Work-Life Balance – moving towards a more integrated approach.

Maintaining a work-life balance has grown to mean maintaining a strict separation between your work life and the rest of your life. As technology has developed we bemoan the blurring of that separation seeing it as both the cause and a symptom of stress.

Some of us do jobs where the distinction is an absolute. We work in jobs where we have to be in a certain place during our working hours. We don’t have flexibility or autonomy. But many of us do. We work flexi-time, or part of our time from home, we are in creative roles, we work for ourselves or we are lucky enough to work for an organisation that focuses on our achievements and not the hours we are sat at a desk.

Continue reading Work-Life Balance – moving towards a more integrated approach.

Five Top Tips For Protecting Yourself From Workplace Stress

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

balloonLearning 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

jugglerResilient 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

yogaLooking 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 

okThinking 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

lookinmirrorWe 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.

Unaffordable Britain

There was an article in The Guardian this week about young Brits leaving London for more affordable Berlin. The reason people gave for leaving London were high rents and long working hours:

“I was working seven days a week and paying £800 for a shared flat in Lewisham. We kept moving further and further into south-east London, until I felt the need to leave entirely.” (Dani Berg)

Consumer prices are 30% less, and rental costs are 70% lower in Berlin. The downside of this of course is that rents are now being driven up much to the resentment of Berliners.

The idea that the UK has become unaffordable has really struck a cord with me. I live in the expensive South of England (my husband has his business here) – we are back in a rented property struggling to find a house that we can afford or that we want to live in. We both run our own businesses and work hard (“hardworking people” is a phrase I have grown to dislike since its cross party adoption). I have a number of friends who in recent years have fallen off the property ladder and now acknowledge that they are unlikely to ever get back on. I have come to realise how precarious our financial lives are; and they shouldn’t be.

Work is important, I know that it is good for our physical and mental health but it is not the be-all and end-all of our lives. Having time for family and friends, for relaxation, for cultivating other interests, for exercise, for academic pursuits – are all things that we know are protective factors for keeping us physically and mentally strong – and for giving us a more fulfilling life. But life has become so expensive that for many of us we can not afford to do anything other than work extensive hours or pursue uncomfortable promotion in order to afford the mortgage of a property we don’t get to enjoy because we are working so hard.

I don’t know the answers; I know it is going to get worse for younger generations as property prices become more and more unaffordable. First time buyers are now spending 30% to 40% more on their first homes than they would have done in 1969. I feel caught between my parents’ generation who have benefited from the increase in property prices and my son’s generation for whom home ownership isn’t even a tangible dream. Something has to change, or the impact on our health of the mortgage treadmill will become even more devastating.

Are You Addicted To Your Work?

addicted to work

 

Do you just love your job, or are you a workaholic?

Researchers from the University of Bergen have identified seven criteria to measure work addiction. If you reply ‘often’ or ‘always’ to at least four of these criteria, then there is some indication that you may be a workaholic:
1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
6. You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of work.
7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

There is a very strong element of compulsiveness, rigidity and excessiveness in the behaviour of workaholics. This isn’t just about enjoying your work and/or working long hours, or making sacrifices as you build your career or business. This is about compulsive behaviour that damages your relationships and your health. The same core symptoms your see in workaholism you see in drug addiction such as working to escape something, withdrawal symptoms, negative impact on other areas of your life, and problems with relapse.

Workaholism isn’t as yet a formal diagnosis so we don’t have a developed set of treatments to offer people, but the need is certainly there. Studies suggest the prevalence rate for workaholism is somewhere between 5% and 10%.

If, looking at this list, you can see that work is actively damaging you health and your relationships – then it really is time to do something about it. Visit your GP to ask about talking therapies, speak to a mental health professional or visit our website to see how we can help.

 

Reference
Cecilie Schou Andreassen et al (2014) The Prevalence of Workaholism: A Survey Study in a Nationally Representative Sample of Norweigan Employees. PLoS ONE, 9(8)

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Living a life that reflects your personal values can act as a buffer against psychological and physical stress; but often in life we become detached from our values, we forget the things that are really important to us, the things that give our life meaning.

Nothing focuses your mind on the things that are most important, than knowing your time is running out. Bronnie Ware, a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives, recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, her writing has now been put into a book the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying as witnessed by Ware and taken from an article written by Susie Steiner for The Guardian.

1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it”.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Each one of these regrets resonates with me. it is as if a precious pearl of wisdom has been handed down to us, words so wise we would be fools to ignore them.

Imagine yourself facing your final days; what regrets might you have and what can you be doing now to change those regrets before it is too late?