Thursday, 25 November 2021

Asking for a pay rise at work

Without a doubt, money worries are one of the greatest causes of anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues. A study undertaken by the Royal College of Psychiatrists showed that “one in four people with a mental health problem is also in debt”. Struggling to pay the rent or mortgage or keeping up with the household bills can be a huge burden, especially for the elderly or adults with children to provide for. If you are constantly trying to make ends meet, over time you could start to experience both physical and mental symptoms of stress such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep
  • Helplessness
  • Headaches or stomach problems
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Bouts of crying

All of this will not only make you feel physically and mentally unwell, but it can also affect you working to the best of your ability. You might even find it’s putting a strain on relationships with your family and friends.

If you’re employed, a pay rise might help you to resolve some of your immediate money worries. Although you might feel nervous about asking your manager for a pay rise, imagine how much weight it would take off your shoulders if they were to say yes! So, it’s definitely worth plucking up the courage to ask for a raise.

How to ask for a pay rise

If you want to start earning the salary you feel you deserve, there are several ways to go about it to ensure you stand a better chance.

1. Choose your timing well. If the company has just made redundancies for example, it might be an idea to wait a while.

2. Demonstrate your value. Gather as much evidence as you can that will prove your worth. Have you increased sales? Have you brought new clients on board? Have you taken on additional responsibilities? Also, let your boss know what you intend to achieve with the company in the future so they feel reassured that you won’t start resting on your laurels once you receive a raise.

3. Research your worth. It’s a good idea to do some prior research about how much professionals in the same industry and similar job roles earn.

4. Have a precise figure in mind. Don’t mention another colleague’s salary as this can be frowned upon. You might also want to request a figure slightly higher than what you’d really like, just so there’s some room for negotiation.

5. Prepare and practice the conversation beforehand, and try not to be apologetic when you ask for your pay rise.

Friday, 19 November 2021

How to set boundaries without upsetting your boss

Juggling a challenging job and workload with your personal life can often be a huge pressure. These days it seems to be the norm to 'work hard, play hard', yet this kind of pressure can be doing long-term damage to your health.

So when you're just about keeping your head above water and suddenly, you're expected to take on an even greater workload, how do you react? in the back of your mind, you might be thinking you're not earning enough money to take on this extra responsibility or you simply don't have enough hours in the day to get everything done. This can leave you feeling angry, resentful or stressed which is sure to impact your mental and physical wellbeing. A study published by The Lancet showed that "employees who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours".

Setting boundaries

Often we worry about saying no to additional requests from management for fear of losing our jobs or creating an unpleasant atmosphere in the workplace, so we continue to take on more work than we can realistically handle. Once work starts to impinge on our personal life or wellbeing, it's time to start setting boundaries.

Before you approach your boss, it's important to understand what your priorities are, such as enjoying precious family time and feeling physically and mentally healthy. This way when you do have to set boundaries, any feelings of guilt will have been diminished prior to the conversation.

A report published by Udemy shows that employee boundaries are often being crossed with 59% of managers feeling pressurised into working through their lunch breaks.

Don't respond in haste

If you've received an unreasonable request from your boss asking you to take on more work or to work longer hours, in the heat of the moment you could be tempted to reply in haste, especially if your stress levels are already high. however, it's important to consider the request before responding.

Arrange a one-to-one meeting with your boss so that you can discuss your current workload and explain how their request would impact your personal life and current workload. Also, if you offer an alternative solution, they could suggest that one of your colleagues takes over an existing project while you focus on the new task.

Be clear and polite

If you feel like you need to take some time to assess a situation or request, then do so. It's so important to respond in a polite manner while being firm and clear at the same time. If you want to offer an explanation, then that's fine but keep it concise.

Remember that by setting boundaries with your boss, you are respecting yourself and your feelings as well as protecting your mental wellbeing. And although you may fear a negative outcome. there's a good chance that your boss will also have more respect for you and be more considerate in the future when allocating tasks. In the long term this can lead to healthier and more authentic relationships in the workplace.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Dealing with remote bullying in the workplace

Lockdown saw many people having to work remotely and although there are some key benefits to working from home, it isn't without its troubles. Just because we aren't in physical contact with our bosses and colleagues, doesn't mean that bullying in the workplace has gone away.

Toxic behaviour, offensive language and threatening attitudes can still reach people remotely, whether that's via email, video calls or social media and when the bullying is coming from colleagues rather than strangers or acquaintances, it's not so easy to cut it off.

What is remote bullying

Remote bullying comes in many forms and sometimes you might not even realise that it's bullying behaviour, even though it has a profound effect on your mental health. If you've experienced any of the below, then you should think about whether you may have been on the receiving end of bullying.

  • Being excluded from social events, meetings, or important decision making
  • Offensive or intimidating language
  • Sexual or gender harassment
  • Gossip
  • Colleagues or management persistently criticising your work

This kind of bullying behaviour, even when it's done remotely, can have a serious effect on your mental health. Over time, it could start to affect your sleep patterns. Perhaps you're suffering from insomnia because you're feeling stressed or anxious and replay situations or conversations over in your mind. Or maybe the constant worry is causing you to have headaches and your self-confidence is at an all-time low.

Any form of bullying needs to be nipped in the bud. But it's not always that simple as you might fear that reporting the behaviour could lose you your job or create even more animosity among colleagues. A study carried out by Harvard Business Review prior to covid-19 found that 52% of remote workers felt excluded from decision making and that their colleagues were lobbying against them. While this was carried out by an American organisation, it is likely that following the recent large rise in homeworking in the UK, a similar study carried out in the UK would have similar findings. If you think you are being remotely bullied, ACAS has some helpful information on dealing with bullying and other problems at work. 

How to address bullying in the workplace

There are several ways for both the victim and the company to deal with workplace bullying. If you are the victim of bullying and you feel confident enough to resolve the issues with the bully directly, this could be an immediate solution. Sometimes they might not realise the distress that they are causing you and when confronted calmly, they might start to change their behaviour. However, if you don't feel that this is an option then you should speak to someone in HR, management, or your trade union representative (if you have one) who will then need to deal with the situation. You can also call the free National Bullying Helpline if you need advice and support from somebody not linked to your workplace.

All companies should have a procedures in place that prevent workplace bullying and protect their staff. If the complaint can't be initially dealt with informally, then further action must be taken. 

If you're an employer or manager, has a helpful article for employers tackling bullying of remote workers. 

There is also lots of helpful information on the UK government's website as well as on the ACAS website (link provided above). 

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Returning to work post lockdown

With furlough coming to an end, many people will be returning to the workplace and transitioning from working remotely post lockdown. Lockdown has affected people in many different ways, so it’s inevitable that there will be feelings of uncertainty surrounding this move back to a new normality.

Owing to the extreme fear and confusion that Covid-19 created, many people have suffered from mental health issues, which is totally understandable. Being kept away from close friends and loved ones, having to adapt to working from home or perhaps not working at all, and worrying about the consequences of catching Covid, is all a huge strain on both our mental and physical wellbeing.

How to stay healthy during the transition

Prior to returning to the workplace, it’s very likely you’re going to have some concerns, which may include:
  • How clean and safe is the environment?
  • Will people be social distancing?
  • Will I be able to concentrate in a busier environment?
  • How will I cope with a new routine?

These thoughts are quite normal but if you feel like you’re beginning to get overly concerned and it’s negatively affecting your mental wellbeing, there are things you can put in place to ease the worry and those feelings of anxiety and stress.

  1. Speak with your line manager and any colleagues who have already returned to work. They should be able to reassure you of all the safety procedures that are in place.
  2. Think about how going back to work will affect you regarding the commute times and the additional costs of this, and family commitments or responsibilities. If this is a concern, speak to your manager and see how they can help. They might allow for flexible working hours and have a car share or cycle-to-work scheme in place.
  3. Get yourself into a good daily routine. Go to bed early and get plenty of sleep. Allow plenty of time to prepare yourself before you leave for work and make time for a healthy breakfast. Perhaps you could work out at the gym, go for a swim, or enjoy a morning walk. These types of exercises will boost your mental alertness and energy levels to put you in a more positive mood. A study published by the National Library of Medicine showed that “participants in randomized clinical trials of physical-activity interventions show better health outcomes, including better general and health-related quality in life, better functional capacity and better mood states.”
  4. If you start to feel anxious once you’re back at work, try using a few coping methods to help you to stay calm. Practise breathing techniques or take a walk in the outdoors, both of which are great for helping you to relax, quieten the mind and focus.

If you still feel anxious, stressed or even depressed and it’s affecting your mental wellbeing, please seek professional advice.

You might also find these First Psychology resources helpful:

Thursday, 30 September 2021

How to manage highly sensitive employees

According to a study and the best-selling book by Dr Elaine Aron, there are 1.4 billion people worldwide that are highly sensitive, and the chances are, some of these people are your employees. This is also known as sensory processing sensitivity and means that a person is more physically, emotionally and mentally responsive.

While highly sensitive people can possess many positive traits such as conscientiousness and personal reflection, it can also lead to burnout. They may also have a constant need for reassurance which can be emotionally draining for other members of staff. Because of this you not only need to manage the person’s increased sensitivity but also the frustration it can cause other workers.

Although you may feel tempted to try and 'fix' a person’s sensitivity, it’s advised to put procedures in place that can manage these traits instead. Sensory processing sensitivity is not a disorder, but a characteristic that is quite normal.

Tips for managing highly sensitive employees

There are several ways that employers can help people who are highly sensitive. By recognising their strengths and understanding their emotional needs, you will also create a more positive work environment.

  1. Do some research and gain a better understanding of sensory processing sensitivity. This will help you to become more sympathetic to the needs of these employees and also help you to learn how to benefit from the value they can add to your company.
  2. Embrace diversity in the workplace and provide additional wellbeing support for all staff so that no-one feels stigmatised for their differences.
  3. Ensure you appreciate and praise your staff. Perhaps once a month send an email or call a meeting where you can personally thank and appreciate your team. Try to find one positive comment for every person so that it doesn’t appear all your attention is solely focused on those who are highly sensitive. 
  4. Offer stress-reducing activities inside or outside of work that will reinforce the importance of rest and relaxation. 
  5. Make sure staff take regular breaks throughout the day and try not to encourage the culture of working late every evening, which can cause both mental and physical exhaustion.
  6. Try to avoid certain triggers that are likely to cause stress such as continuously strict deadlines or excessive workloads. Highly sensitive people are more likely to struggle with these kinds of intense pressures and could find themselves emotionally and mentally drained. 
  7. Prevent gossip in the workplace as this behaviour can be damaging not only to someone who is highly sensitive but also to other members of staff in general. Make your staff aware that you are always available to listen to any problems that might arise so they won’t feel the need to discuss their issues with colleagues or anyone else. 

Friday, 24 September 2021

Why the work hard, play hard ethic is making you ill

Over the years, the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ has become increasingly common and is often mentioned by ambitious workers who want to reach the top while enjoying a socially active life at the same time. Social media certainly has a role to play in this kind of ethic as there is a constant need for people, particularly of the younger generations, to appear that they have it all.

A study by Lonnie W Aarssen and Laura Crimi, published in The Open Psychology Journal in 2016, tested the theory of ‘work hard, play hard’. The results found 'a conspicuous association between desire to work hard and desire to play hard'.

And these kinds of pressures can be extremely damaging to our mental and physical health as we over-exert ourselves both in and outside of work to present the illusion of having the perfect life. When we burn the candle at both ends, we could find ourselves suffering from a range of mental, emotional and physical disorders such as:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances
  • headaches
  • depression 
  • exhaustion

In the long run, the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic is not only bad for the company you work for but it’s also damaging to your health.

How can we have it all?

For those of you who still want to have it all: the high-profile job; the impressive bank balance; and the enviable social life, you can have all of this but be aware, it usually comes at a cost to your health and wellbeing. At some point in the future, something has got to give, so whether you cut back on your working hours or take a night off from the social scene, you need to make time for the simple things that let you recharge your batteries and avoid burnout.

  1. Take a holiday and totally switch off. It’s so important to get away from it all, whether it’s to an exotic location or even somewhere closer to home where you can escape the rat race and party scene. Make sure you turn on your out-of-office message so that you’re not disturbed and try to resist the urge to party all night just so that you can post your photos to social media.
  2. Know your breaking point and take a break before you reach it. Taking a break can take the form of many activities such as a walk among nature, 15 minutes of mindful meditation, or even getting lost in a great book. Just make sure whatever you choose to do, you aren’t thinking about work.
  3. Take a nap. You don’t have to be of a certain age to enjoy a cat nap and even a 20-minute snooze can replenish your energy levels and refresh the brain. Try not to sleep for much longer than this as it could affect your sleep patterns at night.
  4. Do some exercise. You might be thinking that exercise will make you even more tired, but a study published by Science Daily showed that regular exercise reduces fatigue and increases energy levels.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Dealing with a bad day at work

No matter how much you love your job or how competent you think you are, there will come a time when you have a bad day (or perhaps several for that matter). Whether you’ve sent an email intended for your colleague to your boss in error, you’ve missed an important deadline, or you’ve spilled a cup of coffee over your paperwork, one simple mistake can send your entire day spiralling out of control.

It’s often said that bad things come in threes and for some reason, the saying often comes true. But there’s probably a quite logical explanation for this; when something goes wrong that we weren’t expecting, it can completely knock us off kilter because we tend to panic in the moment. The moment we go into panic mode, our stress levels are raised and we start to attack future tasks with a more negative and haphazard mindset, thus creating more opportunity for things to go wrong.

The effects of having a bad day at work

Bad days are inevitably going to happen for everyone, so it’s really important not to allow them to impair your performance at work as too many bad days can lead to ongoing anxiety and stress. If we are living on our nerves on a day-to-day basis, over time this can lead to more serious issues that will affect our mental health and possibly even our physical health.

Increased levels of stress can play havoc with our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness, and it is often a contributing factor in raised blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. In an article published by Harvard Medical School, it states: "Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction."

Ways to deal with a bad day at the office (or any other place of work)

1. Let it go

One of the best ways to get over the stress of a disastrous working day is to clear your mind and let go of any negative feelings such as fear, anger or frustration. If you can, take some time out during the day to go for a walk so that you’ve dealt with any worries before you go home. Perhaps play some music as you walk making a conscious effort to listen to the lyrics and observe everything around you such as the local wildlife or something as simple as cloud formations.

2. Take deep breaths

As soon as we panic when something goes wrong, the adrenalin starts to flow, and our heart rate increases. The moment you feel your mind and body go into panic mode, take long, slow, deep breaths. By focusing on your breathing, you will soon start to feel more relaxed and more prepared to deal with the situation calmly and with a clear mind.

3. Find a distraction

When your nerves are on end it might seem easier said than done to focus on your breathing, so try to get away from the situation where you can distract your mind. Or even find a distraction once you are at home – maybe get stuck into a good book, cook yourself a nice meal or watch one of your favourite comedies that makes you laugh out loud.

4. Talk to a friend

Often, we don’t deal with bad days very well because we bottle up our thoughts and emotions in order to look like we’re in control. But it is okay to release these negative feelings, so meet up with a close friend and talk about the situation. They might even help you put things into perspective and see the brighter side of things.