Wellbeing at Work Conference 2017 – review and takeaways

08Nov 17

 

Last week we attended the Wellbeing at Work Conference, a highly regarded industry event taking place in central London (there are additional conferences across the globe). With a packed agenda spanning issues ranging from ‘the strategic importance of wellbeing’ to ‘workplace wellness and stress reduction’ the conference was a tour de force in workplace wellbeing that further cemented this as a topic of ever-growing importance.

Speakers included David Brewin (Global COO of EY), Edward Thurman (MD Financial Institutions at Lloyds Banking Group), Carrie Birmingham (former HRD at News UK), Jo Salter (Director People and Organisation at PwC) and Theresa McHenry (Senior HRD at Microsoft).

The conference was impressively well-balanced in terms of content and discussion points – we came away feeling informed and inspired. David Brewin’s incredibly candid account of his struggle with depression left not a dry eye in the house, and Jo Salter’s insights into how it feels to fly a fighter jet (her previous profession!) was brilliant and gave an interesting context to a discussion on workplace wellbeing.

Here are our main takeaways from the day:

  • Data is of paramount importance and will inform the success of any wellbeing initiatives.
  • Employee wellbeing has been proven time and time again to be very closely tied to a business’ bottom line.
  • Employees need to feel a sense of purpose and be aligned to a business culture – the aim is that people should enjoy coming to work!
  • Flexible working is at the top of most employee’s wish list.
  • The focus is moving away from KPRs and appraisals, to having great conversations and empowering employees to recognise their strengths and work with confidence.
  • Digital communication and engagement will play a critical role in the ongoing evolution of workplace wellbeing and is often the key contributor to wellbeing programme participation.
  • Authenticity – we should be able to go to work and be ourselves, or even better, the best version of ourselves.
  • Employees must be responsible for their own wellbeing, but employers need to create the environment to facilitate this pursuit.
  • Stress is a real human response, but it has a direct toxic effect on our health. Emotional vitality enables us to deal with stress positively and effectively.
  • Wellbeing is about culture – it is not about apps, cancer checks and gym memberships – what we are looking for is behavioural change.
  • Physical work environment is very important – the workplace is a physical manifestation of a company culture.
  • Companies must incorporate social responsibility into their business plan – the trend is towards people increasingly wanting to make a difference / have an impact.

Ultimately, if businesses encourage their employees to thrive, learn, grow as people and – most importantly – look after themselves, they will reap rewards on multiple levels, be that through their bottom line, attracting top talent, retention rates, engagement, productivity…the list goes on. As mentioned on the CEO Panel Debate: happy people = happy company = happy clients = happy profit!

We will be returning next year for further insights!

The Kamwell Interview | Geoff McDonald

25Oct 17

This month we were pleased to interview Geoff McDonald, former Global VP HR of Unilever, now highly regarded advocate, campaigner and consultant on mental health in the workplace.

KW: You’ve campaigned tirelessly to tackle the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Where do you think this stigma comes from and why is it only associated with mental, as opposed to physical illness.

GM: Firstly, we have a narrative around mental health which is very negative. There is on the other hand a really positive narrative around physical health – we are bombarded with inspirational and aspirational images about the pursuit of physical health. But when it comes to mental health, all the images that we see are very negative…people with their hands in their heads, black and white photographs and so on. This includes the language we use. When I use the words ‘mental health’, people will automatically assume something negative…they will think of illness…they will think of depression, anxiety, bipolar. But when I use the words physical health they don’t immediately think of cancer and diabetes or any other physical illness. So, the way we talk about mental health is very negative, and unfortunately it’s not seen as part of everyday life to keep our mind healthy. In fact, there is a complete lack of understanding around how we can keep a healthy mind.

“Unfortunately it’s not part of our every day life to keep our minds healthy”

There is a real lack of understanding around mental health and this ignorance goes as far back as our childhood and school days – kids are taught about physical health but never about mental health, they are taught about looking after their bodies, but never their minds. Even doctors when they study they do, relatively speaking, very little in the area of mental health. In part, this is because the science and research behind how the brain functions and emotions is still in its infancy.

Another factor is that there aren’t enough courageous people talking about their mental health in the way they might talk about their physical health. The more we talk about it, the more it is normalised and we realise that there are so many people out there that do get ill.

And let me point out, there should be no stigma around mental health – what we are talking about is mental ILL health.  I’m so careful now…if it’s a condition like depression or anxiety I will say ‘mental ill health’. But I’m trying to talk more carefully about mental health and be more inspirational and aspirational. We all have mental health, like we have physical health.

