June Newsletter

Stress can impact upon productivity, and even more importantly for employees, their physical and mental wellbeing. They might lose sleep, eat unhealthy foods, drink more, and smoke more, all of which increases the likelihood that they’ll become less productive, demotivated, and absent from work.

In this newsletter, I’m going to look at the importance of looking after the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, and why doing so is better for an organisation in the long run.

There are also some informative articles on stress, nutrition, and sleep; an EBook you can download on how to find the elusive work/life balance, and the latest workplace wellbeing research and news.

Let’s make our workplaces happier, healthier, and more productive places to be!

Maureen


How to manage workplace stress

If you’re a supervisor, manager, or HR officer, the first time you may become aware that an employee is stressed at work is when you see a fit note stating that the employee is absent from work due to a ‘stress-related illness.’ One in three fit notes given out by GPs are for mental health problems, and while stress in itself is not defined as a medical illness, if it is not addressed early, it can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioural disturbance, and physical illness.

How should you deal with workplace stress?

  1. Look at the reasons behind the stress, both in the workplace, and in the employee’s personal life. Invite the employee to discuss the root causes of the stress and if they’re identified, how you can work together to approach and resolve them.
  2. If it’s difficult to identify a particular cause, but work appears to be a contributing factor, consider using the Health and Safety Executive’s Stress Risk Assessment (hyp) questionnaire tool. This will help you identify the possible causes of workplace stress such as work relationships, lack of support, and change.
  3. Look at the organisation’s culture. If employees say they feel overworked and undervalued, what can you do to address this? Doing so may help prevent work-related stress problems before they even arise.
  4. A referral to Occupational Health is a good idea if the causes of stress are still not clear. An adviser can give their opinion on whether they believe the employee has a medical condition, and whether they need further support from a manager, counsellor, or therapist.

There is no quick fix or one size fits all approach that can be applied to mental health issues because people recover at different rates, and everyone has different levels of resilience. But if people are well supported at times of crisis, they are likely to recover quicker and become more resilient to stress in the future. Addressing mental health in a timely, thorough, and professional manner from a health and wellbeing and business perspective is crucial.

If you would like more guidance on managing stress in the workplace, our e-learning packages are an informative, valuable, and flexible learning option for you. We’re currently offering 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace packages.

My free EBook on Work-Life Balance is also available for download by clicking here.


The effects of work on our diet

Work-related stress can have a considerable effect on our eating behaviours too. Long working hours, our desk-bound culture, and a work culture that values getting the job done rather than focusing on wellbeing all contribute to poor eating behaviours and patterns. Here’s a fascinating interview with Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist and author who has studied the relationship between stress, weight and fatigue. Click here to read more.

The importance of gut health

The health of your gut can be linked to many health issues, including poor mental health. Scientists even refer to the gut as the ‘second brain’ because it’s lined with 100 million nerve cells that control digestion. Having a healthy gut plays a key role in wellbeing, because ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system affect many of the body’s functions like nutrient absorption, immune response, the ability to eliminate toxins and the production of hormones. If there is an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut, inflammation occurs in the digestive system and symptoms occur throughout the body.

Research has found that when the gut is irritated or inflamed, the nerves in the gut send messages to the central nervous system which can then trigger changes in mood.

So how can you improve your digestive health? Here are 10 tips for better digestion, courtesy of SuperWellness


Some reading material...

Managing stress

This is an informative article about what causes workplace stress and how it can be managed effectively. Click here to read more.

Sleeping better and productivity

Poor sleep can be disastrous for physical and mental health, not to mention productivity in the workplace. Click here to read about the problems that poor sleep can cause and what managers can do to help.

 


The importance of a health and wellbeing strategy

According to a survey by Aon Employee Benefits, the number of employers who have invested in workplace wellbeing initiatives has risen from 36% to 42% this year. Wellbeing apps, virtual GP services, weight loss support, smoking cessation and physical activity programmes are among the initiatives being considered to help employees become healthier and happier at work.

The key is for organisations to focus on taking preventative action rather than acting when employees are already experiencing issues.

Managers have an important role to play in creating a workplace culture that pays attention to wellbeing, especially when it comes to stress reduction. They can do this by encouraging a healthy work-life balance, listening to employees, building supportive teams, and giving employees some flexibility over where and when they work. Being able to recognise stress and other issues in the workplace and knowing how to support employees adequately is crucial in a healthy workplace.

Learning these skills is an investment in yourself, which will empower you to make the right choices for your organisation. E-learning is a fantastic way for busy managers to access high-quality education and resources, and the opportunity to build peer to peer support networks brings the benefit of being able to share experiences and learn from others.

There’s currently 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace e-learning packages which cover how to effectively support employees through difficulties related to their mental health, and how to communicate mindfully, share information, and facilitate change.

