Fika. What is it and why should we make time for it? We take a look at the Swedish tradition of Fika and how creating a daily ritual of Fika can help you to develop resilience, reduce stress and increase your wellbeing.
Using words to increase wellbeing? Writing for wellbeing as a method of reducing workplace stress? We bring you the lowdown. The latest estimates from the HSE Labour Force Survey shows the total number of work related stress, depression and anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases with a staggering 224,000 new cases. The cause cited? Workload, tight deadlines and poor management. An increasingly stressful corporate environment means that employees are feeling stretched across all sectors. But where do words fit in this corporate conundrum and how can you use them in your anti-stress arsenal?
A growing body of research has demonstrated the power of words upon wellbeing. Yes, writing is fun but is also has a meditative effect upon our stressed minds. Let’s take a look at the science:
Writing has been linked to a whole host of health benefits;
“Expressive writing influences attention and habituation to stressful stimuli and to negative emotions and … it may influence restructuring of cognitions related to stressors and stress responses.” (Lepore et al, 2002, p.114)
An analysis of preliminary findings linking expressive writing and reductions in blood pressure (Davidson et al, 2002)
A recent meta-analysis showed that “experimental disclosure is effective, with a positive and significant” effect (Frattaroli 2006, p. 823)
Reduction in resting blood pressure levels (Crow 2000)
Psychological effects, such as lowering of depressive symptoms, rumination
and general anxiety (Lepore 1997)
But what does this mean for workplace wellbeing? Here’s what the evidence
suggests so far. Workplace writing for wellbeing sessions;
▪ Reduce levels of stress
▪ Staff recover more successfully from traumatic events
▪ Result in fewer days lost to sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism
▪ Improve working memory
▪ Increase flow
▪ Strengthen immune system
▪ Improve creativity and innovation
▪ Increase wellbeing
▪ Build stress management capacity
▪ Improve confidence
▪ Increase mindfulness
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year so it’s likely that there’s someone in your team, department or organisation who is experiencing a mental health issue right now. That figure is compounded by a recent Shaw Trust survey which found that 72% of workplaces had no formal mental wellbeing policy. In addition to this, 23% of managers were unable to name a single mental health condition.
So what can you do right now to introduce writing for wellbeing into your day?
Keep a journal. Make time each day to journal about whatever is important to you. Commit to 10 minutes and go wherever the muse takes you. There’s increasing research to suggest that journalling provides improved leadership insight resulting in greater clarity of thinking and better decision making.
Connect to your authentic self:
Brene Brown describes authenticity as
“The daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Set time aside to ‘check in’ with how you are feeling. Are you able to sum it up in one word? Good.
Now take five minutes and without censoring yourself, expand upon that word. Don’t worry about style, spelling or grammar. Let go of your inner critic and just go for it. Unleash your creativity.
Take a look at what you’ve written. What does it tell you about how you really feel? Writing for ourselves in this way can tell us a lot about who we are. Perhaps something you’ve written resonates or provides an insight into some aspect of your day, your life, or a project you are working on.
Turn down the volume on the constant chatter, press pause on workplace pressures and tune in to your authentic self. This exercise will help to ground you creating a mindful space for you to reflect before you continue with your day.
For more information or to talk to us about our Workplace Writing For Wellbeing training courses contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
AI? Technology? We love it! But, on 1st January French law introduced the ‘right to disconnect’ for employees. A result of negotiations by French union SYNTEC in 2014 the new law means that French companies must negotiate with staff regarding the use of devices outside of working hours.
Open all hours
The Act aims to address the impact of technology, of being constantly connected (and available) on the agenda for HR and L and D professionals. We know from an ever expanding body of research that being connected 24 hours a day has an enormously negative impact on wellbeing. And yet we still do it.
If you are able to answer ‘Yes’ to the following questions you’re probably working in a culture that would benefit from disconnecting;
What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?
The Beginnings Of Burnout
It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.
Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;
What’s Your Type?
- Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, the research suggests this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire.
- Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout.
- Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress.
What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?
Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.
- Mismatch in workload
- Mismatch in control
- Lack of appropriate rewards
- Loss of sense of positive connection with others
- Perceived lack of fairness
- Conflict with values
If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?
If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;
- Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
- Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
- Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy to carry out their role?
- Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?
If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;
- Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
- Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
- Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
- Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.
Compassion and work, strange bedfellows or not?
At first glance they might seem strange bedfellows; compassion and work? Surely not? Whereas compassion may not appear to be a priority in the work place there is increasing evidence that when it’s present, employees flourish and organisations thrive.
So what is compassion at work?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes Compassion as “not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering”. Wharton Management Professor, Sigal Barsade describes compassion as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.” Barsade talks about the importance of an emotional culture, stating that this is equally as important as cognitive organisational culture, stating compassionate employees “are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”
Put simply, compassion at work is empathy with action. The ability to notice the suffering of colleagues, whether it be a stressful day, a difficult conversation with peers or a problem at home – and then the ability to act upon that noticing.
Why is compassion at work important?
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the happier we are at work the more productive we are. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests that happier staff are more engaged, creative, productive and motivated. Successful leaders recognise that happy employees mean increased productivity and ultimately increased profit. It’s not just about the bottom line, nobody wants to be miserable in the place where they spend the majority of their waking hours.
It’s not just about the feel good factor and being civil to each other in workplace. In a 16 month longitudinal study “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” set in a health care facility, Barside and Olivia O’Neil researched the impact of compassion upon the emotional behavioural outcomes of employees. They found that compassion reduced levels of exhaustion and burnout. The researchers also saw a decrease in absenteeism with a corresponding increased levels of employee engagement. Increasingly research in the field of compassion at work is beginning t show that there are tangible results when we develop compassionate individuals, leaders and cultures;
• When we’re on the receiving end of compassionate leadership at work we’re more likely to be committed to our organisation and to talk about it in positive terms (Lilius et al. 2008)
When we experience compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them (Frost et al. 2000).
Managers who believe that their organisation is concerned about their well-being are more likely to show supportive behaviour towards their team members (Eisenberger, 2006).
• Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and care giving to others (Goetz et al. 2010). As Bayside found, this is important in healthcare organisations. Working in a compassionate organisation reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers (Figley 1995). This also provides them with essential emotional resources that they need to care for their clients (Lilius et al. 2011).
• Compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and organisations. Studies show that employees who believe that their leaders care about their well-being are happier with their jobs and more commitment (Lilius et al. 2011). When we experience compassion ate work we are also less likely to leave the organisation, reducing employee turnover.
• Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when we experience positive emotions our heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Our psychological distress also decreases. Compassionate leadership has the potential to improve employee wellbeing.
How can you develop compassion at work?
Consider the way that you interact with others in the workplace. Think about;
- Say ‘Good Morning’ to colleagues, acknowledge their presence and let them know you care.
- Actively look for ways to help colleagues, direct reports and clients.
- If you’re making a coffee, offer to make one for a colleague.
- Notice how others are feeling, bring mindfulness to your interactions and if someone appears to need help, reach out to them.
- Practice mindfulness. Professor Paul Gilbert one of the world’s leading experts in compassion says that mindfulness can be used to develop an attitude of compassion at work.
- Here’s a Mindful practice from Compassion Life by HH The Dalai Lama to help you o your way:
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to pause and relax bringing your focus to your breath. Gently settle into a relaxing breathing rhythm.
Bring to mind a person or situation where you got angry, impatient, frustrated or seriously annoyed. Get a clear picture of the people in this situation and what they were doing that really bothered you…..
Now think of each person when they aren’t at work. Connect with them as another human being.
Picture them as a fellow human being with a family, pets, children, brothers and sisters… just like you
Think of them working to support their family and wanting to live happily…. just like you
Imagine them working as best they know how to work ….. just like you
Think of them having life challenges, fears, worries, insecurities….. just like you
Picture them trying to do their best with what they know to do…. just like you
Know they desire happiness and want to be free from suffering… just like you
Breathe deeply as you picture them with their family or neighbors enjoying life and being happy. Feel the wave of compassion in your body as you connect with your desire for their happiness.
We love to talk about all things compassion at work related at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke compassion at work training for your organisation.