Bullying is commonly identified with the abuse of visible power. We close our eyes and we see the image of a big aggressive character bearing down on a little guy in a threatening manner.

In the workplace context, this translates into other familiar images of bullying –  always from above. On a Dubai building site, it might be a large group of workers ganging-up on a smaller group. On a UK factory floor, it might be a foreman picking on some nervous victim who can’t bring himself to retaliate. In boardrooms everywhere, victimisation may take more subtle forms, less violent but no less hurtful, with endless opportunities for a bully-boy director to use his seniority. And of course, bullying with a sexual or racial slant has been attracting much media attention all over the world. But whatever the image of bullying, it always suggests a downward impact from a position of physical or hierarchical power. Continue reading

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The Spiral of Sleeplessness

People who have been tempted to work late hours during the boom years are inclined to dream of a less busy period when they will at least be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

But that ‘less busy period’ seems increasingly liable to turn into a recession, with its accompanying job-insecurity and money worries  –  key stressors, that can lead to significant sleep loss.

We all know that feeling at 4 in the morning, the low point of our cycle when we are woken by the nightmare of every worst-case scenario coming true, all at the same moment, and, in an economic crisis, we live in that mode, 24/7. However, driving ourselves harder and working later, does not leave us delightfully drowsy and ready to drift off into a healing sleep. It just leaves us more stressed and more likely to toss and turn miserably until dawn breaks.

Seriously switching off

sleep, stressWhen top tycoons are asked for their lifestyle tips, they often mention the ability to be able to compartmentalize their problems  –  in other words, the ability to switch-off.

Perhaps that is an excellent way to combat unnecessary job-insecurity. Your natural concern over your situation should not be allowed to dominate your thoughts, day and night. Two hours of worrying about your overdraft does not move you any closer to a solution than just 30 minutes!

Preparing for an uninterrupted seven-hour sleep is your best hope of restoring the right mental and physical state in which to tackle your problems. And that important, last hour before bedtime is the key. Continue reading

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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 info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk 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. http://amzn.to/2sARfmd

Also available in Kindle version.

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Stress management ‘helps the heart’

An American study of patients with cardiac problems appears to show a significant improvement when stress-management training forms part of their treatment.

A group undergoing exercise-based cardiac rehab was split into two, with one half also receiving anti-stress interventions such as techniques for relaxation and coping under pressure. Those patients were found to have a 50 percent lower risk of complications like heart attacks and strokes. Another similar group who did not take the exercise programme, but received the stress reduction training, showed a 40 percent lower risk than those who took neither.

This was only a small-scale study, with no opportunity to evaluate the anti-stress interventions individually, or to investigate reasons why some patients had rejected exercise-based rehab. And stress management is not a curative therapy. But the findings do suggest that this approach could help improve cardiac rehab programs. “Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., this could represent a new treatment that will help us reduce the impact of this disease,” said Dr. Eric Aldrich, a researcher in neurology and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. (As reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.)

  • Cardiac patients were taught how to relax and cope with pressure
  • The anti-stress training was found to cut heart problems by 40%-50%
  • These findings may be used to improve cardiac rehab programs

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 info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk 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. http://amzn.to/2sARfmd

Also available in Kindle version.

 

 

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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

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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

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Crisis: It could happen to you!

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

If you need to respond quickly to a negative, corporate situation that has taken place and impacted your organisation, there are many techniques and procedures available in order to manage it and to successfully communicate with all parties concerned.

Sending out a Press Release

Consideration should be given to sending out a Press Release in order to inform the media together with your shareholders or stakeholders, of the current situation whilst simultaneously delivering a very clear message that demonstrates your confidence in dealing with the situation.  How you respond in the first 24 hours may be vital to maintaining production and also morale both within the business and externally.  The confidence of both customers and suppliers can very easily be permanently lost overnight – in the event that you fail to manage such a situation professionally. Time here is of the essence! Continue reading

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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

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Work in Progress

Find out how to deal with stress

4 Proven Steps to Beat Your Stress!

Last week, I received a letter from Claudia, a 41 year old female doctor working in an Accident & Emergency department in a central London hospital.

“Dear Carole, I feel trapped in a mundane existence.  I feel that I am stuck; my life is out of control and I am going nowhere!  When I first started out, I believed that a better life was possible.  I dreamed of achieving great things and living a life full of value and purpose.  I wanted to become a great doctor and make a difference to society – there was nothing more important to me.  However, over the years, the demands and frustrations of the job have crushed my dreams and I have now settled for an unremarkable existence, having lost my vision for the future.  Can you help me to get off this endless treadmill onto a new, more rewarding path?” Continue reading

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Being a Loner in the Workplace

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4 Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

No two people are the same and that is why, within your work-teams, there will be those with whom you get on easily and then those with whom it is often a challenge to communicate.  That is just a fact of life.

Let us look at Johan who manages a team of talented marketing professionals who need to collaborate, daily, on different projects. One of his team is Amelia who is a highly proficient, technically- skilled team-member but who likes to work alone and just get on with the job in hand.  But, she is not a good communicator and in many ways is a loner.  That is her style and personality which may not be a problem unless she is part of a team in which inter-communication is usually essential. We already know that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and, in this case, Amelia is the link that weakens the chain because she often fails to attend meetings on time and is inefficient in communicating information to her team members, resulting in unacceptable delays and missed deadlines.

This leaves, Johan, the team manager, in a difficult situation.  With Amelia, he has a very talented, intelligent individual who is highly productive when they work alone but has very little interest in working with others.  He values her input but is acutely aware that her inability to communicate, damages the effectiveness of the team and frequently causes friction within the team.

So what can Johan do to keep Amelia in post yet at the same time, ensure that she is an integral part of the team? Continue reading

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