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Employee Wellness Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

How to Say “No” At Work Without Putting People Off

Your goal is to ensure that disappointment doesn’t escalate to insult.

Mental health experts always advise us to say “No” to requests that make us feel stressed or uncomfortable so that we protect our boundaries and not feel overburdened. But this is easier said than done when it comes to the workplace, where begging off from a task assigned by a higher-up can negatively impact our career, while declining a client’s request for help can strain our relationship with them. In fact, a 2015 study by Linked In revealed that more than 58% of millennials globally consider themselves a “yes employee” – someone who does as they are told and is more apt not to question authority. This can result in a workforce that sees higher incidences of burnout, which can lead to mental health concerns.

So how can you say no to unreasonable requests, pointless meetings, busy work, and demanding clients without coming across as lazy, selfish, or disrespectful? The suggestions below might help: 

  • Show a valid reason. Don’t simply say “No.” Share your logic, the facts, and what motivated your decision. For example, don’t thumb down a proposal and have the team making conclusions about why you did so, i.e. “He doesn’t care about our opinion” or “It’s because she’s not benefitting from it.” Instead, cite the data and the thought process that led you to that position, so that you let others know that you gave careful consideration before making a decision. Say “I analyzed the pros and cons and believe we should turn this down because…” or “I cannot grant you this request because according to our company policy…
  • Offer an alternative. Instead of closing the door, offer something to smooth over the effect of your rejection, i.e. “I can’t help you right now but try me again when my current project has been completed” or “I don’t like this proposal but I’ll give you another week to come back with a better one…”
  • Be confident but humble. It’s important to take a firm stand, but not one where you come across as a know-it-all. You alienate more than you convince when you make statements like “The only reasonable conclusion we can draw is…” or “The right answer is…” Instead, use phrases like “I’ve concluded…” and “I believe…” to demonstrate a combination of resolve and humility that avoids provoking unnecessary conflict.
  • Be respectful. When saying no to a person of authority, particularly someone who might misinterpret your denial as disrespect, it can be helpful to ask permission to say no. This allows you to honor their authority while maintaining your integrity. For example, you could tell your superior, “You’ve asked me to take on a new project. I think it’s a bad idea for me to take it on, and I’d like to share my reasons. If, however, you don’t want to hear them, I’ll take it on and do my best. What would you like?” In most cases, the boss will feel obligated to hear you out.
    Now if the boss refuses to hear your reservations, you need to decide if this is an environment you want to spend a significant part of your life in.
  • Negotiate. Sometimes a “no” can turn into a “yes” if the other person is willing to modify the request or do something in return. Let’s say that your boss asks you to start working on a new project, and you know it’s not possible to do your other projects well if you have to add this one. Instead of saying, “I don’t see how I can do that” or “That’s not possible” — negotiate. Say something like, “Is this new project X a higher priority than project Y?  Because if we could move the deadline on Y by just a few days, then I can get X done.” 
  • Apologize and offer to do what you can.  Finally, when you ultimately say no, express your regret and offer to move as far in the direction of their request as possible. An example would be telling a customer “I’m afraid our current policies don’t allow this, but I will talk to my superior if we can do this in the future.” This lets the person know that even though you can’t fulfill this particular request, you hope to be able to fulfill the next one. 

Saying no isn’t being selfish. It’s being smart with the limited time you have each day, because no matter how many tasks and people you take on, the number of hours in a day remains the same so the amount of rest your body needs will also remain the same. By saying no and prioritizing your well-being, you become a healthier, happier, and more productive worker. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

5 Ways To Recharge Your Energy

Managing your energy more effectively throughout the day to boost productivity

In today’s fast-paced world, multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once. But according to American-Canadian cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, doing more than one thing at a time is taxing on the brain and drains precious mental energy. “Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes [parts of our brain] to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task,” he says. “The rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time.” This leads to a rapid decline in decision-making skills, creativity, and productivity. 

“It’s funny to me to think about how quickly we freak out when our cell phone battery starts to weaken, but how seldom we even notice when our own brain power starts fading away,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer at MindNation. 

“So in the same way we  keep an eye on our finances to make sure we don’t go bankrupt, it’s important we pay attention to how we spend and invest our energy so we don’t end up running out. “

How can we best replenish our mental energy and attain consistent peak performance when faced with so many things to do at work and at home? Salma suggests 5 ways we can keep our body and brain primed throughout the day:

  1. Start your day right
  • Hold off on checking email, social media, or any media for that matter, right when you open your eyes. “This way you can fuel your brain with something positive, inspiring, or energizing first,” Salma suggests. 
  •  Don’t rush through your breakfast, coffee, or smoothie. Take time to savor the meal. 
  • Try listening to a guided meditation or podcast, or reading a few pages of an inspirational book. 
  • Go for a walk, do some gentle yoga.
  • Add a little humor to the morning by sharing a funny story with a friend or family.

“Once you get started and you feel that energy starting to flow, you end up doing more than you expected and you actually enjoy it,” Salma says.

2. It’s not just WHAT you eat, but also HOW you eat

  • Make sure to eat slowly, and stop before you think you’re full. 
  • Also make sure that you’re eating often enough to maintain a consistent energy level. Going too long between meals can actually cause your energy to tank and even reduce your immunity.

3. Find time to move throughout the day

“I suggest you try to get up and move for at least 10 minutes every hour using a 50-minute, 10-minute work cycle during the day,” Salma offers. “If you feel more tired, or more stressed, you may want to shift to 25 minutes on and five minutes off, so that you’re recharging even more often. You can even combine strategies, whatever the day calls for.”

4. Don’t forget to practice self-care

“Incorporate the things you enjoy doing into your routine, such as listening to music, using aromatherapy, doing gratitude exercises, thinking about someone you care about, or watching a funny video,” advises Salma.

5. At night, unwind properly

  • Place your digital device out of reach, because it’s way too tempting to check in when it’s by your bed.
  •  “If you have to sleep with the TV on, make sure to choose shows that are relaxing or even boring, so your brain isn’t trying to pay attention,” Salma suggests. “Also, set a timer for the TV to turn off.” 
  • Listen to an audiobook or read a few pages of a book. “Most people who read before bed only actually read a few pages because their eyes start to get tired and their brain starts to recognize this consistent thing they do when they are ready to fall asleep,” shares Salma.
  • Create a quiet comfortable space to sleep in. Studies show that a cool temperature of about 20 degrees is best for the body to rest, and you should also minimize light and sound. 

Take a few moments right now to write down a couple of ways you can recharge your energy throughout the day. Make sure your plans are realistic, and keep them short and simple. Then, think about someone you could ask to join you from time to time to help you stick with your commitment.

Make sure to  repeat these new habits consistently enough for adaptations to start to add up.  “A good rule of thumb is  the power of two days — never miss two consecutive days of completing a new positive habit,” Salma shares. “You can miss a day — because let’s be honest, life gets in the way and all our plans need to be realistic — but fight the urge to miss a second day so you don’t fall back into your old habits.” So push yourself (though not too much) and use the ‘2-day rule’ as a way to build your habit. 

Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not easy to break out of old habits and build new ones so be patient, start small, and be kind to yourself. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Featured

5 Ways to Build Remote Workforce Engagement

How can your team build and maintain social bonds in a time of social distancing? Find out below. 

An employee is considered “engaged” if he or she is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and has a positive attitude towards the organization. This leads them to take positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

On the other hand, a disengaged employee may range from someone doing the bare minimum at work to an employee who is actively damaging the company’s work output and reputation.

When employees are engaged, they are more likely to invest in the work they do which leads to a higher quality of work produced.  In a study of companies with over 500 employees, researchers found that 71% of managers felt that employee engagement was one of the most important factors in overall company success.

Engagement rises when employees have strong relationships with their co-workers. In fact, according to research conducted by Gallup, employees who report having a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged. But because the majority of workers are now working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a challenge for many to build and maintain social bonds at work, and companies are finding it difficult to keep employee engagement levels up.

What can team leaders do to build remote workforce engagement? Here are some ways: 

  1. Make time for small talk. Back when everyone was at a physical office, there were plenty of opportunities for idle talk, whether it’s chatting in the pantry during a coffee break or eating lunch together at the corner restaurant. As a leader, continue to provide opportunities for some socializing during remote working hours by reminding yourself that not all conversations have to be about work. Don’t be afraid to drop the occasional off-topic email, Slack message, or funny meme, and remember to acknowledge employees’ birthdays or other special occasions during regular team meetings.
  1. Organize occasional face-to-face gatherings. Even though most work can be done virtually, it does not mean that it should be done so all the time. Plan an in-person get-together once or twice a quarter in a setting where COVID-19 safety protocols are followed. This can be as simple as an outdoor restaurant so people can share a meal to a whole-day company retreat in a nature setting. 
  2. Provide clear direction. Engagement does not mean that everyone on the team has to be besties with one another; it’s also about making sure that everyone feels that they are still part of a team and not feeling isolated. What do they do next? Who can they turn to? Not being able to answer these questions can leave a remote employee completely disengaged.

So just like you’d take a new employee through an onboarding process, make sure that a remote employee knows about the tips, tools, and processes that will help them succeed. 

Who can they contact if they need help?

What is the official work schedule and working hours? 

What sort of output should be expected from them?

  1. Give and encourage feedback during online meetings. During physical gatherings, you can get insight on whether or not a team member is engaged through non-verbal cues like facial expressions. Maintaining the same connection can be difficult during virtual meetings if you have to deal with connectivity issues or if there are just too many people on a call. So make sure to help remote employees stay engaged by reducing distracting noise during video-conferencing sessions, stopping to gain their feedback whenever possible, as well as mentioning them when they say something laudable. 

In addition, help remote workers align more seamlessly by providing the meeting agenda ahead of time so that those with technical issues can still follow along. 

  1. Offer rewards. The best way to motivate people, whether working on-site or remotely, is rewarding them for efforts and positive behaviors. Some things you can do apart from the standard congratulatory email:
  1. Gift them with non-work related classes they can access for free or at a reduced cost. By giving them an opportunity to take part in a wide variety of options such as exercise or cooking you are even supporting their mental and physical wellbeing.
  2. Give out movie or music gift cards so employees can choose options online from the comfort of their home.
  3. If you have company swag, mail them to an employee for a job well done or as a simple token of appreciation.

By creating and encouraging meaningful connections with your remote workforce, you motivate and inspire them to become advocates of your organization and make them happier, healthier, and more productive team members. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation