1. It feels like we are now living in an “always on” world. What can we all do to help manage our work life balance?
In seeking to establish a balanced home and working life, two key words spring to mind and they are expectations and priorities. On a professional level the Contract, Job Description and Person Specification are good starting points. A comprehensive Induction Process that defines mutual expectations and boundaries within the role is an essential part of the process. Issues like working hours and priorities should be clearly understood and regular Appraisals are a good indicator of whether key objectives are being met in this area. But life is not all about work and our personal lives are equally important. Those two key words are just as important as we navigate our way through expectations and priorities in our relationships. I’m always keen to encourage people to consider prioritising time for themselves, their partner and their family. We all have 24 hours in a day, and it is important to ensure that we use them wisely.
2. What’s your best tip for time management at work?
At the beginning of the working week it is so important to assess priorities for the week ahead. If you run a diary, plan it carefully and don’t forget to review it on a daily basis, things change, and this also applies to our priorities. If you don’t run a diary, maybe now is the time to start. If you don’t require a diary, think about ways in which the completion of tasks is being monitored and evaluated. And… in the middle of it all… don’t forget to take time to breathe. In other words, take a break!
3. If you are leading teams, how can you help staff understand how to be able to manage their time effectively?
Children live what they learn; this is something I often find myself saying to parents of young children when they are desperately trying to do the right thing as parents. This saying translates equally well into the workplace: The best piece of advice I would offer a Team Leader is to model behaviour that you hope team members will want to emulate. On a practical level, a regular one to one meeting with staff members is a good way of discerning whether any issues are arising and may well allow for a conversation around how they might be best addressed.
4. Stress is a frequently used word. How can you identify if a colleague is stressed at work and what is your advice on how to support them.
Identifying whether a colleague is stressed is not always easy, particularly if the individual does not acknowledge it, which is often the case. Common symptoms might include irritability, mood swings, anxiety, low energy and problems with concentration. Behavioural difficulties might include hostility or simply withdrawing from interacting with others. There may be physical symptoms too, including headaches, aches and pains and symptoms of panic, including breathing difficulties, chest pains and a sense of terror. They may fail to attend work, either because of repeated minor infections or because they might be struggling to function well emotionally. Performance may have dropped, and mistakes might be more common. Sensitivity is key in addressing the issues, especially if the colleague feels ashamed and struggling to acknowledge the difficulties. Colleagues would do well to check in with the individual, offering gentle support, emotionally and practically; expressing concern for their wellbeing without attempting to take control. Managers might want to complete a Stress Risk Assessment and this can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards This allows for the opportunity to put in place a supportive plan, which can be reviewed periodically. If the organisation has access to an Employee Assistance Programme, make the individual aware of this, particularly as some short-term counselling may well address and resolve the issues.
5. What’s your favourite motivational quote and why?
That’s a difficult question, when I have so many of them! The one that is my absolute favourite though goes like this: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step”. (Lao Tzu) Life can be difficult and we can be overwhelmed by issues that crop up in all areas of our daily life. Taking a positive step back from those difficulties and breaking them down into manageable pieces is so important. We can’t control what happens in the future, but we can take control of what is happening today. Addressing issues we face today may well inform what happens in the future.
Mental Health Awareness Week 13-19th May 2019
Do you know, it thrills me when I see the various campaigns out there and especially when they are about raising awareness around mental health. It’s not before time that we are really engaging with the subject, especially as, believe it or not, it applies to our universal human condition.
I was shocked, if not a little confused, to hear someone say: “I don’t have mental health”, when I was talking to them about this very subject. What the individual actually meant was that she didn’t have mental ill-health. Of course, as I was speaking to her in my professional capacity, it was my duty to correct her and reassure her that she did indeed have mental health; whether that had been compromised in some way was a matter for the assessment I was undertaking.
