Keeping fighting fit

The last 15 months have sometimes been a trying, stressful time for a number of reasons. The sense of normality resuming – at the same time as the actuality being anything but – has led to feelings of confusion and anxiety in many of us. Having an outlet beyond work is an important aspect of general wellbeing. It can be seeing family and friends. Or it may be an established or new-found passion for an activity. Let’s hope that the ongoing improvements we have made to some aspects of our lives – such as tweaks to the mental and physical health elements of our daily routine – are able to be carried over, once things have returned to ‘normal’ and our hectic lives take over once more.

Routine changes

We can all benefit from having outside interests. These can be anything from ongoing hobbies, or self-improvement or leisure courses that last a specific period of time. They may enhance our mental health, our physical health, or both. And they are an intrinsic part of who we are and how we can cope in these challenging times. Many of us have worried about work, or the lack of it, during the past 15 months. Some of us have had to adapt and change our career path. Others have had to adapt in other ways. The knock-on effect of these sometimes-drastic changes has been disruption to our routines. These disruptions for many can make a big difference to our wellbeing. This is particularly true when our extracurricular activities, such as sport and leisure, are impacted.

Some of us have had to curtail doing our hobbies – for a time that included such diverse group activities as team sports or theatrical productions – while some have been able to carry on, by using virtual platforms. Many exercise classes, for example, were able to carry on via the medium of internet hosting platforms such as Zoom and Google Teams, with groups at home in their own lounges following instructors remotely in their lounges.

Every little helps

We need to retain a healthy work-life balance and we can also set and achieve goals. Setting goals is an important part of many people’s lives. They don’t have to be massive and lifechanging, but cumulatively they will improve your general wellbeing. Many of these may seem small at the time, but you never know the difference they are making until they are taken away. For example, with the advent of big international holidays being an uncertainty for some time to come, it could be that people make positive decisions to visit parts of the UK they aren’t familiar with. Looking forward to a holiday is one of the most crucial aspects of anyone’s wellbeing. Having that date set in the far distance, knowing that you’ll be away and relaxing in new surroundings, is almost always a pleasurable experience and gives you something to look forward to on the horizon.

So too with hobbies and social activities – having something regular to look forward to enables us to focus on a positive. The upshot of this is that there are many positives we must still do post-pandemic, that will enrich our personal lives in the future.

New goals

Wellbeing is also partly about setting fresh goals and engaging with new ideas that include diverse experiences. On a personal level, I’ve never been to a music festival and would quite like to. It’s about thinking creatively about the things we can do to enjoy ourselves and that makes us think and feel differently. My biggest goal at the moment is to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo. My journey has been slowed but not stopped during the pandemic, as my classes moved online. But with in-person sessions resuming I feel optimistic about the future. I’d recommend to anyone that it’s worth finding something that they’ve always fancied trying and give it a go. You have no idea where that journey may take you and how the experience can enhance your personality and wellbeing.

Thinking positively – making your office space work for you


We have all dealt with working from home differently. We’ve adapted in ways we never thought we would and have become used to aspects of our working lives being diversely different. One of the key topics of the WFH debate has been around mental health and general wellbeing. We’re not all fortunate enough to have a home office, so in light of recent discussions about hybrid working being here to stay, how do we make sure we feel good when we’re ‘at work’, despite not leaving the house?

A workspace for you

Your WFH environment needs to be a place that you feel comfortable in, but also where you can be productive. Some people like the surround themselves with the familiar, or clutter, while others want no distractions at all. If you think about your office environment in your workplace, it’s often quite neutral, sterile even. The space is functional and it serves its purpose. Aspects like plants and sofas sometimes add a bit of minimalist character. But employers are realising that when more effort and thought is put into work environments, the greater rewards they garner in terms of staff wellbeing and productivity. The same should apply to where you work at home too.

Dressed to impress

At home, some people differentiate between relaxing and working by dressing differently. This is a good way of maintaining the boundary between these different activities. The jokes about people working in their pyjamas or from bed only go so far and eventually both productivity and mental health will be impacted. Not differentiating between where you work and where you sleep can have serious impacts on your sleep patterns, especially if you begin to associate negative aspects of work – such as stress – with your bedroom. Equally, if your other living spaces become given over to work – your kitchen table for example, or your dining table – then you can start to associate somewhere that was always a relaxing, neutral space with work. Dressing for work can help buffer against any negative associations with your environment, as you are ‘at work’. It’s a separate ‘you’ from just being at home.

Colour me confident

It’s all about discovering what works best for you. I tend to use different clothes, to distinguish from work and home life – even though the kitchen is only one step away from my home office.  It just makes me feel as though I’m not ‘at home’, but rather engages my mind in a more productive, business-like mode. You hold yourself differently if you are more smartly dressed and your posture impacts on how you feel and how you appear to others – for example, via video conferencing. Also, as someone who likes colour, it’s very important to me and energises me when I’m in a positive environment.

Having vibrant colours for me makes for a really creative environment and one that I feel comfortable and confident in. For you it might be something more functional, that more closely resembles your workplace office. Or it may be completely littered with clutter – again, perhaps that resembles your workplace office. It’s about getting the balance right. You don’t have to stick to one environment. Swap things around and find out what works best for you – for you to work best.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Under new management

, , ,

The new working landscape is bringing with it new challenges and working rules. Managers are having to adapt quickly to very different working conditions, both in the workplace and in the wider world at large. Some staff are still working from home, some are furloughed, some are back in the office. Teams are displaced and managers are left managing their staff across myriad platforms. With all these different ways of working, do you have the right processes in place to meet these demands and are your managers equipped to deal with the new normal?

