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Less stress in 3 simple steps

If you’ve read my last few posts, I think I’ve made it pretty clear about where I stand on the whole wellbeing-at-work thing, and employee wellness being disguised with one-off wellbeing days or weeks in an attempt to (well I’m not sure what they’re attempting to do if I’m totally honest).    

Anyway, it’s Monday, YAY! Another week ahead of motivating meetings, juicy deadlines, exciting emails, office politics, lovely late nights and early mornings, time-saving lunches at the desk, and all the other delights that come with trying to climb that corporate ladder.

How does this make you feel? Totally fine I hope, but I wouldn’t rule out that for some reading this, it may bring on that knotty feeling in the gut, you know the one, where the chest gets tight, maybe a little short of breath and a racing mind? Some call this Anxiety!

Ok so I know this has all started a bit heavy for a Monday morning, but I can assure you that it doesn’t have to all be doom and gloom. I will attempt to help those feeling the fear by planting a few seeds that I hope will grow into feelings of calm, peace, acceptance and make the rest of the week (almost) a doddle.

I currently work with both individuals and teams to reduce (in the aim of elimination) the stresses and anxiety levels that many experience on a daily basis and not just on a Monday. We work together to find simple ways in which de-stressing practices can be assimilated into your average day without any dramatic changes needing to be made.

Before I go into the practices that are designed to make your week a little easier, I’d really like to emphasise the point on those feelings of stress and anxiety are NOT normal, they are NOT part of having a job and they should NOT be accepted as so.  We oftern hear clients say things like… ‘Yeah I’m stressed, buts that’s normal’. This narrative is dangerous and a fundamental cause of the increase in avoidable metal health issues.

This viewpoint keeps us holding on to ‘little stresses’ that may seem quite minor, a little stress that you can deal with. But all of these little stresses got stored. They are the straws piling up towards breaking the poor camels back. Don’t be the camel.

So, here are three easy steps to make the week a little more erm…. For now, let’s just say manageable.

 

 

Step 1

Is to mindfully acknowledge the feeling of stress. recognise it, it’s ok, sit with it for a bit and understand that whatever the external cause was, it’s now your choice on what to do with it.

You have a few options. You can let the stress lead the way and dictate a response (which 9 times out of 10 is an emotional one), or you can bring a little calm back to the mind, logically think about the situation that’s causing the stress. If it’s something you have to do… either do it or don’t. All the stressing in the world won’t change the outcome. If it’s something that’s already happened,  it’s already happened, you may amp up your stress 10x if you like, but I can guarantee it still will not resolve anything. So, you choose how you wish to proceed.

The list of possible stress triggers would be too long and quite stressful in itself to read but the principle remains.

The mindful acknowledgment of our stresses is a powerful tool. It allows more control over our actions, our reactions and this positive behaviour change will be noticeable almost immediately. It reduces the size of the ‘thing’ that would usually trigger the stress, but most importantly it will reduce the amount of time your body/mind spends in stress-mode, and lessen the risks from the myriad of health symptoms that stress can lead to. For more on this, have look back on my post from a couple of weeks ago.

 

Step 2

It’s all about you, it really is. So step 2 is – ‘time for YOU’. Why wait until the pressure is unbearable before you decide that you need to step outside and take a breather? Try setting a reminder for a 5-10 minute break every 90 – 120 minutes.

You will be amazed at the increase in focus and productivity this brings. Give your mind a break, just like you would need to sit down after running around for hours on end, don’t make your brain do all this leg work without any break, let it take a seat before you put it back on the treadmill.

Remember, this is your mental health we’re talking about, so it’s not to be taken lightly.  Here is a lovely explanation that was written by Debbie Hampton about ‘Why you need to give your brain a break

 

Step 3

Dare I encroach on your personal out-of-office-hours time? I do because this really is where the magic happens, but also where a little graft is needed. At Mind Work, our ethos is the Mind Matters Most, and we all need to understand that it must be treated as so if it’s to be kept fit and healthy.

