate them accordingly.

Employee Assistance Programs. Regardless of what’s going on at work, there will always be people on your team who are going through rough times. EAPs have been proven to help reduce stress for those who have them available and take advantage of them.

Of course you’ll never be able to completely eliminate stress from your working environment, but by taking the time to tweak a few of your processes, you just might be able to help your employees be happier, healthier and more productive. And who wouldn’t want that?


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Forget Meeting in Person. First Impressions Have Gone Online.

We all know how important a first impression is. It can be a make it or break it moment. But here’s the kicker. Now it’s happening online.

Yes, that first face-to-face meeting is still important. So you should still do all those things your mom and your career counselor always told you to: make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and dress the part. But you should also realize that it very likely isn’t a true first impression and that the person shaking your hand has probably already Googled you.

Good or bad, your online presence is your new first impression.

It’s become standard practice

What do you do when you’re considering making a purchase or finding a new service provider? You go online, of course. You search profiles and websites. You ask your networks.

And if you think for one second that your business associates, clients and prospects aren’t doing the same thing, you’re in some serious denial.

Chances are very good you’ve already been searched. Your articles, posts, and comments have been read. Your photos have been looked at. Whatever your prospects learn through their online research is now the first impression they will bring with them to your initial email, conversation, or meeting.

If this thought makes you shudder, you may have some work to do when it comes to your professional image.

Think you’re in the clear?

Maybe you’re one of those people who hate social media or refuses to use it. You might be feeling pretty good about now. You’ve put nothing out there. Your first impression is pure.

Well, this is where the bad news comes in. If your potential clients can’t find you, they won’t have a compelling reason to meet or do business with you. You may be clean, but you’re also invisible.

Meanwhile, your competition could be showing up for their “first” meeting with a huge advantage.

  • That company has an awesome website and blog.
  • That person has been out there on LinkedIn and other platforms sharing thought-provoking content and ideas.
  • Your coveted prospect already feels a connection with this person, even though they’ve never actually met.
  • And it’s not because they know nothing about them. It’s because they know something about them. And they are intrigued.

Avoiding social media doesn’t give you an advantage in today’s business world. In fact, it can put you at a huge disadvantage. And using it wisely can give you an edge. The key word here is wisely.

Creating a first impression that works

Here are two ways to get started down the right path:

1.) Define your message

What thoughts and feelings do you want your audience to have when they think about you? What do you want them to know about you, your organization, and why they should work with you? What skills do you have? What things do you care about? What is it that makes you different from your competition?

2.) Get out there

Once you’ve figured out what you want to share, be confident in putting yourself out there. And don’t worry! You don’t need to be everywhere. Research platforms to find out where your target market is. Then, choose one or two that are most relevant and start interacting. Follow people who are talking about the same things your customers are, and get your message across in an interesting and professional way.

It won’t happen overnight, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can elevate your online presence and start separating yourself from your competition. Just make sure everything your audience finds when searching online matches your desired first impression.

Because in the end, that’s exactly what it is.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

It’s Not Your Imagination. Recruiting and Retaining Talent is Hard.

There is evidence mounting that when it comes to talent, it’s a seller’s market. If you’ve got it, you’re in high demand. In other words, the power within the hiring process is shifting from employer to employee.

In this new reality, job seekers are increasingly going to be able to leverage their experience and choose from the opportunities open to them. The human resources talent acquisition game is changing, and employers are going to have to work harder than ever to find and hire great people.

Why is this happening?

Not only is unemployment low, but an entire workplace cohort is rapidly leaving the workforce.

It’s been estimated that as many as 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day. As these tenured employees exit the workforce, employers are faced with a mad scramble to replace all of that experience, talent, and labor. Companies will need to compete for the best talent in ways they may have never experienced before.

According to a survey by Glassdoor, it appears we may be seeing signs of this already.

  • More than half (53%) of American employees (including those self-employed) believe if they lost their job they would be likely to find a new job matched to their experience and current compensation levels in the next six months
  • Nearly half (46%) of U.S. employees expect a pay raise in the next 12 months
  • Only 14% of respondents expressed fears about potential layoffs, reflecting a high level of employee confidence

Meanwhile, a Jobvite study provides some even more intriguing job search facts.

  • 45% of workers will jump ship for a new job— even if they are happy in their current position
  • The technology sector has the highest short-term turnover, but no industry is safe
  • 50% of employed job seekers see their current positions as temporary
  • Money is still the number one factor in the decision to leave or accept a position
  • Employed job seekers fessed up to searching for new positions during their commute (38%), on the job (30%) and even in the bathroom (18%)

If you’re an HR manager who hates turnover, this isn’t what you wanted to hear.

What can employers do?

You can choose not to trust the data, or to think your organization is exempt, but those could be some very costly mistakes.

You could also work become an employer of choice, putting yourself in a the best possible position to handle this new job search reality.

Look around your company and ask yourself:

  • Does your staff stay consistent or are there new faces every week?
  • Are people excited to come to work each day?
  • Are they given the tools they need to be successful?
  • Do they feel like part of a team? Are they aligned with the company mission and beliefs?
  • Do your employees refer great candidates in or are they asking friends about their employers?

These things can tell you a lot about how attractive you are to potential new hires, and those who are currently on staff.

Don’t take your employees for granted, and don’t let their silence fool you into thinking they are satisfied. Even if they aren’t actively out looking, someone with a more attractive culture, value proposition, or opportunity just might find them and snap them up.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Managing Difficult Relationships at Work

Ever work with someone who is super sweet one minute, then jumps down your throat the next? To some of us, this might seem like a personal problem. But if it’s happening at work, it’s also a business problem.

Workplace conflict can decrease productivity, increase absenteeism, and cause good employees to leave. And the longer you allow difficult employees to stick around, the more you put employee engagement, retention, and morale at risk.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons difficult people act the way they do. Sadly, one of the main reasons is because it works.

More than a few people have figured out how to get what they want by using tactics that make other people feel uncertain, off balance, and uneasy. When someone is feeling vulnerable, they are much more likely to bend to the will of others. Those who prefer to keep everybody walking on eggshells know this all too well.

First, they earn your trust, then they break it just enough to make you question what you did wrong. While you’re caught backpedaling, they’re slowly harnessing more and more power in the relationship.

Often, this need for power and control is fueled by intense feelings of insecurity. Individuals who live with the feeling of not being good enough often end up trying to inflict that same feeling onto others. Perhaps this makes them feel superior for a moment, or at least more equal.

Those prone to empathy may recognize this pattern for what it is, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In fact, it may be considerably more difficult to react after realizing that the tormentor is actually the tormented.

How should you handle it?

Unfortunately, there are no magic answers here. Every scenario will be different. But here are a few hard-earned tips:

Trust yourself

If you’re getting a woozy, suspicious, or funny feeling about a potential business connection, pay attention.

Do some additional checking around. Talk to people who know or have worked with them. Conduct a social media or Google search. If you’re considering hiring this person, schedule a follow-up interview and invite some additional people to sit in who are willing to give another perspective.

Establish boundaries

If your personal and professional boundaries are clearly defined and firmly in place, you’ll have an easier time sticking to them. It may also help you react more diplomatically to unpredictable behavior.

Have a few canned responses in your pocket that you can pull out when needed: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and “This isn’t appropriate to discuss right now,” can help put uncomfortable discussions back on track. Even something like “I’m on a deadline here,” can be a good conversation stopper. Just because someone wants to engage with you doesn’t mean you have to get sucked in.

Learn to say no and, if necessary, walk away.

Write it down

If you’re dealing with unhealthy interactions on a regular basis, start documenting dates, times, and specific events.

Whether you’re talking to HR, your BFF, or directly to your tormenter, re-telling stories from memory is going to be less effective than keeping detailed notes on each interaction. If you can get other people in the room, eyewitnesses are also helpful.

If you decide to go to HR, just realize you might not get the exact answer you are hoping for. If you’re expecting an automatic disciplinary action or a quick and easy fix, you could be in for some disappointment. These situations can be complicated and nuanced, and your HR team may or may not see things the same way you do.

