Friday, 25 September 2020

The benefits of introducing nature into the worklpace

The benefits of being surrounded by nature has been lauded by scientists and medical professionals for many years. According to the charity Mind, immersing yourself in nature can help to combat stress, anxiety, and low confidence. Any workplace setting can cause employees to experience different levels of stress, and some more so than others. Discover how introducing elements of nature into the workplace can benefit individuals, groups, and the entire workforce.

Hello green fingers, goodbye blues

A study led by Dr Masahiro Toyoda, specialist in horticultural therapy at the University of Hyogo in Japan revealed that three minute 'nature breaks' could improve the mental health of employees. These breaks would consist of simply looking at a plant and tending to the plant in an office environment. This type of break was particularly beneficial to employees that felt tired during the working day. The study used the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory index (STAI) which measures levels of anxiety. It was found that employees that chose their own plant and cared for it at intervals during the day would see decreased levels of anxiety.

Natural elements in office design shown to improve quality of work

It isn’t just the introduction of real plants that can help employees to relax and perform better, and research featured in the Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that images of nature also have an impact. In a study entitled '40-Second Green Roof Views Austain Attention: The Role of Micro-Breaks in Attention Restoration', the results of viewing two different types of image showed significant findings. Participants of the study were shown either city rooftop scenes of over-flowing plants and greenery, or images of bare city rooftops and were then asked to complete a task. The participants that viewed the green scenes made less mistakes and responded better to the demands of the task than those that were only exposed to the concrete roofs. It’s thought that by including nature scenes, either on television screens in offices, or in permanent décor such as 'living walls', employees experience an increased positive response to tasks.

The sounds of success

The sounds of nature, such as rainforests and rippling streams, have long been used to help people fall asleep, but what if these types of sounds not only help you feel relaxed, but can improve the quality of your work? Apparently, it isn’t only the sight of nature that can improve productivity and mood, but according to researchers, the sounds of nature have also been shown to result in a better work environment. According to Science Daily, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York believe that the sound of a mountain stream in offices can elevate mood and productivity. Installing water features in offices or playing the soothing sounds of lapping waves or flowing streams could be a wise move for employers wanting a calmer work environment.

The Royal Horticultural Society and NHS partnership

With so many health benefits associated with nature and plants, it is no wonder that the RHS and NHS have formed a partnership to encourage people to invite more greenery into their lives. Find out more about this partnership by visiting The RHS website.


What is your working environment like? Could you introduce any images or sounds of nature?

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Tips for avoiding loneliness when you’re working from home

If you’re new to the concept of working from home, the idea can be initially exciting. Imagine, no colleagues to distract you and being able to turn up to your new workplace (home) in your PJs. Not to mention, only needing to do a tea/coffee run for yourself. However, although there are some obvious perks to working from home, there’s one rather drastic downside – feeling lonely. Owing to health and safety measures brought about by the current COVID-19 pandemic, many more employees are now working from home.

Working alone can inevitably lead to feelings of loneliness, but there are measures you can take to minimise these feelings. Here, we take a look at what can cause loneliness while working from home, and what steps you can take to alleviate these feelings.

The importance of social interaction

We often forget that the workplace can also provide social interaction, even if it’s just to gossip about what you’ve been up to over the weekend. Even those colleagues you don’t consider to be friends can provide a break from the monotony of the working day. The physical detachment associated with working from home can become a concern in the long term as you become isolated from physical and social contact. Although it may not be noticeable at first, this detachment can lead to poor mental health for those that aren’t used to being so alone on a daily basis.

An article written by Dr Vivek H Murthy that was published in the Harvard Business Review suggested that loneliness and social isolation have a significant impact on our health:

“Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

Although shocking, this information is important to acknowledge to help people understand the importance of taking action against loneliness. Research suggests there are three main areas of loneliness intervention:

  • Identifying the individual experience – are they lonely or isolated?
  • Self-awareness and self-involvement in organising activities to prevent loneliness
  • The importance of group interventions alongside potentially further insight into individual activities.


How can we prevent loneliness when working from home?

Get organised

One of the most significant changes you can make to ensure you don’t find working from home lonely is to organise your time. This means assigning office hours to your homeworking and making plans to socialise once your working day is over.


Flexible workspaces

One of the simplest ways to feel less isolated now that lockdown restrictions are easing is to choose a social workspace. This could be a library, café, at the home of a colleague or a designated work-hub where you can hire a desk for the day. Just being in a peopled environment can help you feel more connected to the outside world and you will also have the opportunity to interact with others.


Set up a workplace chat room

When you work from home while others are working from the office, it can be easy to feel out of the loop. One way to stop this happening is by having a chat room that colleagues check into each morning. This is better than email as it is less formal and can be used for lunchtime video calls and to send fun messages to each other at less busy times of day. Suggest a chat room to your manager and explain how feeling connected to your colleagues can really help avoid loneliness when working from home. Make plans to meet up with colleagues at the end of the week to socialise and connect, at a distance, of course.


Break up the working day

Just as you would take breaks during the working day, do so while working at home. Arrange to meet a friend for lunch, or, if this isn’t possible, arrange a facetime session or even just a regular phone call. Be proactive with your break times and make sure you have the option to connect with someone, be it virtually or in person.


Get a pet

When you have a cat or a dog, there is limited opportunity to feel lonely. A pet can provide the physical connection you need and stroking a cat or a dog can actually help with other negative feelings such as stress and anxiety. If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider borrowing a friend’s and enjoy the company as you work from home. Having a dog is also a great excuse to get away from your desk and take a walk which can help you connect with others, especially if you arrange meet-ups with fellow dog walkers.


The NHS has some great advice about how to cope with loneliness and tips on how to get help if you become overwhelmed by it.



Thursday, 30 July 2020

Working with ADHD

Without the appropriate adjustments and strategies, work can soon turn into a nightmare for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, with the right tools and support, people with ADHD can use their traits to their advantage and become happier employees.

How can ADHD affect people in the workplace?

It’s important to note that everyone with ADHD is different and will have different experiences of things. However, in their guide for employers, the Scottish ADHD Coalition asserts that there are both benefits and potential difficulties to presenting with ADHD.

Benefits include:
  • Attention to detail
  • Spontaneity and flexibility
  • Being motivated by shorter deadlines
  • Being extremely focused on tasks they are particularly interested in
  • Having boundless energy

The difficulties associated with ADHD are found within the symptoms, which are:
  • Lack of organisation
  • Being easily distracted
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Impulsiveness – acting without thinking
  • Hyperactivity – although adults are usually less active than children with ADHD

This is by no means a definitive list of symptoms, and people with ADHD may experience some, or all of these symptoms.

What causes the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD can exist as a condition on its own, but more often than not, it presents alongside other conditions. These include autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. The ADHD Foundation describes the condition as “... A neurodevelopmental condition affecting brain structure and neurotransmission”. Simply put, this means that a person with ADHD processes information differently and that different areas of the brain are stimulated when this information is processed.

How can employers support staff with ADHD at work?

Besides it being a legal requirement for employers to recognise ADHD as a disability under the 2010 Disability Act, it is sensible for an employer to learn how to support their employee to ensure they are happy and productive.

Some steps to supporting staff with ADHD include:

  • Researching ADHD so you have a better understanding. 
  • Having conversations with the individual – they will undoubtedly have insight into their condition which can help you put measures into place to support them.
  • Agreeing to flexible start and finish times to avoid your employee being punished if they can’t stick to specific times.
  • Using visual prompts such as calendars and charts for upcoming tasks and the order they need to be done.
  • Installing larger or duplicate screens, if working with computers, so information can be clearly seen without the need to memorise lots of information.
  • Providing instructions in written form rather than verbal.
  • Allowing for regular breaks, especially during long meetings.
  • Offering your employee regular review meetings and the opportunity to discuss their needs when required.
  • As those with ADHD can be easily distracted, provide a private work area if possible, with as little noise and unnecessary visual distractions as possible. If this is not possible in your line of work, headphones or earplugs could be beneficial.


How do I approach my employer about ADHD support in the workplace?

If you are starting a new job, or you aren’t receiving the support required, approach the matter with your manager or employer as soon as possible. You may already know what kind of support you need such as being permitted to wear headphones, or to take regular breaks to stretch and walk around. If not, do your homework so you can explain to your employer what you require and what information you have found on how this could be implemented. Your employer should be aware of their responsibilities, but if they aren’t, then they need to act upon them as soon as they do become aware. Show them the Employer's guide to ADHD produced by the Scottish ADHD Coalition as this may help them understand what they can do to support you at work. 


Visit the Scottish ADHD Coalition website >


Thursday, 2 July 2020

Why we should talk about wellbeing at work

There has perhaps never been any other time than the present when the world has been so united in crisis. Wellness at work has been a much-discussed topic for some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of people whose mental health may be affected by the work environment. With workplaces in Scotland likely to open up in the coming months, we need to talk about the new and existing issues surrounding wellness in the workplace. 

What is wellness?

Although the term 'wellness' has been around for some time, it may not be clear to everyone exactly what it is. Wellness can be described as adopting a proactive approach to encourage a healthier life – both physically and mentally. It is an all-encompassing state of health, rather than merely an absence of illness.

Why does wellness matter?

A healthy mindset is essential in order to reach your full potential and to experience a better quality of life. Factors like stress, depression, anxiety, and fear have a negative impact on how we live. Wellness helps people to realise why they are feeling these emotions and symptoms, and how to deal with them in a sensible, healing way.

Why does wellness matter at work?

We may presume that a happy workforce makes for a more productive workforce and that people who are unhappy, depressed, anxious, or become physically ill because of mental health issues are less likely to have a great attendance record. And this is backed up by a number of studies which have indicated that money spent on staff wellbeing is money well spent as it improves productivity and reduces absenteeism. 

And on a more personal level, as an employer you should want your employees to feel comfortable and happy at work.

Why do we need to talk about wellness at work?

Mental health training is not a significant part of the induction process or continuing professional development for a large proportion of line managers in the UK. This is extremely surprising considering that the Department of Health has declared mental ill health to be the biggest cause of disability in the UK. With so few employers prioritising mental health, it is imperative that business owners, managers and employees not only talk about wellness, but encourage and implement strategies to promote it.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed even further stress on the workplace with employees concerned about their safety as they work alongside others. Healthcare professionals and care workers have already been working in environments of high risk and need to be able to express their concerns and have them alleviated as much as possible. Those returning to work after being furloughed will also need reassurance that suitable measures have been put in place before their return.

Some of these essential measures, such as social distancing and regular sanitisation, may change the work dynamic, making work a less sociable environment. These changes, although necessary, could also be the cause of anxiety and stress if they are not implemented properly.

How can wellness be promoted at work?

There are many ways in which an employer can make it easier for employees and colleagues to benefit from wellness:

  • Make Covid-associated guidelines and procedures clear for all employees, preferably before they return to work.
  • Allow for homeworking if possible.
  • Allow for flexible working if possible so the workforce isn’t forced to commute during peak times.
  • Give employees opportunity to voice their concerns via online meetings, email or over the phone.
  • Give regular updates on procedures and guidelines.
  • Make the workplace a pleasant place to be with designated break areas (in-line with Covid guidelines).

Some of these physical alterations are applicable beyond the Covid crisis. For example, homeworking and flexible working can relieve unnecessary stress for all manner of employees such as those with disabilities or illnesses exacerbated by travel, and for those with childcare difficulties. It is important to create a culture where employees feel able to make requests concerning their working patterns without the fear of being negatively affected. 



Wednesday, 17 June 2020

How to grow your self esteem and start taking risks at work

Some might consider this a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ scenario. Which comes first? Do we grow our self esteem prior to taking risks or do we take risks to grow our self esteem? Well, if the truth be known, a little bit of both can work wonders.

I hear you saying “I’m too scared. What if it all goes wrong.” But you’ll never know what is possible until you do take risks. But, okay, let’s work on improving your confidence first.

For whatever reason, many people lack self esteem and this can act as a huge barrier when trying to progress in all areas of our lives, including work. When we lack self confidence, it can leave us with negative emotions, which can influence the path we map out for ourselves in life. Too often we opt for the easiest or simplest route as we are too afraid of failure, anxiety, and stressful situations, but does that make us truly happy? A recent study undertaken by My Confidence Matters revealed that women are affected most by the lack of confidence and it is holding them back from moving forward in their jobs.

Sometimes we lack self esteem because of past relationships, and how people have treated us in our past can have a huge effect on how we treat ourselves. Just remember that whatever other people tell you or say to you isn’t always the truth, so you shouldn’t let it dictate how you see yourself.

5 tips for improving self confidence

1. Be kind to yourself. You know that you have positive qualities and skills, they just seem to go unnoticed. Remind yourself every day – write things down or just say them to yourself – about everything you like about yourself. It might seem difficult to begin with but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll start to find more and more things that you love. Don’t forget that when you run yourself down, your body and mood are negatively affected and likewise when you recall all your good points, your body and your mood improve.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Remember that everyone is different and has their own unique traits, qualities, and skills. Not everything is always as it seems – some people are just much better at ‘bigging’ themselves up than others. This doesn’t mean you have to go around telling everyone how great you are but if you believe in yourself, then this will show in your demeanour and attitude and you’ll find that people will start to think differently about you when they see that you feel confident about yourself.

3. Surround yourself with people who boost your self esteem rather than knock it down. If you don’t already have friends or family who you can rely on, try to find a new support network. Mind has lots of peer support and Elefriends is an online community where you can meet like-minded people wanting to support each other.

4. Set yourself challenges.  Challenges will help you take steps towards growing your self esteem. For example, learn a new skill such as a language, take up a sport or do something creative and you’ll see just how amazing it feels to achieve something, no matter how small.

