Blog Archives

R U Really OK?

Imagine this: You witness one of your colleagues, a solid performer in their area of expertise, become so overwhelmed with their workload, that they break down during a team meeting (on camera, because we are meeting virtually), when asked, “How’s your week looking?”

What an eye opener. Yet, this is the reality for many of us, working from home, during the current lockdowns in our major cities in Australia.

It made me think we really need to reach out and take some of the pressure off those we work with, whether colleagues, clients or candidates.

When asked, we have a tendency to reply automatically and say, “I’m good”. So here are some of the things I’ve heard those in my professional network trying to say:

Clients:

“I’m feeling isolated WFH. I’m usually a homebody, but I’m getting lonely.”

“It’s hard to stay focussed. I feel like there’s no purpose to my job.”

“There are only so many walks I can go on for exercise or to get fresh air.”

“So tired of all the virtual meetings!”

Candidates:

“I’m feeling uncertain about finding a job during the current restrictions.”

“I’m nervous about what future lockdowns will mean for my career.”

“My self-esteem is suffering, even though I know I’m highly capable.”

Coworkers:

“I am missing my work colleagues and the social face-to-face interaction. I have no one to vent to.”

“I have plenty of work to keep me going, but I am lacking motivation because of the uncertainty.”

“I just want to come back to the office to have a sense of purpose.”

“It’s hard to stay focused and concentrate on my job requirements due to lots of stop-starting.”

“I’m so sick of looking at the same four walls.”

Carers:

“Home schooling is so hard with young children. My kids are missing the mental stimulation of the classroom and having their friends to play with.”

“I just want to cry!”

Often lending an ear is enough to give someone we care about a leg up. R U OK Day this year is a timely reminder that a conversation could change a life, but starting the conversation at work isn’t always easy. We’ve partnered with Prima Careers to include a helpful infographic below.

R U OK infographic

For more information, go to ruok.org.au or contact Lifeline on 131114 if you or someone you know needs urgent assistance.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Are your employees safe Working from Home?

Whilst it is generally accepted that many businesses made a rapid almost overnight transition to work from home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, eight months on, are your employees safe?

With many employees moving to work from home arrangements initially working from makeshift work areas such as kitchen benches, couches and even lap tables in bed, what are you doing to ensure your employees have moved to more ergonomically suitable work specific areas to reduce their risk of injury or illness?

Flexible arrangements forced by the pandemic are becoming the new ‘normal’ for many workplaces with the realisation that technology, video conferencing and reduced travel time can result in a more productive and less expensive workplace however, these costs will increase greatly if employees are working from home without a suitable set up.

The Work Health and Safety obligations on an employer require that they provide a workplace that is free of risk to their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. As the home office is simply an extension to the workplace, an employer is obligated to ensure that the employee has a suitable work area, as they would be obligated to do so in the office location.

Musculoskeletal injuries caused by poor ergonomic work areas is an obvious risk when considering what injuries may occur in work from home settings. Other injuries and illnesses may include; social isolation from not working in a workplace with their colleagues; fatigue and burnout from not having a work area that they can walk away from forcing that work life balance; and stress caused by job uncertainty.

It is recommended that workplaces begin to return to a new COVID norm, that a reassessment of the flexible work arrangements be undertaken to include the actual workspace setups employees have and how they have coped working in that environment. 

Now is also the time to ensure you have well documented policies, procedures and employment documents which are imperative for clarity of expectations for employees who work remotely due to their lack of face to face contact.

To greater assist your employees with work from home and to minimise their risk you should:-

  • Update all work from home documentation including policies, procedures and checklists to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Clarify when a work from home employee is ‘at work’ and when it is their personal time.  Consideration could be given to even shutting off access for employees to systems indicating that they have finished for the day.
  • Talk to your employees regarding safety whilst working at home. Ensure they are aware that their obligation to keep themselves safe and to report any injury, incident or near miss continues to exist as the home is their extended workplace.
  • Investigate any incidents, injuries promptly to understand if they are a work related injury and to assist the employee to reduce or eliminate any future risk.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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Posted in The world @work

Daily performance reviews and clearing the clutter: 15 tips for those working from home

Having left a secure executive position with IBM for the insecurity of starting my own business, I sometimes struggled in a home office before expanding into ‘real’ commercial office space to accommodate staff.

Now, like many others, I find myself back working from home, so here are some tips, gleaned over many years, to those experiencing this for the first time; thankfully with benefits of technology that weren’t available 25 years ago.  

Discipline

Self-discipline is vital, especially when you’re accountable to no one but yourself and your clients, or less accountable to a remote boss.

Ironically, you go into your own business for the flexibility of working independently, but without the healthy discipline to show up and put the time in, you won’t last long.

Time is your main finite currency and can’t be wasted on TV, social media or endlessly tidying cupboards. 

Routine

Flexibility is indeed a bonus of working from home, but for maximum productivity, you need some routine in place — not the one imposed by others, but the self-imposed schedule that you stick to most workdays.

It may not be 9-5, but set that alarm for a regular start. 

For example, my day starts at 7am with a hot lemon drink and listening to the news as I skim emails from overseas that arrive overnight. Urgent ones are answered and the rest prioritised, before putting on laundry, and going for swim, followed by quick, healthy breakfast. ‘Real’ work may not start until 10am when I sit down at PC to fully focus. 

Boundaries

Tell friends and family you’re there for them in an emergency, but that you need to limit social chit chat to certain times of the day, before or after your working hours (whatever they may be).

When I started working from home, I had to remind friends that I was self-employed-not unemployed! And even if you are unemployed, it may be part of your daily ‘job’ to actively seek a job.

Devote the discipline, focus and time to do so. Endless hours on the phone complaining about things won’t help.

Focus and prioritise

If you need to concentrate on a big project, put your phone on silent in another room with a recorded message of when you’ll return calls. Obviously that won’t work for all occupations, but most of us don’t really need to be in response mode 24/7. 

Visible goals, purpose and outcomes

To avoid being easily distracted, have your important goals, outcomes and purpose clearly visible.

These will serve as a constant reminder that all tasks should contribute to those ends, and that it’s not necessary to reply to every email or read every article that comes across your virtual desk.

Daily to-do list

As well as the big picture plan, have a daily to-do list. Commit a certain number of hours per day to your key big goal and other tasks that require completion. Maybe three key things that must be done that day and five more you’d like to do.

Rather than chance it to memory, you’ll not only achieve more but have a sense of satisfaction as you tick things off.

Outsource

As much as possible, focus on your big goals and outsource more mundane tasks, those you don’t like doing or ones that others can do better than you. Think cleaning, database, bookkeeper accountant, IT specialist, virtual PA, et cetera.

Play to your strengths and get help with your weaknesses.

Batch tedious tasks and calls

For greater productivity, ask yourself: ‘What will be my best use of time today? Tomorrow? This week? This month?’

For example, I have a ‘finance Friday’ to handle all things financial, rather than deal with bills and invoices as they arrive.  

Deadlines

At business school, I vividly remember reading The Peter Principle, in which, among other things, author Laurence Peters postulates that most tasks expand to fill the available time. 

Nothing happens without a deadline; or very little does. As a writer and professional speaker, nothing focuses my mind and my work activity more sharply than a deadline from a publisher or approaching conference, when the luxury of creative thinking vanishes to give way to completion.

So, it’s necessary to set self-imposed deadlines for important tasks.

And by the way, there is never enough time for entrepreneurial thinking people to do all the things they’d like to do. 

Clear the clutter

It’s an old habit from my IBM career, because the company insisted on a clean desk policy before employees left the office. It’s served me well even when I’m the only person who might ever see that messy desk.

Messy desk equals messy mind, so my home workspace is clear at the end of each day (whenever the end of that day may be) with my to-do list ready for the next day to start afresh with a clean slate.  

Maintain high standards

Don’t let standards slip. OK, so there were times the laptop balanced on knees while I sat in my Qantas pyjamas. But avoid this. It’s easy to slip into the groove of hanging around the house like a total slob.

I know one person who walks around the block and back into his home office at 8.30am every morning, and another who still dons lipstick while home alone, even if they have no zoom calls that day. Do whatever works to help you work in this new environment. 

Personally, I’m looking for time delay lock on the fridge, but the best I can do is to physically shut the door to the home office and set a timer that I won’t even think of leaving the chair even a second before. Yes, more discipline.  

Practice a healthy lifestyle

People often ask me how I find time to exercise. It has always been an essential activity for me. It is not a waste of time and an integral part of my daily routine regardless of what work pressures may loom.

We can’t take care of our clients or family if we don’t take care of ourselves!

This may sound somewhat obsessive, but I actually have it at the top of my daily to-do list, and the mere fact of checking it off gives me a strange sense of achieving at least one of my goals for the day. 

I also have ‘stretch’ on my daily list as a reminder to occasionally give those shoulders and neck a break. 

Performance review

At the end of each day, have a 60-second review as you brush your teeth and honestly assess those last 24 hours.

We’re all prone to beat ourselves up for what we haven’t achieved because of some frustration (often a result of technology and/or bureaucracy glitches beyond our control).

Take the time to reflect, and possibly journal, all the things you have achieved and everything that you’re grateful for, even if it hasn’t been a perfect day.

Time out

While a focus on discipline is essential, sometimes we do indeed need to be a little gentler with ourselves.   

When enough is enough?

Admittedly, that’s a lesson I’m still working on, but most self-employed people and self-starters always have a steady stream of new ideas, which means their to-do list is never completely done.

So do take some time to smell the roses or appreciate that view.

Rewards

Apart from the obvious financial rewards of working productively from home, set your own rewards when you reach certain goals. It may be an annual dream vacation (when travel resumes), a monthly manicure (when that resumes), a weekly TV binge or a daily treat.

This article was originally published on SmartCompany. Reproduced with permission from the author.

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Posted in The world @work

7 down to earth Wellness Building Blocks during isolation

Wait, wait, don’t scroll down, this is not just another COVID-19 blog. This is 7 down to earth Wellness Building Blocks during isolation.

Seriously though, I had the pleasure of hearing Taylor Johnson from Roots Reboot speak yesterday about the 7 Building Blocks to Wellness, and lord knows we need wellness during this COVID-19 crisis. Taylor used the analogy of a house, describing how all 7 elements below are critical for a strong foundation, in our case, wellness.

Rate yourself along with me on Wellness vs COVID-19 isolation, here we go:

  1. Sleep – essential for rest and recovery, mood and attention span, and for our body to reset. Get those sleep habits right, no screens.

    My COVID score: 5/10

    Not good, watching a bit too much Netflix (Michael Jordan story and The Capture on ABC iView), staying up way too late, a little interrupted sleep and sleeping in way too much. Streaming TV – how good! How am I ever going to get up for work again?

    Your score _____?

  2. Nutrition – watch what we eat, don’t binge, hydration, watch the alcohol intake (I am watching the alcohol, but mmm it’s nice) diet smart, more veggies and watch the snacking during the day. I know, I know, but I’m bored, and the fridge is so handy and the chocolate so good with the TV and the red wine.

    My COVID score: 4/10

    I’ve slipped, let myself down. Extra cakes, extra biscuits and a bit of extra red.

    Your score _____?

  3. Exercise – get up early, stretch, walk, roll, run, swim, gym… you know the drill. It lowers stress (you know the benefits on the heart), builds strength, muscles and releases endorphins.

    My COVID score: 5/10.

    I’m sleeping in, whereas I used to be up at 5:45am for gym. I’ve gotten lazy. But I did a big 75 minute walk this morning. I’m back – nearly.

    Your score _____?

  4. Mindset – remaining positive and optimistic, mood, open to new ideas and new learnings, a growth mindset.

    My COVID score: 7/10

    Not bad. OK, whilst in lockdown I’m working, Zooming, taking the glass full approach that one day this will end, won’t it? I’m trying to keep the family up and about.

    Your score _____?

  5. Social – out with people, meeting people, engaging and connecting, talking, relationships, rapport, support network, shaking hands. No, none of that during isolation.

    My COVID score: 1/10

    Distancing and isolation are the enemy of social – I’m just at home with my wife and kids… and they’re over my singing and dancing already! But Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is slowly opening social up, stay optimistic.

    Your score _____?

  6. Self-care – looking after yourself from the neck up: kindness, compassion, empathy, mindfulness, meditation, understanding, self-awareness, laughter, hobbies, enjoying something for you, self-love, and self-talk.

    My COVID score: 7/10

    I’m trying hard here to talk to myself and keep an up mood. Not good every day though, I must admit. I have my good and bad days.

    Your score _____?

  7. External environment – cluttered work desk, cluttered house or surroundings, relaxed working environment, making healthy choices.

    My COVID score: 8/10

    I’m lucky I’ve got everything at home I need, but I’m not home schooling the kids! I’m next to a park for a walk when I feel I need it for instance.

    Your score _____?

Well, how did you rate?

My report card: 37/70 (just a pass)

“Laurie is just ok during COVID 19; he needs to get out much more and mix with his friends and socialise!”

Love to hear how you’re coping right now, today – seriously.

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment

This will be a thing. Face masks in the workplace.

I had never understood face mask wearing in public. To me, face masks indicated a cultural misunderstanding, a weird convention I couldn’t grasp. Were the wearers suggesting our pollution levels were up there with Shanghai’s, were we particularly foul mouthed, or were they themselves escapees from some infectious sanatorium? 

I’ve now done a backflip on this thinking. The more facts I read about ‘Face Masks’ the more convinced I am that they will be key to us getting back to business as usual. Or at least close to BAU.

While a mask won’t necessarily save the wearer if exposed, it lessens the likelihood of infection. How it really helps is in protecting ‘the other’ from the ‘wearer’. That insight flipped my judgement of public mask wearing from ‘negative and weird’ to ‘positive and respectful’. 

Supporting evidence is mounting by the countries ‘beating’ COVID-19:

  • Taiwan – Masks are mandated in many public areas such as public transport
  • China – Any region or city where there is the slightest trace of the virus, the wearing of masks is mandated by law
  • South Korea – The Government has sent face masks to every house
  • Singapore and Hong Kong – Have urged all citizen to wear masks all the time, as a sign of respect to others and a small amount of self-protection
  • Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Israel – mandated public mask wearing

Results are showing improved reductions in new case rates when mask wearing is combined with various stages of lock downs.

A bandanna, an old school cotton handkerchief or a pharmacy bought face mask will help us all, and maybe get us back to work, and on with life, as we knew it.  If we all get on board, it will normalise the previously abnormal.

What do you think about face masks in your world @work?

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Posted in The world @work

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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Posted in Interchange Bench

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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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

How everyone can develop resilience: 3 things you can do right now.

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Or in my words: “Being able to take a hit, and get back up and keep fighting.”

Recently relocating from Sydney to Melbourne, let’s just say I appreciate the differences between the two!  Coming from a retail background, not only did I have to adjust to a different work style in the corporate world, but there were the challenges of moving to a new city, making new friends and starting a new job that anyone who has ever been an ‘expat’ will relate to.

Any major life change can be daunting. While I knew there was a chance my move might not be successful, I also knew that if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone to make the move, then I would never know.

In all aspects of life, we need resilience. It builds strength of character, enhances relationships and most importantly, helps us to be at peace with ourselves.

Monique Slade from Springfox and The Resilience Institute shared her personal experience with our team in a training session this week. Speaking about her role model for resilience, Monique told us about her mother, who at the age of 50, unexpectedly lost her husband to illness. With young kids and no financial security, she found herself at a crossroad. Instead of spiralling downwards into distress, she chose to master the stressful situation, engage her emotions and spirit into action. It was a lesson in resilience for herself, and for her children.

Hearing Monique’s story was extremely empowering. It made me realise that we all make choices. While life rarely goes the way we planned it, we choose our mindset, have control of our actions and can model the person we want to be.

As for me, going from being a Sydneysider to a Melburnian wasn’t all smooth sailing.  There are some noticeable cultural differences (Melbourne cafes, pretty hard to beat – Sydney, you got the weather) and comparing a corporate culture to a retail environment – so many processes and procedures to learn, but so little stock!

Here are three take outs from our resilience training that have helped me, which you can use right now:

  1. Give yourself credit – You have the resources within you to be more resilient. Think about the times in your personal or professional life where you may have struggled, survived and bounced back.
  2. Stop ruminating – Focus on the here and now. Don’t let your mind drift into worrying about the past or the future. Learn mindfulness or focusing techniques to train your brain to stop creating its own stress.
  3. Take a deep breath – I volunteered to be hooked up to a heart rate monitor at our training session to see how a few deep breaths could lower my stress level. Breathing is now part of my morning routine.

Taking risks to strive for the things we want in life helps us to recognise our achievements. Don’t get hung up on What if? Just give it a go. I now know that I am capable of great things. Whatever life throws at me, I’m a little bit more prepared to deal with it. I am resilient.

How have you learned to overcome adversity and become more resilient in the world @work? What are some of the strategies you use to maintain your grace and control?

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Posted in Education, The world @work