Home / Resources / Newsletter 37- August 2007

Newsletter 37- August 2007

Welcome to the August/September 2007 edition of “In Equilibrium“.

In this edition, along with all the regular features, we are delighted to introduce two new in-house courses; a case study which illustrates the benefits a company experienced as a result of carrying out a Stress Risk Assessment; and also an article by Stephen Bevan at The Work Foundation regarding recent research undertaken into Wellness at Work and the importance of a healthy workforce.

All this and the opportunity to win a mobile phone holder which doubles as a stress toy!  Please read on ….

In Equilibrium News

Two new in-house courses are now available
We have recently developed two new courses which are now available on an in-house basis. They are:-
Managing Difficult People – a one-day training course designed to help managers increase their personal effectiveness in handling difficult situations at work, particularly when faced with apparent unreasonable behaviour from either someone they manage, a team member, senior manager or someone exterior to the organisation. Full details about this course can be found on our website.
Developing Resilience in Managers – As the need for resilience in managers has never been greater, this one-day course has been designed to enable managers to maintain and improve performance and stamina during periods of high demand and uncertainty, identify opportunities in periods of change and growth, and manage more effectively. Further details about this course can be found on our website.

Managing Stress at Work Conference
Bookings are now being taken for our “Managing Stress at Work Conference” which will take place at the BLCC in Dunfermline on Wednesday 28 November.

The conference’s objective is to enable delegates to learn from the experience of those who have tackled stress on an organisational level whilst also having the opportunity to learn more about managing their own and their colleagues’ stress while at work.

As well as a rich quality of speakers, delegates will have the opportunity to take part in two of the four workshops offered which will be run by In Equilibrium consultants. Two case studies from national organisations together with an insight into the findings of current research into the link between manager behaviour and stress round off what we hope will be a full and informative day.

Bookings can be made by telephone on 01383 622002, email at [email protected] or by following the link and completing our online booking form.



“Policies are many, Principles are few, Policies will change, Principles never do.”
John C. Maxwell, American Pastor, author & ‘leadership expert’ (1947 – )

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
John Wooden, reknowned basketball coach and author (1910 – )

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Sam Levenson, American humourist, writer, TV host and journalist (1911 – 1980)


In Equilibrium tip of the month

This month’s tip comes from the American singer and comedienne Margaret Young (1900 – 1969)

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”



Websites we thought you might be interested in:

Never get round to making ethical changes?
This quirky website allows you to sign up for a monthly nag! You may think this isn’t something you’d actually request, but the website is dedicated to making it easier for people to do one thing a month in order to make their lifestyle more sustainable. The idea is that a few people doing small things are drops in the ocean, thousands of small actions taken together can create significant and visible waves of change. There’s also the option to take action as a group or organisation.  (thenag.net)

Get on your bike and ride!
Did you know that 75% of the UK population is now living within 2 miles of a National Cycle Network route? Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, co-ordinates the National Cycle Network. If you click on the Get Cycling area of their homepage, you will find a huge amount of information from finding the routes available near you, to commuting by bike, to planning a long distance cycle as part of a short holiday. Apparently, the cycle routes are also suitable for walkers. Judging by the weather this summer, now all that remains is to invest in some waterproof clothes!

The websites featured in this section are chosen because we feel they may be of interest to you, neither of the organisations mentioned have either approached us or requested they be included in our newsletter.


This Week in History

Our book review spot is taking a well-earned summer break but will hopefully return refreshed for the next issue!

In its place, we found the following facts quite thought-provoking and hope you will too.

During this week in history:

1620 Mayflower set sail from Southampton with 102 pilgrims on board

1889 William Gray patented the coin-operated telephone

1961 Construction of the Berlin Wall began in East Germany

1978 First successful crossing of the Atlantic by balloon (3 Americans)

1979 Rainbow seen in North Wales for a 3 hour duration

1993 US Court of Appeals ruled Congress must save all emails


Stress in the News

In this section we give you links to recent articles in the press that we have found interesting:

Homeworking can improve job performance, lifestyle and the environment, say UK workers
Although 70% of workers are still confined to the office, a study released by ntl:Telewest Business showed that over half those interviewed felt that working from home led them to have greater control over their productivity & stress levels, as well as their workload.

