Thursday 20 December 2018

Mindful last minute gifts for colleagues

It’s the season of goodwill and tradition goes that we shower our friends and loved ones with gifts to show our appreciation and affection
When we exchange gifts, it is more about the thought that goes into the giving, rather than the gift itself. This is more often true in the workplace, where it is commonplace to give token gestures rather than the larger gifts we share with friends and family.

Thoughtful giving comes from a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a new concept. It’s a tried and tested technique that helps us gain perspective and regain control during periods of stress. It has been shown to improve wellbeing, reduce stress and make us happier.

The concept of giving and receiving gifts is closely tied to compassion, love, and gratitude. When you give someone a gift, no matter how big or small, you’re showing them that you care.  When we talk about mindful gifts, it’s about the thinking behind why we’re giving and choosing something that it truly meaningful for your colleague.

In a work situation, there are a couple of golden rules when it comes to buying gifts for your colleagues. These include not giving overly personal gifts and respecting price limits on gift exchanges. It’s also worth remembering that the gifts you choose say as much about you as they do your colleagues, so avoid anything too political or cheeky. The great news is that these boundaries lend themselves to more mindful gift giving.

In a team situation, gestures of goodwill work really well and are great for strengthening relationships. Think about what you could do that would make their working life easier, for example, covering extra shifts, making the coffee for a week or committing to finish your reports earlier.  Handwritten cards with personal messages that convey your appreciation for others are also a great way of building connections with your colleagues. There’s some fascinating research about how effective gifts are in helping us to form stronger bonds with people and boost morale. You can read more about it in this article on   

One of the best gifts you can give your colleagues this festive season is to be kind to yourself. We are pulled in so many directions over Christmas that it takes a resilient person to not feel pressured or stressed by what they have to do. Failing to nurture yourself over the holidays means that you are not giving your best self at work – and that impacts on your co-workers. Be mindful of your own moods in the run up to Christmas – you cannot give to others if you have nothing left to give. Make a pact with yourself to be fully present at important meetings – despite the additional pressures on your time and energy – and set aside time when you can fully appreciate your co-workers, perhaps at office drinks.

Whatever you decide, remember that when it comes to gift giving – be it friends, family or coworkers – it really is the thought that counts.

Friday 7 December 2018

How to overcome your biggest challenges

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. It doesn’t matter who you are or what job you do, as individuals we never stop learning. However, from time to time, the challenges we face at work may seem insurmountable and serve to dent our confidence, rather than help us grow.

A life without challenges is an unrealistic expectation. But you can prepare yourself to deal with the challenges you face, so that you can embrace them as an opportunity to ‘practise’ and become better at what you do.

The run up to Christmas can be a time of immense pressure for lots of people to the point that you find yourself less able to cope with obstacles at work. Here are our tips for overcoming even the toughest of encounters and coming out the other side a stronger, more rounded employee.

Positivity matters

If you find yourself under pressure at work, it’s important to surround yourself with positivity. Rather than spend time with coworkers who are eager to share their own tales of woe, make a conscious effort to be with those colleagues who bring out your passion and drive. Negativity breeds so make sure the relationships you keep at work share the same positive vision that you do. You sometimes need to be with people who believe in your abilities so that you can believe in yourself!

Focus on the big picture

When dealing with challenges, it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail and lose sight of your end goals. When you start to feel discouraged it’s important to take a step back and focus on the big picture for a moment. Remember why this challenge you are facing is important – how will it help to lead onto other things? Does it take you closer to your end goal? Sometimes it helps to write down your goals and put them somewhere where you can see them. When you have to deal with something you find hard – look to your goals for inspiration and energy.

Break it down

Have you noticed how sometimes when we work on something tricky, it builds up in our minds – often without good cause. Human nature means that often we will put off the tasks we don’t like, in favour of quick wins but usually this has the unfortunate knock-on effect that we then are working on our most challenging projects under self-inflicted time pressures too! If you find yourself facing a challenging task or activity, the key to success is to break it down into smaller elements. Then systematically work through each element in turn. Be persistent. Be methodical, and before you realise it, you’ll find yourself half way up the mountain.

Picture your success

You need to picture yourself overcoming your challenge in order to make it happen. Visualisation is a tried and tested technique for helping to rewire our thought processes. When we think about positive outcomes, we are more likely to overcome our challenges. Use the power of your mind to picture how you will look and feel once you have accomplished what you have set out to achieve. This positivity really helps to motivate your spirit and drive you to succeed. Visualisation is a means of control in any situation that may leave you feeling unsure, vulnerable or inadequate. You can read more about the practice in this article from Psychology Today.

Monday 3 December 2018

How to be kind to colleagues who really don’t deserve it

When we’re at work, we’re expected to get along with our co-workers. Collaboration, team work, partnerships are all key to achieving great results at work, however we don’t often get to choose who we work with.

Thankfully, most co-workers and colleagues are united in a shared aim – to do their best and reach their full potential. Sometimes, though, there will be a need to work with people who we don’t naturally gel with. We need to engage, and work productively, with colleagues we don’t actually get along with.

A nicer, more positive office environment can be influenced by each of us, so we’ve developed some tips to help you be kind to those colleagues who sometimes don’t deserve it. It’s not just for the good of your employer, but also for your own mental wellbeing.

Watch not only what you say – but what you do too!

Very often our own body language can give away our inner feelings. Most disagreements in a work environment will not be as blatant as a verbal argument or a physical fight, but rather will present as negative body language – such as noticeable eye rolls or simply blanking people. In the main, people are very intuitive, so be extra vigilant that your own body language and non-verbal gestures do not convey your distain for your colleagues. If you exude positivity to all co-workers, they are more likely to follow suit.

Nip issues in the bud – don’t let things fester

Often the breakdown of work relationships comes about as an accumulation of smaller issues that simply haven’t been successfully resolved. If you find that you’re having issues with a co-worker or colleague the first step is to talk about it as it happens, don’t let the issue morph to become bigger and more significant than it needs to be. A single issue can be inconsequential in itself but unresolved tension will really be felt by the rest of your team and this will definitely impact on your ability to not only do your job well, but to enjoy the time you spend at work.

Set a good example – don’t let the behavior of others influence yours

There will be times when the only way to deal with a difficult colleague is to face them, full on. Be careful though. Communicating with others when we’re in a heightened state ourselves has the potential to develop into an emotional – rather than a rational - exchange. As a rule of thumb, when dealing with a difficult colleague, you should always pretend that your children – or your boss - are watching. This simple technique will help you to keep your emotions under control and make sure that the exchange remains constructive.

Give credit where it’s due – don’t let bad experiences taint your views

Positivity breeds positivity, so even if your colleagues are not being particularly friendly or forthcoming towards you, it shouldn’t stop you from treating them as you would your other colleagues. That means complimenting them for a job well done, acknowledging their achievements and giving credit where it’s due. Treat people as you wish to be treated yourself and don’t let the negative ways of others impact on your own working practices. Lead by example, always. Who knows, maybe your positivity may just rub off on others.

If you’re struggling to reach out the hand of kindness to one of your colleagues, remember, that you're kindness will benefit your wellbeing as well as theirs. This article from the British Psychological Society is a good reminder of the personal benefits that kindness can bring our way.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Spotting the tell tale signs of stress and taking action

In an ever-changing economy with increasing reliance on technology, there is an expectation that we can do more with less resources. The situations and pressures that we find ourselves under at work can easily cause stress, when not addressed.

The truth is, that as stress becomes normal within our working lives we may not even notice when we are suffering – though it will undoubtedly alter our behaviour with colleagues. Sometimes it will be up to others to point it out to us. Colleagues may comment that we are more irritable than usual or that we appear less tolerant or decisive than we would normally be.

Rather than be defensive, when this happens to you, take it as a wakeup call and an opportunity to take a look within and see if what people are saying is true. When it comes to being under stress we can be the last to realise, so understanding how stress can present itself can help you manage your own stress levels and take preventative action before it becomes an issue.

Too much sleep

In the early stages of stress, you may find yourself being more tired than usual and have a general lack of energy. Your need to rest will be greater than usual, but even after sleep you won’t feel rested. Stress can make you feel physically and emotionally drained.

Too little sleep

Ironically, often when you feel like you need sleep the most, sleep will escape you. When we are under stress, our minds work overtime and this continues when our heads hit the pillow. Minor stress may result in a couple of restless nights, however, sometimes the lack of sleep can actually add to the stress we are under.


Colleagues may notice you are ‘off your game’ or that you are lacking the drive and focus you usually have. Mild forgetfulness is an early sign of stress, as is an inability to make decisions. At the time when you need to be productive, you could find that your stress makes it harder to accomplish half of what you need to, causing work to pile up and deadlines to be missed.

Increased illness

When the stress really takes hold – and your mind refuses to accept that you are putting yourself under more pressure than usual – your body may take over. You may find that when you’re under stress you become more susceptible to infections and colds and other minor ailments. This is your body's way of making you get the rest you need.

These are just a few of the subtle signs that you’re under stress. There are more. But once you’ve recognised that you’re suffering, the question is: what can you do about it? This article from Psychology Today contains some useful and inspirational strategies to help you find the strength within to manage your stress levels:

And here are some of our suggestions:

Take a break

Once you've identified what is causing your stress, make a conscious decision to separate yourself from it for a short time. Gaining some distance from the issues that are bothering you mentally, can help to put things in perspective. Sometimes your stressors may be difficult to get away from – such as debt, or a major work deadline – if this is the case, even 15 minutes spent doing something you love will really help to focus your mind and make things easier to manage.

Get moving

The benefits that exercise has on your body is well documented, but more than that, keeping active is just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health. We’re not talking about hitting the gym – though that may help – even a short walk can have an immediate calming effect on your mental wellbeing.

Be mindful

Meditation and mindfulness help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, and develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practising mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can make a difference.

For more information about stress in the workplace check out our Guide to Stress.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

How to speak so that people will listen

Have you noticed how some people can command the room when they speak, while others find it hard to grab – and keep – people's attention? We take a look at why this might be – and how to stop it happening to us!

Only talk when you have something to say

Have you noticed that children will ‘switch off’ from adults when they talk for too long? The same is true of our co-workers and colleagues. Often the people who are the most talkative are the ones that are listened to the least – it is hard for people to distinguish between the chitter-chatter and the words that add value to a work situation so they just switch off. If you are more mindful over your words at work, people will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Listen very carefully

We have two ears and only one mouth and there are many that believe we should listen twice as much as we talk. We don’t just mean not talking here though, it’s about actively listening to what our co-workers have got to say and using their ideas and insight to make us better at our own job. Listening is about processing what others have to say and only responding or adding to the conversation where you can definitely add value. People have to trust that you listen to them before they will actively listen to what you have to say.

Choose your time and place wisely

Speaking to people is not just about the words that you use, it’s about when and where you choose to impart your knowledge too. So, 4pm on a Friday in a crowded lobby is not going to command the same level of attention as 10am on a Monday in the training room, when everyone is motivated and ready to tackle the week ahead. When you have something important to share with others, make sure you are not competing for their attention.

Summarise and follow up

If you don’t feel confident in speaking and are often unsure that your audience will have taken in what you wanted to get across, always end your conversation or presentation by summarising your most important points, even if this means you’re repeating yourself. It’s also fine to follow up with people after the event too. Putting the important points in writing should not be seen as a reflection on your speaking ability, more a helpful reminder of your most salient points.

Public speaking or indeed addressing colleagues in a formal business setting is something that few of us relish. The good news is that these skills can be learn't – and until you have mastered the art of speaking with confidence, there are a few tricks you can employ that will enable you to ‘fake it until you make it’!

Here are our practical tips for how to speak with more presence so that people will sit up and listen:


As much as you can anyway. Do a few gentle stretches, touch your toes, walk up and down the stairs a few time. The more relaxed your body is, the more relaxed your voice will be when you’re speaking. Take a deep breath and let your body settle. Speak from your belly and direct your voice from your chest. When your voice is lower it sounds strong and convincing – people trust what you are telling them.

Slow down

When we are talking to groups of people or delivering presentations it’s important to take our time. When we’re nervous, the tendency is to rush through the event to make it end quicker – unfortunately this just means that we don’t articulate properly and this can make it more difficult for people to hear and understand what we are saying. Rather than rush through, slow down. Think of it this way – the more people who understand what you have told them, the less questions you will have at the end!

If you’ve got ten minutes free, why not watch this inspiring TED talk about the art of powerful speaking

Monday 29 October 2018

Tackling bullying at work

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) states that between 83-90% of UK organisations have anti-bullying policies, yet bullying is still happening. So what constitutes bullying at work?

Common bullying behaviours

  • Being insulting: personally criticising someone or making them feel small by ridiculing, humiliating or making demeaning comments.
  • Harassment: with-holding information; overloading someone with work; taking the credit for someone else's work; or removing responsibility from someone without discussing it with them first.
  • Exclusion: scapegoating, isolation or victimisation.
  • Intimidation: threats of physical violence or psychological intimidation.

Bullying may continue over a long period before it is recognised as such and it may be that the bully is not aware of how their actions are perceived.

The impact of bullying at work

It has been estimated that bullying may cost the UK over £2 billion a year. For the employee, it can lead to social and psychological problems in the present and longer term too.

"People who are bullied, particularly for longer periods, often struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression, says "Professor Ewan Gillon, Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland, who has worked with many clients who have experienced bullying at work. "They may end up feeling completely exhausted and suffer physically as well as feeling traumatised by the experience."

When the situation starts to take its toll, people often resort to taking sick leave. In the end they may  feel the situation is intolerable and leave the organisation, without another job to go to.

How can organisations help?

Work to promote and uphold positive values and behaviour in the workplace: this is important as it ensures everyone knows what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Support employees: the provision of accessible and professional support for employees in the form of counselling, CBT and coaching can aid the resilience of employees who feel bullied. In addition, employees who are aware of their inappropriate behaviour may be assisted by working with a professional to change how they interact with others.

Group training: training in a group or team can be an effective way of building mutual respect between colleagues and can help foster an environment of group responsibility. Training in issues such as stress awareness can help employees recognise the signs of stress in themselves and others and can help them build strategies for dealing with stress effectively.

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.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

The benefits of ‘me’ time at work and how to get more of it

It’s national relaxation day on the 15 August – the perfect excuse to lock yourself away and lose yourself in your favourite activity or pastime for an hour or two. Let’s be honest though – how many of us regularly take time out for ourselves? How many of us carve out some ‘me’ time to focus on what we like to do?

A recent study by the British Psychological Society (BPS) found that quality me-time not only improves your psychological wellbeing it can also make you a more engaged employee. Their findings point to the fact that those employees who engaged in high-quality ‘me’ time were more engaged and productive at work.

At home, it can be easier to carve out some time alone to recharge the batteries and gain some insight and perspective to help us deal with whatever life throws at us. However, it's still too easy for us to make excuses and put the needs of others – family, friends and work colleagues – above our own.

At work, we're often driven by other people’s schedules which makes it hard for us to carve out time for ourselves, yet doing so can really help us manage our stress levels. Given that we spend most of our lives at work, rather than feeling guilty about taking a little ‘me’ time, we should actually embrace the need to take care of ourselves – mentally, emotionally and physically - and acknowledge the benefits that this will realise in the workplace, such as better productivity, a reduction in stress levels and improved inter-personal relationships. So next time you're tempted to eat lunch at your desk, think about how you could fit in some 'me time'.

Irrespective of whether we take our ‘me’ time at home or at work, it might help to remember the following:

Establish how much time you need

Be realistic about the time you can spare during your working day to concentrate on yourself. Too little and you won’t feel the benefit or be able to engage in any meaningful activity; too much and it will soon be regarded as an extravagance and become easy to replace with more pressing pulls on your time. Remember, time to yourself, doing what you enjoy, is not selfish, it’s taking care of yourself.

Decide what you will do with your time

Spend a few minutes thinking about what you would do if there was an extra fifteen minutes in the day? How would you spend that time? Jot down a list of all your favourite pastimes and allocate your ‘me’ time to doing some of the things off your list.

Build this time into your daily schedule

Once you've decided what you want to do and how much time you need, you need to commit to taking the time. Create a daily ritual so that your chosen pastime soon becomes a habit and something to look forward to.

Taking time out for yourself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity that will help you gain perspective and focus. However, if you don’t value this time, no one else around you will either. Self-care is absolutely necessary if we are to give our best to those around us. You can read more about the benefits of ‘me’ time on your work in this article.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

How to be more productive at work to restore your work/life balance

When it comes to your work do you think you’re doing a ‘good enough’ job, or are you always looking to improve what you do to get bigger and better results? Self-improvement is, in itself, a positive thing, however often we get caught in the trap where we feel that only the best will do and that we have to produce work that is ‘perfect’ in order to be valued.

The problem is that often when we strive for perfection, it can actually impact on our productivity – as well as on our ability to enjoy ‘down time’ with friends and family. This article from The Guardian is spot on when it says that we must stop striving for perfection and that working hard to get the work life balance right, not only benefits our own wellbeing but can also give our career a boost.

There are many tips to share that can maximise your productivity at work, such as: tackling tough tasks in the morning when we're at our most alert and scheduling regular admin time into our diaries to deal with the more trivial tasks, such as email management and returning calls; not to mention the benefits of taking regular breaks to keep energy levels high and your mind clear and focused. You can read more on improving your summer productivity here.

And if you're serious about redressing the work/life balance, we want you to remember the following:

Strive for great – but not perfection

We all want to do a good job, but there comes a point when our quest for perfection means we can never truly switch off and concentrate on other things. When tasks are completed we continue to ask ourselves: how can I make this better? Or: what have I missed? rather than applaud ourselves on a job well done. It can be hard to let things go at work, but by striving to do a great job, rather than a perfect one, we allow ourselves to move forward from tasks and free our mind to focus on other things – such as time spent with family and friends at home. The same can be said for home tasks too. By putting pressure on ourselves to do things better all the time we increase stress levels when what we need to do is give ourselves a break and learn that sometimes ‘good enough’ is perfectly acceptable.


In order to maintain a healthy work life balance, we have to learn how to carve out time for each – rather than allow the lines to be blurred. We need to focus on them one by one to give each our full attention. Failing to do so means that we're never fully present and do not give our best self. This means it’s much harder to progress, as we become preoccupied and overwhelmed. So when you’re at home, switch off your work phone, if only for an hour. The world isn’t going to end if we go offline for an hour or two. And make a deal with your family and friends that it’s emergency calls only during core work hours.

When it comes to work life balance, there are not many people who feel that the balance is positively tipped towards their home and family life, rather than their work! Yet, having a fulfilling family life serves to benefit the time you spend at work so it makes sense to find the time for family and friends when you can. The saying goes that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – don’t be Jack – do what you need to do to get the balance right.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

How to organise your working week over the school holidays

The summer holidays will soon be upon us. The kids are excited. The parents perhaps less so as the annual quandary around how to juggle work and family commitments and how to keep your young ones entertained for what can seem like endless weeks, again rears its head.

For working parents and carers of school age children, it can be hard to come up with a plan that will enable you to spend quality time with your children and still deliver at work.

The rise in flexible working practices across the UK means that employers are more open to changes in working patterns over the holiday period, so you may find it helpful to discuss some of the options with your manager.

  • Shortening your working week – the idea of working two or three days a week over the summer holidays is a good compromise for childcare and business continuity
  • Working from a home base – if you’re not tied to your office, a spell of home working might enable you to keep an eye on the children while still providing the cover needed at work
  • Splitting your holidays – we know it’s nice to have some family time, but sometimes parents need to consider splitting their holidays to cover the long holiday period. Having two separate weeks, rather than a two-week stretch off work can make the return to work easier too.

For self-employed parents, the holidays bring different challenges. While you're technically free to watch over your children, there is also a need to look after clients and generate new leads. Making smart choices around how to manage your time can help you navigate the summer break without it impacting on your business or your children. We suggest the following:

Prioritise urgent work

It sounds simple but during the holidays we really need to be clear about what needs to be done now and what can wait until the holidays are over.

Extend deadlines where possible

Try and renegotiate deadlines with your clients to make sure your workload remains manageable over the holiday period.

Focus on growth

When you’ve got limited time to work, it’s important not to spend time on tasks that will not support your business growth or add value to what you’re doing.

Our biggest tip for organising your time over the summer holidays is to plan your family time in the same way as you would your work priorities. Get a wall planner. Share it with your children so that you are all clear about what’s happening when. This helps to set realistic expectations and enables your children to take some responsibility for their own free time.

Remember, when it comes to the school holidays:

  • Share the burden and call in favours – you're not the only parent trying to get organised this summer. Speak to fellow parents and carers and see if you can share the care between you on certain days. 
  • It’s ok for children to be bored – we live in a society where we feel the need to keep our children occupied and stimulated 24/7. Think back to your own childhood when playing out and meeting friends in the park was the norm. Don’t be afraid to let your children have some real ‘downtime’ during the holiday – it encourages creative thinking and coping skills.

For more tips, read our previous blogs on encouraging children to be more active and how to get the most out of your summer break. Happy holidays…

Wednesday 27 June 2018

How to build productive work relationships with colleagues

In our previous blog post we talked about how to reach out to our male colleagues to offer additional support when they need it. Today, we wanted to look more generally at how to build productive working relationships with all people within our team or work group.

We spend most of our waking lives at work, so while we’re there it’s best to make the most of the time we spend with our colleagues. This means making the effort to build more productive connections with them. As with all relationships, you get out what you put in and – however different our personalities may be within work teams – taking the time to get to know your colleagues better will always pay dividends, be it through better work performance or a more enjoyable work environment.

These top tips should help you connect with your colleagues:

Start the day as you mean to go on

We know how tempting it is just to get to your desk, plug in and get started – especially if you’re not a morning person! However, just five minutes every morning greeting your work colleagues is all it takes to start the day off on a positive footing. Time well spent, we say!

Be inquisitive, be interested

The strongest relationships are built on shared interests. By going that extra mile to find out what makes your co-workers tick, inside and outside of work, you can identify connections – such as a shared joy of cooking or an interest in a sports club – that will then strengthen, your working relationships. Don’t be afraid to show your personal side and ask questions of your colleagues – you’ll be surprised what you will find out and the positive impact this can have on your working relationships.

All work, some play!

Used to eating lunch alone? Stop. That will do nothing to benefit your work relationships! Make the effort to connect with your colleagues in a more social setting instead. Go to the canteen, take a lunchtime stroll or, if lunchtimes are difficult, agree to grab a drink after work. It doesn’t have to be every day, but spending a little down-time with colleagues regularly will really help with team bonding, which is especially valuable if you have new team members to welcome or are about to kick off a new project.

Show some support

We all have a role to play in the wellbeing of our colleagues. As well as managing our own workload, it pays to keep an eye on colleagues and offer support if they need it. We don’t mean taking their work off them – but simple gestures of goodwill, like grabbing the lunch order or keeping their coffee cups full can strengthen team bonds. It also means that you’re more likely to get the support you need when you need it, as a result.

Effective teams take work at relationships. They don’t grow over night, so be patient. Some of the strongest, life-long relationships started off at work, so get to know your team mates both as colleagues and as individuals, and you’ll soon see positive results.

For more tips on how to develop better working relationships, why not read this blog post from Psychology Today. 

Wednesday 13 June 2018

How to reach out to male colleagues to check they’re ok

It’s Men’s Health week 11-17 June. The focus of this year’s campaign is male diabetes, with one man in ten being diagnosed with the disease in the UK. You can find out more about the campaign and the movement here: On the website you’ll find lots of resources and information about the disease and how to get support.

What this year’s campaign highlighted to us was how difficult it can be for men to reach out and get the care they need in the workplace – not just for physical conditions but for mental wellbeing issues too.

We all have a role to play in making sure that our colleagues are supported in the workplace. It can be something as simple as asking people how their day is going or offering a friendly word during a busy work period. Engaging with male colleagues can often be more challenging, given that many men tend towards keeping their emotions under wraps.

Often, for men, there is usually no outward response to stress triggers and they internalise frustration, so it’s even more important to make sure male colleagues have the support they need and are able to speak to colleagues if they need to.

Men are more likely to find it hard to talk about things that are bothering them. While women are more used to sharing, men may need more encouragement to talk. So, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help.

You talk first

The best way to build connections with work colleagues and encourage dialogue is by opening up to the other person first. If you show your own vulnerabilities or share your own concerns, colleagues will feel more comfortable telling you what’s on their mind. When you are talking you can usually get an idea of how likely someone is to open up to you by the way they act when you are speaking. If he’s giving you his full attention—not looking at his watch or phone – this shows a genuine interest in what you have to say, which marks the start of a meaningful dialogue.

Body language speaks volumes

When a male colleague opens up to another, he will see this as showing vulnerability which men are conditioned not to do from birth. If you're talking to a male colleague and notice that they're twiddling their thumbs, running fingers through their hair, or subconsciously tapping their desk, this may indicate that they're preparing to show you their vulnerable side. This could take some time, so be patient and be there, ready to listen.

Be direct

When it comes to reaching out to a male colleague often the best policy is to be direct and ask them outright if everything is OK. Men, more so than women, in the workplace respond best to open and honest conversations, rather than open-ended invitations to connect. If you are worried or concerned about a male colleague – especially after you have already opened the lines of communication as outlined in our first two points – the best way to find out how you can help support them better, is to simply ask them.

The differences between male and female communication styles in the workplace is well documented. Problems only arise – according to this article in Psychology Today when we try and control how other people communicate, rather than adapt our own way of connecting to suit their needs.

Despite the different ways we have of articulating ourselves, by going the extra mile to understand how our male colleagues prefer to communicate, we can build a more supportive work environment for everyone.