Why Employers Must Be Wary Of Presenteeism In The “New Normal”

While a significant number of businesses are now beginning their phased return back to the office (or equivalent workspace), many more will have made the temporarily-enforced shift to remote working a permanent arrangement.

While this comes with a laundry list of benefits for the workforce such as improved sleep – please do check out our Global Working From Home Survey for the full story on this step-change – there may also be a resurgence in a very unhealthy working trend: presenteeism.

For those unfamiliar with presenteeism, you will likely be aware that, when ill, not every employee opts to take the time off they should. Whether out of an extreme work ethic, management pressures or worries over their advancement prospects if they take time off, they continue to show up for work despite feeling unwell, and are likely far less productive as a result. This, in a nutshell, is presenteeism.

Unfortunately, the issue of presenteeism appears to have been exacerbated by employees working remotely, meaning it is crucial for managers and team leaders to be vigilant. Recent research from the CIPD revealed that 77% of employers have observed presenteeism from employees working from home over the past year – with 43% of these admitting that they were taking no action to prevent it.

When employees are working from home, it is all-too-easy to hide illness or signs that something isn’t right mentally, and employers that do not recognise this and take appropriate action will, at best, run the risk of losing their top talent to a competitor and, at worst, see their staff put at serious risk of burnout and other mental health issues. 

So, what can employers do?

In order to minimise the risk of presenteeism, businesses must build an open, inclusive working culture wherein staff feel safe and supported. In this environment, if a member of staff feels unwell, or if they have an issue that may affect their work, they will feel comfortable taking the issue to their managers so that a solution can be found.

Particularly when working from home, staff still need to stay in regular contact with their managers, and to be encouraged to take the time off they need when they feel ill. Managers and more senior members of staff also need to lead by example and take the time off they need, when they need it.

Particularly for businesses that have made working from home their “new normal”, companies must take a preventative, rather than reactive approach to employee wellness, ensuring it is always front of mind throughout every facet of the business. By doing this, employers will enjoy a happier, more engaged workforce, while reducing the risk of presenteeism.

It’s a cliché, but that makes it no less true – people are the lifeblood of any business. Encourage their development, offer them the benefits that matter most to them and support them in sickness and in health, and your business will reap the rewards. To find out more about how Wrkit can support your company with its talent engagement and wellbeing strategy, visit www.wrkit.com.

Worker Wellbeing In The Hospitality Industry

The gradual reopening of hospitality over the past few weeks has been a significant signal of better times – meeting friends, enjoying food and drink that you cannot have at home and generally soaking in the feeling of the return of normality.

However, behind the scenes, a staffing crisis within the sector is a real challenge.

Hospitality does have a reputation of staff working long, antisocial hours and dealing with difficult customers as well as it being a somewhat physically demanding and often low-paying job. A year of uncertainty, furlough, increased risk of infection and last-minute closures has only exacerbated these issues as jobseekers may be avoiding the sector in search of more stable and safer employment. Furthermore, Brexit has caused many European nationals previously working in the industry to return to their home countries.

As the country reopens to both citizens and international visitors, an adequately staffed hospitality sector is essential not just for the industry, but for the wider supply chain. To attract and retain staff, it is now vital that employers are making a conscious effort to support employee wellbeing and offer additional staff benefits to attract and retain workers.

Some businesses have increased wages and offer other financial incentives and while this is a good move for an industry that is known for low wages, support for hospitality employees should go beyond this. By being creative with their employee benefits offering, employers will improve staff satisfaction, morale and retention which may be crucial to the survival of their business.

Resilience

It is no secret that hospitality staff frequently come under fire from disgruntled customers and that these exchanges can be unkind and may leave team members upset, low and feeling less resilient. Similarly, amid busy service tensions between staff can run high and lead to stressed encounters between colleagues.

Offering stress and resilience training will give staff the tools they need to handle difficult situations, reduce the effects they have on them and allow them to protect their mental wellbeing while developing their confidence.

Employees can take an active part in developing their own resilient mindsets by discussing issues with supervisors and by reframing challenging situations to look like a learning opportunity and to discuss ways to grow and develop as an individual and as a team.

Employers can also support staff resilience by recognising that they have handled a difficult situation well and reassuring them that it is not necessarily a reflection of them or their capabilities. In combination with mental health resources, stress and resilience training will go a long way in protecting employees’ wellbeing.

Talks and workshops offered by Wrkit will give teams the tools they need to grow, develop resilience and manage the challenges that they face throughout the day through practical workshops and coaching sessions.

In addition, the self-help tools on the POWR platform will help employees build resilience and improve wellbeing. The platform allows employees to take control over their health and wellness through Self Awareness, Goal-Setting and ongoing Self-Monitoring.

Recognition

Recognition is not just a tool to build resilience, but it also makes employees feel valued in their role which improves overall job satisfaction.

Wrkit’s recognition module is a fantastic tool for promoting this and creating a culture of mutual support and celebration between the team to help everyone to feel appreciated and respected. This should span from management down and between both back and front of house staff.

Switching off

Spending hours on your feet, working busy shifts and keeping on top of what customers need and want throughout the day sounds exhausting, but in reality, it stimulates your brain and makes it hard to transition out of “work mode”.

Employers should encourage staff to unwind at the end of their shift, whether that is sitting down and having a drink before going home, providing a quiet space to sit at the end of the day and process the shift before leaving, or giving access to mindfulness or meditation tools.

These switching off practices are especially important for employees working late night shifts as failure to do so could leave them awake until the early hours of the morning and not getting enough rest.

Sleeping and resting

The hospitality industry is known for long, late hours and often a lack of breaks. While it is understandable, especially in the face of a staffing crisis, that staff cannot always take a break during a busy service, managers must ensure they are doing everything in their power to give their staff a reasonable amount of downtime.

Getting a good amount of sleep is critical to performing well at work and maintaining mental wellbeing. Late-night hospitality venues in particular must consider this. Avoid putting staff on shifts that require an early start after a late finish and explore options to help staff rest quicker after a shift, such as mindfulness or meditation resources.

Megan Sowney, Wrkit’s UK Managing Director, said: “Hospitality staff face challenging situations every day, but these challenges have been amplified in recent weeks. The public have missed eating and drinking out, so have descended on establishments in huge numbers. This combined with staffing issues means that hospitality workers are working incredibly hard, and this is likely to take its toll on mental health.

“Employers must ensure they are taking care of their staff, or they could end up losing them to other businesses or industries, which could have dire implications. The hospitality industry needs staff to operate, and it needs staff who are not burnt out to run well.

“Businesses that look after the wellbeing of current staff, re-evaluate the current industry standards and offer an attractive employee benefits package will enjoy higher levels of retention and an improved employer reputation, aiding recruitment.”

5 Employee Wellbeing Lessons From Your Favourite TV Shows

On occasion, we all like to sit down and indulge ourselves with a few episodes of our favourite TV show, but when it comes to fictional workplaces it’s best not to hold their practices as a guide on what to do. We have therefore collated our top five employee wellbeing lessons we have learnt from our favourite fictional characters.  

The US Office –  

For some, having a boss like Michael Scott might be a dream come true, but generally, it can be a bad idea to encourage a culture of over-familiarity within a workplace. In fact, unlike almost every The Office character you should want to encourage all employees to respect each other’s boundaries.

A great step towards this is ensuring all personal disclosures stay private and confidential. If an employee needs time off for a sensitive issue make sure to be as discreet as possible and refrain from prying into others situations.  

Grey’s Anatomy –


The life of a fictional doctor is likely to be full of high stress and emotions, but more often than not workers in the show are often pitted against each other. While competition can be healthy if it is conducted in good faith, you will have a much better success rate in promoting your team to co-operate instead.

It may seem that competition can encourage one employee but it can come at the cost of discouraging another. It’s a great practice to help employees focus on their own progression and explain to them how they can improve without comparing them to one another.  

The Crown –

One may argue that the job of a royal is a duty and not just normal employment, but if this show is to teach us anything about a role, it is that you shouldn’t let it consume you. Dedication and perseverance are great qualities to have in an employee but their job shouldn’t be their whole life – we all need downtime to recover from the stress of a day.

In doing this make sure not to reward unhealthy behaviour, as it will set a bad precedent and you will discourage workers from prioritising a healthy work/life balance.

Mad Men –

Immersing yourself in the world of an advertisement agency during the ’60s can be thrilling, and although being as dapper as Don Draper may seem like a great goal to strive for, promoting an unhealthy lifestyle at work can actually do a lot of damage.

For the most part, we expect that most places don’t encourage smoking and excessive drinking but an office can also go a lot further to helping employees make healthy choices in their day-to-day life. Offering out free healthy snacks and access to or discount on exercise classes can help your workforce develop both a healthy body and a healthy mind.

Line of Duty –

The pressure is likely to be high when you are tasked with catching a renowned crime boss but even detectives need to sleep. DS Arnott’s ability to catch a bent copper will be hindered if his work schedule impacts his sleep. Not only can poor sleep hygiene affect productivity but lack of sleep has been linked to lifelong health complications.

Our recent Global Working From Home Survey found that UK workers are strongly positive about their sleep quality when working from home, scoring sleep quality 7.6/10 on average, and also find it far easier to plan their nightly sleep routine (7.3/10). With this in mind, employers need to be wary of the effect on their employees quality of sleep when they eventually return to the office.

To find out more about how Wrkit can support your company with its employee wellbeing and wellness strategy, visit www.wrkit.com.

Just As A Puppy Is Not Just For Christmas, Mental Health Should Hold The Spotlight All Year Round

As Mental Health Awareness week is behind us once more, we think it’s important to remind ourselves that our mental health, and that of our work colleagues, is something we should focus on year-round.

We wholeheartedly welcome the focus on mental health and anything which throws a spotlight on wellbeing, particularly workplace wellbeing, is, in our book, something to celebrate.

But, just as all reasonable people understand that the responsibilities of owning a puppy stretch well beyond the 12 days of Christmas, you should not leave your focus on your own and your work colleagues’ mental health fallow for too long.

Keeping your glass half full

The NHS provides typically sensible and achievable evidence-based advice, suggesting five steps to mental wellbeing:

  • Connect with other people. We’re social animals after all. Call your friends or family, take a colleague to lunch and build bridges. If you know of a neighbour who lives alone, check in on them or put a note through their door.
  • Be physically active. You don’t have to run a marathon or cycle 100 miles, get away from your desk at lunchtime, walk a different route home or to the next bus stop along. Tune into your surroundings. There’s a whole world out there to explore.
  • Learn a new skill. This can help boost your self-confidence and provide a new purpose. What will you do next? What can your employer do to help?
  • Pay attention to the present moment. What are you experiencing right now? Build your self-awareness. Challenge yourself to understand your thoughts and feelings. And be honest.
  • Give to others. This can create positive feelings of self-worth. It could be as simple as helping somebody with a deadline or just saying thank you.

Wrkit are privileged to offer a product for every bullet point of advice, giving a 360 Wellness solution:

  • Connecting – with changing working environments, see each other face to face and even calling without purpose can be difficult to fit into the working day. Wrkit’s Recognition tool provides a social wall that takes less than 30 seconds to populate with stories of thanks, well wishes or congratulations.
  • Physical Activity – not just exercise, but movement. Moving every hour on the hour is so important for supple joints, and Wrkit’s Move module provides on demand movement, deskercise and exercise videos that take no longer than 2 mins to complete.
  • Upskilling – learning what you want, when you want, is even more of a breeze when it’s free of charge. Wrkit’s Learning tool offers over 4500 courses in Nutrition, Pet Care, History, the Arts and professional skills such as leadership, technology skills and management – and 92% of courses are free to learn.
  • Being Present and Self-Aware – Wrkit’s POWR module provides scores in 6 key pathways: Mind, Work, Life, Sleep, Active and Food, providing a visual representation of how you’re doing and where you’re in need of a boost. Self-awareness is the key to change, and the scores are just the beginning. Tips, tricks and plans are provided to improve scores, optimise resilience, and drive longevity of positive mindset.

To find out more about how Wrkit can support your company with its talent engagement and wellness strategy, visit www.wrkit.com.

Stress awareness with others

Now many weeks into lockdown, most of us are adapting well to the new way of working and being social in more creative ways. It is without doubt that for everyone it has been a struggle at times and although the lockdown parameters will be loosening over the next month, it is still a very challenging time for staff, managers, colleagues, parents, families and children.

COVID-19 is a truly global experience with so many countries clearly affected and having to adapt as best they can. Each household has its own unique set of challenges with individuals self-isolating on their own, single parents working and trying their best to manage alone, large families having both parents working and juggling childcare with the disappearance of supports like school or day care and having to try and work and educate at the same time. There are also many people isolating by themselves and at times challenged by the loneliness and repetitiveness of each day.

The stress and strain on everyone is real and is being felt in all households throughout the country. So, it is extremely important to be mindful when connecting with colleagues and staff working from home, to be conscious and alert to some of what is happening for them emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

After the first two weeks of lockdown in the UK, a working from home survey produced these results:
– 60% exercising less
– 60% more fatigued
– 64% acknowledge that worry is affecting sleep
– 41% health concerns for family

Now after 4-6 weeks in, survey stats are showing that:

  • 44% of people currently working from home find they are working longer hours and finding it hard to switch off from work
  • 51% of employees find that they are interrupted during their working day by family members and that multiple roles placed on parents is very challenging  
  • 79% of employees surveyed are missing their usual working environments
  • 89% say missing the socialising with work colleagues ranked as the main reason for this

Spotting employees who are struggling or stressed

*10 Signs an employee may be suffering from stress and anxiety during COVID-19

1. Late to meetings, taking more time off work than usual or general regular lack of communication

2. Greater obvious use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco

3. Increased irritability, poor concentration, reduced productivity

4. Deteriorating personal or work relationships, as experienced directly or indicated by others

5. More ‘emotional’, moody or over-reactive to what others say

6. Acting differently or unusually, that is out of the norm for them, or not being their usual self

7. Changing of eating or sleep patterns and personal appearance such as visible hygiene indicators – consistently not caring so much about appearance

8. Physical reactions such as sweating, fast paced breathing, very nervous, talking anxiously most of the time

9. Feeling continually low, depressed, and focusing on negatives, preoccupied with Covid 19

10. Overly tired and fatigued

What can you do?

If you are worried or concerned about someone’s health and wellbeing, or have received feedback from others who are concerned, the first thing to do is arrange some time to talk with the person one to one, and in the most private and confidential setting as possible. Let them know that you are connecting with them to talk about how they are finding working from home during this challenging time.

Explore what is happening for them and specific areas they are struggling with.

Check in on their wellbeing by asking about their general daily routine and if they are making time to connect with others regularly and getting out to do some exercise.

If you have some concerns, discuss with the person what your concerns are specifically.

Let them know that you are there to help support them and explore ways of doing this. Ask them how you can best help and if they are struggling to come up with ideas, suggest somethings you can do based on the areas that were discussed. Agree a plan and offer various supports available in your organisation such as EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) and ensure you agree to meet again soon after. Agree regular ongoing support meetings for a while, to see positive change occurring.

*Ref: Hughes, R., (2013) 10 Signs an employee may be suffering from stress and anxiety, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) – adapted from.

Coping with COVID – Appreciating our Humanness

Happy elderly couple having a video call looking involved

This is the 4th in a series of 6 articles on supporting employees during this unusual and difficult time in businesses and in our lives. With the expansion of lockdown and restricted movements, many employees will be realising that this will go on for a while and that the last 4 weeks may become the norm. While most employees will naturally accept the present state of affairs, for many it will be a difficult mindset to adjust to. Some will be feeling anxious, frustrated and worried about the uncertainty the future holds.

It is important therefore to recognise that all Humans react in unique personal ways. We all struggle with and accept big changes in our own time and in our own ways, as we all move along the change curve at different rates and stages.

Many employees over the last few weeks will have enjoyed aspects of working from home, such as getting up later, not having to battle with public transport, more time with family and even getting in a bit of sunbathing. Others will have struggled with the sense of confinement, missing the social aspect of being with colleagues, not able to enjoy their usual coffee routine, their regular exercise groups and lunch catchups. Additional challenges are also appearing for some employees, like having to become a teacher to their children, or single parents isolating alone without their usual support network.

So where are we finding ourselves and what can psychologically help?

For me personally, at the weekend I had a zoom call with a group of friends I met while living abroad. We all zoomed in from different corners of the world – Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. It was wonderful to see them all again but what was really fascinating, was how we were all adapting to the same experience. We were all isolating in our houses, with our families, unable to wander far, working from home as best we can, using similar technology, struggling with similar issues and even talking about the same shows we are watching on TV – sharing further viewing recommendations.

