Tuesday 21 December 2021

Ways to survive your first week in a new job

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, or somewhere in between, there are certain aspects of starting a new job that can initially feel nerve-wracking. Although you might feel excited about your new role, a few niggling thoughts could be playing on your mind, such as:

  • Will people like me
  • Will I be able to handle the workload and meet important deadlines
  • Will I have help with anything I’m unfamiliar with?

Unless you deal with the negative voices in your head, your first week in a new job could potentially affect your mental wellbeing. You might find yourself feeling more anxious or stressed than usual, your sleep patterns could be disturbed, or you may have moments of crying and feeling like you’re unable to cope with the role or it in with your colleagues. New job anxiety is not uncommon and there are ways to help.

Tips for coping with your first week in a new job

1. Remember back to when you previously started a new job and look at how you gradually adapted over time. Sometimes it does take a little while to settle in and become familiar with new procedures and new people. However, the longer you stick it out, the easier it becomes.

2. Take regular exercise. This study shows that undertaking physical activity on a regular basis can reduce feelings of anxiety by releasing endorphins, relaxing muscles, and promoting quality sleep.

3. Become familiar with workplace policies and practices. By understanding the culture and ethos of a workplace, you’re more likely to feel secure and supported.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t have the confidence initially to ask questions in meetings or group situations, ask your manager, or a colleague who you might have befriended, when they’re on their own. It’s understandable that there are going to be certain aspects of the job that you won’t know or need help with so don’t be afraid to ask.

5. Make a good impression. Dress appropriately, arrive at work on time and having a friendly demeanour. These are things that will help you to create a good first impression which, in turn, will help you to build good working relationships both with management and co-workers.

6. Be enthusiastic. While it can be frowned upon by colleagues if you seem overly keen to impress your boss, showing just the right amount of enthusiasm along with a good work ethic can earn you a lot of respect. If you’re respected at work, your first week will be less daunting.

7. Make notes. Whenever you’re being shown something new at work, keep notes about the processes to help you remember. Although you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help, asking about the same thing multiple times could become frustrating to the person trying to help you.

8. Muck in! If everyone in the workplace shares the responsibility of doing the drink runs, washing up in the kitchen, or answering phone enquiries, for example, make sure you help out to maintain a harmonious environment.

Thursday 25 November 2021

Asking for a pay rise at work

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

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

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

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

How to ask for a pay rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 19 November 2021

How to set boundaries without upsetting your boss

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

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

Setting boundaries

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

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

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

Don't respond in haste

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

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

Be clear and polite

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

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

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Dealing with remote bullying in the workplace

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

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

What is remote bullying

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

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

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

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

How to address bullying in the workplace

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Returning to work post lockdown

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

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

How to stay healthy during the transition

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

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

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

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

You might also find these First Psychology resources helpful:

Thursday 30 September 2021

How to manage highly sensitive employees

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

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

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

Tips for managing highly sensitive employees

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

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

Friday 24 September 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can we have it all?

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

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

Thursday 19 August 2021

Dealing with a bad day at work

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

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

The effects of having a bad day at work

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

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

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

1. Let it go

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

2. Take deep breaths

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

3. Find a distraction

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

4. Talk to a friend

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

Friday 30 July 2021

Stop defining success and start living

Setting goals can be a great motivator and can ignite a passion within us but when it starts affecting our mental health negatively, it’s time for a rethink. What’s important to you? What will this imagined success bring you that something else can’t? Do you strive for more money and material items to bring you status or admiration?

Some people measure success by wealth and the size of their home, while for others, a loving relationship, physical health or having children are more important. An article that featured in the Harvard Business Review, showed that success can be measured subjectively and objectively. While one might be seen from a status perspective, the other comes from an emotional outlook.

Often we set our goals based on what others expect of us or how we want to appear to everyone else. But by continually denying ourselves the things that bring us true happiness, we could start to experience negative emotions. Perhaps you spend all your time focused on work because you only see the end goal and forget that the journey to success should be equally as rewarding. If you neglect your wellbeing for too long, it can cause stress and poor quality of sleep which can lead to burnout.

All the time you spend striving to be successful, means that you’re missing out on other things that make you truly happy. Perhaps you love to go out with your friends or take weekend breaks but they’re being pushed to one side in order for you to continue on the road to success. If you keep neglecting the small pleasures that bring you joy, you’ll find yourself feeling anxious, stressed and maybe even depressed.

Ways to put yourself first

  • When we’re so focused on a goal, we often lose sight of who we are so it’s important to remind yourself of your unique qualities. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself that aren’t related to an achievement of some kind.
  • Often we define success by what other people deem important but this can sometimes set us on the wrong path and blur our own personal definition of success. Write down what you believe to be successful without being influenced by anyone else. You might find that your ideas are very different to what you first thought.
  • By regularly practising self-love you’ll remind yourself of all your positive qualities. Positive affirmations are a great way to do this, and they can also help you appreciate all the great aspects of your life.
  • Avoid spending too much time with people who impose high expectations on you. It’s easy to be drawn into other people’s ways of thinking but if it isn’t making you happy, then you perhaps need to let go. 

Although striving for success can give us purpose, if the journey is not fulfilling your needs, you need to start doing the things that make YOU happy. Make time for all the things that bring you joy whether that’s spending more time outdoors, doing something creative or enjoying a hobby.

It’s so important to put your mental wellbeing first so if you find yourself becoming out of sorts and unhappy, you might be forcing yourself onto a path that isn’t meant for you. By focusing on something that combines your true passion and strengths, the journey to YOUR success will become much more meaningful and rewarding.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

How women can succeed in a male-dominated work environment

Although we have seen gender equality in the workplace evolve throughout the centuries, unfortunately there are some male-dominated fields where women still struggle to succeed. Cornell University undertook a study to evaluate the kinds of issues women face in male-dominated careers. The results showed that women faced several challenges, including:

Being made to feel incompetent

  • A lack of emotional and financial support
  • Their voices not being heard
  • Various types of mistreatments

These sorts of challenges can have a negative impact on mental health. You might find yourself suffering from a lack of self-confidence, anxiety, or loneliness, so it’s vital to take measures that will boost your mood and lower the risk of more serious emotional distress.

Ways to succeed and keep your mental health intact

If you find yourself in a male-dominated work environment, make sure you spend time with strong women. Perhaps you can create a group at work with other women where you can support each other both emotionally and with work issues. If this isn’t possible, join a female networking group so you can spend time with other like-minded professionals. This is a great way to improve your confidence and learn how to communicate openly.

It can be extremely lonely being in a male-dominated workplace but by seeking out a female role model or someone who has experienced similar challenges, you are less likely to feel alone. There are lots of great articles and books that can inspire you to stay emotionally strong and achieve your goals regardless of the barriers that might be put in your way.

Just because you might work in a male-dominated sector, it doesn’t mean that all the men will discriminate against you. Try to seek out the men who are willing to be your allies, support you, and help your voice be heard.

There may be times when you are afraid to speak up or share your opinions for fear that you’ll be ignored or, worse still, ridiculed, but it’s really important to continue speaking up. Let male colleagues or managers see that you value your own worth and don’t apologise for voicing your opinions.

Practice the art of confidence when you’re at home alone. Be assertive without being rude, speak authoritatively and work on positive body language. Try not to be a people pleaser and make sure you’re knowledgeable in your field of work. You might even want to take some training so that your male colleagues are more likely to respect your skills, especially if they are skills that your colleagues are lacking.

If you face conflict at work, try not to engage in it and remain professional at all times. It might be tempting to respond in the heat of the moment but even if your emotions are running high, resist making personal replies. This approach will make your colleagues respect you more, but they are also less likely to persist with any future conflicts.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Mastering collaboration as an introvert

For an introvert, the mere thought of teamwork can be their worst nightmare. According to psychologist Carl Jung, introverts turn to their internal thoughts to restore their mental wellbeing. But there are many personality traits and characteristics that an introvert might possess, such as:

  • Focusing on their inner thoughts
  • Dislike of large groups of people
  • Reflective
  • Prefer peace and quiet to concentrate
  • Feeling drained and tired after spending time with groups of people
  • Like spending time alone
  • Being shy around other people

It can be extremely daunting for an introvert working in an environment where there are lots of people and their job requires them to collaborate and attend meetings. These kinds of social situations can create negative emotions, including nervousness, a sense of failure, overwhelm, and fear, which can lead to anxiety, stress and depression in the long term.

So how can introverts overcome the daily challenges of a bustling work environment where regular meetings are structured for collaboration and extroverts?

  1. Spend time reading through papers or meeting agendas prior to the event and brainstorm while you’re alone. This will take some of the pressure off when you’re in a group of people and you’re suddenly expected to come up with ideas. Doing the legwork beforehand and planning in advance can ease some of the pressure. 
  2. Practise speaking up in groups of people and over time it will get easier. Maybe write a few points down before the meeting and aim to communicate at least one of the points. Gradually increase the number of points you raise. This is a great way to become more confident in your communication.
  3. Ask your manager if you can have some time following back-to-back or lengthy meetings so that you are able to spend time alone and recharge your batteries.
  4. Whenever possible, request one-on-one meetings or smaller team sessions with only those colleagues that are absolutely needed.
  5. Flexible and remote working is more widely accepted now so if your job allows, work from home and collaborate online instead. 
  6. Request that larger group meetings operate a round robin system so that everyone gets their chance to speak, this means you won’t have to try and talk over people to be heard.

Finally, remember that we all have different personality types and although introverts might struggle more with communicating in large groups, they have other skills that are equally as important when it comes to collaboration. According to a study published by Harvard Business Review, introverts very often make great leaders because of their ability to listen, build positive relationships and empathise deeply. These skills should be cherished because they could help introverts become highly successful in their field.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Ways to work smarter, not harder

In our busy lives, making time for ourselves is paramount so that we avoid burnout from working too hard. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our working lives that we neglect our personal needs. For decades, studies have proven that burnout can have serious effects on both our mental and physical health, including increased risk of heart disease and stroke, poor sleep, anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide in some cases. Not only are we putting our bodies and minds at risk when we overwork ourselves, but we are less likely to perform to the best of our abilities.

So often we think that by putting in longer hours we will gain more respect from our boss, receive pay rises and promotions, or reach higher targets, but this isn’t always the case, and we can damage our health in the process.

The Harvard Medical School recorded the results from a study that reported the links between longer working hours and health issues. It showed that “overwork and work stress are also associated with many cardiac risk factors. Those who work long hours tend to have unhealthy lifestyles, with less exercise, worse diets, and higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco.” Also, those who worked longer hours increased their risk of heart attack and were more likely to suffer from a stroke.

How to be more productive

So how can we work fewer hours and be more productive so that we have more time to focus on our personal lives? These simple tips will help you to work less and achieve more:

  • Prioritise – Switch off your devices (unless you need them for the task at hand) and list all your priority jobs with an achievable deadline. Forget about multi-tasking or having a chat with your colleagues until you have completed the task. It’s very easy to become distracted, especially in a busy work environment, so switch off from everything that’s going on around you.
  • Take breaks – Factor short breaks into your list of deadlines. More regular, shorter breaks ensure that you rest your mind and body so that you don’t become overtired or stressed. When we push ourselves too hard and don’t take breaks, we are much more likely to experience burnout, which can be counter-productive to our work.
  • Stay healthy – Drink plenty of water and eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day. This will keep your brain and body functioning to its full potential, and make sure you don’t skip main mealtimes. Make time for exercise each week, even if it’s just 20 minutes each day as you’ll feel more energised and in a more positive frame of mind.
  • Keep it brief – If you need to make a phone call to a client, attend a meeting or assist a colleague, practise keeping the conversation to a minimum (without being rude, of course). It can be easy to get caught up in unnecessary chit-chat that is neither beneficial to the company or the task you’re working on.
  • Ask for help – If you find yourself spending too much time researching how to do something, why not ask a colleague who has the appropriate experience to show you how it’s done? This can save you lots of time scrolling through the internet searching for solutions or making the same mistakes over again.

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.