wellbeing

Resilience And Flexible Thinking: The Role Of Mindfulness

Research over the past few years has found that mindfulness can bring a myriad of benefits, promising better sleep, reduced anxiety and increased focus, among many other things. In this article, we will focus on how it can help to develop one key area of resilience: flexible thinking.

In our 5 Pillars of Resilience model, the Flexible Thinking pillar encompasses our ability to see things from different perspectives, approaching tasks with an open, clear mind and not making snap judgements or assumptions.

So why is mindfulness relevant in the context of flexible thinking?

Integrating mindfulness into your working day allows you to maintain a sense of moment-to-moment awareness, better equipping you to remain level-headed and adaptable. It is especially beneficial when going through challenging situations or times of change, helping you to put things into perspective and not get caught up in worry, therefore feeling more in control. It supports you to remain grounded and see things more clearly, enabling you to respond in the most effective way possible and make rational decisions.

If you’re looking to improve this aspect of your resilience, here are eight easy ways to embed mindfulness into your working day:

  1. Before you start work or during a break, try a simple mindfulness meditation or breathing exercise.
  2. Look away from your laptop regularly, ideally outside (also great relief for your eyes).
  3. If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, get up and move. Pay attention to how it feels to move your body.
  4. If you are able to, get outside at lunchtime. Look around you and take in your surroundings, rather than at your phone.
  5. Give eating your undivided attention – whether it’s a healthy lunch or a quick snack, resist the temptation to do other things at the same time. Focus only on the experience of whatever you are eating or drinking.
  6. Set reminders for yourself to periodically check in with your senses – what can you see, hear, feel? Can you smell or taste anything?
  7. Bring mindful attention to routine tasks, such as washing your hands or making a cup of tea.
  8. Have a conversation with a colleague and really, truly listen to them.

Mindfulness takes practice, but it is worthwhile to reap the benefits – for both yourself and those around you. If you can integrate some of the above techniques into your day, you should find that you are able to think more clearly and creatively and feel calm, in control and confident in your own judgement.

For information about how you can use Wraw to identify your resilience development needs, get in touch with us by emailing team@wrawindex.com or call +44 (0)800 085 6899.

One Size Does Not Fit All

In an age of information overload, it can be difficult to know what advice to take onboard when it comes to personal wellbeing. How do you sift out the helpful from the well-meaning yet misinformed? Furthermore, is it really fair to assume that all advice is applicable to everyone? After all, we are all individuals and can be incredibly different from one another—physically, mentally and emotionally. As such, guidelines for healthy living often suggest an optimal range to aim for (7-9 hours of sleep per night, for example). So how do you identify what’s best for you, when it might not be the same as what works for friends or colleagues?

To a certain extent, a bit of trial and error is likely to be necessary. You may have an idea of what feels right but, until you try it, you simply can’t know for sure. What this therefore requires is a careful balance between being committed to whatever habit you are trying to form—whether this is a physical behaviour or a way of thinking—and having the self-awareness to recognise when it isn’t working out. This process of inward reflection, of checking in with yourself, is crucial in order to assess how well something is serving you. As a result, you may decide to stick with the new habit, to adapt it to suit you better or to try a completely different approach.

The following are just some examples of areas to which this may apply:

  • Sleep patterns: your ideal sleep/wake up times, how many hours you need per night
  • Nutrition: the best mealtimes for you, how frequently you need to snack during the day
  • Physical activity: the types of exercise that feel right for your body (and that you enjoy doing!)
  • Your working schedule: how frequently you need breaks from work in order to keep focused, your ideal working pattern (if you have a choice)
  • What helps you to unwind: for example mindfulness meditation, reading, a walk in nature…
  • Drive and motivation: what gets you motivated, what your values are and what brings you a sense of purpose
  • Relationships: how often you need to socialise (this will likely vary a lot depending on how introverted/extraverted you are)

Whilst these tend to be very personal, many relate to working life—after all, we spend a great portion of our time at work. It is therefore important that employers and managers consider the varying needs of the individuals in their companies/teams and offer support accordingly, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach to working practices and initiatives.

And as individuals, how do we know where to start? If you are thinking about making changes in any of the areas listed above—or any others—it’s advisable not to tackle everything at once. Picking one or two areas to focus on at a time is likely to be far more sustainable. First taking stock of your current levels of wellbeing with a psychometric assessment can provide you with some much-needed direction, highlighting areas with the most room for development. Once you know your focus, you can choose some advice that resonates with you, and give it a try.

For information about how you can use Wraw to identify your wellbeing and resilience needs, get in touch with us by emailing team@wrawindex.com or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.