These zoom calls have really deepened my appreciation of this being a truly global and specifically Human event and it is bringing our Humanness to the fore in some very lovely ways. In psychology there is a practice called ‘reframing’ which is a mental skill that is applied often in sports psychology but is also a good strategy to practice in everyday life, especially given the present situation.

Reframing is looking at and thinking about a situation by applying a different ‘psychological’ lens. Literally framing it up differently, putting on a different set of metaphorical spectacles and seeing some of the not so obvious aspects of a situation as positive and beneficial.

To do this, ask yourself:

  • What aspect of this present situation is an improvement?
  • What do I actually like about some of my routine that has changed?
  • What might I like to continue doing more of?
  • How am I learning about myself and my abilities in adapting to this situation?

Some quick reflections might be:

  • Liking more time with family, which is helping with relationships
  • The lack of commuting is a welcomed relief for me and for the planet
  • I am getting to know my neighbours more and creating a better connection with my community
  • I am thinking more about how others are getting on and reaching out more often to intentionally connect
  • I am reconnecting with some old friends and some old pastimes that I love but didn’t have time for

While employees are struggling with uncertainty and the need to adapt each week to new and unfolding information, it is important for managers and leaders to help foster some of the positives that each employee is experiencing amidst the many challenges.

To be Human is to be relational and some of our present experience is opening the door to deepening relationships in a very human way – connecting and sharing genuine and real daily experiences. Employers can take this opportunity to share stories, allowing some vulnerability and foster a culture of checking in on each other and of course sharing the positives inherent in reframing aspects of our shared situation. 

Consideration, Compassion, Connection and Commitment

Although a lot has been written about the mental health and wellbeing of employees and staff during these last unusual weeks, not an awful lot has been written about the major multitasking that all staff are now facing into. Due to the social isolation strategy most nations have adopted, there are many, many parents now working two jobs from home, with most of their normal supports no longer available.

Employees have not only had to adapt to a new working environment, they now must juggle these multiple roles and structures at once. With World Health Day this week, it is a very good time to pause and reflect on how well employees are managing and adapting to this shift in expectations and to show support and celebrate their resilience.

It is also very impressive how many company cultures have shone through by showing understanding and appreciation of the new challenges their people are facing. One influential organisation very early on communicated a simple message to their work force to help them prioritise their time and energy and it was ‘family first’.

As the weeks are blending into each other and a new norm is settling in and staff are making the best of the situation, it is helpful to look at some ongoing healthy approaches to adopt and keep in mind when connecting with staff remotely.

Consideration:

It is important when connecting with staff that a moment is taken to be mindful of what they are being asked to do each day and the time they now have to give to their other roles at home such as child minder, educator and home maker. It is good to ask them now and again how they are finding the juggling of demands and how you as their manager or colleague can help.

Compassion:

With a lot of energy and attention being diverted, it is important to show compassion for the situation teams now finds themselves in and it is likely that over time performance will drop as energy begins to wane due to the multiple demands. This will be most apparent for parents of multiple young children needing care, attention and structured time to learn and be engaged with.

Connection:

For all team members connection is vitally important at this time, not just to cover off business but to be social and have an outlet. This is vital for staff who are not with family and are isolating alone. For these staff it is very important to consider how in a short space of time they have lost a lot of daily personal connecting and energy from others.

Commitment:

There will be ongoing competing demands for employees’ time and energy now and over the next number of months. Staff may not be able to show the level of time commitment that they normally would be able to provide. In the long run, as per the aforementioned company message ‘family first’, managers who are showing consideration and compassion will ensure greater commitment from their employees when normal routines return, and we are back in the workplace once again.

Mental Skills for Mental Health – Goal Setting

This is the second in the series of posts focused on the continuing mental impact of the COVID-19 virus, which all businesses are now reacting to. One of the most challenging impacts has been how employees can best continue in their roles with the effect of social distancing and remote working. This blog and the next 4 in this series will focus on the mental health and wellbeing of staff and managers, as they navigate the impact of this temporary new way of working.

As a psychotherapist, leadership and mental skills coach with nearly three decades of experience, I have worked with hundreds of people and businesses facing into challenging and uncertain times. My early training was as an emergency service first responder and trainer, so I understand how a fast onset of unusual and unexpected changes can impact people emotionally and psychologically. In my first blog from this series I wrote about some things to be expected over the coming weeks. In this blog I will be looking at an essential skill for staff to focus on and one which managers and leaders can promote. This is the key skill of planning and goal setting, for personal health and wellbeing.

The mental skill of goal setting is often undervalued as it seems so straight forward and something that we already are good at. It is however a vital first step in driving wellness and ensuring our mental health stays healthy. It is also one of the first things that is challenged and undermined when we feel unwell, as our energy drops, and we begin to feel demotivated and disengaged.

In sports psychology, one of the key plans of action for an athlete is first and foremost to have a plan. Have a plan for when it gets tough, when athletes feel demotivated, when the situation feels overly pressurised and when focus begins to wander. A key element of preparation is to revert to focused goal setting – remembering their training, going back to basics, back to what they know and create a go-to plan that is ‘ready to go’ for when it gets tough. 

Goal setting is a skill we call on all the time, going through our daily routines – making breakfast, sticking to a timetable, working to deadlines. It is a skill we know well, and we mostly do it unconsciously, however what many people are not aware of are what are known as ‘process goals’.

Process goals are particularly good to have for when times are tough, when people are distressed and when there is a lot of uncertainty. Process goals help bring what feels out of control, back into control – starting with ourselves and our control over how we think, how we feel and how we can influence the inherent energy of our body. We use process goals to feel more confident and clear headed. Examples of ways to do this, are grounding and centring which are often referred to as ‘anchoring’ techniques. These techniques anchor the person to something they know works for them; gaining some control over the situation and helping them feel better, quickly. 

At the moment staff and colleagues are feeling various levels of uncertainty, which is a natural reaction and not one to be overly concerned about. Everyone is feeling it and as leaders it is something we should be empathising with. Here we can encourage staff to goal set in order to maintain, where possible, the same working routine, as they would if COVID-19 didn’t exist. This will help normalise what is going on and help foster engagement and daily structure. Encourage the same starting time, finishing time and usual breaks as well as suggesting some extra structured time each day to support others, such as children and partners working from home also. Acknowledging that this is a team effort and we all need to set some goals to help with daily household routines, childcare and exercise.

Regarding work processes, look at any impending deadlines and goal set by negotiating new timelines; realistically integrating the new COVID-19 factors. Encourage staff to goal set some wellbeing strategies, by inviting them to explore what has worked before and reminding them to keep practicing these regularly. Check in with them to see what weekly goals they are setting – work related and wellbeing related, to help ensure they do not take on too much and invite them to create some goals if they are lacking some ion certain areas.

Explain ‘process goal’ setting and how it can be achieved by with various breathing techniques, short meditations or having a go-to set of encouraging and reassuring words or phrases. This is a good strategy for staff to start working on straight away. Talk openly about how at times it will be tough and it will feel scary or frustrating over the coming months; start to plan now for these times with some process goals strategies. Give them some examples of process goals – such as thinking about something they do that helps them feel better in the moment, to calm and sooth themselves. Avoiding negative and worrisome future predicting and instead focusing on constructive here and now planning immediate next steps planning.

Remind them that these are the same mental skills that all top athletes and military personnel practise to perform well and to manage their own wellbeing under major pressure. Reassure them that these techniques work, they are easy to practise, and they achieve results. All of this starts with the simple ability to goal set and to keep on goal setting – each day, especially when it gets tough.

Coping with BIG Changes

Recent international events have brought home to everyone how much of a global village we really are. This can be feel a little scary at times, but thankfully just about all countries are now responding to the challenges that COVID-19 is producing.

The Coronavirus is something that we can all individually tackle with some simple measures such as washing our hands routinely and keeping an adequate distance from one another. However, these and more extreme changes like imposed travel restrictions will impact us psychologically and emotionally over time. In response to these significant challenges, the team at Wrkit will be posting a set of 6 blogs to help you deal with the psychological changes that will occur in the coming weeks and months.

Our first post from our series of 6 is on the topic of Change and the common effects big change can have on our lives and while we know a lot more about how naturally occurring events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and pandemics can impact us, we still go through a common psychological process when confronted by these events.

Having previously lived in Wellington New Zealand for many years and having experienced hundreds of earthquakes, when the big ones hit and movement was restricted it was always very disconcerting and concern about ourselves, our friends, our family and the future quickly set in.

For starters, initially there is usually a shocked response related to what is happening to us and this can become a re-occurring experience as more events unfold, a little like a series of aftershocks. With this shock we can also experience denial and disbelief. This can often present as a lack of interest towards the situation or a downgrading of its importance in our life, kind of a ‘don’t care so much’ reaction. This is very common and a natural early response, which will gradually give way to a fuller understanding of the situation. Feelings of powerlessness and a sense of injustice or unfairness are also common, especially if our regular routines are affected as we gradually work to assimilate and understand what has happened.

A desire for control can play out then, and frustration or worry overtime can build into anger and fear/panic unless we are able to work these emotions through. It is simply our body trying to exert control over what is happening (motivation), not realising that what is happening is much bigger than ourselves, with way too many things out of our control. Our body can then react by making us feel low – sad, upset and down (demotivation), as it tries to slow us down, urging us to think clearly and not just react.  Action rather than just reaction is important, and the good news is that there are lots of actions we can take mentally to help us overcome changes whether they are big, small or even global.

Over the next number of weeks, we will be looking at ‘Mental Skills for Mental health’ and covering psychological techniques such as Goal Setting, Eustress, Reframing, Perspective Thinking, Self-Talk, and of course Resilience. For now, let’s look at some simple ways to help ourselves to process through some of what is going on around us at this early stage.

Each day take some time to write out answers to the below questions:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • How intense are these feelings – from 1 to 50 – (50 being extremely intense)?
  • What can I do to influence these feeling today?
  • How will I factor this into my plan for the day/ week/ month?

Remember that whatever you are feeling is ok, all feelings are ok – it is what we do with them that is important, as some behaviours are not ok! If for example you are angry or afraid the best ways to tackle these feelings is to channel this energy and take back some power. As a first step take this action:

  • Take a moment to breath in and out a number of times
  • Slow your breathing to slow your heartrate
  • Clear your head by focusing on your breathe  
  • Slowly count to 10 in your head as take longer breaths in and out

Plan a helpful healthy physical outlet such as running, cycling, HIIT challenges; be physical in some goal-oriented way to focus your energy.

At home set goals such as spring cleaning, gardening, DIY projects which are all great for some physical output and to have a distracting challenge.

Make a daily action plan. What will you do today that will help you to accomplish your goals? Create some deadlines and achieve some results. Create some small to medium goals to get some wins on the board which will make you feel better and more in control of what is going on and within your influence.

The importance of assertiveness in our overall wellbeing

Following on from the recent world Mental Health Day, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit, Jason Brennan, explains that it is important to take time out to reflect on our overall mental health and wellness and what might be contributing to ongoing areas of unwellness.

One key area of wellness is healthy communication and the ability to confidently speak out about what is important to us, what is affecting us emotionally and psychologically and what might be contributing to our not being heard. This is the important skill of assertiveness.

Assertiveness is defined as:

  • Someone who is being assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe
  • Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s thoughts, feelings or rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passive in behaviour

Assertiveness is standing up for ourselves and our personal rights by expressing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest and appropriate way. By being assertive we need always to respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people and in so doing we are promoting an I’m OK, You’re OK philosophy – respecting the worth, value and dignity of ourselves and others.

Being able to communicate effectively means

  • Slowing down
  • Figuring out how we feel
  • Exploring why we feel this way
  • Understanding what relates to me and what relates to not me (others or external situation)
  • Think about how to influence the external
  • Create a plan to execute
  • Consider context for contact (where and when to talk)

Part of our plan might be to communicate and explain to others what is happening for us and how they might be contributing to this and to work on a plan to change and improve the situation.

Some tips to being assertive are –

REFLECTION:

  • Understand how we feel and why we feel this way
  • Manage our emotions with clear thoughts
  • Maintain self-control in how we want to share these insights

EXPRESSION:

  • Express ourselves through this reflective understanding
  • Choose to speak out and be heard considerately and appropriately (avoid blame)
  • Encourage two-way openness
  • Ok to disagree, assertiveness is about self-expression

CONGRUENCY:

  • Listen and respond to others point of view appropriately
  • Admit to mistakes and apologise if appropriate and helpful
  • Treat others as equal – I’m ok, You’re ok
  • Feel good about having activated the skill of assertiveness and understanding

Author: Jason Brennan, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit