Tag Archives: Healthy workers

Life at Google Paris- not bad at all!

17 Jun

We don’t all have the same funds as some organisations but the general idea of creating an environment that will garner happier, healthier( maybe the free food could be a problem here) and more energised staff should be the goal of every organisation today.

Why You hate Work

9 Jun

Why you hate work 1This is an interesting  Article from the New york times by By TONY SCHWARTZ and CHRISTINE PORATH on employee Engagement, Purpose, Motivation and the effect that regular Downtime has on creativity.

http://nyti.ms/1nM1EBA

How Happiness at work affects American workers

19 May
Happiness at work.

Happiness at work.

Happy Henry

28 Mar

Happy-Manifesto-front-coverHappiness in the workplace is an essential cog in the growth of all successful and sustainable companies. It creates wellbeing within your staff, increases productivity, lowers absenteeism rates and creates a healthier environment that your staff want to work in and in return your staff feel valued and willing to go that extra mile when needed.

I have with interest followed companies and leaders that are championing the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Companies like Zappos with Tony Hsieh at the helm and Semco with Ricardo Semlers innovative approach to autonomy at work.

Another name that has been leading this field is Henry Stewart. Henry created the aptly titled Happy ltd a company that started in the field of I.T training and now helps companies to create happier workplaces.

Henry understands the importance of job ownership, trust and freedom to make the right choices in the workplace. He had initially worked as a financial officer for the News on Sunday which managed to close after 6 weeks and £6.5m in funding due to the fact that

  • Staff where not trusted
  • Strong blame culture
  • No freedom to execute the job.

Henry went on to create Happy ltd and 21 years after his experience with “The News on Sunday” he had led Happy Ltd to the position of 18th best workplace in the UK.

How Henry did this was down to reverse what he had seen in his previous role and provide his staff with

  • Trust and freedom
  • Communication
  • Challenges
  • Autonomy
  • The desire to want to turn up to work each day rather than to feel they had to.

He outlines how he did this in his book Happy manifesto. Here Henry asks questions that every one who runs an organisation should be asking of themselves and their staff.

  1. What can you do as a manager or colleague to make your people feel good now?
  2. How would your organisation be different if its key focus in management was on making its people happy?
  3. What would be different in your organisation if mistakes were encouraged and welcomed?
  4. Do you encourage your people to play to their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses?

These are just some of the questions that managers and company owners need to ask to grow the company that will serve us, our staff and our customers well. Otherwise we end up as corks bobbing in the ocean screaming “I must have control, I must have control”.

Well the cool thing is that Henry is organizing a Day on the 24th of April where you can get to meet him and some other fantastic speakers on the benefits of creating a happier workplace for you and your employees.If you can not make it a copy of the Happy Manifesto is recommended reading for all who are willing to make the leap to happiness at work.

Lessons for living-Worry wastes your life

22 Aug

Think about this how often have we spent time worrying about some event in the future not turning out how we expected. The answer is probably a lot. We worry when travelling to foreign countries, that an unsuspecting ice cube in our drink or a salad leaf will cause mild dysentery, and we end up in a hospital surrounded by people who can’t speak our language shaking their heads as they analyze your chart. We might even get bitten by some insect we have never seen before and produce a boil the size of Belgium on some inconvenient part of our body. Or end up in the hotel from hell with brown water in the shower and ants living happily under your bed or in your mattress. That is if we make it past the Ryanair desk without emptying the contents of our wallet for forgetting to spell your name correctly on your luggage tags.

These are all incidents that might happen but most likely won’t. Yet we spend an inordinate amount of our time contemplating situations or events that will never happen. All that time sent worrying has done nothing productive bar produce(depending on the worry involved) the stress hormone cortisol into our system which provides us with glucose that helps us when we were hunter gatherers in fight or flight mode  to stay and defend ourselves or run like the clappers if in trouble but unnecessary if you are panicking about the possibility of your holiday being turned into a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary.

Put it this way. I once worked as a plant supervisor for a large food manufacturing company. Our plants were in production from Monday through Friday. Saturday was for cleaning and maintenance. The plant was closed on Sunday and production started up once again at 8am on Monday morning.  Monday morning was sometimes a difficult day. People were just getting back into work mode others were wishing they were still at home and sometimes the  machines might need a few tweaks to get them running as efficiently as they did on Friday. Gremlins seemed to creep in on Sunday.

During that period of my life every Sunday after Breakfast a sense of dread would fill me as I contemplated everything that could go wrong on Monday morning. Consequently every Sunday was a day ruined with worry about what might happen on Monday. Was every Monday a bad day in work with machines breaking down or staff not turning up…No it wasn’t on the contrary we had a lot of very productive fun filled Mondays, but was every single Sunday ruined thinking of what might happen on Monday… the answer is Yes. All those Sundays ruined by contemplating the worst …and the worst never happened.

As humans we do this all the time as Dr Karl Pillimer points out in his study the legacy project ” Yes bad things happen,but you will find the resources in yourself to handle them. Why poison the present moment with continual pointless worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want in life and on a subconscious level that is not good…stop praying for what you don’t want in life.

Some of the elders who participated in the programme had wonderful insights to impart. Remember these are people who had lived large parts of their life and come to the realization that worrying is pointless

Manuel 72: ” You have to be flexible; don’t get locked into one frame of mind over anything, the most important thing is 95% of all things worried about never happen”.

We live in a world filled with advertisements that tell us how we should feel and remedies to sort it out. We are bombarded with the need to secure our homes in the case of fire,burglary,floods. Health insurance works on the premise that someday soon illness is on the way to you don’t be left out on a limb when it happens.Have you insured against losing your job… that’s on the way. Have you got Mortgage protection… Travel insurance for that weekend in Paris… Did you get your pet insured!! because here is the sad news that some day like all living creatures your dog/cat will die. Be prepared!!! It is no wonder we are in a constant state of worry.

Frank 88: ” Don’t give into every ache and pain be thankful for every day that you have on earth and enjoy your family. You can’t change anything by thinking about it. Worrying and concerning yourself is not going to change it one little bit”

Worry does us no good. It is like teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Stop worrying…give it up… and just let your life happen.

What connects us to others

17 Jul

Paul Zac has spent some time researching the effects of Oxytocin on our relationships with our fellow man. Paul is one of the leading pioneers in the field of Neuroeconomics.

Oxytocin to those that are not familiar with it, is sometimes called the “Love hormone”. It is present in Mothers breast milk and helps to create a bond between mother and child. It is also produced during sex between two people leaving the afterglow that is felt after sexual activity between two people who know each other that can last for hours. In short oxytocin connects people with others.

Paul Zak ran experiments were oxytocin levels were tested before and after individuals watched a video of a father and his four year old son who had terminal brain cancer. Oxytocin levels spiked in participants after watching the video. The change in oxytocin predicted their feelings of empathy. It is empathy that makes us connect with other people. It’s empathy that makes us want to help other people.

Oxytocin is also produced in situations where trust is garnered. The Trust game is a good example of this. Pairs of participants communicate together via computer terminals. They have never met before and are not aware of who the other person is. Both person A and person B are aware of the rules of the game. Person A is provided with £10 and is asked to send some of it electronically to person B. The motivation for person A as the rules stipulate is the knowledge that any money sent to person B will triple in value. Whereupon person B will have the option of sending some of it back as a thankyou.  You would think that according to rational behaviour Person B acting selfishly has no reason to give any money back and if person A knows this he would be wise not to send any over in the first place.

Yet in trials 90% of A people send the money over and get this …95% of people send the money back. Analysis of Oxytocin levels in the bloodstream reveals that by sending money to Person B, person A is giving a sign of trust and being on the receiving end of a sign of trust causes our oxytocin levels to increase motivating more generous behaviour in return.

So we know that higher levels of oxytocin in our system create a greater level of trust. We are more likely to open up our wallets and give to others once we feel trusted and our oxytocin levels have risen. We also see it in commercials for products we buy or from companies we buy from. Have you ever wondered why large corporations like Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Tesco’s have happy rinky dink tunes associated with their adverts alongside cute little worlds and animations that they have created. It is all designed to increase your oxytocin levels and build a level of trust between you and their brand.

Oxytocin has other benefits rather than just making the world a more pleasant place by rewarding you if you trust me but also by reducing blood pressure, helping us to relax and also reducing those dangerous cortisol levels we build up once we are stressed. It also promotes growth and healing and has anti anxiety effects. Unfortunately it is corrupted by high levels of testosterone which might equate for the lack of empathy and unselfish love and generosity that is experienced on the stock market floors around the world.

How do we naturally release oxytocin into our system? We know we can nasally inhale oxytocin into our systems  through inhalers which produces feelings of trust, connectedness and love. But what works naturally? Massage, dancing and even praying are all contributors to raised levels of oxytocin all activities that are enjoyable and easy to partake in. My favourite is simply through…… hugging. Yep apparently up to 8 hugs a day is a great contributor to raising feelings of connectedness, empathy, love and generosity all the values that would make this world a more wonderful home.

Who matters most

12 Jul

People matter.

The past few years have been hard.Hard on everyone.Not just financially but also physically and mentally. We all know why financially, but we have also sacrificed our health by not eating the right foods because the fat and sugar filled foods are always cheaper or on special offer and on display the minute we enter a supermarket. Healthy organic food is not always an option due to families financial restrictions.Healthy food makes more sense not only to the people ingesting it but also to the Government health boards fighting health related illness and obesity
We spend more money on car and road safety then we do on mental health. Yet in countries like Ireland the rate of road deaths are half the numbers that die by suicide each year.

