Friday, 28 May 2021

Imposter syndrome and the pitfalls of faking it ‘til you make it

Imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re not good enough and that you’ve reached where you are by chance, is often experienced by people in the workplace. Perhaps you believe you’re a fraud and are afraid you’re going to be caught out and even lose your job. Maybe you’ve just started a new job or you’ve been given a promotion at your present place of work but you’re worried that you won’t be able to do the job properly.

Imposter syndrome can arouse a range of negative thoughts and emotions such as a lack of self-confidence, anxiety, stress and even depression if it isn’t nipped in the bud. These kinds of emotions can play havoc with your mental and physical wellbeing and can lead to more serious, long-term illness.

You’ve probably heard the term 'faking it ‘til you make it' which many people refer to when they are feeling out of their depth in their job. Although there are occasions when it’s good to remain positive, putting yourself through intense situations that you feel you’re unprepared for can be a detrimental tactic that will lead to trouble in the long run.

Why faking it is a poor option

If you constantly suffer in silence and pretend that you’re coping when you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ll start making mistakes at work. Not only can a lack of sleep due to severe stress and anxiety play a part in your downfall but you could end up destroying relationships with colleagues who might begin to resent you for not doing the job properly.

How to deal with imposter syndrome

There are ways, however, that you can overcome the debilitating effects of imposter syndrome and even become confident in your role.

It’s inevitable when starting a new job that there are going to be learning curves and it’s likely that your boss will be aware of this. Firstly, admit to yourself that you’re struggling before you admit this to your boss. What’s worse, having a slightly bruised ego or continuing along your present path of mental suffering? Before you speak to your boss, identify the main problems you’re having and try to think of a solution.

Maybe there’s one particular area that’s causing you the most stress so suggest to your boss that they give you extra training or sign you up for a course. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how your boss handles the situation and they might even suggest alternative solutions before you do. Management at work have a duty to look after their staff’s mental wellbeing so they should be approachable and understanding. Just imagine the weight that will be lifted once you get your concerns off your chest, and that alone could save you many sleepless nights and anxiety.

Once you’re in a better place emotionally and mentally, you’ll find that other tasks you were struggling with become a little easier because you feel more confident and are focusing more clearly.

According to studies by the American Psychological Association, seven out of ten people suffer from imposter syndrome. Remember that imposter syndrome is more common than you think, and you are not alone in believing that you’re a fake.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Ways of coping with job insecurity

In light of Covid-19, there are millions of people across the globe who will have suffered from job insecurity. Although sometimes it can be comforting to know that others are going through something similar to us, it doesn’t always resolve these unpredictable types of situation.

Whether you’re self-employed and have lost essential clients or have been furloughed by your present employer, the fear of losing your job will undoubtedly be playing on your mind. Needless to say, this ongoing anxiety and stress can affect your mental and physical wellbeing in a manner of ways. Research by the Department of Psychology at the University of Oviedo looked at the relationship between job insecurity and mental health and found that: “coping strategies play a moderating role”.

It’s natural for us humans to want a sense of security, especially when we need money to pay the bills and put food on the table, but what can we do when we feel like the rug might be pulled from underneath us at any given moment?

Ways to deal with job insecurity

  1. Try to gain perspective and not overly worry before events occur. Although it’s easier said than done, by keeping a positive mindset, you will suffer less from anxiety and feel more prepared to deal with any eventuality.
  2. Take time to look at your situation and imagine the worst-case scenario then start to put plans into place. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have already dealt with any negative outcomes mentally and be in a better state of mind should it occur in reality.
  3. If you are still employed, up your game at work by taking on more responsibilities as this will not only make you more invaluable, but it will also keep you focused on the present moment.
  4. Whether you’re currently furloughed or in still in employment, try growing your skillset. As well as making yourself more desirable for a future role if you do face unemployment, it will add more strings to your bow and make you feel more confident.
  5. Don’t forget to take time out for pampering your mental and physical wellbeing. By practising activities such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness, you will significantly reduce your levels of stress and anxiety, which will help you cope with job insecurity.
  6. Even if you’re not yet in a position where you need to seek alternative work, update your CV and keep a look out for other opportunities. This will put you ahead of the game and you will feel less helpless and desperate should you suddenly face redundancy. 

Monday, 26 April 2021

Ways to deal with jealousy at work

When the green-eyed monster rears its head at work, it can have a serious impact on your mental wellbeing as well as creating conflict in the workplace. But how can you recognise when someone is jealous of you and what can you do to put a stop to their bullying tactics?

There are many reasons why a colleague, or even a manager may feel jealousy towards you:

  • Your appearance
  • Your success at work
  • Your popularity and relationships with other colleagues
  • You earn more money than them
  • They want your job
  • Your personal life

Initially, their jealousy might go unnoticed but the more the person compares themselves to you, resentment can quickly creep in. This can be extremely damaging to everyone involved especially if the person wants to create problems for you at work.

Dealing with a jealous colleague

To begin with, you might question yourself about whether you’re reading too much into a person’s behaviour but after a while, their jealousy will become more evident. Here are some actions you can take to nip it in the bud:

If you’ve become the subject of gossip or you’re suddenly finding yourself being excluded from work activities, you could find that the person at the centre of it all has an ulterior motive. This can be really upsetting and might make you question yourself, which can lead to feelings of rejection and loneliness.

Remember, workplace gossip and exclusion are forms of bullying and shouldn’t be tolerated. Firstly, speak to your manager about how you’re feeling, but if you prefer not to notify management straight away, try talking to the person that is instigating this behaviour. Speak calmly, try not to appear defensive and explain that you’ve noticed the rift and ask if they have a reason for acting this way. By doing this you’re showing maturity as well as letting the person know that you are aware of their actions. The chances are they might deny their jealousy, but if you suggest working together positively in the interests of the company, it could put an end to any future incidents.

Although you might be over the moon about a recent promotion or pay rise, not everyone will be happy to hear it! To avoid any jealous reactions from colleagues, perhaps keep the good news between yourself and close friends who are more likely to celebrate your successes.

Another great way to tackle jealous behaviour is by making the offender feel included. Everyone loves a compliment so find things that you can praise them for. Jealousy tends to be triggered by insecurity so by making them feel good about themselves, you can become their ally rather than their enemy.

Try not to take it personally

Even though it might feel as though you’re being singled out, try to understand that the person might be reacting in a certain way because they are unhappy in themselves. Try not to react negatively to their behaviour as this could add fuel to the fire and might even end up making other colleagues disrespect you. Rise above the jealousy and, if anything, take it as a compliment.

In this article published by Science Daily, it refers to a study undertaken by Joel Koopman from the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business who investigated the causes of envy in the workplace. It’s an interesting read and gives a deeper understanding of jealousy issues.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Inspiring your workforce

There’s no question this past year has been a tough one, leaving many of us feeling anxious, stressed and suffering from depression. It’s no surprise that motivation levels may have fallen through the floor, but what can you do to inspire and motivate your workforce?

It’s most likely your employees won’t thank you for toughening targets and deadlines, yet for your business to succeed, you still need to see a certain level of achievement from your team. Some of your employees might be working from home while some might still be furloughed but there are ways to inspire them without being insensitive to their current situation.

More than anything, most people need to feel valued so by taking a few steps to show your appreciation for the work they do, you can instil a more positive attitude and enhanced wellbeing.

Show appreciation

You don’t have to spend the entire company budget, just a small gesture such as an email or letter thanking your team for their contributions can have a positive effect. Make sure each message is personal and relates to their individual performance rather than the company as a whole.

Equip your team

If you have staff that work from home, ensure they have all the equipment they need to perform their job to the best of their ability. Trying to work with inadequate equipment can increase stress levels and decrease motivation.

Encourage personal interaction

Stay engaged with your employees and encourage them to interact with one another so that they continue to make social connections. It doesn’t always have to be work related either; a monthly online quiz or catch-up chat via video calls can uplift peoples’ spirits and make them feel valued.

Be genuinely caring

Have regular one-to-one chats with your team to check in on their mental health. Knowing that your boss sincerely cares about your wellbeing is one of the greatest motivators and is much more likely to inspire you than being reprimanded for any under-performance.

Be a motivational teacher 

Successful leaders lead by example so it’s equally as important to look after your own mental health in order to teach and inspire without lecturing.

Listen to your employees

Take on board what your employees have to say. If they have ideas for their role or the company, consider how you can help implement them and don’t dismiss them before you’ve even taken the time to consider them properly.

Utilise the talents and skills of your team

By allowing someone to play to their strengths, they will more likely want to prove their abilities and work harder to succeed. It might be the case that you allocate tasks they wouldn’t normally undertake, but this can inspire personal growth and you might just find that their skills are better placed elsewhere in the company.

Nurture don’t micro-manage

The moment an employee feels that their every move is being scrutinised, they’ll start to feel under pressure and afraid to take risks. By giving staff the freedom to take control and accountability for the work they do, they will grow in confidence and want to step up to the mark.

For more information on how to inspire your workforce, check out this handy study and guide from Motivates.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Inclusivity in the workplace

Inclusivity covers a wealth of issues in the workplace to ensure that all staff aren’t excluded based on their race, class, age, sexuality, disability or gender. As human beings, we are naturally social creatures and we need to feel a sense of belonging, even at work. Exclusion, which is also classed as a form of bullying, can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

Types of exclusion

  • Social exclusion can take the form of organising activities inside or outside of work which not all employees are able to take part in for a variety of reasons. Or it might be something as simple as not allowing someone to join in a conversation at lunch time.
  • Offering praise only to certain individuals.
  • Gossiping.
  • Offering opportunities such as training courses and promotions, or even pay rises, to only a select group of people or one individual.
  • Ignoring someone’s opinions or ideas in a meeting for example and not allowing them to have a voice in the company.
  • Repeatedly giving unwanted tasks to one person or overloading them with work.
  • Not allowing employees access to the same or essential resources.

While some instances of exclusion are blatantly deliberate others may be unintentional, but the outcome can be equally as damaging to the person who is feeling excluded.

The impact of exclusion

Owing to the effects of exclusion, prolonged stress can increase the levels of cortisol in the body and lower the immune system which may result in a number of physical problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Some of the effects of exclusion on mental wellbeing can include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reduced quality of sleep
  • Anger
  • Low self-esteem

Ways to make the workplace more inclusive

In a study undertaken by Harvard Business Review, it was found that not only does inclusivity provide employees with a sense of belonging, but workplace exclusion also “generates hefty financial losses”. So, as well as benefitting the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, making the workplace more inclusive is also conducive for business.

If you want to ensure your workplace is inclusive, here are some tips for getting started.

  • Do your research about any differences that your staff might have and be open minded. 
  • One to one meetings – ask if there is anything that your staff need to carry out their job effectively and provide any necessary resources. By giving regular feedback to all staff and making sure they are praised as well as being given ways to improve, you’ll build a trusting relationship.
  • Avoid talking about employees in a negative manner to anyone else in the company.
  • Organise social activities that everyone can attend or maybe even let employees take it in turns to choose an activity of their choice.
  • Use inclusive language, i.e. spouse or partner rather than husband/boyfriend/wife, etc.
  • Create inclusive spaces at work, such as a prayer room.
  • Provide inclusivity training for staff members so that everyone, not just the managers, practises inclusivity.
  • Be flexible with different religious holidays and allow flexible working hours for anyone who might have parental or carer responsibilities.
  • Wherever possible make the workplace accessible for anyone with disabilities.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Managing a flexible workplace culture

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s that a flexible workplace isn’t only possible, but it is in fact, necessary. Many businesses realised the benefits of providing flexible working a long time ago and have therefore become accustomed to how this can be achieved. However, for those companies that are only now experiencing the structure of a flexible workplace, they may require some assistance to do so successfully.

The benefits of a flexible workforce

During the pandemic, we were advised to work from home if we could and businesses were encouraged to ensure their employees had this option if feasible. The fact that many jobs can be conducted from home has revealed how flexibility and homeworking can have both positive and negative outcomes.

The positive impact of a flexibility

  • Single parents are less likely to require childcare if they have the option to work from home, rather than in an office or other relevant workplace. This can help alleviate some of the stresses that are associated with juggling parenthood and full time employment. 
  • Employees with dependents such as elderly or ill parents can continue to work while caring for their dependents.
  • Workers with ongoing health conditions could find it easier to work from home rather than have their illness exacerbated by daily commutes or inappropriate work environments.
  • Flexibility promotes a culture of care which makes employees feel respected and valued which, in turn, has a positive effect on their mental wellbeing, thereby promoting workplace productivity. A review of productivity figures by HSBC revealed that flexible working is an incentive for increased productivity. 
  • Being flexible in terms of part-time and home working increases the talent pool to individuals who couldn’t access roles because of their personal circumstances.

The negative impact of working from home

Although flexibility has its perks for both the employer and employee, working from home full-time can have a negative effect on staff:
  • Loneliness – without the interaction with fellow work colleagues, homeworkers can feel lonely, isolated, and excluded.
  • Isolation can lead to mental health difficulties – prolonged isolation has been linked to depression, impaired function, sleep deprivation, and even impaired immunity.
  • Stress caused by the need to prove yourself – some people may feel pressured to increase their workload or targets because they are no longer working in the office. This can lead to working longer hours and not taking breaks in an attempt to prove yourself.
  • Expectation of working even when ill – this expectation may be self-inflicted or come from employers.

Successfully managing a flexible workforce

It is important to create a healthy, flexible culture that meets the needs of the individual and the entire workforce to ensure mental wellbeing is not affected.
  • Allow flexible working hours to accommodate employees with dependents or with health issues that require shorter working hours and flexible days to accommodate medical appointments. This can release the pressure employees feel from trying to cram everything into a set time period. Less stress decreases the likelihood of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Make your expectations clear from the outset and encourage communication regarding workload. Clear guidance gives employees confidence that what they are achieving is what is expected, and it can prevent anxiety or feelings of underachievement.
  • Organise online social opportunities for those working from home. This can also include weekly online meetings where teams can get together to discuss projects and ongoing work. Isolated working can lead to depression and loneliness so regular socialisation, even virtually, can help prevent this.
  • Emphasise the need for homeworkers to take breaks rather than work through their lunch hour. Breaks are essential to ensure employees don't suffer from burnout which can lead to stress in the long term.
  • Encourage discussions about mental health and make employees aware of places they can get support such as their GP and other health care professionals. Open discussions about mental health take away the stigma that is often associated with these kinds of difficulties. By approaching mental wellbeing right at the start there is a decreased chance that these problems will develop into more serious symptoms.

If you or your employees are struggling with the impact of working from home, you may benefit from a KeepWell Working From Home MOT, which has been designed to focus on the wellbeing and mental health needs of those working from home. Find out more about this service here >

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Keeping workplace stress under control

Stress can differ depending on the workplace and the individual role of an employee. Some stress can be conducive to good results in that it can help with focus and concentration. However, if an employee is continuously placed in stressful situations or is finding their workload or work environment stressful, their mental health can be affected. Discover how both employees and managers can take steps to ensure workplace stress is handled effectively and kept under control. 

Common causes of stress in the workplace

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the rate of work-related stress, anxiety and depression has increased in recent years. Work-related stress can be attributed to:

  • Extended hours – working for long hours without any sensible breaks for rest, food, and sleep can cause extreme tiredness which will result in stress and depression.
  • A heavy workload – when work isn’t distributed properly, and one person takes on more work than they can manage, it can become a huge burden that creates feelings of desperation and anxiety.
  • Disorganised management – It can be confusing and stressful to deal with inconsistent management or not be given proper instructions or direction.
  • Personal problems – if an employee has problems in their personal life these can impact on their productivity and concentration which will ultimately lead to stressful situations.
  • Bullying – Bullying in the workplace can have a huge effect on a person’s mental wellbeing, causing them to feel sad, lonely, and depressed. 
  • Lack of autonomy – if employees are micro-managed, they may feel undermined and not trusted. 

What are the effects of stress?

Stress is the body's way of reacting to situations that could cause us harm. When we feel stressed, we immediately release chemicals into our blood stream which increase our blood pressure, heart rate and rate of breathing and cause our muscles to tighten. This is known as the 'fight or flight' response. In the short term, these changes allow us to face the stressor head on ('fight') on or run away ('flight'). However, if we are exposed to long-term stress, the stress chemicals remain in our blood stream over long periods and as a result we may find it difficult to relax; want to avoid other people; feel low in energy; and experience headaches, insomnia, and loss of libido. We may even become more susceptible to colds and infections. Those who are exposed to ongoing stress may feel pessimistic about their life and those around them and may experience a loss or increase in appetite, increased alcohol or drug use, and could develop habits such as nail-biting and fidgeting.

Even one or just some of these symptoms of stress can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing. In a report by NCBI, long term stress has even been cited as a possible cause of some personality disorders.

How to successfully manage workplace stress

  • Treat employees as individuals and establish their personal needs. This can be ascertained via regular meetings and by informing employees that they can approach you with any concerns or needs they may have.
  • Allow for a two-way conversation during meetings so you can establish what changes, if any, need to be made in the workplace. Invite employees to provide feedback and suggestions on current work practices and potential improvements. 
  • Make it clear that bullying and discrimination will not be tolerated in the workplace and that there can be extreme disciplinary consequences should an employee be guilty of either. Encourage staff to speak with their supervisors or other relevant management should they experience bullying or discrimination. 
  • If an employee feels overwhelmed by their workload, help them organise their time better by breaking down tasks into manageable chunks and by allocating realistic deadlines for each task.
  • Redistribute work should an employee's current workload be too much for them to handle.
  • Staff may feel anxious if they are required to finish work within a set time frame. Determine whether a flexible working week would be better for their situation. This could include some days working from home and shorter hours in the office to accommodate appointments and other commitments.
  • Provide access to resources that will help employees deal with stress such as the NHS MInd Matters service.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Easing young people into the workplace

The transition from leaving school and going into full-time work can be a daunting prospect, especially for young adults who haven’t yet decided which career path they want to take. There’s an awful lot of pressure on children to have their future goals all mapped out by the time they leave school but in a more realistic world, they have barely got to grips with understanding themselves. 

Following a study published by the British Chambers of Commerce Workforce Survey, HRreview highlights the following findings:

“88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work, in comparison to 54% of businesses that think graduates are unprepared for the workplace."

"More than half of businesses (57%) said a lack of soft skills, such as communication and team working, were reasons why young people were not ‘work ready’.”

What can you do to ease the transition?

As an employer, you have a duty of care for the wellbeing of all employees, regardless of their age. If you accept a young adult into your place of work, whether on a training scheme or in permanent, full-time employment, there are various ways you can help them adapt. 

Although the government does offer help to businesses that employ school leavers, and they will have been given career advice prior to leaving school, as an employer you can still contribute to their wellbeing.

Induction training

An induction is an essential part of the transition and gives the employee a better understanding of their role and what is expected of them. By being patient and allowing for mistakes during the process, they will feel comfortable enough to ask questions that will help them get ahead. 

Don’t micro-manage

As tempting as it may be to constantly check everything they are doing, try to give them some leeway to take responsibility for themselves. Hovering over someone and scrutinising their work on a daily basis can be intimidating and put them under more pressure. 

Offer training

As we saw from the BCC report, school leavers starting out in full time employment often lack soft skills so by offering ongoing training for their personal development, they will have the opportunity to develop skills such as communication and time management.

Make them feel valued

As an inexperienced employee, one of the scariest aspects is wondering whether they are doing their job properly, if their position is secure, and if their boss is happy with their work. By offering regular feedback, praising their efforts (even if they’re not quite up to scratch yet) and listening to how they are feeling will give them more confidence and motivate them to improve.

Offer incentives

One of the most difficult parts of the transition for school leavers going into full-time employment is getting used to working longer hours with less breaks and fewer holidays each year. To avoid absenteeism, lateness, and a lack of motivation, offer incentives such as days off in lieu or a monthly/annual bonus.


To make them feel like part of the team, plan social events so that they can get to know their colleagues on a more personal level.

Career progression 

Talk to your employee about career progression within the company, not only so they have something to aim for but also to make them feel more secure about their position in the company.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Why soft skills are important for workplace wellbeing

Often in busy work environments there is so much pressure placed on achieving goals and hitting targets that the wellbeing of employees gets forgotten. There could be many reasons why this occurs but ultimately, this kind of responsibility lies with the management and their ability to use soft skills to nurture, inspire, and motivate their workforce. In a study by Gallup, it was found that "about 50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job to get away from their manager".

In order for a business to retain and maintain the wellbeing of staff, it’s vital for employees to feel a level of trust and respect towards their line manager. For many of us, we are much more likely to enjoy job satisfaction and go the extra mile when we are given support not only within our role but also for our mental wellbeing.

How to improve leadership soft skills?

Let’s not forget that managers are also human and might need assistance from time to time to improve their soft skills in order to ensure a happy and positive workplace. Being given help to better their emotional intelligence, communication skills, and interpersonal skills will stand them in good stead for being a respected leader that can maintain a healthy and inclusive workplace culture.

Get to know your team

Although it’s important to have a professional relationship with your employees, it’s equally as important to understand them on a personal level. Finding out what motivates a person, how they respond to stress, or understanding how they communicate with others can help you manage their workload and environment effectively.

Learn to listen properly

Especially when our jobs are busy and stressful, it’s easy to neglect the wellbeing of others, but by taking time out to listen to your staff’s needs or feelings, you can manage workloads much more effectively.

Give considered and empathic feedback

Not only can constructive feedback be beneficial to employees, but it can also help managers understand how they can improve workflow and productivity. It may be that a member of staff is struggling with one particular role, so rather than reprimanding them, ask them if there’s another area they feel they would excel in. Not only does this give them more job satisfaction, but it also gives them the confidence that you have considered their wellbeing.

Developing your own soft skills

Become more aware of an employee’s emotional needs by looking out for any subtle signs that may arise from personal issues, stress, or anxiety. Is someone quieter than usual, are they interacting less with others, do they look tired, are they more agitated than normal? These can all be signs that a member of your team is off-kilter and might need to air their thoughts to you in a private and confidential environment.