Are employers solidifying employees’ fears?

The BBC News online featured a piece from the PCS (Public & Commercial Services) union today whose research suggest the majority of JobCentre Plus staff fear returning to their offices. Out of 1,299 members the PCS surveyed, their results shared showed 3 in 5 workers want to continue working at home and are fearful of returning to the workplace due to Covid.

PCS claim they should be allowed to continue to work from home as they’ve proved this is effective during Covid restrictions. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS union warned industrial action could follow.

The fear of returning to the workplace after so long working from home or on furlough during Covid will be many employees’ fears and this is something their employers need to address BEFORE they are asked to return.

There is so much fake news on social media and possibly amongst friends, families and community leaders. Add in the continuous illogical updates from Government, it becomes completely understandable the fear that can be brewing. Trouble is, this fear and be intrusive and longterm.

We all know facing our fears are the only way to conquer them. If we give in to this, anxiety, isolation, debilitation will grow and possibly cripple individuals, business and communities.

As individuals we have to find evidence from experts we trust to enable us to make decisions and resist listening to opinions/views of non-experts.

JobCentre Plus staff do a difficult job supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. If they go on strike, what happens to those in dire circumstances?

If Employers don’t support their employees to overcome their fears and gain confidence to living their lives to the full again – what happens to those employees? Remember not every person has gone through the pandemic living in a nice, safe home, in happy, nurturing relationships. For the majority, it’s been one of the hardest, loneliest periods of their lives.

Business is a core part of our lives and communities. If businesses aren’t flourishing, growing and employing people, taxes aren’t being paid to support the vulnerable, provide healthcare, education etc. Where will the money for these come from?

For many businesses, continued working from home for their employees won’t be tenable. If work can be done from home, might some employers start to ask why can’t it be outsourced overseas to a cheaper workforce?

Giving in to fear is not an option. As actor Will Smith said some time ago –

“Success lies on the other side of fear”

What say you?

A step too far?

Some years back, I was introduced to Adam who had just started working with Jamie at a national recruitment company.

Sharply dressed, seemingly able to talk to anyone at any level confidently and make up really good raps for audiences ‘off the cuff’. A real ‘presence’ in the room, Adam was late teens when I met him not sure of the path he would ultimately take.

Several different jobs over the years followed before Lockdown hit. At Christmas 2020, after almost a year of uncertainty the global pandemic has brought us all to trying degrees, Adam took the massive, in my view, step of getting on a plane and going to Tanzania. Without a job/home to go to there, Adam wanted a complete change.

He reached out to me to discuss his next moves and explore his thoughts – I was honoured.

I was shocked by the reality of Dar es Salaam from the photos Adam sent me which were the polar opposite of my perceptions of what this African City would be like.

Curtesy of Adam, I share a photo of his new home City:

According to Adam the pace of life is much slower compared to London and has given him time to think what he really wants to do.

Taking the time to ask ourselves ‘are we happy?’ and ‘does it feel right’ enable us to take the pulse of where we are and helps answer those questions of whether to keep going down a certain path or change.

Adam’s had the time and space to figure out his next move by relocating to Tanzania – even if to some of us it feels like a step too far.

Of course, it may not be practical to relocate to the other side of the world to find what we want to do. We don’t have to. Giving ourselves some space alone to think about our own happiness and whether what we are doing ‘feels right’ will give us the same ignition for our own next steps.

Hidden Depths…

Do we ever really know everything about someone? Do we take the time to get to know them – or just accept the surface we see as all there is to them?

I’ve long thought we allow our assumptions about someone’s behaviour, actions, words etc to form perceptions about them without questioning what evidence we have to back this up. That doesn’t sound too fair does it?

Prince Philip is a case in point. How many formed an opinion about this individual without ever speaking to him? Taking what was reported by the press as fact? How would we feel if we were judged the same way?

As humans, we tend to judge others on their actions but ourselves on our intentions.

We make assumptions about others actions without considering what their intentions were. Does this sound fair? To me, it doesn’t. I’d hope people would check their perceptions of my intentions on any action I do was factually correct by asking me. Of course, those in the public eye can’t be approached to ask BUT we can check our thoughts and make sure we have evidence to back these thoughts up. If we don’t, shouldn’t we keep a non-judgemental open mind?

What has surprised me is the lack of coverage during Prince Philip’s lifetime of his achievements away from his ‘job’. Across different media since his death, we have learned a little more.

Amongst the nuggets of information revealed about him, was he painted and wrote 14 books. Trying to find a list of these books, I came across the 1984 publication of ‘Men Machines & Sacred Cows’ – hardback copies on Amazon for over £69 – a leap I suspect to what a copy would have cost prior to the prince’s death. This book is a collection of works focussing on science, technology and design.

The following exert is from Huffington Post’s coverage – and, for me, captures an insight to the character of Prince Philip especially his dry humour – in his own words from Men Machines & Sacred Cows…..

“Some optimists tend to assume that once you have learned the lesson that horses bite at one end and kick at the other, there is nothing further to worry about. No such luck, I’m afraid. 

“The horse is a great leveller and anyone who is concerned about his dignity would be well advised to keep away from horses.

“Apart from many other embarrassments there is, for instance, no more ridiculous sight than a horse performing its natural functions with someone in full dress uniform mounted on its back.”

According to a piece in the Sunday broadsheets, Prince Philip started a truffle farm on the Sandringham Estate in 2006 and was reportedly the first person to successfully grow French Perigord black truffles from British soil! Apparently, this is a big deal especially to truffle aficionados. It’s impressive to me trying to grow some chillis and squash indoors!

Various charities and individuals have spoken about how Prince Philip kept in touch with them, showing an interest in their progression long after his retirement from public life from Dame Floella Benjamin to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre shows me an integrity and empathy not shown in any press reporting prior to his death.

Talk about hidden depths.

So what thoughts has the death of Prince Philip exposed for me?

  1. Our perceptions about someone/something should be based on factual evidence not gossip, social media etc.
  2. If we can’t find the evidence to determine if our perceptions are correct, we should keep a neutral, open mind.
  3. Above all, it should be remembered everyone has hidden depths

Empowering Women

Recently, Labour MP Jess Phillips won special dispensation from the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons to b real time limits and read out a list of over 100 women killed by male violence over the past year.

The list of names was supplied by Karen Ingala Smith from the Counting Dead Women Project.

A few things struck me:

  1. First, how sad it is that there is a need for Counting Dead Women Project.

2. A number of the women on the list read out by Jess would have likely experienced months/years of anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness or being abused in their own homes as well as on the streets

3. Why aren’t we more shocked about the violence experienced by our mothers, sisters, daughters?

It is a huge problem with no easy, one size fix solution. For me, in situations of domestic violence, empowerment and self belief is key. No one can move forward when they believe the negativity drip fed to them over time by their abuser(s).

I have delivered empowerment components to all participants of the employment programmes I’ve compiled from the Real Apprentice to Growing Talent. Throughout lockdown, I’ve delivered various workshops voluntarily including empowerment to clients of JobCentre Plus.

In these workshops we discussed:

  • Definition of empowerment
  • What stops us moving forward
  • Dealing with procrastination
  • Personal roadmap
  • Identifying your purpose
  • Selfcare toolkit

Feedback on the workshops included:

“This workshop helped me change and adapt a more positive mindset to navigate the hard times in life” Chui Yen

“I learned that we should not be afraid to take risks, face our fears no matter the circumstances and to not hold back.” Elizabeth P.

“The atmosphere was relaxed and hearing the facilitators experiences put things in perspective. The session was very clear and stuck to the point.” Karen

“I loved the session. In 2 hours a huge amount of thought provoking points.” Magda

” I have learnt new techniques to empower myself” Malie

“I will definitely be adopting the tools shared – affirmations, 5 second brain hack etc” Samantha

“The workshop was a good confidence boost and gave me alternative ways of looking at things. I gained more knowledge than I expected to” Trish

Out of these energising, interactive workshops, a request to form an on-going Womens’ Empowerment Network Group was requested. The inaugural one takes place tomorrow.

For me, building women’s self-confidence and self-worth is key to their empowerment to leave toxic relationships. Big journeys start with one single brave step.

Of course women’s empowerment is just one tool to improve society’s safety.

Thriving together.

L’enterprise des Possibles

Watching French24 tv, I was heartened by the amazing work French billionaire Alain Merieux has achieved. He set-up L’enterprise des Possibles or Company of Possibilities just two years ago.

In the interview he explained why he chose to set-up this initiative up at the age of 80. Looking back to his childhood – which many of us seem to do as we get older, he noticed there was no homeless when he was a child. People shared what they had and took care of each other. Over recent years, he noticed that caring and sharing has been lost and homelessness is everywhere. The same could be said of countries around the world.

Alain’s idea was to join businesses with homeless charities. Companies and their employees could donate their time, annual leave or volunteer for the charities to make a real long-term difference.

Over the two years L’enterprise des Possibles has been operating, 60 companies have signed up raising over €1.1m and housing 550 people in Leon alone. One of these was a Congalese asylum seeker and her two young children who had been sleeping in fear wherever they could find space in the three years they had been in France. Now she proudly showed the news team around her chalet provided by L’enterprise des Possibles and spoke of her feeling of safety now. One of seven chalets she and her children now had a real support network in which to flourish and rebuild their lives.

The calmness on her face and positivity for the future was inspiring. The woman and her family had literally nothing. Now they have peace, security and a future – how rich is that?

Just as inspiring is Alain. Most 80+ people would be looking inwards, not what they could do for others. In the week that Captain Sir Tom Moore sadly died we are reminded of the amazing difference someone can do, no matter their age or ability, to make a difference and inspire others on what is truly the richness of life.

When the noise gets too much

Many employers have recognised the need to ensure mental wellbeing and resilience in their teams. Some have done a colossal amount of workshops on various aspects of these key areas of human function.

However, too much can be as bad as not enough! It can end up being ‘white noise’. At this stage, nothing penetrates the conscious of some individuals who may have switched off – and likely rolled their eyes.

A menu of options is the best way of ensuring optimum, flourishing staff. Giving an insight into each workshop/course, content and benefit enables the team to decide what is right for them rather than having to do everything.

After discussions with a client this week, we’ve devised a Zoom ‘Open Mic’ programme of events. Non-management teams from different parts of the business will be offered weekly sessions during working hours where they can talk about anything they want. They can just listen and not contribute. Or they can choose not to dial in. Or they can enthusiastically contribute topics they want discussed. Thing is, they know this is their space where they can talk openly, safely and without judgement about anything that’s on their minds. They may not get the answers they seek but they will get the space and time to think which will give them clarity and energy to deal with what’s on their minds themselves.

I’m excited to be involved in something as innovative as this for this employer. In my work, I’ve seen the power of giving a platform to someone they can talk openly and in confidence they won’t be judged. They always seem to gain a calmness which enables them to see the solution that is right for them.

Making a positive difference when you don’t even know it….

Earlier this week I was contacted by someone who had been selected to take part in Growing Talent in 2019.  Growing Talent is an employment empowerment programme I run, which has been on hold since March 2020 due to Covid (www.growing-talent.co.uk).  

At the time they had many personal pressures to deal with which had reduced their self-confidence to an all-time low whilst greatly increasing their anxiety – exhausting as we all know.

They worked hard to complete the Orientation Week – confidence building workshops – prior to going on the employer’s site working well with their peers on team and individual challenges.  Gradually shoots of growing self-confidence started to appear.  More importantly, a smile returned to their face.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t maintain the routine of work back in 2019 and left before completing the programme.  This made their contact this week even more thought provoking.

They have been a carer for over a year working extensive shifts caring for the vulnerable is tough enough for anyone let alone doing this role in the middle of a global pandemic.  The people this person supports all have varying stages of dementia – challenging for individuals, family, friends and carers.

Finding the strength to make decisions and changes in their personal life took massive courage.  With everything going on, they still put others first and decided to move into the care home to support their peers and residents as much as possible.  Unfortunately, they got Covid themselves and had to self-isolate.  Now the residential care home is currently Covid free – a big relief for all.

As I’m reading all of this information they sent, my pride and admiration swelled.  Their growth from 2019 to now is inspirational.  The reason they wanted to get in touch now was to not only share their journey but thank me for my teachings.

Anyway, my point is, that, no way could I have gotten through the turmoil of Covid in a Dementia Care home and self-loathing induced by personal pressures if it hadn’t been for your teachings and even that week of lessons really in prep for growing talent. Thank you for the lessons, thank you for the courage and the self-belief you instilled in me, before I could really believe in myself’.

As a trainer/facilitator passionate about encouraging people and businesses to be the best they can, I often wonder about those who aren’t ready to move forward.  I know see, even instilling a short time of self-belief and proactive personal nurturing makes a difference to them long term.

What’s the point in sharing this with you?  To share we may not always know the outcome of something we do – that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful and positive.

Never stop trying to do what you know is right.  You are having a bigger, positive impact than you may realise.

200 hours completed!

Around May 2019, I saw a news feature with Duke & Duchess of Cambridge launching the 24/7 UK crisis text line Give Us A Shout.

The idea seemed simple and brilliant. Mobile providers waived their fees for texts to this service. Anyone struggling with their emotions from feeling lonely to idealation to complete suicide, any age, could text the word SHOUT to 85258 and get help to take them from a hot moment to a cool calm.

As a completely text service 24/7, those struggling didn’t have to overcome fear or anxiety of speaking to someone via a telephone line. Nor did they have to take part in a video call.

Completely anonymous.

This idea peaked my interest. The new launch was to engage with volunteers to train to go on the platform and support. The training was long and intense.

A coach is assigned from joining Give Us A Shout until a volunteer decides to leave.

This wrap around support for texters and volunteers is unique so I applied and thankfully was accepted.

Starting off as a baby chick (new volunteer) I could only take one texter at a time. The commitment is to give 200 hours to the platform before deciding to leave.

That target seemed light years away and completely unattainable. However, I received the following email from my Coach – I didn’t even realise I passed the landmark!

Congratulations on having spent 200 hours on the Platform.

Thank you for giving so much of your time and empathy to our texters. We really appreciate every second you’ve spent with us on the Platform…….720,000 seconds to be exact!

I’m sure that when you made a commitment to do 200 hours of volunteering with Shout it seemed almost unattainable, and yet you have made that commitment a reality and for that we are all so grateful to you.

We look forward to you continuing to support texters and other Shout Volunteers with your invaluable experience for many more hours to come.

My plan is to continue volunteering as long as I can for this unique service. Feedback shows me, it really makes a difference to those struggling.

I always teach people I work with ‘Never look at big targets. They always feel unattainable. Instead, look at bite sized steps. You’ll soon achieve your end goal and learn so much along the way.’

I know I have.

If you or anyone you know is struggling, no matter the time of day or night or issue that’s on your mind, text the word SHOUT to 85258. Help is there. You don’t need to go on any struggle alone.

The benefits of virtual learning

For the 10+ years I’ve been a MHFAEngland Instructor, I’ve been looking for a mental health and wellbeing programme to deliver which was accredited by a qualifying body delivering real value rather than the usual courses that just end with a Certificate of Attendance.

I stumbled across http://www.i-act.co.uk who devised mental health and well-being products specifically for the workplace. Both courses come with a 168 page manual, 50 self-help tools to use and 95 referral organisations for different mental health issues.

Having done the manager’s course – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLBeing – accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with CPD points – I knew this was a key product which would deliver real value to my clients.

I decided to apply for the Instructor’s accreditation to deliver both the manager course and the ‘Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLbeing in the Workplace’ for non-management employees.

At the start of this week myself and others from all corners of the UK, Bahrain and Hong Kong met online with one of the co-founders Pete – a Clinical Psychiatrist and mine of information – also our Instructor. After watching Pete deliver, we then had to deliver the whole programme in our own style with a couple of peers giving feedback.

Solid connections were made. Messages of encouragement flowed over WhatsApp as we all became accredited instructors.

I now intend adding these two excellent courses to my portfolio of training to employers looking to ensure their staff at all levels are maintaining optimum levels of wellbeing duding real value to their bottom line and brand reputation.

The opportunities that open up when you least expect them can lead to incredible places.

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