If you are HR and you need to let someone go, having this documentation in place will be an important part of the process.

Cut the cord

Sometimes you have to deal with difficult people, but sometimes it’s a choice. If you’ve got a client, customer, employee, networking connection, or friend who seems like a super nice person, but sometimes makes you feel downright awful, do a quick ROI analysis:

  • How much of that time and energy could you invest in other, more positive people who are sincerely interested in your success?
  • What would that mean for your life? Your business? Your day-to-day interactions?

It’s not always easy to cut ties, but sometimes it’s the best thing for everyone.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Are Your Employees Asleep On the Job?

What does sleep have to do with workplace productivity? Pretty much everything.

The research on this topic is abundant and clear:

And while most businesses would never allow an employee to be intoxicated on the job, they often allow (and even encourage!) sleep-deprived individuals to come to work every single day.

Are employers responsible?

You may think lack of sleep is strictly a personal issue. And you’re partially right. Your employees are in charge of their own sleep habits. However, work is definitely a factor in how those sleep habits develop or change over time.

Sure, you may only see your colleagues working away during their scheduled shifts. But what you might not realize is just how much work and/or work stress is also creeping into their off hours and causing them to lose sleep.

A recent CareerBuilder study revealed some fascinating statistics. Of the 3,200 workers surveyed, 61% of them reported that sleep deprivation affected their work in one or more ways. A full 58% of respondents said they didn’t get enough sleep, and 44% admitted that just thinking about work kept them up at night. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who reported getting the doctor-recommended 8 hours per night was a shocking 16%.

There are many work-related reasons why your employees are finding it harder and harder to get enough sleep, including:

  • Long commutes
  • 24-hour accessibility
  • Increasing workloads
  • Extended hours/overtime
  • Off-hour or rotating shifts
  • Stressful work environments
  • Unattainable performance metrics

These factors can result in stressful work days— and sleepless nights.

How can companies help?

It all starts with being aware of the issue and educating your employees.

Much investigation has been done on how to combat or reduce fatigue, both in the immediate moment and over the long term, and there is lots of information available online. Communicate with your employees about the importance of sleep and provide them with information on how they can help achieve it through regular exercise, relaxation rituals, and unplugging from work.

But communication is just the beginning. If you really want to make a difference, take a look at your current processes and incorporate ways to address some of the key stressors affecting your employees.

Long commutes: Allow employees to adjust their schedules to avoid traffic delays. Consider telecommuting options.

24-hour accessibility: Encourage employees to unplug when at home. Provide flexible paid time off.

Increasing workloads: Ask your team if they feel their tasks are manageable and achievable, then make adjustments.

Extended hours/overtime: Are those long shifts really necessary? Could you do some hiring?

Off-hour or rotating shifts: Provide ample break times. Consider napping and exercise rooms. Provide coffee and tea.

Stressful work environment: Look to your leadership team to troubleshoot workplace issues. Build a strong culture of teamwork and communication.

Unattainable performance metrics: How are you measuring success? Is it realistic? Does it need to be re-defined?

It may sound strange to examine your HR and business processes from a sleep perspective, but don’t let that stop you from thinking about ways to encourage less stress and more shuteye.

After all, you can’t drive great results if your employees are asleep at the wheel.


Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

The Myth of Constant Availability

One of the best things about technology is how easy it is for people to get in touch.

If your daughter is studying abroad in Spain, you’re going to love the instant communication options technology allows. You’ll be able to hear her voice, see her face, and check out her awesome food pics.

But what if you’re off visiting your daughter in Spain and your phone is blowing up with texts and emails about work? You’re probably going to be pretty darn frustrated about the easy accessibility that modern technology provides.

Being constantly accessible is definitely a double-edged sword.

The importance of powering down

Sure, you could leave your lights on 24 hours a day. But you don’t.

Because you know what’s going to happen. They’ll run hot and burn out fast. It will cost you time and money to replace them more frequently. And, deep down inside, you know it’s not really necessary to have them burning all day and night. It’s a waste of perfectly good energy.

But light bulbs are pretty cheap and easy to come by. So maybe you get a little lazy about leaving them on more than you should.

