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How the wrong job can affect your mental health – 7 signs to look out for

As the tally of seemingly meaningless statistics scrolled above my head, the reason we were all there became less clear, yet somehow it all made sense to someone crunching the numbers for management.

If you’ve ever worked in a call centre, you’d understand that call times, uptimes, downtimes, pretty much anytime you spend on or off the phone – even going to the toilet – is all logged and scrutinised. At the end of each pod of desks there’ll be an authoritarian figure (hello, team leader) shouting out the numbers like a charioteer whose task is to ensure we’re galloping along on course with the regional average, a flotilla of headset wearing warriors charged with keep our customers happy.

Completing call centre boot camp – a two week training course prior to our actual start date – those numbers were embedded into each individual customer advisor’s head. If we couldn’t reach the targets, there’d be someone to remind us that sometimes quantity is more important than quality. I felt like I was lost in a sea of numbers – that I myself was just a number.

Here are 7 signs to look out for that indicate you might be struggling:

  • Loss of energy or motivation – not being able to self-motivate or lack of determination to reach your goals
  • Irritability or aggression that is abnormal
  • Lack of sleep
  • Changing in eating habits
  • Strain on relationships in and outside of work
  • A lack of self-confidence that occurred in the timeframe you’ve been employed
  • Increase in sensitivity, and a worry that you’re constantly unfulfilling the needs of your manager

After what seemed like an infinity, I decided I’d had enough and I would change this myself, intrinsically thinking of the end goal in all of this – my happiness! My focus then began to steer towards the customer experience, and how having more of an interpersonal approach would benefit the person on both sides of the headset. I exercised the points listed within this article over the course of a few weeks, and found that in within the first few days my stress began to ease and I was able to really get behind what mattered – my work.

When we look back on our careers, there’s often that one job we can pinpoint, which still to this day makes us shudder. One where we felt overlooked, underappreciated or overworked. Maybe you didn’t get along with a particular colleague or manager, or your values weren’t aligned with the culture of the company. Sometimes in the short-term you just have to get on with the job, but grinning and bearing it shouldn’t be at the determent of your longer-term mental health.

Most of us in professional roles can think of times when we felt worn out and just needed to take a break, but did you know that according to the Australian Human Rights Commission around 25% of workers have taken off days due to stress? Studies show that job pressures can play out in various mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression. The sad reality is many people who experience this feel trapped or unable to leave due to financial circumstances, which can lead to a feeling of further isolation.

Here’s what can you do to help yourself.

Set realistic boundaries – Reasonable KPIs help us to benchmark our performance, but don’t let them consume you to the point where you are at panic stations the entire day. Speak to your manager or a respected colleague about how you can meet your targets.

Ensure you take your full lunch break – You’ll have enough time to read a book, eat proper food and leave your office or desk. You might even consider reducing your screen time (taking a break from your smartphone) to wind down and regenerate for the afternoon.

Get fit – If you’re going to improve your mental health, you’ll need the energy to do it. Go for walk or a jog in the fresh air at lunchtime, before or after work. Participating in sport and fitness activities as a hobby can be a fun way to end the day on a high.

Maintain a positive image of yourself – If you’re good at identifying the negatives, be better at listing the positives! Maybe you have great conversational skills for network, you’re savvy with technology and computer systems or simply always on time. Everyone has good (and bad) qualities – focusing on your strengths will improve your confidence.

Understand that you’re not on your own – This brings me back to the importance of conversation. Talk to your colleagues, your friends outside of work or family, do not suffer in silence. An HR or recruitment consultant can also offer guidance to help you find work that is a good fit with your knowledge, experience and personal interests.

In my experience it’s been little wins each day that have helped me grow by building my self-confidence. Of course I always knew I was more than a number (more easily realised without those numbers literally hovering above head), so if you’ve had similar thoughts reading this, I would love to hear what tips you might have for better mental health.  

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Young people entering the workforce

The Boardroom Podcast in conversation with Anita Ziemer, Managing Director of Slade Group, about young people entering the workforce and the future of industries with the presence of automation.

The Boardroom Podcast is a series of engaging podcasts discussing the journey of and lessons learnt from many insightful industry leaders guests with a focus on having real and authentic conversations.

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Bench and the City

A Working Holiday Visa doesn’t have to mean charity mugging other professionals on Collins Street. It can literally turn your world upside down (if you’re from the northern hemisphere, like me). Currently residing in Melbourne – one of the top destinations for Brits on working holidays – I’m originally from Liverpool in the UK. As the newest member of the Interchange Bench team, I am delighted to share my Aussie story (so far) and provide some insight into the seemingly chaotic world of a traveller working in the professional services industry.

Back in early 2018 I was a wide-eyed, fresh-faced, slightly less tanned 20 something who had just touched down, eager to explore what Australia had to offer. Some would say I was living VERY vicariously (using pay pass in any country is just too easy – keeping track of your spending, not so much).

Fast forward two months of living life to the fullest… my finances considerably diminished, I was almost royally f#&$@d! I knew it was time to stop fantasising about never ending holidays and return to the real world, which meant I would have to secure a full time job!

I had previous experience in Healthcare Recruitment and Law in London, so securing a role that would stimulate me, as well as further develop my skills and experiences, seemed like a reasonable expectation. Yet after scanning numerous backpacker pages on Facebook and applying for hundreds of jobs on SEEK, Indeed and various other job boards, I was at a loss as to why I was unsuccessful.

I’d already tried the standard traveller’s juggling act: two hospitality jobs with unsociable hours that were not only underpaying me, but I was travelling the length and breadth of the city just so I could eat and pay my rent. Over the course of 6 months I realised it was very easy to fall into the trap of an unbalanced working lifestyle… and once you’re in it, it can be very hard to get out.

Horror stories abound about the 88 days of regional farm work we travellers do to extend our time here. I appreciate that fruit picking would be an anathema to many city folk, so you may be surprised to know I found it rewarding. The location wasn’t too bad (I worked at a renowned winery in the Margaret River region, just a few hours south of Perth on the beautiful WA coast). My labouring pushed me in ways I didn’t think it would (mentally, not physically, the monotonous nature of the work meant you had a LOT of time to reflect). Battling Mother Nature in the peak of winter for 8 hours wasn’t on my bucket list, but it had to be completed and I’m so happy I did it. During my three month period in Western Australia I met characters from all different walks of life. I spotted kangaroos, explored majestic jewel-caves, surfed for the very first time, took selfies with the smiling quokkas in Rottnest Island (officially the world’s happiest animal, according to the WWF) and even had the sheer luck to see a Great White shark at Busselton (from a safe distance).

With the epiphany that upon my return to Melbourne, I’d solely apply for positions that would offer me fulfilment and career development, I now look back on my first approach to job hunting and understand the errors in my ways. I didn’t have my recruitment head on: my cover letters were generic, the emails I sent to hiring managers were longwinded and I’d left all traces of my personality somewhere back on the road. No wonder I received hardly any responses!

Thankfully things changed when I fell in with a recruitment consultant. Job searching in general is hard work, but much tougher in a foreign country, even when you speak the language (no comments on my accent please). Hand on heart, recruiters are the glue that bind candidates to jobs in the market. They provide insight and guidance regarding career progression, pay rates and much more. But most importantly, working with someone that’s on your side helps alleviate some of the stress that comes with a job search, as well as being a fish out of water in an ocean on the other side of the world.

Things began to change and opportunities arose. With the support of my consultant at the Interchange Bench, I navigated the storm of the Australian job market, and here I am on the other side of the desk, ready to do the same for you.

Have you ever taken a working holiday? I’d love to hear about your experiences as an expat in the world @work.

Look out for more Bench and the City posts on the Interchange Bench blog or follow us on Instagram

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Welcome back to adult conversations

I had a fabulous conversation with a client this week, she was so encouraging, reassuringly telling me that returning to work “is like riding a bike”. To switch your brain back on in a business environment, challenge yourself and test your capabilities is such a liberating and empowering feeling.

As a newly minted return-to-work-er, my typical day starts the night before. Preparation is key in our house. Day care bags packed, husband’s shirts ironed (truth is he does his own, with encouragement) and deciding what to wearing the night before. It’s certainly more of a military operation, no time for fashion shows at 6.30am!

With my own family – a wonderful supportive husband and two bright and amazing little girls, each with their own shining personalities, it’s time for me to set a strong example for my girls – they are my motivation and my “WHY”. We have to work hard for things in life, value ourselves, find the right employer, be strong, and be happy! There is something to be said for an army of working Mums with a whole different set of priorities; we’re a force you don’t want to mess with.

Husband and girls packed off for the day, it’s time to inhale my coffee and toast, and race to the station to begin my day. Starting a new job and joining a new company and team is nerve racking, but exciting and exhilarating all the same. This time I really feel I have landed on my feet. The Interchange Bench and Slade Group have been so welcoming, supportive and encouraging. I really do believe it is essential to find the right work family, to really change your perspective on going to work. No fear…more excitement, less anxiety…more motivation, less solo…more collaboration, a real ambition to create something better.

Eat your heart out Dolly Parton…“Working 9 to 5”… everybody needs a theme tune right? Nothing could be truer of the last few weeks to get me pumped and ready to go back to work.

In my recent experience of looking for the right role I have been seriously surprised in the shift that employers are taking to secure the right talent. Of particular surprise is that I need to work part time, and most employers have been flexible with negotiating days and hours worked. It just shows that it’s important to ask these questions and think outside the box. If anything there is a stronger focus on temporary, contract and part time roles. At the Interchange Bench we really “get it”; we appreciate that people have lives, drop offs, pick-ups, concerts, parents evenings… Just because you have different hours or less days, it doesn’t make you less of an employee, you have negotiated and agreed those terms, own it… but the onus is on you to deliver!

Now let me help you. Are you looking for a temporary or contractor as an addition to your team, or maybe you’re a professional seeking a contract role? We would love to hear from you. Call the Interchange Bench on 03 9235 5103 or me, Jen Schembri on 03 9235 5152.

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6 quick facts to bring you up-to-date on the Australian labour market and contract talent.

For your interest, we’ve collated a snapshot of current headline employment data.  It may help us to all make better sense of some unusual pressures you may be seeing regarding attraction and retention of high performers and why supplementary contract specialists are the new norm.

  1. Yes, high performing talent is getting harder to find. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that full-time employment increased 11,800 to 8,697,600 and part-time employment increased 11,200 to 4,014,000. Contractor and temporary talent can fall into both these categories.
     
  2. More people are working: monthly hours worked in all jobs increased 1.3 million hours to 1758.9 million hours.
     
  3. ABS data collection shows that there are approximately 1,000,000 independent contractors – nearly 10% of the Australian workforce. (Depending on their portfolio of assignments in any one year, contractors and temporary staff can choose to be employed through the Interchange Bench directly, or through their own company.)
     
  4. Casual employees – that is employees who work without regular or systematic hours, or an expectation of continuing work – account for over 20% of the Australian workforce. (The Interchange Bench works closely with employers who have a large casual workforce to ensure that they comply with tightening restrictions on the definition of ‘casual’. Call us if you have any queries.)
     
  5. Trending: contract and temporary employees continue to offer employers great flexibility in resourcing, enabling organisations to hire right for skill, special projects, fixed-term or budgetary and headcount provisions.

  6. Business as usual in most organisations now includes temporary and contract specialists working alongside permanent staff.
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Australians all…

I was in the office on a regular Tuesday afternoon back in August 2017, when a colleague of mine put down the phone, dropped her head and started to cry. The slightly grey Melbourne skies outside the office windows made the moment feel ominous. Catching her breath, and wiping away the tears less than half a minute later, the words of relief splashed out, “My Visa has come through!” She stood up, “I must take a walk outside to take this in.”  

Becoming Australian has a particular cachet attached; demand for residency far outstrips the allocation of 190,000 places available annually. And this continues in spite of our complaining about the painful political backdrop, a deteriorating civil society, the rise of drugs, explosion in mental illness and the decline in education. Still, relative to other countries, we’re a very lucky country.

What does it mean to be Australian, as we approach Australia Day? Every fourth Australian was actually born overseas, only one in every two of us have both parents born in Australia, and one in thirty five people, 3.5% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

On the 26 January 1788, the First Fleet sailed into Port Jackson to establish a British Colony. With scant regard for the inviolable life of the original inhabitants, the small percentage now of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders resembles a slow motion scene of carnage filmed as a silent movie over the last 240 years. 

Is it any wonder then that celebrating Australia Day on 26 January will never be a party that everyone wants to attend? For those who do want to celebrate our good fortune to live in Australia, rather than in any of the 100 countries lead by despot leaders, brutalised by war or brutalising factions of its citizens, we have a lot to be grateful for and to celebrate.

Next week at work we’ll be spending an hour together, celebrating our own united nations, the heritage that makes up the people in our Australian business: Albanian, Canadian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Indian, Italian, Moroccan and the UK. And we’ll toast the original owners of this land, who for 60,000 years cared for our country and built the rich culture which we’ve too late come to acknowledge and respect.

What does Australia Day mean for you, and your world @work?


Featured image from the series “Undiscovered” by Michael Cook: michaelcook.net.au

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Not In My Workplace!

With responsibility for three major zoos, 5000 animals, 2.5 million visitors annually and 600 permanent and casual employees, you might think that Jenny Gray, the CEO of Zoos Victoria and the current President of WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), has enough on her plate.

Instead, as a leader with a PhD in ethics, she’s unstitched the silver lining of the Harvey Weinstein disaster and galvanised a group leading Australian CEOs to turn a negative into a positive. Whilst most of us have been appalled and many have shared personal stories of workplace harassment, Jenny Gray is one of the CEOs, Senior Executives, Chairs and Board Directors from across private, not-for-profit and public sectors making a stand to bring about change. The result? notinmyworkplace.org

You can join Not In My Workplace and you can also be part of the conversation and action plan at the first major summit taking place next February.

The Not In My Workplace SUMMIT. What’s it all about?

The plan for this high impact, highly affordable summit on February 21st, 2019 is to move from awareness to action. In one afternoon from 12:00 noon – 5:30pm at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre influential leaders and dynamic thinkers will talk about the extent and impact of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The aim is to have 1000 people together at a point in time, all who want to make a difference. And it’s clear from the stated outcomes for the summit, that the plans for the Summit are real and achievable:

  • A focus on creating actions to generate behaviours that will mobilise change as a business and as employees
  • Producing toolkits that will provide pathways for businesses and victims to seek help in a constructive manner
  • Creating a culture of empowerment
  • Developing behaviours in a business where sexual harassment prevention and support is part of the culture of a business
  • Providing real life examples of change where action plans and walk-away tools are offered

Individual booking

Please share the invitation below with your network. NIMW is very grateful to their early sponsors the Victorian Government and Public Transport Victoria.

Group booking

You can also book for a group. What a great way to start the discussions about sexual harassment in your own organisation! At only $100 per delegate, this is probably the best value Professional Development you will be able to offer your leadership team. (Not in My Workplace is incorporated under the Incorporated Associations Act in September 2018 and you are invited to join and take part in the networking, workshops and events.)

At Slade Group and the Interchange Bench we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and continually build on our respectful culture for all employees, candidates and clients. But we can do more. By sharing this blog more people can be part of the action oriented major summit taking place next February.

What have you done in your world @work to stamp out sexual harassment?

 

Invitation: Not In My Workplace

 

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It’s on our lips and close to our hearts

This month the Interchange Bench is getting behind Liptember – an initiative that supports and raises awareness for women’s mental health – a cause very close to our team’s heart. While we can’t always kiss away the blues, educating the community on women’s mental health whilst raising funds to support specific women’s mental health research and support programs can help make a big difference.

Why are we targeting women’s mental health specifically? Experience has shown that placing a gender lens on mental health results in more accurate research and enables more effective support programs. Liptember says, “Currently, the majority of mental health research is focused on men’s mental health, with the findings applied to both men and women. This has resulted in a number of programs and prevention strategies that are unable to fully assist the mental health needs of the female population. The Liptember campaign hopes to change that.”

Funds raised by Liptember, which as the name suggests, has its prime campaign focus during the month of September, will be donated to the Centre for Women’s Mental Health, Lifeline, Batyr, RUOK?, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and the Pretty Foundation. We think these are pretty worthwhile causes, and you can follow the links if you’d like to learn more about each organisation.

Mental health doesn’t discriminate, so whether you’re a girl or guy, join us for Liptember to support the women in your life (wearing lipstick is optional). To donate now, head to the Interchange Bench fundraising page or contact me for more information.

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