Category Archives for Productivity

diary and book, stop procrastinating right now

Stop procrastinating, right now!

When I was speaking to people about their procrastination problem, one young woman, Lotte*, who was crippled by procrastination, made an interesting observation. She described it as fascinating; it can be so destructive, and yet we all engage in it. (You might disagree that everyone engages in it, if you know someone who’s always ahead of the curve, always gets things done in good time. I suspect even those paragons have something they put off.) But it’s the destructiveness of it that I want to pick up on. Why do we engage in such destructive behaviour, even when we know it’s destructive?

Why do we do it?

Many people think procrastination is a time management problem. There is an element of this, many who procrastinate under estimate how long things take. Even things they’ve done before. But in reality, the main issue is that it’s an emotion management problem. Those of us who are regular procrastinators, those who find it has a huge impact on their lives, their happiness, their wellbeing, it’s because we’re not good at dealing with our emotions. We suppress them by avoiding the thing, by not facing it.

About ten or so years ago, I read something that said there were five reasons people procrastinate.

  • Complacency – we think the task is not difficult, we know what we need to do, it won’t take long
  • Avoiding discomfort – we’re not going to enjoy this, it will take a long time and be an unpleasant task
  • Fear of failure – we won’t be able to manage it, we’ve failed before, being scared about taking a big step
  • Emotional barriers – stressed, tired, not in the right frame of mind, not in the mood right now
  • Action illusion – I’m busy, so I must be making progress, I can’t stop now.  This is where you make colour coded plans in Excel, or beautifully handwritten ones where you’ve patiently coloured it in. Or spent hours ‘researching’

Let’s look at these another way

Complacency – that’s the lack of awareness, maybe a time management issue. But it could also be that we’re not being honest with ourselves about what’s involved. Many people I know who procrastinate will admit to being poor at estimating how long things really take.

Avoiding discomfort – well and truly in the emotional zone here – literally procrastinating because we can’t face the unpleasantness of it

Fear of failure – this is the big one I think – we procrastinate because we’re afraid that if we try and fail, that will somehow be worse than if we don’t try. So we avoid the task. Until the deadline is looming, then suddenly, we panic and get it done. Telling ourselves that we do our best work under pressure, But in reality giving ourselves an excuse – if it somehow isn’t as good as we or others would have liked, it’s because we didn’t have more time.

Emotional barriers – again, the writers here are properly in the emotional zone, but they’re not recognising that the emotional barriers may – indeed most likely are – excuses to avoid the task.

Action illusion – I don’t think this is a reason people procrastinate, it’s a tactic adopted to procrastinate. It’s an effect, not a cause.

More recently, I read something that came up with three reasons people procrastinate.

  • Expectancy – the task doesn’t motivate because you have a low expectation of success
  • Value – the task doesn’t motivate because you don’t value what it will give you. Basically, you don't want to do it
  • Impulse – people who are highly impulsive are more likely to procrastinate – they will get easily distracted and move off task.

We want to be motivated to act, to act if we’re pulled towards success, or if we’re pushed to avoid a bad outcome.  The procrastination equation takes both these forces into account. The pull towards success, the pull towards a valuable reward, if they are not there, we won’t act. Until we get to the point that we’re pushed into it by avoiding the bad outcome so we become less impulsive for the time being. The final part of the equation is the delay until the deadline arrives. The longer the delay, the longer we’ll avoid acting. (D’uh! We didn’t need to be told that!) We act, only when the deadline is looming.

What can we do?

What these reasons don’t give you however, is ways to overcome the problem. Even if you can identify why it is you don’t want to do the thing – and let’s face it, often we don’t even know the reason – we still can’t get on with it. As Lotte’s insight shows us, we continue to avoid the task even though we know our behaviour is destructive. So how can we quit procrastinating? That’s what we really need to know.

To be fair to both authors here, they have a whole chapter, or a whole book, devoted to analysing the problem and helping us to overcome it. I reviewed one of the books, and you can take a look at my review here to see what I thought.

