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  1. Learn and grow during Mental Health Month in October

    October 4, 2016 by Alison Hill

    October is Mental Health Month. Even if you are not one of the approximately 45% of Australians who will suffer from a mental health problem at some stage, you are bound to know somebody who does – very likely including a colleague.

    Work is becoming ever more complex and demanding. The scope, scale and speed of businesses is constantly accelerating, as and IBM study in late 2015 found. Over 5000 executives in 70 countries reported that work was always busy, and at times frenetic, and related this to technological disruption and radically different business models as business becomes more competitive.

    It’s no wonder that the World Health Organization describes stress as the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st century.’ Three-quarters of us report feeling moderately to highly stressed by work, according to a Global Corporate Challenge survey of over 4,500 companies, and 36% of employees said they felt ‘highly or extremely stressed at work’.

    Mental Health Month is the ideal time for organisations to focus attention on this problem. Talking about mental health issues is a great way to start, so if your organisation has not put it on the agenda, make this the month you do so. It’s proven to lower health care costs, absenteeism and turnover, and leads to higher productivity. PwC research in 2014 calculated that programs that fostered resilience and a mentally healthy workplace returned $2.30 for every dollar spent.

    Mental health organisation Wellness at Work is offering an online program, which they describe as ‘an easy and inexpensive way for people to build the fundamental skills for facing mental health challenges at work, without needing to disclose their challenges to anyone at work if they don’t wish to.’ The program runs all month, with both paid and free options for participating.

    Here’s a taste of what the program has to offer.

    How to move from functioning to flourishing at work & in life

    Positive psychology expert Michelle McQuaid  presents this talk about how a growing body of evidence is finding that there are small, practical, excuse-proof steps you can take to improve your chances of consistently flourishing.

    Managing work intensity – how to maintain your wellbeing in a fast-paced workplace

    This one acknowledges that work can become too busy and too intense. Psychologist Nicole Plotkin will share some simple strategies for staying calm, managing your stress and keeping a clear head – even when there’s chaos all around you.

    This one looks like a winner: Difficult people made easy: how to handle challenging interpersonal situations at work.

    Hear Eleanor Shakiba, author of Difficult People Made Easy explain three simple tools for handling toxic team dynamics, challenging customer behaviours or emotionally fraught conversations.

    Psychologist, bullying expert, author and speaker Evelyn Field OAM  talks about Understanding workplace bullying… and how to deal with it. Hear why it occurs, the damage it causes to employees and organisations, and what employees, managers and organisations can do to prevent bullying and manage it respectfully when it occurs.

    Also from Wellness at Work is How to build resilience to job burnout. Adele Sinclair explains that burnout is a distinct condition, different to stress and exhaustion. In this talk, Adele will share what she has learned from her own multiple experiences of job burnout and how you can protect yourself from having similar experiences.

    See the full program at http://wellnessatwork.com.au/expo-fr-lounge/

    Of course there are many ways to learn and grow your awareness of mental health issues at work. There are many websites, books and apps that can help with stress, particularly those that present structured approaches to mindfulness.  Read Fully Present: The Art, Science and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston, or Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman and Mark Williams. Useful apps include Headspace and Simple Habit. Find more on the Dummies website.

    The challenge is to go further than this, argues Carlo Caponecchia, Senior Lecturer in the School of Aviation at UNSW. He writes on The Conversation that ‘Workplaces need to move beyond promoting mental health awareness and start changing the way work is designed to prevent psychological harm… By all means raise awareness, support people, and show them where to get further help. But re-design a policy, consult about new supervision practices, challenge a long-held cultural belief, and maybe everyone’s mental health at work will improve just a little.’

     


  2. What Resilient People Don’t Do

    January 27, 2015 by Jenna

    We all respond to change differently. For some of us it comes naturally and we can go with the flow, as for others, having that sense of security removed can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Regardless of which type of person you are, it is important to develop resilience so that we can continue to move towards our goals regardless of the situation.

    So what does it take to be an emotionally resilient person? Perhaps it is best to start by clarifying what they don’t do in order for us to understand what it takes to be resilient. An article by Brad Waters in Psychology Today will be my inspiration for this week and I have outlined ten of his points below:

    1. They don’t cross their own boundaries – Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary The stress/trauma might play a part in their current story but it does not overtake their permanent identity.

    2.They don’t surround themselves with bad company– In any environment, your behaviour can be greatly affected by the people you surround yourself with. Resilient people surround themselves with other resilient people who give them space to grieve and work through their emotions. These supporters know when to listen and when to offer enough encouragement without trying to solve the problem, allowing the individual to remain in control of their decisions. Good company will help calm a situation as opposed to adding frustration to it.

    3. They don’t avoid self-awareness – Being ‘blissfully unaware’ can get us through a bad day but it’s not a very wise long term strategy. Self-awareness helps resilient people to know what they need, what they don’t need and when it’s time to reach out for extra help.

    Prideful stubbornness without emotional flexibility or self-awareness can make us emotional glaciers. While strong on the outside to stay afloat, you can get prone to massive stress fractures when experiencing unexpected changes in your environment.

    4. They don’t pretend there isn’t a problem – Pain is painful, stress is stressful and healing takes time. Resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it’s better to come to terms with the truth or pain than to ignore it, repress it, or deny it.

    5. They don’t ignore quiet time – Some of us find the best ways to cope with stress and anxiety is to dull out with distractions such as television, eating, drinking too much etc. While not all distractions are bad, you still need to be mindful of the current situation you may be in and not use distractions as a means of avoiding problems. Somewhere in between shutting down or ramping up is mindfulness – being in the presence of the moment without judgement or avoidance. It takes practice, but finding a quiet space to reflect is well renowned for healing and resilience-building.

    6. They don’t presume to have all the answers – Sometimes we try too hard to find answers in the face of stressful or traumatic events, that activity can block the answers from naturally arising in their own due time. Resilient people can find strength in knowing they do not have it all figured out right now. They trust they will gradually find peace when their mind/body is ready.

    7. They don’t put self-care aside – Resilient people have a list of good habits that support them when they need them most. Anyone can build their own list by noticing those things that recharge their batteries and give them a boost.

    8. They don’t underestimate the importance of team input – Being resilient means knowing when to reach out for help from others. It also means knowing who will serve as a listening ear, and who won’t. A supporting team will help you reflect back on issues where you may have been too emotional or overwhelmed to do so at the time they occured.

    9. They don’t overlook other possibilities – Resilient people can train themselves to ask which parts of their current story are permanent and which parts can possibly change. This helps to maintain a realistic understanding that the present situation may be coloured by their current interpretation. Our interpretations of our stories will always change as we grow and mature.

    10. They don’t dwell on issues – When we’re in the midst of stress and overwhelmed, our thoughts can go at a hundred miles an hour. Resilient people can find reprieve accepting the situation and moving on. One technique that works for some people is the write down the issues causing the current stress.

    While writing is one resilience strategy you can keep in your back pocket, there are other ways that resilient people can get out of their head. Examples include healthy distractions like going to the gym or going for a walk, cooking or baking, volunteering or any self-care items as per point #7.

    How have you built resilience in times of change or difficult situations?


  3. How to handle the toxic employee in the workplace

    November 17, 2014 by Jenna

    During your career life-cycle, you may end up working with someone that you may not see eye to eye with. Individuals that can be placed in any of the following categories – complainers, controllers, gossipers, bullies, judges, or someone who is not flexible with accepting another opinion or feedback. This can make your working environment tense, it can increase stress levels and it can also give you a more negative outlook towards work. However, there are ways to rise above it so that it won’t affect you on a daily basis.

    An article on by Travis Bradberry on SBS News provided insight on How to Handle Toxic People and I have highlighted the most important points to share from this article below:

    Don’t give up too easily

    It’s important to fight through another day, that’s what all great successors do, even if there are toxic individuals in your workplace. Try and be aware of your emotions and respond appropriately so that you can stand your ground when the time is right. If you leave your emotions unchecked and let items build up, it can lead to more damage than good.

    Stay aware of your emotions

    You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognise when it’s happening. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to regroup and choose the best way forward. Buying yourself time to assess the situation can often save an emotional reaction or putting your foot in your mouth by saying something that isn’t necessary.

    Giving yourself some time to assess a situation can also allow you to provide a better and more calculated response to set the situation straight.

    Establish Boundaries

    When you need to face your toxic co-worker on a daily basis it can feel like you are in a trap that you can’t get out of. You may think that this is out of your control and you can feel defeated and have to put up with being in their presence 24/7.

    If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. You can establish boundaries, just make sure you do it consciously and proactively. Otherwise you could find yourself getting wrapped up in difficult conversations or situations more often than you have to.

    Don’t let anyone limit your joy

    When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they have done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take away from them.

    While we value feedback and opinions of others, we don’t have to compare ourselves with other people and it’s important to take options with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

    Don’t focus on the problems – only solutions

    When you fixate on the problems you are facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus your actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

    By focusing your attention on the toxic person, you are giving them exactly what they want. It gives them a sense of power over you. By focusing on how to handle the toxic person as opposed to thinking about how troubling they are, you are effectively putting yourself back into control and it will help with reducing stress when this person is around you.

    Squash negative-talk

    There is nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either help intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary and self-defeating. You should avoid negative-talk at all costs.

    Use your support system

    To deal with toxic people, you need to recognise the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Having someone provide a solution who does not have an emotional connection to the situation can really open up a new perspective.

    Test different methods

    You will be faced with different tests when it comes to dealing with difficult people and interactions. This will involve practicing different behaviours, and sometimes learning from failure. However, the more techniques you try (as each individual behaves differently) the more you will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

    In summary, the best way to handle working with a difficult person is to first understand your own emotional reactions and knowing what makes you tick. That way you can better establish how to avoid setting off a time bomb and keeping the workplace functioning in harmony. It will also help to maintain a positive outlook to your role and your working environment.

    Have you recently faced a toxic or difficult person in your workplace? How did you handle it? What worked and didn’t work?


  4. Do you prefer to drive to work or take public transport?

    May 29, 2012 by Jenna

    Ah the joys of the morning commute. I posted last week’s poll to get a general idea of how many of you out there prefer to fight the traffic battle in the morning on the way to work or whether you like the fight the crowds on the bus, ferry or train on the way into work.

    When I often tell people that I live about an hour outside of work I watch as their faces tend to cringe and the response will usually be, ‘how do you put up with the travel into work?’ or ‘Have you ever thought of living closer to the city?’ And my response is always the same, ‘I really don’t mind. I enjoy where I live as opposed to where I work, I find a good balance, and if I have a good book or music to listen to , the morning commute is fine.

    Of course that is not what goes through my head on the days when the announcement comes on the train that says something along the lines of, ‘Attention all passengers, due to a technical failure/a police incident at blah blah station/an emergency situation/a passenger jumping from the platform, etc. your train will be delayed or cancelled for today. Cityrail apologises for any inconvenience caused…‘ And of course depending on what the schedule is like for the day, it is often a MAJOR inconvenience.

    At the same time, this is my only option as I don’t drive. And when I think of the cost of a vehicle, insurance, petrol and the cost of parking, I often think to myself, why bother! My workplace is across the street from the station, my home is two minutes from the station. So regardless of those unexpected incidents with public transport, I tend to think I’m in a Win/Win situation.

    However, I know that not everyone has the same situation and this is what your responses were:

    • 33% of you prefer driving to work
    • 55% of you take either the train or bus into work
    • 11% of you do a combination of driving and taking public transport into work

    I also appreciated the valid responses as well:

    • When attending my office in the city, I catch the train as traffic and parking are ridiculous! But when attending a client’s office in the suburbs I drive.
    • Having to work late frequently, it is more convenient and comfortable to jump in the car and drive home after work.  Having said that, I do not enjoy the traffic jams in the morning!
    • Can read and work on the train. Reliable and cheap too

    With that said, I can understand if you need to travel within short distances or to an area outside of the public transport zone then I would certainly say a car would be more reliable, but I also have to agree, does traffic add on more stress to your day?

    A website called www.lifehak.com advises that the use of public transportation can save your sanity and improve your productivity in the following ways:

    • Saving your money – how much does your car really cost you in the course of a year?
    • Saving your time – once you are driving, your hands and mind are fully occupied, on public transport, your time is your own.
    • Saving your sanity – how often do you lose your temper when you are stuck in slow traffic?
    • Saving yourself – how much more exercise can you get in the day running for a train or bus?
    • Saving the world – much better for the environment in the long run

    Another website called workawesom.com lists four main reasons to take public transport over driving:

    • Found time – more time reading, working, or napping if needed
    • Save the earth and some cash – as above, good for the environment and costs less per week
    • Employer benefits – employers will sometimes partially or even fully reimburse you for transit costs depending on the work related task.
    • Market research – needing statistical information from the general public, there is no better way to find like minded individuals to chat to or observe then on the train or bus.

    Besides time, one of the other major factors appears to be costs. Now I know this can be dependant on where you live, and whether or not you need to rely on a car or not to get around, but you could be saving thousands of dollars a year by taking public transport. Not to mention, have you seen the cost of parking within the central city CBD? It’s great if you have a company car space, but let’s be honest, how many of us genuinely have that?

    Well my vote is for public transport, not to be biased as I do like being the car passenger, especially on more remote trips that are outside of the city. But travelling into work, I would prefer to have my time then have to stress and worry before even arriving to work!

    Haven’t had your say? Why not add a comment below, we would love to hear from you. Otherwise we have a new online poll this week, which was created by my colleague Susan Kealy, ‘How do you feel about personality tests?’ – why not participate and be in the draw to enjoy a great night out at the movies? The results will be revealed next week, stay tuned!

     


  5. What are the ways in which you effectively manage your time?

    May 2, 2012 by Jenna

    Time Management. Isn’t that the word we all love to hate sometimes?

    Let’s face it, we can all be guilty of it from time to time. I’ve been reviewed in previous jobs for time management because I wouldn’t handle those difficult tasks first and by not speaking up soon enough which would result in it coming back to bite me.

    But we need to effectively manage our time, otherwise, when will we be able to find balance in life outside of our working environment? We are not machines, so why not get the most out of our time at work so that we can then find the time for our families and friends (and a life!)

    Everyone will have a different tactic or strategy that they like to follow, and for some people time management comes more easily than it does to others.

    I used to work for a company that tried the use of a GO ZONE, where we would take an hour at the same time every day to strictly work on the very important tasks on our priority lists without allowing any distractions. This meant we would have to close our emails if need be, set our phones to voice mail, and not make any attempt to interrupt our fellow colleagues until we set that time for our tasks. For a while I found it was working too, but in the world of events it was not an easy strategy to follow, because as you can imagine, every event held is different, and there is always something last minute or urgent that pops up that you have to drop what you are doing to look after.

    One website I reviewed called smallbusiness.chron.com outlined the common signs of bad time management:

    • Procrastination – avoiding the bigger issues/tasks of the day
    • Tardiness – being late for work or appointments as a result of too many tasks to complete or lack of sleep due to stress
    • Stress and Fatigue – Not having enough hours in the day, therefore longer hours result in less sleep and stress will also prevent a good night’s rest.
    • Lack of Preparation – Poor time management can result in reports not being in on time, presentations not being properly researched, or meetings with clients/customers not going as planned because of the lack of preparation.

    Recently I attended a breakfast event on Managing Your Time – The Recruiters Guide. Even though it was targeting our line of work specifically, there were still a lot of ‘common sense’ steps that could apply to any business and it was good to be reminded of this. The presenter stated, ‘Productivity is a measure of how much you accomplish, not how busy you are.’ Haven’t we all been there where we have so much work and yet it doesn’t feel like we are getting anywhere?

    He also mentioned about our body and how we have natural highs and lows in our energy and motivational levels and we should prioritise the client face to face time or telephone calls during that high period and perhaps set aside the paperwork, data entry, and more routine tasks to our low periods of the day. I have a friend that told me that he doesn’t officially wake up until midday, so I guess you could say his client/customer time would be in the afternoon!

    Another good point which I am often guilty of is ‘Deal with the worst/hardest task of the day first’, something I think we are all aware of but often avoid. And to be honest, if we did those hard tasks first then we would not have to think about it and let it distract us and build up until we finally take the plunge and do it.

    And of course diary management, especially when multi-tasking, is always the best reminder of how are working day will be set out, not to mention a helpful reminder for appointment times. And really there is no excuse when it comes to diary management. We have Microsoft Outlook Calendars, Phone reminders, Written Diaries, Wall Calendars, you name it! At any quiet time of the day you can lay out a plan of your working week, even set appointments way in advance.

    I put together these key points in last week’s poll to see what you as the respondents would rate them on in terms of importance:

    • By doing the most time consuming and least favourite tasks of the day first, allowing you more time to effectively manage the rest of your day – 58% agreed to this
    • Having a GO ZONE where you set aside an hour or two to do your tasks without checking your email or phone allowing distractions – only 21% agreed to this
    • Setting your diary for meetings so that you can better balance the time period in which to complete the remaining tasks – 47% agreed to this
    • You don’t have time to come up with set strategies, you take on the tasks of each day spontaneously – 16% agreed to this

    Everything has a different deadline, I prioritise according to the size of the task and proximity to that deadline. Hasn’t done me wrong in the past! Or if nothing is particularly urgent… I do the fun stuff first. I find it motivating to be able to mix my day up so that it suits me.

    Another website I reviewed called www.thundersgarage.com listed some top tips for effective time management:

    1. Spend Time Planning And Organising

    2. Set Goals

    3. Prioritise

    4. Use A ‘To Do’ List

    5. Be Flexible

    6. Consider Your Biological Prime Time

    7. Do The Right Thing Right

    8. Eliminate The Urgent

    9. Practice The Art Of Intelligent Neglect

    10. Avoid Being A Perfectionist

    11. Conquer Procrastination

    12. Learn To Say ‘No’

    13. Reward Yourself

    While a lot of these points may seem very straight forward to you and you may have heard this all before, as we can sometimes slip out of the organisational stream or become easily distracted I think it is important to often be reminded of effective time management skills.

    This blog will link with this week’s poll: What are the best ways to cope with workplace stress? which will put you in the draw to win a Hoyts Cinema Double Pass so don’t delay!

    Haven’t had your say? Why not add a comment below.

     

     

     

     




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