Posts Tagged ‘Wellbeing’

World Mental Health Day

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Each year, the 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day.

Everyone of us goes through difficult episodes throughout our lives, and we all have different ways of dealing with our emotions and feelings. And many live with a mental health illness that is kept hidden for fear of stigma and discrimination.

Recent campaigns are trying to change how we view mental health and encourage people to seek help. We have no issue with getting regular check ups at the dentist and doctor.  Mental health should be no different, but we need to keep it checked too.

Often it’s the little things that can have an enormous impact.  Here are some little reminders to help in times of need, from yourmentalhealth.ie.

 

You can order printed poster and postcard packs at HealthPromotion.ie.  As an employer, having posters displayed in the workplace promoting awareness will encourage employees to be more open and share their issues with you if there is a culture of openness and honesty.

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

What Are Employers Really Concerned About For The Year Ahead?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

 

The Voltedge Management team of HR Consultants, Associates and support staff had a most enjoyable afternoon in the company of the CIPD Ireland Director Mary Connaughton at our recent Quarterly Off Site. It was a great opportunity for our team to discuss and explore the broad range of People Management topics that are coming up as particular important for companies.

Our team of experienced HR Professionals working across all sectors with both Irish and International clients get to see first-hand, the drivers and enablers that are so key to business success. We recognise the challenges experienced by leaders and people managers, and their need to juggle the commercial and talent management requirements while at the same time build high performing teams across all areas of the business.

This CIPD briefing and analysis of their 2019 survey was a very timely and worthwhile opportunity as Voltedge maps out our plans for the final quarter of 2019 and review of our range of services including Recruitment Management, Onboarding & Engagement, HR Compliance & Best Practice, Wellbeing & Healthy Workplaces and Management & Leadership Development.

And as we get ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for 2020, this event provided us with the chance to really look and reflect on what it really is that employers and companies are concerned about for the year ahead.

The results of the CIPD HR Practices in Ireland 2019 survey threw up some very topical agenda items that we also witnessed in the support needs of our clients. Topics such as Skills & Retention, Gender Pay Gap, Diversity and Inclusion, requests for more Flexible Working models, Health Wellbeing and Mental Health etc.

Here are a few of the highlights worth looking at again and building into your plans for 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a good time to look at planning and budgeting for the future needs of your talent. Remember to get in touch and talk to any one of our experienced HR Specialists to assist you map out your requirements and align your people strategy with your business strategy. We’d love to talk to you about how we can assist, call Ingrid on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie to speak to an expert.

Voltedge Management

The Art of Resilience

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Resilience can be defined as our ability to bounce back from set-backs and to cope with a difficult or stressful time.  It is often believed that we are inherently resilient or not so, however resilience is an active process and can be developed.  Everyone is different, we react and respond in different ways to traumatic and stressful events in our lives.

In the workplace, the more resilient people will be better able to deal with the demands placed on them, heavy workloads, challenging environments and change.  The less resilient often struggle with these which manifests itself as stress, ill health both physically and mentally and the inability to perform to their highest potential.

There are lots of ways to develop resilience and create habits that will increase the ability to perform under pressure both in the workplace and in life in general.  Step forward and deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and also step back to rest and reenergise yourself.

Here are some ways to help build resilience and cope better with the stresses of life:

Don’t overthink it – what’s the worst thing that can happen is a good question to ask yourself when faced with something traumatic, stressful and out of your comfort zone.  There is always something worse and you have probably overcome worse in the past.

Stay connected – Relationships with friends, colleagues and family should be nurtured. Don’t withdraw when things are tough, talk and accept help from those close to you.

Set new goals – Develop realistic life goals for guidance and a sense of purpose. Do things that bring meaning to your life, creating one that feels good on the inside not one that just looks good on the outside.

Look after your health – Exercise regularly, eat well and sleep! Taking better care of your health will make you more confident, agile and fit – both inside and out.

Practice optimism – Make your thinking work for you, a positive outlook will help make you more resilient by focusing on the good rather than the bad.

Celebrate success – At the end of every day take some time to review what went well and give yourself a pat on the back. This helps train the mind to look for success rather than dwelling on negativity.

Express your emotions – Have open channels to express your feelings and emotions and ease tension. Mediation, keeping a journal, talking – are all ways of taking control and acknowledging how you are.

Be imperfect – We all have flaws and imperfections, accept them and work with them.

Learn lessons – Let go of asking “why me?” and instead focus on the positive lessons you can learn from your experience.

Learn from experience – Instead of focusing on the “why me?” focus on the positive lessons learnt.

Laugh – It is the best medicine!

Voltedge Management delivers Resilience Workshops to organisations providing an opportunity to develop and understand the need for resilience in a team and demonstrates the benefits to the business. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Stressed Out by Your Summer Holiday?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

It’s summer, everyone has either gone on holiday, is on holiday or planning a holiday – it’s holiday season. We pack up our lives and escape to unwind, relax, explore, discover, indulge, laugh and enjoy ourselves outside of our routine lives.  Sounds great and stress free? For many people, being away from the workplace on holiday adds an additional layer of stress to the skyscraper tower of stress that many of our lives have become and the whole reason we go on holiday – to knock that tower down!

Here are some tips to avoid tipping your tower over pre-holiday and to maintaining the holiday glow for longer post-holiday:

Make lists

Three to be exact!  One which lists everything you are working on and the corresponding status – waiting on feedback, a decision, client response for example.

Two will be your priority list – the things you must first address when you get back from holiday. Keep this list short!

The third list is your personal checklist with everything you need to bring, do and sign off on before holidays from passport to booking the dog into kennels.

Do a handover

Delegate any tasks or pieces of work that must be actioned while you are away. Clearly document what needs to be done, who is doing it and when. Ensure all stakeholders are on board and committed.

Share lists one and two above with a trusted colleague in case of an emergency!

Tidy up

Do a desk clean up, get rid of any documents, files, post-its that are no longer needed.  Coming back to a clean and ordered work environment will be a much nicer experience.

Out of Office

Don’t forget to put your out of office message on your phone and email.  That way you can be away knowing that any urgent requests will be dealt with and your contacts will know you are away and not simply ignoring them.  It is so important when you are on holiday to be on holiday and not checking your emails and phone.  With our 24 ON society there is often the perception that we must be available no matter what the circumstances.  Be clear with your manager and team that you are only contactable for emergencies and allow yourself to have that well earned break.

Buffer day

If you can, plan your holiday with a day in between coming home and going back to work, this will give you an opportunity to settle at home, sort out your things and get ready to go back to work in a calm and refreshed manner.

First day back

Arrange a quick update with your manager/team and check your lists for priority actions. Don’t panic with the endless list of emails that is awaiting you – start from the top and you’ll soon be caught up.  Stay in holiday mode by ensuring you leave on time and plan activities for the rest of the day.

Lastly – plan your next holiday and have something to look forward to in the diary.  Don’t let that tower build up too high!

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

The Big Sneeze!

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

It’s that time of year again – the sound of lawnmowers, the smell of freshly cut grass, the bees and wasps buzzing around and the dreaded sound of the SNEEZE! That’s a sound we will be hearing more and more in the coming weeks as allergy season arrives.  For some people this time of the year can be truly miserable – sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes – and it doesn’t bode well for a productive day at work.

Allergies are one of the top reasons for absenteeism particularly, at this time of year.  It’s therefore important for employers to understand ways to reduce the trigger factors and minimise the effect on suffers in the workplace.

It’s easy for allergans such as dust mites, pollens and moulds – which are the most common triggers – to get trapped in office buildings.  Carpets, soft furnishings and cluttered desks can be hives of activity!

So what can you do to help those affected?

1/ Dust away those dust mites

Dust mites are commonly found in the home and the eggs can easily be transported into the work environment on clothes, quickly making themselves a new home at work.  Regular carpet cleaning and dusting the work area with a microfiber cloth or wet rag can help to reduce the mites in the area.  Curtains should be washed frequently and if possible coats and jackets should be hung outside of the office space.

2/ Breathe easy

Ensure there is clean filtered air circulating the work environment to help reduce pollen and allergans.  For hayfever sufferers this is vital, particularly at this time of the year. Make sure that windows are kept closed in the early morning and late afternoon which is when the pollen count peaks.

3/ Clean cleaning products

Many cleaning products including air fresheners release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air which can irritate the lungs causing breathing difficulties.  If possible use cleaning materials that are VOC free and avoid any use of plug-in and aerosol air fresheners.

4/ Allergy testing

It can be a good idea to have employees take an allergy test if many are presenting themselves with symptoms.  The cause can be identified and steps taken to help minimise exposure. For example if the results show a high reaction to mould it may be that you have an underlying problem that needs addressing that you weren’t aware of.  Often allergy suffers believe they are allergic to one thing when in fact it is something completely different that is setting them off.

5/ Support the sneezers

Allergy sufferers really do suffer! Supporting them by simply ensuring there are plenty of tissues available, providing sympathy, empathy and understanding can go a long way.  They are less likely to be absent from work if their needs are being met and addressed and the sneezing and snuffling isn’t seen as an annoyance.

Spring is delightful time of year, even if it is a little late arriving, unfortunately though for some it’s not such a welcome relief from the long winter!

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

The Lunch “Break” – Tips for Employers

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

How do your employees spend their lunch breaks? At their desks clogging up keyboards with crumbs, catching up on the headlines, emails and working? Sound familiar? It’s not really what a lunch “break” is supposed to be.

Back in the day when the Internet, let alone computers, didn’t exist or at least sit on everyone’s desks it was very common for people to go home for their lunch. Yikes, imagine taking the time to go home, eat a meal, maybe catch up on a few things in the house, chat to anyone else who was home for lunch and then go back to work feeling like you’ve had a real break ready to tackle the afternoon shift.  And if it wasn’t home you were going to it was certainly to a canteen, café or quite possibly the pub for an hour.  Nowadays employees might still get out, but it is most likely to pick up a takeaway, run errands and tick things off their never-ending to-do lists. Doesn’t sound like much of a “break”!

So, what can employers do to help their employees take a real break and come back to their desks feeling energised, productive and motivated for the afternoon, which quite possibly will stretch into the evening?

Get them to leave their desks! 

  • Have a “no-eat” at the desk policy, providing of course you have an alternative space for employees to go and eat.  This will promote social engagement and interaction with colleagues which turn will promote the sharing of information, ideas and issues that otherwise are not nurtured or vocalised.  Often the best ideas come from a “water cooler” chat rather than the boardroom.
  • A great way to get employees engaging and away from their work stations is to provide Lunch Byte Sessions. Run a series of one-hour modules on self-development topics such as How to be successful, Personal Branding, Body Language or Wellbeing. Or invite the employees themselves to do a presentation on a day in the life of Me.  Often referred to as Brown Bag lunches, the employer provides the food, which is an added incentive to attend.
  • Encourage your employees to get some fresh air, even if it is a ten minute trot around the block. Unplugging for those ten minutes and having head space alone or a chat with a colleague along with that burst of energy is a great stress-buster. Incentivise them to clock up “foot miles” which can be used to redeem a voucher, a free lunch or even towards time off.
  • Have you a quiet space where your employees can take a power nap? We all know tired people can be grumpy, irritable and unproductive!  It is proven that a quick 15-20 minute nap during the day can have huge benefits.  It will increase concentration and memory performance, making employees more productive, reducing stress levels and improving moods. In many countries such as Spain, Italy, Japan and China afternoon naps are a normal part of the daily culture.

We are recognising and understanding that the fast pace of our 24/7 always on lives can take its toll on our wellbeing. Employers have a duty of care to mind their employees.  It’s a win-win initiative, as happy, engaged, awake employees are far more productive and motivated.

It’s not called a Lunch “Break” for no reason!

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

12 Months of Challenges for a Better 2019

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

January, the longest month of the year, or so it seems, is coming to a close. At last many of us will be saying and rejoicing in the fact that we have managed to survive it and have maybe even stuck to one or two of our “resolutions”.  It’s so easy in December when indulging in all things considered naughty and extravagant to make elaborate plans to change, give up, do more, be better…  and then January comes and the long list looks more like an endurance test and less like a happy new lifestyle.

Don’t despair

Our downfall is not the list or what it contains, as let’s face it there usually is a valid reason why we verbalise the changes we want to make. The problem is there are often too many to tackle all at the same time.  What rule book says we have to span our resolutions over the entire year or says we have to make all the changes at the same time? It’s only January and there are 11 more months in the year which offers plenty of time to work our way through the list.

Break it down

The 12 months challenges rather than the 12-month challenge is where every month we take something from our list to address that month. And if you don’t have a list, start one.  It can be something simple like committing to adding two additional servings of vegetables to your daily diet or drinking an extra litre of water a day to doing a specific task. Or if it’s a bigger challenge like giving up smoking set yourself the goal of getting through the month first.  At the end of the month assess the impact of the change or action. Has it been beneficial, has it been a positive experience with a positive outcome – if the answers are yes you will probably be happy to keep going and if not that’s ok too it might not have been the right change to make for you at this time.

Habits are formed over time, some quicker than others however at the end of each month it will become more routine and less effort.  Introducing one thing every month will allow you to explore lots of different activities and ways of life over the year easing the pressure of bombarding your mind and body at all once and reducing the chances of success.

Here are some examples of some easy challenges for the next 12 months you might like to take up:

January
Get out walking for 30 minutes a day – the fresh air and exercise will energise you and blow away any blues, boost your metabolism and give you a healthy glow.

February
Add some healthy items to your diet – extra vegetables to your meals and munch on fruit instead of biscuits.

March
Spring is in the air so challenge yourself to decluttering at home and the workplace.  Take a room or area at a time. You’ll feel great afterwards!

April
Get out of your comfort zone and join a class, learn a new skill, do something you’ve always wanted to.

May
Get ready for summer and clear out your wardrobe.  Don’t hang onto items you know you are really never going to wear again or that simply do not fit anymore.

June
Make the most of the long evenings, get out for walks, runs, meet up with friends for a hike and boost your vitamin D levels.

July
Read a book – any book! If you’re on holiday even better and read two.

August
Think of a behaviour you would like to change or adopt and look at ways to achieve this and then practice, practice, practice.

September
Do a personal financial audit, where can you save, spend less and plan for the future.

October
Heading into wintertime and dark evenings is the perfect time to join an evening class or do some online learning.

November
Cut back on treats – chocolate, cakes, alcohol – December is usually a busy month!

December
It’s good to keep up as many of the positive habits you’ve formed over the year but it’s also a time to let loose and enjoy some over-indulgences too.  And celebrate your achievements!

When tackling any big changes, which impact us emotionally and physically looking after our wellbeing is so important.  Take it a month at time and reward your successes and manage any blips – and most importantly try not to give up or give in!

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Festive Season Wellbeing

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Here we are again another year has flown past and I’m still ruminating over all my New Year Resolutions from January! My resolution for this week is to try and follow these simple tips to get me through to January feeling relatively healthy and ready to make some more New Year Resolutions for 2019.

