The Digital Brain Switch is a research project that brought together researchers from a number of universities to focus on how digital technologies affect our work-life balance. They have produced a number of short videos including a video on work – life boundaries in the digital age, and one on the implications of a digital life. Worth a look, especially if you are interested in research and digital technology.
Over 20% of us describe our jobs as very or extremely stressful. Workplace stress isn’t just about us and the way that we think and the way that we respond to things, it is often about our environment, our relationships and the demands that are being made of us. The Health and Safety Executive have identified six key areas that if not managed properly can lead to poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. At WorkGuru we recognise the importance of our working environments. None of us can flourish in a toxic environment. We also recognise that often the one thing that we have any direct control over is ourselves, and how we respond to things. So with this in mind, here are our top tips for protecting yourself from workplace stress:
1. Learn to let go
Learning to let go is about identifying the things that we can directly control or influence, and learning to let go of the things that we can’t. Holding on to injustices, anger and negativity really does only hurt ourselves and the people that we care about. We have a choice; we can choose to ruminate and ponder or we choose to let go and focus our energy on the positive things in our life.
2. Have a balanced life
Resilient people, the people most able to bounce back from life’s adversities are people who have a balanced life. Work is important, but so are family, friends, hobbies and interests. Spending time thinking about what a balanced life would look like for you, and spending time nurturing those relationships, and enjoying those interests will help you to be more resilient to stress.
3. Look after your physical health
Looking after your mental health goes hand in hand with looking after your physical health. Exercising, spending time outdoors, eating well, making time for sleep, are all things that help us maintain our energy and protect us from stress.
4. Think positively
Thinking positively isn’t about ignoring the difficult things in your life, but it is about finding joy and gratitude within those difficulties. All of us can get into negative thinking habits; learning to be grateful and seeing the positives helps us to boost our levels of happiness and protects us from workplace stress.
5. Increase your self awareness
We are all different. We all have different stress triggers and we all respond to stress differently. Understanding yourself, your values (the things that are important to you), the things that trigger your stress, and what the physical, emotional and behavioural signs of stress are for you, will help you to spot the signs of stress early, and do something about it.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Do something every day that helps you to protect yourself from workplace stress.
We here at WorkGuru love our academic research – we think it is really important that that our on-line resilience programme is not only based on years of our experience about what works to reduce individual stress and build workplace resilience but also reflects what academic research tells us works.
This is why we are hugely excited by a recently published guide on employee engagement for HR professionals. NHS Employers have launched a guide which draws on a synthesis of the academic research underpinning employee engagement and concludes that there is strong evidence linking what they call ‘positive psychological states’ and staff engagement – positive psychological states include things such as resilience and self-efficacy.
Resilient staff with high self- efficacy (the extent to which we believe in our own ability to complete tasks and reach goals) are more engaged staff, and there is of course lots of evidence for why having engaged staff is important for the success of your business.
The authors suggest that one way that HR professionals can raise engagement levels within their organisation is through offering resilience and mindfulness training. They write: “some relatively simple techniques, based on the principle of ‘positive psychology’, can help boost employees’ resilience, coping mechanisms, and awareness of self and others”.
All music to our ears. Yet more evidence that as well as the myriad of personal reasons why we should all be increasing our emotional resilience, there are also a myriad of organizational reasons why employers should be investing in resilience programmes for their staff – and of course our preference would be for investment in evidence-based, engaging programmes that are delivered on-line with individual direct messaging support from coaches, with the added bonus of on-line groups. Now where do we know an organization that offers all that? 😉
1. Do you regularly use a mobile phone and spend considerable time on it?
2. Do you have one or more devices and always carry a charger?
3. Do you feel anxious or nervous at the thought of losing your handset or when you can’t use your phone because it has been misplaced, doesn’t have coverage, has a flattened battery or lack of credit?
4. Do you avoid as much as possible places and situations in which you cannot use your mobile phone?
5. Do you constantly look at your phone’s screen to see whether messages or calls have been received?
6. Do you keep your mobile phone switched on 24 hours a day, and sleep with it next to you?
7. Do you prefer to communicate using technology rather than face-to-face?
8. Do you incur debt or great expense from using your mobile phone?
I defy most of us to not answer positively to many of those questions, suggesting that we are suffering from nomophobia.
Nomophobia (named by conflating ‘no mobile’ and ‘phobia’) describes discomfort, anxiety, nervousness or anguish caused by being out of contact with a mobile phone or computer – it is the fear of remaining out of touch with technology.
According to a 2008 survey by the post office more than 13 million British people are suffering from it, which is about 53% of mobile phone users.
Academics are making the argument for the inclusion of nomophobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is currently in its fifth version and is the standard classification of mental disorders in the United States and influential around the world.
But does this really describe a new psychiatric disorder, or does it describe for many of us the reality of living and working in a modern world?
The Helsinki Institute for Information technology has found that, on average, people check their phones 34 times a day. ‘Over dependence’ on our phones and/or other technology doesn’t necessarily describe a new medical condition it could just be a sign that much of our work and social lives are now conducted on our mobile phones.
Yes for some people this anxiety will be very real and disabling, and it’s absolutely essential for them to be seeking professional psychological help to help them manage that anxiety. But for most of us we just need to practice prudence and common sense.
• Keep your work mobile phone and your personal mobile phone separate. That way you can turn off your work mobile phone at night or when you are on holiday.
• Even if you use your mobile phone as an alarm clock, most handsets will allow you to turn off the ring tone but still use it as an alarm clock.
• Very few of us have jobs where we have to be instantly contactable. Let your phone go to voice mail and respond to the call at a more convenient time.
• Turning off your phone means turning it off – not putting it on vibrate. The constant vibration of your phone is just as annoying as the ringing.
• Before sending that text message or making that call, stop and think – do you really need to communicate that message now? Is it essential that your partner knows what you had for lunch, or that your office knows that you are delayed by 5 minutes or that you are ‘just coming into the station’ – or can that news wait until you see them face-to-face?
If you want to cut back on your mobile phone use, then lead by example – cut back on your communication and other people will follow your example. Manage your technology, don’t let it manage you.
For more information:
Bragazzi, N.L., Del Puente, G., (2014) A Proposal for Including Nomophobia in the new DSM. Psychol Res Behav Manag 7 155-160
Email is one of the technological innovations that has transformed the way that we work. But as with most technology, it can only ever be as useful as we allow it to be. It’s a bit like dog training. Most trainers will tell you that it isn’t the dog that needs training; it is their owner. So this is our attempt to train you to master your emails:
1. Don’t Prevaricate
Don’t allow your emails to become another form of prevarication or distraction. A day spent answering emails is not necessarily a productive day. Limit the amount of time you check your emails, and turn off any visual or audio notification systems. Your emails are there for you to check when you have time to focus on them – they should not be a siren call distracting you from your work.
2. Lead By Example
If you want to limit the number of emails that you are receiving then you need to lead by example, and try and encourage your organisation to develop an email protocol. Be clear and short in your communication. Don’t CC everyone in unless they really need to be copied in. Be clear about why you are sending the email and what response you are looking for. If possible give people a reasonable timeframe to respond in. Give yourself a reminder to check that they have responded.
3. Talk To People
Don’t email someone sat at the next desk or in a neighbouring office when you could just pop your head around the door and ask them a question. Face-to-face contact is good! Some organisations have a regular day when emails are discouraged and people are encouraged to speak to each other instead.
4. Pick Up The Phone
If it is urgent, pick up the phone. Don’t presume that people are going to be seeing your email and responding to it immediately.
5. Don’t Send Emails At Night
Ok, so you are working at 10 o’clock at night – but do you really have to let everyone else know that by sending out emails at that time? Night-time emails do not make you look dedicated and hard working – they make you look disorganised and unprofessional (unless you are working across time zones). Write the emails at this time if you have to – but save in your draft box and send them out during office hours. This is particularly important if you are sending emails to staff you are managing. Don’t encourage a culture of out of hour’s emails.
6. Don’t Send In Haste
Never send an email in haste. If you have any doubt about an email, save it in draft and give yourself 24 hours to think about it. Once that email has been sent there is no getting it back.
7. By Professional
Always presume that your email will be forwarded on to other people. Write your emails in a professional and considered way. Never gossip, or say anything in an email that you wouldn’t stand up in front of a group of your colleagues, clients or customers and say.
8. Don’t Clog Up Inboxes
Try not to send large attachments with your email it just clogs up people’s inboxes. Look at ways of storing the emails in a shared file and sending the link. This is particularly useful if you are asking people to comment on the document – by using a shared file everyone can comment on the same document and you don’t have the nightmare task of version control.
9. Separate Work and Personal Email Accounts
Separate out your work and personal emails. Have different accounts for both. Don’t use your work email address for making personal purchases or signing up to on-line groups and websites. It looks unprofessional. Combining the 2 email accounts also makes it impossible to monitor your personal emails whilst on holiday or at the weekends, without having to check you work emails.
10. Learn To File
Learn how to file your emails and search for them. Use the subject box to give an accurate description of the content. If the focus changes during a long stream of emails then change the subject box.
All common sense stuff, but all stuff that we can forget as we try to cope with the avalanche of emails that come our way. Instead of bemoaning the number of emails you receive, lead by example and show other people how they can send professional, effective, targeted emails that don’t just litter up other people’s inboxes.