Our unhealthy obsession with work

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Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Mental health is a topic I have started to pay a lot closer attention to.

With work, comes pressure and expectation. Thankfully, these days it’s less about being ‘seen’ to work hard, and more about what you can achieve and how you go about doing that.

In my spare time, I play a small part in helping to run a community for recruiters, called DBR. I was talking to one of my friends in the community recently about the pressures of work and trying to achieve a good work-life balance. Something they said really stuck with me:

I got back from holiday and was like “omg I need to work late every night to make up for going away”

It stuck with me for a couple of reasons 1) I’ve been there myself 2) That level of worry and stress is not good.

So how do we stop work from becoming an unhealthy obsession, even an addiction?

Physical and Mental Health

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Me and my bro shortly after completing the 2014 London Marathon

At the moment, I’m training for the London Marathon. It will be my third London Marathon and my sixth overall. I’ve learnt a heck of a lot about how my body works and my limits, both physically and mentally. When you train too much, you’re tired and injuries soon follow. You’re forced to rest up and recover. You literally don’t have a choice.

 

When it comes to work, it’s not always that easy (or obvious). I’ve been seriously guilty of letting it run my life. Mondays to Fridays were off limits for social events as I’d be totally consumed by wanting to solve every work nag that was on my mind. Whilst 10pm is bedtime for some, I’d still be sat there working myself into a frenzy about what I hadn’t yet done ahead of the next day. It was unhealthy and, frankly, made me really unhappy. I didn’t recognise myself, was short-tempered and generally not a great person to be around.

Then last year, I heard some shocking news about a former colleague. It stopped me in my tracks. I was compelled me to take a closer look at my own mental health. More specifically where I draw the line between work and pleasure. Whilst I’m still quite an obsessive person, I’ve learnt both by myself and through the help of others that taking care of yourself is more important (and leads to better results anyway). It’s taught me that rest and recovery from intensive spells of work are just as important as when training.

How can you strike a balance?

The majority of things you do at work are important but not everything is urgent. When you’re there work hard, really hard but ruthlessly prioritise what actually needs to be now and what can actually wait for the next 12+ hours until you’re back the next day.

Here are a few practical tips to help switch off from work:

  • Snooze Slack notifications
  • Android users — separate ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’ profiles on your phone. (Or if you’re like me, just turn your work phone off when you get home)
  • Set office hours on your calendar so that colleagues know when scheduling meetings

We all have a responsibility to not only talk about our mental health but also to live by what we say, both for ourselves, our colleagues & friends. There will always be occasions when we need to work longer hours or get stressed out — we’re human after all. These, however, should be the exception rather than the norm and I challenge you all to think about how you can make that a reality.

First and foremost, look after yourself and look after each other. If you don’t look after yourself before and during a marathon, you’ll hit what is known as ‘The Wall’. From experience, it’s not a great place to be in.

Why wouldn’t you take work-life balance as seriously?

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I’m running the London Marathon in support of Mind, the mental health charity. If you would like to support this great charity please follow this link to my fundraising page — https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kristian-bright

Interviews – How to deal with rejection

We’ve recently started to measure the candidate experience in our interview process. We’re early on in this process, but it’s proving interesting reading so far (see below). This survey is sent out to everybody that has an on-site interview at Lost My Name. It’s purpose to is to provide a platform to share feedback once the dust has settled post-interviews. As you’ll see from the graph below, we’re scoring OK, not great but not bad. There are certainly numerous ways that we can and will improve:

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I don’t ever expect to achieve full marks on these scores because a lot of people haven’t proceeded to the next interview stage either as a result of our decision making process or their own. However, it does give us an indication of how and where we can improve.

Looking at the results and comments, it really hit home to me the range of emotions that a candidate goes through.

Firstly, rejection is not a nice feeling. When you’ve had your heart set on a job, told family and friends and built up the excitement, it makes it all the more difficult to take. So what is the best way to respond and turn that rejection into a positive learning experience?

  1. Let it out – I’m not advocating a public display of outrage, but you need to release the anger/disappointment/frustration of missing out on that job that you really wanted. How?
    • Write it down – how you’re feeling. How did you find the experience of interviewing? What you liked and didn’t like? Why you think you missed out on the role after all? How did it make you feel to be told that isn’t right for you?
    • Talk to people – no doubt in the coming hours, days or even weeks you’ll speak to those close to you, recruiters, acquaintances and the topic will come up. You’re likely to receive the standard ‘it’s their loss’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or even ‘you should be proud for getting so far’….let’s face it, none of this really makes you feel any better does it? Find those that you trust and are willing to listen and talk through it, I promise you’ll feel better about it.
  2. Give it time – I’ve been rejected for roles in the past, ones that I’d invested significant time in preparing for…it didn’t work out and that sucks. The initial feelings of being gutted, then annoyed, then slightly bitter are all part of the process. However, like with any feeling, they pass. My biggest advice is to not jump straight to the next thing, take some time to consider options and let the dust settle.
  3. What did you learn? This is where you can turn a negative into a positive, share this experience with the company that you interviewed with. How you felt you were treated, what you enjoyed about the process. At Lost My Name, candidates can do this with the above mentioned method. Any company that is vested in improving its interview process and delivering a great candidate experience will be glad of the feedback.
  4. Future interviews – consider the feedback you received from the company. What did you do well, where did you fall short? Leverage this and take it forward to your next interview. You’ll be more confident in yourself. If there is one thing that I value extremely highly from an interviewee, it’s someone who can talk through a difficult time/situation and show key learnings from it. Successes tell you so much about a person, failures give a real insight into character, resilience and courage. Some of the qualities that we value so dearly in our teams.

You may or may not agree with the advice given above and that’s fine. Everyone is different and will deal with awkward and difficult situations differently. What I hope you will agree on is that a negative can be turned into a positive and the initial pain and frustration can quickly transform into a feeling of personal growth and maturity.
I’d love to hear other people’s views and comments on this subject as it’s one often ignored when we thinking about hiring and interviewing.

Company Culture – All or Nothing

Culture is how organisations ‘do things’ ” – Robert Katanga. Today it’s used to attract candidates and build an employer brand.

We place huge weight behind our career moves based on things like work environment, the people as well as career development and salary.

Companies strive to get this right – some throw huge resources behind it, you may even see a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in place (usually a sign that the culture is so bad they’ve had to employ someone to try to sort it out).

So what is Company Culture?

I recently attended an event on this very subject – Culturevist. People there from a wide range of professions – Lawyers, Recruiters, Customer Success, Marketing, Communications etc. All gathered together discussing culture in the workplace– success stories, failures, people seeking help. People there because they care about the environment they work in.

This, for me, shows that culture represents the values and behaviours of employees that make up a company. As an employer can you really answer questions like – Are you an employer/part of a company that really does care about employees? Do you just want them to perform well at work or go that step further and really get behind a positive ‘work-life’ balance?

All or Nothing?

What did Culturevist teach me about Company Culture?

  • It’s a collective effort– a movement driven from the top downwards. Driving culture from the bottom up is admirable but the will of employees can count for little if those at the top don’t truly believe in it.
  • You can’t just create a culture– you have to show a process towards making it work.
  • How? –Being transparent, listening and then acting on what you’ve heard. Having an identity, values and living and breathing them!
  • Develop it – Through listening to your employees you identify issues earlier and take necessary action

We want to believe in a company, its products and its people. Essentially we want to be part of a story where we can make a difference.

Working in an environment that allows you to do this is the first step. Great benefits may help in attracting you but they won’t buy long-term loyalty. It’s the sense of control and community that we all crave. Make someone feel part of a team and in control of their own destiny and you’ll find that you’ll have an engaged, inspired and happy workforce.

….but before you get too comfortable. This is an ‘All or Nothing’ game and one that needs to be continually worked at. Companies evolve and so will your culture.

Having the self-awareness to boost your performance and career

A while back, if you’d have asked me what are the most important features that a company would want I would have produced a list along the lines of ‘technical skills, communication, teamwork…’ I quickly realised that beneath this lays one major attribute that can increase or decrease all of the others – self-awareness. This is a key feature of how I recruit and one that can really play a big part in boosting not only your performance but also your career.

Self-awareness is the ‘Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires’. Now how do motives, desires, feelings and character relate to boosting your performance and career? Behind each high performer there will be a method of working, a way that that the individual has found to be successful.  Some will be conventional like following a set process, whilst others will be less so. Now why am I rambling on about is this I hear you ask? This is so blatantly obvious!

…Well please take a step back for a second. A moment to consider what has allowed you to develop your career. Many of you will answer ‘I worked really hard’ or ‘I gave myself a target and reached it’. These are fine but the question you need to be asking is how and why? Questioning your methods allows you to look deeper into your performance. There will always be ways you can improve and you won’t find out the honest answer until you delve deeper.

How do we increase self-awareness? Can it be done?

Some will argue that you are either self-aware or your not. I disagree.  It’s not as simple as that. I believe that a higher level of self-awareness can be achieved through continually looking back retrospectively on your performance and considering what factors made you successful or not.  This seems simple but how many of you do this? I’m not talking about quarterly on annual reviews. These are specific instances, conversations, tasks. The key is in the detail.  10 minutes during the day or on the journey home…review, analyse the results, jot down some ideas and alternatives.

But surely this can only take you so far?

Correct. To be truly successful you need to combine the getting the job done, hard work, relationship building, adaptability and a slice of good fortune. Combine these and you will do a great job. Understand why they are important, what you have learnt in the process and how you can evolve going forwards and you, my friend, could be a superstar!

The role every employee can play in hiring

So….this is the second blog I have written today. The first, which was my first ever independent blog post and unfortunately suffered at the hands of a disagreement between it’s author (me) and application being used.

Here we go, attempt number two. I was going to re-type the original version but that moment has now passed and I feel that fate played a bit in the content disappearing. What I would like to discuss today is part of what is being called ‘Talent Hacking’, namely empowering employees to make decisions during the hiring process and the role the in-house recruiter plays in this. We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here but we can and must adjust our approach to the changes in the industry.

In today’s recruitment climate factors like employee branding have really risen to the fore in attracting top level candidates and proactive sourcing has become an essential feature of the modern recruiter. No longer in the interview process are decisions left solely to the senior management. Employees at all levels are utilised to provide a comprehensive assessment of all candidates. This is something that I have seen done well but requires a certain level of coaching. This is where the role of the in-house recruiter comes into play…

For smaller companies, every hire is absolutely crucial. Candidates must be assessed for technical skill set, soft skills and team fit. This is absolutely crucial as one bad hire can have a far more detrimental effect to a company that in a large, multinational corporate. To make sure that you are covering all bases you need to include current employees at all levels (with the one stipulation being that the employees involved in interviews have been at the company a sufficiently amount of time to fully understand the standard required and culture).

Not everybody is experienced in interviewing and from my own experience confidence takes a while to build up. The in-house recruiter can play a key role in ensuring that the interviewers are qualified to make an objective judgement on that candidate. This can be broken down into a number of areas:

  • What skills are the interviewers assessing at each stage of the process – Team fit? Technical skills? Set competencies? This is vital because unless guided the interviewer can easily get lost and go off track.
  • Interview etiquette – this is an interview after all so both parties are being judged, not just the candidate.
  • How they should structure their interview?
  • Time Management? 
  • What they can/can’t say – the legal part…
I think if you can cover these main points that you will end up with a fair and consistent interview process. Employees will feel empowered that they are playing a key part in growing the company and more importantly their opinion is valued. 
This is a great method to identify and make quality hires, make no mistake about it. The interview process has evolved and with this so has the role of the in-house recruiter. We have a big part to play in nurturing not only the growth of teams but the growth of employees as decision makers. Everyone in your company will have an opinion on that to hire great people, remember that as the recruiter you are the expert and this a great way to showcase your expertise to the business and win their respect.