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Chris Sheppardson

EP Business in Hospitality


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Training the mind: a new fitness regime for the workplace


Reducing stress in the workplace requires a major cultural shift. Companies that give people the confidence to express themselves and encourage a positive working environment will thrive.

Stress is a huge issue in business today. The cases of mental illness and depression continue to rise and in today’s pressurised and bottom-line centric world the problems associated with wellbeing in the workplace continue to spiral. 

The issue is young people are learning in an environment that does not prepare them in the same way that it used to. It is far less focused on developing good, well-rounded people and more focused on results at all costs. 

This changes the psychology of how our brains work day to day and there is an argument to suggest that we need to encourage new thinking and set about re-training the mind in a different way. 

People aren’t taught how to deal with stress: the mind set is you either sink or swim, although the issue is more complex than that. 

It’s no coincidence that those that can manage stress well, are also those that have strong relationships both with their teams at work and in their lives at home; essentially they are strong, well-rounded communicators. 

It seems that today, the level of information we are expected to retain has tripled over the years, so managing this comes down to perspective and mental approach. 

Young people have been educated to follow a process rather than to problem solve which means they often struggle to think laterally and are more likely to be comfortable with being given direction.

Too many compromises

The reality is, many people today do not possess either the strength or the confidence to live life to the full in a way that embraces who they truly are as a person, especially at work. 

People make compromises from the moment they wake up in the morning to the point at which they go to sleep at night. This is not uncommon though because in a world full of clichés it is very rare to find a person who can be 100% true to themselves.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, how can we help people to build the strength and confidence within themselves to be braver, to take more risks and to feel able to freely express themselves? 

Businesses don’t actively encourage their people to build real relationships with clients and customers today.

This takes courage but it is important because people yearn for creativity in the workplace today and if they are to reach their full creative potential they have to be nurtured through words, actions, music, art, craft, cooking, carpentry, sport, friendships and connections with customers, staff and other people. 

The workplace has become so process and compliance-led that it’s no wonder there has been a trending surge of interest in cookery, craft and art today.

Businesses don’t actively encourage their people to build real relationships with clients and customers today (as they may have done so 30 years ago), today they focus pressure on bottom line and transactions so it’s no surprise that stress, anxiety and mental illness is getting worse.

Encouraging talent

People buy people; it’s an old saying but it has never been more relevant than it is today. People have to interact as human beings because they are social animals and they are not designed for process-led disciplines. 

We may not be able to change the world as it stands but the focus needs to be on how we find a balance, how do we help people to build a more natural confidence in professionals and teams in order to free up their own skills and to jump into the deep end when appropriate? 

Perhaps the answer is to urge businesses to think more deeply about some of the issues and challenges we face today and look towards some of the simple aspects of life to help talent feel braver so that we can all grow and learn? 

If we don’t look at new ways to re-train the mind, we run the risk of losing great people.

Traditionally the UK has been a powerhouse for innovation and entrepreneurship and that means it has both risk and failure are at its heart. Talent is all around us, that is not up for question and there is genuine potential out there but it is being stifled by pressure, fear of failure and a lack of trust in leadership. 

If we don’t look at new ways to re-train the mind, we run the risk of losing great people not to mention damaging the wellbeing and social structures in society that are really needed.

It’s all well and good to be expert at following an instruction or process, but what use is that if we are lacking in new vision, solutions and creative flair? It can be likened to watching a sports team that plays to ‘Plan A’ but with no ‘Plan B’ should the game drift away from them or should something go wrong, simply because that is how they have been nurtured or developed. It’s using a system that is not fit for purpose. 

People are tribal

If we are to successfully reduce the levels of stress in the workplace today we need to start by training the mind to develop the confidence to think more freely. 

Managing a state of mind only works positively in a calm environment, one that encourages people to talk freely to each other and on an informal level if required. 

People are tribal, they want to be part of something bigger and to make a difference in life and work, perhaps it is time we let them?


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