North Sea trends might be hard to predict but health should be a certainty

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Health Assured team

28 March 2017

Whilst predicting any trends in the current international climate seems to be a difficult task, there are some certainties; healthier staff are more productive, with less sickness absence and improved safety performance. The consequence of this is improvement in the bottom line for companies.   So why, when some North Sea businesses are facing the most challenging period in their history, have we seen a dip in investment in health and wellbeing support for their employees? The easy answer is cost. With redundancy rates of up to 40% in some companies, they’ve naturally had to cut what they deem as ‘nice to have’ services for employees. In fact, any area where there was no statutory requirement or operational imperative has suffered as a result of cut-backs. These were, and are, truly worrying times.   The impact, some would argue, is still yet to be felt. The instability of the industry means that any consequential analysis would be hard to formulate whilst the turbulence continues. However, even the most ardent cynic would not argue with the claim that a coherent health and wellbeing strategy will reduce absenteeism, improve engagement, strengthen company loyalty and improve safety statistics.   Progressive businesses need to be aware of their longitudinal relationship with employees, short-term fixes are not appropriate in this space. Health and wellbeing cannot be relegated to the ‘discretionary spend’ company strategy file. Its existence ensures sustainable development and growth.   Excerpt from Energy Voice, read the full article here.   Coping with Redundancy Redundancy is usually accompanied by negative and anxious emotions: sudden shock, intense worry and a loss of self-esteem. The knock-on effect on personal relationships, finances and home life can be significant. If you or anyone you know has been made redundant, it can be helpful to have some coping mechanisms to help you get through this difficult time.   Firstly, try to remember that redundancy is not personal. It is a business decision, and it’s the job, not the person, that’s made redundant. Expect to feel a range of emotions, perhaps including relief, anger, uncertainty, worry, or a sense of being let down. Understanding these emotions and putting coping mechanisms in place can greatly reduce the stress of the situation. Handling emotions is a key part to moving forward and making a success of your career from here on in. Redundancy has many similarities to grief in  how it affects us and the stages of emotions we experience. These stages of grief are quite normal and, whilst they are felt acutely at the time, they will not last forever.   Understand the stages of grief so you can help yourself, or others, when coping with redundancy. The stages are very distinct, although different people will move through them at different speeds. They may not always happen in sequence, and people will often relapse to previous stages (often when experiencing knocks in other areas of life).
  1. Shock – the reaction to the sudden news. It can take time to come to terms with the fact that this situation is real
  2. Denial – one of the first reactions is to deny the reality of the situation “did that really just happen?” or “this can’t be happening to me!”
  3. Anger – a powerful emotional response but one which can keep us in a position of avoiding risk, holding us back from progress
  4. Acceptance – the slow acceptance of how things have turned out, often accompanied by an exploration of options
  5. Exploration – assessing the options available to you and starting to move forward (finding a new job, going freelance, retraining)
  6. Challenge – the stage at which we move on and the change process is the catalyst for positive steps forward
  Despite the negative associations of being made redundant, redundancy – like any period of change – presents an opportunity to move forward. Are you able to use redundancy as a chance to review your career, look ahead to where you want to be, perhaps even retrain and change the path of your career? Redundancy does not mean a halt to your career: it’s just a change in direction.   Boost your self-esteem There are several reasons behind a person experiencing low self-esteem in the workplace. Perhaps you feel under-qualified or inexperienced. Maybe you are the victim of bullying or harassment. Perhaps redundancy or a long period of job searching and interviews have left you feeling demotivated. There are plenty of ways you can work towards boosting your self-esteem to be happier and more productive at work. People lacking in self-esteem tend to perceive themselves and their efforts negatively, don’t feel confident in their ability to cope with everyday decisions, don’t feel able to assert their needs and often feel as if they don’t deserve to be happy.   Low self-esteem is particularly damaging in the context of the workplace, because people lacking in self-esteem undervalue their efforts and potential, and will sometimes allow others to treat them very badly. Indeed, they often treat themselves badly, including plenty of negative self-talk and criticism.   Where does low self-esteem stem from? It can be from rejection and perceived failures, unhappiness about appearance, bullying or harassment or parental behaviour and the influence of the family unit. However, even the most deeply-rooted low self-esteem can be turned around. Start by seeking help. Many people with low self-esteem find it hard to talk to people they know, so it may be best to turn to a counsellor or outside agency. You can then couple this professional support with some internal work of your own.   For instance:
  • think back to times, events or periods of your life when you felt better about yourself
  • ask trusted friends or family to remind you of achievements and times when you were happy and confident
  • set yourself some achievable and really meaningful personal goals to work towards
  • boost your self-belief by achieving targets you set, or by putting positive new habits in place
  • watch out for patterns of behaviour and ways of thinking which play on your lack of self-esteem
  • listen out for negative self-talk and try to erase it
  • get active by taking regular exercise you enjoy (this can be walking if that’s all you want to do)
  • make sure you relax from the pressures of life by finding the most appropriate ways to calm yourself down and de-stress
  • eat a healthy diet and cut down on alcohol
  • do not use smoking and alcohol as coping mechanisms
  • talk to others and seek support, whether it’s from friends, colleagues or family or your GP or a counsellor
  Emotional resilience Most of us will feel stressed to some degree or another at various points in our lives. But for some people, stress is a daily and ongoing emotion which serves no useful purpose and grinds them down. If this sounds like you, what can you do to develop your emotional resilience?   Emotional resilience is the ability to handle stress and to bounce back from negative experiences. Emotional resilience can be learned, and can be part of your upbringing and beliefs. Personal characteristics, skills, upbringing, habits and your outlook on life will combine to give you emotional resilience (or not!)   People under stress tend to feel a great amount of negative emotion, from anger, depression and worry to withdrawal and sadness. No-one is completely immune to the negative emotions which come with stress, but people with emotional resilience are able to bounce back and overcome them more quickly, moving on and away from the negativity. Ongoing, excessive or chronic stress can lead to burnout. This isn’t the same as stress, but is an effect of stress.   Burnout is a lack of something – usually energy, emotion, motivation or connection with others. People experience burnout through work or on their personal lives, and it usually builds up over an amount of time. People with emotional resilience typically share values and attitudes which enable them to come back from stress and avoid burnout.   Some of these characteristics are:
  • realistic and attainable expectations and goals
  • persistence and determination
  • positive feelings towards themselves as a person
  • good people skills and communication abilities
  • a feeling of being in control of their lives and the direction it’s heading in
  • good judgment and problem-solving skills
  • learning from past experiences and mistakes
  • empathy and understanding to people and animals
  • a social conscience
  • a sense of optimism
  If you do not already possess these attitudes, it’s not too late! They can be learned, adopted and strengthened. In many cases, emotionally resilient people aren’t those who have better coping skills, they are those who know how to apply their coping skills in a more effective way. Here are some ways in which you can start to develop emotional resilience:
  • focus on the relationships in your life: talk, listen and accept support when it’s offered
  • be optimistic and look at the positives, the opportunities and the possibilities
  • work at moving forwards towards goals
  • take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Exercise, eat well, drink more water, get outside in daylight, get more sleep
  • work on your confidence: look at your previous successes, times you have met goals, ask others what they like about you
  • learn to slow down: do things which relax you, and do them often. Consider taking a longer break when you can.
  • get in control: if you feel your life is out of your control, put planning and goal-setting steps in place to regain control
  • accept that change is inevitable: if you struggle with change, work on this one!
  • learn to make decisions and take positive action (even if the decision is to say no and do less)
  • seek and accept support: from friends, colleagues, family or your GP. You do not have to cope with everything all by yourself
  When colleagues are made redundant If some of your colleagues have just been made redundant, you may feel that you don’t know what to say or do. You might feel worried for your own job security, or you may wonder how they feel about you staying, after they have lost their job. Those left behind after redundancy do not have it easy.   You may feel a range of emotions, in the immediate aftermath but also in the weeks and months after your colleagues have been made redundant. Shock (how could this happen, why them, why now?), loss (they were my friend, how will work life be now they’ve gone?), “survivor” guilt (why them and not me?) or anger (how dare the company do this to them, they worked hard for years….) or insecurity (it could be me next, what is going to happen now?) The important thing to remember is that these emotions and responses are normal and expected.   If you feel worried or insecure about your own future or about the future of your role and responsibilities, talk to your manager. Clear communication is key at this unsettling time. Most of us look to our work as a large part of our identity. So don’t be surprised if these huge changes at work shake the foundations of how you feel about yourself, at work but outside of it too. You may experience self-doubt and a loss of confidence in your abilities or even in your feelings about the meaningfulness of your job, your career or your sector.   And, of course, you may experience very real symptoms of stress, particularly if your own role expands to take on some of the workload left behind.   Here are some suggestions which may help:
  • air your worries with your manager
  • ask a colleague for honest feedback about your competencies
  • reflect on past achievements
  • acknowledge your feelings and respect the feelings of those around you
  • ask for support and accept it when given
  • try to worry about the things you can change and not the things you can’t
  • work with colleagues on creative solutions to increased work demands and disrupted routines
  • find activities outside work which allow you to relax and develop other parts of your identity

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