This is week, as part of KUHR’s Wellbeing month, we thought we’d highlight something that is becoming more popular to incorporate in our everyday lives, not just at home, but at work too – we’re talking about Mindfulness. So, it’s over to expert Justin Standfield from Incendo Development who’s written our guest blog to give us a bit more background on the subject:
Living in the moment
These days – possibly more than ever before – we can easily become so caught up with ‘getting things done’ that we fail to just ‘be’ in the present moment.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether we are working or at home, studying or travelling, alone or with others – so many of us are missing the beauty of life and we probably don’t realise how quickly it’s passing us by.
Mindfulness is a response to this phenomenon and it’s based on an ancient practice of encouraging awareness, clarity, and acceptance of the present moment.
Pink and Fluffy
I’ll admit, the way that some people package up mindfulness comes across as a bit esoteric and somewhat “pink and fluffy”, so here’s an everyday definition of mindfulness that might work for you:
It’s a proven method of observing our thoughts, feelings and perceptions in a more helpful way.
I’ve used the word ‘proven’ deliberately because a large body of research on mindfulness meditation has existed for quite some time.
Most of the well-known benefits of mindfulness tend to be more personal than work-related, even though it’s clear that if the whole person is happier there is a positive payoff for the employer. For example, regular mindfulness practice has been shown to develop characteristics and skills such as:
- enhanced immune system function
- increased emotional intelligence
- improved memory
- increased creativity
- enhanced resilience
- improved listening skills
- greater control over thoughts
- stress management
- increased focus and concentration
In the Corporate World
If we apply these to any corporate environment, it’s easy to see that the benefits of mindfulness could be far-reaching; in fact, this is becoming increasingly backed-up by scientific research.
This is important for any manager who’s thinking about bringing mindfulness into their workplace, but perhaps has doubts about whether it really makes a difference.
A range of studies of the benefits of mindfulness at work have been published in major peer-reviewed journals in recent years. From these studies, we know that mindfulness is a trainable skill and has benefits for organisations as well as individuals, that include (but aren’t limited to) areas such as improved performance, enhanced leadership, better relationships and an increase in overall happiness. Here’s a brief summary of some of these studies:
Improvement in performance, job satisfaction, and wellbeing
In a recent study, the effect of mindfulness meditation on work-related wellbeing and job performance was evaluated and it was found that managers who took part in an 8-week mindfulness course finished it with:
- Greater levels of job satisfaction
- Higher job performance
- Lower levels of work-related stress
- Decreased psychological distress
The training included themes like compassion, perspective-taking, patience and generosity; the researchers believe that these elements play a key role in greater wellbeing and performance at work by improving employees’ attention and focus, response to stressors, and aligning oneself to organisational goals.
Source: Shonin, Van Gordon, Dunn, Singh & Griffiths (2014)
Positive impact on productivity and health
According to a Harvard Business review article, the American health insurance company, Aetna, estimated that one year after instituting it’s corporate mindfulness programme it had saved about $2000 per employee in healthcare costs and gained about $3000 per employee in productivity. Employees expressed reduced levels of stress and recorded improved heart rate measurements. Source: Gelles (2015)
Greater confidence and alignment with organisational goals
A 2014 study found that participants in an 8-week mindfulness course experienced a shift in attitude towards work; specifically, that work was less of a separate part of their lives, but an important place where they can learn and grow. They also felt that they were better able to identify with corporate strategy and organisational goals. The participants reported an increased ability to navigate and interact with work-related stressors and situations, which bred a sense of confidence around decision-making. Source: Shonin (2014)
Improved decision-making and productivity
80% of the senior executives who went through a mindfulness meditation programme at General Mills reported improved decision-making abilities. 83% of all participants said they were ‘taking time each day to optimise my personal productivity’, which was an increase of 23% from before the course. Source: Gelles (2015)
A 2014 study with employees of Intel following the introduction of a mindfulness programme called [email protected] showed a range of benefits. On average, participants responding to pre- and post- self-evaluation questionnaires reported a 2-point decrease (on a 10-point scale) in experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed, a 3-point increase in overall happiness and wellbeing, and a 2-point increase in having new ideas and insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and collaboration efforts. Source: Wong (2014)
As Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it:
“[Meditation] has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is that you already are. This sounds paradoxical and a little crazy. Yet this paradox and craziness may be pointing you toward a new way of seeing yourself, one in which you are trying less and being more.”
If you’d like a bit more first-hand experience of mindfulness in order to be convinced, drop me a line at [email protected] and we can have a chat about setting up a taster session for you and your employees at your workplace.
To find out more about Incendo’s successful ‘Developing Mindfulness At Work’ programme that can be tailored to your organisation’s needs, take a look at our Corporate Mindfulness web page at: http://www.incendo-uk.com/services/mindfulness-workshops/.
There aren’t many people around who aren’t feeling the pressure of our ‘always-on’ culture. Perhaps you’re a business owner who is feeling stuck in an unavoidable position of never being able to fully disconnect. Or maybe you’re an employee in a business where the culture makes you always feel pressurised to have your work phone to hand.
When I was researching this article, I didn’t have to try too hard to find stats like;
- 1 in 3 people are mentally unable to switch off from work
- 26% of people find the pressure to be ‘always-on’ interferes with their personal life
- 20% of people feel mentally exhausted by their constant connection to work
Now have a quick look across your business. Who are the people behind those statistics?
Switching on to switching off
As easy as it was to find those, frankly quite scary stats, it’s important to say there is a groundswell of people pushing back against this.
It’s important to remember that the technological advances over recent years have been enormous. At first, companies were slow to react to the enormous potential for flexible and remote working, tech solutions were unreliable, complicated and often prohibitively expensive. As that changed, more and more organisations embraced the efficiencies available to them. Almost overnight people could work from anywhere with the need for little more than a compatible device and a Wi-Fi connection.
Large businesses could reduce their estate overheads by hotdesking and remote working. Small businesses could operate from the convenience of their local coffee shop.
Perhaps it was inevitable that this convenience would eventually worm its way into the heart of our homes, intrude on our down time and, gradually, blur the lines to such an extent that people started to feel guilty for not being online.
As I alluded to earlier though, there is a growing trend against this. Mindfulness, digital detoxing and switching off is ‘in fashion’. Although it’s likely to take some time for everyone to catch up!
Help your business by switching off
It’s important to take heed of the health warnings that are implicit in how people feel about being always-on. If your staff are feeling under pressure and stressed, there is a very real risk of them developing health problems and compulsive behaviours.
Who hasn’t spotted the people in the room who repeatedly check their phone even when there haven’t been any tell-tale pings of emails and messages arriving?
Here are three reasons why switching off is positive for your business:
1. You’ll stop damaging your reputation
Whether it’s staff or clients you’re communicating with, sending emails at anti-social times damages your reputation.
It sends a message that you are overstretched and perhaps even that you aren’t on top of things. For both staff and clients, that’s not a useful image to project. For example, if your clients feel you’re overstretched they may lose confidence in your capacity and ability to meet their needs.
Ultimately, this could lead to them looking for alternative providers who do have the capacity to deliver what’s promised.
2. Your staff will stay with you
There’s no two ways about it, recruiting and training staff is costly. So if you’re losing people because there are other employers out there who take better care of their staff, you’re throwing money away.
High staff turnover results in lower morale and a negative company culture.
Recent Randstad research revealed that more than 50% of staff who responded would consider leaving a company who put profits and revenues above the wellbeing of their staff.
Supporting your staff to know that flexible working doesn’t have to be repaid by sacrificing their personal life, you take staff loyalty to a whole new level.
3. All work and no play…
…make Jack and Jill dull employees! When people feel dull, it’s just a short jump to disengagement. If, as a manager or business owner, you’re promoting an environment where a 12-hour day is considered the norm, as the Spice Girls once said, “Stop. Right now!”
Promote a healthy work-life balance supported by manageable work schedules and you’ll find your team will work 21% harder for you!
Time to make a change?
Achieving significant culture change in your business can be complicated. You need to bring your staff on the journey with you whilst also maintaining a successful business and, ideally, continuing to grow.
Book a call to find out how we can help.
For KUHR’s Wellbeing month, we couldn’t really let it go by without mentioning the importance of physical exercise. So, it’s over to our guest blogger – Personal Trainer, Greg Small:
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
With the above quote in mind…
- Can you afford to take sick days?
- Do you feel that you lack focus?
- Do you often struggle to focus and have a lack of mental clarity?
If you have answered ‘yes‘ to any of those questions then it’s safe to say that you need to be more physically active.
Benefits of physical exercise
Regularly undertaking physical activity can help to improve your fitness levels by putting your body under positive stress.
When you put your body under this positive stress, it can provide positive adaptations such as;
- increased lung function
- improved muscular strength
- improved muscular endurance
This can all help you to be able to carry out physical and mental daily tasks with more ease than before.
Regular exercise is great for small business owners in particular because looking after your health by maintaining a healthy mind and body is important to help reduce your risk of taking unnecessary days off work due to preventable illnesses.
Wake up and move!
The body thrives on routine and we were made to move.
Partaking in physical exercise before you begin your working day can leave you with an enormous sense of wellbeing and a positive outlook on the day ahead.
I firmly believe in ‘getting up and getting on’ being the best course of action to improve your wellbeing. So my advice is to start the day with a pre-work workout.
Exercise helps with the production of endorphins and serotonin – our pain relief and happy hormones. Both of these hormones assist in the regulation of metabolism, sleep, concentration and motivation.
A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that regular, aerobic exercise can boost the size of the hippocampus – the area of the brain involved in verbal memory, learning and emotions.
Exercise is a great release from the pressures of work and can help you to relax and refocus. It can provide you with valuable ‘me’ time.
The benefits of exercise are vast ranging from physical to mental health. If you are having a bad day mentally it can help you to focus, release the stress built up and to calm you down and make you feel energised. Regular exercise can help with sleep which in turn provides one with increased confidence and energy.
General wellbeing improvement
Wellbeing does not mean that you are happy all the time and it does not mean that you won’t experience negative or painful emotions, such as grief, loss or failure, which are part of normal life.
Regardless of your age, being physically active can help you to lead a mentally healthier life and can help improve your wellbeing.
By participating regularly in physical activity;
- we can feel an increase in self-esteem
- it can help to reduce stress and anxiety
- it can also play a role in preventing the development of mental health problems
- it can help give you a more positive outlook
How you exercise
Whether you decide to exercise on your own, with a partner or in groups the main objective is to enjoy exercise and the benefits it brings.
A good place to start is to invest in your health and seek out the advice and services of a professional. A professional will provide you with the tools to succeed and provide you with the support you need to lead a healthy and productive lifestyle.
Decide what your goal is and why you want to exercise regularly and from there you and a fitness professional can help to map out the best route to take.
- In order to improve your wellbeing make sure that you prioritise physical exercise as it can help with your health, fitness, and focus.
- Keeping physically active can help reduce the likelihood of developing problems with high blood pressure, mobility, cancer, obesity, and heart disease.
- To maximise your productivity and focus make physical activity part of your daily routine.
If you’d like more information on seeking professional help with your exercise and fitness, you can contact Greg by sending an email to: [email protected] or check out his website here: https://thefitness.coach/
Here at KUHR we’ve decided that this March it’s Wellbeing month in the office and one of the things we’ve been thinking about is allergies in the workplace, in particular (with quite a few of our clients being in the ‘food trade’), food allergies and why it’s important to consider them for both your customers and employees.
To prevent people with food allergies suffering from dangerous reactions, controlling allergens at work is crucial. Many symptoms are life-threatening without proper treatment – around ten people in the UK die from food allergies every year. In fact, an estimated 1-2% of adults have a food allergy, which equals around 2 million people.
It’s therefore likely that someone in your workplace has an allergy, and without caution, you could put them at serious risk of a reaction. You should understand how to minimise allergy risks and prioritise managing food allergies in the workplace to keep them safe.
With this in mind, we thought we’d ask our friend Ruth at Simply Safer to be a guest blogger again this month and share some food allergen related advice!
Allergens – a matter of life and death
The effective management of food allergies is a serious issue with recent high-profile cases in the press highlighting how important it is to have robust procedures that are stringently followed within food preparation areas.
Knowing what’s expected
The Food Standards Agency has a wealth of useful information on their website that will help you to comply with the rules set out in EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations.
The two key requirements when working with food are that you must:
- Provide allergen information to the consumer for both pre-packed and non-prepacked food or drink
- Handle and manage food allergens to avoid the risk of cross-contamination
In addition, you have a duty to ensure your staff are trained about allergens.
The 14 allergens you need to know about
Regulations require that you advise customers if any of your food products contain the following:
||Gluten containing Cereals(more info here)
||Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites
The regulations about how you provide this information to your customers can be confusing and depends on how you supply the products. It is always a good idea to take professional advice as non-compliance, even if accidental, can have serious implications for your customers, you and your business if something goes wrong.
*Lupin is a legume and fast emerging as a ‘superfood’. However, lupin, and its’ derivatives, has been associated with allergic reactions for sufferers of peanut allergies. You need to consider the potential for cross reactivity if using Lupin in ‘nut-free’ recipes and products.
Managing allergens in the kitchen
As well as following the legal requirement, that you must be able to provide information regarding allergens in your product to customers, the management of allergens within the kitchen is also very important.
It is important that you have a recipe for all dishes served and that these recipes are always followed. Ingredients must be properly stored in original packaging or in labelled containers, detailed information about recipes is required and you must always have processes in place to keep this information up to date.
Some people are allergic to foods that are not included in the 14 ‘known allergens’ so having the recipe or ingredients list available is very important.
Preventing cross contamination is an important aspect of managing allergens and there are different ways to approach this in your kitchen or food preparation area.
Food preparation processes
Having separate preparation areas, tools and utensils is highly recommended. This helps to reduce the risk of cross contamination between foods. You must also manage the use of the tools and utensils effectively. For example, if you use designated chopping boards for the preparation of food within the allergen free area, how do you ensure that different allergens don’t cross contaminate on the same board?
Similarly, how you cook products needs to be considered. For example, if you use the same cooking oil to cook gluten-free chips as you use to cook food which is NOT gluten-free, you cannot tell your customer the chips are gluten-free.
As previously mentioned, ingredients and prepared foods must be stored separately in sealed and labelled containers. Think about where you store different foods on shelves in the dry store, for example, store nuts on the bottom shelves so if they spill, they will not end up in other products.
Handwashing is vital when it comes to food hygiene and not only to prevent the transfer of bacteria and viruses. Thorough handwashing prevents the cross contamination when handling different products within the preparation and serving process. Always wash hands before preparing an allergy free meal.
Making ‘free from’ claims
I would urge extreme caution in making ‘free from’ claims about products. The ability to create any ‘free from’ meals requires compliance with strict regulations about the handling and preparation process.
In order to comply, you must be able to guarantee the food is suitable for everyone with an allergy or intolerance. If you are handling any allergens within the same kitchen, then you cannot guarantee there’s no risk of cross-contamination.
Five places you might not expect to find allergens
- Doner kebab meat is held together with yogurt so take care of milk allergies.
- Canned tuna sometimes includes the milk protein, casein.
- Processed deli meats may contain gluten and soy, and cold meats cut on a slicer may have been cross contaminated with cheese!
- Worcestershire sauce often contains fish derivatives, as does Caesar dressing and lots of Asian dishes.
- Who doesn’t love a steaming hot chocolate? Take care if you have issues with milk, soy, wheat or gluten which are often found in hot chocolate powder.
Need more information?
Simply Safer supports businesses to comply with the legal safety requirements for both food safety and Health and Safety, they provide food safety advice to businesses across the UK with most along the south coast.
If you have read this article and have any questions about how you manage allergens in your business, call Ruth on 07941 421 809 or email [email protected]
NB: This article gives you an example of the things you need to consider when it comes to managing allergens in your food preparation areas or kitchen. It is not a comprehensive guide and does not provide full guidance that will ensure you meet your statutory obligations or fully comply with regulations. If in doubt, you should always seek the advice of a qualified and experienced expert.
Is your business at risk from presenteeism?
Mental Health in the workplace is big news right now – and rightly so. As a responsible employer, you care about the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff. Right?
For example, if you were asked ‘How are your company absence levels?’, I would hazard a guess that you’d have a pretty good idea of not just the number of sickness days being lost, but the main causes too.
What about Presenteeism though? Or the newer, but rapidly increasing, Leaveism?
A 2018 survey by the CIPD showed that presenteeism has tripled since 2010.
What is presenteeism?
Quite simply, presenteeism is someone coming to work just like usual, but who isn’t being productive or effective whilst there. This could be due to health issues or other reasons such as feeling disengaged from their job. Commonly, presenteeism occurs when the employee feels under pressure to maintain a good attendance record or is trying to hide an illness. Both of these behaviours are common place in people experiencing poor mental health.
What about leaveism?
This is a newer term, but nonetheless has been identified as an increasing behaviour in the workplace. As the name suggests this happens when staff feel under pressure to meet work commitments and struggle to do so in their working time. Instead, they use their annual leave entitlement to take time off from the work place whilst continuing to work.
What are you doing to tackle these issues in your business?
Anxiety, depression and work-related stress are frequently cited as primary reasons for absenteeism, presenteeism and leaveism. As your biggest asset, clearly, it’s a good idea to proactively look after your employees.