 

Further reading:

The impact of imposing a schedule that goes against your natural rhythms.

A longer read on differing nutritional needs and the links to mental wellbeing.

The Importance Of Boundaries

This month, we’re focusing specifically on the Energy pillar of our 5 Pillars of Resilience model that underpins our Wraw psychometric assessment. This key area reminds us of the importance of rest, relaxation and restoration if we want to feel and perform at our best. This sets us up to feel physically and mentally energised throughout the day, and to therefore have the energy be able to keep going during challenging times.

Some of the more obvious elements of this pillar include things like getting sufficient exercise and sleep and maintaining a healthy diet. But another crucial part of keeping our energy levels up lies in setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries – knowing our limits and when to say ‘no’.

In this context, we are talking largely about mental or perhaps even emotional boundaries – your own internal rules that guide how much work you take on, when you are willing to do that work and within what timeframe. With UK professionals currently working large amounts of unpaid overtime in their jobs – an average of 7.5 unpaid hours per person per week – the need for stronger boundaries is clear.

It’s a particularly important area to think about for women, according to the findings from Cigna’s most recent 360 Well-Being Survey. It found that women are hit hardest by the ‘always on’ culture of so many workplaces, with almost two-thirds of female employees reporting working in this type of culture and experiencing the associated pressures. This increases work stress, which itself was found to have a greater negative impact on women than men, causing more trouble with sleeping and eating well. But it’s certainly not just women – work stress is leading increasing numbers of people to struggle with their mental health. Overall, 12% of people surveyed reported being so stressed that they feel it is unmanageable.

Reflect on your boundaries:

The following ideas should help to evaluate whether you might benefit from setting or solidifying some boundaries around your own working practices.

  • Be aware of appearing to always be available – for example, being online in the evenings and at weekends (or whatever other times you aren’t supposed to be working). This goes for holiday time too – take the time to disconnect. The more you seem to be available outside of your working hours, the more others will come to expect it, and so the pressure builds. This might be more challenging if you are required to work with people in different time zones, but aim to still set some limits around your availability. Also, discuss and clarify expectations with your team members and manager about when you will and won’t be available.
  • Set up clear and helpful ‘out of office’ emails. During any time off, be diligent about setting up an automatic response for anyone who tries to contact you. If you are trying to switch off and disconnect from work, don’t promise that you’ll have ‘occasional access’ to emails – be clear that you won’t be available until a certain date, and point people clearly in the relevant directions for any urgent needs in the meantime.
  • Make use of your email signature – if you don’t work typical office hours, or work part-time, including your working hours in your signature can go a long way when it comes to managing people’s expectations. This can also apply to your voicemail message too, if you have a work phone.
  • Make a point of getting away from your desk to have lunch – ideally, a healthy, nutritious lunch somewhere where your desk is out of sight and you are unlikely to be disturbed by people with work requests.
  • Accept that work plans change, and your schedule can (usually) change with these. There are always going to be days when you don’t get absolutely everything done that you set out to do – in fact, probably most days – so avoid being tempted to regularly work late to compensate. Embrace a little flexibility and shift things around where you can. That said, these kinds of hectic days can be minimised by setting more realistic goals and plans for yourself in the first place. Factor in time for the unexpected so that you aren’t constantly playing catch-up.
  • If your workload and timelines are consistently unrealistic, speak up about it. Nothing will change if no one raises the issue. Along a similar line – learn to say no, if this is something that you struggle with. Being able to turn down work or object to plans politely yet assertively is key in order to keep in control of your workload.

In most workplaces, the chances are that not all of the above suggestions will be feasible. Some will be easier than others, so use this as a reflective exercise and apply what you can from it. Even making a couple of basic changes can influence your energy levels and wellbeing for the better.

 

For information about how you can use Wraw and the 5 Pillars of Resilience, get in touch with us by emailing or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.

 

Further reading:

Some simple but effective relaxation tips

Help if stress is affecting your sleep

A helpful HSE factsheet on work-related stress

Tackling Work-Related Stress: Where to Start?

It’s widely known that stress is harmful to both our mental and physical health (at least in the levels commonly experienced in modern-day workplaces), yet figures continue to show increases in work stress over the past few years. Last year, 37% of organisations reported an increase in stress-related absence over the previous 12 months (CIPD 2018 Health & Wellbeing at Work report).

Assessing stress levels and responding appropriately is not just a legal requirement for organisations – there are countless studies highlighting its far-reaching impact on absence, retention, productivity and more. Take, for example, the HSE report revealing that over 15 million days were lost to work-related stress in the UK during the year 2017-18. Or the findings that 66% of workers lose sleep over work stress, and for 16% this leads to quitting a job.

Knowing where to start in tackling work stress can be a challenge, whether for yourself or for those you employ. Sometimes, causes may be obvious – the CIPD reported the primary causes of work-related stress to be unmanageable workloads and management style. But when things aren’t so clear, or when it seems unfeasible to alter these things, it can help to consider five key areas to identify what needs to change.

Energy. Perhaps the simplest area to change at an individual level. Think regular exercise (endorphins!), healthy diet, sleep, taking breaks and maintaining boundaries. Exercise may not always sound appealing — after all, stress drains our energy — but it’s worth it.

 

Future Focus. When we’re feeling stretched, it can be challenging to think ahead, past whatever immediate pressure we’re dealing with.  But looking beyond it can put it in perspective: Thinking about where you want to get to, or your purpose, is the root cause of your stress helping or hindering you? Is it even worth your concern?

 

Inner Drive. Maintaining self-belief during difficult times is crucial for keeping up motivation and the ability to persevere. Unfortunately, stress can eat away at this, dwindling our inner resources and filling us with self-doubt. Remind yourself that the negative voices are just that—voices—and do not reflect your true ability to handle things.

 

Flexible Thinking. Having a positive and open mindset means we are less likely to interpret circumstances as stressful. Once stress has taken hold, though, it can cause us to close off and enter self-preservation mode, leaving us less willing to take risks and embrace new ideas. Whenever possible, try to take a step back and find a way to reframe a potentially stressful situation—what is really going on, and is it so bad?

 

Strong Relationships. Having support to turn to in times of stress can make a world of difference. But stress itself can cause us to turn inwards, shutting off from others and the outside world. Having built a supportive, trusting network of relationships then becomes all the more important, as these people can notice when we are struggling and help to bring us out the other side.

 

These five areas can tackle stress from two directions. Not only do they reduce the impact of existing stress but, perhaps more importantly in the long-run, they bolster against feeling stressed in the first place. Each area also has a cyclical relationship with stress: strengthening it equips individuals to be more resilient to stress, which in turn strengthens it further, and so on. So once you start attending to these areas, you are really setting yourself up for success – and it should only get easier.

For information about how you can use Wraw to help handle work-related stress, get in touch with us by emailing team@wrawindex.com or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.

Further reading:

Tips for learning to set boundaries and say ‘no’.

5 things to do when you feel overwhelmed by your workload

Embracing Change

Change has become the new constant, as our use of technology accelerates and the political and economic landscapes continue to shift. At the same time, change is often feared, especially when it is imposed upon us unexpectedly. People can often feel out of control and inconvenienced, tending to view the situation in a negative light.

But what is often overlooked are the opportunities that come along with periods of change. Emily Jarrett explores how we can seek to embrace these opportunities.

 

EMBRACING CHANGE

When we embrace change, we’re talking about personal opportunities. From an organisational point of view, large-scale opportunities are likely to be the reason for going through the change in the first place. So when such a change is inevitable, why not seize the opportunity for self-development?

Time To Reflect

An upcoming change can be the ideal time to reflect – to take stock of which aspects of your working life are effective and what could be improved. Take a step back, look at your working practices and ask yourself questions such as:

Am I doing everything I can to keep my energy levels up?  Think about the basics that are so often forgotten – exercise, self-care, making time for hobbies, sleep, diet… If you have flexible working options available to you, are you making these work for you as best you can?

 

Am I happy with where I am headed?  Consider whether you feel in control of your personal progress and development. Is it in line with your values, and does it give you a sense of purpose? This could be the ideal time to branch into a related area you’ve been wanting to explore, for example.

 

Do I feel confident in myself and my abilities?  If not, explore why and any steps you might be able to take to change this. This may involve practical plans to improve your skillset, but think also about your frame of mind and how you see yourself – remember to give yourself the credit you deserve.

 

Could I be more open-minded?  Are you perhaps a little stuck in your ways, but have noticed colleagues trying out new approaches and ways of working? Consider whether this might be the right time for you to experiment with something new.

 

Am I satisfied with my support network?  If you feel like your working relationships could do with some attention, consider how you can take more time for your colleagues to strengthen these bonds and the sense of trust between you.

 

Looking at each area in turn, consider whether you have any unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms that you would benefit from adjusting. If a habit is no longer serving you effectively at work (or never did!) then it is worth looking at how you could change it. Brainstorm and experiment with new approaches and techniques and, when you find one that works, seek to ingrain this in your day-to-day life.

