FINDING REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

As many of you will know I’ve always been a glass half-full type of person. I’ve always had a spring in my step (a Tigger bounce some might say) and a positive outlook in life. Our website was originally called ‘metapositive’ and many people still think that’s our actual company name! 

I, like many of you I’m sure, have found the last 16 months testing my resilience and my positivity to its limits. At first I could deal with the adversity, the challenges that life was throwing me but, gradually over time, I found it harder to bounce back, harder to find as many positives. 

So last week I sat myself down and gave myself a bit of a stern talking to (you know, like the one your dad or your mum used to give you as a teenager when you’d crossed a line or needed picking up and motivating because you were a bit flat). I reminded myself that I am naturally a positive little soul and part of my purpose was to spread that positivity and look for the good in the world. It was time to pick myself up, dust myself down, pick myself up by my bootstraps, and give myself a good metaphorical kick up the bum to get myself up and going again. 

It’s amazing that when we talk to ourselves kindly but seriously, how motivated we can get. You see we always have CHOICE – no-one can tell us how to be, no-one or no-thing can influence us unless we allow them to. I realised that I’d been making some passive choices, choices that made me feel like things were being ‘done to me’ and so I decided it was time to make some different choices. Why? Because the passive choices I was making weren’t making me happy! 

I made an agreement with myself that I’d start looking for reasons to be cheerful, and do you know what? Since I’ve made that agreement, it’s amazing how many reasons there are to be cheerful! The fog of fear seems to have dispersed, and although I can’t claim to feel great all the time, I am definitely feeling a lot better than I did. I’m making different, more active choices, and if I find myself feeling a bit down I cheer myself up by finding some reasons to be cheerful. 

At Meta we’ve always talked about being careful about what you look for in life – if you look for what’s wrong, you’ll find it. If you look for what’s right, you’ll find that too. Now I’m not advocating being positive for positive’s sake, I’m just saying that actually, right now, there are lots of reasons to be cheerful. 

Almost all of you reading this will be at least single-jabbed with one of the Covid vaccines and many of you will be double-jabbed. That will be leading to more and more freedoms for us all, and a release of perhaps our biggest fear in the last year and a half – getting Covid. As I write this I’m self-isolating (yes, I got ‘pinged’ from NHS Test and Trace) because my daughter has Covid. Now it’s annoying, not gonna lie, but I also have no doubt that the fact I’m double jabbed has protected me and today, a few days in, I’m still Covid negative. Now that’s a reason to be cheerful right there! As is the fact that my daughter has pretty much no symptoms even though she’s not been jabbed (she’s only 15). 

Being at home I’ve got slightly addicted to watching the Olympics – wow, what incredible feats of athleticism have I been witness to. So many medals, so many brave and moving Olympic stories – having the Olympics on while you’re self-isolating? Yep, another reason to be cheerful! 

I have a concert coming up with a band I found just before lockdown, who I absolutely LOVE (Another Sky… check them out, they are amazing!). I’d managed to get tickets for a tiny gig in Bristol (just 100 capacity venue), then of course Covid struck, and the concert was postponed. However, a week Friday I shall be dad dancing without a care in the world to their music, my first live concert in two years+ and yes, that’s another reason to be cheerful! 

Once you start actively looking, there are so many reasons to be cheerful, so many little positive wins to each day, and in each week – you just have to start looking.

The world is a place of abundance, the world is full of lovely things all waiting to fill your fuel tanks and give you a positive energy boost. It’s easy to get caught by the fog of fear, easy to feel isolated, get a bit negative and lose your bounce-back ability like I did. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been feeling like this. But with a bit of re-framing, a bit of conscious choosing what we look for, we can reconnect with the abundance and beauty that’s all around us. 

There was an interesting piece of research done by the University of California, looking at mental health and well-being, that I overheard on Radio 4’s ‘All in the mind’ programme – about what they called ‘awe-walks’. 

We all know that a walk in nature is good for you, we all found that out when we had our government prescribed ‘hour of exercise’ each day during the first lockdown. So many people in the workshops I’ve been running around resilience have talked about one of the positives to come out of this Covid experience is that they’ve reconnected with nature and found so many green spots in their local communities that they didn’t even realise were there! 

The research took three groups of people. One group went about their day normally, they were given no extra tasks to do – this group was the control group. The second group got to walk for 30 minutes every day; and the third group were told to find something beautiful, something that made them go WOW on their walks (these were the ‘awe-walkers’). What the researchers were exploring was the wow effect that we get when we are in awe of something. Now, they were keen to highlight that, actually, you can find something awe-some anywhere! It didn’t mean you had to be half-way up the Himalayas, or on a rugged beach, or deep in a wild forest. They were essentially talking about noticing, on a deeper level, the beauty that was all around you. So, for example, maybe taking the time to look at a leaf, look in real detail, then hold it up to the sun see its intricate design and perfect beauty. Maybe to watch the rain as it dances upon a river, allowing yourself the time to get lost in its ripples and dancing droplets. To watch a bee as it happily hums and moves from flower to flower, buzzing its own happy buzz! 

What they found was that those who went for the 30minute walk expressed a greater sense of well-being than the control group, and those that went on the ‘awe-walks’ expressed an even higher sense of well-being.

As you know, at Meta we’ve talked for many years about how important it is to fill your fuel tanks, and to me an awe-walk is an ultimate fuel tank filler. 

I’ve started making most of my most of my walks ‘awe-walks’ (although not every one). The other day as I was out it started to rain, but rather than run for cover, I decided to turn my face to the sky and feel the rain gently pitter-patter onto my face. It felt like a blessing from the sky, and after all the intense heat we’ve been having recently – a blessed relief! 

I didn’t worry about getting wet and I watched the rain as it fell from the sky, dancing on the pavement and creating little puddles that I could jump in and splash around in. I’m sure there were a few raised eyebrows at this 6’7” tall adult splashing in puddles, but you know what? I’m sure there were a few smiles too. 

Right now we all need a bit of picking up, a bit of positivity and oomph. So, I’ve decided that now there is no better time to find happiness, no better time to choose to be happy. I saw a brilliant sign in a café in India – it was so simple and yet so profound. 

“If you choose to be happy no-one can stop you” it said. And you know what? It’s absolutely right. 

When we find our reasons to be cheerful, when we count our blessings, or just choose to look at the world differently – it’s amazing what we can find, it’s amazing what a difference it can make. 

I’m choosing to be more positive; I’m choosing that the world is a place of abundance, I’m choosing to pick myself back up and find plenty of reasons to be cheerful. 

What do you choose? 

I hope today’s blog was useful to you, and I’d like to finish by saying that it’d be lovely to hear what reasons have you found to be cheerful. Send them to me direct at jo@metapositive.com if you’d like to – I’d love to hear them! 

Have a wonderful summer, 

In peace and love – Jo xxx

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LEADERSHIP TEAM AWAY-DAYS: Why NOW more than ever you need to find the time to reflect, re-set, re-focus and, most importantly, get RE-SULTS!

We’ve been working with a quite a few organisational leadership teams in the first half of 2021, running away-days to help them review, reflect, re-set and re-focus after the challenges they faced in the 2020 Covid pandemic. It’s reminded us of just how important it is to get your team away from the office, especially leadership teams, so we wanted to share why we think now is absolutely the perfect time to book in your leadership team away-day. 

During the last six months we have found that we get the same feedback, over and over again, from the leadership teams we’ve worked with:  

  1. How useful it was to get away from the office (be that your virtual one at home or indeed your organisation’s office now).
  2. How good it was to have some time for reflection and how it helped them to re-gain perspective.
  3. How important it was to reconnect properly as a leadership team and remind themselves how much they have in common – the goals they share.
  4. How they felt re-charged as leaders and how the day away really had re-invigorated the team spirit.
  5. How it helped to give a renewed focus and set clear priorities for the year ahead – a chance to re-set after the difficult year they’d had.

We take that as pretty positive feedback, and of course we love doing these away-days, because it’s absolutely part of our purpose and mission at Meta to help support leaders to be at their best, no matter what sector or organisation they come from. 

Yet so few leadership teams give themselves that time away from the office. Why? 

Simply put, most feel there just isn’t enough time to go away for a day, there’s too much to be done and not enough time, so how can you possibly justify taking your leadership team away for a day? 

There is no doubt that 2020 was a trial by fire for leaders of organisations. There is no ‘handbook for dealing with a pandemic’ in most organisations’ risk analysis and so, as many of our leadership confided in us, most were making it up as they went along, doing the best they could to make things work in incredibly challenging and ever-changing situations. Every leader we’ve talked to said they’d used pretty much every tool in their leadership toolkit to try and get themselves, their staff and their organisation through the unprecedented, unrelenting, non-stop challenges that Covid brought. 

And you know what? In our opinion, you’ve all done an AMAZING JOB! We have been astounded by the incredible resilience of the leaders that we know in our Meta network, and we’ve been so impressed by how you’ve got through this. You made it, you got through – sometimes by the seat of your pants admittedly, but by gosh you DID IT. You should be incredibly proud of all that you’ve achieved in the last 18 months and you absolutely deserve to celebrate now we’re starting to come out the other side of the Covid tunnel. 

But of course the world of work doesn’t stop, and indeed the pressures and demands that were put on you before and during the pandemic haven’t gone away. Many of you had to postpone work or projects because of Covid, and now you’re having to play catch-up and get the organisation back to where it should be. The simple fact is, the rest of 2021 is likely to be as challenging as 2020 for the leaders in organisations because, although we are nearly through the tunnel, Covid will continue to cast its long shadow. 

As a result most of you are still running on empty. You gave 100% and more to get things done and, frankly, now there’s not much left to give. Sure, finally you’re starting to take the holidays you never had in 2020 and yes, you are managing to re-fill your fuel tanks with your week-long stay-cations. However there’s still a way to go and most leaders I know feel that they’re not able to give as much as they’d like to, and know they’re not being as effective or performing at the level they’d like to be. 

That’s where an away-day really does pay dividends – it really is worth your investment of time. Getting away from the office, literally physically moving away, helps you to get more perspective, get out of the detail (or ‘out of the weeds’ as one leader expressed it to us recently) and reconnect to the broader vision. It’s a chance to think more strategically, be less re-active and more pro-active. You can identify what really should be a priority, what needs to be done and when (as a leadership team) rather than just doing things (as individual leaders) because it’s the next urgent thing that comes across your desk. 

This is why it’s so important for leadership teams to get away from the office: to re-gain perspective, re-set priorities, identify potential obstacles and issues that may lie ahead and do a real RE-SET of what really matters and what really needs to be done.

Even just one day away (when properly facilitated), can make a world of difference. It helps remind you that you ARE a leadership TEAM (not just a bunch of individual leaders all trying their best but ultimately not really being a team) and that actually you have a shared vision for how you’d like things to be. There’s a reason you’re working where you are, and there’s a reason why you got to the leadership level you have. One of the great joys of facilitating such days is that we can help remind the leadership team just how much they have in common. How they want the same things, share the same fears, have similar issues, and how between them they have enough knowledge and combined wisdom to sort out pretty much ANY ISSUE that comes their way, and THAT TOGETHER THEY ARE ALWAYS STRONGER.

It’s not easy being at the top. It can be lonely, with everyone looking to you for the answers, for direction, for inspiration. It’s not easy being part of a leadership team either – no-one really teaches you how to work together at the top table. This is made even harder when you’ve been working through one of the most stressful experiences for many generations! However you DID make it through and we think that now, as the return to the office begins in real earnest, and the new hybrid models of working begin to be implemented, is a really GREAT time to take time out for you as a leadership team. 

You’ve given everything to your organisation to get through this Covid pandemic, so we would encourage you to give a little something to yourselves. Not because it’s a nice thing to do, or the right thing to do (although both are true), but because your business, your organisation, your share-holders and your staff NEED YOU TO – it makes sound business sense to. Now, more than ever, you need to be firing on all cylinders, you need to be strategic, future focused and working effectively, not only as individual leaders but also together as a leadership team. 

If you are to make your post-Covid leadership recovery quick and relatively painless, you need to be able to up your game, not just as an individual leader but as a leadership team too. It’s about further developing your way of working together, using the Covid experience as a truly great opportunity to grow and learn and be the best leadership team you can be. That can’t be done at the office with everything else that needs to done, you need to get away, you need… to have an away-day. 

In just one away-day you can re-view the Covid period, reflect on your successes and learn from your Covid experience, re-connect as a leadership team, re-focus on the year ahead, re-invigorate the team spirit, re-prioritise and have a complete re-set. It’s amazing what you can achieve – one day really does get you RE-SULTS. 

So then the question becomes – why the heck WOULDN’T YOU? 

We’ve been facilitating leadership team and team away-days for over 20 years (and Di has been doing this for over 35 years!). We know how to get the most out of your time away, making it practically useful and ensuring that you get the outcomes YOU want from it – it really is amazing what you can get done in just one day. We also do it in the ‘Meta way’, which means not only will you have a lot to take away from the day, but you’ll also have had fun and enjoyed yourself along the way. 

Why not use this blog as the excuse to prompt your boss, your CEO, or your director to start thinking about getting your leadership team away-day organised. Or if you ARE ONE of those bosses, senior leaders, directors or CEOs or CFOs then get in touch and give your leadership team an away-day to remember. 

On Tuesday this very week, we did an away-day with the senior leadership team of a manufacturing organisation, we asked the leader if he’d give us a few words of how the day had impacted him and his team – this is what he sent us: 

“Today we had a day as a leadership team where we focused on how to be an excellent team which was facilitated by Jo from Meta.  It is my belief that people can do anything they set their minds to, so when a collective team are all focused on how they want to work together, then targets will almost certainly be surpassed.  Having worked with Jo and Meta a number of times over the years, this was another great day where he was able to stretch the thinking of the team in a positive and engaging manner that left everyone extremely motivated and wanting to deliver more together. If you want to be part of and lead excellent teams I cannot recommend Jo highly enough to help support you on that continuous improvement journey.” – Simon Coss, Fauretia.

Have a wonderful rest of your month and we look forward to working with you and your team soon!

In peace, Jo and Di xx 

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15 TOP TIPS TO MAKE WORKING FROM HOME WORK FOR YOU: And your organisation too!

In last months’ blog we talked about working from home and how our own empirical evidence collated from those we’ve worked with in the past year, suggests that it’s become something which is less heavenly and more hellish during the last 12 months. Many of us feel that work has now fully invaded our home life and it’s difficult to switch off, we feel we must be permanently switched on. Of course, this isn’t the case for all of us, some of us have done a pretty good job of making the reality of working from home WORK for us, but here at Meta, we felt it would be useful to share what WE have learned over the years about working from home.

Meta has always been a virtual company. 20 years ago, that was VERY unusual but now, especially during Covid, it’s become more normal to be working from home. We’ve essentially been a living experiment in home working since our inception, and so we’ve probably experienced most of the things that you’ve experienced in the last 12 months. However, NOW you have the extra dimension that is the technology which comes into your home too, with the advent of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and data collection programmes that can measure how often you’re on your screen; now there IS no escape from the office (even though you’re at home!).

Over the years we have not only been virtual workers, that living experiment, but we’ve also spent a lot of our time researching smarter working techniques and have been developing simple but practical tools that enable everyone to work at their best and maximise their personal performance to allow them to get through the increased workloads without extending their working hours. There is SO MUCH research and scientific data now that highlights the effectiveness of smarter working, and so we felt it was time to share what we’ve researched, experimented with, and learnt about creating a working from home routine that works for you.

We did the hard work, we did the research, so you don’t have to. We can promise you, that if you implement even just five or six of these simple and practically applicable tips, you will have a significant improvement in how working from home feels for you.

And of course, the likelihood is that we will be managing a hybrid model of working in the future (probably by the end of this year for most of you), where we work sometime in the office and sometime at home. But if you can implement these smarter working techniques, you will you improve your home working practice and also your office working practice too. It’s a WIN-WIN scenario.

Work life balance

Here are our 15 TOP TIPS for making working from home, work for you:

NUMBER 1: FIND A WORK SPACE THAT WORKS FOR YOU – Ideally you want a separate space just for work. We understand that, for those of you in smaller homes, this may not be possible; however, you can still organise a smaller working space where you are comfortable and which fits our recommendations, even if this is just a temporary set-up at your dining table. You will still be able to ensure that the other tick box list is implemented too. Make sure that the desk (or table), if at all possible, is by a window, lit well, and has a comfy chair (i.e not the kitchen stool – ask your organisation about possibility of buying you a chair). Your computer/laptop should be at head height (my computer has been, for years, on top of four encyclopaedias of art books – thank you Britannica); and do make sure, if possible, you ‘put away’ your laptop/computer/work phone at end of day – this is especially true for those of you working in a shared space. Remember the old axiom “Out of sight, out of mind” – if you can’t see the flashy lights or hear the email notices you don’t tend to go back to your technology.

NUMBER 2: KEEP SET WORKING TIMES – We all feel that work has creeped into our homelife and, according to recent research done in the USA, during the first six months of lockdown the average working day had increased by 48.5minutes (that’s over four extra hours a week!) The best way to peg it back is to create realistic ‘work-day’ times and stick to them. Use your technology to help remind you, until it becomes a habit, by setting an alarm one hour, 30 minutes and 15 minutes before your agreed end time.

NUMBER 3: CHECK YOUR ENERGY LEVELS EACH AND EVERY MORNING – How is your energy fuel tank this morning? Make sure that, if you’re not in the right state, you give yourself either a boost of light (and caffeine!) in your garden or even on your doorstep if you don’t have a garden, or have yourself some treats BEFORE you start work. Also, don’t forget the most important meal of the day is your BREAKFAST, your brain just doesn’t work without it (seriously! see note on EATING and BREAKS).

NUMBER 4: HAVE SET BREAKS DURING THE DAY AND MAKE SURE YOU DIARY THEM IN – So much research says that taking breaks increases productivity – our brain gets saturated very quickly and it struggles to work effectively beyond a two-hour window of constant focus. So, make sure you keep your breaks (use your online diary to make sure they are blocked out), doing so will help you get more done, not less. Remember the saying, “Move your body, move your mind”. Once you’ve gone past your peak working time in your day, you’ll find you can get easily stuck on stuff and this is why taking breaks is important. Even micro-breaks have been proven to work, so get up move around, get a breath of fresh air and a cuppa, as it helps the brain to ‘clear capacity and re-set.’

NUMBER 5: MAKE A CLEAR DISTINCTION BETWEEN ‘WORK YOU’ AND ‘HOME YOU’ – Wear work clothes for work (sounds daft but it WILL help you to distinguish between work you and home you when you’re at home), and have a routine at the end of the day: take a shower, change your clothes, read a paper or listen to a podcast. If you’re working at home the likelihood is you’ve lost your commute home time, so ‘reclaim your commute time’ and go walk the dog or exercise at the end of your working day to re-create your commute.

NUMBER 6: MAKE SURE YOUR’RE GETTING AT LEAST 45 MINUTES OF DAYLIGHT EACH DAY – The more I research I do into daylight, the more importance I have given it in my working day. Daylight helps you stay alert and helps you to get into a natural circadian rhythm essential for good sleep. Just 45minutes of daylight each day will help you sleep that night; morning light, especially, can help you produce melatonin later in the day and this promotes a natural tiredness and better-quality sleep.

NUMBER 7: MAKE SURE YOU ARE EXERCISING EVERY DAY – Our bodies are not designed to be as sedentary as we have become. We’re not meant to spend eight hours in front of a computer screen, we’ve still got the same bodies as when we were hunter gatherers, so we need to make sure that it’s not just our minds which are worn out, but our physical bodies too. You don’t have to be a gym bunny, or a fitness freak, but you can combine your exercise with your 45 minutes of daylight, or re-create your commute, or walk the dog. You don’t have to do a whole one-hour workout but, especially if you are feeling stressed, a good intensive interval training type of workout can be very beneficial, to not only tire you out, but also dissipate your stress hormones in your body and close down your stress factory (which is essential for getting a good night’s sleep). We were much better at this in the first lockdown but we’ve let it slip. Now is the time to get it back INTO your working from home routine, it’s good for you!

NUMBER 8: EAT!! YOUR BRAIN NEEDS FUEL TO PERFORM AT ITS BEST – This might sound basic, but so many people are not fuelling themselves enough in their working day. As we’ve heard previously, it’s important to take your breaks, but taking breaks without re-fuelling is performance suicide. Your brain uses 20% of your calorific intake just to FUNCTION normally – 20% of nothing = frankly, a rather useless brain. Eating the right things helps too – LOW GI food stuffs are better to avoid sugar spikes (as you get sugar dips after which can make us lethargic); nuts, seeds, protein, wholefoods, fruits are good, and avoid high fat or sugar foods.

NUMBER 9: MAKE USE OF YOUR PEAK PERFORMANCE TIMES (AND DEAD TIMES) – We all have peak and dead working times in our average working day. Our peak working time is a consistent three-hour window where our brain is performing at its absolute peak. It’s the same three-hours every day, so if you can identify that peak working time you can maximise your performance. Put the more complex, challenging tasks that require real processing power in that three-hour window. You can get up-to-twice as much done in that three-hour window than you can in the entirety of the rest of the day. Your dead working time is a two-hour window, normally towards the end of your working day, when your brain has an inability to function at a high level. That’s the time for admin and simple tasks that don’t require a lot of brain power. Now we’re working from home this is a great time to experiment and collect your own evidence about your optimum working times, so you can organise your workload accordingly. Block out the diary and assign your work tasks (or types of tasks) to each performance category – this is our most powerful smarter working tool.

NUMBER 10: CLAIM BACK CONTROL OF YOUR ONLINE DIARY – Your online diary IS YOUR ONLINE DIARY, not everyone else’s! You own it, and so it’s really OK to say no sometimes. Online diaries have meant that we can end up, if we’re not careful, being at everyone else’s’ beck and call. Back-to-back meetings just DON’T WORK – especially now we’re doing things over virtual technology. We need time to recover BETWEEN meetings, so make sure you have at least ten-minutes to do a re-set between meetings. And don’t be afraid to say NO – if you don’t think you should be at a meeting, it’s OK to ask why you’ve been invited.

NUMBER 11: RE-SET YOUR HARD (AND SOFT) BOUNDARIES – There is no doubt that the tide of work has now fully invaded our home life too. It’s not our fault, it’s just gradually seeped in over time. So now is as good a time as any to re-set your boundaries. There are two types of boundaries: HARD boundaries (these are your non-negotiables, the boundaries you won’t change unless it’s an emergency), and your SOFT boundaries (these are the boundaries that have a little flexibility or give and take in them). Everyone’s boundaries will be different: for one it might be to not work at all on the weekends, for another to not answer emails in the evenings, for me it’s being able to tuck my daughter into bed at night and read her a story. Whatever they are for you, make sure your team/bosses know. You’ll find that, when you dare to re-claim your boundaries, people will respect you for doing so, not judge you.

NUMBER 12: IN THE LAST HOUR/HALF-HOUR OF YOUR WORKING DAY, START TO WIND DOWN – At the end of our working day, our brain’s performance is at best 50% (and for many people less than 20%) to where it was at its peak earlier in the day. To put that into simple terms, a task that might take 15minutes in the morning might take a whole hour at the end of your day. So, make sure the last 60minutes, or at least the last 30 minutes, of your working day are spent on less meaningful tasks that require less processing power. Or you could celebrate your successes from the day, or prepare your to-do list for the next day. Set an alarm (or multiple alarms if you’re not good at stopping!) to make sure you DO actually stop on time.

NUMBER 13: UNWIND TIME AT THE END OF YOUR DAY – According to research done at the University of Surrey, we have lost a very important time in our day, gradually, over the last ten or so years – it’s called our UNWIND TIME. Work can be stressful and can get us ‘wound up’, so make sure that, at the end of your working day, you take time to unwind and de-stress BEFORE you start on your home chores (see note on ‘creating a restorative space’ below). Our body and mind need time to recover after a busy day; our system needs to shut down the stress factory and get back to its normal biochemistry. It’ll make your evenings much more pleasant and enjoyable, and you will be much more enjoyable and pleasant to be around too – so it’s not just you that will notice the difference from this, but your partner and children too!

NUMBER 14: DO CREATE A RESTORATIVE SPACE – We all need a sanctuary to unwind, a restorative space to recover ourselves. It could be in the garden or a study, your bedroom, or just a comfy chair you love. Spend at least 30 minutes there ‘unwinding’ before you launch into the ‘what next’ – be that looking after the kids, starting cooking, or doing some household chores. It’s a great excuse to get yourself some new comfy cushions or buying some new garden furniture. Creating your restorative space is almost as much fun as being in it! Use the 30minutes or so doing non-work-related things: do a hobby, read a paper, listen to a podcast or your favourite music. In my household I call it my “wine down” time (as I’ll go outside into my garden restorative space, listen to some music and have a glass of wine!).

NUMBER 15: GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP – The most important thing you can do when it comes to your working routine isn’t actually found in any of the above, it’s something more fundamental than that, it’s getting a good night’s sleep. So, if you’re someone who suffers with your sleep (you’re not alone by the way, there is a real ‘sleeplessness epidemic’ going on right now in this country), it really is something worth focussing on, because put very simply, SLEEP is your greatest resource of all. With a good night’s sleep, you can be your amazing, brilliant best; without a good night’s sleep, everything is just harder work! If you want some tips on getting a good night’s sleep, then just get in touch as we’ve been researching and delivering workshops on #performance sleeping for years!

At Meta, we’re passionate about helping YOU to be the best you can be, and helping organisations to support their staff to be the best they can be. So, we hope these 15 top tips help you to create a working from home regime that works for YOU (and if it works for you, it’ll work for your organisation too!)

Have a wonderful month!
In peace,
Jo xx

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IS WORKING FROM HOME REALLY WORKING?

I’ve been talking to a number of leaders and friends in our Meta network and it seems to me that virtual working, especially now most of us are working from home, isn’t working.

We’ve talked before here about how, actually, since we went into lockdown in March 2020, we’re ALL working longer hours. About 48minutes more every day on average according to a massive piece of research done in the USA. Combine that with a 12.5% rise in virtual meetings and the fact that many of us are also home schooling our kids – is it any wonder that we’re all running on empty?

I’ve heard many organisations say how happy they are with the productivity of their staff as they work from home. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that they will get rid of offices in favour of virtual working and ‘collaborative spaces’ – but that happiness is not necessarily shared by those who are doing the virtual working. There’s a reason why productivity has stayed the same or even improved, it’s because most of us are working longer hours to get it all done.

I have yet to talk to someone who says that working from home really works for them. I think it’s time to admit that the working from home experiment isn’t the overwhelming success some organisations think it is – far from it – it definitely needs some tweaking and improving if it’s how we’ll all be working in the future.

That said, there are some GREAT benefits in working from home if we utilise them. The problem is that many of us feel guilt around using the flexibility of working from home and end up working more to ‘make up’ for the time we may have taken putting the washing out, grabbing a cuppa outside in the garden, or taking a walk or exercising during the day. Sure, we’ll do those things (because instinctively we know they work for us) but then we’ll come back to work later on in the evening perhaps, after we’ve put the children to bed, or after we’ve had dinner. The vast majority of people want to do a good job and do their best to get everything done on their to-do lists and, as a result, they tend to work longer than the time they actually took out during the day.

I’ve been working from home for 20 years now – Meta has always been a virtual organisation from its outset, we have always had home offices and consequently worked from home. Our working has always been flexible, with no set hours, as we felt it important to give ourselves free rein to work when worked best for us. Yet I know from my own experience that it’s hard to stop working when you’re working at home – I have a fierce ‘protestant work ethic’ that it’s taken me years to tame and overcome!

Cat desk

The first thing we need to do is take away the GUILT. It’s time to say that FLEXIBLE WORKING, or AGILE WORKING (for those of you in the world of agile) means that we work when WE ARE AT OUR BEST, not that we work longer hours, so that we can have the flexibility we need when we are working from home AND home schooling for example.

Flexibility is a TWO-WAY street. If you’re answering emails on a Sunday evening, you absolutely should be able to go for a long restorative walk on Wednesday morning! It’s not just about putting in the extra hours, it’s also about being able to exercise at lunchtime, being able to pick up the kids from a minder or from school (when they return to school) and spending quality time with the family.

I’ve heard many people, in the resilience workshops that we’ve been running during the pandemic, say how much they’ve appreciated having more time with their family. That has been a real boon of working from home. I also hear how people have enjoyed the freedom of going for a walk at lunchtime, or going to the park with their kids after work – but I’ve also heard from almost everyone that they now feel that work has fully invaded their home life. It’s hard for them to SWITCH OFF, because they feel they must be ALWAYS ON.

It’s time to make our working from home routines work for us. We need to re-evaluate and analyse what really works for US. Most organisations are genuinely trying to do the right thing, and understand they must be much more flexible, the 9-5pm work-day just no longer exists. But we must also play our part and feedback to them our experiences, so they can tailor their future plans to reflect the real needs of the home worker. Your organisation will be happy as long as you get the tasks done, and it’s up to US to figure out how best to do that, how working from home works best for us.

It’s been a virtual trial by fire, a massive global experiment in virtual working. As with all experiments, we need to analyse what did and didn’t work, so that we can improve the experience and refine the practice to make it easier for us to give of our best.

So why not spend a few moments now to figure out what WORKS for you and what DOESN’T in your current working from home routine? Have you slipped into the habit of just working harder? If you have, don’t worry, don’t beat yourself up because you’re certainly not alone! However, DO look back over the past year – maybe you started off well, you DID take your breaks, you did get some exercise, and some daylight! What did you do that WORKED and what have you ended up doing that perhaps doesn’t work so well? Now is the time to re-evaluate and get into some good habits again.

The likelihood is that we’ll all be mainly working from home for at least the next two-three months, that’s plenty of time to get into a WFH routine that really works for you. And here’s the brilliant thing, if it works for you, it will absolutely work for your organisation. Because if you feel good, you are much more productive, you are less stressed, you sleep better, and you’ll produce higher quality work. Smarter working is one of those things that is a REAL WIN – WIN!

If you’re not sure HOW to improve your working from home routine, or you just need some proven practical tips on smarter working (when home working), then please feel free to get in touch and ask us! At Meta we’ve been researching smarter working techniques for 10 years+ now and, in the last year, we have been specifically focussing on how to use those smarter working tools to ensure we all can perform at our best when working from home. We’ll happily help you or, indeed, you and your team or your organisation to get the best out of the virtual working experience.

We love sharing our research and it’s part of our purpose, our mission at Meta to help change the way we work to a more sustainable way of working. We want to help inspire workplace and working practices which enable everyone to give of their best and work smarter not harder. This pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate the way we work, and we want to ensure that as many people and organisations as possible make the right changes, so please do call on us and we’ll do what we can to help you.

Have a wonderful month everyone,

In peace,
Jo xxx

Jo Clarkson, Meta CEO

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IT’S TIME TO SAY THANK YOU

The new year is upon us, and yet it feels very much like just a continuation of 2020 doesn’t it? Back in lockdown, back having our lives dictated to us, our freedoms suppressed, change forced upon us, things feeling out of our control.

It may be a bit depressing, but there is good reason for it: there is no doubt that we are at a very challenging time in this COVID crisis. We’re near the top of the mountain, we can see the top but it’s often that last stretch which can be the most difficult and demanding. We’ve done the hard work; we can see the end in sight and that’s when our guard can slip and the last few steps can become a real struggle.

I remember being with my dad on one of our many trips together to climb Snowdon in North Wales. He was a youth leader and a keen mountain-walker. He was always prepared for every eventuality as he climbed a mountain. In his backpack he had a tent, sleeping bag, emergency supplies of food, waterproofs, a little stove and a first aid kit. He never underestimated the mountain, and there is no doubt that, as a 9 or 10 year old, there was a point in the climb where a handful of nuts and raisins or a dextrose tablet (magic energy booster) were like manna from heaven, the little extra boost needed to get to the top.

It’s a strange story to share it might seem, but a valid one, I think – we’re near the (COVID) mountain top, but it’s not yet in reach and we’ve run out of gas, we’re running on empty. It’s been one heck of a climb to get to where we have, it’s been a struggle – let’s be honest here, it’s been so challenging to get up to this point, so how do we get ourselves to the top? How do we keep ourselves driving onwards and upwards when our legs have had enough of climbing? How do we catch our breath and fuel ourselves to continue this arduous journey to the summit?

Mountain

I think it’s time to say THANK YOU.

Odd thing to say – but actually a THANK YOU goes a very long way. Back it up with action, and a thank you can be transformatory, it can be healing and it can be energising.

It can be a PERSONAL thank you, to those who have helped you through this year. Who do you need to thank? A friend? A work colleague? A family member? A loved one? Who has been the rock to you? Who has been there for you during this last year? One of the loveliest things to receive (and I know this from my own experience) is a little note or card or email or text or WhatsApp message that says:

“THANK YOU for being you”, or “THANK YOU for being my friend”.

It’s not hard, but right now there is someone who is in need of a thank you, of your thanks, of your GRATITUDE – so why not use this prompt to send them that little something?

We all have things to be grateful for, and when things are bleak, when things are tough, it’s important to remind yourself of just how much you have to be grateful for, and to thank those who have been gracious, kind and supportive to you. As I’ve mentioned in the last posted blog, kindness is infectious, so spread a little kindness and give a little thank you to someone who you are grateful to.

That’s the personal thank you – but this is a business blog, written by a business consultancy, it’s about business best practice, it’s about excellence in action, in organisations. So now let’s talk to you organisational leaders out there, those who have teams and line manage people.

We have a very diverse Meta family – we are unusual in that we work in all sectors (corporate, public and third non-profit/charity) and with all kinds of sizes of organisations (from 10s-1000s of staff). We work with all levels of managers and leaders, from team leaders, to shift managers, to directors, executive directors, CFOs and CEOs. So, over the last year we’ve heard many different approaches to the pandemic and working practices. There’s been some AMAZING practice (I’d like especially single out CRISIS, SQUARED and BDHT here as organisations who have been AMAZINGLY supportive and appreciative of their staff and that it’s been our pleasure to work with).

We’ve also heard of organisations (mostly in the corporate sector if we’re honest here) who have carried on pretty much as though it’s business as usual, treating staff (who have been home-working, home-schooling and coping with the rather large challenges we’ve all been facing during this crisis) as resources rather than human beings. Restructuring, putting people at risk of redundancy, carrying on major projects that maybe could have been put on hold.

Now we understand that business must carry on. It doesn’t stop because there’s a pandemic going on and, at the same time, an acknowledgement of the human side of things is incredibly important, and will ensure the loyalty, and dedication of your staff. We’re ALL struggling, whatever your level within an organisation – we see an end in sight, but how do we get there when we’re running on empty?

The good news is that it’s not too late. As leaders we have tremendous power and a little can go a long way indeed. Remember that handful of nuts and raisins my dad would dish out as I thought the mountain path would never end? The dextrose tablet for those last 100 yards to the top of the mountain? Well, the organisational equivalent is a THANK YOU – a heartfelt thank you can make all the difference.

Has your organisation THANKED its staff? I mean REALLY THANKED its staff for helping the organisation to make it through last year? Even if your organisation hasn’t been particularly vocal about it, YOU can, as a manager or leader of people.

The new year is a great time to hit refresh, to start again, to set the tone for what is to come. It’s a great time to put behind us things that need to be put behind us and focus on the what next, what is to come. It’s a great time to say THANK YOU and to help lift the spirits of your staff to cope with the coming 3-6 months of uncertainty.

Right now your staff will be struggling, like the 10 year old me near the top of Snowdon. They need a boost, some motivation to keep doing the work that they need to do. So now is the time to really THANK them for all that they have done – and do it in a way that will stick in their memory, will really energise and delight them.

So spend time TODAY to think about how you can THANK your staff. Be you someone who has one person in their team, a whole directorate or a whole organisation – how can you really say a BIG THANK YOU?

Most people just want to be appreciated and valued for the work they do. They don’t need big gestures, small ones will do, but it needs to be genuine and heartfelt.

Let’s be honest here, there is no doubt that, without your staff doing what needs to be done, your organisation would not have got through the year as well as it has. This pandemic has been an unprecedented event – no-one leading an organisation has ever been through something like this, and so there has been extra pressure, extra demands put on both leaders and staff to just get through this as safely and securely as possible. It’s been a mountain to climb and, if we’re honest, many of us have been winging it as we go along, but now we’re through the worst of it (hopefully) so this is a good time to stop and say THANK YOU.

Have a think – get creative with your THANK YOUs, make your THANK YOU memorable and fun. Perhaps it’s time to do a silly awards ceremony, or to break out the virtual coffee and doughnuts. Is it time to give everyone a voucher as an appreciation of their efforts? Or how about this? If your organisation or team has had to work all the way through this pandemic, how about giving them a long weekend? Or an extra holiday day? If you can’t give it now, then give it in lieu to be used when work schedules allow? How about doing a Friday afternoon virtual pub quiz with real awards? How about having a virtual lunch? Or giving everyone an extra-long lunch break one day?

I remember, many years ago, I worked in the West End (of London) for NEXT. I was a deputy manager of the menswear floor in the Regent Street store. I don’t know if you remember, but NEXT was famous for its Boxing Day sales. All the stock would be 50% off or more – everyone went to the NEXT SALES.

I can remember sitting on the number 30 bus going into work at 4:30am on the first day of sales, and knowing that the people who were on the bus with me were probably headed to one of our NEXT stores to start queueing!

The downside of having a sale so quickly after Christmas was that all the SALES preparations had to happen in the run up to Christmas (as if Christmas wasn’t busy enough!). As a manager I was expected to stay behind to finish up the prep. It was Christmas Eve, and I’d been working all day – it’s fair to say that I was pretty annoyed by the time it was dinner time. I’d been working for hours and, although the end was in sight, I’d lost all motivation and was getting rather irritable and grumpy. To top it all off, our manager had buggered off somewhere – he hadn’t been seen for nearly an hour, and the ‘minions’ had been left to do the hard graft – that’s how it felt anyway.

Then there was a knock on the stockroom door. We could see our manager’s face through the small window. As we opened the door, the waft of fresh cooked takeaway pizza hit our nostrils, and from behind his back he pulled out a plastic bag full of cans of beer.

Our manager sat us all down in a circle, and said a heartfelt personalised ‘THANK YOU’ to each one of us that was left. As we sat and scoffed the pizza, and drank our well-earned beer, all grumpiness had disappeared. We laughed, we shared jokes, turned the music up in the stockroom and cracked on with the remaining sale stock prep. I didn’t get home until about 10pm that Christmas Eve, but I didn’t go home angry, I went home happy, content at a good job well done, and knowing that all my hard work was appreciated and valued.

My manager wasn’t an amazing manager, but he did something that I never forgot that day. He reminded me how important, healing, restorative and transformative a simple THANK YOU, followed up with ACTION (the pizza and beer) can be.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR US ALL TO SAY THANK YOU – and follow that up with an ACTION. How you do that is up to you, but it’s important to start 2021 with an acknowledgement of just how much you value and appreciate your people.

Let me start us all off – I want to say THANK YOU, to all of you in our Meta family. Thanks for being there, thanks for doing the wonderful work that so many of you do.

It’s been a tough year for us here at Meta, but there are many of you (you know who you are) who have offered me personal support and words of encouragement this year, and I want to say a HEARTFELT THANK YOU to you all – it has been so appreciated and often just what I needed when you gave it.

And, every one of you who is reading this deserves to be THANKED just for getting through this last year – it’s been a bugger to put it mildly, but you made it, and that is something to be celebrated too!

Together I believe we will make the top of the mountain, and get down safely again. TOGETHER we are ALWAYS STRONGER – TOGETHER WE CAN ACHIEVE ALMOST ANYTHING.

Wishing you all a much better 2021!

In peace and love,

Jo xxx

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KINDNESS (IS INFECTIOUS TOO)

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need to recharge and top up my batteries and I definitely am missing being with friends, family and loved ones.

I MISS HUGS. I MISS THE PHYSICAL TOUCH OF OTHERS.

I know I’m not the only one.

As we get into the eighth month of this pandemic, and are entering into another enforced lockdown, we’re all feeling the strain. We’ve been amazingly resourceful. I think we’ve been amazing to get this far and not gone completely nuts! It’s safe to say that almost everyone I come into contact with right now is running on empty. We’ve just run out of juice and that’s to be expected when we’ve had so long in isolation with all the COVID-19 stuff happening all around us.

I thought I’d use this Meta blog, to remind you of the POWER OF KINDNESS, how kindness is a gift that keeps on giving.

Kindness

During this pandemic we’ve seen the best of behaviours in people and we’ve seen the worst. I think many of us have just run out of positivity or optimism and now, more than ever, we need something that helps us feel good, helps us feel better than we are feeling just now.

There is no better FEEL GOOD thing to do, than to BE KIND. Kindness spreads, it’s infectious (in a good way) and right now I think it’s something that we can all be doing more of. Kindness not only benefits those who we are kind to (it literally increases the happy chemicals in their body and brain), but also benefits us too (we get a good chemical hit too!). And here’s the nuts thing, it also benefits people who observe us giving that kindness to another.

So surely that’s the definition of a GIFT that keeps on GIVING?

Three gifts in one, a triple whammy from a single act of kindness – BOOM – *drops the mic*

The other thing about being kind is that it’s really, really easy. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; it doesn’t have to be big – it’s about the small kindnesses too.

It’s about making sure that you smile and say hello to someone on the street as you are having your daily exercise. It can be about engaging with the lady at the checkout at your supermarket or saying thank you to your postie next time you see them. How about sending a ‘thanks for being my friend’ type of card to one of your friends you’ve not seen in a while (or who lives in another country?)

And let’s not limit kindness to just our friends and family! Many of us are working from home now, and we miss the contact and comradery of our team-mates. So many of the people in organisations I’ve been doing resilience workshops with say it’s the simple things that they miss – the informal chat in the staff kitchen as they make a cup of tea, the office banter amongst the team, sharing a joke or meme, being able to laugh with your work colleagues and just the buzz, the noise of the office! So make sure that those of you who are working from home check in with your work colleagues, make sure you’re showing you care, to those in your team – maybe set up a WhatsApp group for your team, or just randomly check in once a week with someone in your team.

How about a virtual lunch break? Or a virtual cuppa and catch up? Friday team quiz anyone? There are plenty of ways of making sure that no-one feels alone or isolated in this next lockdown period and plenty of ways to show kindness to those we work with.

I went down to my local foodbank last week to offer to volunteer and the lovely manager there told me that they’d been inundated with offers of help, so much help that they were overflowing with volunteers and they had to create a rota to ensure that everyone who wanted to volunteer got to! It reminded me that, as human beings, we want to help those who are less fortunate than us, and it really re-established my faith in our common humanity. I think that when we are struggling, we tend to think of others – I know I personally have been thinking to myself that, if I’m struggling with all the tools I have in my personal toolkit, then my word how must it be for others?

I’ve also been running quite a few resilience workshops and, of the many themes that come through, one of them is the fact that CARING for ourselves and others really MATTERS. Caring and kindness are sense-siblings to show we care. It is in itself an act of kindness to show that we are thinking beyond ourselves and our own self-interest, to reach out to others and show our willingness to help and support them any way we can.

The thing about showing we care is that it’s not hard to do. It’s about reaching out and saying, “Hey I’m here should you need me”, it’s about sending an email that checks in with someone you’ve not heard from in a while. It’s about taking time on your weekend or evening to go through your phone contacts and send a random text to a friend to say, “Hello and how are you doing?” It’s about sharing that YouTube clip that brought a smile to your face, or the meme that a friend shared with you on WhatsApp.

Whatever the format, whatever the platform you use, whatever the technology, every contact DOES matter. In times when we are all struggling to be positive, receiving a text, an email, a WhatsApp message, or indeed a phone call or Skype/Zoom call from a loved one or friend (or, let’s face it, from pretty much anyone!) is always something that touches us, and more importantly something that helps us FEEL GOOD. And we all need to feel good now – especially now we’re going back into the hibernation and isolation that lockdown brings.

There is so much research that highlights how important our social network is (no not THAT online Facebook type social network, but our actual friends and family network). Our social network is our support network, and those who have more a more ACTIVE social and support network with more connections tend to feel significantly more positive and have much better mental health than those who don’t.

So now is the time to be reaching out, to be reconnecting and re-enforcing our social and support networks. Let’s reach out not just to our nearest and dearest, those in our inner circles, but to those who are further out, those that we know may be by themselves or in an ‘at-risk category’, or just someone we’ve not spoken to in a while. What I can GUARANTEE is that the simple act of kindness of just reaching out to say hello and check in WILL give them a boost to their day. It’ll take you just five or ten minutes, but it might just make someone’s day.

In the coming months on the run up to Christmas, let’s ALL make a concerted effort to be KIND, to show that WE CARE, to as many people as we can.

I know from my own doing of this as an exercise, that it’s good not just for those who I write to or contact, but it’s good for me too! Just recently I got in touch with my first ever best friend – Gary McCausland. When I first went to infant school, Gary gave up his place on the cool kids table (the orange table) to be with me at the back of the class on the black table. We became great friends and shared a love of the Beatles, playing guitar together and were in our first ever band together (the Bulrushes – I still have an audio tape somewhere :D), but sadly we had lost touch over the years.

I wrote to him near a couple of months back, as I’d found an old email address for him. Then just a few weeks back I got a response out of the blue… and it delighted me so much to hear from him. It was a real GIFT just to get that email and, although we’ve not quite got together yet, just hearing from Gary was like having a piece of who you are returned to you. He was the one friend I thought I’d lost that truly mattered to me – and now he’s not lost, he’s re-found – and in these uncertain and challenging times, that makes me very happy indeed.

So, do what you can this month to be a positive ripple – kindness is a gift that keeps on giving, so give what you can, when you can.

Please do remember that if you’re receiving or reading this blog, that you are a part of the Meta family, part of our network, so feel free to reach out to me or to Di – we’d love to hear from you!

In peace and love

Jo xxx

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“THE UNHOLY TRINITY”: OVERWORK, STRESS AND SLEEPLESSNESS

As I write this, Boris Johnson’s government has just imposed some new restrictions that limit our ability to socialise and, again, we find ourselves in a position where control and our social freedoms are taken away from us. It’s understandable: no-one wants a second wave of Coronavirus, and at the same time it throws us into new uncertainty and it is another change that is out of our control – which has a profound psychological effect on us.

I wanted to talk today about something that has become increasingly clear to me over the last five or so years: the fact that unless we start to look after ourselves better, unless we actively tackle the insidious triple danger of sleeplessness, stress and overwork in our own lives (and in those of our staff and teams, for you leaders reading this) then life (and work) is only ever going to get slowly but surely more difficult and challenging.

I think it’s safe to say that all of you reading this would say we’ve had a rough year. That’s putting it mildly and yet here we are, making it work despite everything! We are truly amazingly flexible and adaptable and we should all be patting ourselves on the back for what we’ve managed to do and the obstacles we’ve overcome within this crisis period. But we can’t do that forever, and from my own empirical research, I’m already seeing the warning signs that say we’re coming close to breaking point. Now I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here, I want to just emphasise how important it is that we take this existential threat seriously and do what we can to tackle and ultimately defeat what I call: THE UNHOLY TRINITY.

The UNHOLY TRINITY sounds like something from a dodgy 1970s Hammer Horror movie doesn’t it? But actually it’s a very modern phenomenon.

I think it really kicked in after the recession of 2008/9 when our stress levels significantly increased as a working nation. Job security went out of the window, and we were all fearful of losing our jobs and income. In return for keeping our jobs, we agreed to work that bit extra to help out, and when organisations did inevitably flatten structures, reduce headcount, and cut costs (which many have been doing ever since incidentally) we worked that bit harder to ensure that we got everything done and weren’t one of the ones ‘restructured out’.

Meta has been in business since the beginning of the millennium, and since 2000 research by the OECD and Eurostat database shows that we work now on average 1.5 hours longer than we did in 2000 (40.5 hours a week in 2000, 42 hours a week by 2019). I was once challenged by a senior director within an organisation as to whether we really did work longer and harder than we used to, that’s why I did the research, and what’s interesting is that the more you research, the more you realise that working harder and longer hours just doesn’t work.

I know it seems like an oxymoron. Surely if you work longer you’ll get more done right?? But all the research seems to say that if you work longer, especially whilst working through breaks (which many of us do now), then you get less not more done, and at a lower quality too! It also affects our ability to be creative – organisations that are famed for their innovation spend a lot of time and resources making sure their staff’s well-being is looked after to maintain their creativity.

What’s fascinating is when you look into the productivity per hour (check out the OECD’s fascinating research on this) the longer your average working day/week, the less productive per hour you become.

We are not alone in this upwards trend of working hours. However we are 2 hours above the EU average and amongst the worst in productivity. To spotlight one example: in Denmark workers work on average 37.7 hours a week and yet it is 23.5% higher in its productivity per hour. To put that into a context you’ll get, that’s two weeks extra holiday they’d have a year and they still get more done. This is a trend that is repeated not just through the EU but across the world.

So working longer hours doesn’t work! Not only does it not lead to increased productivity, but it also increases our stress levels (more on that in a moment).

This was all happening before the Covid crisis hit, but let’s update that research to the very latest during the last six months – you know how many of us are working from home now? You’d think that would lead to a better work-life balance, but actually we’re working even longer hours now we’re working from home more. Research done just last month by the National Bureau for Economic Research in the USA, using data from over three million American workers, found that the average workday in the USA had gone up by 8.2% (that’s a whopping 48 minutes per day). OK we’re not the USA, but we’re not far behind it, and what I find fascinating is that figure – 48 minutes.

I reckon that’s almost precisely the AVERAGE COMMUTE TIME for most people to and from the office. So now we are working from home, not only are we working 1.5 hours longer than we were 20 years ago, but in just six months we’ve upped that again by 48 minutes, using that commute time to work longer. No wonder we’re tired, no wonder we’re stressed!

No longer do we have that commute home to unwind and get our work day out of our system and get back to some semblance of normal. Now we open the door to our home office and we’re immediately launched into the stresses of home – kids, dinner and the stuff to be done around the house.

The body never gets a chance to calm itself down and get back to its normal state after the stresses of the day, and as a result that longer working day increases our stress and ensures that it carries on into our home life.

Which leads me on to introduce you to the second member of the UNHOLY TRINITY: STRESS.

Now I’ve talked a lot about stress so I won’t go into too much detail here, other than to say that, in our opinion at Meta, now more than ever we need to be actively doing what we can to tackle stress. As individuals we need to take the threat of stress more seriously, we need to be making sure that we understand it, that we’ve analysed what stresses us out and have tools in our toolkits to reduce its impact on us.

As leaders in organisations you need to be getting the conversations going about stress with your staff and ensuring you have a coherent strategy for tackling it within your organisations. This is not just because it’s the right thing to do, or a mental health tick box exercise, it’s because if you don’t face up to the tsunami wave of stress and mental health issues that will inevitably come as a result of the Covid crisis, then you’ll face serious capacity and performance issues within your businesses. Quality, creativity and ability to innovate will suffer too.

In short – it makes sound business sense to right now be investing (significantly) in the well-being (physical and mental) of your staff and tackling the silent killer called stress in your workplace and organisation. Think of it as a preventative medicine, to stop it before things get significantly worse.

Stress affects our ability to make good decisions and think things through, it makes complex tasks more difficult – we literally can’t think straight when we’re under stress. It tends to make us snappy, uptight and not very pleasant to be around. It makes us defensive, aggressive, emotional, and makes us react in ways out of character with our normal lovely selves. We make impulsive decisions, we say inappropriate things, we can feel helpless, out of control and struggle to get even simple tasks done. When we’re under stress we become more susceptible to illness as it suppresses our immune system, which is something nothing of us want when the danger of Covid is all around us!

Stress is something that was already a problem before Covid, but the latest research shows that we are all now facing even more elevated levels of anxiety and stress since the pandemic began. According to research done by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), when the Covid pandemic struck and we went into lockdown, there was a significant spike in our stress and anxiety levels to 5.2/10 on average (with 49.8% of people registering 6-10/10).  To put this into perspective, in the whole of 2019 (I think we’d all probably agree that was quite a stressful year too) we were on average at 2.8/10. Now because we’re amazingly adaptable human beings we’ve had a bit of a bounce back, but we’re still at 4.2/10 – a significant rise in stress in all of us.

So stress is very real and here right now and that’s causing many of us to have sleepless nights.

Which brings me along to the THIRD VILLAIN in the UNHOLY TRINITY – SLEEPLESSNESS.

There is a real sleeplessness epidemic going on in the UK, and this is not just because of the extra stresses of the pandemic, it’s been gradually getting worse for years. I started researching into sleep about 10 years ago, when I noticed just how many leaders I was working with were struggling to get a good night’s sleep. The fact is that getting a good night’s sleep is essential to have a healthy body and mind. Simply put, SLEEP is your greatest resource of all.

Sleep what is it good for

With a good night’s sleep, you can be your creative, fun loving, brilliant best, whereas with interrupted or reduced amounts of sleep, you can guarantee a more difficult and challenging day ahead.

The problem is that many of us are struggling to sleep right now. According to research done by Phillips in early 2020, the average sleep time in the UK is just six hours 32 minutes, which is considerably worse than the six hours 48 minutes average across the world.

So what?? I hear you say. What’s 16 minutes a night? Well, actually over the course of a year that’s an extra four whole days’ worth of sleep – and seven-to-eight hours are the minimum we all need to get per night to ensure that all that our body needs to do to repair, recover, regenerate, recharge and download actually gets done.

If we don’t sleep for long enough or have fitful sleep, then essentially we interrupt the programme of works that our body and mind has for us that enables us to function at our best. We can’t fully download or process the content from our brain, which means we can’t retain or absorb information in the same way the next day, we just don’t have the internal capacity or processing power to do what needs to be done. We don’t repair all the cells that need to be repaired, we don’t grow enough new cells to replace the old ones and as a result our physical health suffers. On top of that, our immune system will be compromised and we increase our risk of high blood pressure. Without sleep we tend to be more grumpy and irritable and our ability to see the world in a positive light becomes harder and harder. To put it bluntly, after a few nights of bad sleep, we’re barely able to function at all!

It also means we are more likely to start up our own internal stress factories, and we are more susceptible to STRESS. And STRESS is the number one cause of SLEEPLESSNESS, and WORK (especially now we’re working harder and longer) is the number one cause of that STRESS.

So now I hope you can see that these three members of the UNHOLY TRINITY not only cause each other but feed into each other and aggravate one another. It leads to an inevitable downward spiral, each feeding the next. They are truly an UNHOLY TRINITY and it’s time we all took notice of them and frankly did something to take them on and knock them down to size.

You see the thing is that when they are all together in their unholy union, then it’s difficult to disentangle them and tackle them. However, tackle each individually and they are relatively easy to do something about.

That’s what we’ve been doing here at Meta, working with frontline organisations to help tackle that UNHOLY TRINITY. We’ve combined the workshops that we provide on the BIO-CHEMISTRY OF STRESS, WORKING SMARTER NOT HARDER and #HAPPYSLEEPING, to create our RESILIENCE TOOLKIT programme. It’s a three-day programme that not only gives those who attend the understanding and the tools that will enable them to fight back and recover their health and well-being, but ensures that this is fed into the teams they work in too, in a way that builds resilience within the organisation.

At the end of the day Meta is a business consultancy. We understand the demands and pressures of work, and we understand the dynamics of organisations. This means that the RESILIENCE TOOLKIT programme is practical and easy to apply back in the workplace, and as a part of the programme we’ll work with your leaders to ensure that your organisation acts on the feedback and becomes a more resilient place as a result.

I personally have been researching the BIO-CHEMISTRY OF STRESS, SLEEP and SMARTER WORKING PRACTICES for years and years now, and what I’ve come to realise is that, although IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, these are things that most of us don’t know enough about and, as a result, we are unsure how best to tackle them. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and now I want to share that research to enable you to get the best from your people in these challenging and unprecedented times.

So if you’d like to find out more about how Meta can help you, your team, your leaders, or indeed your whole organisation to combat STRESS, WORK SMARTER, SLEEP better and increase RESILIENCE, then please DO get in touch. We want to do what we can to ensure that we all get through these unprecedented and challenging times.

Have a great month all of you, and please don’t hesitate to contact us should any of the UNHOLY TRINITY be affecting you.

Jo xxx

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THE COVID HANGOVER – IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT STRESS

There is no doubt that we are living through unprecedented times. With no apparent end in sight, we have learnt to cope with new ways of working and new ways of being. It’s not easy, but because as humans we are amazingly adaptable, we have done our best to make it all work.

But at what cost?

I’ve recently being doing some Bio-Chemistry of Stress and Resilience workshops with a leading homelessness charity. This wonderful charity has been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and has been an exemplar of how to look after your staff’s well-being during that time. I wanted to refine the programme’s content to reflect the impact of Covid-19, and so was looking to see if there was any research on how Covid-19 had affected our well-being. I found some research done by the ONS (Office of National Statistics) published about a month ago, about the mental health implications of the start and continuation of the pandemic.

Using a standard mental health measure for anxiety (0 being not anxious at all, 10 being extremely anxious) they measured the impact of the coronavirus and found that stress and anxiety levels were raised significantly at the beginning of the pandemic to nearly 50%, replying with a score above 5/10 and with the average being 5.2/10. Now, to give some context, during the entire year of 2019 we had been consistently at 3/10 or lower – that is a very significant average rise.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. As humans are amazingly adaptable, once the initial shock of Covid-19 and lockdown was over, we did bounce back somewhat, because as I’ve mentioned earlier us humans are amazingly resourceful and quickly get used to the ‘new lockdown normal’. However, the data backed up our own empirical research here at Meta with our extensive Meta leadership network, to show that although we did bounce back a little, we didn’t return to our baseline of 3/10. We actually are pretty consistent at 4/10 – so ALL of us currently have elevated levels of stress and anxiety, from our normal levels.

This research has only just been published, and it reflects the first stages of the pandemic. However, I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not back to anywhere near that 3/10. I’m not feeling OK and as if life is normal, that’s for sure! I still have good days and bad days, I’ve definitely got more positive, and I’ve definitely adapted my life and work to reflect the complex, challenging situation we find ourselves in. I’ve learnt how to deal with it (mostly), but I still find myself at times taking a snapshot of a Covid-19 life situation and thinking ‘what a crazy time I am living through!’

Yesterday I was in my local Sainsbury’s and, as I went through the checkout, for a moment reality kicked in – here I was paying through a big thick plastic shield, wearing a face mask. The checkout lady was wearing a mask, and then I looked around, suddenly noticing that everyone else in the store was wearing a mask too – it was like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, and I thought to myself, this is crazy, this isn’t normal, it’s very very abnormal! And at that moment, I could feel my own anxiety levels rise. Would things ever be normal again? How long will this strange and bizarre Covid nightmare continue?? Then my brain kicked into gear, my common sense, matter of fact self got back to accepting the reality of the situation, my anxiety subsided and I just ‘got on with life’ again.

You see that’s the thing, we’ve all got USED to the pandemic. Doesn’t make it any less anxious making, or less serious. Us humans are brilliant because we do bounce back, we make our lives work, no matter what challenging situations we find ourselves in. And that in itself is brilliant; but we also have got USED to and are tolerating things that actually we need to pay attention to.

IMAGE

Before the pandemic, there was already a silent killer at action in the UK and around the world. No-one really talked about it, but sure enough, from time to time, in every workplace and in every home it struck, silent but deadly – its name?

STRESS.

Before Covid we were seeing more and more of our leadership network suffering from stress-related illnesses, finding our own empirical evidence that stress-related illnesses were on the rise in the organisations we worked with. So much so that we were making it our focus to help local NHS organisations and others, what we’d now call ‘frontline services’, in the fight against stress.

Then Covid-19 struck, and we all pulled together, got stuff done and lived off adrenaline (one of the two primary stress hormones), as we worked our way through the unprecedented challenges that the pandemic threw up.

We have got used to stress as a fact of life, we’ve built up a tolerance to it – even before the pandemic we were complacent about it – but now as we come out of lockdown, we need to start talking about the inevitable ‘wave of mental health and well-being issues’ that is coming.

There is such a thing as stress fatigue. It’s also known more commonly as burnout, and without wanting to sound too dramatic, we all need to make sure that, right now, we’re doing what we can as individuals, team members, leaders and organisations to ensure that we don’t have a ‘wave of burnout’ as a result of this extended time we’ve been in lockdown.

No-one is taking the threat of stress seriously enough. Our body is not designed to be under such elevated levels of stress for such a sustained length of time. Yes, we’re brilliant at making things work, and during this crisis we’ve all pulled together, we’ve done amazing things, reacted and adapted to keep our businesses and our lives working. However, we need to start being honest with ourselves and with each other about just how stressed we really are, and what the long-term effects of that stress will be on our staff and our organisations.

Stress is very real, and it is absolutely here to stay. So, it’s time to start talking more openly about it. We need to be honest with ourselves about how much stress we are under and be kind to ourselves more often – filling our own fuel tanks more regularly to ensure that we’re doing what we can to combat our stress levels.

Then if you are a leader, you also need to be talking to your staff more about stress and doing what you can to support them through this easing of lockdown period and afterwards, when life is apparently back to a semblance of ‘normality’. You see the interesting thing about stress is that when adrenaline and cortisol are running around your system, you tend to be able to deal with most things, you ‘hold it together’, you make it work – however the serious health (mental and physical) implications tend to come AFTER the worst of the stressful period is over. It’s the mother of all hangovers – and we need to be making sure that we’re prepared and looking out for the signs right NOW.

So, what can you be doing as an individual? I’m sure that all of you reading this have at one time or another been taken through our FILLING YOUR FUEL TANK EXERCISE exercise. If you don’t know this exercise yet, just click on the link to access the PDF.

It essentially reminds us that we all need energy to thrive and need to keep on topping up that energy fuel tank during the day to ensure that we are performing at our best. Right now, I want you to think of your fuel tank as having a small hole in it. Metaphorically that’s the equivalent of being under these slightly elevated levels of stress – you’ll be burning up and losing more fuel than you would do usually. That means now, more than ever, you need to be making sure that you are topping up your fuel tank on a regular basis and making sure that you make time at the end of your working day to relax and unwind before you launch into your evening routine.

What can you do as a leader? Well you need to start the conversation with your staff members, or within your organisation. You need to realise that your staff (especially those who have been frontline workers), although apparently OK on the outside, are not going to be OK.

NOW is the time to be pro-active about your staff’s mental health and well-being. Now is the time to give them the tools for their own toolkits to be able to understand stress and have some practical tools in their own toolkit to reduce its impact going forwards. It’s time to talk about WHAT particular things are stressing people in your organisation out. Is it homeworking? Isolation? Technology? Fear of losing their jobs? Then, as an organisation and leadership team, you can start actively looking at doing what you can to mitigate these stress factors.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it will be for you as organisational leaders to be doing this RIGHT NOW. Act before it’s too late – this might sound doom and gloom, it’s not meant to, it’s just meant to give a bit of a reality check on the current mental health of the workforce and the workplace, and I hope you’ll heed this call to action.

An organisation is made up of individuals, those individuals pull together to become more than the sum of their parts, their combined strength is what makes your organisation strong and successful, their strength makes your organisation excel. So, make sure you’re looking after your people, because if you look after them, they will look after you.

At Meta we are passionate about helping individuals, teams and organisations be their best. We have been developing and refining workshops that combine the latest cutting-edge research on resilience and combatting stress with practical tools that can help everyone who attends to have their own resilience and stress toolkits.

Right now, in this pandemic period, we want to ensure that we support leaders and organisations like yours to equip your staff with the tools needed to beat stress and to negate the negative mental health effects of this pandemic. That’s what we’ve been doing recently with frontline organisations, and we’d like to extend that offer of help and support to you too.

If you’d like to ‘talk about stress’ and re-build the resilience of your staff and your organisation, then please do drop us a line and we’ll do what we can to help.

We’re also here for you, the individual reading this blog. If you’re getting this, then you’re a member of our Meta family and as such we’d like to extend our own offer of support through this period too – don’t suffer alone, please do reach out and we’ll do what we can to support you in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Have a wonderful month all of you, and please do call on us should you need to.

In peace,

Jo xx

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LESSONS FROM COVID – HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR ‘NEW NORMAL’ TO BE

As the lockdown begins to ease, we hit a new phase of the Covid Crisis and a new change journey to deal with. Once again the change is being ‘put upon us’ we don’t have a lot of choice about it, it’s happening whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not. It is inevitable, then, that we will again find a ramping up in pressure and stress, on TOP of that which we’d already been feeling and dealing with. It’s been one heck of a series of lessons, has this lockdown period, so what do we take away from it all? Surely there’s got to be some positives to come out of this time. Can we really see this phased return to work and ‘normality’ as an opportunity? At Meta we’d strongly urge you to do precisely that… let me explain why.

Look, this lockdown has been a really strange time for us all. It’s been WEIRD, MESSED UP – let’s face it, it’s been pretty RUBBISH. However there have been some really interesting shifts in our collective behaviour as a result of it. Sure, some of it was enforced (i.e. social distancing and self-isolation, home educating the kids). However some of it evolved naturally over time, as individuals and families got used to being in lockdown – going out into nature, listening to birds, taking time to be together and doing activities together as a family, spending more time virtually with extended family and friends, doing things WITH our neighbours and community, helping others in the community.

All in all, there’s been some really good things that have come out of this extended period in lockdown, some work related, but many about the way we lead our lives. So before we launch ourselves back into the lives we used to have, before we go back to our old patterns of working and busy, busy, busy lifestyles – let’s take time to do a review of what we really want to take forward with us and what we’d really like to leave behind. Then perhaps we can look back on lockdown as the time we really started to LIVE our lives, the way we wanted to, not the way that we felt we HAD to.

There is no doubt that for me and for Meta the Covid-19 pandemic has been tough. Not just because of the experiences we’ve all been sharing, but as I have mentioned before we’ve also had the extra stresses of Di’s house fire (and her consequent living with me for the last three months) and the fact that my wife’s mother died unexpectedly a month or so ago. Combine that with a virtually empty work diary and no income to speak of, oh and the fact that my mum cracked her rib a few weeks back, and all in all it’s been a challenging time! However I’m naturally a positive person, and I’ve always seen everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn and grow. Sure sometimes the lessons come thick and fast, and maybe they’re not exactly what I’d have chosen myself (certainly not in the quick succession they’ve been in) but that’s how it is, so you do what you can to deal with it best you can and to use it as an opportunity to reflect, review and learn from it all.

At the end of the day, we all want to feel like we are moving forwards, that we are evolving. Sometimes that comes from carrots (the lovely things) and sometimes it’s with sticks (the not so lovely things).

NN2

About two weeks ago I decided it was time to wrestle back control, to reflect on what had been happening and use a review to figure out how I wanted my ‘new normal’ to be. It’s really simple to do, but it’s a really POWERFUL exercise, so I thought that this month I’d share that with you, and perhaps this is something that you can do. It doesn’t take long AND it’s something that you can do as an individual and do with your partner/family.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic period:

  1. What would you like to leave behind and not take into your ‘new normal’ life?
  2. What have you learnt about others? – This could be your family, your relationship, friendships, your kids,  your fellow workers, your organisation, your community whatever feels appropriate..
  3. What have you learnt about yourself? – What lessons will you take away from this time?
  4. What has not been so good for you? – What are the things that have not worked for you?
  5. What has been good for you? – What are the things you’ve enjoyed?
  6. What have you enjoyed or found good in the way in which you’ve been working? – Not just during the pandemic, but before the pandemic too
  7. What have you enjoyed or found good in the way you’ve been living your life? – Not just during the pandemic, but before the pandemic too
  8. What would you like to take forward into your ‘new normal’ life from the way in which you’ve been working? – What’s been your best practices?
  9. What would you like to take forward into your ‘new normal’ life from the way in which you’ve been living your life? – What’s important to keep?
  10. How can you ensure the changes that you want actually happen? – What support and encouragement can you put in place to make your ‘new normal’ a reality?
  11. What are THREE things that you can do now to make sure this HAPPENS?

This is quite a comprehensive REVIEW. There’s deliberate overlap between the questions, however each is designed to encourage your mind to give extra bits of useful information to create a more complete picture of how you’d like your life to be in ‘the new normal’.

Sure there will be things that are out of our control, of course there will, however because you’ve taken the time to do this REVIEW to really create a vision for how you’d like your life to be, it’s much more likely to happen. It becomes within your control, and when you hit up against something, you then have a choice as to whether this is a part of your ‘new normal’ that you’re prepared to compromise on, or not.

With life and work there are always compromises. However if you have got clear about what you really want, then you can make more informed choices about what your ‘non-negotiable’ boundaries are and your ‘negotiable’ boundaries are.

The review I’ve put forth here, is a starter for ten – it will most certainly give you a good chunk of information to use, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s the starting point for the bigger conversation – ‘how do I want my work and my life to be going forwards?’

It will, however, ensure that you don’t miss the opportunity that this pandemic has given us to reflect, review, learn and grow. It also reminds you that there is more than we think that is within our control, so why not use today’s blog as a prompt to design how you’d like your ‘new normal’ to be?

Jo Clarkson, Meta CEO

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IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK

We’ve been in an enforced lockdown now for over two months as I write this blog. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have good days and not so good days. There’s so much to take in, from the daily governmental briefings to the sheer scale and likely long-lasting effects of what we’re going through. It’s not easy and in fact I’d say just because there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and the government is easing restrictions, doesn’t make how I’m feeling much better. So much of this is change that has been forced upon us, but that means we’re all on an ever shifting change journey, and just as I was getting used to being in full lockdown, and just about accepting that as my ‘new normal’ – we get the announcements that our new normal will be changing again and soon!

When it comes to change, the most difficult change to deal with is the one that is out of our control, or the change that is forced upon us. We all take time to adjust and adapt to change, especially one that affects our lives so totally as this one has. So, in this blog, I just wanted to acknowledge that what we are facing is NOT NORMAL and, as a result, all of us will be experiencing a mid-high level of stress most of the time. It’s constant, it’s not going away and, as a result, we definitely need to be kind and forgiving to ourselves and to those around us. We’re not going to feel normal when things aren’t normal, and that is OK.

Everyone is experiencing this lockdown in their own way, in their own family and friends bubble. Actually, everyone I have spoken to is experiencing lockdown in a virtually unique way – one family unit is never quite the same as another and indeed, in my closest friends, I don’t think there is one who is having the same experience of lockdown. One consistent message that cuts across all the experiences though, is that it’s a bit of a rollercoaster! I’d concur with that; it’s definitely been a rollercoaster for me and for Di.

There are so many lovely positive things happening out there, from family and friends spending more time than ever together (even if it is virtual, it’s still a good thing), communities coming together, people smiling and saying hello to each other as they walk past, when normally they wouldn’t (being positive ripples!), more families doing things together, spending quality time together, and the fact that almost everyone has been getting out into nature, exercising and finding time to literally smell the flowers! It’s lovely but it makes the down days, the dips in the metaphorical rollercoaster ride that is the COVID-19 ride, even more of a challenge. When you see so much positivity around and you’re feeling rubbish, it can get to you – and cause you to feel even worse.

So, I wanted to use this blog to say: IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.

In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s to be expected. Of course it is, what we’re experiencing is UNPRECEDENTED (Gosh how many times have we heard that word in the last couple of months??!) and therefore there is no ‘right way’ to be, there is just the way you manage to make it work for you. Now more than ever, we need to be kind, forgiving, compassionate and understanding of ourselves. You see we can be quite harsh on ourselves sometimes. I know I can be on myself, and I also know that it’s not useful to be like that. It just makes me feel worse, not better, and I have come to understand, in this lockdown period especially, that even as Mr.(Meta)Positive, I too have not been OK a significant amount of time!

It’s only natural to be out of sorts, when things are as they have been, and that’s not likely to change as we move into an easing of lockdown measures. We’re going to have to be constantly adjusting ourselves, changing what have become established routines to incorporate new freedoms and new changes to the rules. The ground is constantly shifting, which will mean it is inevitable that you will feel a bit ungrounded, and a bit (and here comes the science bit..) ‘WOBBLY’. Things aren’t going to be the same, they are going to change and so we’re going to most likely return to a more up and down rollercoaster ride – so whilst the highs will be higher, the lows will, at times be lower.

So being NOT OK, is perfectly OK – indeed there should be a self-help book called ‘I’m not OK you’re not OK, and that’s.. OK!’ – because right now we need to know that it’s OK to not be OK!

Let’s make a pact you and I today – I’ll be kinder, more understanding and compassionate towards myself if you’ll do the same. Let’s agree that, actually, we’re going to have some down days in the coming weeks and months and that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

We all deserve a DUVET DAY sometimes! So next time you’re really not OK – how about you treat yourself to a movie and a duvet day? Get out into nature and lose yourself in a local wood. Go to the sea and watch the waves as they come into the beach (a lovely metaphor for our own emotional ups and downs) Or maybe you’d like to clear out the garage or the loft? Nothing like a good clear out of clutter and a clean-up to shift your mood! Or maybe just spend time on YouTube watching videos of your favourite comedians and laugh your way to feeling a bit better.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of sorts, under the weather (even when it’s warm and sunny) and indeed it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves and to those around us when we’re NOT feeling OK. That way those around us can give us a bit of space or a bit of loving up (nothing like a big CUDDLE from your kids or your partner when you’re not feeling OK) AND they can bring the popcorn and the treats to make your duvet day a real fuel tank filling experience.

I want to make another pact with you, and that’s that when you ARE having an especially NOT OK day, that you can always call on us here at Meta (in between popcorn and films), and we’d like to feel that we can do the same with you. Indeed, I’d like to personally thank so many of you who have offered support and help in this lockdown period to me and to Di. It’s so lovely to know that this Meta family will come out stronger from this time, and we want to say a BIG THANK YOU for cheering us up on our down days and celebrating our up days with us.

So whatever is to come, the ups and downs and all arounds, we’re in this together – we hope this blog has been useful for you, and we hope that we’ll get to see you all again soon – be that virtually or hopefully in the not too distant future in the flesh!

In peace and love,

Jo & Di xx

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