Commonly, a business will turn to technology to play its part. For example, automating routine tasks and processes can help to alleviate time pressures or simplify a job, but, does that go far enough? Or does it just change the pressures on people – perhaps taking away some of the mental stimulation of their role, and in turn, the loss of satisfaction in ‘a good day’s work’.
With nine out of ten survey respondents reporting that technology makes it harder to switch off from work out of hours, it would appear this isn’t the only solution.
Living in an ‘always on’ world, can result in the perception that you expect immediacy from your staff at all times. Yet, for the majority of workers, it’s unlikely that anything work related is truly a matter of life or death that cannot wait to be dealt with in working time.
Taking steps to positively develop a culture that considers working outside of ‘normal’ hours unacceptable will help reassure your team that taking their full leave entitlement or not working in their personal time, isn’t going to damage their career prospects.
Lead by example
As a leader, break those same habits yourself, such as emailing your team in the evening. You might know you don’t expect them to reply immediately, but do they know that?
Take a break. Get some fresh air, get moving, go for lunch…It’s all too easy to slip into bad habits and if your team never see you take a break, they may feel you will judge them for doing so themselves.
Engage with your staff. It might seem obvious, but when did you last check in with your team? Did they have a good weekend? How are their children? How is their elderly mother coping? Seemingly small touch points can make all the difference when it comes to your staff having the confidence that you see them as people and also value their contribution to your business.
For more information on techniques to tackle presenteeism in your business contact me on 02382 025160.
It’s National Relaxation Day!
I know – there’s a ‘National Day’ for everything these days! Thank goodness they’re not all Bank Holidays or nothing would get done!
So, what’s National Relaxation Day all about?
In 1985, American 4th Grader Sean Moeller founded National Relaxation Day. In the States, 4th Grade equates to the UK Year 5, so this forward-thinking young man was just 9 or 10 years old at the time. When he was interviewed by Valerie Monson for The Des Moines Register, Sean suggested that a day of doing nothing of any real value would be beneficial to people’s health. Unsurprisingly given his age, he did not consider work or cleaning to play any part in relaxation!
Since then, our lives have become increasingly fast-paced and it is a medically accepted fact that insufficient rest and recovery is detrimental to physical, emotional and mental health.
What can you do as an employer?
I’m not for one minute suggesting that you, and your team, down tools and sleep all day. However, there are ways that you can keep your business running and still mark National Relaxation Day. In fact, why not use it to kick off an increased drive to improve wellbeing in the workplace!
Four ways to welcome some ‘relaxation’ (for National Relaxation Day or indeed, any other day of the year) into your business:
- Get moving: These days lots of schools get their pupils to complete a ‘Daily Mile’ (not necessarily a mile depending on the age of the children!). Why not take a leaf out of their books and get everyone out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a route-march, just get everyone up from their desks, moving and getting closer to hitting their 10,000 steps for the day.
- Take a break: Encourage everyone to take the breaks they are entitled to. Far too often people stay at their desks to eat their lunch and inevitably end up glued to their screen. Maybe they’re undertaking a bit of personal web browsing or online shopping, but maybe they’re still working! Either way, it’s not healthy!
- Remind your team to use their annual leave: When work is busy, you often find that the best staff are reluctant to take time off as they worry they’ll be letting you down or that the business will suffer. As a business owner managing workloads and accommodating annual leave can be a headache. However, it comes with the territory so it’s something you must learn to do effectively. Even your best staff will be no good to you or the business if they’re run down, burnt out and stressed! If you need more help with managing annual leave in your business, this blog post may be useful to you.
- Bring some R&R into the office: Why not treat your staff to a little R&R in the workplace? It’s no longer ‘odd’ for employers to invite wellbeing providers into the workplace. Maybe you could treat everyone to a 20-minute neck and shoulder massage at their desk?
Looking to the future
No matter how you decide to mark National Relaxation Day, it’s well worth looking for ways to make workplace wellbeing a ‘thing’.
Your staff are your greatest asset, but only if they are fit, healthy, engaged and feel valued. You’ll be amazed at the motivational power of something like a monthly workplace massage, or a healthy fruit delivery to give you just a couple of examples.
If you’d like more ideas or feel you would benefit from some advice on how to implement wellbeing initiatives in your business, give me a call and I would be happy to help.
Contact the office of Kate Underwood HR on 02380 025160 or [email protected]