Make flexible working patterns work for you

With the end of ‘a job for life’, the ticking of the demographic ‘time bomb’, and the ever-increasing pace of new technology, employers are having to consider a wide range of new working patterns that take account of this rapidly changing work climate.


Types of flexible working

There are many well-established alternatives to full-time working:

  • Part-time working, which can vary greatly in hours worked and pattern of hours.
  • Flexitime, which allows staff to choose which hours to work (within pre-set limits), as long as they fulfil the required hours within a set period.
  • Staggered hours, whereby, for instance, some staff come in at 8am and leave at 4pm, whereas others start and leave an hour or two later.
  • Job sharing, where two staff do the job of one full-time staff member by sharing the work in an agreed fashion.
  • Shift working, which enables 24 hour coverage.
  • Unpaid leave, e.g. taking a sabbatical for a period of up to a year after an agreed length of service, or taking a career break whilst children are young.
  • Working from home, which is much easier in these days of tele-working and computer links.
  • Downshifting, where a member of staff agrees to less responsibility for less pay. This can be very useful in the run-up to retirement, and often goes hand in hand with choosing to go part-time.

 The benefits (and barriers)

In the past, an employer’s initial reaction to flexible working patterns was likely to be a downright refusal to consider these, on the grounds that it would cost money, be difficult to administer and make work, and that no serious career player would want to work anything other than full-time anyway. Nowadays such an attitude would be seen as short-sighted and counterproductive:

  • Staff want a better life-work balance at all ages. Those employers who can accommodate this by allowing flexible working patterns will be rewarded with more loyal staff who choose to stay and are absent less often. The company will have less problems with recruitment. Happier and less stressed employees are also more productive, and this in turn leads to more profits.
  • We live in a society where consumers are increasingly expecting their needs to be met 24 hours a day. To satisfy this is impossible without shift working, job sharing, part-time workers etc. Furthermore, machinery can be used to its fullest extent in a workplace where flexibility is built in.
  • Half the hours does not equate to half the effort (or half the commitment). Employees with the ability to manage their work-life balance better are more committed, not less. A company that exhibits this commitment to employees’ needs will get and retain talented people who will be prepared to commit their efforts in return.
  • An employer who can offer truly flexible working patterns is an employer of choice who will attract the best and most diverse workforce.

Despite these advantages there are still some barriers to be overcome – although these are steadily falling:

  • Attitudes must also continue to change. The culture of deciding that older people are unemployable will soon be illegal, but we need the perception of managers and colleagues to move with the times as well. There is still a macho culture in many workplaces, which says that anyone taking career breaks, working part-time, or not putting in very long hours, is not serious about their career. This is short-sighted and wrong but must still be overcome.

How are organisations reacting?

The majority of employers fall into one of three distinct categories:

  1. The ‘Proactive Group’. These are leaders in creativity and innovative thinking about how best to engage a quality workforce. In employee surveys they are invariably within the top 100 companies to work for.
  2. The ‘Reactive Group’. They know that flexible working is a good idea but tend to react to market trends and pick up initiatives from others. They often provide flexible working through fear of the consequences if they don’t.
  3. The ‘Change Resistant Group’. These are often small companies with less capacity (as they see it) for flexibility. They are likely to perceive that it only applies to their female, non-technical staff. They resist the idea because it looks risky and, at face value, is difficult to set up and administer.

These three groups may benefit considerably from the independent experience and expertise available through an external consultant. For example:

  • Group 1 may benefit from an objective forum for creating and analysing ideas, providing facilitation, quality assurance and risk analysis – and ideas the organisation may not otherwise think of.
  • Group 2 may need practical advice to help with increasing their knowledge and developing the new ideas needed to integrate flexible working into their company culture and ultimately move them into Group1.
  • Group 3 may need support to increase their knowledge, work through the risk factors, and in particular to remove their fear of change.

When considering the introduction of new patterns of working, it’s important to get it right. Early pioneers of home working, for example, did not appreciate the dangers of isolation and lack of support of their staff at home, and found that things often did not work out, with home workers sometimes ending up more stressed than in their original workplace. There are, however, ways of increasing the likelihood that flexible working will meet its objectives for both the employer and their staff, which is why it makes sense to get expert advice before introducing new work patterns – rather than to help deal with the consequences if this is not handled correctly.

Need a Motivational Speaker or Awards Host for your Next Conference or Boardroom briefing?  Work Stress Expert, Carole Spiers will deliver a charismatic, high-impact keynote presentation, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’, based on her new book, at your next conference.  Contact us or call + 44 (0) 20 8954 1593

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

Learn How to Deal with Stress:  Carole’s book, Show Stress Who’s Boss! shows you how to deal with stress, manage your stress & anxiety and overcome symptoms of stress.  You’ll find tools and stress management techniques to make your life stress-free.  Inside this book you’ll find 4 proven steps to relieve your stress symptoms.

Also available in Kindle version.


Bullying Has No Place in a Healthy Workplace

You may have read that Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced his resignation recently. This followed months of chaos and revelations of a bullying and toxic corporate culture at Uber. Corporate culture can have a major effect on people so there is a real need for organisations and managers to focus on promoting two very important qualities – they are dignity and respect for everyone while at work.

It stands to reason that the health of any corporate culture can affect productivity. If the culture is toxic, it can be hugely detrimental to those caught up in it. When an organisation has robust procedures and zero tolerance policies against bullying in place, this will go a long way towards deterring bullies. When there are signs of stress levers such as intimidation and harassment at work, management should deal effectively with them. Having said that, it’s often difficult to identify the early signs and symptoms of bullying.

To understand this better, we need to ask ourselves –
• How does bullying behaviour manifest itself in the workplace?
• Why does one person regard a particular behaviour as bullying, while someone else sees it as tolerable, simply indicating a dominant attitude (even if such an attitude may be unwelcome)?


Bullying behaviour can be overt or covert

Bullying behaviour relies on a wide range of tactics – overt and covert. Disparaging remarks or criticism made by colleagues or managers can have harmful effects on an individual at the receiving end. This individual then feels their professional competence is being called into question – and it’s undermining their work.

Overt tactics can include public rebuke for alleged errors made by an individual in their work. Covert tactics can take the form of circulating rumours or gossip appearing to question an individual’s ability. These tactics can also be expressed as inaction.

For example, failing to acknowledge or approve work that’s been done well. Or omitting to ask for someone’s opinion, when that someone is clearly best qualified to comment.

You can recognise bullies, because typically they –
• Make unreasonable demands on their chosen target
• Shout at victims publicly, as a deliberate tactic to disempower them
• Give instructions which they then change for no apparent reason
• Allocate tasks which they know are beyond an individual’s ability
• Block promotion by refusing to give fair appraisals
• Fail to endorse pay increases or bonus awards, though fully earned
• Exclude an individual from discussions germane to their work responsibilities
You may well have observed some of these behaviours happening in work situations yourself – sadly, they’re not that uncommon.

How does bullying affect people?

People who are bullied at work often feel they’ve lost control, and they’re no longer able to carry out their duties efficiently. They try to regain the semblance of normality – but frequently this is unsuccessful. After a while, people who’ve been bullied may become tense, anxious, prone to emotional outbursts, and behave un-cooperatively. Worse still, the stress that bullying causes often leads to minor illnesses, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and fatigue. When people experience stress over time, this can result in more serious health problems – for example, very unpleasant conditions such as ‘burnout’.

When they’re being subjected to bullying, people are often reluctant to discuss their experience for fear of reprisal or further intimidation. Talking about it may be seen as a ‘black mark’ against them that could damage their career progression. Most victims of bullying have two main aims – they want to keep their job and they want the situation to return to normal.

What actions can an organisation take to prevent bullying?

• Introduce policies to counteract bullying and harassment
• Train HR people to recognise the signs and symptoms of bullying
• Carry out stress and culture audits to identify ‘hot spots’
• Focus on developing soft skills
• Mediate between ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’
• Ask a question such as ‘Have you ever experienced bullying in this organisation?’ during exit interviews

What you should remember

• Bullying behaviour is always unacceptable
• Your people may need to be taught how to confront bullies
• Anti-bullying policies should complement your organisational culture

With over 25 years of providing training, mediation and consultancy in the field of workplace bullying, contact us if we can help in any way:




Great Success on National Stress Awareness Day

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Author of Show Stress Who’s Boss

We are now at the end of the 2016 National Stress Awareness Day campaign where we had a great turnout from the International Stress Management Association [UK] regions and also from around the world.

We are still gathering in all the data together but it was difficult to keep track of all the media coverage including OK magazine; the Director journal; the Daily Telegraph; Radio BBC Scotland, Dilse radio and 5 Live –  to name just a few that reported on NSAD activities.

During a 30 day period, the NSAD twitter hashtag had over 180,000 tweets and retweets and the hashtag was trending for some hours on Twitter on the Day. Our Facebook page doubled its LIKES and our LinkedIn page increased its reach.

                        "Well done team NSAD."

With countless events being organised and delivered by members and non-members alike, 2016 was certainly a year to remember. Continue reading


The Impact of Losing concentration

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

‘I keep losing focus’, complains Noreen. ‘I wish I could concentrate better’, says Abdul.  Do you hear yourself sometimes saying this?   There are so many things to think about that you just cannot seem to be able to concentrate properly, any more.

Concentration is the ability to focus upon one thing at a time.  This is not necessarily an easy skill to develop and retain as life, for all of us, has so many disruptions.

Multitasking:  Some of us pride ourselves on being able to do more than one thing at a time but the chances are that instead of doing one task really well, we actually manage to do a number of tasks not so well. The reason being that trying to do too much contemporaneously usually leads to poor performance or mediocre outcomes.

Distraction and Boredom:  You cannot concentrate properly until you stop yourself from being distracted!  Now this might seem very obvious but we can fail to take the requisite action to either remove the distraction from us or to remove ourselves away from the distraction. Continue reading


Are you going through a Mid-life Crisis?


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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

Last week, it was reported in the international media that Google’s Main Board Finance Director, 52 year old, CFO Patrick Pichette had announced that he will be giving up his multi-million dollar job in California to spend more time with his family and maybe to go back-packing around the world.

So was this a mid-life-crisis action taken on the spur of the moment or a carefully considered decision made after examining all the priorities, in conjunction with his immediate family and friends?  Was it, possibly, a moment when he saw his world before his eyes and thought of his ‘bucket list’ with all those things not yet experienced, or completed, and then thought that he might be going to run out of time with all those hopes and dreams unfulfilled?

When does it start?

Midlife crisis can happen when someone suddenly thinks they have reached a point halfway through their life and for many, it can come as a complete surprise as they had thought that life was just beginning. They can start to develop anxieties that appear to indicate that everything is going backwards – or at least not moving forwards – both in their career and personal life, and can experience mood-swings or possibly bouts of self-doubt and even depression.

This crisis usually occurs, if at all, between the ages of 35 and 50, and can sometimes last for maybe five or even ten years. The term mid-life crisis was first coined in 1965 where early analysis suggested that it could happen anywhere between the ages of 40 and 60, but it is now shown to start much earlier.

Let us look at some of the signs that could indicate whether or not you could be heading for, or currently experiencing, your own mid-life crisis. Continue reading


The importance of being happy at work

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

On 20th March, it is The International Day of Happiness – an official day that is now celebrated throughout the world and was established by the United Nations in 2012.

The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well being of all peoples.


Key factors

Being happy at work is one of the keys to being truly happy in life as most people spend 20 – 30 years working which is about 30% of the average human lifespan.

There are, of course, many factors that impact professional happiness, including business relationships, professional development, work-life balance, environment and organisational culture.

Obviously, you have no control over whether your employees are happy at home but you do have some control as to how happy they are at work.  And if you don’t know if your employees are happy, then why not ask them? Continue reading


Are you an introvert?

'Show Stress Who's Boss!' provides tools and strategies that will show you how to deawl with stress.

Discover 4 Easy Ways to Beat Stress Today!

Do you sometimes get anxious when speaking to a new client?  Would you rather work alone and not in a team?  Would you often prefer to stay at home, than attend an after work party organised by your department?

If you can answer these questions with a ‘yes’, then you are probably an introvert.  But, before you start thinking that this is a negative trait, let’s look at some of the most influential people of our time who prove that you don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room to be heard.

Introverts commonly assume that they must conform to the extrovert mould in order to be successful, however, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and philanthropist, is reported to have strong introvert traits but still develop his passions, successfully. He said, ‘I think introverts can do quite well.  If you’re clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.’

Being elected president of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces would seems to be an introvert’s worst nightmare.  But even though President Obama has caught criticism for his aloof personality, he has managed to leverage an introvert’s natural capacity for thoughtful communication. Continue reading


Destress: Find out how to speak in public with no stress!

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

Did you know that speaking in public is one of the greatest fears for many people? So, if you are frightened to stand-up before an audience, let me tell you, you are not alone.

So what is your fear about?  You probably know your subject 100% and you are relaxed and confident when you are talking around a table with your colleagues.  But it is at that moment when you stand up and get to your feet that you become tongue-tied and nervous, perhaps even forgetting your key message.  Many people are so worried about speaking before others that they will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.

Of course, being on platform is certainly high-risk because you are the focus of attention.  Everyone is watching you expectantly, as well as automatically judging your appearance, your body language as well as your words.

No great speech just happens!  All the famous orators of our time, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama or Winston Churchill, may have had different styles, but it was the way in which they made their words come to life that inspired and motivated their audiences.

We are told that Margaret Thatcher even used a voice coach from the National Theatre in London to help lower her shrill tone to one that was deeper and more authoritarian.

If you listen to Martin Luther King’s famous speech ‘I have a dream’, you will hear him repeating certain phrases time and again for greater impact as his passion is transmitted to his audience. Continue reading