Always get dressed from the waist up and other WFH tips

Working from home

As office workers are now facing working from home (WFH) our friends over at Donorfy have put together some more handy WFH tips. Why? Because working from home is the only way they work, so they know what works. Here’s their handy, slightly irreverent take.

  • Always get dressed. At least from the waist up for video calls. Working in your PJs may sound attractive, but it’s not going to help you get your head into work mode. (We quite agree!)
  • Use a proper office chair and a desk. Laptops on kitchen tables, or even on laps, are not a long-term solution.
  • Discover the joy of a standing desk. It doesn’t need to be a real one. A board across two piles of books does the trick. And if standing doesn’t work, maybe try squatting.
  • If you can, make your home office a separate space from the rest of your home. Something you can close the door on, or store away out of sight. Especially if you have young children.
  • At the end of the day, declare the day ‘done’ – whether good or bad – and move your attention on to home. It’s too easy to just keep on working. Resist the temptation.
  • You’re at home, so slippers make sense. But somehow they’re a bit too ‘homely’. So get yourself a pair of work slippers. And when you’ve finished for the day, swap them for those fluffy pink mules you love.
  • Make really nice lunches. Artisan soups. Salads. Last night’s takeaway. You’re at home – the food doesn’t have to be bad! Don’t eat at your desk. And make good coffee – you deserve it.
  • Stay in touch. Pick up the phone. Use video conferencing. Use Slack / Teams or similar for office chat. Don’t just send emails – they’re too ‘heavy’. Make a special effort to keep the ‘water-cooler chat’ flowing.
  • Get out of the house at least once a day. Use the step counter on your smartphone or watch to guilt you into staying active. Post your walks on the chat. Praise others for making the effort to get out. (Lucy went as far as getting a dog to help her get out! Here he is.)
  • Be intentional about doing something different during what would have been your commute time and lunchtime. Read a book. Go for a run. Paint the shed. Or a ‘fake commute’ as suggested in the Lucidity blog.
  • Get in the zone with focus apps and music to work by. Despite what you told your parents when you were revising, you probably can’t focus when the music is loud and has lyrics.
  • You may be working remotely, but don’t be distant. Use the webcam whenever you can. Use screenshare to show colleagues what you’re talking about.

Got any WFH tips? Feel free to share them with Donorfy on Twitter or in the comments below.

A version of this blog was first published at www.donorfy.com.

How to have fun at work without the cringe

Have you been having a whole lot of fun lately? If you work for an organisation or business it’s likely that you have. ’Tis the season of office parties, Secret Santa and Karaoke down the pub with colleagues.

Hopefully, it has actually been fun and not all a bit of a nightmare.

There’s a growing body of evidence that fun at work not only makes for happier, healthier, more productive employees but fun helps organisations and businesses fulfil their mission even more effectively.

I work almost exclusively with non-profit organisations and know some of the most effective charities in their field have embraced fun as a core organisational value – alongside more familiar ones such as respect, equality and accountability.

Fun isn’t just for Christmas

Wherever you work, fun all year round has a whole host of benefits which come together in a beautiful virtuous circle. Here are some:

  • Fun allows staff to have a laugh and let off steam. This is important for everyone, but even more so when the issues they may be working with are deeply upsetting or difficult as is the case for many of my clients. Lifting staff spirits acts as a refresher, helping them tackle those challenges with renewed vigour and optimism.
  • When people are having fun, they experience less stress and tend to be happier with a greater sense of wellbeing. Better for them, better for the outfit as a whole.
  • Happier people are more productive people, more engaged with work. If work drains the life out of you, you’re not going to be doing a great job, are you?
  • Fun builds trust and encourages positive relationships between colleagues, vital for the successful collaboration and problem solving the not for profit sector needs.
  • Creativity and innovative thinking thrive in an atmosphere of play and fun, where people are allowed to experiment without feeling constrained by institutional right and wrong answers.
  • Having fun helps people to learn more effectively.

Fun for all?

Two of my clients, the Back Up Trust and Forum for the Future, have ‘fun’ and ‘playful’ respectively, as core values. This isn’t right for everyone, I know. Here are a few guidelines for how to bring in a greater sense of fun to your workplace, all year round without it all being a big cringe.

– Creating a culture where fun is acceptable, has to come from the top. Staff will find their own fun, but only if there is trust that they won’t be judged or made to feel silly or bad. A leader who can relax and enjoy some fun – when appropriate – from time to time can do wonders in putting staff at ease.

– Lowering the barriers to fun, such as tackling poor working conditions and staff conflict, is also key. As Louise Wright, CEO of Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis told me,

“Fun comes out when people are able to get on, when they’re not grappling with silly issues such as office politics, and there is a fair and equitable workplace which allows them to be empowered and facilitated. It’s my job to make sure that happens.”

  • Planned fun (sports day, bake-offs, ‘bring your dog to work day’) is good. Organic fun that bubbles up from happy, supported staff is even better. Warm chats with colleagues, spontaneous lunches out and birthday celebrations all add up to a ‘fun-positive’
  • Fun doesn’t want to feel overly scheduled or formal. And, please, don’t make anything obligatory. That really gives fun at work a bad name.
  • Gender, cultural and age-related differences mean that what constitutes fun can vary hugely. Make sure fun is inclusive.
  • Bring fun into your learning. No boring blah, blah-ing in front of a PowerPoint! When I was invited to run management training at Aspire Charity recently, I didn’t go in banging a drum shouting ‘let’s have fun!” but through the use of games, funny graphics, and my trademark squeaky green frog, plus warm, honest conversation, we all had a very fun time.

So, despite the doom and gloom. Despite, or maybe, because of Boris, I shall carry on encouraging fun in the sector and celebrating all that’s playful and light-hearted. I may get some flak for it, but I truly believe that however tough our tasks, however difficult the issues we face, there is always time, and very good reason, to have fun.

Want to add a little more fun into the mix at your workplace? It can be good to start small. What could you do, after the office decorations are packed away and the holiday fun is over, to bring that playful spirit into your workplace in 2020?

Katie Duckworth is a coach and trainer helping non-profit leaders and their teams to be happy, productive and effective in their work to create a better world.

This post is adapted from a blog posted on www.be-the-change.org.uk.

The amazing benefit of hiking on your health, happiness and productivity

A guest blog by Tim Fox.

It is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life and to fall into a sort of routine. We wake up, we go to our jobs, and we come home. Now and again, we’ll maybe go out and have a drink with friends or something. It is a proven fact that humans are creatures of habit, and falling into a routine is just a regular aspect of life.

But what if I told you that making a small change to your regular routine, can have a phenomenal impact on your health, happiness, and productivity? You might even be surprised to know that it’s something simple. The answer is hiking. Taking hikes, even small ones can have wondrous health benefits! Let us tell you more about it.

  1. Vitamin D

There are so many health benefits that come, just from being outdoors. Being outside means we get to soak up vitamin D, which is a necessary nutrient that we need to be healthy. When we are out in the sun, this nutrient is naturally and readily available. This is important to know because vitamin D occurs very rarely in foods. We can always take vitamins or supplements, but nothing beats soaking up that natural sunshine.

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium better, which means stronger bones and healthy bone growth. More important still, deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to various cancers and even depression. If that alone isn’t reason enough to get more sunshine, then I don’t know what is!

  1. Decompress and Relax

Another wonderful thing that hiking and nature do is it helps to decompress and relax naturally. The science behind it isn’t exact, but many scientists say that it simply has a positive, psychological, effect on us. Taking some time for the outdoors can decrease stress, boost creativity, and improve mental clarity.

Many tests have even shown that it even lowers blood pressure. Our jobs can be hectic, our lives can be busy, but disconnecting from all that now and again and enjoying nature, can be very beneficial for both our mental and physical health.

  1. Endorphins

When it comes to the outdoors, nobody can argue that hiking is one of the best activities you can do. Not only are you getting that healthy sunshine and the relaxation that comes with being outside, but you are also getting exercise too, which is also very beneficial for your health.

Exercising gives us endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that can give us a feeling of positivity. These endorphins can also reduce stress, help keep us healthy, and also help us to lose weight. When you combined these endorphins with nature’s natural ability also to boost mood and mind, you get the ultimate combination of both health and happiness boosters.

    4. Experiences

Hiking also has some other wonderful experiences too! Apart from being very healthy and relaxing, it can also be fun and engaging. There is so much to do on a hike. You can take pictures and capture the beauty of the outdoors, you can bird watch, or you can take in all of the lovely flora and fauna in the area. Stop and smell the roses.

This is what makes hiking one of the best activities that you can do! It keeps you healthy, boosts your mood, is fun, and the creativity boost you get will make your day easier and feel so much less stressful. You don’t even have to hike a lot. Life is busy, and we all know this. Even a short ten- or fifteen-minute hike through a park can have more health benefits for you than you realize.

  1. The Colour Green

Another interesting tidbit about hiking and nature deals with the colour green. Perhaps this colour also has something to do with nature’s phycological effect on us. An interesting study at the University of Essex concluded that being around the colour green actually made people feel lower exertion during exercise and also reported fewer mood disturbances too.

The people who exercised around different colors did not feel the same way. So perhaps there is something about the colour green that has just a little bit of magic on our psyches.

Conclusion

Even if you can only spare a couple of hours a day, you should engage in hiking outside. Hiking will provide you with peace of mind and keep you healthy. But before you go hiking don’t forget to take few essentials especially water and best hydration bladder to keep you hydrated. Based on the evidence and from those who spend time outdoors, it is a wonderful way to stay healthy, happy, and get a creative boost that you won’t find anywhere else.

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all.

Three tips to avoid burnout

Constant busy can lead to burnout

The danger with busy is that if you’re not careful, your constant busy can lead to burnout.

I’ve commented on busy as a badge of honour before.  Like when when someone asks how you are, your default response is ‘busy’ or ‘soooo busy’.  We fear that if we’re not really busy, we’re judged as being a poor leader, lazy, or not doing our best.

Your constant busy can lead to burnout.

A burnt out leader will struggle because burnout drains your energy. It prevents you from thinking clearly, and from inspiring and motivating others.

Burnout is serious. It’s a combination of professional exhaustion, general disillusionment, and a lack of motivation and interest.

It’s not just the odd day when you feel a bit under par. The effects of burnout build up over time, and impact individuals over the long term.

Symptoms of burnout vary from individual to individual, and include insomnia, low energy, a loss of interest in work, headaches, and irrational irritability with colleagues, friends, and family.

Burnout results in low productivity and low creativity. You’re less likely to spot opportunities when you’re feeling burnt out. And even when you do, you don’t have the attention span to act on them.

If you’re constantly exhausted, anxious, annoyed and overwhelmedand you prefer to watch generic television shows and eat chocolate than hang out with your friends and family, it may be a signal that burnout has got the better of you.

You can prevent this. You have to put strategies in place to look after yourself – and encourage your team to do the same – to prevent burnout happening in the first place.

You have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help and lead others.

If you’re in danger of burning out, a quick fix like a spa day or a holiday might help. But it doesn’t offer a sustainable solution.

To prevent burnout, you must implement strategies and habits that create lasting change.

1. Get moving

Do more exercise. Your body and mind will be able to handle the effects of stress more easily if you take regular exercise. This isn’t about doing a mega workout at the gym. It’s more important to find exercise that you enjoy and that you can make a habit. Check out this excellent atricle on no gym workouts from our friends over at Groom and Style.

It’s one of the reasons I got a dog because it means that I have to walk every day. Research shows that in addition to improving fitness and cardiovascular health, walking outside can also increase your creativity and well being.

Walking helps me to think straight and get my thoughts in order. If I walk at the start of the day, it helps me to plan my day and prioritize urgent tasks.

Doing exercise can help you to sleep better and when we’re rested we’re capable of making better decisions about pretty much everything from work problems to what we eat for dinner.

2. Do something all-consuming

For some people, this is about practicing mindfulness and focusing your awareness on the present moment. For others, it might be immersing yourself in a good book or a film.

For me, I prefer improv. Several years ago, I was running a workshop on stepping out of your comfort zone. I believe that it’s important to lead by example, so I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and do something that scared me.

I signed up for improv classes. In my experience, it’s better than therapy. When you are practicing improv, you can only think and be in the moment.  You have to fully apply yourself to be able to respond to the others on stage.

Find your thing that is all consuming and means you have to switch off from everything else, and do it often.

3. Ask for help

As leaders, we sometimes feel that there is an expectation to know all the answers. This can make us feel stressed and under pressure. It’s not your role to know all the answers.

It’s more important to ask the right questions and have a network of people to go to who will have some of the answers. Build your troupe of people who you can ask for help.

These are not the people who tell you you’re amazing no matter what, these are critical friends who have your best interests at heart and will be candid and kind. Go for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and connect with people regularly to build your networks before you need them.

Do these things regularly. Make them a habit.

Your constant busy can lead to burnout. This is not you being selfish, this is you preventing burning out. This is you putting on your oxygen mask first so that you can better lead and help others.

If you’d like some help to better lead and help others check out the Lucidity Facebook community. A place to ask for help, share ideas and practical ways to be happier at work.  

A version of this blog was first published at About Leaders. 

Three tips to beat the curse of busy

Ants are busy

When someone asks, ‘how are you?’ is your standard default ‘really busy’? Are you constantly responding to urgent and important requests on different devices with no time to think straight? Do you feel like you are on a hamster wheel running round and around with no time to stop and consider what you are doing? You are not alone. In the recent Lucidity Innovation Launchpad survey 82% of people told us they don’t have time to think because they are too busy fire-fighting everyday tasks and managing an ever increasing ‘to-do’ list with no time to do it because they are in constant meetings, juggling conflicting priorities and are stressed out at being pulled in all directions.

Is your standard default ‘really busy’?

Based on our research and experience it would seem that we are in the midst of a busyness epidemic. Huffington Post described busyness as a sickness. And we would agree since excessive busyness can cause fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain.

We’re so busy responding to other people’s ‘urgent and important’ we don’t take stock of whether the activities are truly urgent or important. We don’t take time to consider, if what we are busy about, are the right activities that will get us the best results. The stress levels associated with this sort of constant busyness are bad for us. Our health suffers, concentration ebbs, decision making is impacted, we miss opportunities and we can lack focus and become inward looking.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

That’s why over at the Lucidity Network we put some training material together on beating the curse of busy and making time to think. Here are our top three tips:

Tip 1. Work when you are at your best Humans are not programmed to work between the conventional office working hours of 9-5. Some people are best early morning, others are night owls, and some thrive at 3pm. Save time by working out how you can do the most difficult stuff that requires real thinking when you are at your Note your working patterns over the next week and notice when you do your best thinking. When are you in a slump? Start to plan your day to do the difficult tasks when you are at your best and take a nap (we’re serious) or do the tasks that take less concentration when you are in your slump.

Tip 2. Get rid of distractions If you are attempting to do meaningful work turn off all distractions. Switch off your email, put your phone out of reach where you can’t check Facebook or WhatsApp and turn off all notifications. If you work in an office put headphones on (even if you are not playing anything through them, they can signal ‘do not disturb’ or if your office environment is too distracting book a meeting room or work from home. Interruptions stop your flow and your brain’s thought process. Once you are distracted, the brain has to find where it was, re assess the situation, and then make the effort to get back to that stopping point. That can take 15 minutes per distraction which adds up to a massive amount of wasted time. Research also shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be. Turn off all your notifications, for example on email, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to give yourself a chance of concentrating for more than 10 seconds.

Tip 3. Work in short bursts Humans work best in short bursts. The optimum short burst time i.e. the length of time worked vs when a break is needed will vary from person to person. Start by sitting down to focus on a piece of work for 45 minutes. Then give yourself a 15-minute break. Set an alarm to make sure you do it. Go for a walk around. Have a stretch. Breaking up your time prevents boredom and helps you to maintain a high quality of work. Lengthen and shorten your bursts to work out your optimum time.

And I’ll give you an extra one for free. Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is simply not effective. It’s true that we can do several tasks at once, but we don’t do any single one of them well. Researchers have shown it’s more efficient to do one task after another rather than several things at once.

The Lucidity Network offers more help on making time to think, including a webinar interview where Productivity Ninja Grace Marshall shares her best tips for productivity as well as training bundles on resilience, confidence and creativity. It’s a community of generous people who help each other get the important work done. Facilitated via a Facebook Community with group coaching, mastermind groups and online content to help you tackle the complexities of working life that didn’t come with the management handbook. Click here for more information and to join the Lucidity Network.