We have pitted Private sector workers against Public sector workers. Public sector workers are branded lazy while only 7 years ago public workers complained about the opportunities and bonuses that private sector workers enjoyed while public sector were seen as having sacrificed aspiration and a ride on the gravy train for a commitment to their jobs as Teachers, civil servants and Nurses.
The people of Greece are portrayed as lazy. People who spent a two-week holiday on any of their islands can testify to witnessing an almost laid back enjoyment of life (how dare they)and a healthy life expectancy.
The Irish drank, laughed and spent their way to oblivion. The Spanish and Portuguese spent half the afternoon in bed and the Italians are so corrupt it was bound to happen. All stereotypes that we have half the world conveniently thinking is true. All stereotypes that conveniently tell the rest of the world why working harder and more austerity are the answers.

These are not the answers. Richard Layards Manifesto for Economic sense lays testament to this.
Austerity does not encourage people to spend and contribute to society. Shops and business’s on our high streets have not all closed because they had poor business plans it is because the important cog in their financial wheel the customer is no longer in the wheel. Simple. No one is spending. Austerity also discourages companies to invest in economies because companies only invest in markets they can foresee customers with enough income to spend.
Cuts in our public sector will do nothing to improve our economies. We only cut what seems unnecessary but is ultimately the most valuable.
Imagine cutting 20% off every mortgage in the country. What would that do for a stagnant economy. People are scared to spend or simply can’t participate in everyday activities that they did before because the finances don’t allow. Austerity is a noose around all of our necks.
Today I was presenting to a group of Mental health patients that have had their services cut. One member I will call Jeff came to me before my presentation and spoke of his mental health issues. Something hugely traumatic happened to him at a particular time in his life. Since that moment he has had panic attacks when he enters that reminds him of the trauma he experienced. I asked was he receiving any help for this to help erase the panic attacks. He said that he had received some Cognitive behavioural therapy but this had been stopped due to a cut in resources. He came to me because he had started to self medicate to numb the pain because he didn’t know where else to turn.
Where are we as human beings if we feel that caring for our fellow brothers and sisters is no longer a priority and even though suicide rates in Ireland and particularly Greece have increased over the past 3 years we have more important matters to focus on like stabilizing markets, currencies and propping up financial institutions.

Once again if we all asked ourselves when we walked out our front doors each day “What can I do today to make other people’s lives better”. This question should come from everyone, Government officials, Bankers, Fuel company Ceo’s, right through to the customer service representative that is there to help you get a better result from the service they provide.

Until then…we are asking the wrong questions and ultimately forsaking what really matters…our people.

Why you should let your staff go surfing

21 Dec

We like this approach to management, in fact not enough companies think like this. Yvon Chouinard does and it this approach to business that makes Patagonia a company that people want to work for. The fact that they regularly have 900 applicants for each position within the company is a testament to this. But we at Wake Up! like companies that think differently and are conscious of the environment they inhabit and Patagonia who make climbing gear and outdoor clothing  are one of those companies.

Yvon Chouinard doesn’t have a business degree in fact most of his staff don’t have one either. He prefers to take on people he likes that have an interest in the outdoor life and teach them to be businesspeople rather than the other way around.He likes to break rules and make them work. We like him a lot.

Here are a few of Yvon’s thinkings when it comes to business

  • He employs people who are independent and lets them do what they have to do without any need to supervise.
  • He quite happily sees the benefits of having women in his workplace around 79% of his staff are women. He provides childcare facilities so he can keep his female employees for longer.
  • He tells his customers to buy less. Yes less!! you don’t need a separate pair of shorts for every sporting event. He wants his customers to think with a conscience just as Patagonia do as a company.
  • His staff are friends or Patagoniacs as they are called. He employs people he would like to go to dinner with. “Were surrounded by friends who could dress however they wanted, even barefooted. People ran or surfed at lunch, or played volleyball in the sandpit at the back of the building. The company sponsored ski and climbing trips”
  • He wrote a book called “Let my people go surfing“where he espouses the need to give your staff the freedom to do what they love to do. It makes for a connected and engaged workforce. We love the Patagonia way.
Behind all this is the strength to be able to allow your employees understand that they are trusted to do the right thing.  We spoke about this in the article on X and Y employees. Yvon is definitely a Y employer. If you can trust your staff to complete the tasks they are given then they should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of frisbee when the sun is shining or surfing when the waves are up. The fear is that your staff will take advantage of these opportunities to your detriment. The likelihood whatever you think it is,is probably true. Not only does Yvon trust his employees to do the right thing he also wants to ensure that Patagonia as a company do the right thing.
The Patagonia Mission statement is a testament to this
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm,use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia creates a happy workplace and it is working towards building a business that thinks with a conscience and also creates a happier world.

