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Success Without the Stress

Many people dream of being their own boss but few people don’t realise how challenging and stressful it can be. Leaving a secure salary behind can be scary, and then there’s the thought that you have to make all the decisions and wear all the hats. Suddenly, it all seems very daunting.

The pressures and challenges business owners have to face:

Financial insecurity

Walking away from a secure job and a salary can be scary, especially when you’re just starting off.

Uncertainty

There are no guarantees that your business will work or turn a profit, or even if you’ll be able to pay yourself a salary at first.

Staying motivated and passionate

You might have dreamed of being your own boss and following your passion, but will you have the determination and motivation to keep pushing on when it gets tough?

Lack of work/life balance

When you’re building your business, and even further down the line, you’ll come to realise that balancing work with a family and social life is very difficult unless you take some steps to properly manage your time.

Isolation

Being your own boss can be quite isolating, especially if you’re a sole trader or you work from home. The long hours you put in working on your business can make it tough to see your family and friends as much as you would like.

You’re not alone

So business owners have a lot on their plate, but the good news is, you’re not alone. After 20 years’ experience of leading teams in high-pressure corporate environments and running my own businesses, I decided to write ‘Success Without the Stress,’ a definitive guide to reducing stress for small business owners.

Stress can have an insidious impact on physical and mental health, and the book aims to help small business owners understand the pressures and challenges of running a business, and how to manage them.

What’s in the book?

You’ll find tried and tested management theory and practice, up-to-date research, and my own personal insights on topics such as:

  • Identifying the pressures and challenges faced by small business owners and how much control / influence you have over them
  • Building your confidence and self-esteem
  • Developing an authentic and powerful personal brand
  • Avoiding feelings of isolation by connecting with others
  • Developing business skills
  • Making wise and ethical decisions
  • Developing a less stressful approach to handling problems
  • Working more efficiently and effectively
  • Avoiding negative thinking habits
  • Building emotional resilience
  • Maintaining optimum health and wellbeing

There are also interactive activities to help you apply what you’ve learned

There are plenty of business books out there that aim to motivate people and help them reach their potential, but I saw a need for a book that addresses how stressful owning a business can be. I wish there had been a book like this when I first started out, and I wrote it with that in mind.

If you are a business owner who frequently feels overwhelmed, this book is for you. You can buy it here.

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

Supporting Flexible Working

Flexible working is fast becoming the norm, thanks to improvements in technology, and a need for flexibility from both employees who want a better work/life balance, and businesses that need to meet customer demands around the clock.

Many business owners worry about whether they can accommodate flexible working, especially in small businesses that might not have the capacity or flexibility to do so, but if flexible working is included in your business strategy, it can have real benefits.

Examples of flexible working

There are many different flexible working options to consider, so whatever size your business is, you can find the arrangement that suits you and your employees. The most popular types of flexible working are part-time working, flexitime, job-sharing, remote working, compressed hours, staggered hours, and annualised hours.

The benefits that flexible working can bring

The benefits for employees

  • Better work life balance
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Improved motivation and morale
  • Less stress and anxiety

Business benefits

  • Flexible working opportunities are more attractive to potential employees and they encourage good employees to stay with your business
  • Employees are more focused when they have a better balance between work and personal responsibilities. This means they’re more productive which is better for your bottom line
  • There are less costs relating to absence, sick leave, and lateness
  • Flexible working makes your business more flexible and more responsive, for example, having a customer service department that is open outside of office hours is very attractive to customers. You can also change shift patterns/staff working hours to meet demand at busier or quieter time of the year

How to make flexible working work for your business

  • Use it for the benefit of your business. Flexible working doesn’t just have to benefit employees, you can use it to achieve business goals. For example, if you want one of your best employees to work on a project but you know that they have a lot of family commitments, could allowing them to work from home a few days per week mean that they’ll be able to focus fully on the project instead of being stuck in the office and worrying about what’s going on at home?
  • Make it clear that even though you’re an advocate of flexible working, you still expect an employee’s work to be of the same standard. Set ground rules about when you expect them to check in with you, and always agree deadlines for work. This reduces the chance of flexible working having a negative impact on the business.
  • Advocate collaborative working. Even if you do allow some employees to work from home on set days each week, make it clear that you’ll need them in the office sometimes. Make sure they use their time in the office to work jointly on tasks with the rest of the team. This will have the added benefit of helping flexible employees maintain a sense of connection with colleagues.

Ask yourself regularly if flexible working works for the business and employees. You must monitor how effective flexible working is, and if it’s not working, changes must be made and communicated to everyone.

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

How to Declutter a Busy Mind

What would you give to clear your mind of all of the clutter? To rid yourself of the thoughts and emotions that are taking up unnecessary space? To stop holding onto grudges, guilt, and anger? To no longer live on autopilot to the extent that you completely forget to make yourself a priority?

You might say you want to live a positive and happy life, but worries about the past or the future, and negative emotions simply clutter up your mind, and steal the joy you should be experiencing in your life. The good news is there are some steps you can take to declutter your mind and have a happier, more balanced existence.

How to declutter a busy mind

Declutter your surroundings

This doesn’t just mean your home, it means your workspace too. Clear that bulging closet and file away that pile of papers from your desk and just see how much less stressed and more balanced you feel.

Prioritise tasks

If you have a never ending to do list, this immediately clutters the mind and you can’t see the wood for the trees. Have a look at your list and categorise tasks as urgent, important but not urgent, and not urgent, and you’ll be able to see where you should be directing your energy. If you do have some onerous tasks on your list and you feel overwhelmed, try breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Say ‘no’

We can sometimes feel guilty for saying no when people ask us to do something, but if you’re already very busy, and your brain is at boiling point, say no. You don’t even have to give an explanation. Just acknowledge to yourself that you have your own priorities and a responsibility to look after yourself.

Resurrect your creativity

Do you love to write, draw, or paint, but never feel like you have the time? Make time for activities that bring you joy, relieve stress, and calm your mind.

Accept that there are things you can’t change

Trying to control every little detail of your life, and allowing your thoughts to rule you is exhausting and overwhelming. Accept that there are things you can’t change, and decide to be happy. It can be that simple. For example, imagine that you get caught in a really heavy rain shower and you tell yourself ‘this is really miserable, I hate the rain, I bet it lasts all day,’ how is this likely to make you feel? It won’t make you feel good, that’s for sure. This is just a small example of how thoughts can really impact upon how you feel. You can’t stop bad things happening, but you can change how you think about them and react to them.

Practice mindful meditation

Mindfulness is about living in the present moment, not the past, or the future. Being mindful doesn’t need to be about meditating either, though this is very helpful in reducing stress and bringing clarity of thought. You can do any activity mindfully, whether it’s eating, showering, walking, or even washing the dishes. It’s about savouring what you see, feel, taste, smell, hear, or notice and it focuses the mind on exactly what you’re doing, and not on bills, the shopping list, or what that co-worker you don’t like said to you today. Mindfulness can help you learn how to just ‘be’ rather than running around on autopilot. In today’s busy world, everyone can benefit from being more mindful for the sake of their physical and emotional health.

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

Autumn Newsletter

Welcome to our Autumn newsletter.

There is a lot of promising research on the benefits of mindfulness on many areas of life, and the business world is taking note. Many businesses are turning to mindfulness to help improve performance, but can it really help? A growing body of research shows that mindfulness can improve focus, reduce stress, improve communication, and improve clarity of thought. It has the potential to positively affect the entire culture of an organisation.

Many people will meet the suggestion of being more mindful with a retort about being far too busy to ‘sit and think of nothing’ for 20 minutes, when actually, taking those 20 minutes out to practice can improve your focus so much that you can work through your tasks with a calmer and clearer head.

In this newsletter, I’m going to look at some key factors which affect performance, such as time management, productivity, motivation, calmness, and confidence, and you’ll see how mindfulness pervades every single one of these.

Also, I am delighted to announce that Maureen O’Callaghan Training and Mentoring has been accredited as a CPD Training Provider and that my 10 Week Living and Working Mindfully and 1 Year Mindfulness Teacher Training Pathway courses have been approved for CPD accreditation!

Maureen


How can mindfulness improve performance?

A mindful culture positively affects a whole organisation

Are you a leader who rushes around, constantly pushing to get things done, or are you calm and grounded? What effect does this have on the people around you? If you lead by example and remain centred and calm, people around you will likely slow down, focus, and be more effective.

It improves focus

Studies have shown that mindfulness affects the part of the brain that is responsible for self-regulation. The effect of this is that you don’t spend so much time on activities that make you less productive, like browsing online or looking at social media.

The research also found that people who practiced mindfulness-based meditation stayed on one task for longer and didn’t multitask.

It helps us to accept criticism

No matter how good you are at your job, it’s likely that you’ll have received negative feedback at some point. Criticism, when it’s delivered in the wrong way, can kill morale and productivity. But mindfulness can help you to accept negative feedback more easily. Of course, it’s not easy, but you can learn to focus on your breath, listen to what the other person has to say, and observing your response. This makes it far less likely that you’ll react emotionally to what you hear.

It makes you a better listener

How often has someone been talking to you and you’ve switched off, thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, or formulating a response in your head? This is not helpful in those situations at work when you really have to be listening, like when you’re talking to a client or you’re in an important meeting. Mindfulness can help filter out the less important things so you can focus your attention on what is important. It can also make you more aware, so that you hear changes in tone of voice, cues for a response, or something that triggers an idea.

Mindfulness helps you build better relationships

A study from Harvard Medical School shows that mindfulness meditation increases the grey matter in the brain’s hippocampus. This area of the brain is associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Having these qualities and being more attentive, will make you a greater asset at work, but it will also likely make you a person that people want to be around.

It makes you a better leader

Mindfulness can be used to excellent effect by leaders to improve self-regulation, to make more effective decisions and to protect themselves from the effects of stress.

Mindfulness reduces stress

Speaking of stress, work is still the main source of stress for many people. Stress reduces work performance over time. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Mindfulness can help, and it gives us that essential pause so that we can take a step back from whatever is causing stress, and just breathe. It really can be that simple.

Adapted from https://aboutmeditation.com/mindfulness-at-work/


Getting it all done

One of the biggest stressors that people complain of is an increasing workload and a lack of time in which to do everything. Many people work long hours, to the detriment of their personal lives to get everything done, and this can lead to disillusionment, stress, and diminished work performance.

The good news is that you can gain control of your work time by taking some simple steps to be more productive.

Make a To-Do List

This probably sounds like an obvious step, but an effective to do list will motivate you to complete important tasks and achieve more in the time you’ve got. Instead of scribbling down a list of tasks which gives you little or no direction, write down a to do list, then under each task, write when you need to complete it by and why.

Prioritise!

Your time is precious, so you need to spend it on the tasks that are going to add value in some way, rather than the humdrum tasks that don’t. It’s not to say that these low priority tasks don’t need doing, they just shouldn’t take up a disproportionate amount of your time.

The “Urgent/Important Matrix” can be useful here. It helps you to focus your attention on the most urgent and valuable tasks on your to do list. There are 4 categories that your tasks will fall into:

  • Urgent and Important: These are the tasks that must be done right away.
  • Important and Not Urgent: These are tasks that probably contribute to your long term goals and they should be worked on each day so that they don’t become urgent.
  • Urgent and Not Important: These are the tasks that stop you from completing your important work. Whether it’s something your manager has passed onto you or it has been delegated from elsewhere, think about whether the task is important to you. See if it’s possible to delegate or reschedule these tasks, or even try and avoid them landing on your desk altogether.
  • Not Urgent and Not Important: These are distractions that don’t contribute to your goals. You might have imposed them on yourself or they may come from others, but try not to let them rob you of the time you should be spending on your work.

Create a schedule

Life is not perfect, and so despite your best efforts, you might still have to deal with interruptions and being asked to do extra work with a short deadline. There is a way you can see what time you actually do have, all you need to do is make a timetable or schedule of your week.

So looking at a weekly timetable, or your diary if that suits you better, then:

  • Block out the hours you don’t want to work as ‘not available.’
  • Allocate an appropriate amount of time you’ll need to do your important tasks well. (prioritise things that need to be done in the next week.
  • Schedule in ‘contingency time’ for interruptions and things you might need to deal with from day to day.
  • The time left over is for non-urgent tasks.

Do you need to delegate?

You may need to delegate some of your work to others if you are going to spend more of your time on valuable tasks. You don’t need to be a manager to delegate, but remember that effective delegation is not just about passing work onto others, it’s about involving others in doing something that uses everyone’s skills and knowledge and that builds a sense of working towards organisational goals as a team.

Putting an end to procrastination

What do you do each day that eats into your work time? Do you scroll through social media (okay, cat videos are compelling!) or do you always have a few cups of coffee before you even get going? A good way to identify which habits are robbing you of your time is to record how you spend your time each day. When you see exactly where your time goes, you might be surprised! Procrastination is behind most of our time-wasting activities. If you know you need to write a long report, you might avoid it by tidying your desk, or browsing the internet, promising yourself that you’ll get started ‘in a minute.’

To beat procrastination, break bigger tasks into smaller chunks. So you could spend 10 minutes writing a title and a structure for the report, then complete small sections of it at a time. If you really need motivation to continue, promise that you’ll work solidly on your task for 45 minutes, then give yourself a reward, such as a nice cup of coffee or a piece of cake.

Some more reading material…

Do you work ever longer days and still don’t seem to get everything done? This article talks about why the key to success and productivity is not what you do at the start of the day, it’s what you do at the end:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/things-successful-people-dont-do-at-the-end-of-the-day-2014-10?r=US&IR=T


Facebook Groups

We currently have two Facebook groups, one for Mindfulness Discussion, and one for Workplace Wellbeing. Come join the discussion!


Mindfulness practice

Mindfulness of the breath with self-compassion

Try this simple mindfulness exercise a few times per day, even if just for a few minutes at a time. Focus on your breath. Don’t try to change your breathing, just notice it. When your mind wanders, as minds do, just say the word ‘thinking’ to yourself then return your attention to your breath. Do this without criticism; minds wander, that’s what they do. Just return your attention to your breath when it happens, even if it happens a hundred times.


Tips to Change Your Life

Reproduced from be me life coaching


Mindfulness News

In a fast-paced world, businesses are turning towards using mindfulness and meditation to cope with  change, uncertainty, and a stressful environment. Being able to handle stress, reflecting rather than reacting, and maintaining focus are all key attributes in these busy times, and organisations are finding that mindfulness is the key to improving performance. Here are some of the biggest firms that have implemented mindfulness techniques;

Google

Every year, thousands of Google employees take a mindfulness course called ‘Search Inside Yourself.’ It’s so popular that there’s a six month waiting list to enrol. The mindfulness practitioner who runs the course Chade Meng Tan, managed to talk the sceptics at the internet giant into implementing mindfulness by explaining the neuroscientific evidence behind it. Now the mindfulness programme is one of the reasons why Google is rated as the world’s best employer to work for.

General Mills

The food company behind Häagen-Dazs and Cheerios have implemented mindfulness and they’ve seen their business grow. They ran a 7-week mindfulness and meditation programme and carried out a review where they found out that:

  • After the programme, 83% of participants said they took time out to optimise their productivity
  • 80% of senior staff said that their decision-making had improved
  • 89% of participants said they had become better listeners

Intel

Intel made a resolution to deal with employee stress more effectively and now thousands of employees take part in their Awake@Intel programme, which includes yoga and mindfulness practices. Although many employees were initially sceptical, many participants reported improved creativity, well-being and focus, reduced stress and greater enthusiasm after taking part in the programme.

Goldman Sachs

You wouldn’t expect a firm of driven, type A personalities to warm to mindfulness, but the investment bank now includes mindfulness in its wellbeing seminars and actively promotes the use of the Headspace meditation app.

Could your organisation benefit from mindfulness?

Why not take advantage of 10% of our comprehensive Mindfulness in the Workplace e-learning package? Click here to find out more.


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.

Teaching Mindfulness – Myths, Misconceptions, and the Right Approach

Mindfulness can have some wonderful benefits for everyone, but for many people who are so used to living their lives on autopilot, surrounded by distractions and worries, just learning how to ‘be’ and not react can be a difficult concept.

This is why it’s so important that people are introduced to mindfulness by teachers, therapists, coaches, and mentors who have the right skills, knowledge, experience and personal attributes.

The mistakes some mindfulness teachers make

Sometimes, with the best intentions, people make mistakes when teaching mindfulness to others, including:

  • Teaching people about mindfulness without actually using mindfulness.
  • Giving the impression that they know more about mindfulness than they actually do.
  • Promising ‘guaranteed’ or fast results.
  • Insisting that their approach to mindfulness is superior to other approaches.
  • Believing that mindfulness can be taught and learned as a concept, rather than practice.
  • Presenting the practice as magical or immediately life-changing in some way.
  • Telling you that practicing mindfulness means that you’re mindful by default.

Better ways to teach mindfulness

Practise what you preach: Demonstrate being mindful by being in the moment.

Be honest: Tell your learners about how much experience you have rather than claiming you know more about mindfulness than you do.

Realise that mindfulness is a practice: You don’t do eight or ten sessions and come away with the ability to be automatically mindful; becoming mindful is a way of life which gives you greater results over time with regular practice.

Trust your own path to mindfulness: No matter whether you learned mindfulness through at a Buddhist centre or you received more formal training, no one path to becoming mindful is better than the other. Encourage your learners to find the path that works best for them.

Realise the importance of knowing your own mind: Reading about mindfulness is not the same as knowing what’s going on in your own mind. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings and how you react to them is the first step to disciplining your own mind and becoming mindful.

Know that mindfulness can be uncomfortable at times: If you feel like your head is always spinning with thoughts, worries, and distractions, then paying attention to it in mindfulness sessions can be very uncomfortable and difficult. Doing the work to become mindful is not easy, but it’s so much easier if you have a good teacher supporting you through the process.

Remember that mindfulness is not magic: It’s a practical way to manage difficult emotions, reduce stress, build resilience, and improve physical and emotional health. You have to work at being mindful, it doesn’t just happen.

Better teacher training

Because we realise the importance of experienced and well-qualified mindfulness teachers, we are offering a Mindfulness Teacher Training Programme made up of 10 individual modules.

Flexible learning

We can offer the programme as:

A complete Teacher Training pathway

For people who have completed an 8 week course, practice mindfulness themselves and want to share mindfulness and its benefits with others.

Individual CPD Modules

For people who have completed their teacher training.

What does the programme involve?

Students will learn via E learning and teaching days which provide the opportunity to apply mindfulness through learning activities and reflection. Learners can also access telephone mentoring and this is encouraged, particularly where additional support needs have been identified. Course numbers are kept to a maximum of 10 so that every learner gets a high level of support.

Every module is linked with a real life work environment, and learners are encouraged to take responsibility for their own personal development, such as learning from other mindfulness practitioners and experts to reinforce their learning.

What makes our programme amazing?

All our tutors and assessors have mindfulness and teaching-related qualifications, and a minimum of five years’ experience of teaching and personal mindfulness practice.

There’s also an opportunity to become a member of a Mindfulness Teacher Support Network once you have completed the programme, which is a teaching community where you can contribute to online forums, access guided practice recordings, observe teaching, get valuable peer support and advice, and find courses and supervision to continue your personal development as a mindfulness teacher.

To find out more about our mindfulness teacher training, click here

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

Reconnecting with Yourself – The Benefits of Going on a Retreat

Retreats give you the chance to have some time away from the constant demands and distractions of everyday life. They allow you to think about who you are, how you are, and most importantly, they give you the chance to just ‘be.’

This is so important for your mental and physical health. Retreats can help if you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, and burnt out; and you might just discover something about yourself that you never knew.

The benefits of going on a retreat

You get to focus on what matters

Getting away from the trials and tribulations of daily life allows you to focus on what inspires you, whether it’s your business, a hobby, or travelling. Inspiration can often motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Less distractions equals more time

At home you might have family problems or money worries to deal with, and you might just not have the head space for thinking about your dreams, wishes, and goals. On a retreat, there’s no rushing, just plenty of time to allow inspiration to flow.

You get to really notice what’s around you

It’s amazing what you notice when you’re not running around after children, scrolling through social media, or mindlessly watching TV. You get to hear the sound of the wind, the birds singing, or even just the silence and experience truly being in the moment.

It gives you the chance to mentally detox

We all have so many stresses in our lives, and we’re bombarded with so much information that it’s not surprising that we just need time and space to mentally unwind every now and again. Going on a retreat is the perfect opportunity to clear your mind of clutter.

It reminds you of who you are

You may be a sister, wife, brother, husband, or friend, but don’t forget that you are YOU; an individual irrespective of societal labels. Going on a retreat allows you to just be you.

It helps you establish new habits

If your hectic life doesn’t allow you time to do what you love, or spend time on your hobbies, you can establish a routine of doing them on a retreat. Then you’ll be inspired to integrate your new way of being into your home life.

Our Mindfulness Retreats for Women

Whether you are hoping to feel more balanced and relaxed, or you want to experience a true sense of wellbeing, our retreats might be just what you need.

Our aim

We want to create a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space where you can just be, as well as giving you the practical tools to leave the retreat feeling inspired, renewed and energised.

Who is it for?

The retreat is open to all women, and it’s run by experienced mindfulness teachers who are able to support beginners and challenge more experienced mindfulness practitioners.

What does the retreat involve?

  • Each retreat programme is different, but retreats will usually include:
  • Gentle movement and relaxation techniques
  • Meditation practices
  • Opportunities to discover your innate creativity
  • Thoughtful, self-supporting lessons designed to improve your health and wellbeing
  • Opportunities to reset bad habits and introduce self-care strategies
  • Free time which you can use for rest and contemplation
  • For more information about our Mindfulness Retreats, click here

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

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