Friday, 20 November 2015

WSWS Friday Download - Does having a nice place to work really make a difference?

This is my workspace.  It isn't big or flash but it has natural light and a noticeboard full of pretty things which suits me down to the ground.
We've probably all seen photos of Google's offices around the world with their wacky tube slides, swing seats and giant bean bag cushions not to mention the 1960s caravan, surfboards, ball pits and the indoor crazy golf.  If you haven't then take a look at this gallery.  It looks amazing but is it a gimmick or are there real benefits to be reaped in terms of motivation, engagement, productivity and physical and mental well-being?

My husband, a software developer who normally works inside, always had a dream to have the opportunity to work outside.  Others would pooh-pooh the idea saying it's too hard, too uncomfortable, you can't seen the screen and you can't get a good internet connection.  He does it, depending on the work he's doing and it works fine.  He's fortunate enough to have a large garden at his place of work  where he can indulge in this outdoor dream and likewise on the days he works from home, if the sun's out and it's warm enough, he'll take his laptop into our garden.  He always says that he feels a million times better for it and that has to be a good thing.

In my previous place we moved into an old Victorian building.  I love old, I live in an old Victorian house and embrace the drafts, uneven floors and other quirks but this place just wasn't right for the work we were doing in adult mental health.  It felt institutionalised, the magnolia d├ęcor was was bland and uninspiring, it was either too hot or too cold and the meeting rooms were like cells and the offices were soul less.  Meeting with people who were feeling very low, anxious and lacking in self esteem in these windowless uninspiring boxes was in fact was rather depressing for both the client and the employee.   Unfortunately, I saw the negative impact this unstimulating environment had on myself, my colleagues and clients.

The workplace environment needs to be in harmony with the purpose it's being used for. 

Director of strategy and business transformation, Helen Nicol, at creative consultancy SoVibrant echoes this, 

“Open plan used to be all the rage, but this often had absolutely no bearing on what employees did, so people hated it,” she explains. “Making the working environment somewhere that supports what employees need to do, and makes them feel cared for, will make them happier and more productive.”

Natural light is one of my must haves when it comes to working and my desk (pictured above) is positioned by both a window and a skylight.  Without any natural light I feel the day has no shape.

The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, published in March 2015, (carried out by Interface and Robertson Cooper) found that incorporating natural elements into office design increased workers' well-being by 15%, productivity by 6% and creativity by 15%.
Final words on the subject goes to Geoff Dutaillis, group head of sustainability at Lend Lease,

 “Whatever business you are in, you are in the business of people. How a building ‘works for people’ should be the priority question.”

Here is the Friday Download article round up on the subject of the impact the workplace can have on motivation, engagement well-being and productivity...

I've written about this topic before in my Workplace Most Wanted post.

The office that combats mental and physical stress.

Can the workplace motivate staff?

Could an office dog help your staff relax?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

4 steps to take if you think you're being bullied at work

This week is National Anti-bullying Week and to mark the event my daughters' primary school held a Friendship Cafe yesterday.  For 50p the children had the chance to visit the cafe, buy a drink and a cake and have the opportunity to mix with children they might not normally do so such as younger or older children in the school.  

The photo above is the friendship chain drawn by my youngest in Year 1 who explained to me that these are the people she could talk to if she felt she was being bullied at school;  Mum, teacher, sister or a Year 6 playground play coordinator.  Just for the record, I have never done the school run in a crop top with my bully button on show ans certainly don't plan to start doing any time soon either!

But bullying isn't just a classroom issue, it happens in the workplace as well.

During my time working for the mental health charity Richmond Fellowship, I worked with 100s of employees and have seen first hand the damage bullying can do.  

So here are my top 4 steps to take if you think you're being bullied at work...

1. Is it bullying?
We may find ourselves  in a situation where we don't like the way we feel we're being treated at work but we're not sure if it constitutes bullying or harassment.  When it's happening to you it can be all consuming and can be difficult to look at it objectively when we're feeling hurt, angry, confused or scarred.  Bullies can be very devious making you doubt your story or telling you others won't believe you and intimidating you into silence.

Acas  the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service which provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law states:

"Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work." ACAS

Harassment as defined in the Equality Act 2010 is: 
Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. (ACAS)

Bullying may be characterised as: 
Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. (ACAS)

More information and further examples of what constitutes bullying can be found in the ACAS Bullying and Harassment at work guide.

2. Talk it through
My advice would be to start by talking through the situation whit someone you trust.  Having to actually articulate what's happening will help you to order your thoughts and create some clarity of the facts involved.

Now this one's tricky but if you can, try and arrange an information chat with the person who is treating you in a way you feel constitutes bullying.  Quite often bullies back down when confronted in a calm and in control manner. 

For tips on what to say and how to say it in a non confrontational way have a look at this post from Hannah Fox's Diary about Fact Feel Want

If talking to the bully is just too much for you or not practical then try and share how you feel with your manager or another trusted senior member of staff.

After every conversation, always document the chat including any agreements or actions agreed.

3. Keep a diary
Make a note of every inappropriate conversation; what was said, how it was said, how you felt, date and time, names of any witnesses.

Keep copies of any emails or voice-mails which are evidence to the bullying behaviour.

Also keep anything that contradicts the actions of the bully.  If the bully is implying you aren't doing your job properly then keep a nopte of all positive feedback from clients and colleagues, objectives and targets you've met and the time you've gone the extra mile.  This is your evidence and will be vital if you need to take further more formal action.

4.  Taking formal action 
The first step to taking more formal action is to raise a grievance.  Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassing behaviour and therefore your employer will have a formal grievance procedure so check out your staff intranet or handbook or speak with your HR department for details.

The grievance procedure will give you guidance on what to include, who to send it to and the time frame around when you will hear back from the investigation.  ACAS also has more information about Grievances which you can find here.

I'm sure other schools are also organising similar anti-bullying, kindness and tolerance promoting activities as my daughters'school Friendship Cafe and this can surely only be a good thing.  I'm not naive enough to think it will eradicate bullying totally but explaining, promoting an encouraging friendship, kindness, respect and tolerance in children is definitely laying some very solid and worthwhile foundation stones for future healthier, happier and more tolerant workplaces.

Friday, 13 November 2015

WSWS Friday Download - Mental Wellbeing - 13th November 2015

There is much talk today in the news about mental health budget cuts putting services under huge pressure and potentially putting lives at risk. 

Mental health cuts put lives at risk - BBC News
Mental health cuts putting services under huge pressure - The Guardian

So what can we do to look after our own mental well-being?

As a trainer focusing on mental well-being in the workplace, I talk a lot about stress levels and how to release that stress in a healthy way.  

We all have a stress capacity, it varies from one of us to another.  I like to think of this as a bucket; our own stress bucket.  Some of us have bigger buckets than others and for some of us, our buckets are already pretty heavy carrying a lot of stress and nearing capacity.  

Although we can take some steps to limit stress, unfortunately we can't always control the amount of stress coming into our bucket.  If at any time, the level of stress in our bucket is quite low, we can often absorb more pressure and kind of carry on for the time being.  However' if our bucket is already very full almost to the brim and one extra stress comes our way, it can cause our stress bucket to overflow.  It might not be a big thing that causes this and could well be something that if our bucket wasn't as full we'd have dealt with it without another thought but in this case it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

So although we can't always control what comes into our bucket, we can take control and responsibility for fitting a "stress release tap" to the bottom of our bucket by taking part in stress relieving activities such as physical exercise, chatting with a friend, engaging in a hobby.  Activities that can take your mind of the stresses and help you relax.

The benefits of gardening for physical and mental well-being have long been documented but with the rise in urban living, a new study by the universities of Westminster and Essex has focused on the benefits of allotment gardening.   

"Those who had worked in their allotments at least once a week had lower levels of fatigue, depression, tension and anger - and had higher self-esteem and better general health - than those who had done no gardening at all."
Allotment gardening can boost mental well-being according to study - BBC News

If gardening isn't you thing, how about singing?  Especially singing in a choir which has  the additional social aspect to it.

"But singing in a choir is more than just a bit of fun. It's been scientifically proven that it is good for your health: from getting more oxygen into the blood, to increasing the flow of feelgood hormones and improving mental health."
Can singing in a choir make you healthier - BBC iWonder

What do you do to empty your stress bucket?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Well-being event at Swindon College - October 2015

At the end of last month I was invited to attend a Staff Well-being Event at Swindon College. As I had attended this brilliant event last year, I had high hopes for another good day and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

At last year's event I had a nautical theme to my stand with boats, waves and seashells.  This year to mark the start of autumn, I created a tree that, although it had already lost its leaves, was by no means empty....

The Work Smart Work Savvy Cup of Tea Advice Tree

The idea with the Cup of Tea Advice Tree is that 

  • you take a cup of tea with your chosen piece of advice or motivational quote from the tree, along with a herbal infusion teabag
  • then once back at your desk, you stick you cup of tea on your wall or pin board and brew your tea
  • whilst enjoying your cuppa, take a few minutes to think about how you're going to follow, live by or implement your piece of advice

Some lovely college people very kindly spent time writing their own advice or saying on a cup of tea to add back to the tree which was fabulous, thank you.  However as we were doing this on a Friday afternoon I was happy for people to just take, it was the end of the week after all.

I also showcased the very new Work Smart Work Savvy Box of Happiness.  I will share more on this another time but the idea here is that we can very easily fall into the trap of ruminating about what has happened in the past and worrying about what might happen in the future which in turns prevents us from spending time just enjoying the here and now.   The Box of Happiness is a little treat to help us appreciate what we have and increase our feeling of happiness.

I also had sneaky peeps at two of my on-line products; 

  • the on-line training course 4 Savvy Steps To Getting More Done Without Working More Hours 
  • the on-line Make It Happen Tool
Details of both of these can be found in my on-line shop; Make It Happen Tool here and 4 Savvy Steps To Getting More Done here.

Thank you to everyone who popped by for a chat, it was really lovely to meet you all.

Here are just a few of the pieces of advice the lovely people at Swindon College chose to take away with them....lots of wise words.

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