Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hannah Fox's Diary 13 - Just when you thought it was safe to have lunch at your desk

I was browsing the BBC the other day and and found an article about what drives us nuts at work what drives us nuts at work and funnily enough Clipboard Clive wasn’t even mentioned! But it said that one of the things that causes tension is people eating at their desks. This is not a thing that normally worries me as my desk is on its own and I don’t really come across much chomping during the course of the day.

Well I take it all back enter...Graeme the IT contractor who is now taking full advantage of the new microwave installed in the office since the sandwich shop has closed down. Most people heat up soup or the occasional jacket potato but NOT GRAEME – does he just live on curries?

This week it’s been vindaloo on Monday, lamb bhuna on Tuesday and fish pie on Wednesday.

Don’t get me wrong I like curries and fish pie but I think you should be considerate of others in the office.  Quite honestly the aroma is quite over powering and I think I have become sensitised to the sound of the ping of the microwave which heralds the latest lurid lunch!! I’ve bought a neutralising spray but it is proving to be ineffective against Graeme’s tasty treats being unleashed on the office and don't even get me started on the empty meal for one cartons left in and around the bin!!

OK rant over....and breathe!  

Well as they say every cloud has a silver lining  and after a particularly nasty whiff of the latest gastronomic delight, I decided the weather was good enough take my lunch and head out to the park.

Bliss -fresh air.

I always thought I was too busy to leave my desk for ½ hour break but I’m finding I’m coming back refreshed, it’s given me thinking time as well to run through problems in my head while I’m out. I’ve even had a mental run through of my preparation for my next meeting with Clive.

I’m beginning to see my situation as a challenge that I can do something about, I’m determined not to be on the back foot at my next meeting.

Still trying to work out how I can fit in a run in the evenings, maybe I will take my trainers to work and have a power walk around the park in my lunch break and invite Louise to join me.

The kids have promised to make pizza for tea tonight – should be good.

Now I’m out of the office in the fresh air I’m feeling a bit sorry for Graeme having to eat those plastic curries. Think I will leave a few healthy eating magazines around for him to be inspired by.

Hannah Fox is a character.  She is based on our years of experience working for a national mental health charity supporting people facing stress in the workplace.  
The names and characters are not based on any one person and all similarities are purely incidental.
However, hopefully we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Hannah.

Point to Ponder:
What is your workplace nightmare?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Workplace Most Wanted

I'm working from home today, as I regularly do and today my husband is doing the same.  The desk I normally work on has pretty good natural light but due to the nature of the work we're each doing, my hubby has that desk today and I was working on the dining room table giving me the space to spread out the flipchart sheets I was using.  

Now this part of our house isn't awash with natural light and so once I'd finished with the flipcharts and just needed my laptop I moved to set up by the bay window.  The morning sunshine streaming in and thankfully our street is pretty quiet so I'm not going to get distracted with people watching (one of my favourite things).

The table is small (perfect for it's role as a side table for a vase of flowers and to rest a cup of tea) but still just about big enough for my lap top.  The sunshine is warm, I can see the pretty spring flowers in my window boxes, I have plenty of natural light, all in all it's a very pleasant place to work.

Whilst doing some other research I came across this article at about The Top 5 Most Wanted Elements In The Workplace

The article gives the highlights of research undertaken by Human Spaces and Prof Cary Cooper into the impact of biophilia on happiness, productively, creativity and collaboration in the workplace.

I really do value natural light and would certainly place it at the top of my list.  

Years ago, during my university holidays I had a summer and Christmas job in a shoe shop in a large indoor shopping centre.  It had the obvious benefit of being able to visit several shops under one roof without getting wet if it was raining.  However, once I was inside the shoe shop, I had no idea of what the weather was doing outside.  The temperature was always the same managed by our air conditioning system and the lights were always on.  There was no natural light and my only clue to weather changes outside was when customers arrived shaking wet brollies or with sunglasses perched on their heads.  Without the natural light it felt like the day had no shape to it; it just started and then eventually it ended.

Although I'm very happy with my natural light arrangement and the fact that we've positioned our WiFi router so that we can pick up WiFi at any point in the garden should I choose to work outside on warmer days....but if I could just somehow arrange a sea view as well, then that would be total bliss!

Go to for the full article.

What would be at the top element of your working wishlist? 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Coffee Date Interview 9 - Nick Ware

Name: Nick Ware

Job Title: Head of Secured Credit Policy, Nationwide

1. Did you have a career plan or just meandered your way into your present job?
No plan, just an intention to not do the same job for much more than 2 years

2. What’s the last thing you do at work before leaving?
Turn the lights out !! There's no routine, I grab my coat, put phone in my pocket and say goodnight to the last few in the office on my way out.

3. Best light bulb moment?
About 4 years ago; after having a bad time at work which was really getting me down, I realised just how lucky I was to have such a wonderful wife and kids , and how important they were to me. I now get just how important it is to cherish every moment with them, and always try to make time for more moments.

4. What’s the best thing about your job?
Every day is a challenge, no two days are the same, and I really do need to think hard sometimes !

5. What eats up most of your time at work?
Reading e-mails and people coming to my desk to ask questions – I prefer the visit to my desk, it gives me the chance to have a proper chat.

6. What was the worst job you ever had and what did it teach you?
My first job in financial services, was at Nationwide stuffing insurance policy documents into envelopes - I had to do 20 a day - it was mind numbingly boring and so inefficient. So, after a couple of weeks, I set about trying to make it more interesting by testing how many I could do - I changed the process, made it much more efficient, and by the time I had finished, I was up to 60 a day, much to the chagrin on my team mates who were content doing 20 and getting pressure to do more...What did it teach me? Two things; life will be as interesting or boring as you make it, and everything can be improved - it sometimes just takes a little imagination

7. What’s your top tip for staying on top of things and getting stuff done?
Lists - my wife loves making lists, especially the ones full of jobs for me to do !

8. When the going gets tough......?
Isn't life exciting......

9. Marmite- yes or no?
NOOOOOO – food of the devil

10. Roller Coaster or Ferris Wheel?
Neither – ever since I jumped off a bridge with a piece of elastic tied to my ankles I have been scared of heights (much to the amusement of the kids) – dodgem cars for me all day!

11. Night in or Night out?
Night out – a night in means kids don’t go to bed til 9 and then I have to cook….give me a good pub, a few beers and a tasty meal in a local restaurant any day

12. Bond or Bourne?
Bond – Bourne was good, but Bond does it with style

Note from WSWS HQ:  
Nick mentioned lists as being something that helps him keep on top of things.  Have a look at Lists are the tools of the successful and Taking your to do list from daunting to do-able for more listy tips.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hannah Fox's Diary 12 - Fact Feel Want

Something a bit different this week....

Hannah is feeling somewhat bruised from her less than successful meeting with Clipboard Clive last week and so we're giving her a week off.  Instead of the normal diary entry from Hannah, we, at Work Smart Work Savvy HQ, thought we'd reflect over the meeting and look at what has worked for Hannah and what hasn't.

Writing this diary has been a real positive for Hannah as she has used it to gained clarity on her situation by keeping the diary going and it’s enabled her to keep a good track of the time line of events.

Hannah is feeling under threat at work and her last meeting with Clive was not very productive and has left her feeling more insecure than ever. However, she is determined to be more prepared next time and Jo has suggested she keeps it simple and to the point by using the Fact Feel Want technique.

This is a template tool for putting across your point, how you're feeling and what you want to change in a positive, assertive way but without blaming, threatening the other person or reeling off a long list of  angry accusations.  

So let's break it down...

Saying how it is in a factual manner.  Hannah must be prepared to back up her claims with hard evidence. This will keep her focussed on specific issues and make it hard for her to be drawn off course by Clive.

As much as Hannah blames Clive for her situation, as soon as she says he’s making her feel a certain way he will have no option but to deny it and become defensive. So keep it simple by remembering to say “I feel….." rather than saying “you're making me feel....”.

This is the tricky bit.  We're all quite good at telling people what the problem is and how it's making us feel but unless you tell the other person what you want, it’s hard for them to guess and almost impossible for them to make any changes. Imagine you have received really shoddy service in a restaurant and your food, despite being ordered 40 minutes ago shows no sign of arriving.  Meanwhile, your friends are waiting to tuck into theirs which has been served. Of course, complaining would be appropriate but unless you give specific instructions of how you want the situation to be resolved, chances are you will not be completely happy with the outcome. This could end in you on a rant about how unhappy you are about the situation but leaving the staff unsure whether you are planning on walking out or if you will give them a chance to rectify the situation.

Hannah would need to give some serious thought to what it is she actually wants to change before entering in a Fact Feel Want conversation with Clive.  In Hannah’s scenario she could feel quite exposed and be putting herself on the line, especially as she is convinced Louise is waiting for her to fail. For example by saying she wants to concentrate on getting new business, Hannah will have to be prepared to sign up to new targets and adhere to them.

Fact Feel Want, used well is a very effective tool as it makes it extremely clear what you do and don’t want ……..but as always, life isn’t perfect so before you start think about what you would and wouldn’t be prepared to compromise on. What would be the deal breaker!

Here is a very simple working example - 

Fact:  I have done the washing up and drying for 5 evenings in a row now.  
Feel:  I feel tired and put upon.
Want: I would like us to share the load by either doing it alternate evenings or one of us does the washing, the other dries and we get it done in half the time.  Then we'd have time to sit down together and watch that DVD we've been meaning to see for ages.

The alternative, if we don't use the Fact Feel Want technique is that we may end up saying something along the lines of...

You never do the washing up, it's always left to me!  As for the work services, well wiping them down once in a while wouldn't harm you, would it? You just treat me like a slave!   And don't get me started on the........

Obviously you can see the difference between these two examples.  I'm sure like me, you'd much rather be on the receiving end of the first one rather than the second one! I imagine the second one would result in a rather nasty argument with accusations flying around and quite possibly a fair bit of door slamming!!  I'd much rather take on a bit of extra drying up and a DVD any day!

So that's Fact Feel Want and I have a feeling we'll be seeing Hannah having a go at using this technique at some point over the next few weeks and yes, Hannah will be back next week.

Hannah Fox is a character.  She is based on our years of experience working for a national mental health charity supporting people facing stress in the workplace.  
The names and characters are not based on any one person and all similarities are purely incidental.
However, hopefully we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Hannah.

Pause for thought:
Have you ever tried the Fact Feel Want technique?  How did it work for you?
Have you ever tried this Fact- Feel- Want approach and how did it work for you?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Coffee Date Interview 8 - Jill Carter

Name: Jill Carter

Job Title: Multi Media Artist

 1. What was the worst job you've ever had and what did it teach you?
Hmm, my worst job was working at a certain educational institution. After a gruelling panel interview when I was desperate to conceal the truth about my typing skills, I discovered that within one week I found, what I thought would be a peach of a job, was not! The principal was a very small man who decided he liked to keep things to himself. There was a rule that his typists, (in a ‘pool’ as they used to call it) were locked behind a glass door. I am sure there would have been a fire exit. But, looking back, I felt like a budgie in a cage and to be honest I didn’t rate the view from the window, which is always high on my work wish list. Our heads of department would have to come and tap on the internal door and we were then allowed to go out and speak with them. It became quite a moment when the door was the opened. When allowed out for tea I discovered that the principal’s secretary had already planned her escape route and said I should apply for her job. It was twice my salary, but I humbly declined, even though I would have had my own modern room with a view and with a very smart desk. She said, well, my sister-in-law works at a bank in town, there is a job going there. I replied that I was rubbish at numbers and my fingers wouldn't know where to find them on the typewriter keyboard. But I decided to dash off at the last minute to the very old establishment in the town, and found myself in front of a very large man and his bird like long serving personal assistant. The interview was surprisingly informal, and I remember being rather disorientated to imagine myself sitting over a large vault of money, wrapped in the smell of leather upholstery and highly polished mahagony desks, but no view, only bars on the windows. I tried to concentrate and listen to my instinct this time. Asking myself, is this the job for me, when the sight of the silver haired assistant’s peachy satin long bloomers swung into view, as she swung round on her chair legs splayed, efficiently taking shorthand notes of the momentous replies I was offering. Why not? I thought, lets give it a go, would I be found out that I really didnt know how to type numbers. In a flash I decided to let go of fear and expectations. The job at the bank turned out to be one of happiest times of my life, made great friends, never got my hands on the money in the vault, but one day did leave at dead of night with that bank manager’s mahogany desk in a white van. But that is another story.

2. How do you relax and wind down after a hard day at work?
Years ago I totally reinvented myself, found myself re-training in complementary health and for many years had a happy and fulfilled practice and enjoyed self-employment status. Then out of nowhere, I suddenly discovered myself mid-life on a degree course in Fine Art, awarded first class honours and then a Masters in Fine Art. Fifteen years later, with no pension on the horizon, being a self-employed freelance artist, juggling projects, proposals, funding bids, earning less than the minimum wage (they would say on Dragon’s Den, well you couldn't call it a business) relaxing at end of day becomes an art form in itself. I love our home, and enjoy the ritual of lighting the log fire, cooking a nice supper, and wrapping myself under a huge blanket with a glass of wine and a period or crime drama or two on the telly.

3. What drives you crazy at work?
At work I find what drives me crazy is the constant hunting for work, that in the arts often the artist is expected to self-fund aspects of the projects, the irregularity of income, the peaks and troughs of income, all positive challenges but tricky on the nervous system. However, it is an amazing profession in which one can learn so much of oneself. I wish now I had a personal assistant with peachy bloomers, as I am rubbish at all the admin, writing funding bids, and as a multi-media artist working with lots of different materials means keeping track of my museum of possibilities, which includes an archive of ever changing curiosities which the tax man might find doubtful to claim, such as three unicorns, one budgie, a flickering lightbulb and a small lead nurse.

4. When you were little what did you want to be?
When I was little I can’t remember dreaming of what I would be when I grew up. But I do reflect on what I used to play. I loved creating miniature gardens on a plate, doodling, drawing cartoons, keeping a diary with lots of mad scribbles in it. Later, I was awarded at school a fountain pen for writing. Our garage was often made into a hospital where two little lads from down the road were forced to be patients and fed plants from the hedgerows. I remember often standing on tip toes and gazing through the local hall window wishing I could join the ballet class. Later, at secondary school my teacher thought I should go to drama school, but my mum couldn't afford the train fare or the cost of my portrait photograph. So I never made that journey, but have made loads of other interesting journeys since then.

5. What the best advice ever given to you?
The best advice recently given to me, was by a dear friend, who reminded me I had stitched these words into a story scroll. “Be your truth”…

6. What are your 3 always?
Three things I find helpful are to be open to change and transformation. Keep a journal. Value friends and family.

7. What song will guarantee to make you feel better?
I find music to be a great inspiration. I love the work of Jocelyn Pook, Untold Things, but I have a really strong memory of dancing round our lounge to Hey Jude by the Beatles, whilst my mum was asleep upstairs, going round in ever decreasing circles with a lad whose name I cant remember, but he had blonde hair and was later to stand me up at the bus stop.  

8. What's your top tip for staying on top of things and getting stuff done?
When self-employed, you have to be naturally self-motivated.  In practice I find I am inspired by stories, exploring identity, of self and others, in response to a sense of place.  I enjoy collaborating with orgnaisations, individuals and groups of people, but I need to balance this with a feeling of autonomy, a process which allows for the freedom of spirit, to be playful and poetically creative.

9. Star Wars or Star Trek?
If I had to chose between Star Wars and Star Trek? As someone who has unearthed a late in life skill of finding oneself dressing up in strange environs, I would say Star Wars, as I much prefer the outfits and locations.

10. Beer or Wine?
Years ago my husband took my on a wine trip to France to the champagne region, we tasted 93 champagnes in 3 days. That experience taught me, best keep to a nice glass of wine.

11. Marmite, yes or no?
There is always that question, Marmite, yes or no? But does anyone ever ask do you like Veggimite, that would get my vote.

12. Tea or Coffee?
If one is to consider tea or coffee, this would bring up the notion of addiction, the everyday rituals of life, conversations shared, worries calmed etc, ideas stirred, and for me, tea would always be top of the agenda.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Hannah Fox's Diary 11 - How NOT to have a meeting.

Had a pre appraisal meeting with Clipboard Clive, I baulked at going in with all guns blazing and gave Clive a chance to tell me how well I had been doing.  He was quite complimentary at first on the work I’d done for the latest Clairemont promotion , then he went on to say that some of the other staff had noticed I rarely stayed late (actually I recalled staying 2 hours after my 3.30 finish time only last week) then he rather patronisingly said the clients all liked dealing with me. I think that’s what’s known as a s***t sandwich.

Once again I had to remind him I now worked part time and it took me ages to complete the extra work he sprung on me, which as far as I can see was a bit of a tick box exercise on his part. Maybe I should have taken the time to prepare more, as I ended up feeling quite flustered and upset and completely on the back foot. Every time he threw a question at me I was scrabbling round for answers.  I knew I was repeating myself and I was starting to sound quite petty the longer the conversation went on………

I’m sure his eyes glazed over at one point.

What I wanted to say, before Clipboard Clive said it had been great to catch up and we would talk next week, was that there is a lack of clarity and vision. I feel a big difference is that now we don’t seem to spend time working on ways to drive the business forward.  He just seems to want revisit old stuff and he can never give a straight answer about the point to half the new reports he keeps requesting. I am the National Accounts Manager (sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact) and I’m really getting bogged down with all the admin I now have to do. Trouble is I know Louise is waiting in the wings to step in and take over if I am seen not to be managing, which makes it difficult to say "no".

By the end of the day I was glad I was meeting up with Jo and a group of her friends from her running club.  I wasn’t sure about going at first because I don’t seem to be as confident as I was about meeting new people. I don’t know why I was worried they turned out to be l great and we had a real laugh especially when Jo recounted some stories of when we worked together at the ski resort. I had forgotten how much we used to think on our feet- sorting out problems and accommodation in the resort for clients turning up late after delays- we must have run on pure adrenalin. Happy Days!

It was refreshing to be with a group of friends who were upbeat despite not living ‘perfect lives’ like Katie and Shaun.

We all got talking about our jobs and surprisingly they seemed to have some of the same issues as me.  They were just so open, forthcoming  and honest and by the time I left I had half promised to them to have a proper conversation with Clipboard Clive.

Still tricky.

Planning our summer break. Amelia and Marcus have both said they want to surf when we are in Cornwall.

Maybe I’ll start running again.

Started to drink coffee again and felt quite shaky ……time to get back on the straight and narrow with the Green Tea. 

Hannah Fox is a character.  She is based on our years of experience working for a national mental health charity supporting people facing stress in the workplace.  
The names and characters are not based on any one person and all similarities are purely incidental.
However, hopefully we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Hannah.

Pause for thought:
How do you start a difficult conversation?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Midweek Motivation - 15th April 2015

Welcome back! Hope you all managed to get a little bit of time off over Easter. It's a lovely sunny day at Work Smart Work Savvy HQ so we thought a sun shiny quote would get us going again....don't forget your sun screen!

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