20 Gadgets to Boost Productivity!

Solar charger

Stuck for what to get someone for Christmas? The helpful people at Red Bull have come up with a great list of interesting gadgets to help boost productivity.

Personally, I think the noise cancelling headphones would be the best gadget to help with my productivity, as I really struggle in noisy/busy offices to concentrate and write. I find my thoughts being interrupted and I loose where I am rereading things dozens of times. I also like the solar phone charger but I have no external windows! ☹

I also find it interesting that a few of these gadgets are about posture, hydration and stress management.

https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/workplace-office-gadgets-boost-productivity

Prevention is better than cure!

Secretary of State Matt Hancock

On November 5th the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock released a document called “Prevention is better than cure; our vision to help you live well for longer” the document covers many areas, one being The Workplace.

The document explains “The way jobs are designed makes an important difference. The features of good work include good relationships with colleagues, healthy physical conditions, job security and adequate pay, and skills training with potential for progression. This affects both our physical health (including the time spent sitting down) and our mental health (our sense of control, and levels of stress and anxiety). Advice on debt and benefits is also critical given the important link between income and health.”

With a significant amount of our week being spent at work the document also states that “The workplace is also a great setting for reaching people with messages promoting and encouraging healthy lifestyles – including on smoking, eating healthily and staying active. Many businesses are already taking action in this space, and see the benefits of higher staff morale, and lower rates of sickness absence. In the end, a healthy workforce is a more productive one. More employers should follow suit to help improve the health of their staff and of the nation.”

Labour’s shadow children’s minister Tracy Brabin speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, said: “It’s about pay and conditions and wellbeing in the workplace. If you don’t know if you’re going to work tomorrow, an apple’s not going to do it.” also saying “it failed to address bigger issues in the employment sector.”

I agree an apple isn’t going to make someone want to go to work, but as part of a bigger picture an apple could make a big difference. It’s about creating a good workplace culture; making the working environment a positive place and supporting employees mentally and physically. It’s lots of small preventative changes that need to happen; eventually leading to big change that can be sustained.

To snack or not to snack…

To snack or not to snack blog

… that is a good question.

The definition of Snack in the dictionary is ‘a small amount of food eaten between meals’, but is snacking actually good for us?

The word ‘snack’ is often automatically linked to crisps, chocolate, cakes and other high fat/high sugar items which are quick to grab and eat. In the last 3 or 4 years this has become challenged by a ‘new breed’ of snacks the ‘Healthy Snacks’.

So what are the Pros and Cons of snacking?

Pros

• Can be a great away to add in extra fruit and vegetables to your daily intake
• Can reduce the risk of overeating at meal times
• Helps sustain energy levels through out the day

Cons

• Can be used as an excuse to over eat
• Can add to daily calorie intake, which could lead to weight gain
• Classing snacks as a meal can lead to a lack of nutrients.

So to answer the question snacking can be good for you, but on balance it can also be bad for you; it’s all about making conscious decisions about what you eat and when. Snacking on anything should be accounted for in your daily calories (2,000 kcal for Women: 2,500 kcal for Men based on an average activity and lifestyle).

How a clean office can boost productivity

How a clean office can boost productivity thumbnail

This week’s blog is a fantastic guest blog from the Cleaning Services Group.

“How can a tidy desk or an absence of litter have any bearing on the quality and quantity of work you get done, I hear you ask? If you want the answer, read below to the infographic from Cleaning Services Group.

When we operate in a clean environment, our minds are much clearer than in a setting where there is litter and distractions. We are far likelier to persevere with difficult talks in a clean office than a filthy one, as our minds are sharper. Also, staff in a well-maintained office will probably be able to track down important documents without delay, rather than rummaging through piles of papers in search of just one manuscript. Furthermore, we will naturally be more motivated to do our best in a clean office, as it is demoralising to come into a cluttered, unsanitary environment every day.

Whether it’s setting aside a bit of time at the end of the week, implementing a strict ‘clean desk’ policy, or whatever other approaches work, management should actively encourage everyone in a workplace to keep it as clean as possible so that they can produce the best work possible.”

How a clean office can boost productivity

Standing vs sitting at work

Standing vs sitting at work

So you might have seen this topic floating around recently: is standing at a desk better for you than sitting?

I think the article linked from the bottom of this blog to www.healthline.com covers most pros and cons of sitting versus standing. As we all know sitting for long periods of time can have a negative impact on our health, but so can standing for a long period of time. I think finding a balance of both like everything is the way forward:
• try building movement into your day so you’re not just standing or sitting in the same position all the time, or
• think about tasks that could be done standing rather then sitting, such as phone calls, and set aside a time to do a few in a row

Whether you’re standing or sitting the most important thing is your posture; try to focus on sitting and standing up straight, and make sure your workspace is set up correctly to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries, backache, and neck strain.

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/debate-over-standing-vs-sitting-at-your-desk#1

Business leaders: who’s looking after YOU?

Business leaders: who's looking after you

Wow, I didn’t think I would need to write this blog myself, but apparently, I do as I couldn’t find any relevant blogs to link to.

As leaders of a business or a team, you can easily be forgotten by your employees/team members and by yourself. We can focus so much on looking after our employees, team members, suppliers, and customers that we forget about ourselves. But where would your customers and employees be if you aren’t there to steer the ship? Where would the business you’re working so hard to nurture be if you aren’t there? Yes, an organisation can survive in the very short term without its leaders, but ultimately every business needs effective senior management in order to thrive.

There is a lot of focus on workplace wellbeing and looking after employees, but we should not overlook the leaders when implementing these programmes. The wellbeing program should be led from the front; look after number one and lead by example (I love that phrase ‘Lead by Example’; I think it is very powerful and can achieve so much). For example, ensuring everyone else takes their holiday entitlement is great – it’s important that employees relax and recharge – but leaders also need that; sacrificing yourself once in a while is ok but continually sacrificing yourself for your team becomes damaging and unproductive. You can’t be an effective leader and decision maker if you are tired and stressed.

People talk about pressure from above, but pressure also comes from below and from within. Leaders have a whole team of people looking to them for direction and a pathway to achieve; it is the leader who is at the front carving those ways, constantly working away for others to follow. Leaders bear a heavy burden of responsibility, as they know that if they fail, the people below them will also fail.

Pressure and constantly putting others first can wear any leader down, and can lead to depression and ill health. So although taking time for yourself might seem selfish, it is actually vital for the health of your business. Ultimately it’s all about balance!

As an employer should you offer more holidays or more money?

Workplace culture

So I was scrolling through LinkedIn (as you do) when a couple of posts close to each other caught my interest. They were both about workplace culture. The one that caught my eye the most was asking ‘Do you offer more holidays or more money when writing a job advert?’ I found this and the answers given very interesting and this is where the word ‘culture’ started appearing. Many answered saying it depended on the culture of your business; people also suggested that actively encouraging employees to take holidays can be a huge benefit over offering more holidays that the employee is not able to take. It’s clear that money is no longer the sole magnet that draws new employees to a job; in these days of work-related stress and the desire for work-life balance, people want to know that a prospective employer will be caring and supportive, will acknowledge employees’ efforts, and will communicate openly with their staff.

People’s attitudes and priorities are changing towards the workplace; look at some of the biggest companies these days. Everyone thought Google was a bit crazy when they broke away from the traditional office culture and started providing bright, open spaces for working. They realised that creating a more relaxed atmosphere and allowing their employees to work more freely means that they actually work harder for the company and are more creative, therefore achieving more overall for the business. Google have built their offices and culture around the needs of their employees, as they understand that having happy employees has a massive impact on the success of their business.

Ok so we can’t all be Google but making small changes in our business to create the best culture for our employees can only be a good thing. Looking after, communicating with, and respecting your employees has been proven time and again to improve their loyalty and work ethic; as we keep saying at Snacks and Co, healthy employees make a healthy business!

Why not try introducing a few easy changes to see what will work best for your business:

1. Have a short informal meeting once a week, where the team has a break together over a coffee to talk about anything that needs bringing up. Some weeks there might not be much to talk about so let the conversation flow and get employees talking to one another. This is great for letting employees come up with solutions for their own or others issues and opening up dialogue between each other. It also shows you care about them by facilitating a break and an opportunity to grab a drink and listen.

2. Actively promote holidays, to help ensure your staff are well-rested, productive, and feel valued. Why not take it one step further by introducing a holiday inspiration board with ideas of place to go and recommendations on things to do in each location. Not all the places have to be overseas – make the main place where you live so if people have a few days off they might try doing something new or something they didn’t know existed. This will get people thinking about what they can do with their time off and open up communication between employees by asking each other about where they have been and what they have done.

3. And a really simple one, if someone has done a good job say THANK YOU and WELL DONE! Both of these go a long way to showing you respect your staff, and appreciate the work they have done.

The Top 5 Snacks for Energy

5 top snacks for energy

Here are the best 5 snacks that we’ve found for keeping you energised and focused through the day. Enjoy!

1. Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit Mix

Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids which provide energy to muscles and organs. Dried fruits are very nutrient dense, rich in antioxidants and vitamins. An ideal portion size is no more than a palm full, as they are high in natural sugars and fats; over eating this kind snack can cause weight gain, but as long as you are aware of the recommended portion size you should have no problems.

2. Apple or Banana with Nut Butter (Peanut, Almond, etc)

Apples and bananas are full of fibre, helping the body’s gastric system keep moving. Fibre also makes you feel fuller for longer. Apples and bananas are both bursting with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which help keep your body working all day long.

The nut butter is the same as eating nuts and seeds, being a great source of protein and omega 3.

3. Dark Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa)

Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants which help prevent cell damage. Dark chocolate also helps blood flow to the brain so in turn helps with cognitive function and concentration. It also contains something called phenylethylamine which encourages the brain to release endorphins which help lift our moods.

4. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is full of healthy protein which keeps you feeling fuller for longer (helping you avoid reaching for sugary snacks when you feel peckish), as well as being essential for repairing tissue in your body. It is also full of probiotics (good bacteria) which helps keep your gut healthy and able to absorb more nutrients, which in turn helps strengthen the immune system.

