Blog Archives

Humpty Dumpty and the empty swimming pool

Sometimes life throws you curve balls in the most unexpected ways; curve balls that may change how you see the world, show you what you’re made of, or give you a little bit of both. Let me put some context around that.

Five weeks ago, we were having our swimming pool cleaned ready for summer. The pool was emptied, scrubbed and ready to be refilled. I was doing some maintenance around the side of the pool, so to move from one section to the next, I made a small jump onto the edge at the deep end. This proved to be a very stupid decision, I overbalanced and found myself falling into the empty pool.

As I was falling two and a half metres (it’s a very deep pool), I remember a ridiculous number of thoughts going through my mind… this might hurt a bit, but I’ll be fine… I can undo this… what is going to happen, will I get lucky and just have a few bruises, what can I do to minimise the impact? …and funnily, will I need to take Monday off work?

As I landed, I heard some nasty crunches and whilst the pain wasn’t obvious initially (thank goodness for adrenalin), I knew that things weren’t good. My feet were telling me that I couldn’t move. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, I landed in the chemicals that had just been put in for the pool to be refilled. So here I was, all busted up face down in chlorine, lying on the concrete.

I managed to commando drag myself far enough away from the chemicals to be able to breathe and I called for my husband who was, justifiably, in equal measure distressed and annoyed (“What are you doing down there, what the ‘bleep’ have you done?”). Strangely calm, I explained what had happened and asked him to call an ambulance.

Fast forward through the five hours that it took for the ambulance, fire brigade and police to arrive, get me out of the pool, take me to hospital, the x-rays, checks for chemical burns – I was in a pretty bad way. Hypothermic (it was very cold) with a completely shattered left heel and a fractured right heel, my body had gone into shock, which rendered me non-responsive to those around me.

I’ve had a month in hospital, have had my left heel surgically rebuilt, had to learn how to put weight on a broken right heel and practically relearned how to move. For someone who does everything at high pace, having to consciously assess the impact of every movement to minimise the risk of falling again has been incredibly challenging!

It’s been tough, my injuries were serious and it will be up to a year before I can walk normally. However, I’m also fortunate to have been cared for by some incredibly talented medical professionals and an exceptional support network.

I have had some very difficult days where the pain had me not wanting to move, where I’ve relived the accident over and over, which at times causes extreme anxiety. The tiredness has had me emotional and easily distressed. It’s been hard, but going back to the beginning of this story, I have a very different perspective on life.

Considering my every movement has helped me consider the impact of my actions on those around me. I no longer have the expectation that other people value the same qualities in my workplace as I do. Those small things that once irked me in the office don’t seem so important – I realise nothing should be taken for granted.

I’m still determined, focused and strong-willed, because these attributes have helped motivate me to push through and to get back to work. My job is important to me and while there is definitely an element similar to the people on the WorkSafe ads, my head and hands are fine, but for a few months my world @work means adjusting to a different physical set-up while my body gets back to full capacity.

There’s been no epiphany, just a subtle recognition of what really matters. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, I would urge you to take the time to focus on what is truly important. How do you want those around you to perceive you, even remember you? You never know when you’re going to be faced with your own version of an empty swimming pool.

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Posted in Professional Support

A healthy me means a healthy you!

Seriously, without being twee, it’s true. I admit I live a pretty healthy lifestyle: I lift weights, I eat chicken breast, love vegetables, and drink my three litres of water per day. So, when our leadership team sat down to discuss how to better look after our teams, I wasn’t there to preach. The aim wasn’t to run a boot camp and drink protein shakes every day.

How often do we feel almost at one with our desks? Working long hours we’re often tempted by quick fixes: morning coffees that seem to multiply through the day, fast food at lunch if any, afternoon sugar hits… anything we think will help to get more done. In reality, they only make things worse.

Inertia, combined with a lack of fresh air and poor eating habits, creates huge highs and lows in performance. You have probably seen it at work, affecting the mood in your office, filtering through the whole business as well. Encouraging a healthy culture across our organisations for the wellbeing of our people, is not an easy task.

Providing options allows everyone to find their comfort level.

Slade Group has committed to improve the overall wellbeing of our workforce through our Slade Wellness program, which we’ve called Healthy Me, Healthy You.

We’re providing information to allow our people to make informed decisions about their working habits and promoting a work environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. We believe encouraging a culture of wellbeing will make Slade a better place to work, as well as enhancing our reputation as an employer of choice.

To help us on our journey, we’ve partnered with TWOSIX Wellness, a corporate wellness business who have offered some valuable insights from their past experiences with professional services firms like us. We were also joined by Chris Heddle from Melbourne Myotherapy and Remedial Massage. This week they partnered with us at the program launch, demonstrating good desk posture and stretches, breathing exercises and how to make organic coconut protein balls (which seemed to gain the most traction).

