Are you addicted to work?

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About Are

Are you addicted to work? Another reason to increase personal accountability for wellbeing at work.

Over the past ten years the focus on employee engagement and improved leadership has meant thankfully many more people are genuinely in roles that play to their strengths, give meaning and purpose, support positive relationships and that ultimately they enjoy.

Me included. I really do love what I do, I use my strengths every single day and get an amazing sense of fulfilment from my work. I constantly have to juggle this love for my work with my other life demands of being a full time working mum to my little ones, remember to feed the increasing menagerie of animals, not forget my family celebrations and tending to my important friendships as well as trying to be a great wife. But I have to admit I get such a rich sense of thriving and flourishing in my work that often I have to reign myself in.

I know I’m not the only one. I often hear people say to me jokingly “it’s easier to be at work” and it resonates. Chatting with other parents this week at the school gates hearing people say how much work they’ve got done now kids are back at school with a big smile on their face. It’s an environment I know, I can influence and can achieve and feel productive and capable, top of my game. I don’t have a nanny, house husband or able parents to support my constant juggling and when one of life’s big challenges comes my way it’s harder than hard to get through it, but we do. And often it’s work that helps me, something constant, something meaningful, supportive work relationships, but above all for me it’s the achievement of moving things forward. I expect it’s something different for everyone depending on what they enjoy most in their work.

The balance to ensure that I am indeed still focusing on other key areas of my life is my responsibility, not anyone else’s. I have my own reminders on my desk, pictures of my kids and their latest masterpieces, yet I still regularly find myself sprinting out of the door to go pick them up on time because I’ve been completely absorbed in another fascinating piece of work. I’ve allowed myself to be completely absorbed even though I’m fully aware that I should be packing up to go.

There is always more work. It will never be finished. At school our kids are constantly taught to stretch and grow in their learning and this is the same in modern L&D approaches in organisations. Everything is a journey full of opportunities and possibilities so it is only us, ourselves, who can determine where we draw the line.

I hear people go on about the hours they do as if it’s always someone else’s fault, yet I know lots of people love being busy, needed, included, required in back to back meetings, it boosts how important people feel about themselves even if it means they are still working late and other parts of their life suffer. It can tip over the edge and have a huge influence on our identity. I also know that our increase in work/life integration is not a bad thing for everyone – I know my crazy working hours allow me to be the best mum I can be by swapping daytime hours for night time or weekend working. And now LinkedIn has a green dot on those online I can see lots of people are indeed working different hours because they choose to also.

So increasing people’s knowledge of what positive wellbeing is, guiding learning of skills to equip us and giving confidence in ourselves to know how and when to balance our life priorities is key. We are only going to be more empowered in work in the future so equipping people to lead themselves effectively and take care of their wellbeing at work is fundamental as a preventative approach for all people in organisations in addition to and alongside the more targeted interventions for those struggling at a crisis point.

Alex Bailey

For more information on our wellbeing programmes, including our wellbeing conversation mat, workshops and notebooks, email us or call +44 1273 830 830. To purchase the wellbeing conversation mats and notebooks directly via our online shop click here.

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About The

Stress is the leading cause of workplace absence in the UK. In response, ‘wellbeing’ is on the agenda for the majority of people teams (only 8% of organisations say they’re not doing anything to improve employee health and wellbeing). But in reality, many of these programmes focus on physical health and support for those with mental illness, rather than true psychological wellbeing for all people (CIPD, 2016).

For many people professionals, wellbeing is a new area of responsibility, and an addition to an already-heavy workload of existing HR processes and priorities. It is high on the organisational agenda, but often perceived sceptically by people across the organisation, who are focused on the day-to-day tasks of the business, and unconvinced of the value of the activities on offer.

There is frequently a lack of clarity around what ‘wellbeing’ means and what the expectations and outcomes are for programmes – it simply becomes another thing for HR to do, reinforcing their role as the ‘parents’ of the organisation. Programmes repeatedly fall to more junior members of the team, who have a lack of influence and find it difficult to get people on board.

The result is a high workload and confusion around where to start, which can lead to programmes never getting off the ground. Even those that do are less successful than they should be, or unhelpfully lead to a culture of entitlement, where people feel it’s down to the organisation – and the people team in particular – to look after them. There’s a lack of real engagement and a mentality that it’s down to someone else – again, often the people team – to ‘fix’ things.

So, what options do we have if we really want to improve wellbeing within our organisations? Martin Seligman’s PERMA model provides a simple, research-based framework, which we’ve used to create a flexible programme that easily adjusts to fit small single-site organisations, large multi-nationals, and everything in between.

Initiated by a simple conversation mat tool (see this article for more details), it focuses on a series of six wellbeing workshops. At just an hour long, these are easy to fit into the working day – often over a breakfast or lunch – and built around interactive activities to empower individuals to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. These can be run in-person or virtually through online learning – either by the Bailey & French team or by internal champions, who we can upskill through a train the trainer session. Using an innovative preventative approach, they’re interactive and fun – using conversation and reflection to encourage active peer-to-peer learning and exploration – and making wellbeing easy for everyone to understand and apply on both an individual and organisational level.

For more information on our wellbeing programmes, including our wellbeing conversation mat, workshops and notebooks please email us or call +44 1273 830 830.

 

Amy Parker

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About Why

As human beings, we are social mammals and rely on our connections with others for both practical and emotional support.

We have an inherent need to relate and belong, officially recognised way back in the 1940s by Abraham Maslow in his ground-breaking ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, and more recently, by Martin Seligman’s ‘PERMA’ model, where he highlighted how important ‘positive Relationships’ (the ‘R’ of ‘PERMA’) are for our lives and cited Chris Peterson in placing them at the heart of human flourishing.

But, while this dependence on our relationships with others is well accepted in our home lives, in our working lives, we often seek to distance ourselves from it, to demonstrate that we are independent, capable professionals, who don’t need help from others. To be proper ‘grown-ups’ – we seem to believe – we have to detach ourselves from others.

In fact, having good social relationships in the workplace has been shown to have a positive impact on both our own and our organisation’s success.

Having people at work that we think of as friends as well as colleagues can lead to better health and wellbeing, more positive emotions, greater vitality and energy, increased engagement with tasks, better access to support and information and an enhanced ability to learn.

And, for our organisations, positive work relationships offer increased collaboration and cooperation, higher retention, a greater sense of shared purpose and improved organisational learning and adaptability (the ever-present ‘continuous improvement’!)

So perhaps we should be spending a bit more time on those ‘water-cooler’ chats?

Bailey & French are a team passionate about creating the simple, positive platforms and practical tools that support people to get a better understanding of their strengths and know how to craft work and life around them. We know everyone is busy at work so make sure our interventions are easy to apply, high impact and often self-facilitating. If you are interested in finding out more about how we work with individuals, teams and whole organisations to be more engaged, successful and positive, we’d love to hear from you.

This article on ‘Positive Relationships’ is one of a sequence based on Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of wellbeing. You may also want to read our articles on Positive Emotions and Engagement.

 

Amy Parker

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About How

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.  Howard Thurman

We are each unique. Our fingerprints, our personalities, our talents and our dreams. It’s not surprising, then, that there is no one-size-fits-all roadmap for a happy and successful life. Each person’s path to fulfilment is also unique.

Even if the specifics of a flourishing life will vary for each person, there is a very simple piece of advice that crops up again and again in philosophy, psychology and popular wisdom. ‘Follow your Bliss’ is how Joseph Campbell worded it and you can see the same message phrased differently in the Howard Thurman quotation above. Through a positive psychology lens, we might say, ‘Get to know your strengths – then craft a life that gives you the opportunity to play to them as much as possible’.

Our strengths are those things we do that energise us, that we enjoy doing and have a natural capacity for. For example, we may have a strength around empathising with others, around solving problems creatively or being able to focus on a task until it’s completed. If it’s a strength, it won’t drain us and we’d happily spend a good chunk of our time using it. People who know their strengths and play to them regularly have been shown to be more engaged in work and life than people who don’t.

I want to share an exercise that I’ve found simple and profound in terms of deepening understanding of personal strengths and knowing specifically how to lead a more engaged life.

It’s very simple. At the end of each day write down your favourite moment(s) of that day in a journal, preferably adding a little information about why that was a favourite moment. Our favourite moments tend to be those times we are in our element and hence playing to our strengths more than usual. By recording favourite moments for a couple of months or more and then reviewing what you’ve written, you’ll notice patterns emerge and this offers insights into your strengths.

When I did this, I had a lot of data to draw upon, as I’ve recorded my favourite moments in a gratitude journal since 2011. I found the review process illuminating and fascinating and it’s helped me get a much more specific understanding of my strengths.

For example, I used to say that one of my core strengths was the ‘love of learning’, of developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge. However, when reviewing my journal, there were not so many moments directly linked to this. Far more of my top moments were simply about novel experiences – meeting new people, seeing new places, trying new foods, exploring new ideas or finding a new, fresh perspective on a familiar situation. I use the word ‘explorer’ to describe this which feels far more authentic and resonant to me as a core strength than ‘love of learning’.

After the exercise, I started experimenting with including more exploration in my day-to-day life – for example, going to different places or eating different foods for lunch. Or dipping into random books from our psychology bookshelf, exploring a concept and finding novel ways to apply it to whatever I’m currently working on. It worked! I felt more engaged, had more experiences of flow (deep, enjoyable absorption in activities) and a deeper sense of satisfaction that I was genuinely crafting a life that aligned with the best in me.

If you’d like to try it yourself, here are suggested steps to follow:

1. Write down your favourite moment(s) of each day in a diary.
2. After a month or more, group them into themes, noticing patterns that emerge.
3. Use this information to choose five or so words for your core strengths.
4. Make little or large changes to your work and life so you are playing to your strengths more often.
5. Enjoy more flow, engagement and success.

Bailey & French are a team passionate about creating the simple, positive platforms and practical tools that support people to get a better understanding of their strengths and know how to craft work and life around them. We know everyone is busy at work so make sure our interventions are easy to apply, high impact and often self-facilitating. If you are interested in finding out more about how we work with individuals, teams and whole organisations to be more engaged, successful and positive, we’d love to hear from you.

This article on Engagement is one of a sequence based on Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of wellbeing. Click here for our article on Positive Emotions.

Joshua French

 

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About P

When I think of the proudest moments I have had in my work, they have usually happened after my most anxious, which I think is not unconnected.
One of the proudest moments in my career was when I first developed and delivered a senior leadership programme. Although I was an established trainer and facilitator, I had only once ever trained a group of leaders before – and that was in equality law, a specific, bounded topic that we covered in hour-long sessions. But when my boss went off on maternity leave, I was asked to lead the development and delivery of the company’s new, flagship leadership programme, building the next generation of senior leaders who would take the company forward.

I was excited about doing this, but as the first part day of the leadership programme drew closer, worries kicked in. Was I good enough? Could I speak with authority with such a senior group of leaders? Would they listen to me? Would the content work? The weekend before the first day, I fantasised about the work building burning down over the weekend, so that I wouldn’t have to deliver it. And some of my concerns weren’t completely unfounded. One senior leader met up with me before the session to challenge me – ‘What could I learn from you?’. Another did the same thing, only more obliquely, through their Head of Department – ‘Is this programme really appropriate for Julie? She is already very advanced, and I’m not sure she needs it’.

The building didn’t burn down, and everyone did come along as planned. And I carried on feeling anxious before every session. But, as the programme progressed, my confidence grew. I still worried, but worried less. I built up strong relationships with the group, and saw them do the same with each other. I was also really lucky in working with someone who’s positivity and energy kept me going and balanced out the over-analysis that could make me worry, and in having a boss who consistently demonstrated absolute faith and confidence in my ability to get the job done, and to do it brilliantly.

The feedback at the end of the programme was fantastic, with more critical feedback about the session run by an external facilitator. I watched the group bond and grow, both as individuals and as a leadership team. The senior IT leader who had challenged me at the start of the programme turned out to be the person to make the most progress. Through the programme, his awareness of himself, how he led and how he came across to people, shifted so that he really addressed how he worked with people and made some fundamental approaches to his role as a leader.

At the end of the programme I did feel proud. I felt I had accomplished something, that I had pushed myself to do something that scared me, and had come out the other end triumphant. I felt proud, elated, and so satisfied with what I’d achieved. The experience taught me what I was capable of if I pushed myself, and that sometimes other people could spot abilities in me that I couldn’t see myself. It also showed me how much satisfaction and joy I could feel in my work, if I pushed myself and built on what I was already good at. And that it was fine to feel nervous – the nerves I had before each day of the programme never went away – but if I acknowledged those nerves and forged ahead anyway, I could make it a success. Later I learned about the concept of ‘eudaimonic happiness’, or human flourishing, which is about being able to integrate positive and negative emotions and really grow as a human being. And it made me think about this experience, about the doubt and anxiety before the sessions, and the satisfaction and pride I felt after, and how one was necessary for the other.

I’ve picked out pride here as a positive emotion I have felt at work, but I could just have well picked any number of other emotions. I could have picked gratitude, and talked about how grateful I am for the faith one boss had in me that opened up opportunities and helped my career leap forward; I could have picked inspiration and talked about my colleague who inspired me to be a better, kinder person; or I could have focused on the joy I felt working with someone who made me laugh every single day. The point for me is that it’s fairly easy for me to think of examples of positive emotions I’ve felt at work, and in fact it’s those times that stand out as key moments in my working life. They have helped my wellbeing and made me grow, but they have also provided the backbone to my career and given me great satisfaction in my life.

Ben Steeden

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