Thursday 18 April 2024

Rejuvenate the Workforce with an Office Spring Clean

As the season of spring progresses, it brings with it a fresh energy and a sense of renewal. While many consider spring cleaning as an activity solely meant for households, its benefits extend far beyond just tidying up our living spaces. In fact, embracing a spring-cleaning mindset within our workplaces can have a transformative impact on our mental wellbeing.

A study undertaken by Elizabeth (Libby) J. Sander et al, showed that “our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behaviour, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”

Reasons for spring cleaning the office

To create a positive environment  
A cluttered and disorganised workspace can negatively impact our mental state, leading to increased stress, reduced concentration and decreased creativity. On the other hand, a clean and organised work environment helps maintain a positive mindset, promoting a sense of calm and clarity. By dedicating time to deep clean our workplaces each spring, we can create a physical space that supports our overall mental wellbeing.

To support productivity
An untidy workspace not only hinders our ability to focus but also wastes valuable time as we struggle to locate essential items and documents. Spring cleaning provides an opportunity to declutter and organise our workspace, enabling us to work more efficiently. Removing unnecessary items and organising essential supplies helps streamline our workflow, reducing distractions and saving time. By dedicating a little effort to spring cleaning, we are investing in our mental wellbeing and enhancing our productivity.

To help reduce stress levels
A cluttered environment can contribute to heightened stress levels. In contrast, a clean workspace promotes a sense of calm, reducing mental and emotional burdens. The act of spring cleaning allows us to let go of physical and mental clutter, resulting in reduced anxiety and a lighter state of mind. Additionally, cleaning can be a therapeutic process in itself, providing a sense of accomplishment and control over our surroundings. Through regular 'spring-cleaning', we can proactively manage stress in the workplace, leading to increased mental wellbeing.

To boost collaboration and team spirit
A neglected and disorganised workspace can hinder communication and collaboration among team members. Engaging in spring cleaning as a team, can help colleagues bond over a shared task, building a sense of camaraderie and unity. Collaborating on cleaning tasks helps develop stronger relationships, breaks down hierarchies and encourages open communication. A clean and inviting workspace also presents a positive image to clients and visitors, reinforcing a sense of professionalism and instilling confidence in the organisation.

To maintain a clean and healthy environment
An unclean workplace can harbour germs, allergens and other potential health hazards. This is especially crucial considering the current global climate, which highlights the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. Regular spring cleaning allows us to remove dust, allergens and bacteria, providing a healthier working environment for everyone. A clean workspace also signifies the value we place on our health and the health of those we work with.

Spring cleaning the workplace is not just a physical activity but also an essential practice to nurture our mental wellbeing. By creating a cleaner and more positive environment, we lay the foundation for a harmonious and fulfilling work experience. As we spring into action, we can harness the transformative energy and invest in the wellbeing of our working environment.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Managing Parenthood and Full Time Employment

Gone are the days when women were expected to stay at home to look after the children while the man went out to work. Not only is the nuclear family no longer the ‘norm’, but many parents aspire to being successful in both their career and parenthood.

Whether you’re a single parent or in a relationship, juggling parenthood and full-time employment can certainly be tricky, and exhausting, at times. If you continue to struggle with the pressures of work, household chores, and looking after young children, you might start to suffer from anxiety, overwhelm and stress, which will eventually lead to burnout.

Not everyone finds the pressures of managing a successful career and parenthood a walk in the park. Juggling all the responsibilities of full-time employment and raising children can leave very little time for relaxation or social activities.

Because many of us want to appear as if we have everything under control and we worry what our boss or colleagues might think of us if we show any signs of struggling, we continue in silence and avoid asking for help.

Nowadays, companies have a responsibility to assist working parents and offer alternatives for their work situation. Being unable to work overtime due to parental responsibilities, for example, shouldn’t mean that you can’t do your job properly during normal working hours.