If that sounds like something you’d also like to achieve, you can model our program initiatives below. We’d love to hear about your progress.

 

Healthy Me, Healthy You
Our recipe for improving and maintaining team performance by encouraging a healthy work environment

Ingredients

  • Lots of water – drinking water reduces dehydration
  • Several portions of healthy food – try raw fruit or nuts instead of processed snack foods
  • Fresh air for good measure – go outside at least once during the day
  • 15 to 30 minutes of exercise – organise a walking group, take the stairs instead of using lifts if you can

Method
Combine ingredients with simple messages. Educate the mixture gently, don’t be too prescriptive.

Cooking
Allow ideas to bake slowly over several weeks to allow proving time. You should notice lethargy fall and concentration improving. Results will be increased productivity and happier, healthier people.

 

What wellness initiatives have you implemented in your workplace?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

What did Ita say? And what’s it got to do with anemones?

I love science, I love sea anemones and I know exactly why I am doing a PhD. I want to make a difference with my work. My beautiful friend Carly has Multiple Sclerosis, as does the irreverent comedian Tim Ferguson. They are my inspiration every day. So when the going gets tough and self-doubt creeps in, I remind myself of what Ita said as I head back into the lab and embrace every obstacle as something I just have to get around.

After nearly 10 years with Slade Group, this is my swan song blog as I leave the corporate world to pursue my PhD. But before I launch into my niche area of research, let me tell you what Ita said.

Back in March, I attended a lunch in Lismore where celebrated publisher Ita Buttrose was the guest speaker. We all know her as a successful businesswoman with an extensive media career and an Australian household name. And if the TV series Paper Giants is anything to go by, she has had a pretty tough fight to get to the top of her game.

Personally, I have never been one for taking the easy path either. In my younger years I was computer programmer, well before the information technology industry became what it is now, when even the word IT was brand new. Males certainly outnumbered females in IT in those days.

But back to Ita. She spoke about a range of achievements for women over the past few decades, including women in science. You can watch a short video of her speech from the event. I was captivated by her talk and I had a very specific question for her, which I was thrilled she took the time to answer.

My question: “I assume you had to fight every day to march to the beat of your own drum. Did you ever want to give up? How did you keep yourself motivated in your moments of self-doubt?”

Buttrose replied, “I asked myself why am I here?

Of course she knew exactly why she was there.  But it was not simply passion and determination that took her to the top, she says she loved every one of her jobs. As Editor in Chief of Cleo magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly and the Daily Telegraph she constantly told herself, “I deserve to be here and I have every right to be here. I choose to work in this jungle.” As to the numerous obstacles she overcame on her career journey from copy girl to be the first female editor of a major metropolitan newspaper in Australia, Buttrose was emphatic in her approach. “I will just find my way around any obstacles,” she said.

So what has all that got to do with my sea change, studying marine biology? It’s another field, as with the Sciences in general, where a lack of female representation is apparent. On completing a Master of Applied Science by Research, I found my current bent as a taxonomist (specialist biologist, no relation to taxation or economist). I am currently completing a Doctorate in the field of Medicinal Chemistry studying sea anemone venoms for use in pharmaceuticals, with practical applications to treat autoimmune diseases such as MS. If that sounds like a lot of hard work, it is and I love it!

Pharmaceutical research is also highly competitive, as is access to funding. There are only about 15 specialists in my field in the entire world and I’m now one of that exclusive cohort. While it’s not unusual for PhD students to question the value of their pursuits, without a chemistry background, or any prior knowledge genetics, I’ve also had to find my way in a completely new network of people where everyone was an unknown. I certainly know something about the challenges faced when following a less-traditional career path.

That’s why Ita’s talk was exactly what I needed to hear. I thanked Ita Buttrose afterwards for her answer. One-to-one she asked me if I had self-doubts? “Every day!” I said. She reinforced her advice to believe in myself. I have every right to be where I am.

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Posted in The world @work

Procrastination: Productivity killer or silent achiever?

Who hasn’t been guilty of being a bit tardy at work occasionally? Leaving a task to the last minute or putting the same job in the too hard basket for no good reason. In fact isn’t that how most of us got through school or university? I remember many late night cramming sessions, starting assignments at last minute… I’ll put my hand up now and say I am still a little guilty of procrastination. It’s a simple, human trait so pervasive that I bet you’re putting off something else while reading this.

Procrastination in the workplace is not only common, it’s part of our daily routine. It can be walking around the office with no specific purpose, having a casual chat with a colleague, getting a coffee you didn’t really need. Over the course of writing this article I will have checked my emails, called clients and spoken with candidates at the end of almost every sentence – that’s a lot of calls, not to mention a lot of cups of coffee!

So if this is a phenomenon that everyone engages in, is it really a problem? Well, a recent article published on an online business blog estimates that procrastination costs UK businesses over £76 billion (AUD $155 billion) per year. To put this into perspective, IBISWorld reports the entire banking industry in Australia has an annual revenue of AUD $168 billion. It seems like procrastination is a HUGE issue for business and the economy as a whole.

But before you leap to the conclusion that procrastination must be costing your company big bucks, spare a thought for those “lazy, useless, unproductive bunch of social parasites” the Brits at London Loves Business are referring to, wonderfully parodied by Ricky Gervais in The Office. How about those times you stay back late, or the hours you put in after work or on the weekend? I’d argue that the flexibility afforded by a few minutes here and there is much more valuable. Consider too the positive impact of reprioritising our ‘less important’ tasks (while stalling on this blog, I’ve been otherwise very productive).

Ever wondered where the time has gone when you’re hard-pressed to complete an urgent task? Deadlines stretched to the limit could be because you put off completing work when you knew you had the opportunity to do it, or simply because you stopped to listen to someone who needed your ear. Logically we tell ourselves that had we avoided those timewasting traps, we would have got through our ‘important’ work.

Naturally your decisions impact your team, the division, in fact the whole organisation. As a manager I can see the less tangible benefits of some internal PR with a colleague or getting some fresh air to refocus. If you’re looking for harder evidence, see our recent post on Three Scientific Reasons for Taking a Break.

Finally, before I get back to other work, here are five proven methods for beating procrastination courtesy of Business Insider:

  1. Start with easy tasks to build momentum
  2. Know your work style and preferences
  3. Break down complex tasks
  4. Find a reason to give your tasks purpose
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

You found time to read my article, you may like to watch their video. In the meantime I’ll just grab another coffee.

What are some of your tips to avoid the traps of procrastination? What else have you achieved while procrastinating?

Mark Fischer

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Applying the 85/15 principle

What would your response be if I asked you to walk and run 100km in the Australian bush with me? You’d be part of a team of four and we’d be raising money for the Oxfam Trailwalker. Would you have thought you couldn’t do it? That the human body isn’t meant to do that kind of thing? It was mad? These were the kind of responses from most people… or that they happened to be busy that weekend!

I eventually found three others who were keen to take on the challenge. We formed a team and hit the ground running, so to speak. Not only is it a physically demanding event, all four team members must complete the 100km course together, everyone must check-in at all the designated checkpoints and make it over the finish line within 48 hours.

Leaving the house in the wee hours of the morning of Friday 10 April, the course started off at Wesburn Park and ran through the Dandenong Ranges, covering some beautiful country. We travelled over the mountains into Warburton, onto the O’Shannassy Aquaduct and along the flat section of the Warburton Trail. From there we moved up to the peak of Olinda, down through Ferntree Gully, Lysterfield and finally finished in Jells Park Wheelers Hill.

There were times throughout the 100km course where our bodies felt like they’d gone as far as they could, our brains were telling us to stop and the thought of a hot shower was almost enough to make you want to throw in the towel and raise a white flag. But, as with most challenging situations, whether they are physical, mental or both – we actually had a lot more in the tank than we realised. It’s called the 85/15 principle.

This principle was first introduced to me by a seasoned Oxfam Trailwalker participant, who has a background in medicine.  She told me the Oxfam 100km is actually a piece of cake, provided you do your training. When you think you’re near exhaustion at say 85% of your physical limits – ignore it. You’re actually at 15% and have 85% of your capacity in reserve. I was intrigued.

She said the human body is amazing in terms of its strength and underlying capability and sometimes we should ignore our natural instincts, reservations and doubts.  Those reference points to exertion and the physical boundaries we place on ourselves are in our minds and you actually just need to keep pushing through.

It can be the same in our professional and personal lives. Whether we are mentally challenged by solving a difficult problem, managing multiple projects with competing deadlines, or feel like we don’t have enough resources to successfully deliver – once you’ve solved the problem, delivered the projects and completed what you thought was unachievable, it reminds us we are capable of so much more than we think.

Our team of four completed the Oxfam Trailwalker together in 20 hours and 45 minutes, finishing at 4:45am on Saturday 11 April, and I’ll tell you what – we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our tired and grubby faces. While the event certainly took us out of our comfort zones, we all took on board a valuable lesson. Next time you’re confronting a serious challenge, try the 85/15 principle: When you feel like you’re at 85% of your limits, flip it around and know you’re capable of much, much more than you’re giving yourself credit for.

I think most of us have probably been guilty of underestimating our own capability at some point throughout our lives, as well as the true potential of what our colleagues, clients, friends and family can achieve. We are far more likely to achieve our goals when we ignore our doubts and just get on with it, while supporting others to do the same.

What challenges have you set for yourself to take you out of your comfort zone?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work