Getting mixed messages

We are all trying to find the best way to approach this ‘new normal’. Some people are comfortable with masks and shopping, using public transport or going out for dinner, while others are taking things slowly and dipping their toes in the post-Covid water tentatively. Fearmongering in the press, which seems to be an electrocardiogram of emotions at the moment, isn’t helping. One day all is fine and freedom for all, the next day, the umpteenth new strain has emerged and the threat of lockdown looms again. How can business managers cope with this constantly changing news narrative?  We’re all back to work, we’re not. Work from home when you can, stay at home. Meet outdoors, go into the pub. These mixed messages are creating uncertainty for many people.

Plan ahead and build confidence

Every company is different. As an HR professional, you should be approaching your business with a view as to what is best for you and your staff. Keep a close eye on your employees. Monitoring their mental health is one of the most important things you should be doing, even working remotely. It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain if members of your team are struggling with working from home or are suffering anxieties about returning to the office. Not everyone wants to discuss it. And not all people working from home are doing so by choice. Some would gladly be back in the office, but the return process hasn’t been thought through and communicated, or there isn’t the capacity to safely bring everyone back in. Communicating with your team will help alleviate their fears and demonstrate that you have a long-term plan that they can have confidence in.

Out the other side

Staff need the security and guidance of good management. Some reply on it to get things done, while others can work well independently, and only need to check in from time to time. But having a roadmap out of this business crisis, a situation none of us could ever foresee and plan for, is imperative. It doesn’t look like the threat of this virus and its multiple variants is going to dispel anytime soon, so you need to look at your business model and see where improvements can be made.

The hybrid office model seems to be the way forward, with some staff in on certain days. In this way most office spaces can be mostly occupied, most of the time. Though work from home has had its critics, the world hasn’t ended. Office-based staff have been able to work from home, and all the essential services have continued to function. But the question remains that we all now need to see what the working world looks like, on the other side of this business crisis.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Brief encounters: Have face to face meetings had their day?

, , ,

For many years, discussions around environmental issues have highlighted a trend in modern business – the unnecessary journey. Was that meeting absolutely essential and did it have to be conducted face to face? But in the vast majority of cases, it was deemed essential, as that’s how business works and that’s how meetings work. But there’s been a massive change in emphasis in the last 12 months in where we work and how we work. With working from home and the rise of online conferencing platforms, have in-person meetings finally had their day?

Working apart

With some staff returning, albeit part-time, to the office space, it feels like things are getting back to some kind of normal. But certain work practices implemented for WFH have actually turned out to be advantageous to many people. A long commute for some has not been missed, for example. Nor the ‘getting ready for work’ routine in a morning, that involved actually getting dressed properly.

But other work formalities have changed too, such as in-person business meetings. The advent of online conferencing has enabled many people to carry on their office jobs much as normal. They have been able to have team meetings, to meet new clients and even generate new business. They have been able to see people ‘in the flesh’ (onscreen), rather than over a phone call, and they have even conducted interviews and hired personnel for new jobs.

The bigger picture

But think of the wider impact of that for a moment. These meetings can be achieved from your own home. There is no costly commute, there is no environmental impact from whatever mode of transport would have carried you to the meeting, and most of all, there’s no precious time wasted travelling to and from the meeting. Remember this can be a trip down a motorway in the UK, but just as easily be a flight to mainland Europe or in fact anywhere in the world. Of course, there’s still the same prep time needed before an online meeting and analysis of the outcomes afterwards. But if the same results can be achieved without having to do all those other things, what is the point of meeting face to face?

With purpose and outcomes

Well, there are also many people who believe in-person meetings remain an essential part of the business landscape. This is especially true if you are meeting new clients or employees. You can get a much better handle on a person’s true nature – confidence, ability, presence, personability – when you meet them in real life, than you would from through a screen or monitor. The fact is that meetings in the future need to be more purposeful. They need to have a defined agenda with an essential and necessary purpose.

What will actually happen, like the office/home working, is there will be a more flexible, hybrid model. If in-person meetings are to continue (and I’m a strong advocate for them to carry on in some form) then there needs to be a definite reason and business case for it to take place – a true justification of the impact it has on other areas of our working lives.

Speak to us if you are in need of our services.

What is the working landscape going to look like post-pandemic?

, ,

As restrictions start to ease, there is a lot of discussion of what the working landscape will look like in the future. ‘Work After Lockdown’ is a major research project funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC). It is part of UK Research & Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19. The report examines how the enforced working from home in the UK since March 2020 is changing how people want to work in the future and how organisations respond.

According to the report, 73% of employees would prefer to work from home at least some of the time. Or have the option to perform specific work tasks within the home office environment. However, having spoken to a number of HR professionals in a range of companies in different sectors over the last few weeks, it appears that many employers have a different view. Some are keen to insist on a full return to the office.

The best of both worlds

Only small numbers of people would like to be back in the office full time or permanently based from home. It seems that the ideal solution for many employees would be hybrid working. This provides the discretion and flexibility to adjust the place and timing of work to enable it to fit better with everything else.

This has the potential to benefit both the employee and the company they work for. Although  ground rules need to be set. Expectations of both parties must be clearly identified and agreed from the outset.

Opening the lines of communication

It will be important over the next few months for employers to think carefully about how they approach the return to the office. If indeed that is the plan.  Consultation and communication with the wider team during this period is also highly advisable.  Many employees understandably feel that they have shown that they can work productively at home. So, an insistence that everyone needs to return to the office, with no consideration of the impact that this will have, is unlikely to go down well.

By undertaking clear and open communication, both employers and employees will be able to present their ideas and discuss the feasibility of the proposed new way of working.

An appetite for innovation

The future of the workplace is not yet determined. Employers and employees have an unprecedented opportunity to shape their prospective working relationships. By embracing change they can create an environment that is truly fit for the 21st century in terms of job and workspace design. This will ensure the needs of the company and the individual are met.