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Safe Space – Get up and glow

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Welcome to the Safe Space – where managers can share their issues, and gain advice from top learning & development consultants.

Here at =mc, we encourage anyone who attends our programmes to get in touch if they’ve an issue they’d like help with. In this way we get to hear about problems, challenges and worries so that in this the Safe Space we’re able to share our advice on how to resolve them. The challenge from our recent mailbox has come from an HR Manager where the dilemma, which will be familiar to many, is how to concentrate on work when the weather outside is glorious…

What’s the issue

Dear =mc Learning, thanks for offering me the chance to write in. I’ve chosen not to reveal my identity because although the issue I’m describing isn’t earth-shattering, I’d rather my team didn’t know that, yes: I really struggle to knuckle down when the sun is out. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not based in somewhere permanently sun kissed or the tropics because I’d never get anything done. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not racing to the beach every time the sun pops out, but when faced with the choice of sitting outside with a chilled glass of, well, something grown-up or dealing with endless emails, staff queries or policy redrafts, guess which one I’d rather do? I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful team who are known for their efficiency and drive, factors I wouldn’t trade for the world. Yet how do I retain the high level of output I need to deliver when summer starts beckoning? I don’t know if this would be useful to add but when I attended one of your recent programmes and mentioned how difficult it was concentrating on a warm sunny day, there was a lot of nodding around the room so I know I’m not alone. What’s your advice then for a busy HR person who struggles with juggling during the warm summer months?

What our consultants say:

Charlie

Well first of all hello HR Manager and thanks very much for writing in. You’re certainly not alone and this is something most of us can identify with. I adore a sunny day and in the South East of England where I’m based they do tend to be on the rare side, so it can be quite the task to tackle a to do list when the weather’s lovely. What helps – particularly when all my to dos are priorities – is making sure I’m able to take enough breaks. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Yet how many times, regardless of the weather, do we plough through until our brains feel like they’re melting? We’re not doing ourselves any favours when we do that, but often urgent deadlines mean we’re unwilling to stop. My advice? Do just that and stop. Take a moment and, pop outside for a few minutes or open a window and breathe. When we’re really busy we often don’t realise how much pressure we’re keeping in. Letting tension dissipate on a beautiful summer’s day is a healthier option. I also try to ensure – regardless of whether I’m in the office, working from home or delivering training – that there’s fresh air for ventilation. As well as letting the outdoors in, our bodies rely on oxygen to make energy; pretty vital when getting to grips with a challenging workload. The caveat of course is that for every person who comes alive during the summer months, it can be a nightmare for others if they’re say, affected by pollen, but even so, fresh air can be beneficial in eliminating mental cobwebs. Balance is key but if popping out for a dose of summer sun helps you to enjoy your day then that can only lead to greater sense of fulfilment.

Rachel

Hi there and like my colleague Charlie I can also relate to your dilemma. If you live in a seasonal area, a long drawn-out winter can sometimes take its toll, so when the sun does comes out the desire to go all out can be very appealing. You may have seen studies which suggest that exposure to sunlight is thought to increase our brains’ release of serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood while also helping us feel calm and more focused. Your desire to enjoy the sun then is completely natural. The challenge is about combining a very real need while ensuring you deliver on your tasks. So with this in mind (and the accolade you’ve given your team shows a group who work well together) sharing a space while enjoying a team lunchbreak outside can (a) strengthen camaraderie but also (b) give you much-needed time to enjoy a breather so that you’re more focused when you return to work. Different locations too can spark creative ideas, so are there meetings like a one-to-one for example that you can host outside? I’ve lost count of the open air chats that fixed a problem by literally thinking outside the box. Try this and the productivity you’re known for isn’t likely to falter and in fact might even increase. Finally, remember too that as a manager you’re setting the culture for your team, so if they see you compartmentalising your day and still delivering, they’ll be inspired to do the same. Enjoy your summer and hope this helps.

Yvette

Hello and great advice from Charlie and Rachel as their suggestions are ones I’ve used myself. We all know there are times where we have to power through, yet staring at a screen unable to concentrate because our minds are drifting elsewhere is not productive. I find that when I’ve got a complex commission or deadline to meet, knowing I’ll reward myself later with some time outdoors is a great way to generate momentum in completing the assignment and feeling re-energised. Prioritising our wellbeing as leaders is vital if we’re to do our jobs while inspiring our teams to do theirs. Know too that the allowances you make for yourself as an HR Manager will go a long way in supporting a work culture that champions the happiness of its staff. You haven’t mentioned your working hours but perhaps during the summer you can look into flexible working so that you can take some time out during the day with the aim that your productivity will be maintained. I’ve recapped the tips from Charlie, Rachel and myself, but do write in again if there’s anything else we can help with. Have a wonderful summer:

  • Take regular breaks throughout the day.
  • If popping outside isn’t an option, open a window to gain fresh air and sunlight.
  • See if ‘team together’ time is an option via group meetings or breaks.
  • For colleagues who work from home or are off-site, extend the invitation for them to do the same.
  • Don’t feel guilty in prioritising what you know you need. We’re all human: recharging, revitalising and rejuvenating is essential.
  • Lastly, enjoy!

What’s next?

If you’d like to explore ways of handling this and other work situations then contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 on how we might be able to help. Alternatively if you’re facing a unique challenge you’d like advice on in the next issue of the Safe Space, email safespace@managementcentre.co.uk. While we can’t promise to publish all the requests we receive, we will offer advice by email as a minimum.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...

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Rachel Whittle

About Rachel Whittle

Rachel specialises in management development and personal effectiveness. Rachel has over 10 years’ experience in the charity sector. Before joining =mc, she specialised in direct marketing and was a...

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...

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