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COVID-19 The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment

Last week, everything seemed to step up a gear surrounding Covid-19 in the UK. Whether it was down to Boris finally stepping off Cloud 9 post his baby news or if a number of additional recorded cases suddenly put us all into fear mode and increased panic-buying of flageolet beans and extra quilted toilet rolls. Everywhere you turned, everyone (and I do mean everyone) was talking about coronavirus. 

I have to be honest; I am seriously worried about the hysteria around this bloody virus and its impact on our economy, psychology, relationships and business than I am the illness itself.

Of course I appreciate the real risk to the elderly, those with compromised immunity or the disenfranchised who stand to suffer most from this. However, what is also terrifying me is the unmitigated frenzy the media has whipped us all up into that has sent us into a spellbinding spiral of panic!

At PUSH, we were really keen to understand why this action has happened as well as hopefully, what learnings we can take from it – to not only get through it but hopefully, gain, from this current situation.

Creating New Habits – an Opportunity for Innovation and Change.

We are bring presented with an opportunity to create a new habit – including everything from washing your hands more frequently to getting brilliant at working remotely.

There are a few key ingredients in creating new habits:

  1. Leverage context or be clear on the reason why the change is happening – the Corona hysteria has quickly short-cut this for most of us!
  2. The basic components must be readily available – everything from soap and water or suitable tech and environment
  3. Make sure the new behaviour is easy to perform – or have the energy and resilience to overcome challenges until the behaviour becomes easier
  4. Encourage practice – until it becomes the new norm
  5. Recognise and reward effort – so our brain develops neural pathways that associate the new behaviour with positive feelings

We face a risk from our brains as well as our bodies

In addition to the virus itself, we are also at threat from the human perception that is biased and influenced by the many mental shortcuts that we all make. Perception is reality and reality is perception and, right now, put simply, our limbic system is being hijacked!

Human assessment of risks and threats is far from perfect. The abundance of news referring to fatalities caused by the coronavirus increases an individual’s perception of personal risk to the disease. This is called the availability heuristic. The more people hear about the risk, the more the risk gets overestimated, even in countries not affected by the virus!

Another bias — herding or bandwagon effect — makes people wear face masks even though it is not actually an effective prevention measure! The same bias is responsible for ‘pandemic shopping’ with everyone I speak to mentioning that the entire country has run out of toilet roll. Frankly, if that’s not a reason to go to the pub, in order to use their facilities, then I don’t know what is.

New threats are also perceived by us as more dangerous (novelty bias) though new strains pop up of common viruses all the time. So yes, this is a new “novelty” strain, but it is nothing we haven’t weathered before.

More than anything, we know that this virus is causing everyone stress and it is this stress that I am even more fearful of. And, here’s the irony, the higher your stress levels, the more compromised your immunity is!

Overcoming all these biases might be hard. We may read and understand all the available data and try not to blindly follow the others. But we can also use the knowledge about human behaviour to see what is happening now as an opportunity for change!

COVID-19 has won The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment award! 

With nothing short of incredible aplomb, this virus has legitimised and provided bona fide booster rockets to the remote working phenomenon that’s been underway for the past several years. A shift that previously has been done either occasionally, but only if it’s been approved by everyone from the HRD to Gladdis who makes the sandwiches, or where a policy has been changed but actually everyone secretly hates it because it means that you actually have to trust people.

It really is incredible what this crisis has expedited. 

By most accounts, the remote work experiment is going well: not without its hiccups and limitations, of course, but by and large, organisations and teams are figuring out how to make do. We’re hearing mutterings from many of our clients along the lines of ‘I never realised how many unnecessary meetings we had’ or ‘I’m just so much more productive working from home!’

However, we realise that Corona could be kicking around for quite some time and we are super conscious that many people have not worked remotely for sustained periods. I have to be honest, this is one of the things that I am most worried about. As humans we need connectivity and I fear that enforced isolation may have a huge impact on many individual’s mental and psychological health.  That’s why, at PUSH, we have focussed on two things over the last week:

  1. We have worked hard with all of our coaches to ensure that all of our sessions can work remotely – using a combination of digital learning and webinars
  2.  We have created some short videos tips about how to make the most of remote working and make it work for all of your teams – no matter how much they have to do it

So, in summary, I think the take-out is that if we can use what is happening now as an opportunity to come together with compassion, patience and kindness we might get through this challenge having learnt something about ourselves as well as developing new and improved ways of working. As ever, we’d love to hear what you think and, if there is any way that we can help support your people through a time that might be more slightly more challenging than normal then, you know where we are.

If you have any concerns regarding Coronavirus please head over to the NHS—or Public Health England—to find the most up to date news & precautions. And remember, dispelling this panic is as easy as washing your hands.

 

PUSH x Getahead: Our Joint Mission to Work Better and Get Ahead Without Burning Out

 

We are incredibly excited to announce that PUSH is the official WORK BETTER partner for Getahead, a 24-hour festival taking place this Summer. We can’t wait to bring you the very best talent across corporate wellness to a day focused on ‘getting ahead’ without burning out.


“Our mission is to help a billion people positively impact their lives in the next 25 years. We’ll do this by sharing openly, building a community & leveraging technology. We are creating a 24-hour festival blueprint which can be franchised in other cities all over the world.”– Getahead

 

 

 

At PUSH we wholeheartedly believe in Getahead’s mission and understand the impact that the world of work especially can have on our mental health – after all, work is the number one stress for most people. Our own philosophy is based on the fact that the way we are working isn’t working. “We live in this relentless and challenging world which is only becoming increasingly so”, our founder Cate Murden has said on the topic, “it’s actually the employee in the middle who’s taking the hit. We need to work out how to manage that world better, manage ourselves better and consequently work better”.

 

Using our platform at Getahead, we want to demonstrate that wellbeing doesn’t have to be limited to our own personal time but can infiltrate the work environment too. In this way, PUSH, alongside Getahead, can encourage positive change and ultimately support healthier working lives.

 

Having experienced the stress and exhaustion of our modern world, founders Dan Kirby and Jenni Cochrane launched Getahead in 2018. Driven by their aim to steer people away from burnout, Getahead is about creating a positive community, who collectively want to tackle stress, overwhelm or mental health issues and ultimately find more balance – all while having a laugh and a boogie. The first Getahead Festival last year featured world-class speakers, practical productivity workshops, epic sweat sessions and an all-night disco dance.

 

“We’ll only achieve our mission by connecting with the smartest and most switched on people in their fields. And that’s you guys! We’re honoured that you’ve chosen to work with us.” Dan and Jenni said of our partnership together – and we couldn’t be prouder.

 

Here at PUSH, we admire Getahead’s commitment and we especially resonate with their focus on an accessible discussion around mental health, bringing people together and making change happen. Dan and Jenni’s vision is to make London the “SXSW of mental health and wellbeing”– after the tech, music and film festival in Austin, Texas – and take over the whole city for a 24 hour period.

 

Watch this space for incredible and unique content that we’ll be sharing on the day and here’s to improving the way we live and work by helping each other to ‘get ahead’.

 

PUSH Nutritionist Le’Nise was part of the Getahead Wellness Week in January and gave a talk on Eating to Improve Resilience. We are looking forward to this year’s festival which promises to be an extraordinary event and takes place day & night on Friday 14th June 2019. Find out more on the Getahead website.

PUSH team at Parliament

PUSH Helps Make The Case For Mental Health First Aiders To Parliament

PUSH was delighted to be part of, what we all hope will prove a pivotal day for mental health in the workplace, this week. We were invited to the Houses of Parliament by our client, Bauer Media, to support the Where’s Your Head At campaign. The initiative by the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) organisation and writer and campaigner, Natasha Devon MBE, aims to change the law to have a mental health first aider in every company.

So far close to 200,000 signatures have been collected and they were delivered directly to No 10. PUSH was asked to join the team when they presented the petition because of the work we do in this space, which is a huge focus for us.

We feel passionately about the importance of having a mental health first aider inside companies for a number of reasons. Not least because, in many instances, the workplace is the cause of the problems or certainly a major contributor to it. So, in which instance, employers actually have a responsibility to fix it. Causes are all too obvious when we go into organisations: unrealistic expectations on staff, constant demands, always-on cultures and no realistic time for breaks.

MP Luciana Berger kicked off the briefing and talked about how she is leading the charge for a debate in the Houses of Parliament and put forward a motion for this change in law. She emphasised the importance of taking action to support “lasting change”.

It was great to see Bauer Media CEO Paul Keenan at the event. As well as talk about how the company has used its massive reach (25 million people a week) to promote the campaign through brands such as Grazia, Heat, KISS and Absolute Radio, he spoke from the point of view of a CEO. “We must see the cost as an investment, helping people stay healthy pays back in increased productivity and engagement,” he said, which will hopefully strike a chord with fellow senior leaders.

Bauer Media carried out a survey that revealed the majority of people’s stress comes from work and financial pressures. It also highlighted that there is an 18-month waiting list for people to get counselling on the NHS, further putting the onus on employers to acknowledge the responsibility they have to look after their people. And why wouldn’t they, since the upshot of having a mental health first aider can mean 30 per cent less sick days?

Simon Blake, OBE, CEO of the MHFA, stressed how mental health needs to be seen on an equal footing with physical health and the organisation’s mission is to have one in 10 people in the UK trained in mental health. He also talked about some of the progress that has already been made with its clients, such as WHSmith, which has committed to having as many MHFAs as they have physical ones.

Indeed, it was WHSmith’s head of strategic projects, Alison Garbott, who gave one of the most powerful and emotionally charged talk. She relayed how when she joined the company as part of the retail staff she was quickly given training on how to lift heavy boxes in the correct way so as not to hurt her back but added: “it wasn’t until the suicide of a friend and colleague before my education on mental health started.”

Her own painful personal experience led her to become a mental health ambassador for the company and, after listening, we were all left in no doubt about the power of one person’s story and actions to make a difference.

And we need more people like Alison to speak out if we are to prevent others from going through similar experiences. It is all very well experts saying what you should do but real-life examples and insights have much more resonance.

Similarly, Natasha Devon, MBE, understands mental health only too well as she lives with a panic disorder. She compares it to having a condition like diabetes: she has to manage it daily, take medication; and be aware of the situations she puts herself into. She said despite taking strides, in over a decade of campaigning in mental health “we still aren’t there yet”. The Bauer survey revealed, for instance, that more than half of people lied to their boss about the reason for sick leave, blaming a physical reason when it was mental. Natasha said “we need structural change” and stressed that “awareness” will only get us so far.

There is no doubt that the time for action is now and we need to plan for it and put the mental health support structure in place at organisations before problems arise for individuals.

PUSH has seen first-hand how the importance of mental health is overlooked. Many people don’t stop and think about how they are feeling, let alone how this is affecting their behaviour. Just talking to someone who understands can have a profound effect.

We are helping to further the campaign by generating awareness but can also offer practical solutions to help companies take solid action and help them play an active part in this much-needed change. We run MHFA training and also run programmes to support companies in putting preventative measures in place for good mental wellbeing.

So, a big well done to Bauer Media, Natasha, the MHFA team and WHSmith and thank-you for letting PUSH be a part of it. But the hard work continues and to any employers reading this, we leave you with one question: what are you doing to get MH first aid in your organisation?

The PUSH team is passionate about empowering companies to create open-minded cultures. Our team is trained Mental Health First Aiders, we mix this grounding with our own bespoke mental health programmes that offer a well-rounded solution, arming your workforce with the tools to embrace mental health and support each other.  Get in touch to find out more. 

Cate Murden PUSh Founder

PUSH Tackles Workplace Mental Health Head On With First ‘Starting The Conversation On…’ Event

It was standing room only when more than 100 HR executives and senior leaders from the world of advertising and media world flocked to the Century Club in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue on Wednesday August 1.

The breakfast meeting, held on the roof terrace in glorious conditions, was corporate wellbeing firm PUSH’s inaugural ‘Starting The Conversation’ event which showcased the practical ways that employers could support mental health in the workplace and build resilience in teams.

PUSH nutritionist Nicola Shubrook devised a healthy and nutritious menu for attendees including avocado on toast, date and hazelnut balls, chia seed pots and fruit platters.

She also explained how key food groups work wonders for mental strength and cited the example of Omega 3, an essential fatty acid found in things like oily fish, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds, which is crucial for brain function and development.

Photo of Nicola Shurbrook

 

BBC News’ UK futures editor Matthew Shaw, spoke openly about his experiences with depression and what employers can do to embed mental health awareness and wellbeing within workplace culture.

Simple questions like ‘Are you okay?’ and listening rather than empathising or trying to offer a cure were among the small acts of kindness that could really make a difference, he insisted.

Cate and Mathew Shaw talking

Meanwhile, David McQueen, an international professional speaker and executive coach had the room in stitches with his frank and engaging talk on how to build resilience in teams.

In one exercise he asked audience members to face the person or stranger next to them and pay them a compliment. Everyone was talking, smiling and giggling.

“Part of our resilience is feeling good about ourselves, remembering how fabulous we are and recognising what we bring to the table,” he claimed.  “It is important to be conscious of yourself and have a real sense of self.”

Laughter also rang around the terrace when PUSH coach and speaker Tamson Amara, asked delegates to turn to one another and reflect on a ‘confession’ of something they that they regularly do or say that they wish they didn’t.

Amara explained the The Chimp Paradox – a framework that splits the human brain into three teams: The Human (which corresponds with logic, purpose and fact), The Chimp (which refers to emotion and feelings) and The Computer (which relates to automatic programmes, beliefs and experiences) and said most work spaces were designed for people to bring their best selves to work (i.e) The Human, which corresponds with following rules, collaborating, seeing the bigger picture and being calm.

The difficulty arises when the chimp starts smashing through – perhaps because of unmet emotional needs or a lack of perspective – and disrupts thinking, office processes and environments.

Such a tool, Amara insists, helps users increase self-awareness and develop the psychological skills to help acknowledge and manage negative thought patterns.

Of course, attendees also heard from facilitator and PUSH founder Cate Murden throughout the morning, who pointed out that it is employees who “take the hit” in an increasingly fast-paced, challenging and relentless world, especially if workplaces take a traditional or outdated approach to wellbeing.

And she should know.

Murden worked in advertising for 16 years before being signed off with stress so is quick to recognise the warning signs.

In fact, it’s precisely why she set up PUSH – to help companies create work spaces that are more open and understanding about wellbeing, particularly mental, and equip people with the skills to develop greater self-awareness and the tools needed to help them better manage their overall health.

“We have exactly the same brains that we had in Neanderthal times and we simply cannot cope with all of this stress,” she said. “We’re meant to operate in a mode of normal, normal, stress, normal and instead we’re operating in stress, stress, stress normal, stress and we just can’t cope with it. The excessive cortisol production is playing havoc with our brains and bodies and we’re suffering because of it.”

“The UK workplace lost £35bn due to mental health problems last year. That’s not just days off sick – that’s a loss in productivity. How someone is feeling is going to directly impact how they work,” she declared.

According to Murden, 60% of employees experience poor mental health yet only 11% feel like they can talk to bosses about it – unsurprising, she said, when a staggering 94% of bosses said they would change their opinion of people in their organisation with mental health issues.

Encouragingly, times are changing.

Organisations, Murden attests, are realising that wellness programmes are not merely a fad but an important part of supporting workers to be their best which will ultimately benefit the company in the long run too.

“Put simply, we were blown away by the event today – we had double the audience numbers we expected and everybody loved what was discussed.

“What this says to me is that we all recognise that change is needed and that, whilst in many cases, people aren’t quite sure what to do next, we’re saying that we recognise this is is a serious problem and we are prepared to commit the time and energy to create that change.

“PUSH will work with those companies every step of the way to look at how they support their people and help their teams genuinely feel and work better.”

The PUSH team is passionate about empowering companies to create open-minded cultures. Our team is trained Mental Health First Aiders, we mix this grounding with our own bespoke mental health programme that offers a well-rounded solution, arming your workforce with the tools to embrace mental health and support each other.  Get in touch to find out more. 

Read more on Do wellness programmes really work?  , how Sainsbury’s are leading the way in creating open-minded cultures and how our partnership with Ruby Wax is helping to provide a mindful solution to the modern stress epidemic. 

This article is by Helen Gilbert, a freelance journalist who can be found tweeting @gilberthels

 

 

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