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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Aren't We All Just Looking For A Sign? - The SmartSign.com Blogger Challenge

Procrastinators of the world - and I'm including myself in their number - will do anything to avoid taking action.

In fact, I believe procrastinators are almost wholly responsible for the ever increasing global sales of coffee.

Caitlin's designed a sign specially for me

Got something you have to do?  Better put the kettle on and have a darn good think first.

I've lost count of the number of tender documents, presentations, powerpoint slides (the very axis of evil) and marketing projects which have been started and then lapsed into the ether like an X Factor winner.

Now this is understandable and possibly excusable in a work situation but when you're a parent the opportunity cost of all that time you waste is huge - and hugely expensive.

Oh, not in terms of money but in terms of watching your little 'uns grow, develop, learn and explore the world while you faff about with post-it notes and hunt for a pink highlighter to mark up your latest content planner.

It's the summer holidays and even as I sit here typing I am listening to Caitlin and Ieuan playing some (mildly destructive) game downstairs.  There is much laughing and giggling and it is always fascinating to observe the relationship between siblings in which we mothers play no part.

Sometimes, in the absence of parental attention, Caitlin and Ieuan are their own world - mysterious, capricious and never still.

Almost on a daily basis I tell myself I will get myself organised and prioritise family time.  I will take them to one of the places on the ever-growing family bucket list.

I'm stopped by a lack of energy and, if I'm honest, a lack of confidence.  How, at 53 years old, the thought of taking the kids an hour and a half away to somewhere like Clearwell Caves, or Dan yr Ogof (I'm big on caves at the moment), can fill me with dread I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's some peri-menopausal, hormonal backlash or too many carbs. Whatever.

I'm sure many of us wish that something, somewhere would give us the impetus to get our priorities straight, to finally work out how to balance our own needs with the needs of our children.

You can blame your work ethic, modern life, the Tories, Brexit, Donald Trump or your addiction to social media (why did nobody warn you?).

But aren't we all just looking for a sign?

It doesn't really matter what it says.  We all just need an existential prod from above - whether that's our god or guardian angel or even the nagging of our own parents.

The problem is life continues while we keep searching for this sign.  Sometimes life takes matters into its own hands - an accident, a health scare, redundancy.  Like a bolt out of the blue, our ability to choose to prioritise our time is gone in an instant.

So here's my sign.

It's short, to the point and needs to be placed on the bathroom mirror, on the kitchen wall, on the toilet door and plastered large as a screen-saver on all my gadgets.

It can be any colour, any size, any shape but this is all it needs to say.


 “This post is an entry into the #MyCustomSign www.smartsign.com blogger challenge”

Monday, 19 June 2017

Step Back On To The Career Ladder By Becoming A Legal Secretary.

As readers of this blog know, I spent over 13 years working as in marketing and PR for various law firms, rising to Marketing Director in the last post I held before leaving to have Caitlin and Ieuan.

I have to admit, with hindsight, leaving my job entirely was possibly not the best thing to do because, after nearly 10 years out of the workplace, it seems as if it would be a real challenge to return - at least to the level where I once was.

woman at a desk typing on a MacBook

I'm not complaining and I am now a full time blogger and perfectly happy with my lot but I do know other mums who feel as if their career has stalled or, if like me, they've given up work, feel stepping back on the career ladder would be a Herculean task.  And what about those of us who are 'empty nesters', looking for a new phase of life now that the kids have left for university or to start jobs?

There are, however, ways to do it but it requires grit, determination and the frequent need to retrain or adopt some self study.  Of course there are costs involved which you may have to fund yourself but, in general, I firmly believe any investment in education is always going to be worth the money.

To give you an example from the profession I left, becoming a legal secretary is a great route back into the job market place and one which, if you work hard and are diligent about learning as much as possible, can take you to the top - partnership in law firm terms.  

It's a great way to develop your career - particularly where law firms offer services such as conveyancing or private client work such as family law (wills, probate, divorce, child issues).

Not only can you find jobs at solicitors' offices and barristers' chambers, there are job opportunities at law courts, local authorities, government bodies, the police or even estate agents.

woman's hand signing a legal document with a fountain pen

So what does a legal secretary actually do?

As the name implies, legal secretaries carry out secretarial tasks that are specific to law.  For example, they may help with the writing of legal documents, conduct research and read legal articles, as well as general secretarial duties such as answering the phone and dealing with correspondence.

You might also deal with clients and go out and about delivering documents or accompanying solicitors to courts or police stations - depending on the field of law you are employed to assist with.

As a legal secretary you can expect to earn anywhere from £18,000 as a starting salary (starting around £25,000 in London) up to £45,000 as an experienced legal secretary and, as mentioned previously, it is possible to use the legal secretary role as a launch pad to higher paid and related careers.

If this is for you, you will need a training course where the qualification is recognised by The Law Society and the Solicitors' Regulation Authority - ideally Legal Secretary Training which is CPD accredited.

CPD is a type of ongoing study which is a requirement for solicitors and other professionals to ensure that their knowledge basis is kept current so that they can offer the best service and client care.

The key skills you need to make sure your course covers are:-

*MS Office (especially Word).  You will be doing a lot of typing and possibly also audio typing.
*A thorough grounding in the legal system 
*Customer care
*The various kinds of legal forms
*Contracts - types and how they may be formed and breached.

Ideally you also want to make sure that your course is taught by a qualified lawyer in a hands-on, practical classroom environment.  The law is continually changing and it is vital that you are taught by someone who is up to speed with this.

You can find a good intensive course where you can cover the basics in a one week (with home assignments) or assisted learning with in house tutor sessions supported by home assignments over one month.

woman wearing an ear piece taking a telephone call sat by a laptop

Before you sign up for a course though, you should make sure that you have a good general level of education with good written and spoken English.  You will also need previous PA or secretarial experience or, if you have none, starting off with a general secretarial / PA course will give you the necessary grounding.

The beauty of private courses too, is that you are not relying on fitting your study around the academic year - you can start at any time.

As a way back into the work place, becoming a legal secretary is certainly worth considering and the rewards are certainly there for those who are determined to rise to the top.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Reasons Why Your Brand Needs To Work With A Blogger

It seems bloggers are everywhere and in every niche.  Their influence grows daily across all market sectors and social media platforms.

keyboard and glasses

As marketing budgets dwindle and marketing directors are demanding measurable results, you might be wondering why you would deviate from the tried and tested promotional routes.

There are four very simple reasons why bloggers are an important part of your marketing mix.

*  We can talk direct to your customers and consumers and ask them direct questions which you may not be able to. This may be even more effective than running an expensive focus group.

*  Not only can we promote, but we can influence the creation of new products and services (sometimes even markets) by adopting yours or by using these in ways your product development team hadn't thought of

* We can push your product / service out there quicker than the more traditional methods of print advertising.  Ask us to review and promote and it can be turned around quickly - sometimes even in 24/48 hours.

* We offer incredible value for money when compared with other forms of promotion.

Make no mistake.  Bloggers are no longer the home-spun, frustrated creatives looking to make a little pocket money.  Many of us consider ourselves professionals and our blog is our job.

Mine certainly is after over 20 years experience as a senior marketer, and latterly marketing director of a large Welsh law firm before I took a career break to have my children.

I am fully conversant with all aspects of marketing and PR so I see things from both sides of the fence, so to speak.

There are, however, things you need to consider when working with a blogger.

The issue of blogger disclosure

Collaboration (aka sponsored posts) is a funny thing.  The rules about disclosure are a little vague in the UK, far vaguer than those set out by the Federal Trade Commission governing disclosure in the US.  Here there is guidance not only from Google but from the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice broadly reflects legislation in many instances. The ASA is not funded by the British government, but by a levy on the advertising industry.

Basically bloggers must make it clear to their readers that they have been paid to promote or endorse an item so that the reader can decide whether what they are reading is truly objective. Most bloggers wouldn't dream of misleading their audience, however, because what would be the point? A loss in credibility would be extremely damaging to their reputation.

Follow links vs nofollow links

There is constant discussion about follow and no-follow links in the various blogger forums.

Google does NOT like paid for follow links because it considers, reasonably, that paid promotion gives a product or service an unfair advantage by sending extra 'link juice ' (viewing figures) that a rival might not be able to afford.

Some bloggers will accept follow links and some won't touch them with a barge pole, figuring that link insertion is for SEO purposes and that has little to do with the creativity of their writing.

Others reason that a 'proper' collaboration will be no-follow links because any brand / PR worth their salt will recognise that Google may apply a penalty not only to the blogger but to the brand itself if caught out.

What do bloggers do?

There's also a lack of understanding about what bloggers actually DO when they put a post together.

For example there is

- content creation (researching, editing, proof-reading)
- time spent testing, (reviewing, cooking, crafting, reading etc)
- photography (scouting locations, shooting, editing, often in different formats depending on the social media platform)
- social media promotion across multiple platforms, (commenting, responding to comments)

When you look at it like that you can see why lots of the old 'bung a few quid at a blogger for a quick post' approaches are starting to fall distinctly out of favour as bloggers recognise their worth and charge accordingly.

What you are also paying for, alongside the blogger's expertise, is access to their audience who may be far more engaged than those seeing your product flash by on a billboard on their daily commute, or flickering in the sidebar of their hotmail account.

Any good marketer knows that building brand awareness takes consistent investment, effort and monitoring, and working with bloggers can give you an extra, and a distinct advantage.

The problem brands and PRs face is that, as things currently stand, it is very difficult to compare bloggers on a like for like basis.  This means that metrics such as Moz's Domain Authority or Majestic's Trust Flow are relied upon to give a sense of the blog's quality.  These are, however, a moveable feast and fluctuate regularly.

These metrics, along with stats from Google Analytics which shows unique monthly visitors (how many individuals visit a blog each month) and page views, build a picture of how successful a blog is.

Then there are independent ranking systems such as that run by Tots100 which ranks parenting blogs, lifestyle blogs and travel blogs.

The various ranking systems have their own algorithms and so you can't really compare these on a like for like basis.

And of course, they generally rely on the blogger having added themselves to the list. There may be a gem of a blogger out there who hasn't registered with any ranking system.

Lastly there is the size of the blogger's social media following and their email lists. My social media following is around 22,000 across all platforms and I work hard to keep each audience engaged and with appropriate content for that platform.  You would need to pick the blogger with the right number of followers on the social media platforms most important to your business.

So how much do bloggers charge?

This will depend on the metrics mentioned above and, in particular, their viewing / user figures. Blogging is a community based activity so you can be sure that everyone tends to know who charges what.  That said, there is no hard and fast charging scale.

My charges currently start at around the £100 mark for a basic sponsored post for copy that is submitted to me and my prices rise depending on whether I am writing the copy myself and the amount of additional work and promotion I am expected to do.  You may, however, find bloggers at the top end of their niche easily charging much more than this because of the size of audience they can command.

The 'Free' Guest Post

Often, less scrupulous agencies will try to get a blogger to post a 'guest post' for free on the promise of exposure for them on their brand or client's website.

That 'guest post' of course will include a follow link or two and bloggers are wise to this method of trying to secure a free advertisement on their blog.  A good blogger may occasionally accept a guest post if the content is of particular relevance to their blog or they want content with a fresh eye and a different viewpoint but if your initial approach to a blogger is to try to 'wangle a free guest post', then you may well receive short shrift.

Budgeting for bloggers

Often PRs seem to be given a fixed amount which they then split up to get a certain number of bloggers per promotion - e.g. £600 gets you 10 bloggers at £60.

This seems to be a very random way of doing it.  You would surely get far better value by picking two bloggers with engaged audiences in your sector for £300 each who you know would do a great job than randomly assigning small bits of budget to bloggers whose output may be of varying quality.

And wouldn't it be better to build a long term relationship with those bloggers so that there is two way dialogue between not only you and the blogger, but their audience as well?

Despite the fact that there have been bloggers for years, the industry (if that is the right word) is very much in its infancy with everyone feeling their way to see what works and what doesn't.

This is why collaboration should be a long term thing not just a one-off for a particular campaign, the results of which may not even be measured.

If you are considering working with bloggers then they should form part of your longer term tactical marketing plan - and their input often sits closer to advertising than it does to PR.

Budgeting for blogger input as part of your advertising strategy may be a far more practical approach than trying to shoehorn it into your PR consultancy fees whilst trying to keep the cost as low as possible.

Working with great bloggers should be considered as an investment, not just another line on the marketing expenditure spreadsheet.

If you want to know more about how a blogger could help you, then get in touch.  My contact details and all my statistics are on my Media page or email linda.hobbis@motherdistracted.co.uk.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

10 Tips To Spring Clean Your Workspace

As spring turns to summer and the temperature starts to rise, it can uncomfortable working indoors. Now is a good time to make the most of your workspace by getting it prepared for the warmer weather. You really don't want to be rooting through endless paperwork to find vital statistics when you're close to a meltdown!

Workspace with desk and lamp

Here are some simple steps you can take which will make you more organised and a little healthier too!

1.  Clear out old paperwork and shred confidential documents.

But don't forget that some documents need to be kept for tax purposes.  HMRC says that records must be kept for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year and they may also check your records to make sure you are paying the right amount of tax.  I like to keep a hard copy print out of my records to be on the safe side.

2. Invest in some new files.

Even though many documents can be stored on your Google drive or in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on your desktop, you may still need to keep hard copy documentation of items such as invoices and statements (see 1. above!).

You may as well have pretty files that you enjoy using - or at least ones strong enough to withstand regular use.

3.  Improve the air quality

Believe it or not there are actually house plants it is almost impossible to kill.  I have to confess my track record isn't exactly impressive but you can improve your indoor air quality with them.

Plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide which is then turned into oxygen through photosynthesis.

You could try Spider Plants, Weeping Fig or Peace Lilies to name a few.

If you tastes are more esoteric, you could try a Himalayan Salt lamp which will also cleanse and deodorize the air.

And of course a decent desk fan will work wonders in the heat.

4. Invest in some VELUX blinds to block out the sun

Not only will decent blinds help keep you cool, but removing the glare of sunlight from your workstation will stop you squinting at the screen and getting a headache.

Giving your windows a thorough clean both inside and out will help too.

In addition, you can get an anti-glare screen for your computer which will help make reading easier.

5. Keep hydrated

Make sure you have a good supply of fresh water to hand and if you are fuelled by coffee perhaps invest in a one cup coffee maker.  Try to incorporate water-rich foods into your snacks and lunches - salad, fruits and vegetables.

6.  Disinfect!

Thoroughly disinfect your keyboard and your phones which can harbour more germs and bacteria than the average toilet seat!

keyboard and glasses

7.  Use Visual Aids

If you are a visual person, why not include a noticeboard for planning or a whiteboard for scribbling down your flashes of inspiration.

Some like to have their vision board in front of them - a wishlist of their hopes, dreams, ambitions and goals. The theory is that by having these things in front of you, you are more likely to manifest them in real life.  

8. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

Make sure you have an adequate sized bin.  We have 2, the second being for recyclable material (all the Amazon packaging!) and don't forget you can recycle the shredded paper from your shredder too (great as bedding for mice and hamsters!).

Gradually the aim should be to move to a completely paperless office but most of us aren't quite there yet.

9.  Protect your health

You could also think about wrist and ankle supports if you are going to be spending a lot of time typing to avoid conditions such as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Most importantly, make sure you get regular screen breaks to rest your eyes and get up and walk about every 45 minutes or so.

My physio says he would not dream of sitting down for longer than this at a stretch if he could possibly help it.

Many doctors consider sitting to be the new smoking and recently leading doctor Sir Muir Gray caused controversy by claiming that Type 2 Diabetes is caused simply by lack of exercise

10. Spring clean your work bag

It's also worth carrying a mini-kit of essentials with you to help stay cool and fresh throughout the day.

Make sure your workspace meets your needs and is a pleasant place to work.  After all you will be spending the bulk of your time there and, for most of us, far longer than we spend with our families unless you are lucky enough to work from home.

Some employers frown upon personal items such as family photos so you may have to restrict your self expression to funky stationery and a cactus that reminds you of your boss!

*collaborative post with VELUX

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Is Your Work Life Damaging Your Health?

Work can be tough for just about everyone. There's nothing particularly surprising about that. If it were easy and fun all of the time it wouldn't be called work, would it? It's completely natural to find yourself unwilling to even get out of bed from time to time. Of course, when that starts to be more of the rule than the exception, then there's a chance that you may have more of a problem than the standard job frustrations.

A really bad job can have a serious negative impact on your life in a lot of ways. It can take away a passion for something you used to care about, it can damage your personal relationships, and sometimes, if it's really bad, your job can actually end up being hazardous to your health. It might seem unlikely, but there's actually a much better chance than you might think that your job is damaging your body in some pretty significant ways. In order to help you prevent this from happening, here are a few ways that your work can damage your health, and what you can do to stop it.

The hours are too long

Image Source

There's an incredibly dangerous assumption made by far too many employers that their workers are always happy to do overtime. Not only that but many employees are made to feel as though they don't actually have any choice in the matter. People often think that they will be punished, passed over for promotions or worse, if they don't volunteer for every single piece of overtime that comes up.

Now, there's nothing wrong overtime in and of itself, but when it starts to take up huge amounts of your life, then it can lead to some serious problems. Exhaustion is one of the most common sources of workplace illness after injuries. If you're working something like fifty hours a week then you're not going to be able to concentrate, you're going to feel exhausted all the time, and it's going to negatively impact just about every aspect of your life. Not only that but studies have shown that people who work for ten hours or more a day are at increased risk of heart disease as well. Make sure that you speak to a member of human resources to find out what your rights are. You'll find that your employer can't penalise you just for wanting to work your contracted hours. Then you can take more time to rest, and you'll not only feel better, but you'll be a more productive employee as well.

You hate what you do

Few things in life are more frustrating than getting stuck in a job you hate. Spending eight or more hours a day doing something that you're not even remotely interested in can be enough to practically suck the life right out of you. Not only is it inevitably going to be very boring, but working a job like this can make you lose all sense of direction in life. Feeling like their job is pointless is one of the most common complaints among people suffering from depression. If you feel as though you're suffering from depression, then you should always speak to a professional, but you might also find that the best thing to do is to remove yourself from that job altogether. Of course, being unemployed and doing nothing isn't really going to solve the problem either. The best thing that you can do is to find a job that you really love. If you're the artistic type, then try something creative. Becoming a freelance writer or blogger is a fantastic option and gives you the kind of creative freedom that might be otherwise lacking. Or if you feel like you'd get more out of a job where you spent your time helping people, there are lots of nurses vacancies in hospitals all over the country! Being able to do something that you genuinely care about it going to help you find a much greater sense of direction and purpose in life, potentially helping to pull you out of that malaise.

Too much pressure

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Not everyone is meant to be a manager or business owner, and that's just fine. After all, sometimes you don't want your work to be your entire life. This is especially true if you have kids. With kids, you'll find yourself tired enough as it is without also dealing with employees, business finances and all of the other pressure and responsibilities that come with a high-level position. Stress isn't just something that can cause problems with your mental state either, too much stress and pressure from work can have a nasty impact on your physical well-being as well. Stress has been linked to heart disease, hair loss, weight gain, as well as many other alarming symptoms. If you feel as though the amount of pressure that your job is constantly dumping on you is causing you real harm, then it might be time to step back. Perhaps you need to drop down to a position with slightly less responsibility, or it might even be worthwhile dropping down to part-time hours in order to spend more time focussing on your family life. Whatever is best for you, it's a good idea to talk to your employer. The chances are that they'll be more than happy to support you and help you find an appropriate balance. This also might be a sign that you’re not working the right job. A career where you’re in charge of other people such a management role might simply be too much pressure and you’d be better off doing something with a little easier. Retail and service industry jobs allow you to stay busy and active without constantly piling on the kind of pressure than an office manager might deal with.

You're constantly sitting at a desk

Far too many jobs these days leave people just sat behind a desk for eight hours a day or more. Not only does this mean that many people are spending their entire days completely sedentary but it can also lead to some pretty serious back problems. The vast majority of people who work desk jobs and spend their days at a computer aren't sitting in a position that is either safe or comfortable. There are a few ways to deal with this. A standing desk is a great option and can also allow you to stretch your legs and stay active even while you're working. You can also get padding and back support for office chairs that encourage you to maintain the correct posture all day. Even something as simple and easy and just standing up and doing a short walk around the office every half an hour or so can work wonders to combat the stiffness and soreness that can often result from spending all day sitting behind a desk. There are also plenty of jobs that you can do instead that allow you to stay active. Working in a retail store allows you to be on your feet moving around all day and landscaping and gardening are often ranked as some of the healthiest jobs available.

Image Source

It's often surprising to people that many of their health issues can often be chalked up to their work life. Luckily, as this list shows, many of these things can be dealt with pretty easily before that become too serious. However, if you find that any of the symptoms that work can cause become severe or overly persistent, then it's crucial that you go and see a medical professional immediately. They will not only be able to advise you the best possible ways to counteract the effects of your job, but the doctor may also want to sign you off sick for a little while until you're fully recovered. There's no sense trying to push yourself too hard when all that's going to happen is that you're going to burn out and make things far, far worse in the long run. There's nothing wrong with needing some time away from work to rest and recover. Not only is it going to do you a world of good but it's also going to help you come back to work feeling more fired up and ready than ever.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

We all need a helping hand in our lives at some time or another. We can often rely on our partners and relatives, but it is important to also remember that we can always ask our friends whenever we need some help as well!

After all, there is that old saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’!

Do you want to be there for your friends as often as you can? There are various ways you can offer them your help.

Here are some very common situations in which they might get a bit stressed out. If you know that a close friend of yours is going through one of these, don’t be scared to ask them if they could do with a hand. I’m sure they will enthusiastically take you up on your offer!


A New Baby

There is nothing quite as stressful as welcoming a new baby into your home! Sure, it is a very happy time that is filled with joy, but it can be very difficult to deal with all the changes, especially for new mums.

If one of your friends has just had a new baby, you should let her know that you are there for her to help her out with anything she needs.

That might just be some words of wisdom or advice if you already have kids. But there might also be some practical stuff that you can help her with too.

You will no doubt know just how tiring living with a newborn can be, so one nice idea is to offer to look after the baby whenever she needs to take a well-earned nap.

If you have any old clothes or toys that your kids no longer use, you could consider passing them on to the newborn. Baby things are very expensive, and I’m sure your friend will really appreciate this thoughtful gift!


Planning A Child’s Birthday Party

Once the newborn has grown up, there will be a big birthday bash to plan each year!

These are very easy to do when kids are young, as babies and toddlers won’t demand too much for their party. In fact, many parents simply organize a small gathering at home with close friends and relatives.

However, things can get very stressful once the child grows up and starts to make demands!

If you know a friend is struggling to plan their child’s party, you should offer to help them out. For instance, why not say that you will take care of the food?

You could also help with a variety of other small jobs. Offer to ring around a few different venues to see who can offer the best price, or help your friend post out all the invitations.

No matter how small the job is, I’m sure it will be a big help for your friend!


Moving House

Another extremely stressful situation to go through is moving house.

There is a lot to organize and plan in order for moving day to go very smoothly, such as packing and hiring some movers.

If your friend is dreading their upcoming moving day, offer a helping hand to them. You could nip around to their house and help them pack up their final few things before the movers arrive.

Another great idea is to take care of their kids while they are packing and sorting things out. Having the kids around while your friend and her partner are trying to get on will only slow them down and cause them to get stressed out.

Taking them away for the day will certainly help your friend out.

It would also be a nice gesture to help them to organize a housewarming party. You could buy them a few gifts, like hampers with prosecco in them and send out invites to friends and family.

It doesn’t have to be a huge occasion; just a small gathering in their new home will be enough to help them celebrate!


Job Troubles

No one wants to go through a difficult period at work.

If you think your friend is having trouble in their job, for whatever reason, you should offer them a shoulder to cry on or just be there ready to turn the kettle on whenever they need a strong cup of tea and a chat!

More often than not, just being there to talk through their problems with them will be enough to take a large load off their shoulders.

But there may sometimes be other ways you can help. For instance, if your friend ever needs a character reference, you should offer to write them one.

One reason why our jobs can become so stressful is because more and more people have to work longer hours. If this is the case for your friend, offer to pick up her kids from school and look after them until she or her partner can pick them up. That way, the don’t have to worry about expensive childcare.


Relationship Worries

Do you have a suspicion that your friend’s relationship is going through a rocky patch?

If so, invite them round for a brew or glass of wine and see if she will open up to you about things.

Simply talking through problems will be a great way to help her out. They do say that a problem shared is a problem halved, after all!

However, if she doesn’t open up to you, then you shouldn’t force her to. I’m sure that she will in her own time.

If your friend is going through a divorce, all of this emotional support will be a great help.

You should also try to organise as many nights out and catch ups over coffee as possible so that you can take her mind off things.

Let her know that she can give you a call, no matter the time, if she ever needs to have a chat with someone!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can be there for all your friends!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Best Ways of Making Some Extra Money on the Side

When finances are tight, there are two options available to you: make some cutbacks to reduce your outgoings or try to increase your income. The latter is not easily achieved, particularly if you want to, say, double your salary but making a little bit of extra cash is certainly do-able.

In order to give your income a slight boost, you won’t have to take up a second job, in fact it might simply involve monetising something that you already do. If you’re looking to make a little bit of extra money on the side, here are some of the ways you can do so.

Cash tucked under a counter
Image credit: Pexels

Sell your unwanted stuff

There are a few ways of earning extra money that also come with added benefits – and selling your unwanted stuff is certainly one of them. Over the years, everyone acquires a few items that they no longer want or need but which they inexplicably hang onto. These items are not only useless, but they also take up space, meaning a good clear out is in order.

There are now a wide range of online outlets that let you sell your unwanted goods and the fast-paced consumer-centric life that many of us lead suggests that there are plenty of items worth sellingOld gadgets such as laptops and mobile phones are one of the most popular items people trade in for cash, however, if you're looking to sell something like your laptop then the one main question you'll have is 'Where can I sell my laptop?"


There are now more blogs than ever before, with every conceivable topic being covered, from technology to travel. If you enjoy writing then there really is no barrier to you starting your own blog. There a variety of free hosting options available to you and you can write as often as you like, about whichever topic you like.

In addition, if your blog starts to gain a dedicated online following, there’s a strong possibility that it could make you some money. Advertising revenue is one way of generating some extra cash and you could also let brands pay for guest blog posts. Although you should always start your blog because you’re passionate about your subject matter, the extra income certainly comes as a bonus. Plus, all you need for it to become successful is to write regularly and from the heart.

Offer a helping hand

If you’re the sort of person that enjoys helping others, then you could offer your time in exchange for a small fee. Apps like TaskRabbit let you create a profile where you list your particular skills, the hours you are able to work and your rate. Once that’s done you simply match up to people that need a task completed and head on over. Tasks can range from the relatively straightforward, like taking out the garbage to more complicated like DIY projects.

Other outlets, like Fiverr, host a similarly broad range of jobs, with prices starting from as low as $5. While this may not seem like much, many of the jobs will not take you long to complete. This means that anytime you find a spare moment you could be earning yourself a bit of extra cash. It might not be a lot, but every little bit helps.

Take up a creative hobby

If you have a creative hobby, then you could already have a money-making method that is going untapped. Whether you knit, write, paint, or express yourself in any other way, you could turn your creations into cash.

Arts and crafts are very popular at the moment and you’ll be able to sell your wares through online auction sites or specialist outlets like Etsy. Alternatively, if you’d rather take the old-fashioned approach, a local market or car-boot sale also provides the perfect opportunity to make a bit of extra money on the side.

Make some shrewd investments

When you hear the word “investment,” you might think of huge corporations or suited individuals running around Wall Street, but small scale investments can work well too. There are a host of online resources to get you up to speed and mobile apps are available to let you manage your investments from your smartphone.

Of course, no investment is without risk, so only use money that you can afford to lose. On the plus side, however, a successful investment counts as passive income, so there’s not much work you have to do, except for keeping an eye on those share prices.

Share the knowledge

If you have knowledge in a particular field, then sharing it could also make you some extra cash. Digital technologies have opened the teaching field so anyone can get involved. You could start off by creating a few YouTube tutorials on the subject of your choice to see if teaching suits you before moving on to more bespoke tutoring platforms.

Website like Udemy let you create your own online courses, which you sell to interested students. The great thing is that you get to choose the subject and teach the material in any way you like.

Or share your home.

The sharing economy is big business and you could get in on the action by sharing your home. Airbnb lets you rent out a room, or the entire property, to tenants on a short-term basis. On the one hand, this does mean inviting strangers into your home, but on the other you will get to meet lots of interesting new people.

Renting out your home in this way works particularly well if you are going on holiday. While you're away and your property remains empty, you can pay off part of the holiday by letting a fellow traveller stay in your home.

Answer a few questions

Information is worth money to businesses and brands, which means that you could earn some extra cash simply by answering a few questions. Research studies and online questionnaires won’t take up much of your time, but will result in you having a little bit of extra pocket money. And what could be easier than answering a few questions?

Friday, 10 February 2017

For Mums Returning To Work - Could This Be The Answer?

When I left Swansea University in 1985, I had a shiny new English Literature degree and very little practical experience of the working world.

At 17 I was a Saturday girl in F. W. Woolworths on the make-up counter and still remember the excitement of Pick 'n' Mix sweets.  You could even buy broken biscuits by the pound. Good times!

You can work anywhere in the world as a PA

But it became clear that, at 21, I had to get some practical skills and fast - before testing my parents' patience to the limit.

So I studied a Diploma for Personal Assistants - typing, shorthand, law, economics, marketing and communication.

This was shortly before the business world switched on its collective PCs and life was never the same again.

I honestly believe that it was the skills I gained as a PA which eventually allowed me to get an entry level marketing job and work my way up.

It's not much different today for graduates and school leavers.  Jobs are in short supply and employers understandably want employees who can 'hit the ground running'.

And it's even tougher for mums returning to the workplace.

When I left my last job, I was Practice Director and Head of Marketing for a large Welsh law firm. Walking back into that role after almost 10 years would be a huge challenge!

Part time jobs are in short supply, particularly those with hours that fit around school times.

But one solution may be to do as I did all those years ago and train as a personal assistant.

Today more and more employers recognise the need to attract and retain well qualified staff and many allow home-working on non-critical days to create a more flexible working schedule.

Lots of office tasks can also be carried out remotely - for example diary management, organising meetings and preparation of documents.

In fact, virtual assistants are also becoming more popular and I know of some fellow bloggers who employ them to handle their social media work.

These are careers that offer great flexibility and would complement other home-working jobs.

So what exactly does a personal assistant (PA) do?

In my days as a PA to the chairman of a construction company, I found this included anything from buying the wife a gift, picking up dry-cleaning and ensuring the right sandwich was ready to eat at midday precisely.

Things have changed a little today (although if you watched "The Devil Wears Prada" you might take a different view).

PAs work closely with senior managerial or directorial staff to provide administrative support, usually on a one-to-one basis.

It's your job to help them make the best use of their time by dealing with secretarial and administrative tasks.

For example:-

* creating and maintaining office systems such as data management and filing
* handling travel arrangements
* presentations preparation (research, document preparation, photocopying, meeting arrangements)
* screening phone calls, enquiries and requests
* meeting and greeting visitors
* organising and maintaining diaries and making appointments
* dealing with incoming email and post
* producing documents, briefing papers, reports and presentations
* organising and attending meetings and ensuring the manager is well prepared for meetings
* liaising with clients, suppliers and other staff.

Starting salaries are between £17,000 and £25,000 but in central London these can range from £22,000 to £30,000 rising to £50,000 in Executive PA positions, depending on the level of experience and the type of business.

You can find some excellent PA courses in London or you could try contacting your local authority for a list of colleges which might offer something similar if you live elsewhere in the UK.

Make no mistake - a PA position can be very influential indeed and I think it's an excellent stepping stone to a higher managerial role in time.

And there's nothing like being a PA for learning the valuable people skills you need to succeed - no matter what the job!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

20 Tips To Help You Keep Your Cool With Your Boss

There comes a time in our working lives when we feel as if we have been pushed too far.  

Whether it's just one badly conceived project too many with a deadline only God could meet, or a task delegated by someone whose management style close mirrors that of Animal from the Muppets, the urge to lose it rears its ugly head. 

Exasperated working woman - anger management with your boss
Is your boss driving you to distraction?
Let me share some of the things I learned during my 20+ years working in a corporate enviroment, culminating in my role as Practice Director and Head of Marketing for a large law firm.

You might have heard of "The Peter Principle" which says, simply, that "managers rise to the level of their incompetence" and lord knows, I've seen this borne out a fair few times.  

But when you're pushed to the edge,  in today's economically uncertain times and with hoards of younger, possibly better qualified, and more ambitious workers nipping at your heels, you need to think smart and act smarter.

Here's my 20 point primer.  Go get a cup of coffee.  Take 5 minutes.  Breathe and read.

1.  Calm down

You can't afford to make any rash decisions or take any actions which will result in a summons by HR for performance related issues.  

That way unemployment lies. 

You have bills to pay and a career you've probably trained hard for and spent years working towards. 

2.  Don't cry

I know some people actually cry when they're angry, rather than just upset, but particularly in a corporate environment, you'll look like you can't handle it.  

If you must let it all out, hide in the toilets till you feel you can face everyone again.

3. Consider what is actually being asked of you

If you have a rocky relationship with your boss, it's easy to assume instructions come with a hidden agenda.  

This isn't always the case.  

Sometimes your boss gets dumped on too.  

What are you actually being asked to do?  

Is it a reasonable request?

4. Don't take on a task you don't understand

If you don't know what you're being asked to do, ask for clarification up front. 

If it's a task you are supposed to understand, you need to ask yourself why you're struggling with it. 

Can a colleague help you out?  

5. Clarify the deadline

When does the task need to be completed.  

Is it reasonable?  

Asking for a report by the end of the day may be perfectly reasonable if it's comprised of data you were supposed to be keeping tabs on.  

6. Is it your fault?

Have you let things slide, for one reason or another?  

If things have been getting on top of you, rather than going off like a fire cracker, it's time for some honest self-reflection.  

If your heart isn't in your job, you may be better off thinking about making a move.  

See my post on hating your job.

7.  Do you need training?

Now is probably not the best time to ask for it, but if you feel you need training (for example in spreadsheets or Powerpoint), make a mental note to discuss this with your boss.  

A note of caution though, I'd advise against asking for training for aspects of your job you were expected to know when you were employed, unless you can get away with asking for a 'refresher course'.  

8.  Can you delegate it?

Remember that when you delegate, you are delegating the responsibility but not the authority aka the buck still stops with you.  

I'm sure you know in your heart which elements of a project are yours and yours alone, and which can be delegated.  

9.  Did you delegate it and it's gone horribly wrong?

Following on from 8. if you did not delegate well, for example you didn't give clear instructions and deadlines, then you may have a problem (plus this is a bit of a case of the pot calling the kettle black, don't you think?).  

Did you delegate to the appropriate level of expertise?  

Getting junior staff to do the bits you don't like is just asking for trouble.  

If they get it wrong, you're still in trouble and they're unhappy.  If they do a sterling job, you can bet your boss will know it wasn't you who did it.  

10.  Document it, document it, document it!

For heavens' sake, make notes, save emails, back up files on your PC, take screenshots. 

11. Remember to C.Y.A. (Cover Your A**)

If you delegate something verbally, follow it up with a confirmation email. 

Queries to your boss can also be recorded the same way.  

Just make sure that the emails are appropriate to the project concerned and written as professionally as possible.

12.  Communicate without emotion, in professional language

There's a world of difference between "so you want me to prepare a report on XYZ about DrearyCorp for you to discuss at the board meeting on Thursday" and "so even though I'm completely snowed under, you want me to drop everything, stay late and scrabble together some data". 

Repeat after me. "Attitude is a Luxury".

13.  Manage your time

Break the project down into manageable chunks.  

Estimate how long each piece will take.  

Assess which tasks can be delegated.  

Call a brief team meeting if you need to so that everyone is clear about what is required.  

Check in with team members so you know whether you are on course to meet your deadline. 

Having a quick look at Facebook and three cups of coffee while you "get your head round it" will not help, trust me.

14.  Offer solutions

I'm sure you've heard the hoary old management chestnut "I don't want you to bring me problems, I want you to bring me solutions".  

Well, sorry but it's true. 

Rather than just carry out the project like an automaton, get involved.  

How would you deal with the issue?  

What would your approach be? 

The solutions you offer may make your boss look good, make you look good and make you a more attractive candidate for promotion.

15. Use positive body language

Parents will be familiar with the phrase "take that face off" or "don't look at me like that when I'm talking to you".  

Yes, I'm afraid even as adults we are prone to what body language experts refer to as "leakage". 

Looking like a bulldog chewing a wasp when someone is trying to delegate to you is not a good thing! 

Also be aware that crossing your arms looks defensive and worse, stretching back and supporting your head with your arms is tantamount to saying "I am listening, but basically I think you're an idiot".

16. Build bridges

If you have a rocky relationship with your boss, this could be an opportunity to build bridges and get to know them a bit.  

Could you try to suspend your frustration for a short while and see things from their point of view?

17. Socialise

If the boss invites you out for a drink after work, are you the one that always has to rush home? (I'm not including parents in this obviously).  

I was a bit like that when I was younger, prioritising the needs of my obese and usually completely inert cat over the social discomfort of making small talk with management. 

Looking back,  

I probably missed the chance to get to know my bosses which would only have improved our working relationship.

18.  Everybody's Human

And everybody wants to be liked.  

Sometimes, your boss will have problems you know nothing about.  It doesn't hurt to cut them a little slack sometimes.


19.  Ask, are you being bullied?

If you feel that you are being unfairly dumped on, or set up to fail, or that your treatment is a form of bullying, then you must take action.  

Keep a diary to record the events of bullying. 

Keep pertinent emails.  

Make sure you ask yourself, however, if you are contributing to the behaviour.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, personalities do clash but are you being unnecessarily unhelpful or combative?

20.  Take it to HR

Human Resources has a difficult role to play, keeping both management and staff happy.  

That said, if you feel your treatment is unjust, you must talk to HR. 

You will probably find that if you are having problems with a particular boss, others will be too.

Keeping silent helps nobody. 

Your complaint may actually help HR to deal with an unpleasant boss, particularly if you can provide solid evidence.

So, keep calm and carry on, as they say, but with a strategy.  

A bit of honest and open reflection may save hours of future misery, for you and your colleagues.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Working Mum Debate: Work From Home Vs. Back To The Office

After pregnancy, many mothers have the choice between going back to work and staying at home with their child.

Nowadays, mostly thanks to the technological evolutions of the past several decades, there are many more work options that enable employees to work from home.

woman in office lounging on a bean bag working on her Mac

This is a concept especially interesting to mothers who wish to both spend time with their young children and not miss out on work.

These types of work often come in the form of "freelancing", and can be found through simple Google-searches or through any of the multiple freelancing platforms.

These professions predominantly include: freelance writing, freelance accounting, graphic design, web-development, marketing, teaching and translating.

On the other hand, going back to work in most cases means going back to the same company the mother worked at before her pregnancy.

However, there are also cases when a mum may wish to pursue a different career path. In those cases check what are the most in-demand jobs in your area and get yourself familiar with what qualifications you may need. Have a look also at mock interviews online, such as for example nursing interview questions for those interested in becoming part of the UK's ever growing healthcare industry.

With so many options out there, let’s explore the pros and cons of both working from home and going back to the office.

Work from home

Some pros of work from home are having no commute and cost savings (like those from childcare). You also get to be in your own space, which is said to inspire creativity and improve productivity. Plus, if you need to get recharged and enthused, you can spend time playing with your child instead of scrolling through social media in an office setting.

With some organization (and luck), you also could schedule your day around your child’s general nap or school schedule.

Some cons of work from home include the need for self-motivation and discipline.

You’ll have little to no socialization with like-minded adults, which means you’ll have to look elsewhere to bounce ideas around.

It can also be quite difficult to spend time with your child for 15 minutes during a work break, then having to close the door for two hours while you take a business call and can hear them cry from the other room.

Back to the office

The two main pros of going back to the office are interaction with other professionals and collaboration.

You are also able to focus more of your direct attention on your work while working in an office, as there is no possibility of your 3 old banging on the door and causing a temporary mind shift back into home mode.

Though the idea of absence making the heart grow fonder is pretty out there, it also makes you savor the time reading a storybook with your child even more.

Cons of going back to the office are headed by having to leave your kids everyday. Daycare drop-offs or trying to slip out the door while the babysitter attempts to distract them can be really difficult.

Working in an office can also mean having to put up with your company’s work environment, which can be loud, distracting and not as conducive to productivity as the work routine that normally gets your creative juices flowing.

No matter what work option you prefer, having the possibility to even have this debate is huge.

Without recent technological advances, many would still be debating between raising kids and working.

Now you can change your mind as you see fit and it is up to you to explore what inspires your productivity, suits your family and makes you the happiest with your work-life balance.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Small Business Owner? Will Your Kids See You This Christmas Day?

472,000 small business owners will be working every day over the Christmas holidays without a single day off, according to a survey commissioned by business for sale marketplace, mybizdaq.com.

With the rising costs of hiring staff, small business owners are sacrificing more of their own holiday time to keep their business running and spending less time with their families and kids.

MacBook on Bed

A total of 2.8 million small business owners will be working in some capacity over the Christmas period. 34% of these say they are planning to work as they can't afford to take the time off. A further 17% of owners say they are unable to take time off as they do not have enough staff to cover this period.

The survey found that the cost of employing staff is a growing issue, with 2.3 million small business owners not hiring additional staff due to rising costs of employment.

This makes grim reading for parents whose kids are just setting out in the the UK workplace and for mothers looking to return to work.

Apprenticeships aren't considered an option either. Only 14% of small businesses are planning to take on an apprentice in 2017, despite the incentives available for businesses hiring one.

Additionally the National Minimum Wage and the Living Wage was cited as a growing reason for not being able to hire employees.

Christmas isn’t the only time that small business owners are having trouble taking time off though, as over a third of small business owners (34%) have only taken 10 or fewer days of holiday in 2016.

The average amount of holiday days taken was 17, which is still over two weeks below the entitlement for an average full-time UK worker.

With over 60% of small business owners foregoing their Christmas break and with 43% citing high taxes as a reason contributing towards having to work such long hours, it's clear the Government has much do to in order to improve the working climate and to reduce the UK unemployment figure.

More information on the report can be found at www.mybizdaq.com.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Why You Don't Have As Much Money As You Want To Have

If you started a discussion with just about anyone you passed on the street and asked them about their financial situation, they’d likely admit that they would like more money.


Many people don’t have as much money as they want to have, and they don’t know what to do about it. If you want to know why you don’t have as much money as you’d like, this post might open your eyes!

You Haven’t Got A Handle On Your Finances

You must have a handle on your finances if you want more money. Make sure you know how much you have coming in and going out. Make sure you know what you spend and what on. Create budgets for everything. It isn’t about scrimping and saving, it’s about being smart with your money and knowing exactly what’s going on in your accounts. You can download apps for this, or you can simply make a note of everything on your phone.

You Don’t Plan Your Purchases

If you don’t plan your purchases, you likely look at your finances later on and realise you have essentials to buy and end up with less money than you should have. If you want to buy something, make sure you think about it for at least a week before splashing the cash. If you still feel like you want it after a few weeks, then it could be a worthwhile purchase. In some cases, you’ll forget all about the urge you had and save money as a result!

You Don’t Look For Discounts And Deals

Looking for discounts and deals can help you to save money on pretty much anything you buy. There are so many places you can look for them, including sites like DontPayFull.co.uk. You might only save a small percentage or get free delivery if you’re buying online, but it will all add up.

You Don’t Have Financial Goals

Having financial goals is important if you want to have more money in the future. How will you make a plan to work towards it if you don’t have a goal? It’ll simply be a wish! Set your financial goals for a year from now, 3 years, 5 years, and so on. This will help you to stay focused!

You Have A Bad Attitude Towards Money

Many people don’t realise that they don’t have that much money due to their attitude towards money. You might think this is irrelevant, but some of the most successful people in the world would disagree with you. A money mindset and positive attitude towards money is vital if you want more of it. Get rid of you negative beliefs and feelings around money and it’ll begin to flow to you more easily. Try it!

Hopefully this post has cleared up a few things about you and your relationship with money. Use the tips right away and you won’t believe how much your financial situation can change! Do you have tips of your own? Leave them below!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Mums Forced Out Of Work Due To Lack Of Flexible Jobs

In my time in the corporate world, it quickly became clear that all jobs were not created equal. Time after time I would see women in relatively senior positions return from maternity leave only to find out that their role had mysteriously been redefined.  Or, if they did request a more flexible working arrangement, this would be frowned upon and deemed as unfair to the rest of the staff (often predominantly women).

women working at pc

Many of the firms I worked for considered themselves above the constraints of employment law - or at least they knew very well how to circumvent them.

As usual, mums and those without kids were pitted against each other.  Occasionally there might be a half-hearted attempt at a 'job share' but, in general, the working lives of women returners were often made so untenable that they left.

So it was no surprise to read that Workingmums.co.uk is calling for improved education on employment rights and toughening up of legislation

Nearly one in five (18%) working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to Workingmums.co.uk's annual survey published on 18th October this year.

The survey of over 2,000 women in Workingmums.co.uk's 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter (26%) of mums in work have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter (27%) said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

For women currently on maternity leave the figures were higher: 35% of those who had had a flexible working request turned down had had it rejected on grounds other than reasons which are allowable under flexible working legislation. Some 68% said they did not feel the rejection was justified. However, 79% did not appeal. This was not surprising given only 5% appealed successfully. Some 41% of those on maternity leave said refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, yet 50% said they had not discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave.

The survey shows that availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mums, with some element of homeworking the most valued, particularly for those wanting to work full time. Other barriers included childcare costs - half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them returning to work.

Flexible working legislation was extended to all employees in 2014, but some provisions of the original legislation, such as the statutory right of appeal, were watered down.

The survey shows a divide between those women who have extremely flexible jobs (10%) and those who have no flexibility at all (9%) or whose jobs are not very flexible (26%).

It also reveals that many employers are failing to retain the skills of working mums after maternity leave. Some 60% of women said they changed jobs after maternity leave and 58% say they are interested in starting their own business or becoming a franchisee, with 40% of these actively pursuing ideas and plans. Research has shown that the ability to be more in control of their hours - not necessarily to work fewer hours - is a key driver for those women who want to start businesses after having children.

Some 64% are interested in retraining. A previous Workingmums.co.uk's survey showed a need for more flexible working and a desire to do something they considered more meaningful were behind many mums' interest in retraining.

The survey also showed: - job shares are still not used by many employers. Only 4% of women said they were in a job share, despite 55% wanting to work part time - 57% of working mums struggle with holiday and after school childcare - 46% use grandparents to reduce childcare costs - 38% pay no childcare costs as they use family/friends to cover pick-ups or work school-friendly hours.

Under flexible working legislation employers have a duty to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. Workingmums.co.uk also has concerns about the weakness of the legislation around the right of appeal and clearly the survey bears out those concerns since most who had their request rejected while on maternity leave did not appeal, even though 68% felt the reasons given for the rejection was not justified.

Workingmums.co.uk would like to see more efforts made both to promote the case for flexible working more widely and to educate women about their rights with regard to the legislation. They would also like policymakers to look at the case for reinstating a statutory right of appeal if a request is turned down as this would send an important message to employers that they must give serious consideration to requests and not just dismiss them out of hand.

It's really not good enough in 2016 is it.  And might I suggest that in this Anti Bullying Week, some employers dogged determination to discriminate against those with kids (including dads, many of whom face similar issues), is nothing less than bullying.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

How To Stay Healthy In The Office

Much has been written these days about the dangers of spending too long sitting down.  You may even have heard it said that "sitting is the new smoking".

Girl reading leaflet whilst sat at a computer in an office

Sitting for too long is said to cause the following:-

*increased blood pressure
*high blood sugar
*excess body fat around the waist
*abnormal cholesterol levels

You get the general picture.  I'm sure you've seen pictures of state-of-the-art standing desks where you literally stand in front of your desktop to work, or even desks where you can walk and exercise at the same time.

But how many businesses can afford to supply these to their staff?  And what can you do when your job involves sitting down all day at a computer?  Perhaps you work in a call centre or have an office role.

Not only does sitting for too long come with all the long-term risks mentioned above, sitting in a chair which does not properly support your back can give you problems and then there's the general fatigue and lack of mental alertness which a lack of fresh air brings.

Add in tired, gritty eyes and possible dehydration if there's no fresh water to hand or you don't get time for a cuppa and it's a recipe for poor health.

So what can you do to not only curb the effects of sitting all day, but stay healthy when you work in an office?

Here are some simple tips to try.

Have a healthy breakfast

Start the day with a healthy breakfast with some slow release carbs (e.g. porridge) or some protein (poached egg on toast).  Sugary cereal will do nothing to keep you feeling full for very long.

Snack wisely

Try to avoid the usual sugary sweets, biscuits and cakes.  On the other hand, don't be a total misery and always refuse the doughnuts and cupcakes the birthday boys and girls might offer.  You don't have to eat all of it (no, I've never managed that either) and don't forget to return the favour.  You don't have to buy one for yourself (once again, I've never managed that either).

You could bring some fruit, cubed cheese or some almonds to snack on which should keep you going till lunch.

Drink plenty of water

I appreciate this is incredibly basic advice but how many of us actually do it?  Mainlining on constant caffeine will leave you twitchy, hungry and dehydrated.

Take a break from the screen

Protect your eyes by taking regular screen breaks roughly every 20 minutes of so. This can be something simple like gazing out of the window for a few minutes.  If you're questioned you can say you're just refining your mastery strategy for business domination.

Get up and walk around

My physio says that sitting in one position for longer than 45 minutes is asking for trouble - and he should know because he's a football referee as well.

Do back exercises at home

You don't need a fully equipped gym - just a well padded exercise mat and about 15 minutes.  You can find some very simple, but effective back exercises on the NHS's website. Bear in mind that you need to do these consistently, even (and this is key) if your back feels OK.

Invest in some back support

You can get back support cushions, wrist and foot rests.  If you have problems talk to your HR department to see if there is anything they can supply.

Clean Your Desk

Yes I know.  It's not your job but since your keyboard, mouse and phone harbor germs, viruses and bacteria, frankly, I was quite happy to give my desk a weekly once-over with disinfecting wipes - particularly the phone!

There's something immensely satisfying about it too because you can go through your filing trays and sort out that 'wodge' of post you've been avoiding at the same time.

Wash Your Hands

It never fails to astound me how many people seem to have no clue what a toilet flush does.  I'm assuming these people just have a hole in the ground at home or a bucket.  Washing your hands is vital - and slathering your hands in hand-sanitizer is a good idea too.

Wash your own cup

I've worked in offices where mugs were just dumped in bowl of lukewarm soapy water and left to 'soak' overnight.  Your first morning cuppa would have the unmistakeable 'tang' of industrial washing up liquid and probably a colleague's lipstick.  Washing your own cup (even taking it home!) is a good idea.

And let's not even think about the microwave.  The same people who are toilet flush-averse seem to struggle with the idea that covering food means no baked bean or pasta sauce explosion.  Yeuch.

Ask about Health & Safety Training

Lots of businesses these days train staff in-house to take on vital roles such as first-aiders and fire wardens. There is also a growing need for workplace health & safety experts, ideally located in-house as part of the management team, so that the working conditions of the staff can be consistently monitored and adapted as the business grows.

Whilst workplace health and safety is often outsourced, it is possible to study for a NEBOSH Health & Safety Qualification online. (NEBOSH = National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) and you may find that your company is willing to help you take your career down this route. You could suggest a provider such as Sheilds NEBOSH Training UK

It is up to your employer to ensure that you work in as safe an environment as possible.  Your employer has a duty of care towards you.  An employment contract is a two-way agreement.

But sometimes, life being what it is, it is just sensible to make sure that we are looking after ourselves properly and speaking up when we see things that aren't right or are likely to endanger our colleagues.

You spend most of your waking hours at work.  Make sure this time isn't negatively affecting your health.
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