We can no longer do business without thinking of the consequences on the world we live in and the people who live here. The time to awaken is now.

Will Coffee and Apples make us happy at work?

30 Nov

I have just read an article from last Fridays Guardian  where journalist Graham Snowdon referred to a study on happiness within the workplace. It made the connection between happiness within the workplace and up to date technology a good desk and access to decent coffee.

According to research commissioned by office developers Goodman, the things that keep us most happy and motivated at work are both conceptually simple and reasonably cost-effective: namely, up to date computers, a desk for keeping personal things on, and access to decent coffee.

The simple things are always the best. Access to these items in themselves are a bonus to any office (some might even say a basic requirement) but discovering why our staff are happy requires that we delve a little deeper into why our staff keep turning up each day and being happy to be there.

Yes we do like shiny new computers and the best Italian coffees but If you want your staff to feel happy in the workplace they need to feel

  • That they have a meaningful contribution to the organization that they work for and have a say in the direction that the company is taking.
  • That the job that they have is engaging and they have a sense of fulfilment in their role.
  • That they are appreciated for what they do. We like to be praised for what we do. Not empty praise or praise for the sake of it. We need to really appreciate the people that work for and with us. When was the last time you let them know they mattered.
  • That enjoying coming to work is ok. Having fun in the workplace breaks up the routine and once again brings out a side of us we all love. Once it doesn’t hurt anyone you can be as wacky as you want to be. Try it some time.
  • That they are growing within your organization. We are creative ,inquisitive beings we like to learn. encourage your employees to take up a course in what ever they want to do. It does not have to be in a subject related to what they work at. It could be artistic, creative or based in logics or mathematics.  If it is what they want to do ir will only benefit you and them in the long run.
  • Trusted. I don’t mean security wise, that should be a given. I mean do you trust your staff to make the right decisions. We all make mistakes so be prepared to see some happen. Learn from it and move forward. As I spoke about in a previous blog. Ricardo Semler saw his company Semco grow once he was prepared to delegate responsibility and trust the decisions that his workers make. Go for it.

Access to Italian espresso and Apple computers are great plusses to any workplace. But if you hate where you work and what you do, no amount of coffee and Apple macs will change that.

Happiness at work comes from being engaged, feeling trusted, feeling appreciated,having control over what you do,enjoying turning up to where you work and apparently staplers!!! as Graham Snowdon says

Another interesting titbit from the Goodman survey concerns the vital importance of staplers on office morale. This is apparently particularly true in London, where one in 10 workers complain there are not enough to go around. In Scotland, curiously, there appears to something of a stapler surplus, with one in five saying they have too many of the things. Have the Scots been quietly stealing them all?

Happy days.

A healthy workforce are also a happy workforce.

26 Nov

I spent the summer working with pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme recently. We have provided them with a fitness and nutrition course. It is a chance for the staff to find a level of fitness that they might not have experienced before and in the process lose or add weight. At the end of the day it is not just about fitness it’s more than that.

When we had finished each evenings session the smiling faces where not just a result of the relief that the hour of exercise was over or the fact that I kept reminding everyone that most people were sitting on the couch watching soaps, while we were staring at the sky doing sit ups and thanking life for being so good to us ( you gotta make it fun). It was the feeling that something difficult had been accomplished and more than that, it was the release of feel good hormones(Endorphins) into our bodies that change our mood to a more positive one than we have had before. This is why exercise is so good for us. It is more than the exercise it is the benefits to our mood and well being. Try it some time when your mood is a little low. Partake in twenty or thirty minutes of good exercise, I mean a vigorous walk,run, workout or a team game. Pause afterwards to gauge the way you feel. You will see a difference!!.

Exercise is great but it is important that you inject some fun into it, even when you set goals. One of the goals we set was to run a 5km  by the end of the programme. There is a 5kmrun called Runamuck(which speaks for itself)  which is basically a very long assault course with over 1,000 participants. Lots of mud, music, people in fancy dress and tons of fun. These are goals we like. If you don’t like cycling then don’t cycle. If you don’t like jogging alone then find a team sport. Just make that exercise fun.

Merck are doing the right thing by their staff by promoting a healthy active lifestyle but they are also contributing to their positive mental health without setting out to do this. More companies should do this. We at Wake Up! have put together programmes that can make your staff feel better about themselves not just physically but also mentally. A happy workforce is not only productive but also more creative, less prone to take sick leave,and more likely to stay committed to your organization, resulting in lower staff turnover levels. Not a bad result!!.

If you are an employer, think what have you done lately that has made your employees feel happier and better about themselves. Think of how your employees would feel if they understood that you cared about how they felt. The activity can be small but the results will be much bigger than you expected.

%d bloggers like this: