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Boosting Energy Levels in the Post-Pandemic World

Your team’s energy levels have a significant impact on productivity, and after 16 months of lockdowns and remote working, energy levels are at an all-time low.

Now, as summer heat rages on and your people get ready for holidays abroad, schools being closed, and time off work, you may have noticed an even greater lull in their enthusiasm and energy.

The HBR article ‘The Pandemic is Widening the Productivity Gap’ suggests that energy was the hardest-hit productivity indicator during the pandemic, having rippling effects on engagement and employee retention. Maintaining high energy levels is essential for productivity and ensuring you get the best out of your team. You need to read your team’s energy levels, listen to them, and take actionable steps to bring everyone back up to scratch. 

This can have a tremendous impact on their mental health, engagement, resilience, and overall joy about their work. 

Here are 5 ways you can reinvigorate your team and boost energy levels:


1. Encourage rest and recovery

Many have worked non-stop for the last 16 months, rarely taking sick days or even holidays due to remote working. Remind your staff that just because they are working from home, it doesn’t mean that they cannot take time off or be ill. Many are feeling a constant pressure to work, and it has left many of us beyond burnt out. 


2. Be compassionate 

Everyone has had a challenging year, and grief surrounds so many things. Grieving over lost loved ones, lost special memories and occasions, or even just the lives we had before the pandemic. As a leader, you are surely grieving personally as well. Be sure that you are empathetic, compassionate and understanding of how your team feels and provide a safe space for them to express their feelings. It’s vital that everyone feels comfortable saying when they just aren’t coping well. Communication is crucial, and how you communicate as a leader can have a considerable impact on employee energy levels.


3. Reward and encourage employees 

According to The Achiever Workforce Institute and a recent study, 35% of employees said that more significant appreciation of their work would help them feel more supported during COVID-19. This directly impacts engagement and, subsequently, productivity. We know times are tough for many businesses but ensure that you are letting your employees know that they are valued and their contributions matter.


4. Provide resources and opportunities for staff to take care of their physical wellbeing

Your physical wellbeing directly impacts energy levels. So providing resources and time to allow your team to take care of their wellbeing can help prevent burnout and keep them motivated. Giving them space and time in their otherwise hectic lives to restore work-life balance and take care of themselves. Physical wellbeing has a direct impact on mental well-being, and a mentally resilient workforce is essential for productivity, 


5. Invest more in people 

Time is finite, energy is not, having your staff work long, gruelling hours does not benefit your company or your team. On the contrary, it leads to disengaged and burnt-out employees, as they invest considerable quantities of time instead of effectively and efficiently directing that time. By investing in upskilling, training, and supporting your team, you ensure that they are putting in quality time to get tasks done. 

Racism and Personal Responsibility

Following the last two weeks of addressing diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. We would like to continue the conversation in the wake of the events of this last week.

Though we understand and believe that racism and discrimination are structural and there is so much work to be done in organisations and government, there is also so much to be done on the individual level. Personal responsibility for educating yourself and holding you and those around you accountable is paramount for battling the attitudes and horrendous displays of profane racism we saw after the England Euros loss.

We have put together a list of some incredible resources to provide a platform and signpost those that come across our pages to incredible books, movies, tv shows, social pages, and people to read watch, listen to and follow to educate yourself on the reality of discrimination to date.


Movies & TV Shows


13th

A classic recommendation, and if you haven’t watched it yet, what have you been doing the past year. A deep dive and revelatory documentary highlight systemic racism in the US which is a great way of seeing the ways in which discrimination can be entrenched in the system.

Two Distant Strangers

In this fictive Oscar-winning short film, now out on Netflix, it follows a young black man stuck in a time loop that leads him to re-live a deadly encounter with the police on the way home to see his dog. We will preface this one with a trigger warning as it has been criticised for verging on being traumatising for black viewers.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

In this fictive Oscar-winning short film, now out on Netflix, it follows a young black man stuck in a time loop that This incredible Oscar-winning biographical film starring the late Chadwick Boseman and the incredible Viola Davis is based on a fictional afternoon in which ‘The Mother of Blues’, Miss Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey and her band record the single “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” with her white manager and record label owner. Tensions mount between everyone there and erupt into a conflict that highlights race and artistic exploitation. It is a truly captivating film.

Self Made: Inspired By the life of Madam C.J. Walker

This biographical short series follows the journey of Madame C J Walker, America’s first black female millionaire and her journey to success – as well as her trials and tribulations as a black woman in a time that did not provide many opportunities. Starring Octavia Spencer.

What Happened, Miss Simone

Now out on Netflix, this biographical movie covers the life and music of Nina Simone using never before seen or heard footage and recordings. Perfect for any music lover.  

The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson

Marsha P Johns was a black trans woman and activist who fought for LGBTQ+  rights in New York, and one of the key figures in the Stonewall riots of 1969. This documentary follows her life of activism and the suspicious circumstances around her death in 1992.


Books


Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

By Akala this semi-autobiographical book mixes the personal, historical and political. Speaking to our current situation as well as providing an understanding of the history and racial politics of Britain. With incredible references and resources, this book talks about a wide range of racialised issues and Akala’s own experiences confront the British aversion to talking about race and empire.

Girl, Woman, Other

By Bernardine Evaristo and winner of the 2019 Booker prize, this unconventional novel follows 12 characters in separate but intertwined storylines, with no focal character to paint a picture of black heritage in Britain. A must-read ode to the black woman in modern Britain.

Americanah

From the Award-winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this fictive book follows Nigerian teenagers that fall in love with aspirations to move to the United State for Education. But due to strict immigration laws, Ifemelu and Obinze are forced to separate as Ifemelu is granted a visa. Following two life stories on different trajectories into adulthood the story tackles race, immigration, and love in a globalized world.

Wish We Knew What to Say

By Dr. Pragya Agarwal this book is one for parents who would like assistance in understanding how they can speak to their children about race as well as understands the ways in which children perceive and understand race and racial difference.


People to keep an eye on 


Candace Braithwaite

Founder of ‘Make Motherhood Diverse, author, presenter, and journalist. Candace began documenting he journey as a mother in 2016 to show that black mothers and families were “not just surviving but thriving” illustrating an alternative to dominant narratives surrounding black motherhood.  Her debut 2016 book ‘Not Your Baby Mother’ is a must-read.

Sanchia Legister

By Bernardine Evaristo and winner of the 2019 Booker prize, this unconventional novel follows 12 characters in separate but intertwined storylines, with no focal character to paint a picture of black heritage in Britain. A must-read ode to the black woman in modern Britain.

She “brings her big afro, big smile and good vibes to the mat, with a fiyah playlist to help you find freedom, space, and unapologetic movement, in the hope of bringing yoga to the people dem.”

Jonelle Lewis

American Yogi Jonelle Lewis spent 20 years in London before returning back to the United States. Other than being an incredible yoga teacher (you can find her pre-recorded classes on Apple Fitness) she regularly posts about the hypocrisy and lack of diversity in the wellbeing industry and consistently holds people to account.

Ms Afropolitan

A writer, award-winning blogger, and keynote speaker Minna Salami writes on feminism and social issues from an African-centric point of view.

Marcus Rashford

After the Euros, I think most of us know who Marcus Rashford is. But he is more than a footballer. When the government planned to leave school children on Pupil Premium without food during the holidays during the pandemic. Rashford stepped up and donated to make sure students had a meal, as well as pressured and campaigned for the government to provide the Free School Meals (which they eventually did).

Renni-Edo Lodge

An award-winning journalist, author, and podcaster, Renni-Edo wrote the best-selling book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. The best-seller has informed the podcast she now hosts that dissects the nuances of race.

Building a Stronger Tomorrow: The Push for a More Inclusive Future

We are over halfway through the year, which means we have had a lot of our key D&I and Awareness days, and also time to reflect on the social movements that took place last summer.

From International Women’s Day to Pride, at PUSH we’ve been thinking about how we can build on the messages and activism of the past year and find ways to implement positive, lasting change. Thanks to Covid-19, the working landscape has been blown wide open, leaving an open chasm and abundant opportunity for remodelling the working world of the future – a world where no one is left behind. 

True inclusivity is about so much more than diversity; it is about a sense of belonging, and ensuring all of your colleagues – no matter their gender, race or sexual orientation – feel that they can be their most authentic selves at work. Nurturing uniqueness and individuality among your staff not only creates a positive impact on mental health and your office culture, but will also promote company growth. 


“research shows that unlocking women’s economic potential in the workplace over the coming years could add a staggering $2.1 trillion in GDP by 2025”


The stats on the potential in truly embracing and fostering inclusivity speak for themselves; in the US, research has found that 40% of GDP growth in the national economy between 1960 and 2010 can be attributed to women and people of colour being better represented in the labour force. And research shows that unlocking women’s economic potential in the workplace over the coming years could add a staggering $2.1 trillion in GDP by 2025. 

So how, as leaders, how do we funnel the essence of this year’s activism into our company culture in a practical and permanent way? The first is to open up the line of conversation with your staff and keep it open. Look critically at your organisation and identify what changes can be made and build these into a long-term actionable plan that you can sustain for years to come. Don’t let your desire for diversity look like a gimmick; your team needs to feel equally represented and supported each and every day. 

Also ensure that you invest in your talent. Upskilling staff will not only lead to increased confidence and an expansion of skillsets across the board, but also a sense that every member of the team is valued. Launched last month, the new PUSH App helps companies realise their potential in this area, helping people to connect and feel a sense of belonging, even if current working models mean they are physically apart. 

And on that subject, restructuring your company with inclusivity in mind will have a lot to do with how you tackle the topic of hybrid working. Many women have experienced burnout as they try to juggle working from home and the subsequent sense of needing to be constantly ‘on’ with the pressures of family life. For this reason the implementation of boundaries in your new working model is really important. Again include staff in these conversations to ensure everyone is comfortable with what is being laid out. 

Talking to staff has to lie at the core of your mission for a more inclusive workplace. The sad fact is that Covid has had a disproportionate impact on BAME communities – people from black and Asian ethnic groups were twice as likely to die from the virus compared to white people – meaning that members of these communities are more likely to be suffering from grief. Research also shows that 74% of LGBTQ+ people say that stress from the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 49% of those who are not LGBTQ+. Now, more than ever, it is important that these groups feel listened to and supported. Ensure there are systems in place so people have access to a safe space where they can share their feelings and seek help if they need it.

Inclusivity has to be about working with people, not against them, and if the past year has taught us anything, it is that we are stronger together. 

Belonging in the Workplace: Getting inclusivity and allyship right beyond pride

As pride draws to a close we thought we would sit down and write this blog on how we can continue all the positive intentions and activism that occurs during June throughout the year. As pride is more than just a flag-waving exercise it’s a celebration of how far the LGBTQ+ community has come and how hard they have fought as well as a reminder that there is still work to do particularly for our cis and hetero allies. 

Pride is not just a month, Instagram post, story repost, or blog (we know ironic) but a genuine approach to how you wish to operate and the future you envision living in. Creating a truly inclusive workplace is beyond just diversity – it is about belonging and ensuring that your colleagues and employees can be their most authentic selves at work. According to HBR letting people be themselves is one of the sure-fire ways to get on the path to creating the best workplace on earth. Nurturing individuality does more than just support the mental health of your employees but can drastically change workplace culture for the better. 

This takes us back to the conversation our founder Cate Murden had last year with futurist Adah Parris on Creating Cultures that Enable Peak Performance. We need to move beyond budget and time with regards to matters of Diversity and Inclusion and focus on belonging. 6.5 million people feel that they cannot bring their whole selves to work and 43% of those people feel like their colleagues don’t really know who they are according to a 2020 Mental Health First Aid Report. We spend at least 8 hours a day in the workplace – so being seen and heard SHOULD definitely matter and be at the forefront of our minds when looking to build a thriving workplace. 

Here are our 5 tips for how you can carry the spirit of pride forward with you over the next year.


1. Allyship is more than just waving a flag once a year.

Remember to carry the spirit of pride with you each and every day. Coming all out in support of LGBTQ+ rights once a year doesn’t battle homophobia or the hate crimes and discrimination members of that community face daily.


2. Lean into discomfort 

Interrogate your organisation and identify what changes are needed and build them into a long-term actionable plan. Rather than a few diversity and inclusion exercises once a year, build a strategy to make your workplace more inclusive that is actionable and worked on throughout the year so that your LGBTQ+ employees feel valued and taken care of day after day.


3. Have a dialogue with your LGBTQ+ employees 

Make sure that your LGBTQ+ employees feel like they have a safe space in which they can express their concerns over treatment and be included in the conversation about the aforementioned actionable plan. Diversity and Inclusion is not a top-down exercise it is a collective effort.


4. Educate yourself

If you’re a leader or frankly anyone and everyone should educate themselves about the trials and tribulations of the LGBTQ+ community. The best way to battle ignorance is to educate and the best way to do that is to be informed by the real lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. 


5. Respect people’s boundaries – empathy is key

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are first and foremost human and individuals. Respect their personal boundaries. Everyone is at a different stage in accepting or understanding their sexual or gender identity. Not all questions are okay nor are jokes, if you have to think twice about it, you may be in need of reevaluating your biases.

Random Acts of Kindness

Sometimes it’s the smallest acts that make the biggest difference.

February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day, the perfect opportunity to reconnect and reinvigorate. At the moment, life might be feeling a little less hopeful than usual; we’ve had many of our freedoms and chances for connection taken away from us. If you’re feeling isolated and disconnected, why not try putting some positivity back into the world?

Although we don’t necessarily need a formal day to spread kindness, emphasising this day can help encourage us to break up our everyday routines and do something special for someone else. 

You never know what someone might be going through at any given moment. No matter how small your act may be, the impact might be immeasurable. The feeling of doing something kind for someone else might just shift your mindset too. 

Research has shown that doing something for someone else creates more feel-good chemicals than if someone did something for us. When we spread kindness to others, our bodies actually produce hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins that can boost overall wellbeing and health.

Small acts of kindness can also remind us that we are not alone. These can come in many forms, whether through big displays or small gestures, how you choose to be kind is up to you. 

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This year get creative.

We may not be able to see people face to face, but we can still show people we care about them in other ways. An act of kindness can be as simple as checking in with someone, letting them know you’re thinking of them. You never know how much a seemingly insignificant message can change a person’s day. We all feel a bit alone and fed up at the moment; being kind reminds us we are in this together. 

Some Pandemic Friendly Acts of Kindness:

  • Send a funny meme or memory over email or text.
    Receiving a reminder of a memory could remind someone that there is life outside the pandemic and that we will get to see each other soon. This could be the nudge of hope they needed to get through the day.
  • Send flowers
    To yourself or someone else, who doesn’t love receiving a spontaneous bunch of flowers?
  • Leave a good review
    Businesses right now are struggling; a good review can help.
  • Gift your favourite book
    Gifting someone your favourite book can feel like you are giving them a small glimpse of you, it can help you feel connected in times when you can’t see each other face to face.
  • Help out in the kitchen.
    If someone in your family always does the cooking, why not offer to take over today, or simply offer to chop the veg, or do the washing up?
  • Gift a class
    This could be a breathwork class, or perhaps you have a friend or sibling who loves yoga or a HIIT session, this will undoubtedly brighten someone’s day.
  • Be kind to the planet
    Have a plant-based day, use a travel mug for your morning cup of coffee.
  • Shop local
    Smaller businesses are suffering, try offering support by choosing them over your local Tesco today.

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Be Kind to You

As we are spending more time alone this year, what better an excuse than to be kind to ourselves? Only when we take care of ourselves can we truly begin to take care of others; you can’t give from an empty tank. Maybe today can be a day of self-care for you – run a bubble bath, cook yourself something you love, put you first. 

The list of things we can do for others and for ourselves is endless, and the effects are immeasurable. If you do just one kind thing today, we guarantee it will leave you feeling brighter and more connected than where you started. 

For more information on Random Acts of Kindness Day visit https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

Learning From Unicorns: How TikTok Supports Super-Fast Growth

Welcome to the latest in our blog series focusing on firms and individuals who have trail-blazed their fields to create super-fast growth in dynamic and diverse workplaces. This week we focus on TikTok London and talk to Jemma Cowan, Senior HR Business Partner Europe.  Against the backdrop of the extraordinary times we’re all living through, it’s also been a pretty extraordinary year for TikTok.  Europe has embraced the app and today more than 100m people across the region are active on TikTok every month. It’s a home for positive, creative expression and joyful entertainment that’s authentic, relatable, and truly diverse.

 

Talking with Tiktok

Hi Jemma. Tell us a little more about the team at TikTok London?

Jemma: TikTok is unique and a disruptor in the tech space – I often say we are builders and architects. Within a startup environment, it’s a fast-paced, ambitious, dynamic and people are genuinely at the heart of everything we do.

It’s difficult to describe TikTok London, without describing the other great locations where we operate – we are a truly global company and we are proud of the environment that we have created. It’s incredible to be part of a much broader landscape, perhaps geographically spread but without a doubt all with the same goals and moving in the direction as one team.

TikTok has grown massively in London, with many people joining while working from home due to the pandemic. How do you foster a sense of community and team for these new arrivals?

Jemma: We aim to build community with our people from day one – we truly are a family. It’s true that we have continued to welcome talent to our teams and it’s clear that Covid has presented challenges. We are incredibly humble and equally proud that, within this ever-changing and unpredictable environment, we have remained agile, acted swiftly and most importantly created space to listen to our people. As HR professionals we are strategic commercial partners to the business; our role is to help connect the dots, provide solutions and help to support change. In the transition from working in the office to working from home, we asked questions, listened to the feedback we heard and created initiatives that spoke to the needs of our people.

Has this feedback process made a difference to TikTok’s way of working?

Jemma: There’s no doubt that this new way of working has bought a shift in mindset and approach to how we work – at our core we are a start-up and we hire ‘intrepreneurs’ (staff who are supported to take risks and build opportunities as entrepreneurs do, but within a corporate setting) and that brings an energy where we are all open to creating innovative solutions and doing things differently.

We are driven and passionate about thinking outside of the box and creating innovative solutions, often at pace. Within the space of hours we re-positioned our onboarding process to be fully remote and with as little impact for our new joiners as possible. We want to ensure that the great talent that we bring into the business remain excited about joining the team and that they feel part of the family early on. We take huge pride in the onboarding experience and the employee experience drives our focus – it’s important to create an environment where people can truly show up as their authentic selves and really enjoy what they do.

What has been the biggest challenge and the greatest win over the last six months to creating and maintaining a team culture?

Jemma: TikTok has a genuinely inclusive culture – in my view the greatest win are the teams that we have built. The challenge or at least, the opportunity is in ensuring that we continue to support the sense of community whilst working remotely.                          

We have invested in a number of initiatives in this area – we’ve seen a positive impact in creating content with PUSH to ensure our teams have tools and support during this period. I’m passionate about developing the tools and resources to help others to create long lasting, impactful strategies to support their mental health. I am super grateful for the opportunity to partner with PUSH on wellbeing initiatives, as I believe it’s truly important to create a space where we can be at our happiest, healthiest and most productive. Mental health is just as important as physical health – sometimes a conversation, a smile and taking time to be there to listen can make the world of difference.

From your experience, what advice would you give to other organisations so that they can aspire to achieve the same?

Jemma: We are fortunate to have created a platform which brings creativity and joy to so many and which allows our users to be creative and express themselves in an authentic way. Our internal culture is truly a reflection of the platform, in that we nurture an environment where we encourage our people to be themselves.

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The advice I would share is that while we are living in a time of global uncertainty, one thing that is certain is that what we do and the way in which we do it has already transformed. As HR professionals and leaders, we’ll need to continue to create innovative ways of working while staying connected. The future will be nothing like we’ve seen in the past and many organisations are supporting the growing needs of multiple generations. So listen to the varying needs of your teams and focus on how best to create an environment where they will continually thrive.

How do you keep the human aspect in an organisation while growing at such a fast rate?

Jemma: What was clear for me at the outset is how key our values are within the organisation, all of which focus on the ‘how’. As a high performing team we deliver results. How we go about this is key for us and plays an integral role in how we operate. At TikTok we focus on the softer skills which at the core are fundamental to our success as a global and highly matrixed team, so team-work and relationships are key.

What is your favourite initiative that has been implemented in at Tiktok since January?

Jemma: Our events team organised an amazing virtual festival which our teams thoroughly enjoyed. As we are working from home it gave the opportunity for us all to connect socially and enjoy music, food and entertainment together from home. 

Over summer, we also gave our employees a Wellbeing day off to spend time to recharge, reflect and focus on themselves. We value our employees and as a commitment to wellbeing we have an ongoing programme to support while we work from home and beyond.

PUSH State of The Nation: A View on Personal Development

A global crisis such as Covid-19 can be very unsettling to people at a core level, rocking the confidence they have in themselves, their communities, and the government. The pandemic has shaken the normally stable ground that we stand on, taking our world from the safe and secure place we know to a constantly changing, unfamiliar and unpredictable one.

This loss of safety can cause a huge range of emotions to come up, such as worry, fear, and frustration, testing people’s resilience and pushing many to re-evaluate their life choices. 

We know from our conversations that many people are looking at the last few months and wishing they had done things differently. Kicking themselves for not picking up a new job, routine or money-saving scheme before lockdown started. And, since it started, so many people have had good intentions of learning a new skill or picking up a hobby during lockdown. However, the reality it seems, has been a bit different. When restrictions and lockdowns were first put in place, countries shut down quickly and our worlds changed overnight. Now, as the weeks progress and we’ve gotten used to this ‘new normal’, it’s becoming more difficult for people to stay motivated and productive.

But very rarely do we have the opportunity to properly reset, or take time to really consider what we want to be like now and in the future. As hard as lockdown has been, it has given us the unique opportunity to take a breath and think, without the noise and distractions of daily life. Taking that time to do a self audit is extremely valuable for growth and development. Helping pinpoint what matters most to you (your values) and where you want to go in your life (your purpose), in order to thrive.

PUSH Coach Shereen Hoban, personal development coach and facilitator, spoke about the importance of goal setting if we’re keen to create change in our lives.

“When goal setting, it’s helpful to think about your plans in a tangible way. What are you working for? What result is going to make you feel happy, fulfilled or exhilarated? Once you’ve identified your goal – one that’s personal to you, team it with some serious visualisation. Imagine yourself achieving this thing. 

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This exercise, widely used by sports-people, can have a truly powerful effect on your mindset, enabling you to work in a more focused way so you can go forward to succeed. Knowing what you want and what you’re working towards means you’re one massive step closer to getting it. If your goal is to simply rest, regroup and spend quality time with your family right now, then just be intentional with it. Enjoy this time and don’t feel guilty for doing what’s right for you.”

Our mindset has a huge impact on our motivation and is key in the success or failure of a task, project or goal. Research suggests that having a growth mindset can help us overcome challenges, due to the belief that skills and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. However, as the lockdown continues, it’s becoming harder to stay positive about the future for many. In the UK, three in five (58%) people said they are finding it harder to stay positive about the future, and 56% are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day. 

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American Psychologist Carol Dweck is an expert on growth mindset. In her book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Mindset’, she spoke on different mindsets, commenting “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.” In challenging times it is especially important to try and have a growth mindset, which will help foster creativity and build resilience.

But let’s be honest, most people aren’t going to get up every morning at 5am to do a home workout, before cooking a healthy breakfast and starting work at 9am – and that’s without kids in the mix. And it’s ok to spend time watching TV or scrolling on your phone, allowing yourself to just do nothing. However, it is also important to use this time to try new activities and self-care strategies. 

Starting to build a habit or process around these new activities is almost as important, if not more so, than the actual outcome of the activity. Focusing on small things that we can control, while building healthy habits, can have a transformative effect on mental health. This learning gives individuals something that is fully in their control, unlike the current socio-economic climate. 

Brad Stulberg, author of the book ‘Peak Performance’  and expert on personal and professional development, has developed an equation for achieving growth in any area of your life. Over his years of working as a consultant and business coach, he realised that the key drivers for growth are Stress and Rest. 

We know that stress is most commonly talked about in a negative light. However, Professor Kelly McGonigal explained in her book ‘The Upside of Stress’, that stress can actually be good for us to a certain extent. It is only when that stress becomes too much for too long, that it starts to have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. 

As humans, we need to feel a certain amount of stress in order to challenge ourselves to do better or learn new things. But we also need to take the time to rest our bodies or minds to allow ourselves to recharge. Brad’s equation for growth is simple, highlighting the importance of both being challenged and resting in order to do our best. 

So, maybe now is the time to use this ‘stress’ as the opportunity to grow, allowing ourselves the time and space to try new things, or focus on areas you may have neglected. This could also be a time to create new routines and structures around your work, school or personal life. To figure out the best way of working for you, and how to top up that resilience bank so you don’t end up overstretched or burnt out. 

Most of all though, it’s important to not become your own worst critic. Beating yourself up over not learning a new language, or doing that workout isn’t helpful and can even be detrimental to your mental health. During this time we should be celebrating even the small wins we have, building that positive growth mindset bit by bit. Because, afterall, the most important outcome is our individual happiness and that should be the focus of every single one of us.

 

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

PUSH State of the Nation: A View on Financial Health

With widespread lockdowns still in place, the economy is getting hit hard around the world. We know that money can be a huge point of worry on a good day for many people. But with the rising uncertainty around jobs and money, more and more people are finding themselves anxious about the future of their finances. 

If you’re finding yourself anxious or worried right now, know that you’re not alone. According to the Money and Pensions Service, an estimated 11.5 million people in the UK have less than £100 in cash savings. That is a huge number of people in the same situation, scrambling to arrange their budgets to prepare for what the future might hold. However, those hit the hardest financially are those who are self-employed or can’t work due to illness, industries that are reducing hours and laying off staff, and those who are close to retirement. Individuals in these areas will continue to feel the pinch as we continue to social distance, and may face even more challenges as the weeks/months progress. 

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Research company Ipsos Mori have been polling people around the world since early March, allowing us a longitudinal look at our changing financial behaviours throughout quarantine. They found that in the UK one in five (21%) of people have been furloughed, and 17% have had their take-home pay reduced. In an effort to keep costs low and save for the future, almost two-thirds of Britons have been spending less money overall, and 46% have already accessed their savings. Leaving many of those who have had pay reductions or have been furloughed finding themselves increasingly more worried that their jobs will not be there after all this is over.

Research shows that money can often be a real trigger for people, with financial struggles especially having a huge impact on mental health. When someone is struggling with poor mental health it can make it even harder to manage money, causing worry and having a knock-on effect on their mental health. It’s a vicious cycle that can be incredibly difficult to get out of. However, understanding your patterns around money can be incredibly beneficial in helping you manage your finances, and any anxieties around it better.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found in 2019 that people with money problems have slower recovery rates for common mental health conditions. Those suffering from depression and financial problems are 4.2 times more likely to still have depression 18 months later, compared with those without financial issues. On top of that, people with financial challenges were 3 times more likely to think about suicide over the past year. Even during regular economic times, more than 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while financially struggling. 

Many employees who have not been directly impacted by furloughs or pay cuts are also questioning whether their income is safe and if the company is going to survive.  So it is up to our managers to take these worries seriously, carving out time to discuss financial wellbeing with their teams. Managers and leaders should initiate honest conversations with their employees, giving them the time and space to bring up any concerns or challenges they may be facing. 

These conversations allow for an open conversation, where management can answer any questions that are coming up and provide clear accurate information. However, it is important to be clear beforehand on what is and isn’t open to share. This is also an opportunity to direct team members to further information or resources they can use if they are worried about financial protection, budgeting options, or just want some peace of mind and security during an incredibly uncertain time.

Lorraine McFall, our PUSH money expert shared some insights with us around money mindsets and financial worry. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”Culturally as a nation we have not been good at talking about money.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

“Culturally as a nation we have not been good at talking about money.  Hopefully, one of the positives to come out of this dreadful situation is that so many of us have had the financial rug pulled from under our feet, by something which is completely outside our control, we won’t have the same feelings of shame or fear of judgement about reaching out for help or talking about our money worries. That has got to be a good thing for employers and employees as before COVID-19, 77% of employees admitted that money worries have affected their performance at work leading to sickness, absence and poor performance.

Despite so many people worrying about money or, at the very least, being aware that they need to do something, very few actually take action.  As long as the bills are being paid and the bailiffs are not at the door, it’s often easier to leave things as they are and accept the disempowering notion that money is something that happens to us, rather than be the driver of our financial choices. “

In the PUSH Money Matters workshops, Lorraine encourages participants to work not only on their day to day management skills but also on setting their financial goals and becoming aware of their money mindset.  If people can consistently take action in all 3 of these areas then they will achieve financial wellbeing which essentially means “Giving people a greater sense of confidence and control over their money through good times and bad.”

She also shared three immediate steps you can do today to start you on that process of taking ownership of your financial future are:

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  1. Open up a new bank account and keep all direct debits and regular payments coming from one account and transfer your spending money into a separate account.  Use the new bank account for all your day to day spending and you will have visibility over how much money you actually have that is available for spending.  Consequently you will be able to avoid that  constant mental calculation of “is there enough”, every time you hand your card over and avoid those feelings of scarcity.  Yes, there might not be as much as you would like in your account each month but the fear can often be worse than the reality and actually knowing your numbers and taking away the fear will give you the confidence to take the next step on your financial journey.
  2. Write down 2 or 3 immediate short term financial goals and a very specific plan about all the steps you need to take to achieve the goals.  This will be the first step of your financial plan.  The very act of implementing this will help you see the benefit of setting specific goals and give you the confidence to think bigger and for the longer term.
  3. Watch the language that you use about money.  If every time you think about your finances, you constantly think “I’m rubbish with money”, you are setting yourself up for failure. The first time things get tough, you already have your get out of jail card ready, “Well I knew that happened, ’cause I’m rubbish with money…..”.  The first step to working on your money mindset is becoming aware of the language you use and stop using it.  If it’s hard to break the habit then put the expression in the past tense, “ I USED to be rubbish with money, I am now learning to take control.”

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During this time, it is incredibly important to pay attention to the financial wellbeing of our friends, family and colleagues. We know things are going to be tough for a while, and money can be such a personal subject for many people. But in a time when your typical reaction would be to pull back, we need to be brave. We need to be open to having these conversations, and provide a non-judgemental and safe space to share how we’re feeling. 

 

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Employers Must Better Support Working Parents – Here’s How

It’s safe to say that across the board, UK employers are more enlightened and understanding when it comes to working parents than 20 years ago. But the reality is that there is more work to be done. In many cases, a lack of flexibility and consistency as well as preconceptions and stereotyping are among the issues faced by those returning to work after becoming parents. So, what are the key challenges working parents face and how can employers do better at supporting working parents?

Feelings of Guilt

The working mums’ and working dads’ workshops that PUSH run revealed the extent of the problems some working parents experience. One of the key findings was that individuals feel they often can’t do as good a job as a parent, or an employee, because they can’t apply themselves properly to either. The resulting no-win exacerbates feelings of guilt and frustration and ultimately has a negative impact on the individual’s wellbeing and performance.

Lack of Consistency

In short, a lot of employers are getting it wrong on a number of levels. While flexible working could help with many of these problems, it is not being applied as it should. Inconsistencies in how people are treated depending on departments and managers also prevail while a lack of transparency and openness means culturally co-workers can lack the knowledge and understanding required to work alongside returning parents. 

Language and Perceptions

Passive aggressive comments from co-workers such as “good afternoon” when a person comes in half an hour late because of parental duties, for instance, certainly don’t help anyone. And participants in our workshops also reported that maternity and paternity leave is still perceived as a “holiday” or even a “privilege” by some co-workers.

Pressure and New Identity

But pressure also comes from the individual themselves. A working mum told us how as a returning mother she felt mentally, physically and emotionally different than she did before and this “different version” of herself found it hard to step back into the same role. A working dad, meanwhile, who was previously defined by work, had internal conflicts about not being able to work long hours any more because his priorities had changed and he was also concerned about what colleagues thought of him. 

Management Practices

Even when flexible working practices are in place, it isn’t always managed as well as it could be nor accompanied by a flexible mindset. Employers fail to really think through how it could work for the company or the individual with one mum saying it felt like a “demotion” with colleagues not involving her in the same way. 

Being Truly Flexible

There also has to be flexibility on the part of the returning parent. The business still has to run efficiently and effectively and it may be that with the best will in the world, the role – or perhaps clients – aren’t compatible with flexible hours.

So What Needs To Change?

PUSH is determined to address these issues and holds working parent sessions for companies and bespoke workshops for mums and dads. No two parents are the same, no two companies are the same and our workshops have taught us that mums and dads can face very similar and very different challenges. A general lack of recognition of the difficulties dad’s experience, for instance, can be at the root of many problems simply because they are far less talked about. Indeed, one dad described it as an “invisible challenge” for many companies.

What has emerged loud and clear in our work in this area to date though, is that by putting in education and  support structures before, during and after a child is born can make a huge difference and start to create the right culture for working parents to thrive at work and enjoy their home life and being a parent. 

Moreover, we are finding that many of the issues that need to be addressed don’t just affect working parents but are part of the wider discussion about how flexible working should be implemented.

 

Here Is The PUSH 10-point Guide To Better Supporting Working Parents

Lead By Example From The Top

Working parents in senior leadership positions need to role model the right behaviour as well as openly discuss and share the challenges they face. Senior leaders who try to be heroes rather than confront the problems they and others face aren’t doing anyone any favours, including themselves.

Mind Your Language

Educate the workforce at all levels about the right and wrong language to use. Impress upon them the importance of not throwing out glib comments that can make mums and dads feel uncomfortable.

Accept It Might Be Different For Dads

While policies and procedures must be equal, PUSH workshops have shown that the challenges dads face are different and they are more at risk of being overlooked. Talk to both about their pain points and it might require more effort to encourage Dad’s to talk openly about issues.

Introduce New Ideas

Consider what new measures you could put in place such as return-to-work days, home visits, Mum and Dad buddies who will be able to directly relate to new working parents, and bringing-kids-to-work days.

Promote A Two-Way Street

While working parents can face issues, tensions can arise if other members of the workforce feel parents aren’t being as flexible as they could be. Continually bagging the best holiday dates because they have children, for instance, can annoy colleagues. This is where understanding and open communication on both sides is absolutely key. 