Ways you can lighten the load

  • Ask your manager for flexible working hours. If you discuss your situation with management, they may help you devise a plan that will assist you, such as working from home a couple of days a week. Lunch time and the time you’ll save from commuting could free up much-needed time where you could perhaps catch up on some household chores.
  • If your workload is unmanageable and it starts to eat into your home life, speak to your boss about how they can help. Maybe they can allocate some of your tasks to a colleague or extend the deadlines.
  • If you’re in a relationship, ensure you share parental responsibilities. Perhaps one of you can focus on the morning routine while the other takes care of the evening routine. That way it can relieve some of the pressure for both of you. 
  • Be more organised. We often get stressed because we don’t have any plans in place so the morning rush seeing to the kids and yourself and getting to work can seem frenzied. Make a plan the night before of what you need to do, or even prepare things such as packed lunches, PE kit, changing bag etc. You could even make meals in a slow cooker to save time when you get home from work.
  • Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. Try not to compete with other parents who might have more free time than you. There’s no pressure to bake the best cakes for the school fayre or volunteer for the parent’s committee! Although they might be nice to do, decide whether or not they are priorities.
  • Make time for yourself either alone or as a family. When you do more of what you enjoy, your mental wellbeing will be in much better shape, meaning you’re more able to cope with any challenges and tasks that lie ahead. You might want to consider recruiting a childminder, friend or family member so that you enjoy some much-needed time off.

Monday 26 February 2024

Why Managers Should Make Themselves a Priority

In most industries, the role of management can be very demanding owing to the extra responsibilities not only for the company itself, but also the employees within the company. It might mean working additional hours, undertaking courses to improve, or hitting demanding targets. Often we forget that managers face difficult challenges on a daily basis and that they are still humans who may also experience mental health issues.

People in management positions can also feel intense pressure to appear strong, resilient, decisive and trustworthy at all times so that employees respect them. So, what happens when someone in management experiences anxiety, stress or even depression? They might feel that they can’t be seen to be ‘weak’ or buckling under pressure, which in turn could make any mental health issues they have more intensified.

“Put your own oxygen mask on before you help others”

You’ve probably heard this saying many times before if you’ve ever travelled on a plane, but the same philosophy can also be applied in this situation. While managers must take on the responsibility for employees’ wellbeing, it’s vital that they make themselves a priority before helping others. If they themselves are feeling drained and exhausted, then they’re unable to perform their role to the best of their abilities, which includes supporting others.

Ways managers can prioritise their mental wellbeing

  • Increase their skills and knowledge on mental wellbeing in the workplace. Not only will this equip managers to assist their employees. but it will also help them understand what they can do to look after themselves.
  • Recognise their own symptoms. Leaders are so busy trying to ensure everyone else is okay that they forget to notice when they show symptoms of mental health issues themselves. By looking out for signs of stress and reaching out to someone outside of the workplace, they can admit if they’re struggling and put practices into place. Early warning signs can include anxiety, poor sleep, weight change and intensified emotions. 
  • Make time for exercise. Although most managers have a busy schedule, they should always make time for some form of physical exercise. Whether it’s going to the gym for an hour before work, taking a walk outside at lunchtime or even cycling to and from work, exercise can help stave off insomnia and symptoms of stress and depression. A study published by Science Direct concluded that “stress and the social situation at work are strongly linked to disturbed sleep and impaired wakening…and the inability to stop worrying about work during free time may be an important link in the relation between stress and sleep.”
  • Confide in others. It's important for managers to ensure they have someone they can confide in about their worries whether it’s a trusted friend, family member, coach or mental health professional.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Working longer hours often causes people to neglect their diet, so they snack on convenience foods and spend less time preparing healthy meals. But the extra pressure of a busy schedule is even more reason to look after your physical health as well as your mental health. There are plenty of websites that feature healthy recipes that can be rustled up in no time, and foods such as fruit, nuts, raw vegetables and yoghurts are great for snacking on during work hours.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Why Truth Matters at Work

Many workplaces are complex environments where we spend a significant portion of our lives. Therefore, working with people that we trust is of great importance as it directly impacts both employee wellbeing and the overall culture of the workplace. By understanding why truth matters at work, we can appreciate its positive effects on our mental health.

Trust and transparency 

Truth acts as the cornerstone of trust within work environments. When employees feel they can rely on the information communicated to them, it strengthens their trust in leaders, colleagues and the organisation as a whole. 

A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that “employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”

Psychological safety

This term refers to an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas and being their authentic selves. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that truthful workplace communication encourages psychological safety, leading to higher levels of employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction. Honest interactions instil a sense of psychological safety by removing the fear of repercussions, allowing employees to think freely, and contributing to a positive work atmosphere.

Reducing stress

Work places that champion truthful and honest communication contribute to lower levels of stress among employees. When information is accurate and transparent, employees feel more in control of their work environment, resulting in reduced anxiety and improved overall mental health.

Meaningful relationships 

Honesty plays a key role in building meaningful relationships among colleagues. When we consistently speak truthfully, it gives us a sense of respect and openness and allows us to build trust and understanding with one another. Honesty at work also lets us collaborate more effectively and be more productive.

Ethical leadership

A commitment to truth also inspires the development of ethical leadership within organisations. Ethical leaders prioritise honesty and integrity, exerting a positive influence on their employees and creating a culture of trust. Employees who perceive their management as honest and truthful are more likely to have greater job satisfaction, motivation and emotional wellbeing. Truthful leadership sets the tone for the entire organisation, positively impacting employee experiences and performance.

In today's ever-evolving digital environment, the importance of truth shouldn’t be overstated. From honest and transparent communication to protecting the health and wellbeing of all members of staff, truth at work is vital for both personal and organisational success. By embracing truthfulness as a core value, we can create a culture that empowers employees, enhances job satisfaction and ultimately leads to a more fulfilled workforce.

Friday 12 January 2024

Overcoming Workplace Mistakes

Making mistakes is all part and parcel of being human and an inevitable part of professional life, especially when we’re feeling under pressure or trying to juggle too many things in our live. However, when not handled appropriately, these mistakes can adversely impact our wellbeing. Through undertaking effective strategies and methods to overcome mistakes at work, we can maintain mental wellbeing and advance our personal growth.

Understanding the psychological impact

When we make mistakes at work it can trigger a range of negative emotions, such as guilt, shame and self-doubt. These emotions, if left unaddressed, can have a detrimental effect on our overall wellbeing and may cause stress, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. By taking a proactive approach in dealing with our mistakes, we create an environment that encourages growth rather than self-punishment.

1. Acceptance and ownership

Before we can overcome our mistakes it’s important to acknowledge and accept them. By recognising our errors and taking ownership, we free ourselves from the burden of denial. Rather than blaming others or making excuses, we should embrace our mistakes as learning opportunities. In a study by the International Journal of Educational Research, it was found that: “A workplace culture of learning from mistakes stands to maximise them as effective learning experiences”.

2. Self-compassion

Self-compassion plays a vital role in how we deal with our own mistakes. When we treat ourselves with kindness and understanding, we cultivate a sense of emotional resilience. Self-compassion emphasises the importance of recognising that mistakes are a normal part of being human. Practising self-compassion involves reframing negative self-talk, avoiding self-criticism and offering ourselves the same kindness we would give to others.

3. Effective communication

Addressing our mistakes requires open and effective communication with colleagues and managers. By taking responsibility for our errors and offering solutions, we can rebuild trust and credibility. Open and honest communication is a crucial component of building relationships, both personally and professionally. Timely and transparent communication can prevent misunderstandings, improve collaboration and create a more supportive workplace culture.

4. Seek feedback and learn

Another aspect of overcoming mistakes at work is listening to constructive feedback from colleagues and supervisors. Feedback provides valuable insight into areas where we might need improvement and it allows for personal and professional growth. When we receive positive feedback, it triggers the brain's reward system, enabling us to process information effectively and improve our emotional and mental wellbeing. When we accept feedback as a means of growth, rather than as a criticism, it encourages us to strive for improvement.

5. Set realistic goals

By setting ourselves realistic goals at work, we can avoid certain mistakes and any stressful aftermath they may cause. When we set clear expectations and achievable objectives, we can minimise the likelihood of recurrent errors which in turn will reduce stress and anxiety. Setting goals also provides us with a greater sense of purpose and increases our motivation, which leads to improved performance and job satisfaction.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Coping with Authority at Work

In today's fast-paced and competitive business world, authority and hierarchy are commonplace. While authority is necessary for maintaining order and achieving organisational goals, the dynamics between individuals and those in positions of power can often impact mental health. How we deal with authority at work is a crucial aspect of preserving our mental wellbeing.

Understanding the impact of authority on mental health

The relationship between authority figures in the workplace and employees is multifaceted. Research has shown that negative experiences with authority figures, such as team leaders, line managers and directors, can contribute to stress, burnout, anxiety and even depression. The presence of a strict hierarchy can intensify these issues, leading to a range of negative issues, such as:
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger
  • Resentment

It’s important to recognise the power dynamics within the workplace, as feelings of powerlessness or inequity can significantly impact an individual's emotional wellbeing. Also, excessive control and micromanagement can create a toxic work environment that negatively affects motivation, creativity and overall job satisfaction.

Coping strategies for managing authority-related stress

Communication and assertiveness
Open and honest communication with those in positions of authority can help relieve stress. By having regular conversations, we can clarify expectations, voice any concerns we may have and listen to constructive feedback. Developing assertiveness skills can help us to communicate effectively and assert our needs without compromising professional relationships.

Building support networks
Surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues and mentors can help reduce any negative interactions with those in authority. By creating a network of like-minded individuals, we can gain perspective, seek guidance and share our experiences, which will lessen the burden of hierarchical stress.

Practising relaxation techniques
When faced with challenging situations involving management, practising relaxation techniques can help us manage our stress in a more professional and calm way. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation and engaging in physical activities are all effective ways to achieve balance and maintain mental wellbeing throughout the working day.

Time and stress management: Developing effective time and stress management skills is beneficial when dealing with authority at work. By creating a schedule that prioritises tasks, setting realistic goals and practising regular self-care, we can prevent feelings of overwhelm and ensure a healthier work-life balance.

Focus on individual growth: Shifting the focus from external factors to personal development can help reduce the impact of authority-related stress. By focusing on improving our skills, expanding our knowledge and setting goals aligned with individual values, we create a greater sense of purpose and autonomy. A study conducted by Helena Lopes, Sérgio Lagoa and Teresa Calapez, published on Cambridge University Press, found that autonomy at work is key to an employee's job performance and job satisfaction as well as improving their mental health.

Organisations must also recognise the impact of authority on employee wellbeing and provide supportive leadership practices. A harmonious balance between a healthy power dynamic and respect for individuals can enhance job satisfaction, productivity and mental health in the workplace.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

How People Pleasing Can Damage Your Career

While it’s important to collaborate and build positive relationships in the workplace, excessive people-pleasing can have negative effects on our career advancement as well as our mental health. Recognising the signs of people-pleasing, setting clear boundaries and learning to prioritise ourselves helps us work toward achieving a healthy work-life balance and forging long-term career success.

What is people-pleasing?

People-pleasing refers to a psychological pattern of behaviour where individuals feel an overwhelming need to seek approval and satisfy the wishes of others. This often stems from a fear of rejection or criticism, leading people to put their own needs and desires aside in favour of meeting the expectations of others.

While initially people-pleasing may seem harmless, it can gradually take a toll on mental health and in some cases, physical health. The constant need to please others can lead to chronic stress, anxiety and burnout. Over time, these negative emotional states can become debilitating, affecting performance, decision-making and overall wellbeing.

Effects of people-pleasing

1. Surrendering control

By consistently prioritising others' needs, we often lose control over our own career path. Instead of pursuing goals that match our interests and aspirations, we can fall into a pattern of continually seeking validation and approval. As a result, personal growth and professional development may get stifled, limiting opportunities for advancing our career.

2. Undermining confidence

People-pleasers are prone to second-guessing themselves as they constantly seek reassurance and validation from others. This perpetual reliance on external validation can damage self-confidence and diminishes our belief in our own abilities. In turn, this lack of confidence can negatively impact our professional presence, assertiveness and ability to take risks – qualities that are often essential for moving forward in our career.

3. Lack of boundaries

A key characteristic of people-pleasing is the tendency to struggle with setting clear boundaries. By trying to accommodate everyone's needs and demands, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities that extend beyond our capabilities. This can lead to work overload, poor time management and decreased productivity, ultimately hindering career growth.

Debbie Sorensen, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist, says that people-pleasers “tend to be very kind, thoughtful people, which makes it that much harder for them to set boundaries, not take on too much work or get emotionally invested in their jobs”. Sorensen goes on to say “It can be uncomfortable to set boundaries at work, but next time you’re tempted to pile more responsibilities on your plate, pause and ask yourself if you really want, or need, to take that on. And fight the knee-jerk reaction to say ‘yes’ to everything”.

4. Perceived as indecisive

Most employers value individuals who possess strong leadership qualities, including the ability to make decisions confidently and assertively. However, people-pleasers often struggle with decisive action, as they may fear conflict. This perception of indecisiveness can prevent growth and progression of a career, particularly in roles that require strong leadership skills.

By breaking free from the confines of people-pleasing, we can gain confidence, assertiveness and the ability to make decisions that are right for us. Striking a balance between meeting others' expectations and prioritising personal growth and fulfilment can help us to accelerate our career and improve our happiness and wellbeing.