Now imagine you just bought yourself a new car. You did a lot of research until you found one with all of the right features. The process was time-consuming and the cost was significant, but it’s just what you need, so you feel good about the investment. It runs great, it’s reliable, and you’re confident it will get you where you want to go.

So now that you have this awesome new piece of machinery at your disposal, you’re going to leave it running 24/7, right?

Of course not! That would be ridiculous. It’s bad for the engine, it’s a waste of fuel, and it will shorten your vehicle’s lifespan. Plus, leaving your car running makes it much easier for someone to steal it out from under you.

Let’s be real. You don’t leave things running all the time because it just doesn’t make any sense.

And yet we’ve bought into the myth

Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that, unlike our lights and vehicles, we need to be on (and available!) all the time. That our company does. That our employees do.

But this doesn’t make sense either.

Let’s say you get a package delivered to your door at 10:00 pm. Did you really expect it to arrive that late or are you feeling a little perplexed? Are you wondering how long that delivery person been working? How tired are they? If this is really the best use of resources? It’s late. And dark. And potentially unsafe. What if the driver falls asleep at the wheel? When it comes right down to it, would you be just as happy receiving your stuff in the morning?

Companies, please take note: Many customers will actually choose to do business with a corporation that’s known for being good to their employees over one that isn’t. Research also shows that customer service, retention, and overall profitably numbers are higher in organizations that take care of their people.

Taking care of your people means encouraging them to take breaks. And we’re not just talking about mandated shift breaks here. We’re talking about time away from work, and without 24-hour accessibility.  

Does your team need a vacation? Do you?

PTO shouldn’t stand for Paid Time On. You and your employees need a break.

Just like that sweet Tesla in the driveway, people can only go so long before they need to re-charge. If you don’t allow them to do it, you’re not going to get the performance you want.

And yes, this includes you. Even if you’re the all-knowing top dog, you need time off in order to be your best. And you shouldn’t be racked with guilt for taking it.

So, turn off the lights, park your car, and give up the idea that you and your employees need to be available at all times.

Or just keep on working… until all your lights burn out.


At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Located in Sunset Hills, MO, we help clients throughout the Missouri and Illinois area to identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. If you would like help managing your employee programs, we may be the insurance consultant and business partner you need.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Stop Wasting Your Time in Meetings!

It’s been estimated that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings. Worse yet, it’s also been estimated that over 37 BILLION dollars per year are spent on unproductive meetings.

That’s enough to make any business person’s head hurt.

If you’re frustrated with the lack of preparation, organization, progress, and productivity happening in your meetings, you’re not alone. And yet you probably find yourself suffering through these sessions on a regular basis.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Not all meetings are a waste of time

Some of them are necessary. And productive. But far too many of them aren’t. This is unfortunate because it really doesn’t take that much to make your meetings less painful and more productive.

In fact, you can vastly improve your meetings by following these three principles:

  1. Stop meeting just because

Just because a meeting is on the schedule doesn’t mean it needs to happen.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by holding meetings out of obligation or without a defined purpose. Having a meeting simply because it’s the second Friday of the month is ridiculous. Even if there are snacks involved.

Reasons to have a meeting:

  • Your team is working collectively to achieve a specific, defined objective
  • There are important updates to communicate, and it can’t easily be done via email
  • The meeting content is educational and will better prepare each attendee to be more successful in his/her role

Reasons not to have a meeting:

  • It’s Monday, and you always meet on Mondays
  • You like getting everyone together just to “touch base”
  • Someone brought doughnuts

If you are going to take your people away from their work, you’ve got to make it count.

  • Define the specific objectives to be achieved in the meeting
  • Communicate those objectives when the meeting is scheduled and remind everyone of the objective when (or before) the meeting starts
  • Once you’ve achieved your objectives, end your meeting. No need to hang around just because you have the time blocked out.

Scheduling tip: Meetings don’t automatically need default to an hour. If you’ve got 20 minutes of material to cover, schedule 20 minutes.

  1. Commit to an agenda

Never ask people to come to a meeting without explaining in reasonable detail why they need to be there and what will happen when they arrive.

Having a clear agenda not only assures there is an objective for the meeting, it forces the facilitator to prepare and lets each attendee know what they need to do in order to contribute and benefit from the meeting.

Planning tip: The agenda doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a few bullet points. However, those bullet points must be specific, relevant, and distinct. Going around the room and letting everyone talk for 5 or 10 minutes is NOT an agenda. And if you’re using the same agenda every week, you’re not accomplishing anything significant.

  1. Confirm attendance and outcomes

First things first. Get confirmation of who will be attending the meeting before it happens.

Unless you’re still meeting for the sake of meeting, everyone on the invite list should be critical to the defined objectives. If one key person is missing, your meeting could easily turn unproductive. If you know ahead of time that critical participants, facilitators, and/or decision-makers can’t be there, don’t waste everyone else’s time. Cancel and reschedule.

At the end of your meeting, you’ll also want to confirm tasks and takeaways. Before everyone gets up and walks out the door, make sure everyone understands and commits to doing whatever is required of them to further the objectives of the meeting.

Productivity tip: Your meeting attendees aren’t there to be entertained. They are there to participate and contribute. Ask them if they got what they expected out of the meeting, and confirm what they will do as a result.

Make your meetings count

Adhering to these three meeting principles will significantly improve meeting attitudes and outcomes.

Once you start consistently having efficient and productive meetings, your colleagues, prospects, and clients will be more much more willing to attend. And they’ll be better prepared afterward.

Great meetings aren’t about quantity, they’re about quality. Get rid of unproductive meetings and you’ll be a workplace hero! Bring coffee and you just might reach sainthood.

Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? How about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive?


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Are You Leading By (Bad) Example?

When you look around a company and see a common set of behaviors, you can usually tie it back to the behaviors of the leaders.

Positive, focused, driven behaviors by leaders set an example for the team, and it’s very common for the team to generally behave in the same way and have similar attitudes. It’s contagious. And people tend to rise to the level of expectation or standard.

The same holds true for the negative behaviors displayed by leaders. When the team regularly sees poor behavior, they begin to see it as acceptable and respond accordingly. People also tend to lower their output to the level of expectation or standard.

Poor behaviors that are demonstrated and tolerated are morale busters. Lack of effort, inspiration, courage, and follow-through by a leader can deflate even the most positive of people. Here are some poor leadership behaviors that can be detrimental to your team:

  • Not making decisions, avoiding commitments, not implementing scheduled changes
  • Lack of responsiveness to communications
  • Putting in minimum effort to achieve minimum expectations
  • Not meeting deadlines and goals
  • Not following through on commitments
  • Canceling and not showing up for meetings or appointments
  • Playing favorites based on relationships and not results
  • Making excuses for these behaviors rather than owning up to the real Why

If this sounds all too familiar, then it’s time to do some evaluation to understand the real cause for these behaviors. Is it just an individual or two in the company behaving like this (performance issue)? Or is it pervasive throughout (cultural & leadership issue)?

Either way, you’ll need to do some work to make sure these bad behaviors don’t spread throughout the rest of the organization.

Turning the ship

If your leadership is displaying bad behaviors, the only way to turn the organization around is to acknowledge the problem and address it.

If you’re part of the leadership team, ask for an honest assessment from your staff and colleagues. Once you’ve identified the issues, you ask for the help and accountability you need to get yourself and everyone else back on track. If you’re not the leader but you’ve spotted a leadership problem, it’s going to require a potentially difficult conversation on your part. It may not be enough to point out the behaviors themselves. You might also need to detail the impacts they are having on individuals and the organization.

If you’re in a position where you can’t be the person directly influencing leadership behavior, you have a few choices, depending on your role.

  • You can do nothing.
  • You can talk to a person who has the power to influence company leaders, help them see the situation, and encourage them to take on that conversation.
  • You can work to create your own set of values and an alternate sub-culture within your group or department.
  • You can choose to leave.

None of these things are easy for anyone, but if an environment isn’t healthy and doesn’t provide a beneficial situation for you, your team, and your organization, someone should try to change it. Whether that person is you, your CEO, your HR Department, your Board of Directors, or other key influencers, it needs to be done. Breaking poor behavior patterns is the best course of action to get your leadership and your company moving in the right direction.

If this isn’t happening, you should be prepared for continued problems and an exodus of your best talent. You should also consider that your best career decision may be to follow them out the door.

We help clients all throughout the Midwest identify organizational challenges and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to human resource management services, we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, Sonus is here for you.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

Is Working From Home Bad For Business?

Work from home options are becoming more and more popular with employees, but are these arrangements good for employers?

According to some research, the answer isn’t yes. It’s “Heck, yes!”

One study by TinyPulse revealed that 91% of telecommuters said they were more productive working remotely than in the office. Given this information, it may be tempting take the telecommuting idea and run with it.

But before you shut down the office and send everybody packing, there are some key things to consider.

The Pros

Today’s employees love being able to make choices about when, where, and how they work. Offering work from home options may give you the edge when it comes to recruiting and retention. In addition to feeling more productive, remote workers also felt more valued, had higher levels of job satisfaction, and said they were more likely to stick around than their in-office counterparts.

Allowing for remote employees can also open up your hiring pool significantly. Have a great candidate who isn’t interested in commuting, relocating, or sticking to a rigid schedule? These things are no longer automatic deal breakers.

Working from home allows your employees to be productive without physically being in the office. Major snow storm? No problem. Make some cocoa and work in front of the fire. Systems down in the office? Grab your laptop and head to a cafe. A little under the weather? Instead of taking a sick day, now employees can choose to log their hours from home— without exposing everyone to the crud.

Employers with telecommuting programs in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs. Those are some pretty great benefits.

The Cons

Before you decide to go all in here, it’s important to note that survey responses differed when remote workers were broken out by those who chose to work from home vs. those who were forced to work from home.

Not surprisingly, employees who chose to telecommute were happier, felt more valued, and were more likely to see themselves staying with the company than those who were mandated to work remotely.

The lesson here? Today’s job seekers value choice and flexibility, and are taking these things consideration when making career moves and decisions.

A word of caution regarding choice: If you do plan to offer telecommuting benefits, make sure to standardize the program as much as possible. If only a few select groups or individuals are offered work at home benefits, it can cause friction and resentment on the team.

And since we’re on the topic of team dynamics, it’s also worth noting that remote employees scored lower than their in-office mates when it came to rating the overall quality of their relationships at work.

The Balance

Obviously, it’s harder for remote teams to feel and stay connected, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss your telecommuting plans out the window. Instead, you can use this opportunity to design programs that address these issues from the get-go.

Work from home success relies largely on three key foundations:

  1. Communication

Communication is important for every organization, but even more so when you have remote workers. The good news is that there are a million technology tools to help your team stay connected and on track.

Programs that facilitate video conferencing and screen sharing like Zoom and Skype help coworkers collaborate from different offices, time zones, and even countries. Instant messaging apps like Slack and Teams allow people to communicate and “hang out” in real time. Project management programs like Asana and Trello let everyone follow and contribute to the projects they are involved in.

  1. Connection

Just because everyone isn’t in the same place doesn’t mean they can’t be on the same page. If you hire primarily for cultural fit, you’ll end up with a group of people who are likely to work well together, even if it’s primarily online.

That said, you’ll want to take some of that money you’re saving on office space and furniture and invest it in making sure your team gets together in person from time to time. Tech solutions are fantastic, but nothing beats real, live interaction every now and then. Preferably with delicious food and a little fun thrown in.

  1. Culture

If your company culture is crappy, it doesn’t matter where your employees work. No one is going to be inspired to give their all. The same goes for companies who have fantastic cultures. Dedicated employees will be even more devoted when they are given high levels of trust and flexibility, even if they rarely step foot in the office.

If you’ve got a strong, positive culture and trusted employees, you’re more than halfway there. Put together a telecommuting program and give it a try. You may be surprised at the positivity (and productivity!) it brings.

If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, and not just a once a year policy peddler, Sonus is here for you. We help clients all throughout the Midwest identify organizational challenges and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to human resource management services, we’ve got you covered.