The long term solution? We need to get better at managing our emotions. That sounds like a lot of work, and it is. You probably will have to do some deep soul searching type work on yourself, but I’m gonna guess you don’t want to hear that. If your problem is avoiding the difficult stuff because you don’t want to deal with the emotions of it, then hell, you’re not going to get started on the soul searching! That's another whole ball game of difficult stuff!

If you just want quick answers, the good news is that there are some simple strategies out there that really work. I’ve created these quick tips, things you can do right now, to stop procrastinating on what it is you need to get done. Sometimes, that’s all we need, a little push in the right direction. Something to just get started.

I use many of these strategies on a regular basis. And if I catch myself faffing and not getting on with things, if I find myself creating colour coded plans, I take a look at the list and pick the best strategy for that day and I get started on the real work. Download your copy and deal with your procrastination problem right now.

Further reading

themindgym.com 2005 Wake up your mind (Ch E Jump Start) Time Warner Books London

Steel, Dr Piers, 2011, The Procrastination Equation Pearson Educational Limited Harlow

Procrastination is a universal phenomenonempty notebooks with a watch on top

Procrastination is a universal phenomenon

‘Procrastination is not age specific, it’s not cultural, it’s not dependent on our level of intelligence. It’s a universal phenomenon, fascinating in a sense. It’s so destructive, but we all engage in it.’

Lotte*

Work from home.

No, get back into the office, the sandwich outlets and coffee shops don’t have any customers.

No no, work from home, the numbers are rising!

Aside from the political wrangling, it’s clear that more of us will be working from home for longer periods. Some love it, some hate it. And there are many reasons for those who hate it, including some very legitimate reasons.

But what about procrastination? Some people find that procrastination suddenly becomes a BIG problem when they have to work alone at home. That damn negative committee, procrastination gives them an open goal, gives them the floor, they’ll have a field day telling you you’re useless, you know you need to get on, so you must be stupid for sitting there. You’ll feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, but still won’t get started.

Some hate working from home because it turns them into this shameful, incompetent person with a negative committee running riot, paralysed with procrastination.

What can you do?

How can you break out of this crippling situation and silence the negative committee? How can you drive yourself into action when you’re a serious procrastinator?

In my new eBook I give you the answers. I’ll share Lotte’s story, a history of epic procrastination that came back to bite her when she had to work from home. It created serious anxiety for her, fear of losing her job and brought back bad memories of her university days, the apathy, the shame she felt.

Despite the severity of her procrastination, I’ll show you how Lotte changed things around and became the most productive she’s ever been. Now she loves working from home so much she prefers it to the office. She’s become more positive in her outlook, more creative in her work and in problem solving. I’ll show you how you can make these changes too, and how you can begin making a difference today.

What's the cure for procrastination?

Would you like to know more? Download your free copy of Procrastination – the negative committee’s most powerful weapon and how to disarm it

Negative committee

Are you still working with the negative committee?

Are you still working with the negative committee?  Are they still there, in your head, telling you that you’ll never be organised, never get on top of your work, you’re not smart or disciplined enough to succeed?

Give yourself a break.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  Show yourself some compassion. Tell the negative committee to sit down and STFU.

I wrote last time about how establishing good routines and habits can be critical to getting organised, and if you want to know more about this, download my free ebook. It’s full of useful, practical and simple tips on how you can incorporate good routines to help you when you’re working from home.

But like many simple things, it’s not always so easy to do. We start off full of good intentions, but without accountability, with life getting in the way, we falter.  Our success then depends on whether we have the resilience, the skills, the determination to deal with the setback, or whether we’ve been programmed all our lives to believe what the negative committee tells us. And the reality is, most of us fall for the negative committee’s lies, get discouraged and give up trying.

So what do we do about that?

In my next eBook I give you some answers. Some strategies that are proven to quiet the negative committee and create more positivity in your life. It does require some commitment and effort on your part – nothing worth doing is without a price. But it is worth the effort. You’ll be happier, more successful and stronger. And even better, many of the tips and techniques are simple and enjoyable.

If you want to get your virtual hands on the eBook it's out now, sign up here to get your copy.

If you haven’t already got the first one on routine and habits, you can get that here.

picture of desk and laptop with person in the background working from home

Got into a good routine yet?

How’s it going, this working from home lark? Got into a good routine yet? Or are you still struggling with it? Lockdown has eased somewhat, many of us have now been able to see families, even if from a social distance. You might even have got out to a pub or restaurant by now.

But if you’re one of more than one and half million people who normally work from home, how are you getting on? Or one of the millions more who found themselves working from home for the first time in March onwards?   Have things settled into a routine, or are you struggling to keep on top of everything? Have you fallen into bad habits that you wish you could change, but somehow, each day seems as unproductive as the last?

When the negative committee takes up residence

Have the negative committee taken up residence in your head? Are they constantly there, with their nagging voices, telling you that you’ll never manage to get yourself organised, you’ll never be disciplined enough, you’ll never manage to motivate yourself?

We’ve all come across them; the negative committee with their voices that keep getting in the way. No matter how much we say we’re not going to listen to them, we still somehow get to the end of the day feeling we’ve been busy doing nothing, we’ve worked the whole day through, but got nothing to show for it.

Wish you knew how to silence them? It is possible, and in this free eBook I show you how good routines and habits can help you to shut them up.

One of the biggest challenges I found when I first started working from home was to get into a good routine. What should I do first? I wasn’t going out, so maybe I didn’t need to shower first thing. Should I exercise? Have a leisurely breakfast, maybe catch up on some reading? Should I get started on writing, or maybe I should post on social media? (No, not social media. Even if you think it’s work, you’ll fall down the rabbit hole.)

Routine and habits

I rebelled against routine – I’d done that for years in paid employment. Maybe I needed better habits? What’s the difference between routine and habits? How do they help? Do they help?

In this ebook I answer these questions and more. I tell you about Sally, who works in a job she loves, but still found bad routines and habits led her into wasting time and feeling bad about it, and unable to work effectively from home. I show you how she got a grip and turned these bad routines into good ones, and how you can too.

Want to find out more? You can download your free copy here

Is working from home the new normal?

You may be ‘working from home’ for the first time during this crisis, or it may be your usual base for working, but is there anything ‘normal’ about this current situation?

I was going to write a long post about finding your purpose, following on from last week’s article.  But then this tweet caught my attention.​

Working from home? Or at home, trying to work?

Not working from home

It is an important distinction.  A point many of the replies make.  Even many of those accustomed to working from home make the distinction.  There’s a few who don’t get it, as always, and some pleas from people asking for help getting their boss to see it. But mainly agreement.

It also led me to this article.

Why you should ignore all that coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure

It’s written to an audience in higher education, but it’s relevant for us all I think.  And again, really caught my attention.  I’ve spent many years working on my own productivity, and now encouraging others to improve theirs, and I definitely went into that mode.  

​'How can we make use of this gift of time we’ve been given to find our purpose and be more productive? Let’s all look on the positive side and do what we can to make this awful situation better.'

​Grieving

​What I hadn’t recognised in myself, let alone others, is that we are going through a grieving process.  I guess I’ve moved from denial to – I don’t know, sadness? Shock maybe? Personally, for me, there have been jokes about how I’m going to cope without getting my roots dyed, and yes, I was initially horrified at the prospect.  Now however, the main thing that’s upsetting me on a personal level is that I haven’t seen my granddaughter for weeks, and she will be one next week.  It’s breaking my heart that I can’t share these precious moments, she’s learning to walk, learning to talk, and we’ll never have these moments back again.  I miss giving her a hug (having her climb all over me), and I miss giving her older brother a hug too.

I’m also adjusting to a new situation at home.  I may be used to managing my own time, but now I have a newly retired husband at home, and a furloughed adult son at home.  The plans we had for my husband’s retirement are all on hold. We can’t escape to our holiday home in Wales for a few days by the sea let alone any further afield travels. No part time job hunting for him either – he doesn’t want to put his health at risk doing delivery driving or similar.

This article answers so many questions about why I can’t concentrate, why I haven’t got on with a home exercise regime, why I haven’t yet edited all those YouTube videos I have recorded and posted them.

Productivity isn't the top priority

This is my message this week.  Realise that we’re grieving, and productivity isn’t our top priority. If you are at home during a crisis trying to work, whatever you manage to get done is an achievement.  Apart from your own responses, you may also be dealing with other people.  Children who you’re meant to be ‘home schooling’, despite having never had aspirations to teach. Partners who you’re not accustomed to being with 24/7. Other grown ups in your household who want to do their own thing. Who all have their emotional responses to this situation, which won’t be the same as yours.

And if you live alone, well that’s equally challenging in a different way.  You might like your solitude, your own space.  But surely on your own terms?  I have a niece who lives abroad, alone. She is currently confined to her apartment. She can’t go for a walk, go for a coffee, go to work. There’s a shop on the ground floor of the apartment block.  That is the only place she is allowed to go.  So she hasn’t been outside even.  So yeah, she’s definitely at home, during a crisis, trying to work. Not ‘working from home’.

We’ve seen a lot of messages on social media about being kind.  We need to be kind to ourselves first, and realise that everyone has different challenges, and we’re all a bit short on the reserves to help others right now, because everyone has some kind of challenge to face in this. 

Puropse - does it even matter right now?

​I will come back and talk about purpose as I’d planned, but right now I’m going to focus on doing what I can and putting self care first. I’m off to do some gardening – what’s your priority?

Let's do lunch office workers business people lunch break

Let’s do lunch

One of the key indicators of a good workplace is whether you have friendships at work. And one thing that can foster friendships is shared activities.  The simplest and most obvious one in the workplace, especially if you work a roughly 9-5 work day, is lunch.  What happens at lunchtime?  Do you work through and eat a sandwich at your desk?  I hope not, because there are so many benefits to taking a break.

  • We’re more productive when we work in short bursts of around an hour with a 10 – 15 minute break. And then a longer break for lunch.
  • We’re more productive if we’re not hungry – or even worse, hangry.  
  • We also make better decisions.
  • Healthier lunch means healthier people. 
  • If we get to know our co workers we’re more likely to find those friendships, which means we work better together, have a shared purpose.

If you have a dedicated space in your workplace to get away from your desk and eat lunch, make a point of doing that for the rest of this week.  If you don’t have a dedicated space, suggest to a co worker or three that you get out of the office and go somewhere for lunch. Use it as an opportunity to get to know someone a little better.

Let me know what you’re doing for lunch for the rest of this week.

If you want more ideas for how to be happy at work, start here.

Learn to be happy at work

International Week of Happiness at Work

Today marks the beginning of the International Week of Happiness at Work.  Hmm, if you need this, I guess you’re in trouble.  My view is that every week should be happy at work. But too many people don’t feel like that about it.

To mark the week, I’m going to post a new article every day looking at the issues.  If you want to join the conversation, you can find me on twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, You Tube and my website.

What are your initial thoughts about a week of happiness at work? Post in the comments below, or on any of the social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook and Linked In links are below in About the Author.

​Instagram is new ish, but I can be found here

And find me on You Tube. Maybe start here with this review of Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

​If you want to make a start, get my seven things you can do today to be happier at work

Working out. Consequences urgency and procrastination

Consequences, urgency and procrastination

​I’ve been thinking a lot about consequences and urgency just lately, and the effects of procrastination.

Are you stuck in a job you don’t like, and you’d really like to make some changes, but somehow you never seem to get around to doing anything about it other than complain? I just want to say, it’s not your fault.  It’s really hard to make that change, and sometimes we don’t even know where to start.  To compound the problem, our brains conspire to keep us where we are. This ​post I wrote some time ago tells you more about how it does this.

I told you in the last post how I’d finally got the diet and exercise habit.  What I didn’t say was that this was after more than forty years of failing to adopt healthy diet and fitness habits on a sustainable basis.  So yay for me!  And that got me thinking about transferring the lessons learned into other areas, and I showed you how you could start small to make some changes in your work situation.

Consequences

I realised that the reason I’ve now adopted the new habits is because there are consequences to not sticking with it.  At first, the consequence was that I’d have to pay a fine and show on a public website that I’d not achieved my goal.  But now, several months later, the consequences of not getting in my activity for the day mean that I don’t get to eat so much.  To continue losing weight, I must maintain a calorie deficit.  If I’m active, I get more calories to eat and can still maintain a deficit on the day.  If I don’t maintain a deficit, I won’t continue losing weight, and I now know that the progress motivates me.  I don’t like to see a weight gain.  I’ve associated the behaviour with the consequences.

There are other things I’d like to achieve though, and I realised that the consequences are not sufficiently associated with the results, so I need to find a way to link them – to ingrain the new habit to work towards other goals.

Urgency

Which brings me to urgency. I’ve also always been a last minute kind of woman.  As a mature student, I was often up until 3.30 am to finish an assignment.  Once, I handed something in at one minute to the deadline, and my dissertation involved two consecutive all nighters in order to get it in on time. I did well to do two consecutive all nighters – that involved me planning ahead and doing some work two days before it was due in.

Now that I work alone, I have to create my own urgency, I have no tutor or manager expecting work to be done to a specific time, so you might have noticed that I don’t post an article every week. At the moment, I don’t have readers who expect a weekly post, so there are no immediate or obvious consequences if I miss a week. ​

You may be in a job you don’t like, you may come home and complain to your family or friends about how awful it is, and you may even look at the job ads online to see if there’s anything else out there.  But you’re not really taking action, you feel stuck in your current situation.  There’s no urgency to make the change.  You need the income ​your job provides, you’re tired out when you get back with domestic responsibilities, you don’t have time to fill out job applications online. The consequences, remaining fed up, dreading Sunday evenings and Monday mornings – well, that’s how it is, you’ll just continue to whinge about it.

Urgency can be a double edged sword.  You may eventually get to the point where you’re desperate, things are so bad that you’ll start to take action.  But then your options may be limited, and you could end up in just as bad a position or worse.  Like Brenda (not her real name) who left a public sector job because she wasn’t happy there, and took a job with a charity working for a cause she believed in.  However, she soon found that the organisation had a toxic work environment. Her new manager was someone who had been promoted but wasn’t capable of her new job, there were no support structures in place to provide the training and coaching that the manager needed, a colleague was being bullied, bitching and gossip were rife.  Speaking up got her nowhere.

You don’t want to act out of real urgency and not be able to take a considered action.  So how can you create some urgency for yourself - enough to motivate you to take consistent action and start a new habit but not so much that you have to act at all costs?

As I’ve already said, I’m finding the public accountability very helpful, combined with making a commitment to myself.  Owain Service and Rory Gallagher in their book, Think Small, support the idea that making yourself publicly accountable is one of the foundations of creating good habits successfully.

Procrastination

And then we come to procrastination.  The result of consequences not having a direct link in your mind to your current behaviour, and of not having urgency to act, is procrastination.  You know you want to do something – most likely look for another job – but you put it off. There are reasons we do this – it can be too hard to take the action we want to take, it can take up too much time, we don’t give it priority over more immediate things.  This article in the New York Times puts a different light on it, and it makes perfect sense to me.  It’s not a time management problem, it’s an emotional problem.  We don’t procrastinate because we’re lazy or because we don’t have time management skills.  It’s a response to a negative mood – the urgency of managing that negative mood takes priority over the longer term consequences.  It may just be that the task itself is unpleasant, but it may also relate to deeper feelings of self doubt, low self esteem, anxiety or insecurity. 

The article gives some useful tips on dealing with procrastination.  I’d like to add one more. Start small.  Think about your habits, and what you’d like to do differently in your working life.  You may think that finding a new job is what you want – and you may be right in the long term that’s the right course of action – but starting small means exactly that.  What else could you do? The last post had a few suggestions.  Here’s a few more – they are massive goals, but small actions to make a start.

Be more confident at work

Repeat affirmations to yourself every morning

​Be more motivated

Pick a task that you must do daily or weekly at work, where you usually struggle to get it done.  Set yourself a target – must have it done by 11.30 am every day, or by Tuesday lunchtime each week, whatever is appropriate for the task.  Make a pledge in stickk.com and ask a friend at work to be your referee

​Be more creative

Walk to work, or during your lunchbreak.  Exercise has so many more benefits than just for your body.  The time walking gives your mind the opportunity to wander, enhancing your creativity. Start with three times a week, or even once a week if you’re not active.  Walk for 20 – 30 minutes.

​Be nicer at work

Smile at people. Set a target – I must smile at five people today ? You’ll probably find you’ll soon smile at more than five.

​Learn a new skill

Block out the time to devote to it.  You can’t learn a new skill without practice.  So either go to a class, or ensure you block out the time – at work if appropriate, at home if it’s not.

​Improve working relationships

Resolve to ask one person each day how they are.  And really listen to the response – give them your time and attention. Or even resolve to do this once a week to begin with

​Be more organised

Pick one task and work on that.  As for motivation, set a target, make a pledge in stickk.com

​As well as on stickk.com, make your pledge here in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to support your efforts.  Look forward to seeing how you get on.

What do you do if your manager doesn’t know how to manage?

I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve seen ​managers who don't know how to manager, can’t motivate their staff. Maybe even worked for one. Hopefully haven’t been one, but sometimes, you know, that happens too - we can all learn to be better. Often, this is because of poor workplace culture – not always, there are cases of one off ineffective managers in good organisations, but in the main, the poor managers are a result of poor organisations in my opinion.

What if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself working in one of the places with some of these managers? How do you deal with that? Can you change the culture by yourself, or does the culture come from the top? As a comment in a previous post asked, ‘Is this really the responsibility of the individual if they are a lone voice? … Is it the responsibility of the management, organisation or team to change the culture?’

As I’ve argued before, if you are a lone voice with no power or authority within a toxic work environment, then no, realistically, you’re not going to make a significant difference. Does this mean you shouldn’t try? If you’re stuck with the job, even for the time being, surely you want to make some effort to improve things?

I recently re-read Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and one concept that was a bit of lightbulb moment for me was reading about circle of concern vs circle of influence. I realised I’d been getting all bent out of shape over things I couldn’t impact. Brexit, Donald Trump, austerity…my circles of concern. When it would be much more beneficial and impactful if I focussed on my circles of influence – where I could make a difference.

Let’s apply this to the toxic workplace. Can you change government policy and get them to make the right investment in your public sector service, so that it can properly serve the people it claims to serve? No. (Ok, my politics might be showing a bit here)

Can you change the strategic plan your managers and leaders are working towards? Mmm, maybe, a little, but unlikely. Depends what stage it’s at.

Can you change the targets your manager wants you to work towards? Again, maybe. Put together a good argument for why the targets are unrealistic, and a proposal for revised targets. If your manager has a little wiggle room, then you may be able to get them agreed. If the culture is very poor, maybe even that wouldn’t be successful. But give it a go – you won’t know unless you try.

Can you change your manager’s behaviour towards you? Not directly, you can’t make them change.

Can you change your behaviour towards your manager? Ah, there we have it. You can change your behaviour. You can change your response to your manager’s behaviour, and that in itself might result in a change of your manager’s behaviour.

Ditto your colleagues. You can’t make them change, but you can change your behaviour towards them, and their behaviour back might just change too.

Again, none of this is simple. If it was just as simple as deciding to change, and then doing it, we all would. But we’re creatures of habit, and changing habits is really hard. I mean, really, really hard. So let’s start with some simple things, and here’s an idea you can try out.

Give a cheerful greeting. Say a cheery good morning to everyone you meet as you arrive at work. If no-one does this at your workplace, people will be surprised at first. But persist. They’ll start to reply, and slowly it will alter the atmosphere slightly. When someone asks how are you (or that Brummie greeting of ‘alright?’, where you’re just meant to say ‘alright’ back) answer ‘Fantastic thanks!’ This is really fun to do, especially if your customary answer is ‘not too bad thanks’. People will want to know why you’re feeling fantastic, you’ll develop new connections with people you’ve not really spoken to before, and it will alter your own mood – it’s tricky to feel miserable or say ‘Fantastic!’ in a glum voice. Starting in these small ways will develop into a changed way you greet people generally, and you will make a difference.

The more you change your behaviour and responses to others, the more you will find your circle of influence grows.

Try this for a week, and let me know in the comments section how you get on. What difference has it made?

Want more tips like these?  Download 7 things you can do to make work better today​

Man working late

Stressed at work? #WorldMentalHealthDay

World Mental Health day today then.  It’s trending on Twitter under three different hashtags, several more on Instagram, Linked In has articles on it, people are posting memes on Facebook.  I’ve also had emails on it, telling me what organisations are doing to raise awareness of mental health issues.

This is all very well, and I’m not saying it won’t help for people to be more aware and more sensitive to the issues surrounding mental illness.

But what really winds me up is organisations talking about what they’re doing to ‘raise awareness’, and what they’re not talking about is stress at work.  How much is the workplace the cause of the mental health issues their people are experiencing? Are they working in poor conditions? Too much work leading to long hours? A culture that frowns upon anyone who leaves on time or doesn’t get in extra early? Having to take work home? A micromanager? A bully for a manager?  Or management by absence?

I listened to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce podcast today, with interviewees from two large organisations in Birmingham talking about what they’re doing about mental health.  Apart from a mention that work addiction is an addiction too, there was nothing about the role the workplace plays in causing mental health issues.  There was a lot of talk about raising awareness.

Now these two businesses might be great places to work, but equally, they may be creating stress for their employees.  If they’re not talking about it, chances are, nothing is being done about it.  If their people have any of the issues I mentioned causing them stress at work, what are these organisations doing to address that problem? Are there genuine solutions available to them, and are they encouraged to take them up?

Birmingham Chamber also says that poor mental health and wellbeing is costing the West Midlands region more than £12 billion a year. The CIPD’s annual survey into health and wellbeing at work shows that stress is one of the top three causes of long term absences across all sectors, and the top cause of long term absence in the public and non-profit sectors. So it really doesn’t pay to ignore this issue.

One exception I did find on Twitter is Prof Sir Cary Cooper, speaking at the Mad World conference. He says that employers need to identify what could be damaging workers’ wellbeing, instead of looking for quick fixes like mindfulness at lunch.  Prof Cooper is a professor of organisational psychology and health at MBS Manchester University, so has some authority to make these observations.  Although it’s so obvious that if people are overworked for long periods of time, they’ll get stressed, and that will eventually result in sickness absence, I don’t understand why more employers don’t see this.

If you’re overworked and it’s having an effect on your mental health, I recommend you read How to do a great job and go home on time by Fergus O’Connell.  It has some great strategies to deal with this problem.  This book review tells you a little more about it.

​O’Connell, Fergus 2005 ​How to do a great job and go home on time ​Pearson Education Limited, Harlow​​​

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