Through taking the time to go through this process, you are investing in your mental and physical health and strengthening your personal resilience – so instead of suffering through change, you can willingly and confidently embrace it.

For information about how you can use Wraw to identify your opportunities in times of change, get in touch with us by emailing team@thewellbeingproject.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.

 

Further reading:

A helpful self-affirmation exercise if you are trying to work on your self-confidence.

Improving your relationships at work.

Changing habits.

 

Author – Emily Jarrett

 

Building Resilience In The Face Of Uncertainty

The importance of workplace resilience has gained increasing attention and recognition over the past few years, and with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts of Brexit, this is perhaps more relevant than ever.

For many people, these are times of much uncertainty, with concerns over job security, possible relocation of organisation headquarters or the right to work in the country. It is not just a case of preparing for change; organisations are not even clear what exactly the change will entail – and it is crucial not to underestimate the impact of this uncertainty on employees. CIPD’s 2016 People Management survey revealed that staff at over a third of UK organisations expressed concerns about job security. Fast-forward to 2018, and almost half of UK organisations reported increased insecurity amongst their EU employees due to Brexit.

Whilst factors relating to Brexit may feel out of our hands, there are a number of steps organisations can take to help minimise the risk of negative impacts on wellbeing and, in turn, performance. Research has found an overwhelmingly beneficial effect of increasing resilience in such times of job insecurity; a 2016 study, for example, reported increasing resilience to lessen emotional exhaustion, cynicism, counterproductive work behaviours and burnout.

So, if resilience can be such an effective buffer from the negative effects of uncertainty and change, what can employers do about it?

Buffering The Impacts Of Change

The first step is to gain an in-depth understanding of the organisation’s current levels of resilience. At The Wellbeing Project, we draw upon our 5 Pillars of Resilience model to provide a holistic approach to this. Our new psychometric assessment, Wraw, was developed around this model for exactly this purpose, enabling employers to take stock of the levels of resilience and wellbeing within their organisation.

Looking at Brexit in the context of the 5 pillars, one pillar stands out immediately as a likely challenge: Future Focus. At a time when we’re almost second-guessing the future, this may feel out of reach. But our ability to deal with what lies ahead can be increased by setting smaller, more immediate goals. Another step is to strengthen the other pillars – for example, building trust and communication (Strong Relationships) and encouraging positive and adaptive mindsets (Flexible Thinking).

Bolstering the five pillars equips organisations and individuals with the resilience to not only cope in this environment of uncertainty but to thrive, being able to respond effectively to whatever change brings.

For more information about how you can use Wraw and the 5 Pillars of Resilience, get in touch with us by emailing team@thewellbeingproject.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.

Ready, Get Set, Go!

The transition into a new year marks a key point for many teams when we set out how we will approach the year ahead.  Whether it’s starting something completely new or taking on a special project, doing more of something that will add value to our activities, or simply editing out elements that might be creating drag and holding us back, the start of a new calendar year heralds an opportunity to start as we mean to go on.

Central to our Wraw philosophy is our shared commitment to walking the talk of the principles that support the 5 Pillars of Resilience.  Here are some examples of how we’ll be embedding those into our own team through 2019.

ENERGY PILLAR

  • Encouraging regular breaks and flexible working to attend exercise classes, hobbies or interest groups
  • Regular individual and group check-ins to understand work life blend and update project or task priorities
  • Wellbeing allowance for all employees to support individual interests

FUTURE FOCUS

  • Personal development allowance for all employees to support targeted learning and extend individual knowledge and expertise
  • Team involvement in strategy meetings and targets to support insight and knowledge-share
  • Living our vision, values and mission – taking time to connect what we do day-to-day with what we’re aiming for as a team

INNER DRIVE

  • Managing our natural enthusiasm and commitment to get the job done within the team – avoiding a strength turning into a weakness
  • Constructive feedback on performance, highlighting strengths and encouraging open discussion around opportunities to improve
  • Setting standards for best behaviour at all levels within the team – supporting confidence and self-belief

FLEXIBLE THINKING

  • Creating new opportunities to grow and develop within the team
  • Exploring new ideas, technology and ways of working both internally and with our clients
  • Appreciating and accommodating working arrangements when life changes for the team outside of the office

STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

  • Allowing time for the little things – saying thank you, making time to catch up with one another on life outside of work
  • Treating one another as equals – avoiding hierarchies
  • No blame culture – openness about what hasn’t gone well and learning from the event, committing to improving it

The above represents our commitment to ensuring that 2019 is a successful year for all of us on the team – not just professionally, but personally, too.

We hope they provide you with some inspiration and ideas for how to embed wellbeing in your team in 2019.

Ready, get set, go!

Spotlight – Using Wraw To Support The Coaching Cycle

In this month’s ‘Spotlight’, we’ve been speaking with Sally Leese, one of our Certified Practitioners, about how she uses the Wraw Individual Report to support the coaching cycle.

How have you been using Wraw as an executive coach (e.g. has it opened up new conversations)?

Wraw has enabled me to have some insightful and challenging conversations, working with clients to highlight gaps in their resilience ‘muscles’ and exploring the reasons for and potential consequences of these gaps, both in terms of their personal and professional life.

Often the insights are not unknown, but the presentation of the report and the comparison to a norm group is like holding up a powerful truth mirror.

What I am noticing is that even when, in fact especially when, the Wraw index is towards the low end of the norm group, the conversation is positive and purposeful, in the sense that it is surfacing issues that need to be acknowledged and addressed.

How has it supported the coaching cycle?

The key focus of any coach is to ‘raise awareness and encourage responsibility’ and the Wraw tool and the resulting coaching conversations absolutely do this. Whether it is exploring what the issue is and identifying possible solutions, understanding the barriers and what prevents them from making progress or acknowledging the potential consequences of low levels of resilience. All these discussions can result in goal setting and positive actions to move clients forward.

Have you seen any common themes emerging, e.g. common challenges, patterns?

Each client has their own unique story and as the report is a ‘snapshot’ in time it’s important to understand the context, as it helps to explain what’s going on for them and why.  It’s important they understand that this is not a measure of their absolute ‘skill’ in resilience, it will change over time and be dependent on the challenges they are facing. What I do notice is that the energy pillar is often an area where improvements could be made and this is often known and acknowledged, so the interesting question here is ‘what is the consequence of not doing?’ or ‘what stops you?’ The reasons for this will also be unique to each individual.

What is more revealing and challenging to discuss are less positive results in the areas of Future Focus, Inner Drive and Flexible Thinking. These are often driven by the resilience of our ‘thoughts’ rather than ‘actions’ so sometimes more difficult to address, but often surfacing these challenges in itself is a catalyst for turning things around. As with most personal growth, self-awareness is the starting point for all improvements, as highlighted by a recent comment from a coaching client:

“Thank you again for the Wraw report. It’s been extremely helpful to reflect on and actually just the sort of thing I need to help me get into a more positive mindset and believe in myself”

What positive changes have clients committed to making?

I think the most powerful outcome of coaching conversations using Wraw is that clients focus on supporting themselves, in world where they often put themselves last on their ‘to do’ list, so that is itself is a positive step forward.

Lots of clients acknowledge the need to work on the energy pillar and are reporting the benefits of even just small changes around diet, exercise and sleep. And also recognising the need to establish boundaries [and giving themselves permission to do so]

Another theme emerging is to learn to get better at ‘letting go’ of the things that they can not influence and keeping issues ‘in perspective’ noticing and managing ‘all or nothing’ thinking.

What’s next for you with Wraw?

 As the Wraw tool is so new, I am enjoying exploring the potential with clients and having far-reaching discussions around how Wraw can support healthy high performance. A few ideas include;

  • Working with project teams to strengthen awareness at the start of a major project and contract the right support and behaviours in the team
  • 1 to 1 executive coaching – especially in the early days of a new role to ensure the ‘best self’ is coming to the role.
  • Strengthening the ability of teams/managers to successfully negotiate through organisational change
  • Raising Awareness with line managers of the importance of role modeling resilient behaviours and supporting their teams to develop them too.
  • Including the Wraw assessment in Leadership development and also in Graduate/Apprenticeship development programmes too

I think personal resilience and awareness and accountability for your own wellbeing is such a core skill for every individual to have in their ‘kitbag’. I am excited about the opportunity the Wraw tool provides to facilitate discussions around this critical subject.

What are your own top tips for supporting resilience and wellbeing?

For me, the Energy Pillar is the key to supporting my own resilience and wellbeing. In some respects, it is just about getting the basics right. However, there is a world of difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ with regards to all aspects of the Energy pillar! Time invested in making positive changes has paid dividends, not just in physical and mental energy, but also in supporting growth in the other pillars.

I am also blessed with strong relationships and ensuring that I make quality time to be with my support network, is a key strategy for me. No better therapy!

Sally Leese is Director of Sally Leese Associates and is one of our Certified Wraw Practitioners.

To find out more about gaining Accreditation with us, please see our website or contact: team@wrawindex.com