Try to stick to Natural Yoghurt and avoid low-fat varieties as these can be filled with sweeteners and flavourings; you are better having a small serving of full-fat yoghurt then a serving of low-fat.

5. Dark Berries and Grapes

As a general rule the darker the fruit the higher in antioxidants they are, so red grapes, blueberries, and blackberries are crammed full. They are also full of vitamins and minerals which support the immune system and contain natural sugars to give you a longer lasting more stable energy boost. Berries and grapes also have a high water content so they help keep you hydrated, which is a huge plus when it comes to energy and concentration.

10 reasons why fruit is your best friend

Fruit is your best friend

Fruit has all sorts of attractive qualities, but here are our top 10 reasons we should all make friends with fruit.

1. High water content – Many fruits are made up of over 85% water which means eating fruit helps hydrate you and keeping your body hydrated is kind of one of those things we have to do to stay alive. Being hydrated also helps with concentration levels (as I type sipping on my water which is very unusual for me, but writing this is reminding me to DRINK MORE).

2. Natural sugar – Fruit is full of natural sugar (don’t run away screaming yet): natural sugar is the sugar we should be eating – it’s the naughty refined sugars that goes into cakes and chocolate that causes peaks and troughs in your blood sugar causing problems like mood swings, lack of concentration and feeling tired. Natural sugar actually helps stabilise blood sugar so you don’t get the craving for more that you get when you eat refined sugars.

3. Antioxidants – Antioxidants are the good guys in fruit, they help protect the cells from becoming damaged by the free radicals which we encounter when we are exposed to chemicals (such as pollution). Believe it or not the tiny little blueberry is one of the best sources of antioxidants, also other types of berries and darker skinned fruits like plums and red grapes are full of these little warriors!

4. Good source of dietary fibre – Most fruits are high in dietary fibre and this is great for making you feel fuller for longer. Dietary fibre is also key for keeping your gut health and moving.

5. Naturally low fat – Fruit is naturally low in fat; in fact most fruit does not contain any fat.

6. Good for your skin – ‘You are what you eat’ and this is very true when it comes to your skin. The high water content in fruit is a bonus for your skin; keeping hydrated keeps your system flushed through which helps prevent breakouts. Also hydration helps prevent dry spots and the antioxidants help prevent cell damage.

7. Brain power – Did you know your gut and your brain work together? Your gut sends messages to the brain about producing hormones that affect our cognitive function, so our ability to process new information and focus on the task in hand and our guts are stimulated by when and what we eat.

8. Supports the immune system – We all know vitamins and minerals are good for supporting our immune system and fruit is packed full of them. Eating a variety of colourful fruits means you will get a great variation of vitamin and minerals.

9. Lowers the risk of developing some diseases – Eating the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables can help lower the risk of developing some diseases such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Fruits such as apples, grapes and citrus fruits can lower cholesterol as they are rich in Pectin which lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad one).

10. Easy to grab and eat – Fruit is easy to have in your bag, on your desk or on the side at home, most fruits are a simple pick it up and eat it, some others may take up a little more time like having to peel it but that’s not to complicated (unless your me with an orange – I always struggle to get them started, maybe I need more practice).

After reading all that who else is reaching for the fruit? Better skin, better concentration, help lower some risks to diseases – definitely my new best friend!

Does mental health really affect businesses?

Heads Together campaign

Did you know not talking about ‘it’ is more damaging and then talking about ‘it’…

…and what is ‘it’? Mental Health!

I don’t think there are many people who wake up in the morning and think “Today I’m going to ruin someone’s day” but many employers, managers, and work colleges do this unintentionally on a daily basis. One small comment – or even saying nothing at all – to someone who is struggling with their mental health could really make or break someone’s day. Many employees are too worried to talk about any mental health problems as they fear they may be shamed or even worse lose their job, but not talking about ‘it’ usually makes mental health worse.

1 in 6 British workers are affected by mental health issues.

The term Mental Health covers a very broad range of illnesses including depression, anxiety, and stress. 95% of employees who ring in sick when suffering from a mental health issue will give a different reason to cover the truth. Simply having someone to talk to without being judged can be enough to relieve a little pressure off those who are suffering.

Mental ill-health costs UK businesses nearly £26 billion each year and is the leading cause of absence from the workplace.

Approaching mental health issues at work benefits not only the employees but also the business, potentially saving the average employer thousands of pounds per year in sick days and lost productivity. In the last few years various initiatives have been launched to raise awareness of mental health, including Time to Change, #LetsTalkMentalHealth, the Health & Safety Executive’s Go Home Healthy campaign, and the Heads Together initiative spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Prince William recently attended the Workplace Wellbeing Conference with senior business leaders to highlight how important it is for business leaders to ensure that workers get the support they need.

Healthy staff makes a healthy business!

Here are a few great websites to help support you and your employees make a change and bring mental health out into the open in the workplace instead of pushing ‘it’ away.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/get-your-workplace-involved/employer-pledge

http://www.hse.gov.uk/gohomehealthy/stress.htm

The Duke of Cambridge introduced Heads Together & Mind’s new workplace mental health initiative.