3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work

Given that many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that happiness at work is a topic of concern. Research shows that our happiness at work determines how motivated, productive, and engaged we are.

As an ACHIEVE trainer for the Psychological Safety in the Workplace workshop, I have had many discussions with participants and teams about workplace well-being and satisfaction. I am often asked, “What actions and circumstances best lead to happiness at work?” 

The answer? Happiness at work is complex. Various influences and factors contribute to our well-being at work including organizational culture, the alignment between our values and the organization’s, and the level of job compensation and security.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, happiness can be enhanced through specific behavioural and cognitive practices, referred to in positive psychology as “positive interventions.”

Here are three positive interventions you can use to increase your happiness at work:

Strive for the Happiness Zone

Research shows that 40 percent of personal happiness results from our own actions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This 40 percent zone is where you have some control over your happiness and where practicing positive interventions will be most helpful. However, this practice will be different for everyone. Some people are happiest when they accomplish a goal at work, while others feel most happy when they are connected and collaborating with colleagues. It’s important to understand which activities contribute to individual happiness at work.

Prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday.

One way to begin is to prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday. Take note of activities that seem to uplift your mood during the week. Carefully observe your workdays, becoming mindful of the activities, behaviours, or situations that create a sense of a good day versus a bad day. Look for a pattern across the days and weeks. Are there certain activities, situations, or circumstances that consistently seem to contribute to a positive workday? Make a conscious effort to prioritizing doing more of them.

Focus on Meaningful Interactions

The importance of interpersonal connections at work is noted in ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

A first step to creating meaningful connections at work is to improve your listening skills and increase the depth and value of your interactions. During a workplace interaction, consciously choose to actively listen to what someone has to say and invite them to share more during the conversation. Researchers refer to this as listening generously – we allow the person to have the entire spotlight to feel genuinely listened to and validated.

Simple responses like “That’s great, I’d like to hear more,” or “It sounds like this is important to you, I’d like to learn more,” can make a team member feel more valued, resulting in increased well-being at work. As the listener, you feel good too because you are creating a more meaningful interaction. Remember, the more connected and positive interactions we have with work colleagues, the happier our work experience.

Generate Gratitude

Completing a gratitude exercise even once a week has been proven to increase happiness over time. There is no better place to practice gratitude than at work, given the amount of time we spend there.

People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

One of the most simple and effective ways to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record the things in your workweek you felt grateful for. Examples may include compliments you received about your work, small wins or accomplishments, or completing a difficult task. To make this team-based, try keeping a gratitude jar.

Invite your colleagues to join you in recording things they are grateful for. Use sticky notes, or if you are a virtual team, post something on a virtual collaborative whiteboard. On Friday, go through the notes. The best part of this simple exercise is the immediate uplift in mood and perspective shift that occurs from recognizing just how many things went well during the workweek.

Workplace happiness takes effort and practice, but the result is improved well-being, greater productivity, and stronger workplace connections – all of which can result in decreased stress and more work satisfaction. Happiness at work is truly worth the effort.

By:Jennifer Kelly

Source: 3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work | ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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Empathy Should Be Your Secret Sauce

“People Helping People” and “People Not Profit” have been the credos of credit unions since their founding in the United States. Recently, there’s been a significant push to promote those credos as part of the “I love my credit union” campaign. Focusing on helping people is a great way to differentiate credit unions from the rest of the banking industry, and it’s a beautiful way to meld business with altruism.

Like so many other things, saying you’re focused on people is great but only if you back up the words with action. Today more than ever, acting on the “people” component of the credit union mantra is critical to every credit union’s future viability and ultimate success. All people – members and employees – need to feel your love and experience your care, not just hear about it. In short, to truly live the mantra, your credit union needs to invest in optimizing empathy.

Investing in empathy doesn’t mean a one-time training event, and it’s not just a component of a broader DEI initiative; it’s a core component that should be fundamental to your strategic planning efforts this year. Empathy is a muscle that can be developed and strengthened for your leadership team as well as your staff. It can manifest itself in five impactful ways:

Empathy with Members
We often hear from leaders and coaches, “Show empathy with the member.” But there’s a right way and wrong way to do it. And demonstrating it the right way requires ongoing training, practice, coaching, and reinforcement. It is a learned skill.

Empathy with Co-Workers
Like our daily interactions with members, empathy is vital to forging positive, effective partnerships with peers at your credit union. Recent experience has shown that disfunction and poor support from one department to another is largely the result of a lack of shared empathy.

Empathy with Direct Reports
Leaders need to personalize their coaching and make sure they focus on what their employee needs to maximize their efforts. While we’ve talked for years about personalized coaching, injecting empathy takes coaching and leadership to a deeper level where it truly drives performance and motivates employees.

Empathy as a Culture
The credit unions who have thrived during the past 18 months have done so largely because of their strong bond with employees and members, along with a concentrated focus on total wellbeing – at work and home. Those efforts need to continue in the “next normal” to leverage that goodwill and solidify those relationships. That means weaving empathy into the fabric of your experience culture as much as possible, today and into the future.

Empathy as a Differentiator
In the spirit of demonstrating empathy instead of just talking about it, be prepared to share specific anecdotes of how you’ve helped members and employees, especially during these challenging times. Don’t be shy about it – it you don’t promote it, no one else will. It can be the best way to differentiate in your marketplaces. Word-of-mouth advertising is still the best advertising but only if you make sure the word does, indeed, get advertised.

Many credit unions have already reached out in recent months about various ways to infuse empathy throughout their culture. If you want to make empathy your secret sauce and create a thoroughly empathetic culture at your credit union, let’s talk. www.fi-strategies.com/contact-us.

Paul Robert

By Paul Robert, FI Strategies, LLC

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 20 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty … Web: fi-strategies.com

Source: Empathy should be your secret sauce – CUInsight

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Can the Covid Vaccine Protect Me Against Virus Variants?

Vaccines do a good job of protecting us from coronavirus, but fear and confusion about the rise of variants have muddled the message. Here are answers to common questions.

The news about coronavirus variants can sound like a horror movie, with references to a “double-mutant” virus, “vaccine-evading” variants and even an “Eek” mutation. One headline warned ominously: “The devil is already here.”

While it’s true that the virus variants are a significant public health concern, the unrelenting focus on each new variant has created undue alarm and a false impression that vaccines don’t protect us against the various variants that continue to emerge.

“I use the term ‘scariants,’” said Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., referring to much of the media coverage of the variants. “Even my wife was saying, ‘What about this double mutant?’ It drives me nuts. People are scared unnecessarily. If you’re fully vaccinated, two weeks post dose, you shouldn’t have to worry about variants at all.”

Viruses are constantly changing, and new variants have been emerging and circulating around the world throughout the pandemic. Some mutations don’t matter, but others can make things much worse by creating a variant that spreads faster or makes people sicker. While the rise of more infectious variants has caused cases of Covid-19 to surge around the world, the risk is primarily to the unvaccinated, for whom there is great concern. While vaccination efforts are well underway in the United States and many other developed countries, huge swaths of the world’s population remain vulnerable, with some countries yet to report having administered a single dose.

But for the vaccinated, the outlook is much more hopeful. While it’s true that the vaccines have different success rates against different variants, the perception that they don’t work against variants at all is incorrect. In fact, the available vaccines have worked remarkably well so far, not just at preventing infection but, most important, at preventing serious illness and hospitalization, even as new variants circulate around the globe.

The variants are “all the more reason to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist. “The bottom line is the vaccines we are using very well protect against the most dominant variant we have right now, and to varying degrees protect against serious disease among several of the other variants.”

Part of the confusion stems from what vaccine efficacy really means and the use of terms like “vaccine evasion,” which sounds a lot scarier than it is. In addition, the fact that two vaccines have achieved about 95 percent efficacy has created unrealistic expectations about what it takes for a vaccine to perform well.

Here are answers to common questions about the variants and the vaccines being used to stop Covid-19.

The variant called B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Britain, is now the most common source of new infections in the United States. This highly contagious variant is also fueling the spread of the virus in Europe and has been found in 114 countries. A mutation allows this version of the virus to more effectively attach to cells. Carriers may also shed much higher levels of virus and stay infectious longer.

The main concern about B.1.1.7 is that it is highly infectious and spreads quickly among the unvaccinated, potentially overwhelming hospitals in areas where cases are surging.

All of the major vaccines in use — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik and Novavax — have been shown to be effective against B.1.1.7. We know this from a variety of studies and indicators. First, scientists have used the blood of vaccinated patients to study how well vaccine antibodies bind to a variant in a test tube. The vaccines have all performed relatively well against B.1.1.7.

There’s also clinical trial data, particularly from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca (which is the most widely used vaccine around the world), that shows they are highly effective against both preventing infection and serious illness in areas where B.1.1.7 is circulating. And in Israel, for instance, where 80 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated (all with the Pfizer shot), case counts are plummeting, even as schools, restaurants and workplaces open up, suggesting that vaccines are tamping down new infections, including those caused by variants.

No vaccine is foolproof, and even though the Covid vaccines are highly protective, sometimes vaccinated people still get infected. But breakthrough cases of vaccinated people are very rare, even as variants are fueling a surge in case counts. And the vaccines prevent severe illness and hospitalization in the vast majority of the vaccinated patients who do get infected.

So what’s the risk of getting infected after vaccination? Nobody knows for sure, but we have some clues. During the Moderna trial, for instance, only 11 patients out of 15,210 who were vaccinated got infected. Both Pfizer and Moderna now are doing more detailed studies of breakthrough cases among vaccinated trial participants, and should be releasing that data soon.

Two real-world studies of vaccinated health care workers, who have a much higher risk of virus exposure than the rest of us, offer hopeful signs. One study found that just four out of 8,121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas became infected. The other found that only seven out of 14,990 workers at UC San Diego Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, tested positive two or more weeks after receiving a second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Both reports were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and are a sign that even as cases were surging in the United States, breakthrough cases were uncommon, even among individuals who were often exposed to sick patients. Most important, patients who were infected after vaccination had mild symptoms. Some people had no symptoms at all, and were discovered only through testing in studies or as part of their unrelated medical care.

A recent C.D.C. report found that after 75 million people had been fully vaccinated, there were 5,814 documented cases of breakthrough infections, including 74 deaths. More details about those patients weren’t available, although at least nine of them died of causes other than Covid-19.

Researchers are still studying whether the variants eventually might increase the number of breakthrough cases or if vaccine antibodies begin to wane over time. So far, data from Moderna show the vaccine still remains 90 percent effective after at least six months. Pfizer has reported similar results.

For now, the variants don’t appear to be increasing the rate of infection in vaccinated people, but that could change as more data are collected. Read more about breakthrough cases here.

The C.D.C. is tracking more than a dozen variants, but only a few qualify as “variants of concern,” which is a public health designation to identify variants that could be more transmissible or have other qualities that make them more of a risk. The main additional variants everyone is talking about right now are the B.1.351, which was first detected in South Africa, and the P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.

While there are other variants (including two “California” variants, B.1.427 and B.1.429, and a New York variant, B.1.526), for now, it seems that the South Africa and Brazil variants (which as of late March together accounted for about 2 percent of cases in the United States) are causing the most concern. While a new variant can emerge at any time, existing variants also compete with each other for dominance. One interesting new development: In countries like the United States where B.1.1.7 is dominant, some of the other variants seem to be getting crowded out, making them less of a worry.

There is a concern that the B.1.351 and the P.1 are better at dodging vaccine antibodies than other variants. But that doesn’t mean the vaccines don’t work at all. It just means the level of protection you get from the vaccines against these variants could be lower than when the shots were studied against early forms of the virus. Among the variants, the B.1.351 may pose the biggest challenge so far. It has a key mutation — called E484K, and often shortened to “Eek” — that can help the virus evade some, but probably not all, antibodies.

A recent study of 149 people in Israel who became infected after vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine suggested that B.1.351 (the variant first identified in South Africa) was more likely to cause breakthrough infections. However, those eight infections occurred between days seven and 13 following the second dose.

“We didn’t see any South Africa variant 14 days after the second dose,” said Adi Stern, the study’s senior author, a professor at the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, Tel Aviv University. “It was a small sample size, but it’s very possible that two weeks after the second dose, maybe the protection level goes up and that blocks the South Africa variant completely. It gives us more room for optimism.”

Remember that there’s a lot of “cushion” provided by this current crop of vaccines, so even if a vaccine is less effective against a variant, it appears that it’s still going to do a good job of protecting you from serious illness.

We don’t yet have precise estimates of vaccine effectiveness against B.1.351, which may be the most challenging variant so far. But studies show that the various vaccines still lower overall risk for infection and help prevent severe disease. A large study of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine in South Africa found it was about 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease, and lowered risk for mild to moderate disease by 64 percent.

(Distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused as health officials investigate safety concerns.) The AstraZeneca vaccine did not do much to protect against mild illness caused by B.1.351, but scientists said they believed the vaccine might protect against more severe cases, based on the immune responses detected in blood samples from people who were given it.

There’s less definitive research for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against the variant, but it’s believed that these two-dose vaccines could reduce risk of infection against the variant by about 60 percent to 70 percent and still are highly effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalization.“From everything we know today, there is still protection from the vaccines against the South Africa variant,” said Dr. Stern.

Part of the problem is that we misinterpret what efficacy really means. When someone hears the term “70 percent efficacy,” for instance, they might wrongly conclude that it means 30 percent of vaccinated people would get sick. That’s not the case. Even if a vaccine loses some ground to a variant, a large portion of people are still protected, and only a fraction of vaccinated people will get infected. Here’s why.

To understand efficacy, consider the data from the Pfizer clinical trials. In the unvaccinated group of 21,728, a total of 162 people got infected. But in the vaccinated group of 21,720, only eight people became infected. That’s what is referred to as 95 percent efficacy. It doesn’t mean that 5 percent of the participants (or 1,086 of them) got sick. It means 95 percent fewer vaccinated people had confirmed infections compared to the unvaccinated group.

Now imagine a hypothetical scenario with a vaccine that is 70 percent effective against a more challenging variant. Under the same conditions of the clinical trial, vaccination would still protect 21,672 people in the group, and just 48 vaccinated people — less than one percent — would become infected, compared to 162 in the unvaccinated group. Even though overall efficacy was lower, only a fraction of vaccinated people in this scenario would get sick, most likely with only mild illness.

While far more research is needed to fully understand how variants might dodge some (but not all) vaccine antibodies, public health experts note that an estimate of 50 percent to 70 percent efficacy against a challenging variant would still be considered an adequate level of protection.

“Seventy percent is extremely high,” said Dr. Stern. “Basically what this means is that it’s even more important to get vaccinated. If you have 95 percent efficacy, you can create some form of herd immunity with less people. With 70 percent efficacy, it’s even more important to get vaccinated to protect others.”

Vaccine makers already are working on developing booster shots that will target the variants, but it’s not clear how soon they might be needed. “In time, you’re going to see a recommendation for a booster,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “That booster will elevate everybody’s antibodies and increase durability. The booster will probably be configured to target the South African and Brazil variants.”

Even amid the rise of variants, vaccines will significantly lower your risk for infection and will protect you from serious illness and hospitalization. People who are vaccinated can socialize, unmasked, with other vaccinated people. While vaccinated people still need to follow local health guidelines about wearing a mask and gathering in groups to protect the unvaccinated, vaccinated people can travel, get their hair and nails done, or go to work without worrying. And vaccinated grandparents can hug their unvaccinated grandchildren. Because there are still some outstanding questions about the risk of vaccinated people carrying the virus, a vaccinated person is still advised to wear a mask in public to protect the unvaccinated — although those guidelines may be updated soon.

“The vaccines protect you, so go get vaccinated — that’s the message,” said Dr. Fauci. “If you’re around other vaccinated people, you shouldn’t worry about it at all. Zero.”

Tara Parker-Pope

 

By: Tara Parker-Pope

 

Source: Can the Covid Vaccine Protect Me Against Virus Variants?

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