KW: What is the biggest impact of stigma in terms of an individual’s ability to cope with a mental health concern?

GM: Stigma has a very negative impact on a person dealing with mental ill health, often leading to them feeling embarrassed about the fact that they are suffering from an illness relating to their mind. They often feel that they will be judged as being weak and not able to cope. I think they fear that people will not really be able to empathise or be compassionate because they lack insight and understanding. I think that someone suffering with mental illness might fear that they might be seen to be using their mental illness as an excuse, because it’s not visible. I think there is a sense of shame. All this means they don’t reach out for help, they don’t reach out for support.  The worst case scenario is that they feel there is a complete loss of hope and no way out. People in this situation might take their own lives as a last resort.

KW: Do you think that, when an actor or footballer speaks openly about mental illness, it helps the, say, mid-level manager at a tech firm feel that they too should be able to do so? 

GM: I have a saying: every story that gets told is like a lifeboat that gets sent out to the ocean where people who are suffering in silence can just cling onto that lifeboat and feel a normal. So irrespective of who tells their story, I think those stories are wonderful in helping to normalise mental illness. And if it’s a public figure then it means more people will hear the story because their profile means it’ll get into the press, onto TV etc. So I think on a level of principle, it’s a wonderful thing.

“Every story that gets told is like a lifeboat that people who are suffering in silence can cling on to”

The problem that I have right now is that there aren’t enough people in the workplace also telling their stories. So one of the things that I have been campaigning for is to try to get more and more influential, high profile leaders in the workplace to tell their stories. The most powerful lever in breaking stigma is to get influential people within an organisation to tell their stories. And the story doesn’t have to be one of your own suffering, it could be the story of what it’s like to be the father of a daughter who suffers from General Anxiety Disorder or the daughter of a mother who suffers from depression.

KW: In terms of mental health in the workplace, there is a lot of focus on helping individuals address their own situation, but what about the people you just mentioned, who might be caring for a partner, parent or child dealing with serious mental health concerns – what can be put in place to support people in such a situation?

GM: There is a huge need still to provide training and support for people who are caring for someone who is suffering from a mental ill health condition. I do think that some of the work that organisations are doing that might not necessarily be focussed on carers, will be indirectly helping them too. For example, when they address the ignorance and the stigma, when they educate their employees about mental illness…symptoms, how to open up a conversation with somebody, what support is out there etc., carers are helped too because everyone is being upskilled and ignorance is being addressed. But there is still a lot of work to be done in this space.

KW: What about mental health in the younger generation, would this be a sensible place to invest time/resources/expertise, so that by the time they enter the workplace they are equipped with the tools, resilience and attitude to tackle the issues we’re facing around MH?

GM: There is a lot of ad hoc stuff going on and there are some schools that are doing some amazing work in trying to educate kids around mental health and emotions. But it’s only the more progressive schools that are looking at this. And I don’t think teachers are skilled to be able to teach this stuff, it hasn’t been embedded into the curriculum or as part of the teaching qualification. And I think we do have to start in the primary schools, from the age of 6 or 7 and start teaching children about their emotions and about their mental health. All teachers should have some sort of training in this whole area.

“What about teaching people to be resourceful rather than resilient?”

But I want to come back to the issue of narrative here. You used the word ‘resilience’….are we going to teach kids to be resilient, are we teaching them to be tough and to have this hard outer shell, if something happens to you then you have to be resilient and tough and get up and keep going? What about teaching people to be resourceful rather than resilient. What are the amazing resources that are out there? Whether that’s about a mindfulness app, or going for a run, or yoga or recovery. What are those resources that exist out there that we have to start drawing on to maintain our energy and to keep ourselves well, rather than “I want to make you resilient”. I’m trying to shift the word from ‘resilience to ‘energy’ when talking to businesses. I don’t want to make people resilient, I want to make people energised, and the only way you get that is to look after your wellbeing.

Here we are trying to break the stigma and people aren’t strong or weak…people are just human beings and we all have mental and physical health and sh*t happens to us sometimes, things happen, it’s not that I’m strong or weak, it’s just that I’m a human being and these things happen. So let’s talk about being resourceful and building energy, rather than making people resilient.

KW: You were able to speak openly when you experienced mental ill health which, at the time, must have been really hard – not only because it’s harder to be honest when you’re in the middle of a breakdown but also because 10 years ago the stigma around mental health was even more prevalent than it is now. What do you think gave you the strength and ability to talk to your friends, family and – most admirably – your employer?  

GM: When I became ill, I had no idea what was going on with me. I had to go to the doctor to be told what was wrong with me. I didn’t talk about emotions and what was going on in my mind, especially being a male. I’ve got friends who didn’t realise they were ill until their PA stuck them in an ambulance and sent them to The Priory!

“People say to me that my seniority within Unilever made a difference because I didn’t have to worry about my career but that’s a load of rubbish”

I was lucky – first of all my character is such that I wear my heart on my sleeve and so it’s easy to see when something is wrong with me, I find it difficult to hide things. I think the other thing was…I got a diagnosis…this made it easier to talk. I had a diagnosis, I was ill, I could tell people that. If I hadn’t had that panic attack I probably would have just carried on with these very high levels of anxiety and stress. But in some ways I was lucky that I had that moment and that made me think I should seek help. That freed me to feel more comfortable to talk about the fact that I had been diagnosed as being ill. But I was lucky, I worked for a company that was caring, had a boss who had experience of friends with depression – he really understood it and didn’t have any preconceived ideas. People say to me that my seniority within Unilever made a difference because I didn’t have to worry about my career but that’s a load of rubbish. I speak to so many senior people who won’t talk about their stories because they think it makes them vulnerable or that they might lose respect or – worse – lose their job.

KW: Finally, what would be your main takeaways, tips or advice for an organisation that wants to address and prioritise mental wellbeing in the workplace?

GM: Organisations need to recognise that the most important driver of performance is energy. It’s not people’s skills, it’s not their knowledge, it’s not their behaviours, it’s whether they have the capacity to take on challenges, weather the storms, and just have this amazing energy or human capacity to get things done. I think organisations have to become far more overt about energy as a driver of performance. And therefore they should invest in the energy of their people just like they invest in training and giving people skills and knowledge to do their job. Organisations need to start thinking about what it takes to create an environment of energy and they need to become more accountable about providing those resources. When organisations do that, they can then start to build energy into all the development conversations that they have with their people. Today we can actually assess energy through scientific diagnoses, just like I would do a skills or behavioural assessment.

And organisations can educate people about the resources they are offering to maintain the energy of their people. What that starts to drive is individual accountability for energy. Wellbeing equals energy and I don’t think that individuals in organisations today are being held accountable for their wellbeing, for their energy. That’s why attendance at wellbeing weeks is often low. If somebody didn’t have a certain skill for their job, they would be sent on a training course and if they then didn’t go on the training course and improve their performance they would run the risk of being fired or asked to do another job. I think we have to get to that same level of accountability for energy and wellbeing.

“It’s dual accountability here….individuals and organisations”

A line manager might say to someone in their team that they’d like to see them with more energy – and this might mean taking more recovery breaks, not sitting at their desk at lunchtime, going home at 5pm so they can be with their family etc. If in a year’s time that team member’s energy is still very low and they have done nothing about it then they should run the risk of being told they are in the wrong job. Only a quarter of a workforce takes up all the things that their employer is providing in terms of wellbeing. Why? Because they are not being held accountable. It’s dual accountability here….individuals and organisations.

The Kamwell Interview | Tim Wright, Firstbeat UK

17Sep 17

This month we are delighted to have interviewed Tim Wright, Commercial Director of Firstbeat UK. We talked to Tim about all things wellbeing, heard his fascinating stance on the topic of stress and discussed the future of wearable technology in the wellbeing sphere.

KW: After almost 20 years in the industry, we are interested to hear how you would define the term ‘wellbeing’.

TW: Wellbeing, to me, means taking a holistic, 360 degree view of your lifestyle. I like to think of this in terms of four pillars: movement/exercise/mobility; mind/psychological; nutrition; and restoration/sleep/recovery. All these areas play a role in our wellbeing and should be looked at together.

 KW: The topic of employee wellbeing, seems to be making its way into mainstream knowledge via some high profile press coverage, where do you see this specific field going in the coming years?

TW: Over the years I have seen many different approaches to wellbeing and I now see us moving more towards an integrated wellness proposition that takes the four pillars into account. I think we will increasingly utilise data to make strategic wellness decisions and to measure the effectiveness of interventions.

KW: Ok, with that in mind, what do you think it takes to be successful within the wellbeing industry?

TW: I think those who have been successful in the wellbeing industry understand that we’re not looking for a panacea, a magic pill, a quick fix…rather we need to think about incremental changes on a frequent basis over a realistic period of time. 

“Selling something based on risk…that’s not interesting”

KW: Thinking about Firstbeat’s success…90% of those who have undertaken the Lifestyle Assessment would recommend it – that’s great feedback. What do you think this can be attributed to?

TW: The Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment is only as good as the person who is delivering the coaching. It is the human element that enables us to help people make changes that other technology cannot. This, combined with the quality of our data, makes for a powerful approach. People get a deeper understanding of what is going on in their body and how their environment is affecting them. This means they can change things. I also think that if you sell something based on risks, for example: the chance of getting heart disease, it’s not that interesting. But if the premise is to get more energy, have more vitality, have better resilience…people want to buy into that.

KW: Is there a danger with wearable tech that data is seen as more important than a person’s account of their wellbeing?

TW: Data shouldn’t be looked at in isolation. The Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment is a coaching tool. Part of the assessment is a wellness questionnaire to get an idea of a person’s perception of their wellness – this can be very aligned to their physiology, or very far away from it. As humans we have a good instinct of what’s working and what isn’t but we aren’t always 100% right. So I think data supplements a personal account, rather than replaces it.

KW: Progress within the world of wellness technology seems to be very fast, with the explosion of artificial intelligence, virtual reality….how will Firstbeat continue to innovate?

TW: The strength of our offering is around the analytics, the customer journey, the data and the reports. There will be technology that comes and goes…trends that come and go, but we’ve stood the test of time and I feel we’re in a good place. We’re not a self-monitoring device such as Fitbit or Jawbone, we’re a coaching device…it’s different. But competitors enhance your product so we’d encourage more competitors!

“Stress is not necessarily a bad thing”

KW: Part of what Firstbeat focusses on is identifying aspects of a person’s lifestyle that cause stress – what effect do you think stress is having on today’s society.

TW: Firstly, stress is not always
a bad thing….it is a normal physiological response and there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is. Acute stress can make you perform well and within a healthy overall lifestyle it’s not necessarily a problem. The issues come when you have chronic stress imbalanced with poor recovery. From my perspective, I want to teach people that a stressful event is manageable and not damaging, especially if over a 24 hr period you’re getting great sleep, great recovery. That’s what’s more important.

KW: On the topic of lifestyle and stress, can you tell us what you do to ensure your optimum health and wellbeing?

“I turn my phone off at 19:30”

TW: Understanding what triggers responses from a physiological point of view has dictated what my behaviours are. I’ve learned many things as a result of doing the Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment is. A big one is how precious sleep is – that’s where we refuel the tank. I have worked hard on my sleep environment…light, temperature, humidity. I turn off my phone at 19:30 so I don’t get any blue light in the evenings. I also don’t work after this point. I don’t eat meat in the evenings because it affects my quality of sleep – this is something the Lifestyle Assessment uncovered. I need to do more higher intensity exercise and I have found that this is most effective in the morning – it can affect my sleep in the evenings. I tend to make sure that I incorporate social aspects into the week – catching up with an old friend, reaching out to my social circle, doing something that is completely changing my mind-set. And I make sure I have plenty of cuddles with my wife and son because that instils the best parasympathetic response!

Tim Wright

Tim Wright

 

Beginning Your Journey as a Productivity Ninja

17Sep 17

By Hayley Watts, Think Productive

The thing about time management is that it simply isn’t possible. We are stuck with 60 minutes in each hour, 24 hours in each day and 7 days in the week. We can’t work all of them, and as much as we might like to, we can’t shorten or extend the hours. In fact, there comes a point when just throwing more hours at the work results in more mistakes and less productivity.

I get that this is all easy for me to say, and much more difficult to do. But it’s certainly possible. Before I discovered these new ways of working, I spent a lot of time firefighting, feeling overwhelmed by email and attending meetings that seemed important but didn’t help me achieve my objectives. My journey to becoming a Productivity Ninja began with thinking I was fairly productive already, to realising that there were so many better ways of doing things.

My top Tips to help get you started on your productivity journey:

  • Don’t spend all day in your inbox, go into your email and process your emails a few times a day.
  • Turn off the email notifications, the little things that pop up to say that you have an email. You will be surprised how much this improves your sense of calm
  • Get everything that you need to do out of your head, every little thing, big thing, work thing and thing that relates to your life outside of work.
  • Say no to meetings that don’t help you achieve your goals. If you are needed, perhaps just attend part of the meeting
  • Think about where you do your best planning, working, and creating. You don’t have to do all of your work at your desk, sometimes working from elsewhere means you can better concentrate and focus
  • Spend sometime each week planning ahead and reflecting how how your week has been
  • Identify the areas of your work that will make the most impact. Focus on these each day
  • At the end of the day, clear your work space. and identify your top 3-5 priorities for the day ahead. Write them down and focus on these the next day before you get into all of the other stuff.
  • Stop trying to multitask. It takes longer and you will make more mistakes

Some more useful information and tips for you:

http://thinkproductive.co.uk/polite-ways-to-decline-a-meeting-invitation/

http://thinkproductive.co.uk/top-5-gmail-hacks/

http://thinkproductive.co.uk/?post-type=any&s=outlook+hacks

I’d recommend Graham Allcotts book ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ http://thinkproductive.co.uk/product/how-to-be-a-productivity-ninja-paperback-2/

At Think Productive, we offer courses that include spending sometime at your desk, implementing new ways of working to bring your stuff or your email under control. We also run courses about how to make meetings more productive and set about making your email culture more positive and productive. We do a course called ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ which includes loads of hints tips and tricks to becoming more productive, and offer one to one sessions for senior business leaders.

More about our in-house workshops here: http://thinkproductive.co.uk/workshops/in-house-workshops/

Get in touch with Hayley to find out more hayley@thinkproductive.co.uk / 07816906227

http://bit.ly/1MjMYmW Kamwell clients can access 50% off London Stress Less Achieve More public workshops in 2017 using voucher code KAMVIP.

Healthy eating on a budget – some tips!

11Sep 17

If you are feeling the pinch after a busy summer, these tips will help you eat both healthily and inexpensively: 

  • Write a shopping list. Plan your meals in advance and buy the exact ingredients you need.
  • Don’t throw anything away. Plan all the ingredients (including fresh herbs) so they get used. You can freeze unwanted food and herbs.
  • Eat your leftovers.
  • Buy frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen fruit and vegetables are massively underrated. They come pre-chopped and are just as good for you as non-frozen food (but avoid frozen food with added salt, sugar or fat)
  • Trade down a brand. Switch from premium brands to basic brands and buy unbranded vegetables sold by weight.
  • Go veggie. Even if you don’t see yourself as a vegetarian, cutting down on meat and fish is a great way to save money.
  • Discover pulses. Pulses, beans, lentils and peas are budget, healthy and packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  • Freeze leftover bread. Bread is the most wasted household food. You know you can freeze and toast it?
  • List your cupboards. Get to know every ingredient already in your cupboards. You can typically cook a meal with what you already have.
  • Work to a recipe. Consider the price of ingredients when making your recipes. Build a collection of budget foods that you enjoy cooking and eating.
  • Learn portion control. Use smaller plates, or add smaller portions to the plate and learn to say no to a second helping. Save the leftovers for lunch.
  • Learn to cook from scratch. Avoiding takeaways and processed ready cook meals can save you a fortune, and they’re packed with salt and sugar.
  • Price-check packaged fruit and vegetables against loose veg. You can save a lot of money by buying loose vegetables, and it’s often the same thing.
  • Cut back on luxuries. Allow yourself a set amount of treats like crisps, and biscuits. They are expensive, and you’ll feel better for it.
  • Beware of BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) offers. It’s not cheaper if you weren’t planning on getting it in the first place. Check the sell-by dates and make sure you’re planning to use the second free item.
  • Shop around. You don’t owe any loyalty to a supermarket. You can price-check big name supermarkets. Also consider heading back to your local fruit and vegetable market.
  • Shop during ‘happy hour’. Most supermarkets discount fresh items towards the end of the day. Each supermarket cuts prices at a different time (ask in store assistant when they cut prices). As a general rule: shopping very late (or very early) is the best way to save money at the supermarket

First published on Lifehacker

The Emma Edit | Part 2: Doing good does you good

31Jul 17

|The Emma Edit | Kamwell’s Emma James explores a new wellbeing topic every month|

My road to volunteering

In my final year as a psychology student at Sussex University I moved into a little flat in the centre of Brighton with two friends. We hadn’t lived there long when I bumped into our only neighbour in the hallway, an elderly lady called Edith with a dog whose name I’ve relegated to the inaccessible parts of my memory. We got talking and I immediately warmed to her. She was slow and quiet but had a glint in her eye that spoke of a prior life filled with adventure. In the weeks that followed we had many more hallway chats and it wasn’t long before we established a weekly tea date at her flat. I soon discovered that, bar a son who lived ‘up North’ and her canine companion, Edith was completely alone and had regularly gone for weeks without meaningful human interaction.

Edith’s charming nature, stories about a bygone era and penchant for chocolate covered biscuits led me to spend many hours curled up in one of her armchairs. We became friends. And when I moved to London the following year, we kept in touch. I’d call her every now and again and send the odd letter. But the inevitable day came when I received a call from her son, informing me that Edith had died. This news weighed heavy on my heart. Her son went on to tell me that Edith had kept a daily journal (unbeknown to me) and that my visits featured in many entries. He said that she wrote about me as someone who had kept loneliness and sadness at bay and given a little silver lining to her existence. He read me a few excerpts from her diary that moved me to tears, words that I will never forget.

After Edith’s death, I felt a growing sense of unease about the situation she (and so many others) faced as she grew old. It seemed so utterly wrong. Loneliness is a heavy burden for anyone to carry, let alone someone nearing the end of their life, when energy and resources to undo one’s situation are limited.  For most of us, going weeks without meaningful human interaction is unimaginable. Yet, amongst the elderly, loneliness is an epidemic which is having a catastrophic effect on wellbeing in later life.

My discontent soon reached a tipping point and I decided to turn my frustration into action. Not knowing where to start, I Googled ‘combat loneliness in the elderly’ and was heartened by the results. Amongst many initiatives,  Age UK’s befriending scheme, where volunteers are paired with an elderly person to visit regularly over a set period of time, immediately caught my eye. Within a couple of weeks I was sitting at my local Age UK office, signing up to be a befriender. I have been volunteering in this capacity for three years and find it to be a source of great joy in my life.

Why doing good does you good?

Countless studies have identified a link between doing good and feeling good. Volunteering has been found to promote better mental and physical health and increase a sense of purpose and feelings of happiness. An extensive research project on the topic found that altruistic attitudes, volunteering, and informal helping behaviours make unique contributions to the maintenance of life satisfaction. The Mental Health Foundation made ‘doing good’ the focus of a recent mental health awareness campaign and published research that linked helping others to a reduction in stress, improved emotional wellbeing and a reduction in negative feelings. 94% of respondents in a United Health Group study reported that volunteering had improved their mood and helped take their mind off their own problems.

Doing good, as part of a wellbeing strategy

With the impressive effect it has on wellbeing, it is no surprise that volunteering is increasingly making its way onto employee wellbeing agendas. ‘Better Relationships’ is a scheme run by Barclays that encourages their employees to volunteer their time and skills though regular giving opportunities and matched fundraising, as well as an annual Make A Difference Day. Waitrose donate 75,000 paid hours a year for staff to give their time and skills to local communities. Employees at Salesforce are given 7 paid volunteering days per financial year, donated to a cause of their choosing.

Employers that encourage their people to volunteer and, most importantly, put the infrastructure in place to make this possible, have seen impressive results in terms of employee satisfaction, loyalty and pride in their employer, reinforcing the business case for including volunteering in a wellbeing strategy.

Useful links

National Council for Voluntary Organisations

GOV.UK – volunteering information

Londoners can find their local volunteering centre here

If befriending sounds like something you’d like to look into, I would recommend checking out Age UK.

Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

The Emma Edit | Part 1 : Dear Diary…

20Jun 17

The Emma Edit | Kamwell’s Emma James explores a new wellbeing topic every month

It all started when I read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole at the ripe old age of 12: I became fascinated with the idea of committing my thoughts and feelings to paper and have done so ever since, albeit sporadically. My journaling activity tends to peak either when life is especially good, or when I’m finding things tough. In other words, I use journaling as an outlet for my emotions and there is little rhyme or reason to what and when I write.

I recently came across an article about the benefits of purposeful, organised journaling. It piqued my interest so I decided to do some further investigating. A cursory google yielded many articles suggesting that the simple act of focusing one’s thoughts and writing them down at the start and end of each day has far-reaching benefits for wellbeing. I was intrigued, but wondered a) whether I would be able to stick to daily practice and b) whether the purported benefits would indeed materialise. So, with some scepticism, I decided to give it a go: I kept a daily journal for a whole month.

Based on the research I’d done, I decided on the following framework:

A.M: Intention and gratitude:

  • list three things to be grateful for
  • set three intentions for the day, i.e. “today I will be productive”, “today I will respond calmly to whatever comes my way” etc.

P.M: Reflection

  • list three things that went well in the day that passed.

I have used journaling app Day One for years (and love it) but decided that hand-writing my entries felt like a more committed and concrete approach (in other words: I am an incurable stationary addict and wanted an excuse to buy a new notebook). Armed with my notebook and pen (ok, I admit it, I also bought a new pen), I got to work. I have two young children so finding time for my morning entry took great discipline at first. But I soon found my schedule ‘sweet spot’ and then stuck to it religiously. My advice: keep your entries short, they shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes. I found that the less I thought about what I wanted to write, the more concise and honest I was. And set a deadline for completion: mine was 9am.

For the same child-related reasons, it was often a challenge to write in the evenings. The pull of sleep from 9pm onwards is incredibly strong but, again, discipline got me through and it soon became a habit I didn’t feel I could skip, akin to brushing my teeth. My advice: make sure your notebook is next to your bed before you get into it – proximity is key!

One month on, these are my reflections:

  • Listing things I am grateful for made me start each day with a sense of perspective. It’s easy to fall out of bed in the mornings and sleep walk into the day. Taking a moment to be grateful snapped me out of this and forced me to ‘see the bigger picture’ for a moment. My son may have used Weetabix to glue my laptop together and emptied the clean washing onto our muddy lawn (all in the space of 4.5 minutes), but he is healthy and happy, and taking the time to focus on this seemed to keep stress at bay.
  • Setting intentions for the day felt fairly futile at first but the more specific I got the more they started to change the course of my day. For example, if I’d set the intention “to have fun with my children” this popped into my head when I felt tempted to bring out the iPad so I could get some chores done. And I don’t doubt that the bigger, more long-term intentions I listed will in some way shape my future. I can’t put this better than Deepak Chopra, who says: “An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish”.
  • Documenting three things that went well in the day made me realise how often I get into bed feeling frazzled and, frankly, a bit grumpy. This process was an effective way of undoing unnecessary tension and negativity and it gave me a greater sense of calm and appreciation. On challenging days, I’d open my notebook feeling like I wouldn’t have anything positive to write, but I always did, giving me that ‘oh it wasn’t so bad after all’ feeling. I can’t say this for sure but I get the sense that I’ve been able to fall asleep faster and, dare I say it, sleep a bit better.
  • Reading back through a month of entries has been surprisingly interesting and I’d go as far as saying I’ve learned something about myself. I can see patterns in my focus and priorities and these have helped me organise my time in a way that I find fulfilling. For example, my intentions often centred around productivity (at work – always! – but also in my home life) and when I reflected on the day that passed such activity seemed to have given me the greatest sense of satisfaction. I have since made sure that I set aside time every day to work through my list of ‘life to-dos’ because I’ve realised it is instrumental to my wellbeing.

So, there we have it:  a month of journaling! Would I recommend it? Yes. Will I keep up my own practice? Definitely.  

Want to find out more? Below are some articles I found interesting: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thai-nguyen/benefits-of-journaling-_b_6648884.html

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/11/bullet-journalling-can-you-write-your-way-to-happiness

There are some brilliant journals on the market that have a pre-designed structure to them:

The Self Journal

The Daily Greatness Journal

You’ve got to have flex appeal!

20Jun 17

Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing events and person can encounter. Alongside the heady love that runs so deep it almost knocks you sideways and the unrivalled joy of watching a small human (that you created) grow into a person, comes a set of life-changes and logistical challenges that can, at times, feel extremely hard to navigate. And for parents who choose to pursue a career alongside their roles as Head of Pram Operations/Snot Wiping Manager/Chief Nappy Officer, these challenges can be debilitating.

At the core of most issues that working parents face is time. Whether their kids are in childcare, school or at home, meeting their ever-changing needs can make it extremely difficult to simultaneously keep up with the responsibilities and time-demands of a job. Full time parents may only be able to work when their kids are in bed (for many this means before 7am and after 8pm), school holidays may be causing a logistical nightmare or it may be that the only available nursery requires a 3pm pick-up.
 
Inflexible work set-ups combined with the cost of childcare have left parents in a range of impossible situations: having to give up a career they spent their whole adult lives building, working full time to take home a mere £14/day once childcare is paid for or only seeing their children on the weekend.

Something has to give.

If there is one thing a working parent needs (aside from an unbroken night’s sleep!) it is flexibility; having greater control over when and where they work can be a lifeline that makes their career a viable possibility. This could involve working a 4-day week, working from home or working outside the traditional 9am-6pm hours.

Whatever form flexible working takes, the first step towards making it possible is a shift in perspective. Flexible working has for a long time been seen as synonymous with a reduction in productivity when, in reality, the opposite is true. Employers fear relinquishing control and that flex initiatives might ‘open up a can of worms’ that sees their whole team coming in and out of the office as they wish. But putting some simple measures in place will ensure that both employee and employer will reap the numerous rewards that flexible working can bring:

 ‘The 3 C’s’: Top Tips for Making it Work

1. Clarity – employees must be open and clear about the challenges they are facing and what practical steps would alleviate some pressure.

2. Consistency – create a plan and stick to it – this way both employer and employee know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

3. Communication – keep an open dialogue about what’s working and what isn’t – don’t be afraid to make changes where necessary.

To find out more about regulations and guidelines around flexible working, the following resources may come in handy:

Timewise: http://timewise.co.uk/

Working Families: https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/flexible-working-after-30th-july-2014-a-guide-for-employees/

The TUC: https://www.tuc.org.uk/flexible-working-parents

CFO Innovation: https://www.cfoinnovation.com/white-paper/7527/flexible-road-workforce-productivity

Mother Pukka’s guide to requesting flexible working: http://motherpukka.co.uk/blog/get-flexible-working

Workplace mental health and wellbeing: at a tipping point?

11Jun 17

With greater public awareness, political interest and transparency around the importance of good workplace mental health and wellbeing, more and more employers are reviewing their activities in this space. Yet despite this positive trend, many employers are still facing numerous challenges in implementing effective mental health and wellbeing strategies.

New research from the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions places workplace mental health and wellbeing at a tipping point, with employers increasingly reviewing their activities in supporting employee mental health and wellbeing. Recognising the costs of poor mental health and wellbeing on today’s workforce, the report is designed as a call to action for employers, whatever their current performance regarding mental health and wellbeing strategies.

 

Key findings

  • Progress towards greater awareness and recognition of mental health is occurring at a slower rate in the workplace, compared to conversations occurring in public spaces more generally
  • Costs associated with poor mental health and wellbeing result from absence costs, from presenteeism and turnover costs, as well as from staff that is not fully enthusiastic and engaged due to low mental wellbeing
  • Greater public awareness, increasing political attention and an increased emphasis on employer responsibilities are driving an increased interest in workplace mental health and wellbeing.

 

Five key implementation challenges for employers

  • Failure to see mental health and wellbeing as a priority
  • Mental health and wellbeing policies are reactive and driven by staff events or experience
  • Lack of insight around current performance
  • Poor evidence base to measure return on investment of wellbeing strategies
  • Lack of collective knowledge around best practice.

 

Key actions for employers

  • Get workplace mental health and wellbeing on the agenda
  • Take stock and monitor performance
  • Create buy-in for the case for change and investment
  • Implement key initiatives adapted for specific workforce challenges and demographics
  • Evaluate programmes and communicate successes
  • Encourage employees to support colleagues.

Article published on www.deloitte.com in March 2017.

For original article and link to download the report, click here.

 

Health is other people

17May 17

Think of a time when you felt good about yourself and your life. Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing? Chances are you were either happily alone, or with people that you cared about and who cared about you. You probably had an unspoken feeling of fitting in, of shared values, of belonging.

Humans are inherently social beings. 90% of the wiring in our brains is to do with processing social and emotional information. The need to experience a sense of belonging is so deeply woven in to who we are, it’s buried in the mechanisms that maintain not only emotional but also physiological equilibrium and wellbeing.

Our evolution as a species depended on the presence of what are called “hive” emotions. Feelings that keep us loyal, bonded and trustworthy. Generosity, empathy, acceptance, appreciation, that kind of thing.

So important are such “other”-directed sentiments to our own and others’ survival that we are designed to flourish and thrive when demonstrating ways of being that promote social cohesion. Win – win!

Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Loneliness has been shown to be as big a risk factor for heart disease as smoking and obesity. Loneliness and isolation are bad for us. It’s not whether there are people around us. We can feel isolated even amid a sea of people. It’s the nature with which we connect, the quality of the interactions, the sincerity of the engagement, the “presence” that matters.

A recent survey showed that 94% of people are looking for a new job whilst at work. When asked why, a culture of secrecy, office politics,  difficult managers or colleagues, a sense of lack of belonging, are cited as the major reasons people move on. In other words, other people.

At work much mental and emotional distress and alienation can be caused by small indirect acts of aggression – body language, rolling the eyes, talking over people, ignoring  their emails or delaying replying, cliques, not inviting people, withholding information. These are subtle ways in which we can alienate people, albeit unwittingly. And yet we know that a team’s performance is directly proportional to engagement, which in turn depends on the emotional intelligence (EQ) of its leaders. EQ leads to listening, connecting, caring – creating a culture where everyone matters.

Jean-Paul Sartre said “Hell is other people”. Sadly, it can sometimes seem that way. But when we explore the science of wellbeing, we see that the opposite is actually true, which is why I say, “Health is other people”.

Belonging is as essential to our wellbeing as exercise and good nutrition. It underpins our sense of self. We care deeply about what others think of us. When asked, people would rather experience physical pain that the pain of social isolation. In the context of work, businesses increase their productivity when they create a culture where everyone matters, that are human centred. Rather than targeting individuals, demanding that they become more resilient, as if it were their fault they they can’t cope with excessive workloads, resources would be better directed at measures that increase personal presence, emotional literacy,  inter-personal connectedness, embedding a social-emotional culture that recognises and values our inter-depence, our need to belong.