Is work good for your health & well-being? The results of a study commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions has concluded that work is generally good for physical & mental health and well-being.

The UK’s enclosed public places, workplaces and public & work vehicles are now virtually smokefree
The Smokefree Action website contains links to the various regulations together with other resources such as The Regulatory Impact Assessment, which examines the impact of the introduction of smokefree legislation.


Amanda’s Column

Amanda finds that the term “Holiday” doesn’t conjure up quite the same image as it once did …


Stress Case Study – Stress Risk Assessment

The Brief
A department within a financial services firm invited In Equilibrium to conduct a stress risk assessment.

The client department was a highly dynamic and successful team with ambitious plans for continuing and future expansion. This highly positive position was not without its pressures: senior management was therefore keen to prevent stress-related problems from arising and to take a proactive approach to minimising stress risks.

The aims of the stress risk assessment project were: to identify potential stress-related problems and their sources and assess who was at risk and how; to generate options for risk minimisation; and to achieve maximum team participation and involvement in the process.

We used a qualitative methodology, conducting focus groups, semi-structured interviews and small-group meetings to gather in-depth information about the issues from the perspective of all concerned. Discussion of pressures was focussed on the Health and Safety Executive categories of risk factors (or ‘hazards’): demands, control, support, relationships, role and change; plus any further issues identified as pertinent to team members. In addition, we reviewed relevant management information (sickness absence, staff turnover and long working hours reports) to explore the quantifiable impact of pressures on team members.

We delivered a detailed report to the client with extensive recommendations for how they could reduce stress risks for staff. As a result of these recommendations, the client took a range of actions that targeted issues that had been highlighted as potential stress risks. In addition we were invited to conduct a number of follow-up projects, including: providing 360 degree feedback to assist with leadership development for partners and senior managers; and facilitating a task force, which met to review progress on the recommendations and highlight issues that arose subsequently.


In Equilibrium Consultant Profile

We now have 12 consultants working throughout the UK and thought you might be interested to know a little more about them.

Fiona McLaren

Fiona McLaren is a London-based organisational consultant and coach, specialising in improving business performance under pressure. Being intrigued by the connection between work and mental health, she recently undertook a Masters in Organisational Psychiatry & Psychology at King’s College, London, gaining a Merit for her dissertation focusing on a study of the underlying psychological reasons for absence in the professional services sector. She also has an MA in Modern Languages from Edinburgh University and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

In her ‘past life’, Fiona was HR Director of a law firm in the City of London, and many of her own clients are City and international firms. Her aim is to help organisations to increase their bottom line through improved resilience and performance, whether by individual coaching or specially designed workshops. She also does related consultancy projects like : management and communications audits; outplacement following mergers and restructures. Having survived two mergers in her past role, she enjoys supporting change programmes and career transitions, and will be lecturing on these subjects at King’s College in the coming academic year.

She says that one of the pleasures of working on In-Equilibrium projects is the contact with organisations in sectors she had not experienced before, including education and manufacturing. Fiona enjoys finding out about businesses and the way they work. “Every organisation thinks it’s different, but there are more similarities than people like to think in the complex, relentlessly fast-paced 21st century. Attending an In-Equilibrium workshop gives people the luxury of time to stop and think about how they manage and how they can do it more effectively and more healthily. Better doesn’t have to be harder!”

Fiona says her greatest stress-buster is singing. She sings in a London chamber choir which gives five or so concerts a year but if her schedule doesn’t allow her to get to rehearsals, she plugs in her I-pod (which she believes is definitely the best invention since the internet) and sings in the car en route to work assignments. In the recent hot weather, she forgot the windows were open and wondered why people were staring after her in the street!


Wellness at Work

We are very grateful to Stephen Bevan and Michelle Mahdon at The Work Foundation who kindly let us reproduce part of their paper.

At an economy-wide level most commentators agree that it is critical to our future economic success that the UK raises its productivity growth rate in order to sustain its position as one of the world’s leading economies.

A significant barrier to achieving this growth is that much of the British workforce is not healthy enough to drive the improvements in productivity that the UK needs. Good performance requires wellness. Workplace health is now becoming a hard, economic ‘factor of production’ and it is time to take wellness as seriously as we take R&D, investment in technology and customer relationship management.

Wellness is not simply about physical health but also includes psychological and overall well-being. Michael Marmot (2004) and his colleagues have shown that the intrinsic quality of the jobs we ask people to perform, their place in the hierarchy and the amount of control they have in their jobs can have more impact on their long-term health outcomes than smoking or diet.

Of course, part of the solution here rests with Government. It must take the lead in the Public Health arena, encouraging and educating citizens to make healthier choices in their lives. However, employers and employees have a role to play too. For organizations, this means going beyond the bare bones of the legal ‘duty of care’ for which they are already accountable under Health and Safety legislation and tackling the underlying causes. For individuals, it means taking more proactive personal responsibility for their lifestyle choices, health and well-being.

Taking these findings seriously demands a real effort to improve the quality of employment, particularly for those at the bottom of status hierarchies, not all of whom will be low paid and exploited. Tackling these underlying causes of ill-health is essential if we are to have more “good jobs” and healthier workplaces in the UK. In most organisations the extent of illness amongst the workforce is, fundamentally, a management problem rather than a medical problem.

Employers need to go beyond thinking about work and health in the context of either sickness absence or health promotion in the workplace. Despite the growing focus on health promotion, it can still be said with confidence that employers are devoting less attention to the causes of workplace related ill-health than they should. The tendency is to see sickness as a phenomenon affecting individual employees even though the biggest and most positive effects may flow from an effort to reduce the risks of poor health amongst lower status employees as a group. However, it would be wrong to conclude that employers are in some way to blame for the apparent failure to grasp the nettle; the issues here are difficult and often poorly understood.

To date, research conducted by The Work Foundation (Bevan and Mahdon, 2007) based on the data from their Wellness Index is reinforcing the view that it is only through a sense of personal empowerment that individuals can begin to make sustainable changes to their well-being. Psychologists (e.g. Rotter, 1966) have, for some time, referred to a phenomenon known as ‘locus of control’. Those with an ‘external locus of control’ have a belief that their lives are controlled by outside forces rather than themselves. By contrast, those people with an‘internal locus of control’ feel that they are in control of their own destinies. Research suggests that the number of students with an external locus of control is increasing, which may result in more people with an external locus of control in the workplace. In a study ranging across six Local Authorities, Bevan and Mahdon found that employees with 100% attendance records were more likely to be satisfied with their professional life and financial well-being than those with any self-reported absence. Moreover, employees with an internal locus of control and with a positive attitude to health, exercise and diet were significantly less likely to report any sickness absence from work. The next phase of work will look more closely at the relationship between personal control and autonomy at work and absence.

The findings from The Work Foundation research highlight the complex nature of factors that impact on well-being. Well-being is not principally about diet, lifestyle choices, travel to work time or family circumstances, although all can be contributory factors. The important element here is stress, not in its commonsense conception, but as a term which embraces the relationship between the working environment, changes in body chemistry and the physiological consequences. Understanding the relationship between the factors that impact on wellness is the first and crucial step to managing wellness and improving the health and productivity of the British workforce.

Stephen can be contacted at The Work Foundation


Your Feedback – Send us your thoughts and win a Prize!

Please let us know what you think about this edition of “In Equilibrium”. This month you could be the winner of an In-Equilibrium stress toy (in the form of an armchair for your mobile phone!).

The winner of Newsletter 36’s feedback prize is Kate Ansell, Senior Occupational Hygienist, HMS Drake, Devonport, Plymouth. Congratulations to Kate who will receive a copy of our Relaxation Techniques cd. A big thank you to all those who gave us valuable feedback, we really appreciate it and do please try again on this edition.


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