5. Set yourself some work goals. Make a list of all the things you’d like to achieve at work, prioritise them, and then break them down into smaller goals. If you’d like to go for a promotion at work, what steps could you take to achieving your goal?
  • Show initiative by taking on a small task without checking in with your manager first. Most bosses like to see an employee using their initiative.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills by perhaps asking a colleague to undertake a part of your project that you feel their skillset would be better suited to.
  • Speak up in meetings. Don’t be afraid to offer your opinions and accept that not everyone will agree with what you have to say but it doesn’t matter so long as they give your thoughts some consideration.
  • Is there something in the company that you feel could be done better? If so, why not address it and offer a solution to the problem. Problem solvers are often looked upon favourably.

Once you start taking small steps, the more your self esteem will begin to grow and you’ll become less afraid to take risks. Remember, not everything will always go your way or work out how you want it to but it’s having the confidence to do it anyway and not letting the outcome affect who you are that’s important.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Supercharge your performance at work

Whether you’ve just started a new job, or you’ve been in the same one for a long time, there'll be times when you feel lacking in motivation or you’re not achieving your goals. This can have a negative impact on how you feel about yourself, therefore, affecting your wellbeing. Ongoing stress or feelings of inadequacy can leave us feeling tired, anxious and even depressed.

Ways to supercharge your performance

So, what can we do to get our spark back and find the motivation to do better at work?

Listen to music

Many places of work allow their employees to listen to music either in the place of work or through headphones. Research undertaken by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information has demonstrated that instrumental music can improve your attention and increase productivity.

Stay healthy

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that eating healthily and keeping physically fit helps our bodies and minds deal with stress better. There are certain types of foods that can improve our focus and boost our mental energy. Water, fish, seeds, berries and vegetables are great brain foods which will aid concentration.

Get plenty of sleep

Although it might be tempting to get as much sleep as you can, too much sleep can almost be as detrimental to our health as not getting enough sleep. It’s important that we do get quality sleep though, so there are a few measures you can take to help with getting a good night’s sleep:

Make sure your bedroom is dark at night.

  • Don’t drink too much before bedtime.
  • Don’t watch television or look at a screen for an hour before you go to bed.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try to get between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night.

Keep learning

No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are in your line of work, there is always something new to learn. Many employers will pay for staff training so long as it is beneficial for your job, so consider a course that will add to your skillset and knowledge.

Visualisation

This is a great way to focus and help you achieve your goals at work. Whenever you visualise situations with positive outcomes, you're creating neural pathways in your brain that will help you achieve your goals in the future. Find out more about the impact of visualisation on the brain in this study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.

Meditation

Practising meditation daily, either at home or in your lunch break at work, can increase levels of concentration which, in turn, will make us much more productive in the workplace. Meditation can also help us cope better with stressful situations, so we worry less and become happier, therefore improving our working relationships with others.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Staying positive through collaboration

There are many aspects to creating a successful work environment, but research shows that collaboration can play a huge part. A study undertaken by researchers at Stanford University in 2014 found that collaboration (even when physically apart) generates higher levels of engagement as well as a higher success rate. It seems even just feeling part of a team working towards a common goal is enough to increase interest, enjoyment and productivity in the task. 

Why is collaboration important in the workplace?

There are several reasons why collaboration plays an important part within any business:

  1. Firstly, it can reduce monotony. While some people might prefer to work alone, it’s beneficial to work with others on certain occasions to reduce the tedium and repetitiveness. It can be easy to fall into a habit of wanting to work alone but in the long run this can lead to boredom, apathy and a lack of motivation. If you continue to work alone for long periods of time, it could begin to affect your mental wellbeing and positivity.
  2. When working alone, you are also less likely to challenge yourself as it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Working collaboratively with colleagues can ignite healthy competition, which means you will push yourself harder to achieve results, and this will also give you a greater sense of achievement.
  3. Working in a team is a great way to inspire each other. Activities such as brainstorming can spark your imagination and make you think in more positive ways. When you’re inspired, you begin to feel more motivated, passionate and positive about the task at hand.
  4. Working alongside others also allows you to share the burden of your job. Whether that’s talking about your worries or being able to delegate a task to someone who’s better equipped to do the job, it will certainly lighten the load and ease some of the pressure. With less to worry about, you’ll start to have a more positive outlook.
  5. Another benefit of working collaboratively is being able to share your knowledge. Unlike working alone, you can teach each other new skills that you wouldn’t have otherwise gained. This can save you a lot of time trying to figure something out for yourself and by sharing systems, you’ll start to see much more positive results. This is not only advantageous for the company your work for, it’s good for your own development too.
  6. There’s nothing better than experiencing a positive team spirit that not only brings everyone closer together on a work level, but also on a more personal level too. You can help each other to remain focused and positive during challenging times and offer support when it’s needed. Also, you can share the success with your colleagues and feel proud of being part of a team.