Working World Cafe on July 1st, 2015

Written by: Adria Passey, Executive Assistant

I did not volunteer at the Book Fair this year. This is my daughter’s 6th year at her school, and it would have been my 12th time working the Book Fair, since they have it in the spring and fall. I looked right at the coordinator, and said no! Thinking she misheard me, she emailed me the link to sign up for shifts, and I deleted it! All you working moms are probably cheering about now, while the rest of you are thinking, so what?

There is just too much to do, and we are trying to do it all, but why? I used to agree to everything I was asked to do as a PTA volunteer, because it needed to get done. And while I have no hard facts to back me up, I know that most of the jobs at my daughter’s school are done by a very small group of the parents. But guess what? The Book Fair did just fine without me.

The 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 Principle, first stated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, says that 20% of our effort produces 80% of the results. This means that a small number of resources are highly productive—and a large number (80%) are not very productive at all. Here are a few examples:

  • 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
  • 80% of the things in your house are used 20% of the time.
  • 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
  • 20% of the books in a bookstore account for 80% of the sales.

The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest value for you. Focus on the activities that result in satisfaction, such as money, friendship, better health or more free time. At the same time, identify those many trivial items that don’t lead to more satisfaction. These unprofitable activities are taking up 80% of your time. Doesn’t it make sense to de-emphasize them in favor of the vital 20%?

Making Time Takes Time

If you want to discover how to make more time for the things you enjoy, look at how you are spending your time now. For me, stressing about the Book Fair was not adding anything to my life at all. It was taking away from time I could have spent doing volunteer work I enjoy or even just spending non-productive time at home with my kids – imagine that!

Learn to Say No

If you want a simpler life, you must learn to say no. Many of us do what I was doing, and agree to things we don’t want to do, or don’t actually have time for. This leads to a constant state of being late, over-committed and frustrated. Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings, dinner engagements, or to take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at a high level. We are proud of our high productivity and involvement, but it comes with a high price: a complicated life that leaves to time for you.

For more information on the 80/20 principle, feel free to email Adria at apassey@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

The first step to incorporating mindfulness practice in a workplace should be to educate employees about what it is, how to feasibly incorporate it into a workday, and the benefits employees could expect to gain through this practice. It is also important for the organization to be supportive of the practice and encourage management to lead by example. Setting aside a quiet place for reflection or meditation would be a good indication that an organization is supportive of this practice.

In a workplace setting, employees could be encouraged to practice mindfulness meditation during breaks or even for few minutes while sitting upright in their chairs at their desks. Some other suggestions of everyday workplace mindfulness are:

  • Paying attention to and identifying sensations while doing routine tasks such as hand washing, typing, or eating
  • Observing and identifying body position and sensations at any given moment
  • Identifying emotions that arise in others and observing the corresponding behaviors that are exhibited
  • Encouraging a culture of gratitude and appreciation for the work of others with behaviors such as appreciation emails or frequent compliments
  • Debriefing after a meeting to explore the feelings amongst participants that were both explicit and implicit. How did it feel for you? What was observed in the behavior of others? Did specific actions cause the energy in the room to change?

Mindfulness can transform the way that work is done. It teaches people to truly connect to the moment and every experience within it. It helps to create distance between the reaction and the experience which, in turn, helps to give people more control over what they chose to do in the moment.

It enhances brain function and has a positive impact on relationships. There are many ways to approach stress reduction in a workplace. Mindfulness however, provides a way to go beyond just fixing workplace stress. It transforms the way that employees and managers live and perceive life.

These deep changes can have profound and lasting benefits for an organization, its culture and ultimately its bottom line.

Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 now to catch up! To get more information regarding this blog post, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

 

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Working World Cafe on June 17th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Human beings have a tendency to withdraw or avoid uncomfortable situations that do not offer any potential rewards. In an organizational setting this tendency can often lead to employee disengagement. Mindfulness is a way of learning to take in experiences without judgment.  It is based on the concept of non-judgmental and purposeful observation of the present moment. It does not change or eliminate outside stressors but rather creates a space between the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and reactions. The stressor itself is often not as powerful as the perception of it. When a stressor is misperceived it can cause an emotional reaction that magnifies or distorts it and leads to behaviors that can be detrimental to the individual and the organization.

Stressor → Perception → Reaction

Stressful work experiences or circumstances therefore have less of a chance of causing disengagement (a byproduct of avoidance). Instead people who practice mindfulness might be able to see the obstacle (stressor) for what it is and then decide what they want to do about it.

They can learn to accept all experiences instead of immediately trying to avoid or change uncomfortable ones. In other words a space is created between the experience and the action that people may undertake.

Stressor → Mindful Awareness → Perception → Mindful Awareness → Action

The tendency to avoid discomfort is relevant to management as well. By reacting to and avoiding discomfort, managers are not in full control of the environment they create within their organization. It takes purposeful effort to reflect on and realize how every action results in a reaction and leads to a consequence. Often organizations are not aware of this until it is too late and the consequences have affected the life and bottom line of the organization.

When practicing mindfulness, people learn to pay attention to their environment, what is going inside of them, and the interaction between the two. Often, the mind wanders to the future or the past and rarely stays in the present. Moreover the present is often seen through events or future fears. In an organizational setting this can lead to reactive behaviors, stress caused by anxiety of things to come or less focus and attention to the present moment.

For example, organizational change might be viewed as stressful based on employee’s past experiences which has little to do with the present circumstance. If employees are not mindful or aware of their perceptions and influences from the past, they might react by resisting. The stressor (change) might carry with it a lot of potential benefit that would be completely missed by employees who are not aware of the true root cause of their initial reactions.

To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Sara DePasquale on June 10th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

Getting out of debt can be exhausting. I know from experience that when I got out of college, I felt like I had mountains of student loan debt and no idea how to start. Whether its mortgages, student loans, babysitters, or more, sometimes life takes a toll on us and we fall behind.

A couple years ago, I reached my breaking point. In order to organize my finances, I did some research and have found these tips to work for me. No matter how much money you make, sometimes it’s just a matter of personal organization.

Save. This might be obvious, but I have found that what works for me, is having two savings accounts. One account is for my future and one is for emergencies that I don’t mind taking out of occasionally (i.e. medical bills, dog vet bills, etc). If you don’t already have at least 1k saved up in this separate savings account, try to get there as soon as you can. This will be your cushion when you start to pay your debt down, and will ONLY be for emergencies as you start tackling bigger debt.

Make a list of debt. Sit down and list your debt from smallest to largest. I like to follow Dave Ramsey’s method of paying the smallest debt first (regardless of interest rates) to the largest debt. For me, it was motivating to see me knocking out ANY kind of debt, and sometimes it’s nice to just have one less debt on your plate. If I tried to tackle a credit card that had the highest amount, and the highest interest rate, it would probably get frustrating to see that barely moving with other revolving credit cards. By the time you get to the biggest card, you will almost be out of debt AND you can possibly pay down more which should be the goal!

Get organized on paper. Or digitally. This goes with the above tip. I’m really organized, and very visual, so what made the most sense to me, was to create an excel spreadsheet and break out my paychecks by weeks, with what bills would be due, and their amounts. This allows me to see exactly how much money I really can spend ahead of time. If you want to get really nerdy, you can even input a formula for it to add and subtract your bills from the paycheck amount for you. This is a game changer. What you have left after those bills is your extra spending!

Ready, Set, Go! Once you have all your debts listed out and have your 1k saved up, start paying away! Pay all your utility bills, rent/mortgage, and auto-pay to your savings account if you have one, groceries, etc. FIRST, and then tackle those credit cards. If you have 3 credit cards, pay minimums on the two and the most you can on that credit card you’re looking to pay off first.

Stay Focused. Trust me, I know this is hard, but once you start seeing some of your debt diminish it will all be worth it. If you fall off track, it’s ok, just get right back on and keep moving. Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re human and you’re taking the responsible steps on getting your finances on track!

If you would like to get more information on budgeting and getting out of debt, visit www.perspectivesltd.com or feel free to email Sara DePasquale sdepasquale@perspectivesltd.com.

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Jonathan Eisler on June 4th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group

Organizational strategy and vision is set by leadership but integrating changes into daily operations is driven from the bottom up. Given this reality, let’s look at how organizational change is typically undertaken and two questions that may help make the process more effective.

How is organizational change approached? Often, leadership sets a new direction, determines what their people need to do differently, maybe staff is offered the opportunity to acquire new/necessary skills, and then systems for accountability are established and ‘hopefully’ followed.

So what’s wrong with this equation?

First, while defining how things should look/be different in the future is half of the equation, too often what gets overlooked is defining what has lead to the current state and therefore what must be let go of. This starts with shifting the mindset of those at the helm. Changing a mindset, or ingrained ways of thinking, is never easy and the longer things have been done the old way, the tougher the desired changes will be.

Secondly, as changing behavior is difficult in and of itself, when the needed changes are mandates from the top down, you now have to deal with resentment/resistance as well. When looking to integrate changes into the daily actions of your people, this equates to trying to run up the side of a pyramid with your feet coated in oil. Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group has found that by bringing employees into the process of determining what it will take on their part to make the desired changes relevant, not only is the prescription more accurate, but the daily commitment is magnified.

Our work with client organizations has shown that by remaining cognizant of the above challenges and asking two key questions, the chaos associated with change and the lack of follow-through are both drastically reduced.

Question 1 (to leadership): What thinking patterns/processes (mindset) must we as leadership eliminate to enable the changes we need?

Question 2 (to employees): What knowledge/skills/abilities do you need to make the needed changes possible?

What have you found to be helpful in making organizational changes effective, sustainable and (less) painful?

To learn more about how Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group incorporates these ideas into our strategy work with clients, check out the recent interview our Division Director had with MeetAdvisors below.

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Working World Cafe on June 3rd, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Recent scientific research sheds insight on mindfulness’ impact on human neurobiology. For example, mindfulness has been shown to positively impact the executive functioning of the brain. Executive functioning is located in the frontal lobe and is responsible for such things as emotional control, recall, and organization. Higher emotional control resulting from mindfulness training has been linked to a better quality relational behavior which includes the ability to identify and understand (empathize with) others’ emotions and needs.  It also controls self-regulation, impulse control and organization. These are the elements at work in maintaining and improving the quality of interpersonal relationships; a major contributor of distress. This is mainly achieved through conflict reduction and through the decrease and control of emotions like anger.

Potential benefits of mindfulness:

  • Lowered Stress
  • Improved executive functioning of the brain
    • emotional control
    • memory
    • problem solving
    • flexibility
    • organization & planning
    • self-awareness
  • Improved mood
  • Decreased burnout
  • Improved interpersonal relations
  • Improved relationship satisfaction
  • Increased empathy and self-compassion
  • Improved physical and mental well being

Mindfulness has also been shown to improve memory and attention; both of which can improve quality of work, relationships, and productivity. Further, it has been shown to have positive effects on the brain’s ability to learn and gain increased neuroplasticity or the ability to change. Increased neuroplasticity makes it that much more likely that an intervention, such as mindfulness, will actually yield sustainable change.

Furthermore, increased psychological well-being, physical health, behavioral self-regulation, and increase in the quality of social relationships are also potential benefits of mindfulness. The awareness (internal and external) gained during mindfulness practice can lead to behaviors that are beneficial to the practitioner and those around him. The positive effects gained from a training program on mindfulness can last for upward of six months.

Mindfulness can also have a positive impact on leadership. Being a leader can be and often is stressful. The stress often leads to reactive behavior that is not helpful or healthy for the subordinates or the organization. Awareness gained through mindfulness can help leaders become more empathic or attuned to the needs of the employees. Leaders who act mindfully tend to have better relationships with their employees and create a much healthier culture at work. A leader who acts mindfully can also contribute to lowering employee stress.

Stay tuned as Part 7 will deliver on how mindfulness works. Catch up on Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 now!  To get more information, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Working World Cafe on May 27th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Mindfulness is an ancient tradition that is most commonly associated with Buddhism. It is a way to pay attention to the experiences of the present moment, without judgment. The mind’s normal tendency is to run into the future and past and jump from one idea to the next. Most of the time people do not realize how busy their mind is and how much unnecessary data constantly occupies it. Mindfulness allows people to gain awareness of this “monkey mind” and helps to give them more control over what to pay attention to.

The present is the only time one has any influence over. In an organizational setting “being present” or mindful could translate into being productive, engaged, and more impactful. Mindfulness can help employees to be more aware of what is going on around them, allowing them to discern between what is necessary and urgent and what is not. It can also help them be more relaxed as stress is often caused by anticipation of the future or pain from the past.

Other important aspects of mindfulness include compassion and gratitude. Mindfulness practice often brings an awareness of everything that people have and of how connected (and dependent) they are to others and the physical world around them. This often leads to feelings of gratitude which studies have linked to lower levels of stress and depression. Compassion is cultivated because of the nonjudgmental observation of what is occurring. Instead of jumping to judgment and conclusions about others (which can quickly translate to an unhealthy workplace culture) people are able to pause and think before reacting. This can mean a greater amount of understanding of others’ points of view, more patience, and better relationships both in and out of the workplace.

Mindfulness practice is most often associated with meditation. There are several approaches to this type of mindfulness practice but it almost always involves sitting in an upright position and observing thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while gently bringing the mind to focus on the breath. Observation of what is going on within and outside a person is done without judgment or resistance.

Other ways of practicing mindfulness involve making it a part of everyday life and becoming aware of what is going on in the moment. For example, one might pay attention to the sensations of taste, smell, thought or fullness during a meal. Mindfulness is like a muscle, the more one works on it, the easier it is to use it and the more powerful it becomes.

In part 6 of Mindfulness & Stress, we will discover the impact of mindfulness and the potential benefits of mindfulness. To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com or visit our blog at http://blog.perspectivesltd.com/.

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Working World Cafe on May 21st, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Stress is caused by many factors. Those that are external are easy to identify and may or may not be alleviated through an organizational intervention. Oftentimes though, how one looks at a given situation either causes or exacerbates the stress that the person is experiencing.

At first glance it would seem that how one views the world is outside the scope of organizational influence. The good news is that recent studies have shown that there is an intervention that can influence perception, help individuals become more capable of dealing with stress, and have a positive influence a number of factors that can contribute to workplace stress. It is the practice of mindfulness.

In order to reduce workplace stress, organizations can focus on improving the various causes of stress, such as:

  • physical work space
  • workplace culture (this includes relationships and social opportunities)
  • workload and work life balance
  • role clarity
  • stress education and support (IE- via EAPs)

Improvement of any of these factors will have a positive impact and reduce the negative stress employee’s face. However, another very important factor not often mentioned is perception and self-regulation. The way an individual employee perceives stress and stressors is often more powerful than the stressor itself. This perception is highly influenced by the individual’s past experience, genetic makeup, and current social, economic, and biological factors. At first glance how one view’s the world seems to be out of the scope of organizational influence.

However, recent studies have demonstrated that mindfulness practice can influence perception; help individuals become more able to deal with stress, and positively impact a number of other factors contributing to it.

Part 5 of Mindfulness & Stress will define what mindfulness is. To catch up on parts 1-3, please visit http://blog.perspectivesltd.com/ or to get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Gina Higgin on May 20th, 2015

consultationWritten by: Gina Higgin, Executive Account Manager

There are many components to EAP services, and at times one of the most valuable and stress relieving, EAP consultation, may be forgotten in the day to day pressures of the work day for HR reps (and the supervisor and managers).  EAP consultation can be a relief, a lifesaver or necessary support when in the middle of a workplace challenge.

Whether you are part of a management team, a religious organization, a union representative or the head of a school department, the challenges that people bring to the workplace are many.  Whether people in the workplace are dealing with stress, money issues, relationship concerns, substance use, grief or family illness, it will usually come with them to work, and many times, interfere with their performance.

HR staff and supervisors can become the workplace dumping ground for personal issues.  Are they to also become the resource to resolve these daily living issues?  Although aware of the EAP, these resourceful individuals, in their caretaking mode, may forget that they have a partner to resolve these challenges.

What does an EAP consultation do?

  • Provides support to HR and/or the supervisor
  • Provides an objective point of view
  • Helps to explore alternatives in dealing with the situation
  • Provides an opportunity for the EAP to provide services to the organization and the individual
  • Helps HR and supervisors reduce their stress

Our client organizations and their management have reported that when Perspectives is consulted in the event of crisis, workplace violence or other larger workplace challenges (such as harassment or a diversity issue) it has shown to be extremely valuable. Some of the less obvious and more common issues should not be overlooked either.  Seeking consultation for these in my experience, is just as valuable and always worth the call.

To get more information, visit www.perspectivesltd.com or email Gina Higgin at geh1@perspectivesltd.com.

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Working World Cafe on May 14th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor 

Before exploring the many causes of employee stress, it is important to distinguish between good stress and bad stress (distress). Not all stress is bad.  Certain stress can actually enhance employee performance and be motivating. For example, a project deadline can increase the speed and quality of the output. Many people feel they work best under some sort of pressure and therefore companies should try to maintain a healthy level of pressure for optimum performance.

How do we know if stress is good or bad? Studies point to the potential outcome as a factor. When employees feel that the stress they are experiencing will lead to a positive outcome (such as recognition, raise, personal satisfaction, etc) they are much more likely to be able to deal with the stress, or they may even be motivated by it.

Stressor + Potential Positive Result = Good Stress

Stressor + No Potential Positive Result or Negative Outcome = Distress

Distress happens when the demands placed on the employee are greater than his/her resources (skills, physical or mental capabilities). Additionally, when the stressor is not expected to produce a positive outcome, the stress becomes distress and often leads the employee to avoid it as much as possible. A good example of this is the office bully that leads an employee to avoid his workplace or parts of his/her job.  This avoidance usually results in negative consequences for the company.

Workplace-based stressors can come from a bad fit between the employee and the organization, change, organizational politics, relations with people who are angry or difficult, and/or leadership/management behavior.

Environmental factors such as noise, temperature and lighting can also have an effect. Additionally, worker stress can be caused by personal characteristics of an employee and home life concerns.

In today’s workplace the usual work stressors are compounded by the ever-changing technology demands and constant distractions. Today’s employee not only has to successfully carry out his work tasks but also answer a multitude of emails and phone calls that require constant focus and prioritization skills.

The employee also rarely “unplugs” after work and this constant demand on his/her attention can deplete an already limited supply. As a result of additional stimuli the mind wanders more and relies more frequently on its autopilot (ex. driving or answering emails while talking on the phone) to get through the day’s demands. A Harvard study found that an adult’s mind can wander about 50% of the time even while performing a task.

Stick around for Part 4 of Mindfulness & Stress, but to catch up on parts 1-3, visit: http://blog.perspectivesltd.com/.

 To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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