We all know Christmas can take its toll between over-indulging in food and alcohol, late nights, meeting end of year deadlines and the stress and pressure of having everything “perfect”.  It’s easy to lose the run of ourselves and come January we are often feeling burnt out and suffering from the blues.

Here are some tips on how to avoid that January feeling and bounce into 2019 with a smile 😊

Food

It’s so easy to overeat over Christmas, there are boxes of chocolates and biscuits in the office, lunches and dinners out and at home, and we tend to stock up on tasty treats because “hey it’s Christmas”! And yes, we do all deserve to overdo it a little but the key message here is MODERATION.  Instead of saying yes to everything, and mindlessly dipping into the bowls of crisps, sweets, picking off the plates of nibbles and having that extra mince pie – STOP! Think about what you are eating, enjoy and savour it and then step away.  There are usually some healthy options too, try a few and surprise yourself on how tasty they can be, replenishing your vitamin and mineral levels at the same time.

Food is fuel – the cleaner and purer, the more efficient and stronger the body!

Exercise

Running around the shops, traipsing around town and decorating the house is often all the exercise many of us get at Christmas. And yes, it does count but keeping active and getting some fresh air has a huge impact on balancing stress levels and keeping the extra inches at bay.  A brisk walk after a big meal is a great way to keep energised and if you have a current exercise routine don’t put it on hold altogether for the month of December.  Stick with it as much as possible and come January the thought of going back to the gym, hitting the pavements or signing back up for that Pilates class will not hurt as much.  It’s a great way to get together with friends and family too, organise a hike and a picnic, a turkey sandwich eaten at the top of a mountain cannot be beaten.  And for the really brave and bold a dip in the sea will put a skip in anyone’s step – just be careful!

A fit and active body is one that is truly alive!

Stress

The end of the year can be a hugely stressful time in any work environment.  With deadlines, targets, planning and budgets all top of the agenda, the pressure can be at boiling point.  Take stock, prioritise and manage your time efficiently. Plan your day and stick with that plan as best you can.  Be realistic in what you can achieve and be open with your colleagues and managers on your manageable goals.

The same applies for stress at home, Christmas can add huge strain financially so be realistic and don’t spend what you don’t have. Easy to say, but by planning early, taking advantage of offers, pre-Christmas sales and not leaving everything to the last minute, you can avoid getting into debt and spending January worrying about bills and expenses.

Take stock, be realistic and plan for a stress-free time.

Alcohol

Mulled wine, bubbles, cocktails and sherry, it’s hard to avoid a tipple or two and get a bit merry. At family gatherings and when meeting up with friends, there’s usually some alcohol on offer and given the festive spirit, well why not?! But being mindful of what you are drinking is the key to minding yourself.  No one enjoys hangovers and that feeling of dread after one too many and if you are already feeling stressed or a little bit low, those feelings are magnified and can become overwhelming.  Follow the tips of never drinking on an empty stomach (hard to do over Christmas); pace yourself, drink plenty of water and try not to mix your drinks too much.   Be aware of how much you are drinking, don’t top up, finish your glass first otherwise you really have no idea how much you have drunk. And remember it is ok to say NO! Your friends and family will be jealous of your clear head the next day.

Have a tipple and be merry just don’t over-do it on the Sherry!

And lastly, be mindful of others.  Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, if you know someone is feeling low, lonely or stressed, reach out to them. Volunteer to help out at a local centre, fund raising or simply to do a bit of shopping for a neighbour – it will make their day and make you feel good too.

Enjoy, be kind, be safe and be healthy. Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Get Fit at Your Desk

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I’ve spoken about how much time we spend sitting and the negative impact it has on our lives. A big one being on our fitness levels. Sitting clearly can’t make us fit or that’s what we think!  Yes, you can get fit at your desk, if you don’t mind attracting attention and jeopardising your image and sensible reputation at the same time!

Ready to give it a go?

Let’s start with some gentle desk yoga and stretches to ease tension, improve posture and get the blood flowing.  

Sit with two feet flat on the floor and bum pressed into back of chair.

Seated Crescent Moon Pose

This lovely side stretch helps ease neck and shoulder tension.  Simply lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers wide. Lean to the right, taking 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side for another 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat as many times you need.

Wrist and Finger Stretches

Tapping away at a computer and cause tension to build up in the muscles and tendons in the fingers, hands, and wrists, so extra blood flow to these areas is always appreciated.  Every couple of hours try these two movements:

  • Extend the arms to the sides or overhead and draw 5 to 10 circles inward and outward through the wrists. Next, quickly spread the fingers and close the fists, repeating this 5 to 10 times to shake off any excess tension.
  • Stretch each arm out and bend the wrist inward then outward, counter-stretching with your other hand. Hold each side 5 to 10 breaths.

Desk Plank Pose

Place your hands shoulder width distance or wider at the desk edge. Step your feet back until your feet are directly under your hips as you create a pleasant feeling traction for your spine. Hold 5 to 10 breaths and let this pose help you undo all the negative effects of sitting. (Only do this if your desk is fixed into position.)

