Loneliness is not just a feeling; it is also a public health problem that has been linked to increased risk of mental health issues, heart disease and even death. With rates of loneliness on the rise in the U. S. and around the world, people are addressing this crisis using everything from companion robots to social networking sites and apps. A new study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that a better solution may lie in a much older, more ubiquitous form of technology: phone calls.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people into isolation, separating them from friends, co-workers and loved ones, experts were beginning to consider loneliness an epidemic—one affecting an estimated three out of five Americans. A study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), published last year, recognizes the health risks social isolation and loneliness present—and the limited interventions available to address them.
“There is a lot of variability in terms of the types of interventions, the level of evidence to support them and the rigor of evidence,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, who was a member of the NASEM committee that published the report.
Some potential solutions, such as grassroots-based pen-pal programs for socially isolated adults, sound promising based on anecdotal evidence, but researchers have not adequately studied them. Other experiments are still ongoing: Holt-Lunstad, in collaboration with the social-networking service Nextdoor and researchers in the U.K. and Australia, conducted a study (currently being prepared for publication) that suggests that performing small acts of kindness for neighbors reduced the likelihood of feeling lonely and socially isolated.
Now a new paper published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that a program of phone calls focused on empathetic conversation can help. Over the course of four weeks, the experiment saw an overall reduction in symptoms of loneliness, depression and anxiety in at-risk adults aged 27 to 101. “It makes sense,” says Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “In an emergency time like the pandemic, phone calls can make a big difference in allaying feelings of fright and anxiety.”
“A lot of care went into designing the protocol so that it was all about the person at the other end,” says Maninder Kahlon, lead author of the study and executive director of Factor Health, an organization for developing health care programs at the University of Texas at Austin. For example, the experiment customized each person’s program depending on how frequently they wanted to receive calls—from two to five times per week—and the best time of day for them to talk.
The researchers also considered how to make the phone conversations more empathetic. Steven Tomlinson, co-author of the study and an associate professor of leadership and administration at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Tex., drew on his experiences reviewing successful sales calls to identify which variables could be applied to the intervention to help callers connect with other people.
These characteristics included asking open questions, making one point at a time to allow the call receiver to talk and following up on “clues” in the conversation to demonstrate understanding. Instead of writing a script, the researchers trained 16 callers, aged 17 to 23, in these techniques and instructed them to discuss any topic the call receiver wanted to talk about, such as an ongoing home-improvement project. “It’s not just calling up on people to check in,” Kahlon says. “It’s the deliberate thinking about how you build trust.”
Although it remains unclear if the effects last beyond the four-week study period, the researchers hope the study serves as a model for an ongoing program. If health care systems and public health agencies start building a workforce of empathetic callers, it could do more than alleviate loneliness, Kahlon suggests. Similar programs might help people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety and complement patients’ management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
A phone-based intervention involving layperson callers would be accessible and scalable, but it would still require callers to undergo training and take on a lot of work. “It’s important that [the intervention] is simple and intuitive,” Kahlon says, but “simple does not mean easy.” Holt-Lunstad, who was not involved in the new study, also points out that loneliness has different sources and thus may need varying solutions. “One approach may not be appropriate for all, particularly if it’s not sensitive to the underlying causes,” Holt-Lunstad says. “Getting a phone call may work for one person, but participating in a group activity may be better for others.”
COVID has emphasized the need to address growing feelings of loneliness and isolation. For instance, Japan recently appointed a minister of loneliness in the wake of increasing rates of suicide in the country; the U.K. created a similar official position in 2018. “It may take some time to understand the long-term effects of the pandemic [on loneliness and social isolation],” Holt-Lunstad says. “One of the key takeaways from this past year is there is greater awareness of how important social connection is for our well-being.”
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During the spring wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, almost half of all employees in the UK were working from home at least some of the time. Whilst this was, of course, a scary time for everyone, there was also a sense of banding together, battening down the hatches and maybe even a little excitement at being able to work from home for the first time. Many adapted well to this strange new set-up. Kitchen tables became digital business hubs and spare bedrooms make-shift Zoom boardrooms.
But that was nearly 10 months ago, and the short-term shift to remote working has gradually become a more permanent, fundamental change in the way we work. And many are now realising the potential pitfalls.
Driven partly by the resurgence of the virus following the summer, and also by shifting attitudes of employers who are now realising they can trust their people to get the job done and remain productive without their watchful eye, remote working is here to stay in some capacity. A recently released survey from KPMG showed how 68 percent of CEOs plan on downsizing their offices to reflect this shift, and it seems that what was the most popular employee benefit of the last decade has been fast-tracked some 20 years in the space of 10 months.
That’s all well and good for those who have adjusted well or have properties large enough to accommodate a home office. But not everyone wants to be working from home. Some miss the buzz of the office and the social aspect of a workplace. Others may miss the ‘me time’ that a commute afforded them. Indeed, many new members of the work-from-home community may have contributed to the startling increase in divorce rates and break-ups.
Maybe that open-plan family room wasn’t such a good idea after all. Regardless of which camp you’re in, remote working in some form is here to stay. So how can you make a success of it? Here are some pointers from someone who’s been a member of the work-from-home clan for more than two years now.
Create a dedicated space.
The biggest change that new work-from-homers will need to make as a short-term solution shifts into a permanent new reality is creating a space in their home that’s sole purpose is work.
Kitchen tables, the sofa or cluttered box room just won’t cut it anymore. Even for organisations that switch to a 3-2-2 model or a variation of it (that’s three days in the office, two working remotely and two days off at the weekend), it’d be a struggle in terms of professional mindset to move from office to sofa and maintain the same attitude, output and productivity.
A dedicated space helps create a more seamless transition between workplace and home working. It will induce a professional mindset when you enter and aid focus. This dedicated space should ideally be cut off in some way from distractions and general home noises.
I don’t think I would have been nearly as productive over the last two years if every morning was a trip to the kitchen to turn the laptop on and there I stayed until 6 p.m. That close a proximity to the fridge certainly wouldn’t have helped things either!
Play around with the ambience.
One of the big benefits that many would have enjoyed when starting their first few remote workdays is having total control over the office environment. Radio station? Pick your favourite. Too warm? No need to negotiate opening a window with an always-cold coworker.
For long-term remote working, it’s good to play around with the ambience of your home office to find what works best.
As an example, I always find talk radio is a great backing track for the morning rush to clear the inbox and check on campaigns. But the post-lunch lull requires a lively Spotify playlist at full blast to maintain productivity.
Others find that certain tasks, such as a blog or technical writing, can be easier to focus on with softer background noise such as rain sounds or even a YouTube video of general office background noise (I kid you not, and I’ve tried it, and it does work on occasion).
Have a play around with lighting too. Natural light is always best for alertness and attention, whilst for those who like to work into the evenings, softer lamp light may be less harsh.
Finally, have a think about the temperature of your room. Whilst it’s very tempting to create a snug office that’s always warm, research has found that we tend to lose focus and productivity in rooms that are too warm. After all, if you’re a bit tired after a long drive, you don’t whack the heating on – you open the window for some fresh air.
Force yourself to stay connected.
Remote working presents a challenge to both extroverts and introverts.
For the former, not being surrounded by co-workers, a lack of “real” conversations or office socialising are a real problem when it comes to working from home. They thrive on these interactions and, as such, working alone at home can become frustrating and isolating.
On the flip side, for introverts who likely gravitate toward remote working more naturally, there is a danger of slipping into a mindset that starts to resent or even fear the Zoom or MS Teams call sound after a few hours of peace. For the more introverted, the office forced social interactions. Remote working can quickly see you start to actively avoid the group chats and digital socials.
Whichever camp you may be in – and it can be a bit of both depending on your mood and how fatigued you are – forcing yourself to stay connected is critical for long-term remote working.
And force yourself to stop working, too.
This is probably the biggest problem for the WFH community. For a workforce that was increasingly becoming an ‘always-on’ workforce, working from home has exacerbated the problem – especially when the makeshift workspace was the kitchen table or living room armchair.
But it’s critical for the long-term success of remote working to force yourself to STOP. If your organisation has still enforced a 9-5 or equivalent working hours – just work those hours then shut up shop for the day. If your employers are really forward-thinking and allow for both remote working and flexible hours too, then make sure you’re pacing yourself too.
A recent survey from The Office Group found that working longer hours was the biggest contributor to burnt-out millennials, alongside the inability to separate work and personal life.
Remember, you’re no good to anyone if you burn out from overworking. And it’s detrimental to your physical and mental health. So take a break, try to switch off when your day is done and resist the late-night email check.
The best ways I’ve found to deal with this is actually leaving the house when a particular working shift is done, either to walk the dog or a trip to the shop. It breaks the work mindset and helps you to switch off. Give it a try!
Modus Project Manager Samantha Park sits down with Co-Founder Jay Garcia to discuss how remote life differs at Modus from other organizations, share some of their techniques to make remote work easier, and talk about some of the challenges they’ve experienced working in a non-traditional environment. Ms. Park elaborates on the flexibility and independence that remote work provides, and discusses the expectation and reality of remote work, how to create a work-life balance, and tips for staying focused and on track. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check out our open positions at https://moduscreate.com/careers Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and turn on notifications! https://mdus.co/subscribe Sam on Social Media: Twitter – https://twitter.com/sparkps126 LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/samantham… Blog – https://moduscreate.com/blog Timestamps: 0:24 – Working remotely at Modus 0:50 – Going fully-remote for the first time 1:38 – Dealing with loneliness 2:08 – Expectation vs. reality of remote work 2:33 – Drawing a boundary between work and life 3:29 – The flexibility of remote work 4:14 – Building an office space at home 5:16 – Leading Modus while remote Modus Create is a disruptive consulting firm based on the model of an open-source team dedicated to making the best software on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it. Together with our customers, we build products that empower people with breakthrough services and experience. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check us out at https://moduscreate.com/careers #workfromhome #remotework #employeeinterview #workculture #collaboration #collaborationtools #creativethinking
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As Ethan Kross, an American experimental psychologist and neuroscientist, will cheerfully testify, the person who doesn’t sometimes find themselves listening to an unhelpful voice in their head probably doesn’t exist. Ten years ago, Kross found himself sitting up late at night with a baseball bat in his hand, waiting for an imaginary assailant he was convinced was about to break into his house – a figure conjured by his frantic mind after he received a threatening letter from a stranger who’d seen him on TV. Kross, whose area of research is the science of introspection, knew that he was overreacting; that he had fallen victim to what he calls “chatter”. But telling himself this did no good at all. At the peak of his anxiety, his negative thoughts running wildly on a loop, he found himself, somewhat comically, Googling “bodyguards for academics”.
Kross runs the wonderfully named Emotion and Self Control Lab at Michigan University, an institution he founded and where he has devoted the greater part of his career to studying the silent conversations people have with themselves: internal dialogues that powerfully influence how they live their lives. Why, he and his colleagues want to know, do some people benefit from turning inwards to understand their feelings, while others are apt to fall apart when they engage in precisely the same behavior? Are there right and wrong ways to communicate with yourself, and if so, are there techniques that might usefully be employed by those with inner voices that are just a little too loud?
The psychologist and neuroscientist Ethan Kross: ‘Avoiding our emotions across the board is not a good thing, but let’s think about distance instead.’
Down the years, Kross has found answers to some, if not all, of these questions, and now he has collected these findings in a new book – a manual he hopes will improve the lives of those who read it. “We’re not going to rid the world of anxiety and depression,” he says, of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It. “This is not a happy pill, and negative emotions are good in small doses. But it is possible to turn down the temperature a bit when it’s running too high, and doing this can help all of us manage our experiences more effectively.”
According to Kross, who talks to me on Zoom from his home in a snowy Ann Arbor, there now exists a robust body of research to show that when we experience distress – something MRI scans suggest has a physical component as well as an emotional one – engaging in introspection can do “significantly” more harm than good. Our thoughts, he says, don’t save us from ourselves. Rather, they give rise to something insidious: the kind of negative cycles that turn the singular capacity of human beings for introspection into a curse rather than a blessing, with potentially grave consequences both for our mental and physical health (introspection of the wrong sort can even contribute to faster ageing).
Does this mean that it’s not, after all, good to talk? That those in therapy should immediately cancel their next appointment? Not exactly. “Avoiding our emotions across the board is not a good thing,” he says. “But let’s think about distance instead. Some people equate this word with avoidance and repression. But I think of it as the ability to step back and reflect, to widen the lens, to get some perspective. We’re not avoiding something by doing this, we’re just not getting overwhelmed.”
Those who are able to quieten their inner voice are happier; their sense of relief can be palpable
According to one study, we talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking 4,000 words per minute (by way of comparison, the American president’s State of the Union address, which usually runs to about 6,000 words, lasts more than an hour). No wonder, then, that listening to it can be exhausting, whether it takes the form of a rambling soliloquy, or a compulsive rehashing of events, a free-associative pinballing from one thought to another or a furious internal dialogue.
But if such noise can be paralysing, it can also be self-sabotaging. What we experience on the inside can blot out almost everything else if we let it. A study published in 2010, for instance, shows that inner experiences consistently dwarf outer ones – something that, as Kross notes, speaks to the fact that once a “ruminative” thought takes hold of us, it can ruin even the best party, the most longed-for new job.
Why do some people have a louder or more troubling inner voice than others? “That’s harder to answer,” he says. “There are so many ways it can be activated, some genetic, some environmental.” What is certain is that these experiences cannot be discounted: “The data is overwhelming when it comes to the connection between anxiety and physical health conditions.” Those who are able to quieten their inner voice are happier; their sense of relief can be palpable.
‘Our thoughts don’t save us from ourselves,’ says Ethan Kross.
What is interesting about the science involved in all this is how it both backs up, and goes against, intuition. Much of Kross’s book is devoted to what he calls the “toolbox” of techniques that can be used to dial down chatter, and while some of these seem to contradict all that we think and feel – “venting”, for instance, can do a person more harm than good, because talking about negative experiences with friends can often work as a repellent, pushing away those you need most – others confirm that when we act on certain instincts, we’re right to do so.
To take one example, if you are the kind of person who slips into the second or third person when you are in a flap (“Rachel, you should calm down; this is not the end of the world”), you really are doing yourself some good. What Kross calls “distanced self-talk” is, according to experiments he has run, one of the fastest and most straightforward ways of gaining emotional perspective: a “psychological hack” that is embedded in “the fabric of human language”. Talking to yourself like this – as if you were another person altogether – isn’t only calming. Kross’s work shows that it can help you make a better impression, or improve your performance in, say, a job interview. It may also enable you to reframe what seems like an impossibility as a challenge, one to which, with your own encouragement, you may be able to rise.
Some of his other techniques are already well known: the power of touch (put your arms around someone); the power of nature (put your arms around a tree). Activities that induce “awe” – a walk in the mountains, say, or time spent in front of a magnificent work of art – are also useful, helping with that sense of perspective. Writing a daily journal can prove efficacious for some (something that felt terrible one day physically becoming old news the next), while neat freaks like me will be thrilled to discover that what he calls “compensatory control” – the creation of exterior order, better known as tidying up – really does have an impact on interior order. Reorganise your sock drawer, and you may find that your voice quietens.
Research shows, too, that superstitions, rituals and lucky charms can be useful, though most of us will draw the line at, say, taking our milk teeth with us when we fly, as the model Heidi Klum is said to (she keeps hers in a tiny bag, which she clutches during turbulence). Placebos have been found to work on chatter, just as they do in the case of some physical illnesses. In one study in which Kross was involved, a saline nasal spray acted as a kind of painkiller for the inner voice: data from brain scans showed that those who’d inhaled it, having believed they were inhaling a painkiller, displayed significantly less activity in their brain’s social-pain circuitry compared with those who knew they had inhaled only a saline solution.
No wonder, then, that Kross believes children should be taught the science behind all of these ideas, and in the US he has already begun working with teachers to make this happen: “We want to find out if knowing this stuff influences how they regulate themselves.” Does he make use of the toolbox? (Physician, heal thyself.) “We should probably ask my wife,” he laughs. “But yes, I do, absolutely. I’m human, too.” In particular, he is “very selective” when it comes to friends from whom he seeks “chatter support”.
Everyday feelings of sadness are elevated for many, but there is also a lot of resilience – we often underestimate that
Kross finished his book long before the outbreak of the pandemic, let alone the storming of the Capitol. But as he observes, it could hardly be published at a more opportune moment. “This is the perfect chatter episode for society: a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, political uncertainty, widespread groupthink.” His most cited paper to date looked at the harmful implications of social media, often “a giant megaphone” for the inner voice – Facebook expressly asks its users: “What’s on your mind?” – and an environment that he thinks we need to learn to navigate with more care.
As for the pandemic, though, he is less pessimistic than some about the effects it is likely to have long-term on mental health. “We are already seeing signs that depression and anxiety are spiking,” he says. “Everyday feelings of sadness are elevated for many, and then there are more full-blown episodes. But there is also a lot of resilience, and we often underestimate that. A lot of people are doing quite well. They’re managing this hardship in an adaptive way. I am an optimist. We will return, I think, to a nicer place, though how quickly that will happen, I only wish I could say.”
Which technique should the pandemic-anxious deploy? “Well, one that I personally rely on is temporal distancing,” he says. This requires a person to look ahead: to see themselves determinedly in the future. Studies show that if you ask those going through a difficult experience how they will feel about it in 10 years’ time, rather than tomorrow, their troubles immediately seem more temporary. Does this really help him? “Yes, it does. I ask myself how I am going to feel a year from now, when I’m back in the office, and I’m seeing my colleagues, and travelling again, and taking my kids to soccer – and it gives me hope.”
It is, as he says in his book, a form of time travel: a mental Tardis that, if only we can manage to board it, may make everything from a bereavement right down to a silly argument seem less brutal, just a little easier to bear.
• Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross is published by Vermilion (£20). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply
if you ask those going through a difficult experience how they will feel about it in 10 years’ time, rather than tomorrow, their troubles immediately seem more temporary
I’m not so sure about this. When I had a major depressive episode with crippling anxiety about 20 years ago I spent the better part of 18 months living (in my head) in this fantasy version of the future where none of the things mattered. Wha…Jump to comment
One of the mistakes humans often make is to assume all thoughts are words. A person without access to or knowledge of any kind of language will not be without thought. Nor will that lack of language make them unintelligent. Words form a paper thin layer on top a complex set of emotional networks. Some of our most powerful and enduring responses to stimuli have no need of any kind of language. Falling in love, becoming overwhelmed by grief, …Jump to comment
Workingmums.co.uk hosted two employer workshops on how empathy can be used to create a more engaged, productive workforce in November led by Oliver Hansard and Joss Mathieson from Catalyst Thinking Partners.
Opening the first workshop, Hansard said that, in a world where we are in control of so little that is going on, empathy is a key skill. It is no use having technical ability without having the skills to unlock people’s potential, he stated. He argued that empathy is generative rather than passive, meaning that it guides people’s actions.
Mathieson said Covid has shown the importance of engagement and regular communication and added that empathy is crucial for dealing with a culture of change. If change is handled badly and with a lack of empathy, it can knock people sideways for months, he said. People’s attitude to change is deeply personal, he added, so we need to understand what it means to individuals to ensure people are able to deal with it effectively.
Hansard and Mathieson asked what people understood by the term empathy. Empathy is not only about understanding another person’s perspective, but it guides what actions should be taken and what support might be required. In volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times we also need VUCA leadership is required, said Hansard and Mathieson, that is, leadership focused on being Valiant, Understanding, Compassionate and Authentic:
– Valiance is about not being afraid to show that you don’t know everything, to ask what others think and to do the right thing; – Understanding is about understanding how others feel; – Compassion is about being consistently thoughtful, even in challenging circumstances; – Authenticity is about being genuine and honest and not being afraid to show vulnerability, for instance, to talk about what it is really like living through this pandemic.
Hansard and Mathieson pointed out that there is often a discrepancy between how empathetic CEOs think they and their company are versus what employees perceive. A recent workplace empathy survey from Businesssolver showed, for instance, that 68% of CEOs think their companies are empathetic, compared to 48% of employees, and that 76% of employees think empathy leads to greater productivity compared to 52% of CEOs. Moreover, 70% of employees think greater empathy results in lower staff turnover, compared to just 40% of CEOs.
In their Empathy Manifesto, Hansard and Mathieson have called for a cultural shift around empathy and referred to how Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, had put empathy at the core of innovation to understand the different needs of customers and appreciate different perspectives. Microsoft has shifted from a ‘know it all’ culture to ‘learn it all’ as a result.
As a framework, Hansard and Mathieson outlined their Empathy Compass which has empathy at the centre, surrounded by self, team, organisation and customer. They said empathy for yourself is your “North Star”. By understanding how you are feeling, you can be more empathetic to others and more resilient. They emphasised the importance of finding time for yourself amid family and work demands.
In a team setting, empathy involves listening to others and being prepared to act on what they say, being honest rather than hiding bad news and taking the group with you. It can involve ensuring people take time out regularly to care for others in the team, testing things out and listening to feedback.
When it comes to customers, empathy is about listening to their needs and adjusting products or services accordingly, whether they are internal or external clients. It is an opportunity to show you care and value customers and it drives loyalty.
There are two dimensions to organisational empathy – top down empathy demonstrated by senior managers and bottom up empathy that builds from the sum of other acts of empathy – teams, customers and self.
Hansard and Mathieson discussed how to attract and hire empathetic candidates and said it is about having the right behavioural frameworks and asking candidates at interview about what they think empathy is and requesting that they give examples of how they have demonstrated this. Also, they can be asked about their personal values and the employer can assess the cultural fit against their organisational values, if they have been clearly defined.
Participants then discussed examples of empathetic leadership in their own organisations, including weekly videos from CEOs about the need for everyone to take care of themselves; leaders who are mental health first aiders; role models and influencers who generate empathy; leader drop-in sessions; leaders who give people permission to take time out; a focus on domestic abuse; employee audits that ensure employers know about the different problems affecting different groups; treating employees like consumers; and a focus on adaptability to change and on how an empathetic culture supports this.
Mathieson said it is important to be aware that different cultural contexts need to be taken into account and that a different empathetic approach may be needed for different stages of the pandemic. Hansard said listening needs to become an organisational habit as does demonstrating that what is being said is being taken on board. Mathieson said employers need to listen more than they talk.
In the second workshop, participants explored empathetic listening or what one participant called “listening hard”. They focused on the reciprocal empathetic relationship between employer and employee and the importance of creating an environment of trust where employees feel they can be open and honest and that what they say will be acted upon. There was also a discussion on how an empathetic culture could boost understanding of customer needs and help deliver better services. Better listening can sometimes be enough to push things forward in itself if people feel they are being heard.
Hansard said there are three types of empathy: cognitive empathy or empathy by thought – the ability to see another’s perspective; emotional empathy – the ability to feel another’s emotions; and generative empathy – which generates empathy in others and leads to action, if not by the listener then by others. Receiving and witnessing empathy has a profound impact and generates empathy for others.
They outlined their ACORN method of generative empathy which is based on:
Attention – listening with full attention and not imposing your own perspective;
Curiosity – exploring what the other person is thinking or feeling and checking that you have heard and understood correctly;
Observation – noticing all signals, including body language and emotions
Reflection – being a mirror and testing what people are saying, for instance, stating: ‘I think what you are saying is…’ This can be helpful even if you get it wrong as it might make the person think about the issue in a different way if done well; and
Next steps – working together to identify action for you and for them.
Participants then took part in an empathy breakout session to try the ACORN method for themselves, working in trios where one person shared a challenge or problem, one person listened to another and another observed.
Reflecting afterwards, some participants described the difficulty of letting go of the feeling that they needed to find a solution to people’s problems rather than just reflect them back and find a supportive way forward. Mathieson said intentional listening has to be practised regularly and developed “as a muscle”. This is particularly important for building resilient organisations, promoting inclusion and helping people to navigate agility and change.
Hansard and Mathieson have developed a six-month empathy training programme for leaders which shows significant boosts in leaders’ ability to listen and teams’ ability to behave empathetically as well as increased trust. The leaders who have taken part say it is transformative, helping teams feel more connected and able to be more honest and open.
If you would like to know more about the Empathy Manifesto and the work Hansard and Mathieson do, please contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org/ www.hansardcoaching.com and email@example.com/www.changeoasis.com.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted a study to determine which countries offered their workers the best balance between personal life and work life . The researchers considered a number of factors including average work hours , personal time, and number of working moms. In the end, the Netherlands took first place with a rating of 9.3 out of 10, while several countries in America ended up presenting a very bad rating.
Not being able to balance work and life can put your health at risk. In fact, many studies have shown that people who work long hours and do not have time for themselves have a 33 percent greater chance of having a heart attack, and a 13 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, there are many ways to balance your personal and business life to protect your health .
Put into practice the following tips that will change your life:
1. Get rid of unnecessary activities
Many entrepreneurs work longer hours than they should because they are wasting their time on unnecessary or low-value activities. Find out if this is your problem by recording every minute of your time for a few days. Then review what you wrote down and identify the activities that do not add value.
Eliminate distractions like checking social media or taking personal calls while you work. These activities may not take you more than a couple of minutes, but they add up. You should also analyze if you are wasting a lot of time on activities that someone else could do. For example, if you are wasting time going to the supermarket, maybe you could hire someone to do it or order the supermarket at home.
Getting the most out of every minute of the day is essential to find the balance between work and personal life. By cutting back on non-value-added activities like distractions and errands, you can work fewer hours and take care of your health.
2. Schedule social activities on a recurring basis
Studies have shown that having an active social life is important for health. People who isolate themselves from others increase their chances of dying sooner by fifty percent. But making time for social activities can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to grow a business. One way to overcome this is by scheduling recurring social activities with your closest friends.
For example, plan to have one dinner a month with a group of friends. Put this activity on your calendar, and now you can organize your work schedule around dinner, and not the other way around. This strategy is effective because it forces you to make time to disconnect and have fun with your friends. Think of this social activity as a meeting with an important client, something you can’t cancel regardless of how busy you are.
3. Learn healthy ways to cope with stress
Being an entrepreneur is stressful. No matter how many activities you cut off your list or how often you see your friends, you can’t escape stress. Chronic stress has a negative impact on your mind and body, which can lead to dangerous health conditions such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. But this does not mean that living under stress will shorten your life expectancy. The key to finding a balance between work and health is learning to manage stress.
Get into the habit of taking a step back from stressful situations, just for a few moments to calm down and collect your thoughts. For example, let’s say a client sends you an email demanding something almost impossible. If you feel like your heart is racing and your blood is starting to spike everywhere, get up from the computer and take a walk, even through your office. If you can go for a walk, do it to calm the thoughts that were accumulating in your head. Going for a walk, even for a few minutes, reduces stress and brings clarity to the head.
Dr. Michael Galitzer, author and physician, recommends entrepreneurs to practice deep breathing to relieve stress. Put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Begin to breathe deeply from the abdomen to fill your lungs with air. As you slowly breathe in and out, focus on how your abdomen rises and falls. This will make you focus on something other than what is causing you stress and it will be easier to calm you down. Inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for another four seconds, and then exhale for a count of four. Using one of these methods to deal with stress can calm your mind so that you are better prepared to handle the situation that stressed you out.
As an entrepreneur, you are most likely not used to putting yourself first. But it is important to understand that doing so does not mean putting your business aside. By following these tips, you can find the perfect balance between your work and your health, and be more successful than ever in the business world.