As well as being mindful of the wellbeing of your employees, it’s important that you check in with yourself too. If you manage or own a business, the chances are you don’t take enough time off or have much balance in your life. This can be true of any manager or business owner, but it rings particularly true for women, who as well as running their business, still have most of the childcare and household responsibilities. Burnout is common among women, and that’s why we hold Mindfulness Day Retreats for women, which are all about learning to relax, be mindful, and look after yourself. Click here for more information.


Beat Stress with a Mini Meditation

3-minute Breathing Space Meditation

When you’re stressed out, it can be difficult to remind yourself to stay calm, and when you’re busy, you might feel like you don’t have time to meditate. This is exactly why this short Breathing Space meditation was created. It’s designed to create a pause in your day so you can collect your thoughts, ground yourself, and keep perspective. Use this daily, anytime you feel like you need it.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sit or stand up straight and close your eyes if possible. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge any difficult feelings that arise. Can you feel any sensations in your body? Acknowledge that they’re there, but don’t try to change them.
  • Now concentrate on the breath. Focus on the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen; expanding as you breathe in, and relaxing as you breathe out. Ground yourself with each breath, and if your mind wanders, guide it gently back towards the breath.
  • Finally, expand your awareness to take in the body as a whole. Imagine the whole body is breathing. If you feel any discomfort in your body, imagine that you’re breathing in to these areas. Explore the sensations, but don’t try to change them in any way. Once they stop being the focus of your attention, become aware of the whole body again.

-adapted from Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.


Mindfulness Research

Practising mindfulness at work and at home can help employees to detach themselves from workplace problems and demands when they get home, according to a study. The study looked at mindfulness and the stressor-detachment model, which says that increasing emotional stress and a demanding workload at work should correspond with the inability to detach yourself from work when you get home. The inability to switch off is associated with lower wellbeing at bedtime. The study found that mindfulness could be a useful tool in helping people to psychologically detach themselves from work despite high job demands.

Haun VC et al. “Being mindful at work and at home: buffering effects in the stressor-detachment model”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.


Wellbeing News

Drinking alcohol to cope

More than half of all adults who drink alcohol say they do so to cope with the pressures of daily life, according to a poll for the charity DrinkAware. More than one third of those questioned said they drank alcohol to forget about their problems. 47% of people reported having a drink to cheer themselves up and 41% of people said they felt it helped when they felt depressed or anxious.

Increase in referrals for mental health support

The nurse adviser service RedArc said it gets 30% more referrals for mental ill health in January than at any other time of the year. They have urged employers to remind employees about mental health support services in the workplace such as access to counselling.


How can I help you?

I can help you master mindfulness to enhance the wellbeing of individuals at work, and to help organisations build productive, successful teams of individuals who listen to, and support each other. Through face to face mentoring and mindfulness sessions, or via e-learning, we can work together to manage stress, promote workplace wellbeing, deal with anxieties about job insecurity and organisational change, and develop effective leaders who’ll remain calm and make considered decisions even during volatile times. Find out more about what mindfulness can do for you here.

I hope you have found our newsletter both interesting and useful.  If there are any topics that you would like us to include in our next newsletter please let me know.  If you do not wish to receive further copies of the newsletter contact me and I will remove your details from our database.

Creating an Achievement Culture

The culture of a business has a huge impact on productivity and employee engagement. If there is a blame culture which penalises people for failure, employee engagement and morale will be low. But if there is a culture where achievements are celebrated, employees will feel more valued, be more committed and motivated to do well, which equals a more productive and successful business.

How can you create an achievement culture?

Recognise a job well done

If employees have performed well or gone the extra mile, recognising this and rewarding it is a form of positive reinforcement which is more likely to motivate employees, make them feel appreciated, and want to do well.

Set clear objectives

It can be difficult to keep employees motivated if they aren’t clear on the goals they’re working towards. If employees know exactly how their job role contributes to the overall success of the business, this will motivate them to achieve their targets.

Use incentives

When incentives are used appropriately, they can be used as a tool to encourage employees to collaborate and motivate each other.

Lead by example

Employees do take note of the behaviour of managers, so pay attention to what messages your behaviour gives them. This will impact on employee performance and what they think is expected of them.

Be visible

If employees feel far removed from managers, this can create feelings of mistrust. If however managers are seen to be visible and accessible, it builds trust and a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’

Be clear about standards

Be open and honest with employees about what you expect from them in terms of performance. If there is evidence of poor performance, deal with it sooner rather than later as this can undermine your authority and perceived leadership abilities.

Commit to learning and development

Employees should have the chance to develop within their role, for their benefit and for the benefit of the business. The world of business is constantly changing, and competitors will always spring up where you least expect it. Would you want to be in a position where you have stagnated or lack the expertise in your workforce because you had failed to encourage anyone to develop? Offer training in service standards and industry-specific training to keep employees’ skills up to date.

The culture of a business is often developed at the top but it pervades every level of an organisation. The culture will either motivate employees to do well for the good of the business, or it will make them feel undervalued and disengaged. Which do you think makes better business sense?

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

The Role of the Manager in Preventing Stress

Many people would probably say they feel stressed at work from time to time, but while a little stress is motivating, there is a point when stress becomes detrimental to physical and mental health.

A study carried out by the British Heart Foundation found that two out of every five employees say that stress has affected their health to the point where it’s made them smoke more, drink more, eat poorly, and miss out on exercise.

What are the main causes of workplace stress?

  • Long working hours
  • Increasing workload
  • Difficult relationships with managers or co-workers
  • Poor working conditions
  • Lack of support from managers
  • Lack of control over job role

What can a manager do to prevent stress?

If employees are suffering from stress, it not only harms their health, it can harm the business. Employees who are burnt out will be less motivated and productive, and more likely to take time off work. Employers also have a statutory duty of care to look after the heath, safety, and welfare of employees, and if they don’t, they are leaving themselves open to litigation.

Managers can’t eliminate all stress but taking these steps can make the workplace a healthier, happier, and more productive place to be.

Set a good example

Managers play a big part in establishing a workplace culture, so if they work late every day and don’t take a proper lunch break, employees are likely to follow suit. Managers should actively promote a healthy work/life balance by taking breaks, using their holidays, and not working excessively long hours.

Encourage employees to take breaks

The law says that employees are allowed to have at least a 20-minute break for every 6 hours they work, and studies show that many people are more productive if they work for 90 minutes then have a 20-minute break. Managers should encourage regular breaks that will work for the business. They could encourage employees to take a short walk after lunch, have short periods of quiet time throughout the day, or have regular check ins with employees over a cup of tea or coffee.

Listen to employees

If employees feel that they can’t express their concerns openly to a manager, this will add to stress. Managers should commit to listening to concerns, suggestions, or complaints without judgment, and they should work with the employee to find a solution.

Build good teams

Employees can be a great source of support to each other, but if a team doesn’t work well together, it can increase overall stress levels in the workplace. Managers should aim to organise team building events regularly to help improve communication and build trust.

Allow for flexibility

While it’s not practical for all businesses, giving employees some flexibility with their working hours and where they work from can help to reduce stress. Many employees have responsibilities at home like caring for children or caring for a sick relative and trying to balance this with a gruelling work schedule can be a big source of stress. Managers can consider allowing employees to work from home regularly or allowing them to work flexible hours to keep stress levels low.

Losing good employees can harm a business in terms of the expenses that come with sick leave, and any litigation claim that might be made if work has contributed to a stress-related illness.

Managers should do everything they can to promote a supportive culture in the workplace and not treat adherence to policies like a tick box exercise. They must make sure that they are trained to recognise stress in the workplace, and that they know how to support employees adequately. Only then will employees be happier, more productive, and less stressed.

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Tackling Mental Heath Stigma at Work

Mental health problems at work cost the UK economy billions each year, and they’re increasingly becoming one of the most common reasons for sickness absence.

Emergency services personnel face unique challenges at work which mean they are particularly prone to developing mental health problems because of their jobs. They have an increasing workload, they face ever increasing demands, and they have to deal with traumatic situations often on a daily basis.

All of this occurs in a culture where having time off is frowned upon and where workers believe that they’ll be discriminated against if they speak out about having poor mental health.

Culture in the emergency services

Emergency services personnel are often referred to as ‘heroes’ and there’s a perception that they are somehow superhuman and shouldn’t be affected by things that happen at work. This is of course, a fallacy. They are human beings, and they are just as prone to mental ill health as everyone else, if not more so.

Research from MIND has shown that even though they are more likely to experience mental ill health, they are less likely to take time off work than the general population. They’re twice as likely to identify work as the cause of their mental health problems, and they believe that they’d be treated less favourably at work if they disclosed that they were suffering.

Organisational factors and poor mental health

Exposure to traumatic incidents is not the only factor that causes poor mental health among emergency services personnel. Organisational factors like constant change that’s badly managed, poor leadership, and a blame culture can all contribute to mental ill health.

Tackling mental health stigma in the workplace

Creating a culture where mental wellbeing is given priority and people feel able to talk about their problems makes people feel supported, and creates opportunities for early intervention. Here are some practical steps that organisations can take to promote a mentally healthy workplace and tackle stigma:

Start from the top: Any change in culture needs to start with management. If managers lead by example, prioritise mental wellbeing, and promote a culture of empathy and understanding, employees are more likely to follow suit.

Create a mental health policy: This will reassure employees that an organisation is aware of the importance of mental wellbeing.

Create a culture of openness: This helps to increase awareness of mental health by encouraging people to talk about it.

Promote healthy working practices: Encourage a work/life balance by introducing programmes like mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and exercise into the working day.

Communicate: Raise awareness of mental health using staff newsletters, posters, training sessions and meetings.

Introduce training: This helps to tackle mental health stigma by increasing awareness and understanding of mental ill health. It can also educate people on how to spot the signs that they, or a co-worker might be becoming ill, and empower them to talk about it.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk