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Brain Freeze more likely for those with higher working memory


Brain Freeze is that sensation we get when we seem unable to think. One moment everything is fine and the next we seem unable to think clearly.

Working memory is about our mental capacity. The ability to mentally juggle more elements. Useful in mathematics or unscrambling complex issues.

This research shows that people with higher working memory are more susceptible to brain freeze.

Here’s an excerpt form the article in the BPS website:

“Researchers at the University of Chicago and Michigan State University attempted to find out more about why this happens. Their results suggest that actually it’s only a subgroup of high working memory people who have this problem and it’s because of their high distractibility. These high ability chokers or brain freeze victims are “typically reliant on their higher working memory resources for advanced problem solving” but their poor attentional control renders them easily distracted by anxiety, causing their usual mental deftness to break down when the pressure is on.”

So what can we take from this? Maybe that when we ask these people to work on a problem we give create a low pressure situation. We protect them from any pressure that exists because in fact they will solve the challenge quicker and more effectively. We know that more analytical people tend not to like pressure, but this research takes it further.

As a manager we need how to manage these people in a way that allows them to use their strengths and not be distracted.

Read more here.

Avoiding the post holiday blues


Leadership coaching

Post holiday blues can be avoided

As you step off the plane at your holiday destination, you take a deep, relaxing breath; your break starts here. Then your phone rings. It’s work. Unfortunately, this situation is now becoming commonplace and for many of us holidays are no longer a time for genuine rest.

Our research shows that people face a significant workload increase during the summer months. Almost two-thirds (64%) of workers are placed under extra pressure from picking up colleagues’ work and more than half (55%) return from their own holiday to a backlog of tasks and emails.

The result of getting little rest and a rise in responsibilities is that 34% of employees have experienced stress, anxiety or depression over the summer – all conditions that can lead to more serious mental and physical illnesses.

As we wave goodbye to the sunny months, what steps can HR take to tackle these conditions?

1. Plan ahead

Too much pressure is detrimental to motivation and productivity, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to collaborate and support each other during busy periods. Line managers need to work with employees and help them to prioritise workloads.

More importantly, they should also map out resources against annual leave in advance of popular holiday periods, and make the necessary adjustments (such as altering deadlines or bringing in temporary workers) to prevent staff having to take on too much extra work. 

2. Encourage healthy activities

During peak times, people often feel the need to work through lunch breaks, get in early or stay after hours to complete tasks. However, a healthy work-life balance is essential to feeling mentally and physically well and remaining productive. Managers need to create an environment where employees feel they can take a break, leave on time and take their full annual leave entitlement.

3. Ask and understand

Regular one-to-one catch-ups will help managers to identify employees that are struggling or overloaded with work, ensuring that support is given as early on as possible. Simply asking questions around areas such as workload can make a huge difference and lets staff know that they can discuss concerns openly and honestly.

4. Lead by example

The best way to show people that they are able to do all of these things is to lead by example. The actions of those in positions of power are often contagious. Take a lunch break, leave on time, try not to send emails late into the night and turn off your phone when you’re on holiday. This might not always be possible, but it should be your goal.

5. Tackle the taboo

In the workplace, mental health has long been a taboo subject. Employees often feel under pressure to keep any problems under wraps for fear of being labelled weak or unproductive. With the latest figures revealing that 70 million working days were lost last year in the UK due to mental illness, it’s clear why it is vital for business leaders, HR departments and line managers to create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their problems.

Taking these steps will show people that their wellbeing is truly valued. Help them feel comfortable discussing workload and switching off when they’re on holiday, and create a much happier, healthier and more productive workforce. While breaking down the wall of silence that surrounds mental health in business will take longer, these small but effective steps will put us on the right path.

Exercise helps deal with stress


Stress management

Stress management training from ITD gives ideas, tips and strategies

Helping staff to stay fit can help when they are faced with stressful situations and even aid customer experience, according to Thomsons Online Benefits managing director Chris Bruce.

Bruce told HR magazine Thomsons takes the health and wellbeing of its staff seriously and he “passionately believes” employers should be helping workers to improve their health.

“We ask a lot from our staff so it’s only right we give something back,” he said. “Employees who regularly exercise are better at dealing with stressful situations and also feel energised. If you do this well customers can feel that energy in their interactions with your staff.”

Thomsons held a company-wide event last week in which employees were challenged to travel from Oxford to London in a variety of ways. These included kayaking and using ‘Boris bikes’. The event also raised £100,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Bruce believes such events can have a hugely positive impact on employee morale and wellbeing.

“It’s great for cross-company camaraderie and people taking pride in the place they work,” he said. “Also I’ve had a lot of staff come up to me and say they’re going to continue to exercise more after training for this event. So it can have a long-term benefit for your workforce.”

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Stress from job security increases asthma chances

Stress at workPeople fearful of losing their jobs are 60 per cent more likely to develop asthma for the first time as a result of their stress, according to a major new study.

An international team of researchers analysed data from more than 7,000 workers and, even allowing for other risk factors such as smoking and being overweight, discovered that work-related stress raises the risk of developing asthma.

“This study has shown for the first time that perceived job insecurity during the recent economic crisis may increase the risk of new-onset asthma in adulthood,” states the paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The research was conducted by experts at the University of Düsseldorf, the University of Amsterdam, and Massey University in New Zealand.

It supports previous studies pointing to a link between the development of asthma and stress, according to researchers. The use of temporary contracts and other “flexible forms of contracting” as well as downsizing, are cited as factors which “increase job insecurity among employees”.

The study adds: “The economic crisis in Europe, which started in 2008, has accelerated this development and has been paralleled by increased perceptions of job insecurity in most European Union countries.”

Those with “high job insecurity” had a “roughly 60 per cent excess risk of asthma” compared with those who thought the chances of losing their job were low or non-existent.

The findings are based on data from more than 7,000 working adults, who responded to the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, an annual survey of the German population, in 2009 and 2011. Between these years, 105 new cases of asthma were diagnosed among the survey group. Those worried about losing their jobs were far more likely to develop asthma – at 2.12 per cent compared to 1.3 per cent of people who had no such worries or felt the risk was low.

So the implications of this study could include, that when your organisation is experiencing turmoil or change, some people will interpret this as potentially increased job insecurity, and it’s the leaders and managers job to minimise this interpretation.

Advanced time management training gets excellent feedback

Meetings can be more effectively managed to save time

Meetings can be more effectively managed to save time

Advanced time management training gets excellent feedback.

Participants really enjoyed the personal efficiency training session today. They worked on their goals to improve efficiency, which included:

          • Better planning of each day at the start  & the end of the day
          • Manage email distractions by turning off the alert for set periods of time, whilst doing project work
          • Allocate time each week for set tasks
          • Set times for looking at emails during the day

They also used our behavioural change implementation tool to look at some personal changes including more exercise and diet changes.

All we have top do now is follow up and see how they get on.

A top cause of stress at work

Stress management training from ITD gives ideas, tips and strategies

Stress management training from ITD gives ideas, tips and strategies

One of the top causes of stress at work is perhaps a little surprising, but then when you reflect on it, not that surprising at all.


The line manager. Your boss. The person you report to.


Get a good one and everything is fine. Get a bad one and your experience at work can be dreadful. On our personal efficiency training the biggest cause of inefficiency is a poor manager. By far this causes the most stress, worry, anxiety and negative impact on time management.


So what can we learn from this? Firstly if you’re a manager, reflect on is and consider the impact you have on your direct reports. Secondly, if you have a poor manager you have a range of choices.

  • Talk to HR for advice on how to approach the specific situation.
  • Talk to your manager.
  • Address each issue in isolation as they occur.
  • Ask a trusted colleague for their perspective or opinion.
  • Leave and find a better employer.

sorry, if this sounds a bit dramatic, but the long term impact of this situation can be devastating, so best to deal with it early on.

Project management tip on achieving deadlines

Project management training with ITD is practical and very useful

Project management training with ITD is practical and very useful

With some projects we can set our own deadline. That is, there is no external or client driven deadline.

So how can we make sure we meet that deadline?

Do everything as normal. Set your objectives. Write your plan. Plan your team. Identify the interdependencies between people. Set your time plan. Review it. Redraft it.

Look at the deadline. Then double it. If it’s one month make it two months. If it’s four months make it eight. Why? Why not. If you end up achieving the deadline under time all the better. If you come in somewhere between your initial plan and the double it figure, there’s lots of learning to do. You also relieve stress and pressure. Whether you choose to tell the guys on the project is up to you. You may leave their deadlines where they are.

For some projects it won’t work or be practical, but for others it might just be the key to keeping your sanity.

When emails become overwhelming what can we do?

Managing emails can be a major challenge

Emails can become overwhelming. We try to do our work and this involves emails flying in. Email management is a challenge for many people at all levels in organisations. Managing emails means pro-actively managing them rather than reacting to them during the day. The problem is that emails can run your day.

So what can we do?

Here are some tips:

  1. Read emails at set time during the day. This may be first thing, lunchtime and then towards the end of the day. It depends on your role, but looking at emails in chunks can lead to focus rather than interruption.
  2. Turn email off when your doing project work. When you’re in meetings or on courses you hopefully turn your emails off, so why not during the day?
  3. Don’t always reply to immediately, the quicker you reply, the more they will expect a quick reply. Depends on clients and expectations, but maybe we can manage these expectations?
  4. Organise files and folders for your emails, so that your really important ones are in one folder.
  5. Communicate with those people who send you emails you really don’t need to see, politely ask to be taken off the dist list.