Living and working with Autism

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“Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. … But autism … is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique,”

Paul Collins, Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my husband Mark, who insisted that we watch a programme on the telly that evening. He rarely does this so when I asked him about the programme and why he wanted to watch it, all he had to tell me was the title and I instantly understood why; the programme was Chris Packham: Asperger’s and me.

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World Mental Health Day 2017

“Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.”

At least one in six workers experiences common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Research conducted by leading charity Mind, shows that 55% of employees surveyed said that work is the biggest cause of stress in their lives, more so than debt or financial problems.

Mental ill-health costs the UK economy £26 billion each year, this is through 91 million lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity. With such staggering figures, it is within every organisations interest to establish ways to tackle the problem. What is really concerning is not just the prevalence of stress and mental health problems at work, but that employees don’t feel supported to be able to deal with these pressures.

The main causes of mental ill health at work are excessive workload, frustration with poor management, lack of support and unrealistic targets. Stress at work is also effecting people’s personal lives. One in five employees said that it puts a strain on their relationships, while 11% have missed important events such as birthdays due to work related stress.

Prince Harry has spoken publicly about the importance of mental health awareness amongst the armed forces; not just post career but has actively campaigned for mental health to become an active part throughout their career. This has lead to a review and implementation of new training methods and support mechanisms will also be rolled out to reservists, veterans and civil servants.

The starting point can be seen as difficult, but it does not need to be. Simply taking the time to speak to a colleague or manager to tell them how you are feeling and what your concerns are can help take that first step to improving mental health. It’s the little things that make the big difference, so if you are an employee reading this, your manager needs to know that you are struggling, if it is pressures with workload, they may be able to offer a solution. Likewise, if you are a manager yourself reading this, then you need to do the same, just because you have a more senior title it does not mean that you shouldn’t be able to address your concerns.

We must always keep in mind that mental ill health does not discriminate and affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, this is why it is so important that we start these conversations to try and remove the stigma that is associated with mental ill health.

Mental health may be a hot topic but it is a very fluid subject, one critical point is to ensure that individual cases are treated as exactly that, as an individual. Just because one person has a condition, it does not mean that the remedies and supporting tools are the same. There is no one size fits all approach and therefore businesses cannot just roll out a wellbeing initiative hoping that it will work, the subject of mental health is ongoing and will be evolving at a fast pace for many years to come.

Mind has a fantastic guide to help support employers who want to promote positive mental health within their organisations; to access the guide, please click here.

 

A racing start to CIPD MAP 2017 from Derek Redmond

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Derek Redmond has got CIPD MAP 2017 off to a flying start, I particularly enjoyed his opening line that he used to run around in circles for a living!

Whilst Derek may have swopped lacing up his trainers for driving high performance in his role at Thomas International; his motivation remains the same, to get the most out of people in his role as Performance Director.

Engagement may be a strange term but it is a topic that many are passionate about, even as an individual, we always have a team around us to help us deliver. There’s always a coach behind us cheering us on to achieve our goals.

Derek might have been alone on the track, but he had a team of people around him to help him achieve his aspirations,; a track coach, flexibility coach, masseuse, sports physiologist, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, S&C coach, partner, agent and his Dad! All have a key role to play in the story of his success and it is no different in the world of work, they are experts in what they do.

Reflecting on Margaret Heffernan’s opening keynote to CIPD ACE 16, this demonstrates the importance of people working together, knowing their roles and ultimately, who has supported you to get you where you are now? These people are vital to our success and achieving what sometimes feels impossible. When people understand their roles, it improves relationships, communication and when they understand what each other are doing, that is where the magic happens.

Recognition to keep people engaged is essential, simply say thank you. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture but those people will never forget it and they will feel appreciated. Last week, I was speaking to my husband Mark at home and I turned to him and simply said “thank you for everything you do, I wouldn’t be here at this point in my career without you”. He seemed a bit taken back by it but it is true and I realised that I don’t say it enough, we should all do this more often.

Empowerment, alignment, involvement; these words are part of our daily lives, it’s not new but these resources can be constantly applied to every area of our performance. They are supported by our attitude and approach to how we undertake tasks to help us deliver to the best of our ability.

One thing that we should all do regularly is to reflect on our career journey, Derek mentioned that doing this each year is important; ask yourself, where were you this time last year? Are you behind? Have you kept on track? It’s vital to consistently monitor where you are on your journey and more importantly, are they fitting to where you want to be?

High engagement drives high performance; if you have highly skilled people that are not engaged, then you will simply not getting the most out of them. Engagement is as simple as that, so taking steps to improve engagement is essential to driving high performance within your business so the need for investment in this area couldn’t be more critical. Skills are irrelevant, it’s engagement that is truly important.

People and performance; in the world of business, the most common mistake is to judge upon business performance. Too much focus on figures and strategy often sacrifices understanding the role, team spirit and leaves little room for challenging each other; a distinct lack of people focus. If you look after the people, your performance will take care of itself, it sounds simple but too many organisations forget this which hinders the level of performance.

Understanding your people is the key to driving your organisation forward, as Derek demonstrated when he won the Olympic gold medal with his team in 1991. It demonstrates the capability of a truly engaged team, the same principles can be instilled in organisations.

Most organisations have the right people to deliver but they might be in the wrong roles, or there could be a lack of communication, it’s about understanding and mindset. These words will resonate with everyone so why do we continue to stay the same?

We don’t need to be told that the world of work is evolving, if this is news to you then you are already miles behind. You can’t expect to do something different if you’re doing the same thing.

A fantastic start to this years CIPD MAP Conference and a lot of food for thought to take us through the day.

 

 

 

Get ready for the working week

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Ok, it’s Sunday and it feels like you’ve barely had a weekend (again!), and whilst we may complain that it’s nearly Monday; whether you like it or not, it is a certainty!  If this sounds familiar then by being organised and preparing for the week ahead could be the key to eliminating those Sunday blues.

A “case of the Mondays” usually comes from the feeling of having a carefree weekend, to the rigid structure and chaos of the working week. On the weekend we can eat whenever, wear whatever you please, and easily lose track of time.

The weekend is usually a time of relaxation, and it’s only when that lack of structure that we have from our working week, no wonder it fees that we are swinging from one extreme to another.

The working week brings forward structure that we generally dislike; knowing that we have to dress in a particular way, having breaks at certain times and sticking to set times especially those weeks where it seems like there’s 101 things to do and yet your diary is crammed full of meetings relating to those 101 things! This leaves us feeling ill-equipped and unprepared which are bigger dislikes than Monday’s. To avoid those situations and feel more in control, there are a few things that you can do which could help you welcome the working week and allow you to enjoy those precious few hours left of our beloved weekend.

If you’d like to give it a go, then here are some quick and easy tips to help you welcome Monday with less grumbles.

Get your to do list in order

We all have those giving us unnecessary head noise which only heightens the dread of Monday; write everything down so you can physically see what you need to do. You never know the list may be smaller and easier to achieve than you think!

There’s an app for that! Try Google Keep or Wunderlist, both are free and available across all devices.

Prepare your outfits

Believe it or not, we waste a ridiculous amount of time each morning figuring out what to wear which is stressful and makes your morning seem even more rushed when you actually don’t need it to be. Plan the outfits you’re going to wear, launder your clothes, iron them and have them together in your wardrobe ready to wear.

Create a food plan

Like outfits, we are even worse when it comes to deciding what to eat. Ditch the usual and expensive bland sandwich plan and plan your meals. Do a good food shop and get creating some yummy meals, cut up fruit, vegetables and have those as snacks. Eating healthily has a huge impact upon our motivation, so if you eat healthy in theory you should feel happier.

Try creating a simple spread sheet and populating it with meals, once you’re in the flow, it’ll take only 10 minutes to complete each week. Plus you’ll save money as you know exactly what to shop for!

Give yourself something fun to look forward to

If it’s meeting a friend after work for dinner, taking time to catch up on that TV series or having a cosy night reading a book. The week is about so much more than work so go on treat yourself!

Spruce up your social media

If you like being on social media but don’t have time to commit during the working day, there are ways you can not miss out. Prepare and schedule your Tweets, Linked In campaigns and blog posts in advance. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite will be your new best friends!

Get your gym bag ready

Get your bag and outfits lined up and ready to go, that way you’re less likely to say “I’ll go tomorrow” which will leave you feeling disappointed and negative when you put it off.

Relax

Yes the above task sounds like a mountain to climb but do what you can to make you feel more prepared to face the week. The last thing you want to do is feel stressed after running around like a headless chicken so make sure you take time to relax and enjoy Sunday.

Even if you just do a couple of these things, you’ll be setting yourself up for a much easier, and more organised week.

Happy Sunday to you and all the best wishes for the week ahead.

It’s A Level results day! Your career journey starts here…

When we were little, we knew what we wanted to do for a career as we’d proudly stand in front of our classmates at a tender age of 5 and exclaim “I want to be a Policeman” “a vet” “I want to be a nurse” one beamed with pride.

I remember sitting there, I politely passed my turn to another child and went last. The teacher then asked me again “Natalie what do you want to do when you grow up?” I stood at the front and told her that I’d really thought about this question because when you have a job, you’re doing it for a long time. I then said to her that I knew wanted to work at Heathrow Airport for British Airways, just like my dad. She asked, “why British Airways?” I simply said “their people are always smart, they wear buttons on their uniforms when they’re good at work, they’re friendly and they always smile but most of all, I want my mum and dad to be proud of me”.

I sadly never made it in to British Airways in my dream role as cabin crew, but ironically my sister did and whilst my mum and dad are proud of me. I’m equally proud and grateful to them, my passion to perform well in my role is a driver I inherited from my dad.

To cut a long story short, my  point is that not everything in life goes to plan so prepare for the curveballs that now fire your way! whether that is choosing the university for you, getting into the world of work or simply figuring out your next steps, they may not be as you planned or first thought!

You’ve read the books, completed your coursework and faced the exams head on; today is the results day you have been waiting for and I wish you all the very best of luck and no matter what, you’re already a success story waiting to happen.

If your results are not what you hoped for there are a number of things you can do and you may need to adapt your plans slightly but you never know, you might prefer the new plan better!

Regardless of your result, now is an incredible time of opportunity, with an increase in demand for apprenticeships, universities opening their doors to welcome new students and a buoyant employment market, now is the time to get that first foot onto the career ladder.

Good luck and all the very best wishes from me.