Asking better questions

A little while ago I put a call out to HR folks via Twitter, asking them for their best open ended questions for employee surveys.

Now I am something of a cynic when it comes to surveys. I believe in the importance and power of employee voice, I’m just not convinced that a survey every year or two is the best way to get it – or the only way to get it at least.  Voice should be a dialogue.  Surveys have a part to play but organisations have a tendency to over rely on them – and then when it comes to taking action – seriously under deliver.

One of my key issues about surveys is the often used approach of including one or two open form questions at the end. Most organisations use very similar wording.  There will usually be something about the best bit about working at [insert name of organisation] and an opportunity to say something that you think ought to be changed or done differently.  Hardly ground breaking.

I’ve rarely found an organisation that seriously looks at the ‘things I’d change’ text and does anything meaningful with the data. I have however seen shrugs and eye rolls.  Suggestions often get dumped into one of two categories – stuff we know about and can’t / won’t change or stuff that we justify not changing because the employees got it wrong and we know better.

It’s my view that asking people two questions every couple of years with a limited character count ain’t employee voice.

I wanted to take the opportunity to ask some better questions the next time around. So I asked for help and my network delivered.  In the interests of sharing my learning, I’ve detailed them here.  In an example of shocking form I noted the question but not who suggested them and this is now lost forever in my twitter history.  Apologies to you if you gave me one of these cracking questions and I’ve  not give you credit.  Here’s the list:

  • What one thing should we do between now and the next survey to get your score to be significantly higher?
  • What is the one thing we should have asked you but didn’t?
  • What is the best piece of advice you have been given since you started here?  Or, what is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting here?
  • What gives you joy about working here? (I guess there’s a risk with this one that some people might say ‘going home)
  • What do we do that would help you be awesome at work?
  • How could we better support your career?
  • What is the biggest and smallest thing that we could do better?
  • What is the most challenging thing about working here?
  • What has happened in the last month to make you happy at work?
  • What is it about your job that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What would you do if you were leading the organisation.

My personal favourites are the top two. Questions to get people thinking, not writing the same old stuff that they did last year that you took no notice of.  Of course, a good question and fresh perspectives can’t prevent organisation inaction – but just maybe they will provide you with a whole new set of ideas and challenges.  Just try and do something with the feedback…….

 

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Where’s your flexible working policy?

Almost all organisations will have a flexible working policy, even if all it’s doing is stating the minimum requirements of the legislation.

But where is it?

Where on your intranet, where in your managers guidance, your welcome booklet or your induction material?  Where in your recruitment material and processes?

Is it next to the maternity, adoption and parental leave policies?

If the answer is yes, what lies underneath that decision? And what message do you think it sends to the people that work for you?

Flexible working is for parents. And for everyone else.

This article I spotted last night hits all the nails on the head.

Flexible working is about inclusion, wellbeing, talent attraction and retention and engagement. It’s also about sustainability (just how many people do you have travelling unnecessarily into a city for a face to face meeting that they could do on Skype just because that’s how you’ve always done it?).  Flexible working is also key to addressing the gender pay gap.

The placement of your policy speaks to your intention – and your bias.

If your flexible working policy is sat next to your maternity leave policy, then I’d respectfully suggest you think about moving it to somewhere a little more inclusive instead.

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Top 10 commuters to avoid

It’s a funny old thing getting the train to work. It is, quite often, a fairly miserable experience. The unreliability, the cost, the dilapidated trains.  But most of all, the biggest challenge is often the fellow commuter.  Here is my list of the worst of the worst.

  1. The one who has their bag on the seat next to them and pretends they can’t see all the people standing up. Note to this commuter. This isn’t going to work. It really isn’t, no matter how much you harrumph or how slow you move your stuff. Be fair to others.
  2. The one who watches video on their phone without headphones.   This should be illegal. I tolerate quite a lot on the train, but this is the one thing that I will ask someone to stop. With, it must be said, varying levels of success.
  3. The manspreader. Nuff said.
  4. The one with the excessively loud ringtone. Most often accompanied with and excessively loud conversation when answered. I’M ON THE TRAIN.
  5. The one who breaches the GDPR. I am amazed what people do on the train. I have seen people assessing CVs, reading legal papers, sending emails about other people, all with personal data on display. I’ve also overhead people getting interview feedback.   I recently sat next to a legal type and read his court papers over his shoulder. It was fascinating stuff, but I bet the claimant wouldn’t have been all that happy about it.
  6. The ones that are drunk. Whether it’s the Christmas party season or that lone dude who is nailing can after can of Stella Artois, this is never the commuter to sit next to.
  7. The one who only gets the train occasionally and loudly reflects how they are glad that they don’t have to do this every day.  Lucky you.  And just for the record, we already know how awful it is.
  8. The one who won’t give way with their laptop. You are sitting at a table trying to do a little work on your laptop. Only the person opposite to you has their laptop out too and is taking all the space. Note to this commuter. If you are sitting opposite me, it’s going to get a shove.
  9. The one who talks to strangers. The person sitting next to them is a new potential friend!  AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
  10. The one who overshares. You know the one. They spend the entire journey on the phone to their mum or their BFF and you know everything about them. Including lots of stuff you never, ever wanted to know. Shhhhh.

These aren’t the only challenging commuters; there’s the ones who bring stinky food, the ones who take their shoes off, the snorers, and those who have dubious personal hygiene.

I hope if you are reading this, you aren’t one of these commuters. I don’t think I am.  Although I do crunch Werthers Originals all the way to the office.  Which means that somewhere, I’m probably on someone else’s list of people not to sit next to.

 

PS: commuting is a wellbeing issue. It is stressful, expensive and takes away from people’s time with their family.  Flexible working is a potential solution.  Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. 

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Hanging out the washing

I was chatting recently with some female colleagues, and we got to talking about flexible working. In particular, we talked about some of those negative perceptions of people who work flexibly, especially those who work from home for some of the time.  Flexism.

The idea that we are skiving. That somehow we are less committed. That it’s alright for some.  That we are probably watching Homes Under the Hammer.  We talked about how when we do work from home, we feel that we do deeper, more focused work.  We are more productive, without the constant disruptions of office life.  We have time to think, plan, create.

And then one of my colleagues said…. ‘well of course, I also do the washing’.

One by one we all agreed. One of the key benefits of working from home is getting your washing done.

A conversation of epic domesticity followed.  Get a load in first thing.  Get it on the line at lunch.  If you are organised, you can get two loads done and dry in a day.  The joy!  Each of us nodded along, completely understanding because we do it too.

Behind the humour, a serious point. This is just another small way in which domestic labour falling on women is taken for granted.  Another small way in which we are constantly balancing the work stuff and the life stuff.  Fitting it in. Because this is where the bulk of it still falls.  On women.

Back to the myths and the stereotypes of flexible working. All too often we see flexible working through the ‘family friendly’ lens.  It’s something that mums want, when their children are young.  It’s something that skivers want too.  We don’t think about it as being for wellbeing, inclusion, talent attraction and retention, engagement, a potential key to tackling the gender pay gap.

We got it wrong. Turns out, flexible working is for people who want to do the laundry.

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London’s Calling (or is it)

I recently attended a work life balance event for International Women’s Day. Inspiring female academics spoke about their experiences of balance, wellbeing, of finding their way through the challenges of demanding careers, family and all of the other life stuff. There were a few things that stood out to me, that are at the forefront of my mind a week later. I wanted to share some of those thoughts and ideas here.

We talked about whether you can really have it all. The conclusion….. yes. Probably. Just not all at the same time.

Work life balance means different things to different people at different stages in their lives. It’s important to work out what it means for you and what resources, whether individual or organisational, exist to help you. I hear this…. as a wellbeing coach, I always begin with new coachees by talking about the meaning of wellbeing to them. There is no one answer. There are a few formal definitions if you go googling, but wellbeing is contextual, personal, changeable.

Back to the speakers. We must recognise and move through the tough days. Acknowledge when you are having a tough time and take some steps, no matter how small, to support self-resilience. Connect with the people around you. Others will have experienced this too. Do some physical activity, take time for yourself and your leisure. Find time to do nothing.

Share your tips with others. In the organisation, set a good example. We change culture through small actions. Don’t join in with the evening and weekend emailing.

Create discipline within your working day – this is both a simple but difficult thing to do. Time is a precious resource. We need to protect it. Time is not a free gift, it’s finite. Some people say yes to everything they are asked to do. This will not serve your wellbeing. There are other, better ways to prove yourself than turning up to every meeting. Work out the ones that matter and go to those. Brevity is key.

We need to let go of trying to be a superman or woman. Let your standards in housework drop if you need to. You don’t need to be perfect and you need get comfortable with that.

And here comes my favourite tip from the session. Pretend you are in London for the day. Tell everyone you aren’t around. Shut the office door. Block the time out. You’ll be amazed at what gets done in your absence.

I think this session resonated with me so much, as I am pretty bad at this stuff. Despite coaching others on wellbeing, I’m not so good at taking my own advice.  Over committing is my downfall.  Here is what I have learned about wellbeing and trying to have it all, even if I don’t always put it into practice.

  • No is a complete sentence.
  • Guilt is a useless emotion. It hurts you and keeps you stuck.
  • Work (knowledge work at least) never actually ends. It just pauses until you come back to it.
  • The Queen is probably not coming for tea. Even if she does, she’s been a working mum, she will understand.
  • It’s not me/you that is at fault for finding this balance stuff difficult. It’s the system that we operate in.
  • If you don’t take care of your own wellbeing, who will?
  • Protect your you time. That thing that sustains you, that gives you a sense of wellbeing, or just reduces your stress, do that.  Deliberately, proactively and without guilt.

Or…..just tell everyone you have gone to London.

london 2

 

If you are interested in fitness, health and wellbeing I also write a blog over here

On hugs.

I watched the recent Ted Baker hug story with interest. For those who haven’t seen the headlines, their CEO has recently resigned following a leave of absence, after staff spoke out about harassment including forced hugs and asking female staff to sit on his knee and cuddle him.  The resignation statement on the Ted Baker website talks about learning lessons and making appropriate changes.

The story resonated with me because I have been there. My first proper job after graduation was with a recruitment consultancy.  The owner and CEO was what some people might describe as ‘touchy feely’.  He would often walk into a room and hug you and kiss your cheek, let his hand linger on your back. There are worse forms of harassment in the workplace, but those hugs were a little too close for comfort for my liking.  I’m sure that there are some people who won’t see this as all that bad.  At the time it was generally laughed off as ‘just what he is like’ and ‘he doesn’t mean anything by it’.  Excuses for inappropriate behaviour.

I’m all for a hug. With people that I like.

And there’s the thing.

It’s not about the hug or the kiss or the cuddle.

It’s about the power. It is about someone with the power that comes from seniority, choosing to use it.  Underneath every unwanted hug or kiss from boss to subordinate is the subtext that the individual on the receiving end doesn’t have that power, and can’t say no without fear of consequence.

In my case, the 20 something year old me was straight out of university and skint. I needed that job. So I didn’t feel that I could tell a man in his 50s, who owned the company that ultimately paid my rent, to get the hell away from me.  There was no one to complain to.  So like most of the other women in the office, I put up with it.  It’s not something I would do today, but I’m older, and wiser and have more power of my own.

This stuff wasn’t acceptable 20 years ago and it isn’t today. The more we talk about it, the more we highlight cases like these and the more that we show that there are consequences for inappropriate behaviour, the more we empower others to tell those that choose to exercise their power in harmful ways that they can hug right off.

That’s nice.

From time to time I run workshops for managers and leaders about wellbeing. We explore what we mean by wellbeing, what a well team looks like, the role of the manager in enabling staff wellbeing, and how to have wellbeing conversations.

Typically, the delegates are self-selecting, so to some extent I am preaching to the converted – or at least the curious and interested. The question often arises in some form or another about how we reach those who aren’t so interested. Because in many respects those are the folk that we need to reach the most.

Recently, this discussion came up in the form of comment.  A delegate shared the responses she had received when telling fellow managers that she was attending my workshop.

That’s nice.

She didn’t think it was nice. Neither did I.

We thought it was necessary.

Kittens are nice. So are fluffy bunny rabbits.  Also, wine.  And biscuits.

Wellbeing isn’t nice. It’s serious stuff.  Work can be a force for good.  It can also be a source of stress, ill-health, pressure.

Caring about the health and wellbeing of the people that work for you is the right thing to do. As a people manager or HR professional we have responsibilities in this space.

It isn’t nice to be capable of having a conversation about mental health. About working with wellbeing in mind.  Role modelling, tackling behaviours that can negatively impact upon health, promoting a healthy culture.

It isn’t nice, it is a critical part of management responsibilities.

If you want nice, here are some cute rabbits.

bunny

Flex is for women. And everyone else.

The Labour party has announced today that should they return to government they would introduce flexible working from day one. Apparently there would be a presumption for flexible working with all roles.   It’s hard to see how this could work in practice.   But of course it all depends on what we actually mean by flexible working.

Talk of flexible working brings with it a range of assumptions and biases. Many people take flexible working to mean working part time – very often for family reasons.  Something of interest primarily to mothers. In that definition it could be possible to have a legislative framework in which any full time job should be considered as suitable for working fewer hours.  The 37.5 hour working week is after all, a fairly arbitrary invention.

But flexible working is so much more than that.

All too often we look at it through the family friendly lens. This article from the Guardian illustrates that nicely.  Check out the accompanying stock image.  A woman in a business suit, baby on shoulder.  Flexible working isn’t something that mums want when they have a small child – but this is how it is often portrayed – both in the media and within organisations.

There are so many reasons people want to work flexibly. Some of these are practical; caring responsibilities, financial reasons (just consider the cost of commuting), disabilities, children.  Others are lifestyle or wellbeing choices.  Combining work with study or hobbies, the desire for greater life work balance.  None is ‘better’ or more important than others.

Yes, women do the bulk of the childcare in our society, and broader care responsibilities too. That’s part of a bigger problem.  The solution isn’t to make it easier for women to get flexible working, but to make flexible working an accepted norm.  The 26 week wait to request flexible working is undoubtedly a barrier to flexibility.  The statutory framework could also be much improved, not least because it’s all too easy to reject a request on the flimsiest of grounds.

The real issue however, is attitudes.

Too often, when it comes to flexible working, the answer is no, now what’s the question?

A belief that flexible working will be exploited. That it’s an excuse for skiving.  That there’s nothing in it for the organisation.  That men don’t need it, and those that do are somehow weak or available for jokes.  That those who work flexibly are less committed and motivated.

This is the stuff  that needs to change, perhaps more than the legislation.

Perhaps we can start with our stock images – and our own internal framing. Where’s your flexible working policy?  In with your employee benefits – or next to the maternity and adoption policy?

enabler 2

Domestic Abuse and the Workplace. A collection of notes.

Years ago I wrote a toolkit for managers.  One page guidance on a whole range of topics that might come up in the day to day, from how to do a return to work interview to what to do when someone raised a grievance.  One of those simple ‘how to’ guides was about domestic violence.  I wasn’t an expert.  I had simply lifted some good practice advice and signposted some sources of help and support.  A few months later I went to the ladies toilet in one of our offices.  On the wall was the domestic violence one page guidance.  I talked about it with one of my HR colleagues.  We hadn’t asked anyone to put it up.  HR hadn’t done it.  My assumption was that a concerned colleague had been responsible.  Maybe they thought this was a private space where someone could note down a number. Maybe someone was trying to send a signal.  I really don’t know.  But I know that no one ever took it down.  It was there for years.  I have no idea if it ever reached the intended recipient, but I have never forgotten it.

Today I’ve been on a training course about supporting staff experiencing domestic abuse. I want to share a little of what I learned during a day that both challenged, angered and saddened me.

What is domestic abuse? All too often a silent epidemic.  According to the WHO, 1 in 3 women will experience physical abuse in their lifetimes, worldwide.  In the UK, 1 in 5 children have been exposed to some sort of domestic abuse.  Those children will carry that trauma into their adulthood.  1 in 5 teenagers have been abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse.  It is not just men who perpetrate and women who endure.  It’s not just about spouses and partners.  It happens between siblings, parents and children.  Elder abuse is an issue too.  2 women a week are killed by a partner or former partner.

Domestic abuse includes power and control, coercion, stalking, financial, emotional and physical abuse, sexual abuse. It includes honour based violence and female genital mutilation.  It often has an escalatory element.  When you see a poster of someone with a black eye, that is an anomaly.  It isn’t always physical, and when it is, it is more often on a part of the body that can’t be seen.

Although not typical in all relationships, there is often a cycle of abuse. At the start of the relationship things are great.  But there might be a strong, quick involvement.  Early ‘I love yous’.  Significant amounts of attention.  Then comes the tension building stage.  Arguments, emotional and psychological abuse, criticism, name-calling, intimidation, minor physical abuse.  All this starts to create fear.  There are ‘I’m sorrys’.  The final stage is the acute battering stage.  Verbal, physical or sexual violence, leaving the individual wounded either physically or psychologically.  The cycle continues, but the frequency speeds up.  Domestic abuse can be systematic, deliberate.

Societal views are a problem. Why doesn’t she just leave?  It wouldn’t happen in this family.  Boys will be boys.  She’s too smart to let this happen.  It’s a substance abuse issue.  It’s a women’s issue.  She was asking for it. We call it domestic abuse, but it isn’t just about what happens at home, it happens everywhere.  These are the narratives and perceptions that we need to change.

So why don’t people leave? A question so often asked. Full of judgement.  But the answers are complex.  Shame, fear, confidence, money, children, having nowhere to go.  It is of course, also dangerous.  The most dangerous time where physical violence is concerned.

Why is important to include workplaces when tackling domestic abuse?  75% of people who are abused are targeted at work.  They are in a known place.  This targeting might include excessive phone calls or texts in the workplace.  It might include unwanted visits. It’s about increased absence and presenteeism.  It’s about the resulting depression and stress.  It impacts colleagues and performance too.  Domestic abuse costs the UK economy 1.9billion a year.  So this is very much a workplace issue.

What do employers need to do?

First of all, you need to give people permission to talk about this stuff, because some people just don’t want to go there. Why don’t people tell their employer? Lots of reasons.  They don’t know who to tell.  They don’t see it as a workplace issue.  They are scared of being judged.  They are worried about what people will think.  So first of all, we need to create the knowledge that this is a conversation you can have at your workplace.

When people do leave an abusive relationship, there are many implications. Just on a practical level, you often leave everything behind. Money can be an immediate problem. Safety too.  A good employer and manager can help someone navigate through this time period.  You can take practical steps.  If you have an EAP, use it – remind people that it is there.  Be flexible about hours of work.  Talk to the individual about they need.  Address security concerns if you need to.  Divert phone calls.  Change phone numbers. Move locations.  Consider discretionary time off.  Think about where you have meetings; can people be seen from the street?  Do the walls have glass? Help people move bank accounts quickly.

There are warning signs to watch out for. People who don’t want to go home. A change in appearance.  Withdrawal.  Absence.  Never taking a holiday.  Changes in behaviour. Changes in weight.  Change of clothing style.  Actual physical signs of violence.

Some other things to think about……

Start with the language that you use. Don’t use the word victim to describe someone enduring domestic abuse.  It’s a label.  It isn’t all of who the person is. It can be a word that stops people moving forward.  It has judgement.  Allow people to define their own language.

It will take time. You will need to work with people for a while.  The manager will need to be involved.  HR too.  There are boundaries to find.  There are some things that an employer should do, must do.  We need to empower people, not disempower them. Encourage people to take steps, not do it for them.  Don’t advise – it’s not our place.  Keep records.  If stuff happens on your premises, record it.  It may help the individual in due course to have that information.  Get the input of professionals.  Refer, direct, signpost, support.  Walk by their side.  Always listen.

There are many people in an organisation that might find themselves talking to someone about domestic abuse. It  might be a manager, someone in HR, a colleague, occupational health.  The person might be approaching someone for the very first time.  Can you educate or train the person who might get that disclosure?  Can you provide resources that they can access on demand, when they need them?  There may also be people who are witnesses or concerned colleagues who may also need information, someone to ask for advice.

The manager is critical. They may be the one that sees the signs. They may be the one that gets the disclosure.  They may need to get involved in support or decision making.  They will need support too, and this is where HR will come in.  Some will need guidance on policies or what discretion they can exercise.  They might also need someone to check in with them too, as this is not easy stuff to deal with.

Giving permission to talk about this stuff raises awareness. It  might also mean that you hold up a mirror to something previously unseen.  That your employees see that this might be them too, perhaps for the first time.  The facilitators today told us stories about how often this happens.  By going on training, reading guidance, seeing examples of just what domestic abuse includes, sometimes people will realise they need help.  Be ready.  You may need to move quickly in these situations.

The final thought….. employers can be part of a whole system approach. They are part of the solution. We don’t know who is experiencing this stuff, what challenges people are facing when they go home at the end of the working day.  There is much we can do. Employers can help save people’s lives.  And we start with awareness.  We start with action.  We start with all of us.  This stuff is hard.  But there is hope.

 

The training was provided by the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence. You can find their website here.  I cannot recommend it more highly.

The top, the middle and the bottom

This morning I was at an event talking about wellbeing in the workplace. Again.

Someone said to me that wellbeing started at the top. That senior leaders needed to take action for anything to change.

Well yes. And no.

Wellbeing in the workplace is a three part relationship: organisation, manager, employee.

The organisation can set the strategy. Provide the direction and the resources and give permission.  They can tackle the big stuff; the systemic and structural issues that exist within the culture, and help others to do the same.  Senior leaders have a significant role to play here too, particularly when it comes to acting as role models and challenging negative behaviours.

The people manager has an even more critical role.  As Prof Sir Cary Cooper said at the same event, managers can be dangerous to your health. Managers can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the people that work for them.  How they communicate, the deadlines that the set, the support that they provide, the emails that they send, the flexibility that they will allow.  They can enable, and they can detract.  This is why training on wellbeing issues is critical for everyone who holds a people management role, from the practical to the bigger picture stuff, wherever they sit in the hierarchy.

Finally, it is about each and every individual.  When it comes to our wellbeing, if we don’t take ownership of it, then who will?  There are things that we cannot control or influence, but much that we can.  We always have choice in how we respond.

Wellbeing doesn’t start at the top. It starts there, at the bottom, from the sides and everywhere in between.  We all have a part to play.  Every one of us can positively (or otherwise) impact the wellbeing of someone else by the way that we choose to behave, interact, communicate or support.

Wellbeing starts with you, and with me too.

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From resources to human beings #cipdace

John Amaechi believes that HR is increasingly becoming the moral compass of an organisation, with a responsibility to preserve organisational integrity.  I really don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand there have been times during my carer that I’ve been the person in the room arguing from feeling, arguing for the right thing to do.  But should we need a moral compass? What does it say about our organisations if we do?  Should integrity be the role of a department – or everyone’s responsibility?

This talk is about how we humanise our workforce to develop healthy and ethical organisations.  I’ve never liked the ‘resources’ part of HR. It’s not how I think of people, it’s not how I want people to think about me. So I’m listening.

compass

This is what John has to say.

We are custodians of culture.  Senior colleagues often think that our job is to create compliance, procedure, policy, legal frameworks.  We know that stress is everywhere.  People are constantly talking about AI and robotics. These conversations seem to be about making robots who look and behave like humans.  Think about what we already have – Alexa and Siri.  We have gendered AI right from the beginning.  We aren’t asking Alexa to tackle the big problems, just to turn the lights on and off.

We are turning our people into things in our workplace.  We are allowing it to happen.  It is being caused by our environments and our leaders.

All too often we treat our people like vending machines.  Like job descriptions.  We make them feel invisible.  We don’t see them or hear them unless we need something from them.  Do this, do that. We don’t see them as individuals, but we so need to do so.

Go on any company website.  They will all say the same sort of thing about their values. About how they are diverse and inclusive.  That want people to feel engaged. They want innovative thinking.  We have a great working environment at our place.

These are supposed to illustrate what it is like to be in our organisations.  As people who work with people, we have to maintain some congruence between the rhetoric of our statements and the reality.  How many people believe their company values – research suggests about 27%.  For many, the promise and the experience are disparate.

If we are in a relationship with someone and the lie to us, we leave.  If we promise values, experience, but then do not deliver, people will move on.

We have values, but then allow people to behave like jerks and not live them. We allow people to poison these values. If managers allow or create toxic environments, we will remember, we will not forgive them.

HR must be the custodian. We have organisations that are saying the right things, now it is time to make sure we live up to them.

Right now, disruption roars around us.  Leaders that roar should be resisted. It is tempting at times of disruption to look to autocrats, people who a strong, give orders. There are still too many people like this in senior positions.

You are more powerful in HR than you think. People may want to put you in your place. We may think that our actions are inconsequential.  This isn’t so. People will look to us to set the tone and live the values in our organisation.  We have a dual responsibility to not only do our jobs but deliver the promised experience.

Because no one will work for someone that lies to them.  This is how we reverse the trend of low productivity, low engagement.  We have to do this all the time.

We cannot predict and prepare for the important moments.  We cannot always see them coming, we do not even always know when they happen until after they have gone. We must always be vigilant and mindful.

We must always make time to connect with people.  Give them moments of our time.  Human connection is what will make us thrive, not policy and procedure.  Whether we see each other as real people.  We must demand it of ourselves and our colleagues, all the time.

I loved this session.  It was delivered with humour and style, and personal reflection. There were no slides (I love this).  There is nothing to disagree with.

In HR we have a unique position. We can create the culture.  We might not always think that we can, but we do have influence – perhaps in ways we do not always appreciate.  Whatever our context and situation, whatever our organisational power, there is something else that we can do – we can role model.  I know it is a cliché, but we can truly be the change that we want to see – at work if not in the whole world.  Even if the people around us don’t live the values, we can. Even if the people around us don’t uphold an ethical approach, we can.   Whether we realise it or not, people will look to us, will see our shadow.

If I didn’t believe these things, then I wouldn’t do the work that I do.

It is also a cliché to talk about putting the human into human resources.  But after listening to this talk, it doesn’t suddenly feel quite so stale.

This is a live blog post. Please ignore any typos!

 

Back to Human #CIPDACE

I’m at the CIPD conference listening to author Dan Schawbel. He’s talking about how technology has created the illusion that we are connected at work, but, while useful, virtual communication has contributed to a greater sense of isolation than ever before.

Now as a social media enthusiast I instinctively dislike this suggestion.  Social media is where I met my partner and some of my very favourite people.  It is where I found my tribe, my community of practice, my PLN.  I passionately believe in the power of technology to connect us at work and beyond, regardless of geography, access, timezones.

So…. will I like when he has to say?

robot

Dan argues:

The illusion of connection is that we are forming strong bonds but they are weak ties. Voice is gone, you have to send a text message.  We look at our phones every 12 minutes (Note from me- nah, more than that). Technology and apps and devices are designed to get us addicted. The more we use them, the more we tap our phones, the more money organisations make.

Half of Americans would rather break a bone than their phone. Technology is a double edged sword. We need to know when, where and how to use it.  We need to ensure we aren’t overusing it.  If you are in a meeting or a social event and looking at your phone, you are not present.  You are physically there but not in any other way.  So why did you bother showing up? Do you panic if you have no mobile signal? We miss moments as we are so busy posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook, looking for likes from people who aren’t there, that we might not even like.

Not having your phone is the new vacation.  We are lacking human connection.

Remote working is something that is increasing.  We talk about benefits of it, but not the dark side.  We can save on commuting costs and time.  It is the most desired benefit – but at the same time this privilege to work wherever we want has come with its inbuilt issues.  Remote working can impact team commitment and connection.

We are addicted to email. We would rather send an email than talk to people. (Note from me – yes, I would. Don’t ring me).

You can have a lot of Facebook friends, but are they real friends, or are we lonely?

Work is impacting our life.  We need to recognise people as people and not workers – and this is going to become even more important as the technology in our work and lives increases.

We need to integrate our lives with our work.

Social integration is important, but we are removing it from our society.  Consider self service checkouts.  We don’t have to engage with another human being.

With all the talk about technology taking over jobs, what matters is our humanity – what makes you, you.  Use technology where it appropriate, but stick to being human.

There are four key employee engagement factors that relate to each other.  The first one is trust.  The second is belonging – people want to feel that they belong at work.  Third is purpose – people need a reason to go to work every day.  Finally, happiness.  Without these factors this is not a healthy environment.

People want to bring their full selves into the workplace, and we have to meet them where we are.  We need to get back to human.

 

I just don’t know how I feel about this whole session……..  I get that we need breaks from work.  I get that technology can be as problematic as it is freeing and positive.  But I have genuinely never felt the need for a digital detox.  My phone is where my friends are, where I connect, learn and engage with people I wish I could see more but can’t.  It is the place where I see my beautiful god-daughter every day, even though she is geographically far away.

For me, it isn’t the technology but how we use it.  We do have agency and choice.  Remote working doesn’t have to mean working from home everyday, not connecting with others.  It can be part of a mix.  Technology doesn’t have to prevent communication and discussion, but facilitate it.  Being in the office can also be isolating, depending on where and how you work.

So much of this is contextual.  What works for one person, doesn’t work for everyone.  not everyone needs or wants work friendships.  Not everyone has a lot of transactional Facebook friends.

For some of us (e.g. me) chatting to my friends in my social spaces, through my phone, makes me happy.

Using technology doesn’t mean we aren’t empathic.  It doesn’t mean we can’t bring our whole self to work.

This stuff is undoubtedly complex.  Late night and weekend emailing can be pressuring, damaging to health, indicative of problematic organisational culture.  It could be that someone is working flexibly at a time that works for them, when they feel most energised.  What we need to do is empower people.  To turn off the tech when they need to.  To work when and how they need to, but at the same time tell others that this doesn’t mean that they need to do the same.  If your phone and the technology isn’t serving you well, put it down.  You have choice.  I don’t want me emails to be automatically deleted because I am on holiday, or my colleagues to be banned from emailing me out of hours – I am an adult.  And that just perpetuates the idea that there are ‘normal’ working hours rather than recognising that a healthy, balanced approach might mean I can work when it works for me.

Connect in person. Connect virtually.  Both, for me, are human.

Reflect.

Put down your phone if you need to. And if you don’t feel that you have a problem, then proceed as you were.

This is a live blog.  Please ignore any typos!

 

CPD and HR #CIPDACE

I’ve attended a focus group this afternoon, looking at CPD support for the profession. The focus group asked us what support we would like the CIPD to provide to members.  We talked too about whether any learning should be mandated, what are the barriers to CPD, whether CPD should be recognised and what, if any, consequences should be if people just don’t bother.  All good questions – but one that is being asked to an already engaged audience.

This is a soapbox moment for me.  I get hugely frustrated with HR professionals who don’t seek to develop themselves. Our work, our context, our understanding about people, is constantly evolving.  And so should we be.  This isn’t the sort of profession where you can learn something on a course and it will still be working for you a decade later.

CPD should not be an optional extra. I still meet HR people (I deliberately didn’t use the word ‘professional’) who don’t do any learning.  They almost take pride in the pile of unread magazines on their office table.  To refuse to learn, is a form of arrogance.

I don’t buy ‘I don’t have time’.  We all find time for the things we really want to do.  That is why there are more people in the gym than the pub.

Whilst I am writing this from a conference, you don’t have to do that thing if it’s not your thing. Read books, blogs, journals, articles.  Get on Twitter and follow some thought leaders, join a Twitter chat, lurk and learn.  Listen to a podcast.  Go to an employment law update, a local CIPD event, or just watch a Ted Talk.  Just do something.

We have a responsibility to our profession and our organisations to continually learn, in order to be the best HR professional that we can be.

Opinionated?  Me?

I’m not even sorry.

learn.jpg

Bullying and Harassment – what would you do? #CIPDACE

Dealing with bullying and harassment has always been part of the not so nice side of working in HR.  We all know this stuff happens.  But we are hearing more and more stories, more and more people coming forward and saying…. this happened to me.

me too

There isn’t always a clear cut way to deal with any particular situation – and the HR role isn’t always an easy one. How should we approach issues that are raised?  How best to investigate? Should we show zero tolerance or be more lenient?  How can we balance the needs of individuals and organisations?

In this conference session we are exploring a scenario to ‘flex our ethical muscles’.  We are being led by Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, Inji Duducu and Julie Denis.

We discuss and debate a fictional case study.

How do we approach situations where there are no witnesses?  Because there so often aren’t.  How do we best support both the individual raising concerns and the individual to whom the allegations are addressed? Both have needs whilst a process is on-going.  How do we preserve the reputation or the organisation – is radical transparency the way forward – or should we be in protection mode?  How do we identify cultures where bullying and harassment are the norm – are they obvious, hiding in plain sight where many people know what is going on and keep the silence, or are they under the radar?  Where is the line between robust performance management and bullying? And just what is the role of HR in all of this?

The issue of the NDA comes up, something that has been in the press of late.  Should we use them, or are they just a tool that a serial harasser can hide behind?

Inji makes an important point.  So many cases are essentially one version of events is positioned against another.  This is where detailed, specific training is of benefit.  To help you be as thorough as possible, to look for that important, nuanced detail.

Julie Dennis tells us that what happens in one specific investigation is just part of the story.  It is also what you do afterwards, and the extent to which you publically state your intentions, set your organisational standards and address inappropriate behaviour when it is identified.

For what they are worth, here are my thoughts.

There are no easy answers to this stuff.  Cases are rarely clear cut.

We are fundamentally talking about culture, and power.  Hard to change, hard to challenge.

Coming forward is hard. Bringing a complaint, going through the formal process, harder still.  For this reason, it isn’t just the accused that can sometimes welcome a settlement agreement.

In HR, we can come under pressure to make this stuff go away.  To clear it up. Prioritise the business.  The easy option is to comply – it’s not just those who are on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour that are fearful about standing up – HR can be too.  In those cases that have hit the headlines, behind the high profile, accused individual is probably a HR person sorting out the detail – and lots of other people who know what is really going on.

At the same time, we are often the people that know when there is a problem in this space.  We see the attrition and sickness data, we hear the rumours.  People ask if they can talk to us ‘in confidence’.

As HR professionals, we have a duty of care when we do what we do.  As Inji says, it is our job to get to the truth – even though this can sometimes be easier said than done.

Our job is to be fair, reasonable, impartial.  Our job is to advise and guide the organisation, and make sure that process stuff gets done properly.  I also believe it is our job to stand up.  Stand up and speak up. Zero tolerance.  Call out the inappropriate behaviour, the banter, the person that think’s it is okay to misuse their power. For that is how we affect real change.  How we make a real difference.

This is how we move from Me Too to No More.

This is a live blog from the CIPD Conference.  Please ignore any typos.

The Currency of Trust

I’m at the CIPD conference, listening to Rachel Botsman talking about the new era of trust, and why it is key for success.

She argues that the way we engage with each other, they way we do business, has radically changed over the last decade.  Aided by digital platforms we rely on others, often strangers, to help us make decisions.

Do you read product reviews? Check out the star ratings? Visit restaurant or hotel review sites?  Check out employers on Glassdoor?

We don’t know these people.  But we follow the comments of the crowd.

Botsman tells us that this new era of trust means more accountability for businesses- and we need to embed trust in our organisational DNA.

Here are her key points about why trust is any organisation’s most valuable asset.

Trust has become one of those words, like innovation and disruption, that people are using a lot. But what does it mean? How can we think about trust?

Who do you trust? What companies? Which people?

Trust is highly contextual. Trust people to do what? When we think about whether we trust someone or something, what do we really mean?

When we think about trust in companies, trust means different things.  Do we trust that they will deliver a product on time, or that they treat their employees well?

We all use trust signals.  Signs or symbols that help us decide whether someone is trustworthy.  Of course some signals are louder than others.  The trust gap – when we think we have enough information to make a decision, we have an illusion of information.  This can be dangerous.  We make decisions on poor information.  Can technology help us solve this problem, or does it magnify it?

How can we make smarter trust decisions?  Trust is a health issue. If you have experienced a breach of trust, it can be very damaging.  We see this in organisations too – low trust organisations that are also low performing.

Trust is a continuous process.  Organisations say that they have trust as a value.  Can trust ever be a value?  Trust is a human feeling.  A continuous process that happens between people.  It’s not a question of having it and always having it.

Organisations say that they want to build trust.  You can’t.  You have to earn it by continuously demonstrating that you are worthy of it.

We make allsorts of mistakes when it comes to trust.  We live in a culture in which there is trust on speed. We swipe to accept connections, order an Uber, arrange a date.  This is now being baked into the design of services.

In some many parts of our lives we are automating trust.  We give away our trust to technology.  But trust cannot be automated; it is a human process.  Efficiency can be the enemy of trust.  We can mistake convenience for trust.  Trust is the currency of interactions.

A trust leap is a mental model. What are we doing when we ask people to try a new service or product – taking a leap in trust. Leaps are a conduit for new ideas to travel.  When we see that enough people have benefited from a trust leap, others quickly follow.  They pull people from an unknown place to a known one.  We have been taking trust leaps since the beginning of time.  In our jobs and our lives, we are being asked to take leaps all the time.  This can mean we feel exhausted or even anxious.  We are leaping at a speed we have never known before.  We ask people to take trust leaps at work – use a new system, believe a new leader, try a new way of working.  How does this make people feel? Change programme can fail because we fail to recognise that we are asking them to make a trust leap – it is a genuinely scary place to be.

When we ask people to trust us, we assume that other people are in the same trust place that we are.  When we ask people to trust there are two variables.  There is known, and unknown.  The line in between is risk. Risk is exposure to uncertainty with a possibility of loss that matters.

Trust is a confident relationship with the unknown.  When we see it through this lens we can see why it is so important when it comes to change in particular.  To trust we are also vulnerable.  It is a mixture of our highest hopes and deepest fears.  This is why it hurts so much when it breaks down.

Often, people want to build trust through grand gestures.  But it is built in the smallest of moments, every day.  It is not an enormous Christmas present but our on-going actions.

Can you measure trust in an organisations? It’s difficult.  We all have a trust batter – it can be charged or drained.  It is said that you can build trust through transparency.  It is a common narrative – but is it really a common cure?  If we see trust as a confident relationship with the unknown, this isn’t necessarily true.  Trust and transparency are not mutually dependant.  If you need everything to be transparent – you have to some extent given up on trust.  Disclosure and openness are good things – but if everything has to be transparent then you are reducing the need for trust.  We need to think more about this relationship.  More transparency does not create more trust.  (Note from Gem- it sounds a bit like making your OH take a lie detector test on the Jeremy Kyle show to see if you can trust them – you can always rely on me for a highbrow reference). 

So if transparency isn’t the thing, how do we increase trustworthiness.  There are four traits; competence, reliability, integrity, benevolence.  The first two are ‘how’.  The second two are about the why.

When we are in a culture of growth and efficiency, when technology is moving at pace – how do we then achieve integrity at scale. We can all play a critical role. It isn’t about the grand gestures that we make, but our everyday actions.  This is how we will build trust.  Each time we play this role, we are acting to preserve the most precious and valuable asset: trust.

 

This is a live blog from the CIPD annual conference.  Please excuse any typos! 

 

 

Don’t be like Dave

During one of my interim contracts a little while back, I was introduced to a HR Partner. Let’s call him Dave.

Before I met Dave for myself, I was firmly told Dave was great at his job. He was a well thought of HR Partner, valued by the management teams he supported.  He was always at his desk by 7am and his phone was ringing straight away.  His management team knew that they could rely on him to be there. Dave was in the office until late every day, putting himself out for his client group.

Dave was great.

clock

Sooooo…… lets unpick that a little.

First of all, let’s look at that definition of great. Sometimes, HR people are valued because they are innovative, bring good challenge, are highly knowledgeable, credible and professional – they work as true partners. Sometimes they are well liked because they, let’s face it, do other people’s jobs for them.  Very early in my career I received a complaint about my attitude – because I refused to tell an employee that they had a body odour problem and told the manager it was his job to do it.  So great might mean great….. or it might mean you need to answer your phone at 7am because the managers re over reliant on you.

When I hear about someone working very long hours on a regular basis, I want to know why. There are a few possible reasons, in my experience.  There might be a workload or resourcing issue – they simply have too much to do.  They might be struggling or have a learning or development need.  Maybe they are finding it difficult to manage their time.  They might be, as in one situation I have known, avoiding going home.  It could be cultural – this is what gets recognised, valued and rewarded, and hence this is how you climb the corporate ladder.  As one cynical FD I used to work with commented, they might also be covering something up.  In the case of HR in particular, it could be that the managers within the organisation aren’t enabled to make decisions – or aren’t sufficiently capable.  Instead they are deferring to HR, avoiding their responsibilities, or they simply don’t know how to do them.

There are many reasons that contribute to individuals working long hours. ‘Great’ is rarely one of them.  It’s our skewed perceptions of work and commitment that contribute to this belief.

We need to decouple work from being in an office, working well from working long hours.  These are organisational beliefs, not truths.

 

It’s that time again…. #cipdace

It’s nearly that time of year again. That time when the great and good of the HR world descend on Manchester to attend the annual CIPD shindig.  There will be learning, networking and probably, cupcakes.

To be honest, if there aren’t cupcakes then I’ll be making a formal complaint to Peter Cheese.

cake

I’ve taken the opportunity to do a roundup of the best free and fringe bits over the two days.

Free events:

Tuesday pre event networking evening: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/culture-club-pre-cipd-networking-event-manchester-tickets-50168092114?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Tuesday evening – LGBT event – how to make your workforce more inclusive. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creating-an-lgbt-inclusive-organisation-cipd-lgbt-social-2018-registration-48834560485?aff=efbevent This one includes nibbles and drinks (no specific mention of cupcakes, please check with the event organiser if this is as critical to you as it is to me).

Wednesday evening – event on race at work https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/embraceace-drinks-reception-tickets-49288822194?ref=eios&aff=eios with a promise of canapes.

Thursday morning – Fringe event on flexible working   https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/making-flexibility-a-reality-for-all-breakfast-camp-cipd-ace-2018-tickets-50684184761?aff=ebdssbdestsearch Note – this one includes breakfast and is being delivered by yours truly and the super awesome Rachel Burnham.

Exhibition

Anyone can just go and walk round the exhibition and go to the free learning sessions.  Register here. 

There’s some great stuff on the free learning programme – day one and day two alike.

I hope to see you there in November.  And if you see any cupcakes as you make your way around….. make sure you let me know. 

The 6th Element

Last week I shared my 5 Elements of a Flexible Organisation presentation at the CIPD / ACAS Flexibility for All conference. I blogged about it in advance, hereDavid D’Souza from the CIPD tweeted me to say that he believed there was a sixth element; technology.

I reflected on what he had to say, and my own use of technology as a flexible worker.

When I’m working from home, or just generally working on the move, I use the following technology:

Email

Phone / conference calls (old school)

Wifi (obvs)

Lync (mostly just the instant message facility)

Skype

Laptop / iPhone / iPad.

 

Nothing exciting or radical in that list.

I also use Slack, for communicating with project teams, and Yammer for communicating with, well, anyone that is listening. But most of these tools are used equally in the office too.

When it comes to the technology needed to work flexibly, most of it is already there. If it isn’t on the corporate network, it’s free to use or download.  On the hardware side, many of us already own it – whether it’s the organisations or our own.

So the issue isn’t so much one of availability or needing new stuff, but capability and default ways of working.

I’m currently doing work in an organisation where meeting face to face is the default – even though many of those people meeting face to face are located across multiple buildings. Many meetings therefore involve a ten minute walk there and back for more than half of attendees – multiply that over the many individuals and many meetings and many working days of the year, and that is a whole heap of ineffective time.  There are of course times where meeting face to face is best, but there are just as many occasions where a quick phone call or a discussion in a Slack group would achieve just the same.

Capability is another important issue. It  might be 2018, but I still come across plenty of people who tell me that they ‘aren’t very good with technology’ like anything other than an email is some sort of devil’s work.  I’ve asked to Skype into meetings to save me a four hour journey to be met with surprise and outright refusal.  I know plenty of people who simply refuse to use tools like Slack because it is ‘too hard’ or they ‘don’t have time’.

I don’t have time is my favourite excuse. Because it rarely means someone doesn’t have time.  It means, for varying reasons, that they just don’t want to.  Maybe then I’m not even talking about capability, but desire.

The technology acceptance model tells us that there two primary factors that influence decisions about whether technology is used (when and how) – perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.  The good old diffusion of technology model highlights the time that new technology takes to go mainstream – part of which is attributed to individual motivation.

My takeaways from these models (and that is all they are, they aren’t perfect) is that, scratch the surface, and attitude is a key factor at play.

And so, in conclusion, yes, technology is an element of a flexible workplace. But sometimes it’s not about new kit or fancy applications – just choice in using it and working a little differently.

Just like flexible working itself.

technology

 

Can we talk about Jane?

In recent months my coaching clients have been almost exclusively women.

Superwomen most of them.

But they don’t feel like it.

Let me tell you about Jane.

Jane isn’t one woman, she is many. One of many facing similar issues.

Most of the Janes have children. Some their own, others are step-parents.

Some of the Janes don’t just have children but other relatives to care for too.

All of the Janes have jobs. Some of them work full time, others part time.  Many of latter have often found however, that whilst their hours and pay have reduced, the work certainly hasn’t, and nor has the size or the needs of their teams.

Some of the Janes have flexible working – but often it is precarious, on the whim of an individual manager. Some of the arrangements are formal, others are of the ‘please can I work from home tomorrow’ variety.  Without this little bit of flexibility, often begrudgingly given, the house of cards would fall.

Most of the Janes are, of course, doing a whole heap of the emotional and domestic labour of their family lives too. Carrying the mental load of remembering birthdays and school PE kits and food shopping and getting the ironing done.

Some of the Janes have senior roles, big teams, plenty of responsibility.

Some have partners who are genuinely sharing the domestic and family load, others are very much on their own with it all.

Many have hobbies and interests that have fallen by the wayside as they juggle and juggle.

balance

They come to coaching to talk about their work life balance. To talk about their wellbeing.  They feel that they aren’t (delete as appropriate) exercising enough / being a good enough manager / developing their career at the pace they wanted to / finding any time for CPD / not getting to the school events / eating properly / spending enough time with their children, parents, siblings or friends / networking / reading books / being a good enough mum,  partner, step-parent, daughter /  giving their children healthy enough food.  They believe they are too unfit / relying on childcare too much / not coping / forgetting stuff / not delivering on their objectives / failing to have it all.

Here’s the thing all the Janes have in common.

They think it is them.

They don’t realise it is structural, societal, organisational.

They don’t realise that their company or their manager could be more flexible or the work could be organised differently and that would make them more productive and their lives easier along the way. That they don’t have to take all on all of the emotional labour even if they have been conditioned to believe that they must.  They don’t realise that it’s the organisations that is at fault with its presenteeism and its obsession with 9-5, face to face.  They don’t know that they don’t have to have it all, do it all, that it is okay to say that you are tired and need a break. They don’t know that you can just say screw the ironing and go to work in a crumpled shirt.

The strive for perfection is a heavy burden. The shoulds, the musts, the ought tos and the got tos.

The Janes don’t realise that I listen to them in awe as they balance and juggle and strive. As they manage families and relationships and careers and teams and all the day to day fuckwittery of life.

As a coach, my biggest challenge is not to over empathise, to over identify. Not to stand there and shout ‘Yes! Me too!’.

I so want these women to see and stand in their own power. To see their own awesomeness. To realise that it isn’t them, it’s the system.

So to the full time women and the part timers, the single moms and the married ones and the ones in between. To the biological moms and the step moms, the organic moms and the frozen fish fingers moms (because that is all they will bloody eat this week).  To the carers for relatives and the team leaders.  The senior managers and the newly promoted.  To the women navigating the school drop off and after school club pick-ups and still remembering to do the Tesco big shop on your phone on the train.  To the women studying into the evening or working a side hussle.

You are awesome. All of you.

And remember, even Superwoman occasionally needs a day off.

 

In other news, I searched for an image on the site I usually use for a hero, to accompany this blog post. It only gave me pictures of men…..

Commute Off

This tweet from the DWP yesterday gave me the hump. It appears to be an old post that has somehow resurfaced.  The premise, and that of the accompanying link, is that if job seekers would only travel a bit further (the just ‘try a bit harder’ merely implied) they will open up the opportunity of so many more job vacancies – and you will undoubtedly be paid more if you commute into the big city too!

tweet

YES! You too can spend your life in a car or on a dirty, unreliable train. You too can spend all your money on travelling!  Increase your stress levels!  Spend your time wondering whether you will get back through the traffic or the rail chaos in time to pick your kids up before nursery closes and they hand your children over to social services!  Have no time at all for activities that are important to you! 

But you know, money.  And dedication.

I do a 90 minute commute, and it is no fun at all. It is expensive, and I spend a lot of time waiting for delayed trains, standing in packed carriages with my face in a stranger’s armpit, and generally grumbling about it.  Sorry not sorry.  My commute stops me from getting to the gym, and means that there is often a pressurising mental list of life stuff that doesn’t get done.  I do it because I like my work, but that is a privilege that not everyone has.

Instead of suggesting people just get on their bike, why don’t we do something more radical instead? Like realise that cramming everyone onto the same packed roads and creaking public transports systems all at the same time isn’t helping anyone.  And embrace flexible working, technology and new ways of working, so that we can have both a job, and a life?

Just a thought.