It’s interesting, I think, that as soon as the word “mental” is used, some people automatically think that this is a slur on their character, even today, when we are so much better at communicating the importance of health generally. So, what I’m trying to communicate is that we all have a mental health, which is intrinsically linked to our physical and spiritual health. So, what we know is that if one area of our wellbeing has been compromised, then it is likely that another area will be compromised as a result. For example, break a leg and I may feel pretty fed up mentally as I’m prevented from going about my well organised and busy life.
So what is mental health? Well, it is a state of being that affects how we think, feel and act. It is a state of well-being that enables us to live and work fruitfully within our various relationships and communities, enables us to maximise our full potential and helps us to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. But, as human beings, our mental health fluctuates throughout our lives, just as our physical health does. Complex beings that we are means that we are often exposed to difficulties along the way that have the potential to challenge our coping mechanisms and leave us pretty isolated if we do not draw the support that we need. But, our capacity to draw that support will depend on a number of factors.
As a counsellor, I’m fascinated by human behaviour and human development. I’m mindful that the way in which we function as adults is borne out of our formative experience. If our childhood experiences had not been supportive or affirming, then we may be less likely to reach out to others for support as adults. Fear of being ridiculed or labelled is often a stumbling block, especially among the men I see in my counselling room. I’m mindful too that cultural issues may also inform our capacity to draw support. Common features might include a “stiff upper lip” mentality that does allow for the expression of vulnerability.
The shocking truth is that in 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales. Less extreme, it is estimated that 1 in 6 adults experiences a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression and 1 in 5 adults has considered taking their own life at some point.
So I wonder, where are you in all of this? What was your early experience? How easy is it for you to open up about difficulties you are struggling to address? Well, if I only have one message, then it is this:
Best wishes, Jan
As I go about my work, it’s not unusual to hear employers and employees say that it’s not their responsibility to care for mental health at work… and, yes, some people really do say that!
Of course, far from wanting to be critical, I would encourage people to take responsibility. You see, as employees, we have a duty to manage our own response to the pressures of work, just as much as it is our employer’s duty to ensure that appropriate care is taken to minimise the potential for stress and other mental health difficulties.
This is an enormous topic and one that is increasingly familiar to organisations, particularly as the incidence of stress in the workplace continues to escalate. How can that be allowed to happen, I hear you say. Well, it appears to be quite simple really; what we tend to do is to become reactive to issues as opposed to being proactive to them. Managers are often highly pressured and their capacity to prioritise may be heavily compromised as they seek to meet the demands of the business and staff welfare may not always be at the top of a list of priorities as a result. Employees are often struggling to keep up with the demands of their work, becoming so overwhelmed that their capacity for self-care may be heavily compromised too. The difficulty arises when these issues are not addressed.
Whilst, of course, stress is a natural human response in our desire for survival, it seems to me that we increasingly appear to accept that living with the adverse effects of it is normal. How often I hear people say that they are so very stressed, yet appear to take little or no action to address their response. However, that sense of feeling overwhelmed tends to prevent people from taking a physical and emotional step back from the issues that continue to fuel the problem.
Well, something has to give here, does it not? You see, if we continue to maintain a reactive response then nothing will change. So, today, I would encourage you to take one small step back, literally, and ask yourself these questions: Am I experiencing the effects of stress? Do I want to do something about it? Do I need some help to do that? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then I also encourage you to visit the following website: www.getselfhelp.co.uk and search for the guide: “Self Help For Stress”, which is free to download. However, I must add that this document is not just for bedtime reading, (actually I wouldn’t recommend you read it at bedtime) as it requires you to engage with it as a working resource.
If you are a manager and you are struggling to discern how to respond to employees who are experiencing stress at work, you might wish to consider performing a Stress Risk Assessment and relevant information can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards. This is an opportunity to work collaboratively, to assess how your employee is responding to the pressures of the workplace and how they might be best supported. Oh, and don’t forget to care for yourself in the process!
I wish you well in your exploration and please do consider accessing our services here at JR Corporate Health should you feel that some professional support might be helpful! https://jrcorporatehealth.co.uk
JR Corporate Health blogs cover topics such as management support, supervision, psychological support, critical incident support and wellbeing in the workplace.