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Southport & Mersey Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 15 October 2007

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Work while you’re sick’ attitude begins to hit organisations in the North West

ILL-HEALTH, combined with a culture where illness equals weakness, is hitting organisations across the North West. According to research, lack of care for staff is taking its toll in terms of productivity, commitment levels and lower motivation.

The Quality of Working Lifereport reveals that 26% of managers in the North West believe their health is deteriorating. 41% claim illness rates in their organisation have gone up over the last 12 months. But 1 in 3 managers in the region claim a culture of not taking time off work for sickness exists in their organisation. Only 51% of employees feel they would be treated sympathetically if they were ill.

The report, published by the Chartered Management Institute and Simplyhealth, makes it clear that sickness at work does not always translate into sick leave from work. For example, 40% of those reporting symptoms relating to stomach bugs in the past year did not take sick leave and only 14% suffering from stress took time off from work, despite 1 in 3 citing stress symptoms.

The impact of this attitude is seen through declining performance, waning enthusiasm and increasing levels of suspicion. Based on the views of 1,511 managers, key findings include:

Poor productivity:- only 35% of respondents claim to be operating ‘at or near peak productivity’. With 67% in the region claiming their productivity was reduced by ill-health, this shows the extent to which health and productivity are inextricably linked

Commitment to the cause:- 1 in 2 managers said they were not positively motivatedabout work, with 46 per cent in the North West suggesting they worked beyond contract hours because of work volume and deadlines. Fewer are prepared to make up lost timetoo, with only 34% working 2 hours or more per day over contracted hours, down from 45% in 2000.

Motivation matters:- 71% suggest that ill-health reducedenjoyment of their job and although 60% say their organisation is committed to employee well-being, only 46% in the North West agree that their line-manager cares specifically about their health

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, says:- “While many employers bemoan the cost of absence to their organisations, they fail to see the damage done by creating a culture where illness is seen as a weakness. The risk of mistakes or spreading sickness surely outweighs the short-term benefits of someone turning up for work when not fully fit.”

Further analysis uncovers a series of concerns caused by excessive hours at work. Focusing on work and careers, 45% in the region suggest productivity is affected by long hours and 48% think it restricts opportunities for professional development – a concern given the current skills crisis. From a personal perspective, figures show that additional hours affect relationships (with children, 63% and friends, 59%) and health (54%).

Des Benjamin, chief executive at Simplyhealth, says:- “Too many organisations make changes or force behaviours based on narrow definitions of cost. They fail to reflect on the impact unsophisticated reporting of employee health levels can have on performance levels. I

n an era of cost reduction, any initiative to improve the health and welfare of employees should be based, not just on an attempt to reduce absence levels, but on the significant productivity benefits that can be gained from higher levels of motivation.”

Letters to Editor:- "Liverpool Hauntings"

"My name is John Reppion and I am currently working on a Liverpool edition of Tempus Publishing prestigious “Haunted” series. The book will be released in 2008 to coincide with the Capital of Culture. I should point out that my work is in no way connected to that of Thomas Slemen and my approach is quite different from his. I have written in the past for publications such as Fortean Times, Strange Attractor and the Anomalist and produced articles on both Hale’s giant John Middleton (which can be read via this link) and Joseph Williamson “the Mole of Edge Hill” amongst others.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has any ghostly accounts of their own to share or some haunted places they'd like to recommend for inclusion.

I'm aiming to make the book as factual as possible, including as much of the documented history of the buildings/areas/people as I can find and interviewing witnesses personally if possible." 
Very best,  John,

The Greenhouse effect… Gigantic Inflatable Plants and Flowers

Sketches of inflatable flowers and plants © Spacecadets

THIS exhibition opens from 1 December 2007 giant inflatable plants and flowers will be sprouting in The Lowry’s foyer spaces. Visual artists, Spacecadets, have been commissioned to transform the space, resulting in a visually stimulating installation of oversized exotic plant life.

The exhibition launches on 1 December 2007 with an opportunity for visitors to get creative at a colourful art workshop to design and make their own exotic pot plant to take home. A range of events accompany the installation, from Family Sundays and Art Zone holiday activities for families, to adult weekend courses and exciting workshop sessions for schools. The oversized Greenhouse will be a unique and stunning extra attraction for visitors to enjoy over Christmas, February half-term and Easter holidays.

Spacecadets took their inspiration for the overgrown plant life from The Lowry building itself, believing that it resembles a gigantic greenhouse. The imaginary plants take all kinds of different forms – some are animated, opening and closing like Venus fly traps, whilst others will be illuminated from within, creating a radiant spectacle of inflatable art.

Spacecadets are also working with Salford Ranger Service and a group of adults at Buille Hill Park, together with children from All Souls RC Primary School in Salford and Irlam Endowed Primary School to create artwork in response to the themes of the Greenhouse exhibition - from designing and making fantasy flowers to decorating remote control cars with plant life to race around the building! The project concludes with a celebratory garden party at The Lowry for all involved.

Greenhouse runs from Saturday 1 December 2007 to Sunday 20 April 2008. It will be open from 12pm to 4pm daily expet holidays (Xmas Day, New Year's Day etc.) See The Lowry website for more information...

Location:- The Lowry, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester.

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