I am one of the many females that have had some serious negative self talk about their weight and and correlated it with self worth which has often led to feelings of guilt from eating. I beat myself up because I think I know what I need to do so I set some tight restrictions and then when I fail I am full of guilt, shame and self hate. I have tried many a fad diet and had many an internal chat about tomorrow being a new day, or tomorrow’s the day when I make it happen, but here I am, at the same weight I’ve pretty much always been at for the last 10 years.
I work out often, I eat pretty healthy, I sleep around 7 hours consistently a night, don’t smoke or drink alcohol – why am I am not honed to perfection then?
Let’s be honest, there will be loads of factors affecting an individuals ability to lose or put on weight and I can’t go into them all, but I think guilt and it’s effect is an important one to discuss.
Guilt is fuelled by negative thinking. There have been numerous studies conducted that illustrate the affects of positive and negative thinking on how our bodies operate. An article from the Institute of Psychology for Eating has found that how you respond to food impacts how your body digests it. When you see a food you are about to eat and associate it with guilt, this sends messages to the brain and in turn sends signals to the digestive system that create an inhibitory response. So, whatever it is you are eating doesn’t get fully metabolised. It can then remain in your digestive system longer, and this diminishes the amount of good gut bacteria and increases unhealthy toxins being moved into the blood stream. Not only this, but the guilt can also cause an increase in insulin and cortisol production which in turn causes more of the food to be stored as fat. Plus increases in cortisol and adrenaline can increase heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation through the body.
Adding weight to this are further studies. In the Netherlands a study showed those that felt guilty after eating dessert foods were at more risk of eating more junk good and larger serving sizes as well as snacking more on junk food throughout the day.
Another study that monitored women participating in a weight loss program saw correlation between shame, self-criticism and and social comparison having a negative impact on their self regulation with weight loss. It caused an increase in disinhibition and susceptibility to hunger. It also saw that positive self assurance and social comparisons had a positive impact on their weight loss prior to the survey.
So, on the flip side of all that guilt as you can imagine, treating that same meal with a positive mentality can completely change how the body deals with it as you eat.
I know how negative those diets I put myself through were, when I look back now. All of these rules – do this, don’t do that create lots of restrictions. As a result you are setting yourself up for failure. As soon as you eat a banned food you feel guilty. Whereas positive association and reward are more effective. When you delight in the meal you are consuming your body sends signals to the brain and then the digestive system that stimulate your digestive organs. So, your food gets broken down properly and the calories get burned more effectively.
I want this article to reinforce our need to be kinder to ourselves in the society we live in where constant shallow comparisons based largely on aesthetics have been made too easy.
Try paying attention to that inner voice and begin with a 3 day ban on internal and/or external negative self talk. Then extend it out from there to a week, 2 weeks, etc. and just keep going. When you have a moment of guilt/negativity about yourself just try and silence it and think of a positive statement to counteract it’s power.
I still get a few resumes through my email that include pictures of candidates and they come from all types of people and so I thought I would give my two cents on whether or not you should include a photo in your resume presentation.
NO YOU SHOULD NOT.
I feel relatively emphatic on this point, as you can tell. Unless you are a model or an actor I do not believe there is a reason why your photo should have any impact on whether or not you are appropriate for a job to allow you to get to an interview, where all will be revealed anyway. In fact, in my mind, it damages a lot of the great strides we have made in turning away from discrimination within our workforce.
There are a few reasons why I feel particularly strongly about this so here they are:
It takes up valuable space on your resume that would be better served to describing skills and experience you have that is in fact directly relevant to your job application. It’s hard enough fitting your career history and skills onto two pages (which I still strongly recommend you aim for), adding a photo just makes it harder.
Secondly and perhaps even more importantly, it can cause bias from potential employers when determining whether you’re fit for the job. Unfortunately, for those who might be subconsciously or consciously discriminating – it allows them to. You have no idea if this could count for or against you as human beings are deep and complex individuals and if you resemble a particularly crazy ex girlfriend, you never know, that might be a reason to reject your application (hypothetical scenario but you get my drift – race, age, gender etc. are all potential ways to discriminate).
If you are going to ignore this advice anyway and put a photo on your resume, please at least make it as professional as possible! Here are some rules I recommend you stick to (if you really really want to put your face on paper):
Place it in the top corner of the page – small and to one side
Make it professional – no social media photos (NEVER OK). Make it a professional headshot, similar to that which you’d expect on your LinkedIn photo. If you don’t have one, take the time to get a friend to take one of your with a plain background against a wall, wearing smart clothing, easy)
Make sure it is a good quality photo i.e. not blurry or low resolution, or with bad lighting
Don’t use a dated/altered photo – I have seen this on LinkedIn before, people posting photos on their profile and then I am introduced at a meeting and can’t recognise them as it was taken years ago (probably a wise piece of advice for those on dating apps too). Make it true to your current profile.
Don’t make it any kind of a cartoon or attempt at humour. If you are thinking of doing that, don’t do one at all
And finally, if I wasn’t able to convince you fully to getting rid of a picture of your face being a reason to hire you above your skills, contemplate including a URL to your LinkedIn page where your professional headshot is placed.
For a personalised service to help you prepare your resume and cover letter when applying for jobs, feel free to reach out for a consultation. I appreciate many people are currently back in the job market, unexpectedly and it might have been a long time between job applications. I can help you make the best first impression possible and coach you around interviewing.
I just wanted to take a moment as we move into level 2 this week to reiterate something that I am sure has been spoken about already but is really important nonetheless.
Managers are under an ever increasing amount of pressure to maintain team wellbeing and productivity during these turbulent times. Many business leaders are having to work their normal role with the added stress of keeping the health and safety of their employees front of mind (both mental and physical) whilst also dealing with a huge amount of workforce insecurity. Furthermore, business policy and strategy is in a state of flux, so the need to adapt fast is paramount. It is key, more than ever, that managers are also aware enough to see when team members need extra psychological support during this time.
But, we all know you can’t be an effective leader if you yourself are struggling too (whether we like to admit it or not). Being selfless is great and admirable in the short term but in the longer term you are not only damaging yourself but you might well damage the wellbeing of the team around you.
There is going to be a new working environment and reality for everyone as we move forward into level 2 and beyond and I think it is extremely important that our leaders lead with empathy rather than a ‘tough love’ stance they might have previously thought suitable.
Here are a few ideas of how leaders can navigate their teams through this time:
If you start to see signs of productivity falling and/or social withdrawal from a team member, pay attention and don’t just dismiss it. It is also important to note when professional mental health support should be offered (in fact managers would do well to have some resources close to hand that they can offer to employees if it becomes apparent they might need help).
Be an effective role model for your team – keep up today with Covid 19 health and safety policies so you can answer questions effectively. As touched upon before, have up to date resources on hand for different help that might be needed for employees so you can make recommendations when necessary
Recognise that during this time, individuals might have close family members struggling in different ways, so checking in on how their whole family is doing and not just themselves as an individual might help give some insight into stresses they might be facing and again, different avenues of support you might be able to offer
Take note of those without families nearby and those isolating alone. Offer checkins and/or motivate them to reach out to friends and family over virtual communication devices if they are particularly isolated
Don’t be afraid to let the team know you are present and open to hearing about what they are experiencing. Most of the time you or someone close by will have experienced similar emotions or situations during this time and we all know how comforting it can be to know someone else understands how you feel
Set yourself clear boundaries between work and home life and try your best to stick to them. This has been a tricky one for many of us during lockdown but seeing your manager staying true to realistic rules between home and work life can help keep everyone on track and consistency is key.
Promote the use of sick leave if and when required. Don’t be afraid to advocate for mental health days within your team if they are needed and take one yourself.
A big one that I have always believed in promoting, but even more so right now, is maintaining work life balance. Advocate for prioritising tasks effectively whilst taking into account home responsibilities and be realistic about deadlines. It’s been highlighted recently but it’s something that existed before and often goes overlooked in favour of conventional office hours and expectations that ignore the realities of life.
Let’s use this opportunity to move forward with the way in which we operate and at all times lead with empathy. It makes so much sense but sometimes we get clouded by expectations we think others have of us as leaders or team members and these tend to be quite dated mindsets. We are all human and we are all feeling this crisis, albeit in different ways. You cannot underestimate how employees will be looking to leaders for guidance and understanding right now so let’s start how we mean to go on.
Back in January, on returning from some time abroad and starting my own recruitment business I made a decision to alter my lifestyle completely. I love doing a million things at once, so adding moving into a van full time onto starting a business seemed like a great idea. I was lucky enough to buy a van that had already been renovated into a home so I made some small adjustments to suit my own lifestyle and voila I was on the road and good to go.
One of the reasons I chose to do this was because by working for myself I am, for the first time, unrestricted. I don’t have an office to go to each day and I can control and decide when I need to hold face to face meetings and when I can conduct interviews and meetings online. I also want my recruitment business to be unrestricted in geography. I want to work for exciting technology driven organisations and not limit myself to Auckland. There are some exciting tech hubs popping up all over the country and being able to hop in my van and go meet people easily is really appealing.
The financial savings weren’t one of my initial drivers but it did give me that extra peace of mind that I didn’t have rent to pay whilst being a start up so it was one less thing to think about.
But now we face a global recession and a bloody great big one with the fallout of this pandemic and simplifying our lives might be something more people are prepared to do. I think during the level 4 lockdown many of us realised that we don’t necessarily need all the things we thought we did to find fulfilment. I guess for me going from the van to a home actually complicated my life but for many it was the opposite. Hopefully this can be a time of reflection and contemplation so that we don’t just return to our lives as they were before but embrace some of those learnings.
Van life is amazing for many reasons and so here are a few of them so you can think about whether van life or at least a more minimalist life might be within reach:
It forces you to think carefully before you purchase things as it’s all extra weight and space. So, you become more selective and make sure you have things you actually will use and clothes you will actually wear. You can’t just spend frivolously anymore.
2. It also highlights waste. You have a small bin and so become more mindful of what you are buying in terms of then what you will have to throw away. You minimise plastic more and unnecessary packaging.
3. You spend more time in nature and outdoors but when you’re inside you really relish those moments. I am most often out and about making the most of the outdoors and exploring new spots in NZ and old spots that I love. But, when it’s a rainy day, or I’m just not enthused for exercise I get so much satisfaction from making a cup of tea from my kettle, reading my book, practising guitar, working on my laptop, watching a movie – it has made those moments even more special
4. I appreciate the time I have with my friends so much more when I have it. Given I am out of Auckland a lot more and I have some friends dotted about the country, when I do finally touch base and see them, I make the most of it and it feels even more special. It’s kind of nice to miss people because then you plan a bit better when you are catching up and do things you really enjoy doing together.
5. I meet amazing people. The van is definitely a talking point and people love to take a look and chat about life in it. Given I can be isolated for several days before I see people, I quite like those moments too. I get to connect with like minded individuals that also appreciate a more minimalist lifestyle, or I get to inspire people that have thought about doing it and not really felt it was possible. I have often been that person on the outside looking into someone else’s life thinking, ‘wow they are so brave’, or ‘I could never do it’ but I did do it and so I know how important it is to hear that it is possible and it is worth it – IT IS!
6. I put my time to more valuable endeavours (to me) than I did in my previous life. I absolutely love nature, the coast, waterfalls, travelling, hiking, climbing, feeling free and working when I am at my most productive rather than office allocated hours that someone else stipulates. I am not saying this is the best and only way to live. But, for me, to live true to myself and what I value, it is right now. I took a leap of faith and it has paid off. I can save on rent and put that money to savings that will hopefully allow me to buy some land in the not to distant future to build a home on. I have ambitions of living off grid, somewhere peaceful, by the sea, and I am a lot closer to that dream by living this one.
So, if this time has allowed you to see that you can be happy with less, or even if you have been made redundant and are looking for a living solution that minimises your outgoings whilst you piece a new life back together, maybe think about van life or something similar. I am always happy to have a chat and give you my honest perspective. I am not saying it is without it’s downsides either but they are far fewer than the upsides.
I felt it was time for a bit of real reflection as we move into level 2 soon so here it is.
I have been in a love hate relationship with the peppy personal trainers on Instagram telling me I can still stay sane and fit from home. I loved and loathed it when their honed and toned frames show me how I can replicate a pull up using my own coffee table (who’d have thought it had more uses than just holding those coffee table books I never read). I also learnt I can create dumbbells through filling up my reusable shopping bags with books as weights (desperate times). I’ve even been momentarily inspired to do yoga over Zoom with friends (I hate yoga) and I was personally most impressed with myself when I created a pub quiz I have been leading every Tuesday evening over Zoom with friends all over the world (turns out I have a second calling as a quiz master). This time has really brought out some creativity in people that whilst magnificent sometimes gives me an overwhelming desire to punch them in the face and leave me to eat my family sized block of chocolate in peace, in the dark, watching Netflix, by myself, without the shame .
So let’s also take a moment to recognise how crap it’s been. I think we all too often get intoxicated with inspirational posts on LinkedIn and social media, or constantly reminded of all the good, charitable things others are doing to help, that you can be left feeling rather inadequate and like you’re not using this ‘gift’ of time wisely enough. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the good and the bad and remind everyone it’s ok to feel a whole spectrum of emotions and there have been times when I have experienced all of them in one day alone! If we are not careful I think we often feel alone in our feelings and can isolate ourselves further as a result because we ‘should’ be feeling grateful all the time for what we have got, rather than what we have lost. But I say wallow in your self pity, feel sad for your loss, just don’t let it overwhelm you completely. Take a moment for that when you need to but then pick yourself back up.
I had just started my own technology recruitment business back in January and things were ramping up. I was getting busy and having my first taste of success, giving me the reassurance I had made the right decision in going out alone. Fast forward 2 months and most of my clients have frozen or halted recruitment, a lot of my smaller clients can’t afford recruitment fees or recruitment just isn’t a viable option for the foreseeable future. All of these outcomes are understandable and expected but that doesn’t mean it feels great. I am someone that thrives off action, adventure, challenge, and doing my job. I love what I do and I thrive off helping others. Suddenly I had clients approaching me as candidates and candidates that needed my help with few to no jobs to present them too. That always feels crappy! So I want to own the fact that I have had a lot of down days during lockdown and I have been primarily alone which can magnify it.
But one of the reasons I have been able to stick at recruitment is my ability to turn adversity into hope and frustration into action. When I can’t succeed at one thing, I put all my energy into something else. This works a lot of the time but is tricky trying to keep it up for 6-8 weeks straight! So I wanted to look back at my achievements during this 6 weeks, and asked some of my clients, candidates and friends to reflect on this too and come up with their biggest achievement/most fulfilling moment during lockdown.
For me, 2 things came to mind the most. Firstly, I finally gave a consistent amount of time to my guitar practice and can now play the DMA’s version of Believe (Cher’s originally) relatively well, something I didn’t think was possible but that I really wanted to master. I am awful at the guitar and only started learning a few months ago so it’s been pretty tricky. I wanted to give some time in each day to a creative outlet and guitar and writing have been my main two.
Secondly – on my birthday, I had around 15 friends from all over the world join a zoom call where most of them didn’t know anyone else. Let’s be honest, it was a little awkward. But in that moment I realised I am not alone and in fact I have so many people that have enriched my life and still do, from all corners of the planet and that is an incredible thing to be blessed with. They all turned up for me, and that was very special. Just because you might feel lonely, it doesn’t mean you are alone and this is important for those by themselves in lockdown to remember.
My friend and fellow HR professional Lisa Harden, living in the US, had a similar feeling when she reflected on her most fulfilling moment. For her it “has been reconnecting with people who are my friends and family but usually I don’t see often. It’s been a reminder that I’m connected with family and friends from around the world and also across the US, who even though I don’t see often, I have this huge network of people who I have their back and they have mine. It’s amazing”
For Claire Bond it’s been something quite profound, “Relaxing without my usual feelings of guilt. I haven’t nailed it yet, but definitely made progress.” I know I can relate to that and it took a while for me to accept I didn’t have the work to fill up my days so I needed to fill my time with different activities and to not feel bad about it. Both Claire and I also reflected upon how these personal moments of growth inevitably will have a knock on effect to other areas of our lives, impacting us in both a professional and personal capacity.
My friend and ex colleague Kirk said for him it’s been the realisation ‘of the time we have available. I’ve really started to look at my efficiency with work. I can hear the kids playing and if I’m sitting there not giving 100% to what I’m doing then I kind of feel like I’m wasting time I could spend with the little ones. So I have become hyper efficient.” I think this is huge and for a lot of people something that will resonate. Having the physical reminder of what you are choosing to do, over something else, is really quite impactful. Time with family is so valuable and something before this we often didn’t prioritise. Now it’s up to us to make it work so you can maximise both and it really is within your reach. I am a huge advocate for working from home, although I know it brings its own challenges. But just think how much extra time you get for your family when you even just take away the commute! It’s crazy.
Lee Young noted similarly that his biggest achievement was “finally biting the bullet and going down to 4 days per week at work so I can make a start on my own business plans that I’ve been putting off for months if not years!” Working out what should be a priority is really key and something a lot of us will have learnt during this time. Spending time with people you love and prioritising things you are passionate about will bring you a lot more joy!
And though I think for a lot of us out there the benefits have been felt mostly in our personal lives, there has still be successes in the professional context that are really noteworthy. Chris Tuohy, who runs Spark’s Agile Coaching Practice noted, “My most fulfilling moment to date has been witnessing our coaches helping our Tribes with their quarterly big room planning events using an entirely remote working model (MS Teams, Azure DevOps etc). We were geared up for our normal face-to-face scaled planning events and had to pivot completely to remote tooling in under 2 weeks to pull it off. The degree of commitment, accountability and creativity on display was impressive and we were able to achieve everything we set out to in difficult circumstances . A credit to everyone involved.” I think the transition to working from home and remaining efficient, as well as conducting meaningful meetings over video conferencing rather than face to face, has been tricky but over time its been proven to work.
Chris touches upon the need for creativity and I think that’s been such a relevant word during these past 6 weeks. We’ve all had to become a little more creative and it’s so satisfying to see individuals and teams problem solve during these unique and turbulent times. I would never have described myself as creative before but I think we all have it in us it’s just that we live in a world where so much is decided and done on our behalf because we love efficiency, we don’t have as many avenues to flex that part of us. Suddenly we have been thrust into a world where we have to do it ourselves. I think that’s a really great way to grow and unleash our fullest potential.
I know something else I have found difficult has been the feeling of a lack of control. For all those with similar personalities, I don’t do well when I feel I can’t control my own destiny and where I can’t get myself out of a less than ideal situation. At the start I think I fought that and it brought me anxiety and a lot of comfort eating!! But then I started to look at what I could control – my exercise regime, my food intake, my communication with friends, checking in on clients just to make sure they were doing ok, and this was far more fulfilling than fighting against the changing tide.
A friend and avid surfer told me when I asked him for his achievement that “this time allowed me relax because there was so much to worry about yet nothing that could be done – it was like mind training, not allowing myself to solve problems that are unsolvable. The most satisfying part of the lockdown was actually the day after it finished when I could finally get back in the water, I scored a wave that is so rare and literally couldn’t handle the excitement. Every wave I was so ecstatic! Patience is a virtue I guess.”
It’s certainly not a virtue I was born with but even I am having to slow my mind down a little and learn some patience. I also have realised as my friend Cole did, that I can’t “solve problems that are unsolvable”. So I challenge you to reflect kindly on this lockdown period and look at what you have achieved, be it professionally and/or personally. Take the time to be kind to yourself and celebrate these achievements, no matter how big or small. Yes, there have been tough times and yes, there will be more to come, and don’t be afraid to admit and embrace that, but amid all the darkness find the light – I genuinely believe it’s always there (hopefully that didn’t sound too much like those inspirational social media influencers)
And finally, if you really still feel sorry for yourself after all that and think you have it the worst, just remember there are animals kept in cages their whole life and we haven’t empathised much with them before. So maybe now we can and realise it’s not that great and we shouldn’t support it (sorry, not sorry).
Coming out of the first 5 weeks of lockdown I have noticed already some key changes in recruitment processes and companies trying to adjust to our new reality. This is a new way of working that no one was expecting and so from both a client and candidate perspective it’s going to take some iterations to perfect. I wanted to give candidates in particular some useful tips on how to get through a video interview process, without having the face to face opportunity to make your mark on the interviewer.
1. Prepare with the necessary visual documentation you would have in face to face interview. If you would normally bring documentation and evidence of your experience, this is no different to any other interview. It might require some organisation to share documents prior to the interview or even get accustomed to the sharing screen option with Zoom so you can show things on different tabs but there are many ways to still show evidence of your experience so don’t be afraid to try it
2. Make sure you don’t have distractions – I know this has been one of the tougher parts to working from home but it is imperative you don’t have any distractions in your immediate vicinity throughout your first and follow up interviews. Close/lock doors to ensure no wandering children or spouses pop up at the wrong time. It also allows you to stay focused and in an interview frame of mind. First impressions are still as important if not more than before so create a professional environment that helps you get your head in the game.
3. Look the part – It’s easy to get into a more relaxed dress code when working from home and whilst that’s ok when there are no video meetings, I definitely advise you to wear what you normally would for a face to face interview from head to toe. Not only does this give them a great first impression but you’ll be amazed at how it transforms your own mindset and approach when you are in your ‘work’ outfit. Look the part, feel the part.
4. Body language is key – Stay positive in both body language and communication. It is just as important over video to create a sense of confidence, positivity and professionalism. Of course we are in a unique situation and it is inevitable that the conversation will turn to the current crisis and how it has been for you. I think it’s important not to get caught in the trap of oversharing too much and bringing your personal life too much into the conversation. Always keep in the back of your mind this is a perspective employer, not a personal friend you’re catching up with. Eye contact is also important. I advise keeping a balance of looking directly at the interviewer on the screen as well as directing your gaze to the camera itself.
5. PRACTICE USING THE SYSTEM – If you haven’t used a video system before or if they are using something different to what you are used to, try and practice beforehand. Make sure you are set up and ready to go with no audio and visual issues. Especially if the client is looking to consider you as a remote employee they want to have confidence that this won’t impact your ability to do the job and hinder you.
Don’t just hope for the best, make sure you are ready and able to conduct the interview at the right time. Be ready 10/15 minutes before as you might a face to face interview. Never rely on being there a minute before you’re due to start. It’s amazing how setting things up can take longer than you anticipated and it’s never a great start when you’re flustered from getting your audio to work etc and starting on the wrong foot.
Hopefully these tips are a help and remember there are plenty of benefits to a video interview, including not having to worry about traffic and parking. Keep that in mind, allow yourself a few minutes to breath and settle your nerves before you begin, and you’ll be flying.
6 top reasons why it’s better for everyone and 7 valid concerns to be addressed:
I genuinely believe remote working as well as increased flexibility in the workplace is the way of the future. I was lucky enough to be given that opportunity at my previous employer and I believe it increased my work productivity as well as my loyalty as it clearly demonstrated their trust in me which increased my respect for them.
Now that I am working for myself I realise I can choose with even more freedom when and how I work and listen to what my body and mind is telling me I need. Here are some reasons why I think it’s a win for everyone, and with some statistics that that illustrate plenty of global companies agree:
It increases productivity
Businesses lose $600 billion a year in workplace distractions. This is something from experience I feel strongly about. You can have employees in the office for 8-10 hours a day and they can be extremely unproductive. Fellow colleagues are great at distracting each other – unnecessary meetings, regular coffee breaks, wandering over to the kitchen and engaging in conversation with someone on their break whilst you aren’t on yours. I have seen it happen so often, whereas when I am at home, I can smash out work, with zero distractions, take breaks when I actually know I am losing concentration and these breaks can be spent positively doing something in the house that I would otherwise have to do in a rush in my evening or weekend. Or I can go for a walk if I need fresh air. I don’t have to feel watched and judged for my movements because it’s all about output, which I think work success should be based on. If I don’t produce the work, they know I haven’t done enough, so proof is in the pudding and the truth is always outed if you are taking advantage.
Everyone works better at different times. Some people thrive getting up super early, like me, and being really productive in the mornings, then having a break and being productive again later on. Others benefit from a bit more sleep but then they work until later in the day. Some crazy people are better during the evening/night time. Having a one size fits all just doesn’t make sense when it doesn’t have to be like that.
Companies implementing remote working like JD Edwards, showed remote workers to be 20-25 percent more productive than their office colleagues. American Express employees who worked from home were 43 percent more productive than workers in the office. Apart from the ones I already mentioned, the act of showing trust can result in more loyalty and better work ethic. But also, it cuts out commuting time which in itself is a huge stressor and time drainer on individuals with lots of commitments and families to take care of. It allows everyone to work around their life situations. “A recent report into the UK’s tech industry by HSBC found that 89% of respondents cited flexible working as a motivation to up their productivity.”
Finally it can cut down on wasted meetings. When using web based tools to meet they tend to end up being better planned and more effective. On a slight side note, when using your messaging tools and emails it can help equalise personalities. No longer does the biggest voice in the room win out.
It has a positive environmental impact
By not commuting each day, we are able to make an impact on reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. You have multiple digital tools at your fingertips to enable effective videoconferencing and this can further reduce business travel which has a similar negative environmental impact. Furthermore, working from home people use less electricity, less supplies and less office equipment. This has the added benefit of reducing waste. “Sun Microsystems reported that its 24,000 U.S. employees participating in the Open Work Program avoided producing 32,000 metric tons of CO2 last year by driving less often to and from work.” We all know how bad traffic gets in Auckland in particular, by getting more drivers off the roads at those peak commuter hours we can reduce traffic issues. In the US “Traffic jams idle away almost three billion gallons of gas and accounts for 26 million extra tons of greenhouse gases”. Imagine similar statistics across the globe in other cities, including NZ and what a difference we can make.
Itincreases staff loyalty and reduces attrition
There are some statistics supporting how important the commute is as a factor for employees. Nearly half of employees feel their commute is worsening with 70% of them feel their employers should have responsibility in solving the issue. 92% of employees are worried about the rising costs of fuel and 80% of them specifically mention the cost of commuting to work. 73% of those feel their employers should take responsibility in helping them reduce their commuting costs – flexible work environment answers a lot of those issues. 2/3’s of employees would change their job to decrease the commute. Furthermore your employees feel more empowered as they have the ability to better control how they work. I know when my boss agreed to allowing me to work 2 days from home a week, I felt I was trusted more and this increased my feeling of loyalty and respect.
It helps attract the right talent
By not being limited to hiring people in the immediate vicinity it opens up your talent pool and allows you to hire the right people, not just what you have in front of you. Plus anyone that has had to recruit in NZ, especially the technology space, knows how hard it is to recruit and retain the Gen Y’s. But they are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements (rating among benefits as an 8 on a 10 scale for impact on overall job satisfaction). It also increases the ability to employ disabled workers, and workers that would have otherwise felt they needed to stay at home, like parents and senior caregivers. It creates more diversity through offering greater cultural, socioeconomic, and geographic employment opportunity. Plus many retiring workers might have done things differently if they were given more flexibility options – 71% of retired workers who later went back to work, originally retired because they wanted increased flexibility than their job was able to give them.
I know from my own experience as a recruiter in the technology industry we are in a candidate short market. If we look at UX/UI talent for example, I have numerous positions on at one time and minimal candidates who are truly suitable across to each one. Given the lack of openness to remote workers currently, which is understandable when companies aren’t yet set up in a way to allow it to work, it means you often have to compromise on what you want/need in the team. If the talent pool was wider and geographically remote candidates were considered, we could get more mature talent in teams. I do understand that not every position is best suited to being this but I think mostly it comes down to training managers on how to correctly manage those kinds of teams, and creating structure and process around it so people aren’t fearful of it, rather than it not being a really viable option.
It’s cost effective for everyone
Not only are your employees spending less on their travel costs and food costs (I can only imagine you would eat out less than when you are in an office), it can be cost effective for the business too. You can reduce office space and reduce costs associated with individuals in the office – supplies, equipment, etc. IBM decreased their real estate costs by $50 million. Plus, if there is any kind of natural disaster that prevents people coming into work, it doesn’t affect your business as they are not having to come in anyway, so work can continue on. Furthermore, in studies it has been shown that 36% of employees would choose work from home/flexibility over a pay raise. Another survey of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
It creates balance
I believe strongly in creating balance in your life and this is something we often lack. By allowing flexibility and working from home, people are much better equipped to deal with the demands they have from home as well as work. If we think about all the outdoor space and activities we are able to do on our doorstep here in New Zealand, it can also allow more time to embrace these activities which develops healthier employees in mind and body which in turn can increase productivity and overall wellbeing.
GLOBAL ROLE MODELS
Finland is a great benchmark for changing the way they consider employment and working arrangements. They are “way ahead of the curve thanks to a new Working Hours Act. Due to come into force in 2020, it will give the majority of full-time employees the right to decide when and where they work for at least half of their working hours.” They see this adoption as a natural reflection of the changes in the modern world we live in.
“Under the new legislation, workers will still be expected to put in an average of 40 hours a week, but this could include a multitude of different arrangements from regularly choosing fixed days to be based “at your summer cottage or your favourite coffee shop”, to starting and finishing early in order to manage childcare or be able to exercise outdoors while it’s still light. Some younger workers, she argues, are likely to ask to work longer hours for a fixed period to “bank” time off for long-haul travel. Employees and their managers will be asked to discuss their expectations in advance and draw up a contract for any new arrangements”. This statement reflects again my points on believing everyone has different motivators, ways of working and lifestyles. Creating this flexibility allows everyone to work at their best, rather than as dictated to by a company.
Interestingly there is a link seen between Finland adopting this way of working and it’s culture of trust. They are seen as having more trust than most other countries in Europe. I think trust will be a big part of this working or not in our businesses here in NZ. My instinctive counteraction to this being a concern, is not only why are you employing people you can’t trust unless they have someone physically peering over their work but also, I can guarantee if you think someone is going to be lazy or slack at home, chances are likely they are already being slack and lazy in your office whether you have noticed it or not.
Let’s be real too….
Why it might not work for everyone and some solutions around this:
It becomes a new responsibility of the managers to keep people feeling connected to the people and business as well as completing their necessary tasks. I can understand that people might feel like they will lose those connections and relationships they have built over time by not being so physically connected on a day to day basis. This is all possible but attention needs to be given to it rather than assume the worst. There are so many ways to connect still and adopting a flexible and remote working environment doesn’t mean having zero touch points with the team.
Not all management trust their employees and I’m sure that for some it is rightfully so, but also for many it’s just a shift in mindset and them feeling out of control when they can’t physically see them. But to counteract this effective measurements need to be put in place to set goals and tasks. If employees don’t deliver on these and other measurements that they are set, then it will be clear to see and the right conversations can happen at that point. Finland government representatives also recognised potential issues with “an emergence of new groups of employees who are less protected or less aware of their rights,” he says. “Equally, managers in companies may not be fully knowledgeable about what is okay and what is not.” This is also going to be something that needs to be addressed. As I mentioned earlier though, if you are employing people you cannot trust then that might say more about your recruitment techniques than anything else. I can assure you people can be slack at home AND at the office. But there is no need to hinder those that can. If there are distinctive parameters around eligibility for remote working, then it can make things easier if people aren’t delivering.
NOT EVERYONE WANTS IT
I also understand for some, this is not an attractive option. It could be they feel that they need people around them, or to be in an office environment to feel motivated to work well. But remember from the social aspect, you can see use multiple different technologies and tools to stay connected. Plus there are shared work spaces popping up all over, and you can work from cafes if that suits you better. It’s definitely important to have a defined work space at home, so you switch into work mode and feel focused. It is also important that everyone knows how to use all the tools required to make this effective and ensure they are totally comfortable with them. There can also be some concerns that by not being seen, individuals will not be remembered and they worry it will effect their career opportunities. I think again this comes down to communication. As long as you stay connected, that will not be an issue. Telephone, instant messaging, emails and some face to face meetings can still be used to keep in regular contact with the team.
JEALOUSY IN THE TEAM
It can create feelings in the team if things aren’t communicated in the right way. If there are some working remotely, with others not being offered the same, it needs to be clearly and openly communicated as to why. It also needs to be seen as an earned rather than an automatic privilege and a process should be created to govern who does or does not qualify for it.
Some managers are concerned about data security. These definitely need to be looked at and any issues that arise, need to be solved. But when remote workers are given adequate training around how to go about setting themselves up and working from home, this does not need to be a concern. Statistics show those that work from the office and occasionally take work home are more of a security concern than remote workers.
CHANGES TO INFRASTRUCTURE
Companies might need to look at changing certain things to allow employees access to the systems and software from home – but this is a worthy investment if there is one, as once it’s achieved, productivity increases for so many people.
MEASURING WORK HOURS
It can be trickier to account for overtime and understanding employer responsibility over accidents occurred from workers whilst at home. These are things that need to be addressed and a process created around it, but there are solutions.
In conclusion, I think there are just too many benefits to this to be ignored. I can say from personal experience it works really well for me and I think teams can still stay cohesive and efficient, if not more so. I think it needs to be assessed by the business so that the right processes and structure is set up around it to enable it to work at its best and people need to understand that change can be tricky for some/many and it will take a bit of time to adjust to a different way of working for some of the team. Remember, by giving it a go at least you can start to see what works best for your team in particular and make adjustments as you go. Nothing has to be forever, but if you don’t try you never know.
I worked out not too long ago I fall into the extroverted introvert category, which may come as a surprise to many. I thrive one on one but put me in a group social and/or work situation and my anxiety sky rockets and often I make a run for it. If I don’t manage to escape it is extremely energy draining for me. I tend to come home after work and really need my space and quiet to get back to normal, which can be tricky when you live with a partner/friends/family. Even I didn’t understand this for a while but now I have established what works for me and how I can add value in a workplace situation despite the drawbacks as a result of this trait, plus I know how to set up my day to balance it out.
Interestingly scientists now define introverts and extroverts more by their reaction to rewards. Introverts “are not necessarily turned inward; rather, they are less engaged, motivated, and energised by the possibilities for reward that surround them. Hence, they talk less, are less driven, and experience less enthusiasm.” Interestingly, for extroverts that reward is social attention and this can be linked to money, power and personal alliances. Seemingly extroverts have just developed a “high-intensity strategy for gaining social attention”.
If you think about it, from an early age extroverts tend to be more rewarded than introverts. If you actively participated in class by raising your hand you were rewarded. If you were good at making friends and playing in a group as a kid you were perceived as having great social skills, unlike children that preferred playing solo. It’s really important that introverts find their place in a workforce and that as a people leader in particular you integrate them into the team where they fit best. A study at the University of Northern California showed 96% of managers and executives showed extroverted characteristics. But another study by Harvard and Stanford showed introverted executives make better leaders, so let’s give them both the best chance of success.
TIPS FOR LEADERS WITH INTROVERTED TEAM MEMBERS:
Ask for their opinion
Often an introvert won’t volunteer their opinion in meetings but if you ask them their feeling/opinion when you know it’s something they have an opinion on, or you know they have something valuable to add, then you can see them thrive. If you have a particular problem you want their help on, go ask them – they will appreciate it. I know from personal experience this worked really well for me. I was often reluctant to talk in meetings but if it was something I was passionate about, my boss was great at sensing that and asking me and at this point I found my ability to speak eloquently about a topic, even though I had been terrified at the thought.
Check your volume
You might think you are speaking at a normal level, but even so, for most introverts you probably sound loud! Not only this but the body language of extroverts tends to get them noticed as soon as they enter a room – pace at which they walk and physical gestures tend to be more noticeable. Maybe just try and bring it down a notch and become a little more aware.
Meet one on one
Introverts can be intimidated by a group scenario so it’s important to organise one on ones. A lot of introverts won’t volunteer discussions around topics that they are finding tricky or if it is about conflict, so ask the question as it is a means of granting them permission to discuss the tough stuff with you.
Listen as well as talk
This can be tricky, especially for extroverts. They love a good yarn and each story can take a while to get to the point. I think this can be a lot to do with the way they speak as they think, rather than slowing down and taking the time to think first, then speak. Try to LISTEN more than you talk. If you consciously aim to do this, it enables other people to get their point across so you don’t dominate every discussion. Even if this means you lose track of your next point, a great test is to listen, repeat back the point they made to confirm you interpreted it as they meant it, then continue to your point.
Give them time
Introverts analyse and think about ideas before discussing it so expect that they may need a bit more time than an extrovert at coming to a conclusion. Quick thinking is often rewarded and an extrovert may interpret a slower response as procrastination but actually an introvert may be able to bring you a deeper analysis and conclusion as they give the time to weigh up all the information before they come to an outcome.
Keep an open mind
We have a habit of taking this personally even if things aren’t aimed at you. If someone seems less responsive and looking to remove themselves from the room/conversation, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or are seeking to ignore you. Introverts can need space and a little more time when building new relationships. Just keep an open mind and don’t make assumptions too early on, as you may well have it wrong.
TIPS FOR LEADERS WITH EXTROVERTED TEAM MEMBERS:
It is important as a leader to enable the whole team to contribute and sometimes extroverts can take the spotlight a bit too much, so you might need to be firm at times to ensure this occurs. They don’t often realise they are doing it either, so at times you might have to interrupt, or guide the conversation away from them and on to others
Ask them questions
Extroverts like to talk things through to come to a conclusion. But often they start talking before they have a finished thought, so asking questions can be useful to help them think through the problem they are trying to solve. (Note, an introvert could be great for this as they tend to absorb information well, think things through deeply then ask a great question that can manoeuvre the conversation back on track).
Let them speak
Whilst of course at times the might need to be quietened for the benefit of the team, it’s also important to support the energy that they command as they like to bounce ideas off others and talk, so it’s where you will get the best out of them. Give them opportunities that allow them to interact with others and thrive.
Why introverts are valuable in your team:
They are great at observing.
This can be really useful – if you want to know how good your leadership is, or find out things about the workplace you may not have noticed, ask an introvert (Obviously don’t take advantage of this by creating a perception of the introvert as being the tell tale within the team either).
An introvert needs less external reinforcement
This is also really interesting. I get so much satisfaction from knowing I have worked my butt off, and have been successful in achieving a goal or a target but I hate being rewarded by an employer in the form of speeches, prizes etc. because of the attention this brings on a group level. So as a leader, you don’t need to rely on those types of rewards to motivate an introvert.
They acquire fewer but deeper friendships/relationships
It tends to be the case that extroverts have numerous people they call friends but an introvert might just have a handful but they really cherish and value those few friends creating a deeper sense of loyalty and emotional intimacy. This can be applied in a work environment.
They are often self-starters
Interestingly because they have often already analysed a situation or task they tend not to need so much support at the start of projects/tasks. They have often already worked out how they will go about it. It is, however, important to note that although you might not feel as needed by them as a leader, it is wise to check in as they might also not pipe up as readily as an extrovert when they do need help.
They don’t seek as much approval from others
They tend to be less pressurised from those around them to cave in to a different decision if they have already come to their own conclusion. They take on board others thoughts/feedback but will still come to their own conclusion after analysing the situation.
Why Extroverts are valuable in your team:
They are great at expressing ideas
When you are starting a company, creating a new product for example, it is down to the people creating it that ensures its success. You need effective communication to help market and create visibility and here, often an extrovert will excel. If you look at a service based idea without a tangible product to showcase, you need to sell the concept to your potential customers – this is where an extrovert might do best.
They can energise a team and create engagement
An extrovert can be great for keeping a team motivated when it comes down to execution. Their energy can strengthen the team at crunch time and this is highly useful in highly pressured environments.
You can send them to networking events
Extroverts would be the ones to send to networking events and and seminars as they will tend to be better at selling to a potential customer, or having the confidence in a large networking event to engage and participate – they tend to be a bit more comfortable with the casual conversations required at such events.
They can be great at teamwork
Extroverts tend to be more comfortable in groups, unlike introverts which can be helpful in a team situation. Studies have shown when a team is in agreement on their goals, an extrovert is a great asset.
TIPS FOR THE INTROVERTS:
Plan quiet time
Often an introvert performing extraversion, like seeming energised in interactions with others, comes at price. This takes a lot of your energy. So, you need to help yourself out by factoring in time to decompress after such an event. Know the events that diminish your energy and make sure you have scheduled appropriate time around it to work alone and limit time in loud meetings and collaborative discussions on that day.
Educate your employers/colleagues on how best to deal with your introversion in meetings.
I had this happen on so many occasions and I waited too long to share with my boss/colleagues and it resulted in a major panic attack that lead to some serious health repercussions. If only I had done this sooner! You need to communicate with your team on how best to deal with it. You don’t deal so well with being put on the spot, but often this happens in an extroversion-orientated office environment. On the flip side you can also help yourself by preparing for meetings ahead of the game – do your best to anticipate and plan beforehand, so you stress less in the meeting if someone asks you to comment.
Be aware of stress signals
Interestingly, when put under stress an introvert will often revert to an extreme form of their preferred behaviour i.e. withdraw. But what can happen under extreme stress is an uncharacteristic reaction, the opposite of their normal behaviour – this happens if stress isn’t resolved and goes on too long. It tends to be an immature reaction such as an outburst, or highly emotionally charged behaviour. If you notice this happening, take time for breaks throughout the day to reflect on your thoughts and and feelings and this will in turn help regulate your stress levels.
Keep an awareness of your colleagues stress indicators
Remember that the same stress signals that apply to you can apply to your colleagues, and come out in similar ways. Just keep an eye on it as if things go on for too long, they also might end up internalising it and it becomes harder to read and recognise.
Get to know your coworkers
Sometimes introverts can come across as unfriendly as they are less inclined to small talk and often work better independently. Often though introverts love spending time with others but just on their own terms. Whilst an extrovert may thrive in the group work outings, you might be better one on one. So schedule some of that time in with your colleagues so you can get to know them in an environment that you are comfortable in.
Get out of your comfort zone
Unfortunately, although you might not want to hear it, you do need to get more comfortable with speaking up and presenting if you want to progress in your career down certain paths (not all). If this is the case, you need to get more used to public speaking so you can get your point across, or give an important presentation. Toastmasters is a great one and although you may never be totally comfortable, it will be noticeably easier nonetheless.
Choose the right job for you!
There is no job that solely includes or excludes extroverts or introverts. But, if you are in a sales environment and aren’t comfortable with certain aspects of the role, work out what you thrive in and what you don’t and talk to your employers to see if the role can be adapted to suit your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
And just remember….
Situations demand different things. Interestingly studies showed extroverts energised groups that were already in agreement. But if you throw them into a conflicted team, it can cause more conflict. This can be due to their style of sharing opinions seeming domineering and aggressive. Ambiverts, a blend of both, might be the best trait (remember personality traits sit on a spectrum, there are not just either extreme). If you can know when to flex your extroversion but also when to take alone time to reenergise, you might be on to something. I am somewhat lucky because I am extremely self aware, and although I hadn’t known there was a name for it, I was able to identify a while ago where I thrived and where I didn’t. It’s just the introvert part of me didn’t necessarily speak up to others in time for them to understand before it had implications (i.e. my anxiety and panic attacks).
Hopefully this article may help you to realise where you sit on the spectrum and make some useful adjustments in the workplace to enable you and your team to optimise your performance. It’s important to realise that there may be different methods of working needed for different personality traits. Introverted workers might not always benefit from a team working approach and may need some space and time to create their own ideas, which is the opposite to an extrovert that thrives off social interaction to bounce ideas of others.
Below are a few links that might help you as a team leader:
This is a topic that I hope a few of you can resonate with. If I look back to my first placement in recruitment I was overjoyed. I am pretty sure I smiled from ear to ear all day and probably all week to be honest. I floated on that cloud for a good while and it spurred me on and motivated me to try harder to replicate that success and feel that high again. As time wore on and the wins became more regular, I noticed that feeling lasted for a shorter and shorter amount of time as it became more ‘normal’ and then other factors came into play. My social anxiety and lack of confidence was being tested by the attention that I started to receive for my success. I was focused on more often in group meetings, started winning some internal awards, and I could sense competition from my other colleagues and at times could feel their resentment toward my success when they weren’t doing so well themselves (and often I am sure that was my own paranoia). I do believe sales environments tend to create that atmosphere and it is what it is, but it was a reality I wasn’t mentally prepared for and affected my enjoyment of the wins I was having at work.
So I internalised my happiness and often wouldn’t say anything to anyone when something great happened so that I could just keep the moment to myself and then swiftly move on to the next challenge or target. My anxiety also grew as I was nervous about my name popping up in meetings where I might have to speak, or get laughed at as I reddened with embarrassment. I look back it now and I realise I created a lot of my own anxiety by the way I dealt with my success. Not only that, but by stopping myself really enjoying those moments and having a chat with myself to register the hard work had paid off, I think it added to my inability to value myself as I should have and I don’t think I am alone in this.
I was always paranoid at doing too well and being disliked for it, or being perceived as arrogant. I realise now I spent so much time worrying about what others thought of me and how draining is that on your mental health? There is nothing wrong with celebrating our successes and in fact it is extremely important and healthy that we do. Plus, as long as you don’t let it go to your ego (no one likes that guy), then there isn’t a problem, quite the opposite. Furthermore, there will always be people that will resent your success. Unfortunately, though I wish it wasn’t the case, it happens, but at the end of the day, it’s a reflection of them and not you. We shouldn’t allow others to affect our mood or control how we feel about ourselves and our achievements.
Why is it important to celebrate success?
Science tells us, when we celebrate wins we release endorphins and this makes us feel happy and energised. Not only does it make us feel great but it helps reinforce the behaviours we need to continue when we face our next challenge. If we don’t celebrate, it trains our brain to think our job isn’t that important or enjoyable and this will prevent us giving all of ourselves to it. Over time performance will decrease as well as our motivation. Plus those who celebrate their success, in small and larger ways, are shown to be more grateful, more optimistic, take better care of themselves and are less stressed. I remember feeling, after a few years into my job and smashing my targets month after month, that if I had a bad month I would be fired. I was still holding onto the same fears I had when I first started into recruitment because I had never taken the time to REALLY take a step back and recognise what I had achieved in my career to date. I don’t think I even considered myself ‘good’ at my job. Of course if I had a bad month here and there I wasn’t going to be instantly fired.
You will raise the bar around you
I used to concentrate on those around me that resented my success but actually, more often than that it creates a higher performing team. Your success creates a benchmark people want to replicate and work towards and even surpass. As you all start to share in that success, you collaborate more, and as a team do better. It is far more satisfying seeing your peers do well than just yourself. Plus if you hate the attention, like me, seeing a group of you share in that attention and success is far more rewarding.
Success breeds success
It is totally true that success drives more success. Momentum is a beautiful thing and once you start to enjoy those moments of recognition rather than spurn them, or relish in the wins internally rather than just move on, you will keep succeeding and feeding that fire. Plus, as you continue to do well, and your colleagues join in, your business builds its reputation and credibility which only adds to that success. Once that begins to happen it also makes sense, if you work for a good company, that they will try even more so, to support you in whichever way you need, to enable you to continue to succeed.
I also think there are some great ways to help ourselves enable success. There are some simple things we can do:
Find out our why?
We have often been told about setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). But I think it’s also vital to have that bigger picture ‘why’ which comes from creating clarity around those goals. To me this is more motivational than just the transactional achievement from having purely SMART goals.
Clarify those goals
Visualising your goals and how you will feel once you achieve them is extremely empowering. In fact, there are studies now that show by truly putting your mind and body into that future state you can alter your emotions (Read “break the habit of being yourself” by Dr Joe Dispenza). Not only will this push you towards that goal it will allow you clear reasons to celebrate your success as you know what you’re aiming towards. Remember these can evolve over time, our goals don’t always stay the same.
Little by Little
Don’t downplay the small wins on the way to that larger goal or vision. Make some daily or weekly goals that get you there because that can be more effective than just making that big picture goal. Keeping small and productive goals will be really key.
Be kind to yourself – stay optimistic
So things didn’t go to plan, or something has knocked you slightly off track, a meeting didn’t go as well, or you lost out on a deal you were really counting on – I know it is hard to see sometimes but remember that all these things contribute their own value. They teach you something along the way – maybe it shows up an area of development for yourself, or just not what to do next time you’re in a similar situation. Just focus on what you have gained from it rather than what you lost/didn’t achieve.
DON’T GIVE UP
Determination and tenacity often is a the differentiator between those that achieve their goals and those that don’t. Some days it might feel like you are going backwards in comparison to others. Remember on those days to look at the bigger picture and longer term vision. Don’t give up. Something that has really worked for me, even if it was sometimes hard, was that if something didn’t go my way or I got frustrated by myself, my situation or others around me, I chose to channel that energy into something positive that I could control. It might be another goal of yours or it might even be something outside of work that is also important to you like your physical health. It’s one of the reasons I love starting my day with a strong morning routine. If I go to the gym first thing and eat a healthy breakfast, I have already started my day with success and a sense of achievement. Do what you need to keep going even when it’s hard.
Hopefully this article can help you start to realise the importance of celebrating your success. I know that as I move forward into my own business I am going to focus on the small wins and celebrating them AS they happen (don’t put it off). It doesn’t have to mean popping a bottle of champagne each time, but maybe just a few minutes of reflecting on what I achieved and how I can replicate that again, or treating myself to my favourite meal, or telling someone close to you that you care about so you are not just internalising it. I promise it will feel AMAZING.
I have been travelling now for the last 4+ months and it has surprised me in this time the things I have missed and craved from my previous life routine. I think travelling gives you so much opportunity to learn more about yourself and this is one of those moments of reflection that has taught me about what I need in my own life. So here are some of the key things I need in each of my days to feel at my best:
I think it’s really important to have a purpose for each day or week or if it’s a big goal, month. Especially when you are travelling you can feel like days go by and you don’t really achieve anything or your days lack purpose and this can be a little disheartening at times. I applied this same practice to every day life and it was really beneficial to my mental health and I think the same applies to travelling. When I was at work I would set a purpose for the day to achieve certain goals, whether big or small, and that can really boost your mood and sense of worth and success. This doesn’t have to be work related though. For me on this trip it can be as simple as “today I am going to visit a new place, go on a small adventure, write a blog post for my website, do a yoga class” or something even less tangible than that, “no negative self talk all day, take a day without my phone, smile at every person I pass, start a conversation with a stranger”. Starting your day with purpose is so positive and often it all links back into your big picture WHY. Or if I am focusing on some self development, I can set a purpose for the day that is going to directly help that goal.
This is a big one for me. I realise I enjoy having a bit of structure to my day, and I don’t mean having every second and minute planned out. Having literally zero plans and no structure doesn’t make me happy in the long run and can make my day feel a bit empty and I think this can be applied to work life and travel life. I love starting the day with exercise as it sets me up in a good mental space and I have already achieved something before my day has truly begun. With work, I like having a bit of a plan in place. A few hours of business development, then an hour of social media work, go for a long walk/run, see friends. I realised with travelling this is important to. Obviously sometimes it comes down to having limited time in one spot and wanting to make the most of it but also it’s just nice knowing you have things to look forward to that day. I have been lucky that I haven’t had to rush anything as I have had time on my hands given the length of this trip but in the next few weeks here on the Philippines there is a lot to see, so having a bit of a plan in place each day as to where I want to go, booking certain accomodation or tours ahead of schedule just so prices don’t soar, or things get booked up, is really helpful. It also feeds into purpose really nicely as well. It gives my day meaning and a great feeling at the end of it of having accomplished something. I think also it can be really easy for whole days to slip by and you haven’t done much and for me, that isn’t great for my mental health.
I have to move each day. It’s something I have worked out about myself having noticed my moods and feelings on the days that I am really sedentary and it’s why I am really passionate about helping companies incorporate movement into their employees daily lives as it definitely improves productivity. For me, starting my day with movement is key. Then by 8am you have already accomplished something positive and it puts you into a great mood, it gets the blood pumping round the body, endorphins kicking and metabolism moving and then you feel much more ready to tackle the tasks ahead of you. I also think in a working day, breaking up your time in the office with movement is extremely important. I have talked endlessly about how many of us sit at our desks and work through lunch or just sit for our lunch break and don’t move. If you incorporate even just half an hour of movement into your lunch time, you will notice a difference, I PROMISE. It makes coming back to work so much easier as you are invigorated, refreshed and your mind has had the chance to switch off from whatever it is you were doing and rest before you jump back into it. It can give you a new perspective and ability to tackle any difficult tasks you may have had and it makes the afternoon zoom by. I was really into either a long walk, a run, or a gym session in my lunch break and I recommend you do the same. Another clever way of incorporating movement into a working day is walking meetings. They are great and actually I find them more effective as you’re more at ease and open to have honest and valuable conversations. Whilst travelling it can be hard to find a gym but there are so many other ways to do it. Surfing, walks, running, hikes, expeditions, kayaking, paddle boarding, cycle tours, the list is endless and you are killing a million birds with one stone. Movement is a great way to explore more when you travel but also to get to know where you live better too. Why not google a new coffee shop or cafe and see if it’s walking distance from your office and go check it out! Ditch the electric scooters and walk 🙂
Anyone that knows me knows how much I love food. I have my parents to thank for that and being vegan is no different. I LOVE food. But most importantly I love nourishing food. I have been so lucky on this trip to go to destinations that really allow you to eat healthy and nutritious food, whilst still being on a budget. Eating abroad can be daunting for some but it’s so easy to be healthy if you put a little time into researching places to go and/or cooking for yourself. I learnt early on even picking hotels/hostels that have a fridge helps enormously as you can then make things like overnight oats for breakfast, or buy some fruit to have as snacks, or get some yoghurt and store it. But also, eating out is great and once you know where to go It’s a piece of cake. I am vegan so people assume it’s tougher and sometimes it definitely takes a little more thought but I have found it really easy as more and more people around the world are aware of what it means and are happy to cater for it. Again, eating nutritiously improves my moods, my energy levels for the day and is how I do a lot of my socialising.
Some time to reflect on how I’m feeling, what I need moving forward to make the day improve if things aren’t going my way and also just to take some time to feel gratitude and think about the positives is extremely beneficial. I think we can get a little caught up in the small things and forget all the good when we are stressed out or things are seemingly not going the way we might want them to. Too often we don’t actually give ourselves the time to realise all of that positive stuff. Adding in some time into each day to reflect has been incredibly valuable to me and I recommend you to do the same. It can be a five minute ‘meditation’ or just writing down 3 things you’re grateful for, or removing yourself from your current environment and taking a walk to think things through, or even talking to a friend and both reflecting on the good in your lives. I think you can also use that time to reflect on what you can do differently, or if there are things you want to improve, how can you actually do something about it to change your situation. Often we can fall into the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves and our situation but not actually look to solve the issue. If you keep doing things the same how can you expect a different result?
This is a big one for me and something I didn’t do enough of when I was working full time. Taking some designated time to relax. Relaxation can mean something different for different people so it doesn’t necessarily mean lying or sitting down doing nothing. It can be reading a book or watching a movie but it could be a fun activity that personally relaxes you like surfing or climbing. For me cooking is a hugely relaxing activity. I get completely absorbed into what I am doing and so it doesn’t allow myself to get caught up in other thoughts. It helps clear my mind and switch off which is great. Also for me, getting outside and fully immersed in nature is huge. Going for a beach walk or swim, or just sitting and watching the waves soothes me. When travelling there is a lot of relaxation time in comparison to usual daily life so it’s taught me how invaluable that can be. I do recommend trying to make most of your relaxation time away from a screen though. It can only be a positive thing for your mental and physical health as we tend to be a little too attached to these devices of ours.
I hope some of these things resonate with you or maybe make you rethink how to shape your own day to get the most out of it and feel mentally and physically stronger. I know for me, having worked out what I need has made such a difference to how I feel when I come to the end of my day each evening.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed on this topic and then do nothing, but I truly believe small changes lead to big changes and any improvement is a positive one. I put together a list of some key things we can do as individuals to help the larger collective. Hopefully it can inspire you to become a little more aware of your environmental footprint:
WWF said it well “ Farming animals for meat and dairy requires space and huge inputs of water and feed. Today, one of the biggest causes of forest loss is the expansion of agricultural land for animal feed production, such as soy. And producing meat creates vastly more carbon dioxide than plants such as vegetables, grains and legumes.
Moving away from a meat-dominated diet towards a more plant-based diet can lower your impact on the environment. Vegetarian and vegan foods are massively on the rise and becoming far more common in restaurants, cafes and supermarkets, so you’ll rarely struggle. Not only that, but cutting down on meat and dairy products can reduce your weekly food bills.” Read their article on ways to eat more sustainably for more ideas.
Buy a keep cup
This is an easy one folks – if you have a caffeine/tea habit, just think of the difference you can make by buying a reusable cup (Joco , Sol). Plenty of cafes even sell them themselves now, so it’s super easy, but here are a few options if you can’t find any. Think of how many plastic lids, and paper cups you save in the process. Yes a lot of them are recyclable but the point is trying to reduce our consumption, with recycling as the next best option. Think of the factory’s used to create those paper cups and lids and the transport needed to get it to the cafes – it’s all having an impact on our environment. Plus there are plenty of cafes that will discount your drink if you bring your own keep cup, like these.
Get reusable beeswax wrap instead of glad wrap, cling film or tin foil
This is another simple and effective swap out from your shop that will not only save you money but save the planet. Think of the plastic consumption from all that glad wrap and how much you tend to over use it as well in the process. A simple solution is beeswax wrap which is reusable, easy to wipe down and does the job amazingly well. Here are a few places you can find them: Honeywrap, Lilybee Wrap, Kiwi Wraps, and Bee Green Wraps.
If you really need a straw, buy a reusable one and take it with you
Let’s be honest, straws are a bit of a weird one. When did we start getting so fussy that we can’t just sip out of the glass? But ok, I get sometimes you don’t want your lipstick to smudge, or you don’t trust the cleanliness of the glass. So if you are concerned enough to need a straw, just get your own and reuse it. Just picture those turtles with straws stuck up their noses and other horrifying images that should make you think twice about your luxury item. Make a change! Buy them at Shut The Front Door and Moana Road and Caliwoods.
Buy local produce and avoid online and overseas shipping and transport
This is something I never even thought about for ages, it just didn’t cross my mind. Of course there are lots of reasons why it’s great to buy local, but a big one is the environmental impact of not. Think airplanes to ship stuff over, then stuff getting taken to a depot, then a distribution centre, then finally out to the shops/markets. Let’s nip it in the bud and go down to our local farmers markets for fresh produce, or try buy kiwi made brands rather than imported, local fish rather than shipped in, the list goes on and I’m sure you get my drift. Of course the added bonus is that we LOVE to support our local kiwi company’s so it is a win win situation. And we make the best stuff obvvvvvviously.
We all know we can be a bit rushed for time and sometimes throw stuff into the bin without being entirely sure we are doing it correctly, or what’s what. Furthermore we don’t sometimes realise with recycling things need to be rinsed out to be effective. I know it’s a great step separating your rubbish for recycling, but all of that is in vain if it can’t actually be recycled due to a small mistake. Here is a guide from Aukland Council to how to separate your rubbish for recycling and remember some Countdown’s in Auckland offer to recycle your soft plastics so you can take it to the next level and separate those. It is super satisfying when you realise your landfill rubbish is minimal, once you combine recycling, soft plastic recycling and point number 6 up next!
Come onnnnnn you can do it 🙂 I know it might seem daunting but it is such an easy process to include in your routine that has a huge impact, so why not give it a go. You can go into a Bunnings and/or Mitre 10 and pick up a composting bin, or there’s ones like Bokashi that also make your life easier. I have a small and cute composting bin in my kitchen, then a larger composting bin in the garden, or just out the back if you don’t have a garden. It’s great and over time you will be able to produce fertiliser either for you or someone you knows garden and they will love you for it. You can even go one step further and create a worm farm if you’re super keen. These are great initiatives you and your family can get set up over a weekend and make it a team effort.
Buy clothes you REALLY need, but spend more for higher quality, so longer lasting
Throwaway fashion is deadly. It’s impact on the planet is huge from production and the whole supply chain. If it’s that cheap you should be asking yourself some serious moral questions about what it has taken to achieve that. Nothing comes for free my friends and anyway – who wants to buy something that gets holes in it within weeks or months and has to be thrown away. Invest in less but make it count. Lululemon is expensive but the quality is incredible, plus they have some serious replacement guarantees. Same with Patagonia. But there are also loads of great sustainable fashion brands out there of a high quality that you will love. Do a bit of research – it could even be fun 🙂
Minimise buying into trends
I know for some people this is tricky because fashion is a passion of theirs, but I would ask you to at least have a think about this one and not rule it out. Fashion trends are often fleeting and it’s those things you wear once, never again, and then throw out a year later. Bright colours and crazy patterns that seemed cool at the time, often don’t seem so cool later on and are hard to work with the rest of your wardrobe. I’m not saying just wear black, but if you invest in a base wardrobe of a simple palette like black, white, grey, green, brown etc. you can re-wear those pieces for ever and it never goes out of style; it’s easy to create loads of different outfits AND those tend to be the pieces you come back to as a fail safe, time and time again. Think about the little black dress, a blue denim and white t shirt combo, a crisp white shirt with pretty much anything, a (faux) black leather jacket, or a classic blazer.
Holiday a bit closer to home or at least minimise unnecessary flights
We live in a pretty incredible country that allows us diverse landscapes, a ridiculous number of different activities and lots of amazing weather. We all know deep down how bad flying is for the enibrnment, I mean just look at the size of those engines, and think about where you are putting them and for how long at a time. I know I have been guilty of taking long flights to travel, and of course you’re going to do that, and you should but when we are talking about short holidays, why not be a little more aware and make some choices that at least reduce the impact. Trains around Europe instead of short haul flights. Ferry’s instead of small planes when you can, driving instead of flying – going to the beautiful Cook Islands instead of all the way over to the Maldives. And if you are going to fly, let’s start clicking that offsetting carbon button when we do. Let’s take responsibility for our actions, instead of the classic flexible morality we all are guilty of when it suits. Here is a link to a website where you can calculate your own carbon footprint and offset as you wish.
AVOID bottled water
In New Zealand that is. I mean guys, it’s basically the biggest marketing ploy ever that’s gone mad. There is nothing wrong with our tap water, and if you do feel that strongly about it, invest in a water filter at your home. But do not buy water in those plastic bottles, or glass for that matter. It’s estimated that it takes 3 litres of water to produce a 1 litre bottle of water. There are many other environmental impacts from the production of water that all bring us back to the same conclusion – the cheapest and most environmentally responsible water to drink, is the stuff that comes out of our taps. Here is a link to some handy information on the cost of bottled water on the environment.
This article isn’t here to make you feel guilty or shameful if you fall foul of any of the above habits. I am sure we have all at some point in our lives done most if not all of them. It’s about moving forward, and educating ourselves and once we have that information at our finger tips, making a conscious effort to improve. I’m not saying you will go out at change each of these things in your life straight away, and maybe you won’t do any of them. But if you could aim for slowly bringing about 1 each month, imagine the difference you are making. Plus, you might inspire others with or without evening realising it, to also make a change.