Hold Coaching Sessions And Workshops

These can help prepare parents who are about to go on maternity and paternity leave as well as returners by helping them understand how they will feel  at each stage and that such feelings are normal.

Avoid Social Exclusion

Even if working parents may no longer able to go for drinks after work or join in with other social activities, they should still be invited, even when they are on leave. Also try to arrange events at times they can attend.

If It Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Force It

Even with the best will in the world it may not be practical for the individual to return to the same role and, for example, service the same clients. Trying too hard to make it work won’t help either side and it is far better to make the right adjustments to personnel and role as long as it’s done in an open and transparent way.

Put In Place A Support Network

Ensure working parents feel that the communication channels are always open and put in place a support network that includes HR professionals but also fellow working parents.

Working Parents Still Have Careers

Finally, it is important that parents still feel they are on the career ladder so ensure they are treated in the same way as anyone else when it comes to career and promotion options. They are also still part of the company even when they are on leave so communicate any key changes and developments in the workplace and organisation to them.

 

Get in touch to find out how PUSH can help you to support working parents in your organisation through tailored sessions with our expert Coaches.

Why Is Company Culture Important And What Can It Achieve?

Although you can’t see it, company culture is an extremely powerful force in the workplace. The right culture can mean the difference between an employee coming to work happy, performing well and going the extra mile or a person turning over in bed on a Monday morning and opting for a duvet day. Catalina Marketing are a brilliant example of an organisation that recognise the importance of culture and were able to optimise their employee’s wellbeing and also the company’s performance. 

PUSH has witnessed good, bad and indifferent cultures dictate the mood at organisations and they can have a dramatic impact on the wellness of the workforce. Transforming culture can be difficult and takes time, effort and commitment. In some cases, the culture isn’t bad or toxic but has suffered because of challenging business conditions. And there have been no shortage of those in the last 10 years. 

PUSH client Catalina Marketing, for instance, faced ongoing change due to the shifting landscapes of both the retail and marketing industries. No workforce likes constant change and uncertainty at the top tier and an apparent difference of direction compounded the stress and anxiety the team was feeling. Employee attrition rates rose to 22 per cent at this time. 

The general manager knew the problems needed to be addressed and PUSH was brought in to transform the culture as well as increase productivity. 

For many years, business in general paid lip service to culture, proclaiming its importance but deep-down seeing it as a touchy feely, HR nice-to-have rather than something that truly impacted the bottom line. We say a big thank-you, therefore, to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) who back in 2016 published a study that explored the importance of culture to long-term value and how corporate cultures are being defined, embedded and monitored. Finally, culture was given a tangible link to business value. 

The report was the culmination of the FRC’s Culture Coalition, a collaboration with organisations such as the City Values Forum and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), as well as interviews with more than 250 chairmen, CEOs and leading industry experts, from the UK’s largest companies. 

At the time, FRC chairman Sir Winfried Bischoff said that a healthy corporate culture leads to long-term success by both protecting and generating value in the UK economy. It is therefore important to have “a consistent and constant focus on culture”, rather than wait for a crisis, he said, adding: “A strong culture will endure in times of stress and change.”

PUSH’s forward-thinking clients have been among those to recognise the importance of culture to their employee’s wellbeing and also the organisation’s performance. 

When it comes to culture transformation, our approach is to find out exactly what is affecting the team, examining the underlying issues and blindspots and assessing what is required to create positive and sustainable cultural change. 

Typically, we will run audits and speak to the entire team to get to the heart of what is going on internally. In the case of Catalina, four core themes emerged from the data that highlighted the changes required to improve creativity, innovation and resilience: bring to life the company vision and unite the team behind it; reignite the organisation’s passion and support the team’s energy levels; improve team integration and company-wide communication; and increase the opportunity for reflection, feedback and celebration. 

Over the next eight months we delivered a programme of activity that included personal development workshops and coaching and we also appointed internal Culture Champions who went on to create the Catalina UK Manifesto outlining behaviours, values, goals and aspirations. Another audit was carried out a few months later which shone a light on what else we needed to do to fully effect the culture change, which involved embedding the Manifesto behaviours in the team. 

The ultimate success of the programme can be judged by the metrics: team churn reduced from 34.5 per cent in 2018 to 14.8 per cent in 2019; absenteeism saw a huge drop from 210.5 days to 76 says across the year; and the total number of working days lost to stress dropped from 48 to zero to date in 2019. 

Amply demonstrating the link between culture change and productivity, the company saw an impressive improvement in the lead times of high-quality campaign delivery from eight weeks to two. The company also calculated it is saving around 9.5 to 17.5 hours a week due to the focus on efficiency, which amounts to 40-75 hours of available time to do great work for customers each month.

Statistics never tell the full story though and one of the most gratifying aspects of working on a culture change programme is seeing how much happier people are in their jobs. 

At PUSH, we believe that nobody should dread going to work and by creating real change in organisations, we are one step closer to achieving this every single day. Get in touch to talk about how we can transform your organisations culture.

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