What’s your meditation? Find it. Sitting in quiet crossed legged for periods of time has tremendous benefits, but let’s just take one step at a time. Find your meditation, find your zen, walk in a park, workout, read something that makes you feel good, build that brain muscle. Going home and watching junk TV like Love Island is literally like taking a dump in your head. Avoid this.

We always hear the term ‘you get out, what you put in’ the mind is no different. I encourage you to think about this seriously. This also means that what goes in needs to come out, like pretty much everything else. So I’m sorry to say that the pub also won’t do you any favours in clearing out the mental negative-junk that your poor brain has consumed throughout the day.

Everyday stresses are stored, and they build up gradually without you noticing, and by the time we do realise we’re stressed/anxious or unhappy, we’re often already in the hole with an uphill to climb ahead of us.

Look, I have supported many people out of some really deep holes, so if you feel that’s where you are then fear not because it is impermanent I promise, there is a way out and it is within your power to get you there, however, prevention is better than cure right? Why wait for the shit to hit the fan before you start making the steps towards improving your mental health, towards personal development, towards being able to live a happier, better-balanced life?   

Make the decision to make the change and look into employing these three simple practices into your days. So lets recap:

Step one

Mindfully acknowledge the stress/anxiety – Sit with it, understand its cause, react with rational thought.

Step two

Give yourself a mental break – Rest the brain often, avoid overworking the mind.

Step three

Find your meditation out of the office – Take your mindfulness home with you, find your release, not your suppressant.

 

Wishing you all a less stressful week ahead. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

You can email directly via mason@projectmindwork.org

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Who’s to blame – Employers or Employees?

So this is officially a weekly word from Me the founder of Mind Work… I’ll mainly be talking about wellbeing (obviously), but also touching on the daily challenges many of us face, the questions we have around them, and most importantly, ways we can navigate through this (sometimes overwhelming) thing we call life.

Last weeks post was kind of a mini-rant where I touched on what I thought was wrong with the way we approach Wellbeing at work. Although the topic is on the radar for most companies in the west, it is taking its time in becoming ingrained into the culture of the workforce.

But my question is… If we had to lay the blame – because everybody like to point the finger – Who is guilty for the lack of attention given to the physical and mental wellbeing of us all?

The Employer – Or the employee?

The employer, employs to make the company profitable right? Right! Their ideal aim would be to have the strongest team firing on all cylinders all of the time. Yes? Because a company can (and often is) be referred to as a machine. So why the hell does the employers not consider the maintenance of the machine, to be the MOST important aspect of ensuring its performance?

So I’ve got a little analogy – Imagine your boss is driving home from work after announcing a new project deadline to an already tired team (something we hear A LOT at Mind Work) and their petrol light comes on. What do they do? They give the car fuel, they ensure it’s got what it needs to go, to move, to perform.

You get the picture, and this is quite a nice segue to the other party who may be responsible…

The Employee –

Taking it back to the car thing… What is the difference between the machinery and the employees? Well, the car lets its boss know when it’s needing something, oil, water, petrol, etc. Now I’m not suggesting you ask your bosses to pour you a drink, but if you’re allowing yourself to burn out without having the conversation… who is to blame?

For me, this goes across the board. You or I may be feeling fine and in tip-top condition, but if our collogues are struggling, it’s our duty to bring this up, and NOT use it as an opportunity to climb the ladder. Not use it as a chance to compare ourselves thinking how in control we are because I can tell you… Burn out, chronic stress, depression… it can get us all. 

So, what do I suggest? Something that we all know how to do… Talk! But the caveat is to talk honestly, and bravely, to your peers, your colleagues, your bosses, anyone. Just start talking about it. Plant the seed. It may not be for you directly but with the 85% are experiencing a clearly recognisable level of worry regularly, there are a number of people you work with that you’ll be helping.

So before you go off and start the much-needed conversations. I have another question – That I guess (for now) is rhetorical as you can’t reply is – Do we even know what mental health is?

I’m not so sure as many still believe that if we’re not hearing voices that tell us to do things or feel like jumping off a bridge, then we can just put it down to a bit of a mood. If someone is quiet at work and unengaged it may be thought that ‘He/she just doesn’t have the motivation.’  – And with that being the narrative of a large amount companies in this day and age, then it’s no wonder that He/She doesn’t feel too comfortable sharing the fact that the “lack of motivation” actually stems from something a little deeper than just a lull job satisfaction.

I’ll leave it there from now, but in essence – and of course, these are just my views that some may agree or disagree with. What’s important is that we give this topic the respect it deserves.

Have a lovely week.

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Wellness, Are Companies Really Getting It?…

Credit where credit is due, there are many companies attempting to give this wellbeing malarkey a go. They’ll have the yoga sessions, a workshop, maybe even an app for some reason? Although we do not think this is enough, Mind Work we are still happy to see as it shows a degree of awareness. It’s undeniable, wellness for employees is a hot topic.

 

That being said, it seems that many have not yet quite grasped the whole reasoning behind the “wellbeing for employees movement”.  A ‘Wellbeing Week’ once a quarter simply won’t cut it. As with anything, commitment is a necessity if you want to see beneficial results for your company and more importantly, your employees. We know that a happy workforce will reflect on your company’s overall output so why do so many fall short when it comes to giving wellness programmes the respect it deserves?

 

Company wellness programs are failing, and one of the reasons are that they’re not ‘Programmes’ at all. Similar to the new years resolution of going to the gym and taking one spin class per week and jumping on the scales to be met with the 2 lbs you added, before declaring it’s not working. Don’t get me wrong, the employees (whom of which the programmes are designed to serve) themselves must also take their fair share of the responsibility with an attitude that seems to imply that they feel like wellness at work is something done to them rather than for them. These programs are often superficial/for show – they don’t elevate company culture, inspire commitment, or even tie to the company’s business goals. Any program that alienates, annoys, and distracts those it means to serve will fail to deliver results in the long-term.

 

Here is a great example of this from Henry Albrecht – Founder, CEO & Board Director at Limeade

“There’s no shortage of “wellness gone wrong” examples, starting with the programs that held people accountable for achieving biometric values but never gave anyone a hint that the company understood or cared about their lives. And frankly, for every egregiously punitive approach, there were (and still are) 10 programs barely skimming the surface of their potential. They’re feel-good distractions embraced by those already in the club. As corporate investments and priorities, they rank somewhere between the company party and bean bags in the conference rooms. Do they even matter?

Most corporate wellness (now often called “well-being”) programs have so far failed to deliver on their potential. But the good news is, with a more holistic well-being and engagement model, employers can achieve much bigger results than companies and employees have envisioned to date – results that go well beyond health and health costs to something richer: true work engagement.”

 

There are a number current reasons to why programmes don’t seem to be working. Three of which Henry Albrecht highlighted as being ;

 

1. Wellness Programs Don’t Work the Way Our Brains Work

Although the narrative indicates that the health of employees seem to be the driving force behind the reason of implementation, I think it’s safe to say that the main reason that these programmes have found their way into companies is in order to reduce the costs that poor employee health, both physical and mental rack up i.e. make the company more money (which is totally fine of course).  On one hand we have the fact that healthier people will cost less to insure and less likely to take days off. The influencers embraced this, and the idea spread. There was a second and more suspect premise embedded, though: that you can pay people to comply. Those who don’t participate won’t get the same insurance benefits, effectively shifting costs from willing participants to unwilling ones. And it worked… in a short-term way.

Ultimately, however, this punitive Industrial Revolution mentality often created more resentment than value. It sent a clear message of accountability, which on the upside saved some lives and caught some serious issues early with its focus on important preventive care protocols. No one wants to be told that they need to improve their health to avoid financial penalties; that message absent an immersive cultural commitment to whole-person well-being breeds resentment and won’t help companies with long-term engagement and retention.

And these are much bigger, higher-value goals than lowering health costs.

Even when messaged positively, telling people the “right” thing to do and holding them accountable for doing it “or else” is fundamentally out of touch with how people think, work, and act  – and what they want. What exactly do employees want? Barry Schwartz and others have shown that people crave a sense of purpose at work, as well as community, belonging, value, autonomy, and mastery. The science of motivation is the relevant science for voluntary programs. Prioritising these things has the potential to boost the bottom line while making employees happy, too. What’s more, creating caring and supportive companies – with high expectations – will help us take on the widespread isolation and suffering we face as a society.

 

2. “Wellness” Is Largely Irrelevant to the CEO

If you ask a Fortune 500 CEO about corporate priorities, you’ll generally hear a standard list that includes increasing revenue, profit, market share or stock price, serving customers well, globalisation, technology disruption and maybe winning that Great Company award. Some might even go out on a limb and mention attracting great leaders, retaining top talent, or even creating a great culture as a way to achieve these other goals.

Where is employee well-being on the CEO list? Is it even in the top 20? Is it “a given” but not explicitly measured or managed? Wellness isn’t seen as a strategic part of culture creation that can increase engagement and ultimately lead to a company’s success. It’s a check-the-box, unimportant thing that ends up buried at the bottom of a long list of employee perks. For many companies, it’s program number 21 from one of the least influential departments: benefits.

I see this disconnect every day with our customers, both in under-appreciated human capital functions and in the C-suite. And it’s not surprising given the way we’ve sometimes done these programs. But there’s no reason for this to happen anymore. Consider these findings from Limeade:

  • 88% of employees with higher well-being are engaged at work, compared with 50% of employees with lower well-being.
  • 98% of employees with both higher well-being and a higher perception that their company supports their well-being say they want to be working at the same company in one year.
  • 99% of employees with both high well-being and organisational support would recommend their employer as “a great place to work.”

It seems like focusing on an energetic and engaged workforce has potential, but…

 

3. Wellness Programmes and the ROI issue 

Wellness programs have historically been chartered with lowering healthcare costs – but proof of their results has been tough to nail down. One reason is that health costs fluctuate for reasons unrelated to health – like network design, unnecessary surgery, generic drug strategy, economic incentives for hospitals to do more procedures, and other “supply-side” issues. The second and third reasons are the ‘how our brains work’ and ‘irrelevant’ reasons outlined above. But there’s an important fourth reason, too: we have been looking in the wrong place.

Research shows that employee engagement and turnover are much bigger drivers of a company’s financial success (or lack thereof) than medical costs. And well-being has a direct connection to these outcomes.

Taking a broader look at the results associated with an engaged and energised workforce should have the potential to convince a CEO or CHRO to take a more strategic approach to employee well-being. Having a model to help the C-suite see these connections is the key to breaking through the noise.

 

In Summary 

So with all that being said, why is it still such a struggle/almost controversial for companies to invest in wellbeing programmes along with engagement? CEO’s and decision makers should be putting this stuff at the top of their agendas instead of continuing to subscribe to the ‘old-school’ systematic protocols that have been ingrained into the both the companies and the individuals running them.

A new approach from the forward thinking C-Suite is the only to build sustainable businesses in a time where burn-out is on everyone’s lips and more people are quitting their jobs than ever before . Just like that start-up culture prides itself on being ‘agile’, your wellness programmes should be strategised in the way.  Actually including them into the model and the culture of the business instead of a nice-to-have add-on. A genuine focus on not only employees physical health, but mental states of wellness that encompasses their purpose at the company, community, belonging, work well-being, emotional well-being, autonomy, mastery, their energy, and even financial well-being. These are the true pathways to enjoy continuous innovation, loyalty and keeping companies happy in good times and bad.

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