It may seem longer but it was less than a week ago when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. At Personnel Today this somewhat shocking event became a brief focal point for conversation on Monday morning but readers will be reassured to know that we quickly got down to the business at hand, bringing you the latest HR news and insights. Meanwhile, new research casts light on which are the UK’s chattiest workplaces.
It didn’t strike us that the Will Smith incident had anything to do with HR (although the Dolby Theatre last Sunday could be said to be Smith’s place of work).
But it has now become apparent we were entirely wrong. Alexandra Farmer, head of team and a solicitor at employment law and HR support firm WorkNest, tells us: “For people managers and HR, the Will Smith situation underscores the importance of employees behaving appropriately at work events. Poor conduct could not only damage the employer’s reputation but also leave you with the hangover of a potential disciplinary situation to contend with.
“If an incident occurs outside of the workplace or outside of normal working hours, but it’s at a place or time related to and connected with an individual’s employment, it could be considered to have happened ‘in the course of employment’.”
Farmer presents “five top tips for avoiding an Oscars-style calamity” in your workplace. Among them is: drawing up a code of conduct; reminding employees of drug and alcohol policies; and reminding employees that grievances should be raised with the appropriate line manager.
This is undoubtedly sound advice: after all inappropriate behaviour is not unknown at awards ceremonies and employees letting their hair down is often a source of acute discomfort to those in HR. In fact this writer was once the subject of a heinous attack in the form of a bread roll descending from a great height on to his head during a solemn presentation at the Grosvenor House hotel in London’s Park Lane. I’d like to clarify that at no stage had I made a joke about anyone’s wife – although some may remember more details of the incident than I do.
Beyond reach of HR
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Will Smith, because he was not an employee and is in fact a massive global movie star, felt able to act in a way that seemed appropriate to him at the time and that he was beyond the reach of HR, whose policies may not have been in the forefront of his mind at the time.
Rishi Sunak has also made a reference to the incident, in the context of being asked about his wife’s connections with business in Russia. The chancellor complained that his wife Akshata Murthy was not “fair game” following scrutiny over her shares in Infosys, jesting that at least he had not slapped anybody. Again, it’s quite likely that Sunak, and his wife, exist in a sphere beyond the reach of HR.
Watford is full of chat
I bet the Will Smith incident was the subject of a lot of chat in Watford. HR may indeed have had to step in that hidden gem of a town to further the cause of productivity. This was quite the revelation: Watford is the chattiest town for businesses in the UK, comfortably beating Macclesfield, Swindon and Bangor.
Research by CircleLoop, inevitably a cloud-based communications provider, has shown that southern businesses are chattier than northern ones, against all expectations, and that the Chilterns hotspot was chattier than anywhere else.
The company jauntily tells us: “Chatting really does make the world go round”.
According to the data, businesses in Watford have an average call duration of 1.8 minutes (108 seconds) and businesses claim 21% of all calls made in the area, making it the chattiest town overall in the UK. This means 1 in 5 calls made in the town over the last six months were made by chatty businesses.
Coming in close second to Watford is Macclesfield. Businesses in this Cheshire town claim 1 in 6 (16%) calls made in the town over the last six months and an average call duration of 1.7 minutes (104 seconds).
Very interesting …
The Chatterbox Matrix also finds that Swindon businesses spend the longest amount of time chatting over the phone despite fewer calls being made, talking for 2.5 minutes (150 seconds) on average. The town is very closely followed by Northern Irish town, Bangor in which business spend an average of 148 seconds chatting.
For Damian Hanson, co-founder and director of CircleLoop, said: “I think the call volume data is particularly interesting.”
Is it though? He adds that “seeing that a fifth of all calls in Watford are made by businesses is significant and a really positive sign that businesses big and small are bouncing back after a very challenging few years.”
It is good that we’re all chatting again as Covid recedes. But ignoring the fact this isn’t remotely true for a moment, let’s imagine we have become like birds in the spring, suddenly making lots of noise after the deathly quiet. Now if HR awards ceremonies go in the direction that Will Smith has taken them in, there will be plenty more to chat about in the coming year.
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