Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How to say no for the sake of your mental health

It’s nice to be there for other people but sometimes we can put ourselves under pressure by placing the needs of others before our own. This can lead to resentment, over-stretching and can even stop us from delivering the results we are truly capable of. Not only that, the constant demands on our time can adversely affect our mental health and well-being.

In a work situation, there may be situations, tasks – or people – that you really feel you can’t say ‘no’ to. These may change as you grow in age and experience, or with the length of time you have been with your employer. For example – a new recruit may feel uncomfortable turning down requests early on in their employment. The truth is that we all have a thing or two to learn about how to – politely – say ‘no’ to those tasks and activities we either haven’t got time for, or simply don’t want to do.

Know what you’ll say ‘yes’ to

It sometimes helps to be absolutely honest with yourself about those additional requests that you do feel able to help with. This will make it easier for you to say ‘no’ to those that fall outside of the parameters you’ve set yourself. What do we mean by this? It could be that you are happy to help your colleagues with ad-hoc requests that fall within your specialist area, but unwilling to help with general tasks when other team members could equally help out.

Acknowledge and appreciate why people turn to you

It is easy to feel put upon when people constantly ask you to complete additional tasks, especially when you find it difficult to say no. If this is the case for you, a good starting point to easing the stress you feel is to remember why people turn to you. Generally, we only ask favours of those we can trust to get the job done. We choose to seek help from those people with the capabilities to deliver great results on our behalf. So, however stressed out these additional requests make you feel, it always helps to start from a place of appreciation.

‘No’ doesn’t have to have negative connotations

This article from Psychology Today explains that all too often we associate the word ‘no’ with negativity when really it is just about us making a choice. It suggests we should take more power from saying ‘no’, as it helps us to establish and maintain boundaries and how we assess our own self-worth, in relation to the needs and desires of those around us.

Of course understating why people ask us to do things, and acknowledging what we will and won’t do, is only half the battle. Saying ‘no’ does get easier with practice and until we get more comfortable with saying ‘no’ when we need to, here are our two top tips:

Be direct

Say what you mean and give a short explanation why, for example: I can’t this week I have too much on; or I don’t think I’m the best person to do that. Don’t tell people you’ll think about it – that just prolongs the agony and adds to your stress – and try not to get involved in long conversations about it. The longer you chat, the more time the other person has got to persuade you to change your mind. Be polite, be firm and to the point.

Don’t apologise

Try not to apologise for your inability to take on the extra tasks. Recognise that by saying no you are placing a greater value on your own time, than you are on the needs of others. Remember too, that this is nothing personal – you are saying no to the task, not the person who asked and there’s no need to apologise for that.

The good news is that once you have got out of the negative cycle of agreeing to do everything that is asked of you, it becomes easier to say ‘no’. Not only that, people soon come to realise that you are more than happy to say ‘no’ and are more likely to explore other avenues of help and support before they come to you, as a result. It’s a win-win situation.

For more tips on how to say ‘no’, have a look at this blog post on PsychCentral

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Embracing the season of transformation

The autumn is here, and after an unusually hot summer, it’s easy to see the transformation that the changes of season impose on the nature around us. The leaves change colour, the nights draw in and we find more reasons to be indoors, rather than outside.

Transformation is a natural part of life and, much like the nature that surrounds us, humans are predisposed to want to reinvent themselves along with the seasons, as our needs and behaviours change. One of the areas that we often look to change, once the summer has bid us farewell, is our work or profession.

Autumn and the start of each New Year are the two times in the year when people are most likely to look to move on from their jobs. If you're not getting any joy from your job, read our previous blog post.

For some people, looking for transformation within their current job is a better option than looking for something completely new. But how easy is it to evolve and change in a job that you already hold? And how easy is it to grow beyond your current position into a role that gives you the fulfilment and joy that you seek?

Invest your time in learning a new skill

When you're already in employment, transformation will require time and effort – most probably on top of your day job. That given, you need to think carefully about where you direct your efforts. Start with identifying just one new skill that you’d like to master and tell your colleagues and manager what you're doing. It’s important that the people around you know about your plans - it could be that there are opportunities for you to develop these skills as part of your current job. And check out any resources that may be available to you – there are often free online resources that you can use to help you on your development journey.

Do your research and start networking

If you want people to see you differently in the future, now is the time to start strengthening your network. Use online tools and communities – such as LinkedIn – to join groups and conduct research into your professional area of interest. Follow leaders in the field and reach out to people already doing the job that you aspire to. Brand yourself for the job you want, rather than the role you currently have. Start networking with people in other industries and professions, people are usually all too happy to chat about their own career journey, so pick their brains and use the intelligence you gain to inform your own development. Whileat work, identifying and spending time with a mentor can be a really valuable tool in your transformation journey - read our previous blog post on finding a mentor.

Transforming yourself in an existing role is often much harder than finding a new job – people can pigeon hole you into a role and you may also feel constrained by your existing role - but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Just remember, every new skill you learn increases your value as an employee, so share your new-found knowledge and insight with your managers and co-workers so that they can make full use of your talents and learn to see you in a new light.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Workplace positivity – why it’s good for us

It’s positive thinking day today and while most people will appreciate the role that positivity has on our own mental wellbeing and performance at work, it’s also true that it can impact our physical health too.

What is positive thinking in the workplace?

Nobody is immune to the ups and downs of life – and in the workplace you can guarantee that we will be faced with things that challenge us every day. Positive thinking is not about ignoring all of the negative events that happen to us and those around us – it’s about the constructive ways in which we approach all situations we find ourselves faced with.

Positive thinking in the workplace means approaching negative events with a productive mindset - looking for solutions and holding close the belief that most things are temporary and can be overcome. When you convince yourself that the best is going to happen, not the worst, you will find that you are often right. How we think influences how we perceive the outcome.

Positive thinking starts within. We alone have the power to frame our thoughts so that they take on a positive or negative spin. Take a look around your office at your co-workers. The people with pessimistic outlooks on life will often find that the predominant thought patterns in their head are negative. Optimists adopt a cheerier outlook and approach to their work.

Research into the links between positive thinking and physical well-being are ongoing, however it’s fair to say that a positive outlook can deliver the following health benefits:

Blood pressure
A study involving postmenopausal women found that participants with a positive outlook experienced reduced blood pressure compared to those who were pessimistic about their condition.

Heart disease
Positive thinkers are less likely to experience heart disease compared to people with a tendency towards pessimism. Our hearts are sensitive to stress, which a positive outlook can help us manage.

Negative thought patterns dampen our immune system and leave us more likely to pick up common ailments, such as colds and infections like the flu. Positive thinkers have also been found to recover more quickly from surgery, and be better able to manage diseases like AIDS and cancer. 

The reasons why this is the case remain unclear. It is likely that the benefits positivity has on our mental wellbeing help us to reduce the harmful health effects that stressors can have on our bodies.

There is much we can do to boost our positive thinking in the workplace, such as practising gratitude and engaging in mindfulness exercises. It’s all about training our brains to pay attention to the positive things in our everyday lives, rather than dwelling on the negatives.

Negativity comes about when we over think things or issues are left to fester. When we deal with challenges head on, we don’t give them the opportunity to negatively impact on our thinking. If you're dealing with an issue that lies outside your control, make sure you share the burden – report it to your manager or your HR department. Complaining lies at the heart of negative thought patterns so deal with issues head-on so they don’t impact on your optimism and look for solutions that will work well for everyone.

If you're looking for ways to boost your own positive thinking, have a read of this Psychology Today blog post.

For more advice on how to manage your stress levels at work, read our blog post here > 

Ways to strike the right balance between work and family

Work can be pretty all consuming at times. Whether you love your job or do it for the money alone, work can have a nasty habit of creeping up on you so that you find yourself working at home and even answering work emails from your bed. While some people find it helpful to stay in contact with work when they have days / time off, it is not helpful to be permanently switched on for work so that you don't ever fully relax. Read our tips to how you can recalibrate the balance between your working and home life.

Stop the work nag

If you find that your mind is always running over your to-do list or worrying about work, sit down and try to isolate your thoughts. What thoughts are you having - give them names - I'm angry that my team is being put under pressure; I'm worried that I'll be found out for not doing a good job on that report; I'm scared I'll lose my job for not being good enough; I'm worried that if I don't agree to stay late, I'll be passed over for promotion, etc. Write them down and then let them go. Begin and end the process with focused breathing and imagine yourself floating away from work and those thoughts.

Take time to notice life outside of work

Take some time to focus on the details of life. What sounds do you hear on your way to work? Are there new buildings that you've never noticed because you're thinking about your day? Do you like them? What shape are they? Look at the other people you see - do they look happy, sad? How do you feel? Are you hot, cold, happy, sad? Take yourself out of your work related thoughts and try to focus on the immediate present. It's a good way of freeing your mind and allowing it time to process and relax.

Introduce a behaviour that separates work from home

If you struggle to switch off when you get home, try to do something symbolic that helps your mind adjust to the change. Leave your phone in the hall; don't switch on your home computer or tablet; perhaps get changed into more casual clothes;  or have an 'arriving home' healthy snack to celebrate the end of your day. Little things can be really helpful in getting your mind into a more relaxed place.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

You are what you say! The secrets to being likeable in the workplace

Given the amount of time we all spend at work, it is great when we enjoy what we do - and even better when we work with likeminded people who we get along with and enjoy being around.

When we work with people we like, the day passes by quicker and not only that, we tend to be more productive and also more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty.

So how do we become one of the co-workers that everyone else wants to work with? There are a number of traits and habits that you will see in your likeable work colleagues and with a bit of practice and perseverance it won’t be long before you become one of them!

Likeable people are good communicators

They ask lots of questions of their colleagues and seem genuinely interested in getting to know people beyond the job they do. They are the ones who remember birthdays and ask after your kids / dog.

Likeable people have a positive mindset

They’re the ones who rouse everyone else up when there’s an emergency or when the pressure is on. Rather than dwell on the negatives, likeable people see beyond challenges and focus on positive outcomes and they don’t wallow when things go wrong.

Likeable people are empathetic

They appreciate that everyone in the team has a job to do and they don't focus solely on their own results. They can sense when people are off their game and are the ones to offer support when they can see people in their team are struggling.

Likeable people have good manners

They understand the importance of a well-placed ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and are the first to congratulate their colleagues on a job well done. They also understand meeting etiquette and are careful not to speak for the sake of it.

Likeable people can take and give constructive criticism

They know that in order to develop and grow – and therefore succeed – you have to be willing to improve yourself and learn from your mistakes. When they give feedback, they do so in a way as to not antagonise their colleagues

So now we know the characteristics that likeable people share, what can we do to become more likeable with our colleagues? Here are some simple suggestions to start you off:

Avoid competition

If your work colleagues see you as a competitor, the barriers will go up and people will be reluctant to get close to you. Irrespective if how ambitious you are, try not to create a competitive work environment among your team mates or claim credit for successes that were more of a team effort.

Provide - and ask for - support

Helping others lies at the core of most humans’ psyche. It makes us feel wanted and needed, which then makes us feel better about ourselves. We are more likely to form strong relationships with colleagues who have shown their vulnerability, so don’t be afraid to ask for a favour from your colleagues or to reach out to offer support where it’s needed.

Skip the small talk

People can see past the superficial. Be prepared to scratch below the surface and start some real conversations – put the effort into getting to know them. Taking the time to learn more about the people you work with will make you a more likeable team mate.

Being liked at work won’t make you better at your job, but what it will do is make your time at work more enjoyable and that can only be a good thing. You can check out this blog at Business Insider Uk, for more tips on how to be more likeable.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Build some fun into your working day

Just because you're at work doesn't mean you can't have fun with your co-workers. We're not talking big nights out and team bonding sessions. Research has shown that workplace friendships are beneficial for productivity and office morale. Friends are more likely to share information and skills without being asked to do so and more likely to give each other a helping hand when the workload becomes too much. 

Here are some ideas for engaging with colleagues and having some fun while maintaining the professionalism necessary at work. 

  • Organise a 'dress down Friday'. Dress down Fridays are great for making people feel more relaxed and people tend to give away a bit more about themselves when they wear their own clothes.
  • Do a group activity during your lunch break or after work. Exercise is a good option as there is a clear structure while also allowing a chance for you to interact. Try to have some fun rather than be competitive - something like zumba is a good choice depending on the fitness of your colleagues. Bonding is the key here, not winning - it's all about the experience. 
  • Have lunch together once in a while. This doesn't have to be loads of work. You could each bring one item to share - bought or homemade, it doesn't matter. Or you could take it in turns to supply the food. The aim is to bring you all together over food. 
  • Would your work allow a visiting office dog? Having a pet around the place every now and again has been shown to boost wellbeing. 
  • Laugh together. Try and see the funny side at work and look for opportunities to laugh together. You could have a night out in fancy dress, sponsor your boss to wear something silly, or organise a night out to a comedy show, laughter is the best way to bring people together and will make you feel fantastic. 

Monday, 13 August 2018

Common workplace stressors

It’s National Relaxation Day this week which is all about taking the time to wind down and put the chaos of daily life on hold. One of the biggest stresses of modern day life is work, which can be problematic as we spend a huge proportion of our lives here. The good news is that by identifying what causes your stress you are better placed to manage it more effectively.

Here are four common causes of stress in the workplace:

Job ambiguity – poorly defined jobs with no procedures in place and ambiguous goals can lead to stress as it leaves us unsure of what we’re supposed to do and why we’re doing it.

Favouritism and inequality – unfair treatment at work can be a major source of stress. Often promotion, raises and other perks, which should be given to recognise and reward good performance, are based on favouritism and seniority. This is demotivating and leaves us wondering why we bother.

Politics and power – some organisations are inherently stressful because in order to get ahead they expect us to play the game and many of us just don’t want to. These organisations are often run by political game players who overlook hard working employees for power hungry individuals, and exist because of the above.

Punitive and bullying managers – bullying in the workplace is a major stressor.

Managing stress in a healthy way involves changing the situation itself or the way you react to it. These changes known as the four A’s involve avoiding the stressful situation or altering it, adapting the way you think about it or just accepting it.

In extreme cases, and if finances permit, it may be possible to avoid the situation by changing jobs. If this is not feasible, it may be worthwhile talking to your boss or HR department to ask for appropriate training as well as a clearly outlined job description. Managers could help alleviate stress by conducting formal appraisals of job performance to reduce favouritism and workplace politics. Leadership with good communication, care for employees and clear goals, without punishment or bullying is also vital in making the organisation a great place to work.