Rubber Neck
Sit up tall and drop your right ear down towards your right shoulder (you don’t have to touch it!) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side.  Bring your head back to the upright position before doing the next stretch.

Turn your head the left and try and look over your shoulder and hold for a few seconds … repeat on the right.

Starting with your head again in the upright position, drop your chin down towards your chest and gently roll your head from side to side.

Shrugs
Your colleagues might think you are reacting to something you are reading with this one but it’s a great tension reliever. Raise both shoulders up towards your ears and hold for a few seconds and release, repeat as many times as you need to.

Chest Opener
Bring your hands behind your back, press your palms together, sit up tall and hold for 5–10 seconds. A little like a backward praying pose.

Knee Press
This one stretches out the glutes. With your right ankle on your left knee, gently press against the right knee a few times. Swap over to the left side and repeat.

Now that you’re all warmed up it’s time for the real exercise to begin. Grab a glass of water and get moving and ignore the funny looks you might get!

 Walk/Jog/Run in Place

You do have to stand up for this but can stay at your desk. Just start moving as quickly as you can for 30–45 seconds, between 3–5 times. Walking, jogging or running on the spot will get the heart pumping.

 Push-Ups

Don’t panic you will not have to lie on office floor to do this.  Use your desk or a wall and push up from it doing 10 – 20 reps at a time.

 Squats

These are great for toning and shaping, simply stand up and sit back down and repeat 10 – 20 times.

 Jumping

Jumping with both feet at once, or alternate if that is too difficult, pretend you’re jumping over a rope. Increase the intensity by adding some arm movements.

Calf Raises

Stand up behind your chair and hold on for support. Raise your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor. Do 3 sets of 10.

 Glute Squeeze

This is a really easy one to do and no one will even know you are doing it!  Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and hold for 10–30 seconds. Do as many as you can as often as you can.

 Shoulder Press

Find a heavy book or small box that weighs a hold it at shoulder height and then raise it all the way overhead. Do this about 10 times and repeat 3 times.

 Wall Sit

Another easy but really effective one. Stand with your back against the wall and slowly lower yourself into a seated position and hold for 10–30 seconds at a time and feel the burn.

 Lunges

Do this at your desk by putting one leg in front of the other and gently lowering the knee of your back leg down towards the floor. Try between 10 and 15 per leg.  Alternatively, you can lunge your way around the office, long corridors are good spaces.  You might get some strange looks!

Try some or all of these as often as you can so they become part of your everyday routine.

And remember to do some work during or in between exercises and not only will your fitness levels increase but so should your productivity and performance. Get your colleagues moving too, a bit of competitiveness and camaraderie will keep you motivated.

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Food for Thought

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

This common expression has been around since the late 1800’s taking the idea of digestion from the stomach and transferring it to the brain. Having used this expression recently it got me thinking, no pun intended, on the effects of food on our mind and subsequently productivity and performance.

We are all familiar with the daily cycle of peaks and slumps, and although we often attribute them to food – I am hungry or I am too full – we don’t think about why exactly they are happening. Different types of food react differently with our bodies and therefore the type of fuel we put into ourselves will have varying results. Premium fuel equals premium performance! 

What we eat is almost all converted to glucose which in turn provides energy to our brain to keep it alert. When glucose is running low, we become hungry and find it difficult to concentrate and pay attention.  So, we eat! Very often our choice of food at this point is what will give us that much needed burst of energy the quickest – sugary, processed, calorie ridden, high fat – we all know the drill. And yes, they will give an immediate feeling of satiation, but it won’t last. The sugar crash that will inevitably come will make you feel weak, confused, anxious and the high calorie high fat foods will make you feel sluggish and sleepy, all contributing to poor performance and productivity.

The solution

Not allowing your energy levels to dip so low that you are not making informed healthy eating choices. Snacking (yes snacking which I’m quite fond of, my colleagues all know where my hidden goody drawer is, which I have to say does have several healthy options and not just the ubiquitous pack of biscuits), stops you from those big highs and dips and keeps the brain in a constant active, creative and productive state.

Food choices are the key ingredient to better performance with fruit and veg ranking high on the table. Research has shown that eating them throughout the day is great for the mind and the body. The British Journal of Health Psychology carried out a hugely interesting study where participants reported their food consumption, mood, and behaviours over a period of 13 days. Afterwards, researchers examined the way peoples’ food choices influenced their daily experiences. It concluded that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be.

The reason for this is they contain vital nutrients that promote the production of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation, and engagement.  Additionally, they provide antioxidants that minimize bodily inflammation, improve memory, and enhance mood.

What action can employers take:

  1. Have a supply of healthy snacks available for employees to eat throughout the day to maintain their energy levels.
  2. Encourage employees to make healthy lunch choices by having posters displayed in the kitchen area.
  3. If you’re buying lunch in have healthy options available and order early before employees are too hungry to make informed choices.

Here are some of the health choices you should be aiming to have in that goody drawer, kitchen cupboard, boardroom table and lunchbox:

Blueberries
These berries have a great combination of antioxidants and a high amount of gallic acid, which can protect our brain from degeneration and oxidative stress and boost our focus and memory.

Almonds

These tasty nuts are rich in healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, and plant protein. They support healthy brain function and prevent cognitive decline.

Whole grains

They will help you stay mentally alert all day long. Eat wholegrain cereals, rice, granary bread.

Pumpkin seeds

The seeds are rich in zinc which is vital for improving memory and thinking skills.

Dark chocolate

This is rich in flavonoids that increase blood flow to the brain. It can boost memory, attention span, and problem-solving skills.

Green tea

This contains theanine that can help you with focus and concentration.

Spinach
These greens contain a lot of antioxidants and can help improve learning capacity.

Broccoli
It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your thinking and boost your focus.

Sunflower seeds

They are considered to be an essential source of fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins and are a great food to fight fatigue and help you stay productive.

Food for thought indeed!!

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Sleep – Are you Getting Enough?

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Sleep, how often do you think about it, discuss it, get anxious about it and more importantly actually get it?  It’s a topical modern problem. In days gone by people went to bed when it got dark and got up with the dawn – simple, and routinely the best way to sleep.  Now we are so distracted with life whether it’s work, family time, technology, keeping up with day to day tasks, the time to sleep is lessening for many. And of course there is also the bravado and bragging rights of getting very little sleep – a bit like lunch is for wimps, sleep is for the lazy.  How wrong unfortunately that way of thinking is.

We may feel shutting ourselves out of the world for 7 or 8 hours is a waste of valuable living time, but it is proven that by not shutting down and repairing our bodies, our valuable living time could actually be a lot less.  And our awake state is by no means at it’s best, most productive and innovative it can be.

If we didn’t think sleep was so important why do we talk about it all the time? There are those that feel it’s a badge to say yeah I only got 3 hours sleep, I’m WRECKED but hey I’m working 15 hour days, going to the gym, doing a night class and fitting in family time and social outings – Life is for living! And then there are those who desperately want to sleep but can’t.  Both categories are functioning well below par.

“If you regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep, you’re not at your best,” says Thomas Balkin, PhD, director of behavioural biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. “The less sleep you get, the worse you do.”

What happens:

  • Attention span is diminished it’s harder to concentrate and your mind will wander. Staying focused becomes difficult for a sustained period of time.
  • Reaction time is longer which is a major cause of motor accidents, not being alert and able to react quickly and efficiently. For some jobs this can be a big problem.
  • Decision-making can be less rational and can result in poor choices or irresponsible action and poor judgement.
  • Memory function becomes lessened, even simple things like remembering details of an article you have just read. Map this to the work environment and things will be forgotten and missed.
  • Moods are affected with a tendency to think negatively, be grumpy, intolerant and superstitious.
  • Weigh gain is often a symptom as the hormones leptin and ghrelin which control our feelings of hunger and fullness are affected by sleep.

If the lack of sleep is a temporary situation, perhaps there is a new baby in the home or a particular life experience that is currently impacting sleep patterns, the effects can mostly be reversed. But longterm the damage can be critical.

  • An increased risk of heart attack and strokes
  • Raised risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic weigh gain
  • Lower sperm counts in men
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Skin ageing

In fact the list could go on and on…

So, what actually happens when we sleep that is so critical to our health and wellbeing:

Neuroscience says:

  • Our body is rebuilding, repairing and healing while we sleep
  • Our Inner battery gets powered up
  • Hormones recalibrate
  • Body flushes toxins from our brain
  • Brain processes and performs memory consolidation
  • Sleeping enhances our creativity
  • Sleeping clears and restores our mind
  • We even burn calories while we sleep

Suddenly the people bragging about existing on minimal sleep are not as great as they might like to think they are.  In fact with a few more hours sleep they certainly will be displaying better signs of greatness and most probably feeling greater with it!

As an employer you can most likely recognise the signs of sleep deprived colleagues quite easily. Here is what you can do about it:

  • Encourage employees to get some natural bright light during the day by taking a walk outside, the exercise and light will have an alerting effect. Open blinds and curtains to let in as much natural light as possible into the work environment.
  • Encourage employees to arrange important meetings or schedule critical pieces of work when they know they are at their brightest in the day, if possible.
  • Monitor caffeine intake, it may be needed to get started in the day but it can effect sleep for up to 8 to 10 hours.
  • Provide the opportunity if possible take a short power nap which can have an enormous reviving effect on those able to do so. Not everyone can shut off though for 10 minutes!
  • Have a technical power down policy, where employees are not encouraged to be sending late night emails or responding to messages.
  • Monitor workloads and be aware of employees who are taking on too much.
  • Be sympathetic and encourage any chronic sufferers to get help.

According to the World Health Organisation the actual number of hours needed for adult sleep is 8 hours 36 mins.  Working backwards from your normal wake-up time I’m guessing most readers (me included) will have to start getting into the PJs a bit earlier tonight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Sitting is the New Smoking

Monday, June 11th, 2018

 

You have probably heard this headline and thought like most of us “seriously?” but on digging deeper it does seem to have some truth behind it. A scary thought if like me you are working in a sedentary job and enjoy the odd bit of TV too in the evening!

The line was coined by Dr James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic in the US who in an interview with the LA Times said “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. The chair is out to kill us.”

The health risks associated with sitting all day include heart disease, various types of cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and increased blood pressure. This is really worrying as more and more people are working longer hours at their desks, commuting in cars, trains or busses, then collapsing down in front of the TV before going to bed, on a regular basis.

So, what can we do to combat this, and what can employers do to help their employees live longer?

I’ve decided to take action and sign up for an initiative in our workplace to try out a standing desk. I’m excitedly awaiting its arrival and discovering the benefits of spending at least some of my day standing.  It’s a bit hard to imagine how it will all work – do I stand for an hour then sit for an hour? Will moving my laptop and stuff be a deterrent or just become part of my more active lifestyle? Will I need to change my shoes for the standing bit? How soon will I see results?

Standing desks are becoming more and more popular with many organisations having them as a standard option. In Denmark the government has mandated that all office workers must have a height adjustable desk and hopefully this will be rolled out to other countries including Ireland in the future. Unfortunately, they can be expensive so like my workplace, people are getting creative in developing and making their own versions!

Of course, there are other ways to combat sitting all day but they take more effort. Employers should be encouraging employees to get up from their desks, take breaks at lunchtime, walk to and talk to colleagues instead of emailing, stand up when on the phone, but we all know how easy it is to get stuck into work and end up stuck to your seat.

It’s a little ironic that Sitting is the new Smoking, considering it’s the smokers who get up off their seats more than anyone else!

Updates on my Standing Desk experience will follow.

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Haattchooo – It’s Allergy Season

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Haattchooo… we’ll be starting to hear that sound more and more in the coming weeks as allergy season arrives.  For some people this time of year can be truly miserable – sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes – and it doesn’t bode well for a productive day at work.  Allergies are one of the top reasons for absenteeism particularly, at this time of year.  It’s therefore important for employers to understand the ways to reduce the trigger factors and minimise the effect on sufferers in the workplace.

It’s easy for allergens such as dust mites, pollens and moulds – which are the most common triggers – to get trapped in office buildings.  Carpets, soft furnishings and cluttered desks can be hives of activity!

So what can you do to help those haatchoooers?

  1. Dust away those dust mites

Dust mites are commonly found in the home and the eggs can easily be transported into the work environment on clothes, quickly making themselves a new home at work.  Regular carpet cleaning and dusting the work area with a microfiber cloth or wet rag can help to reduce the mites in the area.  Curtains should be washed frequently and if possible coats and jackets should be hung outside of the office space.

  1. Breath easy

Ensure there is clean filtered air circulating the work environment to help reduce pollen and allergens.  For hay fever sufferers this is vital, particularly at this time of the year. Make sure that windows are kept closed in the early morning and late afternoon which is when the pollen count peaks.

  1. Cleaning products

Many cleaning products including air fresheners release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air which can irritate the lungs causing breathing difficulties.  If possible, use cleaning materials that are VOC free and avoid any use of plug-in and aerosol air fresheners.

  1. Allergy testing

It can be a good idea to have employees take an allergy test if many are presenting themselves with symptoms.  The cause can be identified and steps taken to help minimise exposure. For example, if the results show a high reaction to mould it may be that you have an underlying problem that needs addressing that you weren’t aware of.  Often allergy sufferers believe they are allergic to one thing when in fact it is something completely different that is setting them off.

  1. Support the Haattchoooers

Allergy sufferers really do suffer! Supporting them by simply ensuring there are plenty of tissues available, providing sympathy, empathy and understanding can go a long way. They are less likely to be absent from work if their needs are being met and addressed and the haattchoooing isn’t seen as an annoyance.

Spring is delightful time of year, even if it is a little late arriving, unfortunately though for some it’s not such a welcome relief from the long winter!

 

 Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager, Voltedge Management

Wellbeing from the Top Down

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

 

It’s all very well for an employer to implement wellbeing initiatives and think great I’ve ticked that box off without really investing themselves in it.  There are many subtle and impactful ways for managers to support employee wellbeing that don’t need to be highly resourceful, time consuming or costly.

From when we were very small children all we wanted was to be told what a great job we were doing, whether that was simply tidying away our toys at the end of the day to doing well at school.  As adults in the workplace it is no different. Praise makes us feel good, empowered and happy.

Here are some relatively simple ways for employers to do that:

Get to know your employees

Set up some 1:1 time with your team members on a regular basis.  Listen to them, ask them how they are getting on, and encourage new ideas and thinking. Engage with them on a personal level as well, ask how their family is, how their local soccer team is doing or how they enjoyed an event. Make them feel like you are genuinely interested in them not just as an employee.

Be a leader and set an example

If you have implemented a ‘let’s get walking’ initiative at lunchtime make sure you get walking too. Employees will feel more motivated and encouraged if they see their manager do it and will feel it’s ok to take a break.  Let them know your wellbeing goals and how you plan to achieve them.

Recognise their work

It takes very little at the end of a day to say thank you and well done for work completed or getting through a stressful busy day.  However, your employee will leave work feeling like it was all worth it and motivated to do it again tomorrow.  Rather than going home feeling worn out and stressed, they will feel satisfied of a good day’s work.

Training and development

Invest in your team and watch them grow.  Putting in place personal development plans will provide a clear path for career progression and further learning.  It doesn’t have to big budget training courses. Cross-functional activities or an opportunity to work on new projects can provide peer to peer learning, which is a great way to develop skills and confidence levels.

Be mental health aware

It’s one of the biggest reasons for absenteeism and is often disguised as something else due to embarrassment or lack of confidence.  Managers who are open about mental health issues, who encourage their team to talk about it and assist in getting help or simply encourage some time off will ultimately reduce the number of incidences through this positive approach.

Have some fun

Introduce some fun initiatives to encourage employees to engage with each other.  Bake offs, last Friday of the month pizza day, Love Monday coffees, raise money for a charity with a sponsored walk, there are lots of things you can do that don’t have to take up too much time or cost.  Ask your employees for ideas, have a vote on the best one and run it for a few months.

Wellbeing in work and in life is about keeping stress at bay, being happy, feeling worthy and respected. It can be done!

 Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager, Voltedge Management

Wellness at Work – Ergonomics

Monday, November 13th, 2017

This month we are talking about Ergonomics – One of those words that we all go “yeah” I know what that is (sort of) and then go off and think of something else!

However it’s a word worth thinking about.  How often at the end of the day do you get up from your desk and think yikes I’ve been on that chair for over 8 hours. You stretch and then realise that you haven’t actually straightened your back in those 8 hours sitting busily at your desk.  This is where Ergonomics comes into play.

Ergonomics is the “Study of capabilities and limitations of mental and physical work in different settings. Ergonomics applies anatomical, physiological, and psychological knowledge (called human factors) to work and work environments in order to reduce or eliminate factors that cause pain or discomfort. Ergonomic designs of tools and equipment have helped curtail the occurrence of musculoskeltal disorders and repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTL). Also called human engineering.”

Translated into the office environment it’s all the factors that impact the health, wellbeing and most importantly the productivity of employees from desks, chairs, workstations to stress management, working hours and working practices.

As employers we have a duty of care to ensure our employees are provided with a comfortable and supportive workplace however it is also up to each employee to be aware of the impact of bad ergonomics and adjust themselves accordingly.  Some elements are easier to fix than others and here’s a list to start with!

The most obvious to look at first are the physical set ups: 

Graph1

These are all critical elements that can be relatively easily fixed and can have a considerable impact in your wellbeing at work.  As many as 1 in 5 regular computer users are diagnosed with a musculoskeletal problem affecting the upper limbs.

Next look at the environmental aspects:

Ergonomics

Interestingly there is term used for buildings with a high proportion (more than 20%) of its occupants reporting illness which are believed to be related to the actual building “Sick Building Syndrome”.  Illnesses such as respiratory, skin, nerve, headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye and nasal problems which often are relieved once leaving the building can cause increases in sickness absenteeism and causes a decrease in productivity of the workers.

The reasons for a Sick Building are often down to bad ventilation, overuse of chemical products, external fumes or moulds and funguses which unless addressed and fixed will be detrimental to any business working in such an environment.  This is the extreme end of the scale and if you think your building is sick, it is vital to have it checked by an expert.

You may not even realise you are working in an Non Ergonomic environment yet wonder why are you feeling stiff, joint pain, headaches and possibly stressed as a result of it.

A well-designed workspace is proven to increase productivity. One that provides comfort, a sense of privacy and space and is aesthetically pleasing promotes happiness, motivation and collaboration.

Research has shown that effective office ergonomics interventions on average reduce the number of musculoskeletal problems by 61%, reduce lost workdays by 88% and reduce staff turnover by 87%. The Cost:Benefit Ratio is on average 1:1.78 with a payback period of 0.4 years.

So remember…

  • As an employer check in with your employees regularly and listen to any concerns – happy employees are productive and motivated.
  • As an employee alert your manager if you’re not happy with your set up and remember to stand up, stretch and straighten your every 30 mins – it will do wonders for you!

Keep in mind that these are all critical elements that can have a considerable impact in your wellbeing at work. Voltedge advises and supports clients on all HR issues including wellbeing at work. For further information, contact us at info@voltedge.ie.

National Workplace Wellbeing Day

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

March 31st marked Ireland’s third National Workplace Wellbeing Day. There was an increased number of companies participating in various events in the workplace this year in both the public and private sectors.

The aim of course was to host events that improved employee wellbeing through promoting better exercise and nutrition in the workplace.

Recent research shows that about a ¼ of workers take the recommended level of exercise for a healthy lifestyle each week, and also indicates that companies who support and promote a healthier wellbeing for staff, enjoy greater retention and engagement from their people.

The nationwide campaign aims to help people maintain a healthy balance in their lives so that they achieve their full potential, deal with challenging situations and prioritise the important aspects of their lives, which will help them be resilient and cope better with the demands that they encounter.

The National Workplace Wellbing Day was a great reason to mark the occasion in the workplace with some healthy and fun initiatives.