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Just…BREATHE

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Just…BREATHE


    One of the things I like about my job is that I can do things like watch iTunesU…and claim it’s work.

    While doing that recently I came across a lecture by Dr Margaret Chesney of the UCSF Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine. It’s a long (nearly 90 minutes long) lecture ,but the contents are great if you’re trying to find tools for coping and dealing the crud life throws at you. So I’ve put together a summary in this piece.

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    (If you want the subtlties you’ll just have to listen through for yourself.)

    There’s a lot in common with the work of people like Professor Martin Seligman’s work on confidence and happiness (and so on), but there’s a new twist to it too — which is covered a lot more in the video than in this summary.

    In short…it’s based on the acronym BREATHE.

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    B

    Be in the moment. Simple. Make a point of noticing what’s going on around you, right here, right now. Try some conscious breathing exercises to help increase your awareness. (You can have a look at almost any writing about ‘mindfulness‘ to help you here, too.) The important thing is to become aware of the here-and-now.

    R

    Realistic goals – set ’em. Don’t set yourself targets that you can’t possibly achieve. That way you’re making things worse for yourself because you’re setting yourself up for a continuous stream of failure. By all means stretch yourself but don’t over-stretch yourself. Stretch shouldn’t become ‘strain’.

    E

    Everyday events – notice them. Dr Chesney has a lovely moment of pointing out to people that they really hate not being able to breathe easily when they’ve got a cold… and they hate it… and they notice it… but how many people notice it when they’ve not got a cold and can breathe easily? Things like ‘gratitude logs’ help here.

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    Or just stop, right now, and do nothing for a few minutes except jot down the good things around you that you should be grateful for.. and that you are grateful for, now you’ve taken the time to think of them! Let’s start with the fact that you’ve got eyes that work enough to read this (or something to read it for you!) and electricity to work your computer to display it…. you get the idea!

    A

    Acts of kindness – do ’em! Creating positive moments for other people makes you feel better and makes you feel better about yourself. Quite apart from that, it makes their day better too!  Making the world a better place one act of kindness at a time? Cool!

    T

    Turn around the negatives. This one’s a challenge. It’s about reframing stuff and finding the ‘silver lining’ to your cloud. Sure it’s not easy and some things just don’t have a silver lining that you can find at the time  but a lot of stuff does. Most things in fact. Almost everything.

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    No one is saying it’s easy or that bad stuff isn’t bad stuff – just that trying to use the bad stuff and mitigate it with a sliver of good is better than just being a victim.

    H

    Honour your strengths – be true to yourself. Be true to your values. Be true to what you’re good at – and admit that you’re good at things. Make a point of listing them. Don’t pretend you don’t have any – false modesty isn’t anything to be proud of… and people see through it easily enough anyway recognising it as a form of arrogance. So what’s wrong with just accepting to yourself that you’re good at something – and then acting on it!!?

    E

    End each day with gratitude – check what has happened that day. Go over it and find the good in it. For those things that weren’t so good, decide what you can do about them. What can you learn; what can you do differently? If there’s nothing (really?!!?) let go. Sleep well, knowing that you’ve got a plan and you’re not wallowing in the bad…. :)

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    I hope I’ve done Dr Chesney justice. If you want the full thing, here you go!

    (Photo credit: Breathe via Shutterstock)

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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