Top 5 Characteristics of a Modern Workplace

The term modern workplace is frequently used once an organization introduces new products or software. However, transforming into a modern workplace requires much more than a new software package. An organization must evolve into a flexible environment that allows for continued communication and collaboration.

With new products, software, and practices being created and implemented daily, businesses need to adapt in order to remain innovative and competitive. In fact, according to several sources, these three workplace practices will become extinct in the very near future: (1) Email as a primary communication tool; (2) Traditional office spaces; and (3) The 9-to-5 schedule.

Organizations, both established and emerging, are working to create more modern environments for their staff that includes advanced communication and many other collaborative ways for employees and management to work. However, the modern workplace means far more than just modern tools for the staff. True modernization is having a fully collaborative workplace that’s integrated with technology in order to boost productivity.

Below are five characteristics that typically make up a modern workplace:

1. They Have a Mobile Workforce

Allowing employees to work remotely is a change that many businesses have already adopted. By 2020, mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters (72.3%) of the U.S. workforce, according to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC). Most employees see the ability to work remotely as a huge benefit as it instantly introduces a more flexible work schedule. The ability to work remotely is a key aspect of the modern workplace for a few reasons. First, giving employees the option to work from a different location, such as their home, allows for a better work/life balance. They also don’t have to take as much time off from work  due to the added flexibility.

Second, new features make it easier to have your team spread out and still be in constant communication. Applications from Microsoft like Skype for Business and OneDrive allow for people to stay in touch easier. OneDrive is a cloud based storage system that users can upload files to and access from various locations. Documents you’re working on in your office computer can be accessed on your laptop at home as well. This makes getting information as immediate as possible, expanding your reach and ensuring increased productivity.

2. They Collaborate Effectively

What exactly does it mean to have a collaborative workplace? It means having all people and products working together to get more done in the most efficient way possible. 39% of employees surveyed in a recent study felt that people within their organizations did not collaborate enough, while 86% of executives and employees cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Office 365’s online services let teams share and edit documents, schedule meetings, and collaborate in real time. This gets rid of multiple versions of a document that needs to be combined. Applications like Microsoft Teams provide a central network for teams to work on projects together. Others like Basecamp cater to helping teams know who is working on what and how to collaborate effectively with the projects assigned. That’s the point of true collaboration: working together, seamlessly, to get the best for your business.

3. They are Smarter with their Data

Companies are collecting more data and information from customers than ever.  IDC reported that by 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second, for every person on Earth. With the massive influx of data, companies are in need of a better place to store it. What better way than to get rid of physical servers and switch to the more secure option of the cloud. The cloud offers more value and is more economical than traditional, physical storage.

Microsoft Azure is an integrated collection of cloud services to help businesses move faster, achieve more, and save money. This data is valuable and sometimes sensitive or confidential. With quite a few major breaches this past year, businesses need to be sure they have the best protection in place. Like any system, there is threat of attack but Microsoft Azure has been tested by the Security, Trust & Assurance Registry (STAR) and passed through three rounds of testing where many other companies stop after passing the first.

4. They Believe in Open Communication

A challenge many companies face while transitioning to a modern workplace is the idea of having decision makers separate from everyone else. Many new workers want to know what is going on within the company, like what decisions are being made and why. Open communication channels are a big step forward for companies.

Traditional email and the standard office meeting can only go so far. According to a survey conducted by Career Builder, 26% of employees think email is a major productivity killer, while 46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next. Group collaboration and social media tools may prove more beneficial. Yammer is a tool part of Office 365 that works as a private social media network for a business. It lets private groups be created and monitored by individuals or teams, such as an idea group run by one team where all can contribute. Modern workers want to feel valued at their companies, and they want their voices are being heard. Given that opportunity, employee loyalty and retention is certain to rise.

5. They Utilize Modern Tools

Tools are advancing at a rapid pace and your staff can benefit from being prepared on how to use the latest updates. Providing better tools and training leads to increased motivation, productivity, and engagement. More so, not using the most modern tools can keep your business from getting ahead. Imagine having a world full of smart phones, but your company still only had land lines. Whether it be tools or skills, it is important that your employees continue to grow and learn. Some organizations worry that investing in their employees will make it more likely for them to leave. According to the American Staffing Association, “68% of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy, while 55% of employees say they think they could advance professionally if they were offered greater training opportunities.” Employees want to feel valued and continually investing in their development benefits both the employee and the business.

Becoming a modern workplace is easier than you think. The best way to go about it is to invest in your employees and the technology they use. Simple adaptation can lead to bigger changes and better innovation for your business. Above all, having those two key pieces of staff and technology in top shape can help your business collaborate more. Which leads to more productivity in the long run.

Article from New Horizons

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Swift Momentum Donates to Future Champs

Swift Momentum gives back – Mandela Day Initiative – 18 July

Swift Momentum made a donation to Social Enterprise Future Champs, the program is run from their flagship gym built from repurposed shipping containers in Philippi East. Future Champs uses boxing training framed with personal development to engage and mentor youth. The project seeks to get brands on board so that they can take this pilot initiative to scale and expand their offering beyond boxing to other sports and activities. The gym provides a consistent, stimulating and caring environment where youth can access opportunities and experiences to equip them to develop into healthier, well-adjusted Future Champs of life.

How Telecommuting Increases Business Profits

Working from home is one of the most popular trends changing the modern workplace. Since 2005, telecommuting in the U.S. has grown 80 percent, and now, 3.7 million employees, or 2.8 percent of the population, work from home.

It’s easy to see why telecommuting has become a workplace trend. Today’s employees appreciate the flexibility that comes with telecommuting and are more productive and less stressed when working from home. Like employees, employers also experience benefits when they implement telecommuting policies, namely cost savings.

Are you curious about how you could save? Here are three significant ways telecommuting helps companies save money.

Lower Overhead

The most obvious cost saving that results from telecommuting is reduced overhead. Companies that don’t have to pay for employees’ office space and supplies can save quite a bit in a year. One study showed that if a company allowed an employee to work from home just half of the time, it would save on average $11,000 per employee, and each employee would save between $2,000 and $7,000.

When added up across the country, that’s more than $700 billion in total national savings in a single year, and a greenhouse gas reduction of the entire state of New York — a big factor for some employers like Dell, Xerox and Aetna.

Case Study: Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems implemented a telecommuting policy in 2007. The policy has eliminated 7,700 “seats” in physical offices, saved the company more than $255 million over four years and continues to save the company $68 million annually. The company also has 115 flex offices around the world that employees can go to if they need to work in a physical office.

Increased Productivity

Employees’ productivity has been shown to increase drastically when they work from home. Home offices aren’t nearly as distracting, and telecommuters are less likely to be interrupted midflow by a colleague stopping by to chat, an intercom announcement or other workplace distraction. Working from home can also help minimize tardiness since employees don’t have to deal with uncontrollable traffic and commuting.

Employees who work from home are also less likely to use sick time. Since employers lose $1,800 per employee per year on unscheduled absences, that cost saving adds up quickly.

Case Study: American Express

American Express is a great example of a company seeing increased productivity from telecommuting. After implementing a telecommuting policy, the company performed research and found that its teleworkers took 26 percent more calls and increased their business output by 43 percent — nearly an additional half of an employee — than their coworkers who worked in a physical office.

Reduced Attrition

Telecommuting has shown to lead to improved employee satisfaction, which ultimately lowers attrition and saves the costs associated with recruiting, hiring and training new employees.

One study found that 46 percent of companies that allow telework say it has reduced attrition, and 95 percent say telework has a high impact on employee retention. Losing long-term employees can cost a company between $10,000 and $30,000 each, so keeping them on board longer can result in massive cost savings in the long term.

Case Study: CiscoSystems

CiscoSystems has had a work-from-home policy for the past decade. The company’s Internet Business Solutions Group director, Gordon Feller, said the real driver for the policy was to retain talent, increase happiness and improve productivity. The company has since cited telecommuting as a way to keep attrition costs low and estimates it saves $277 million each year in productivity gains.

Other Cost Savings

In addition to these three main cost reductions, telecommuting policies can save companies money in other ways, including:

  • Lower healthcare costs: Telecommuting is shown to help employees lead healthier lives. One study found that home workers reported 25 percent lower stress levels, made healthier eating decisions and experienced a better work-life balance. All of these factors help employees lead healthier lives, which can ultimately reduce their healthcare costs.
  • Lower travel costs: Companies that operate virtually can save on costly business travel trips. Because they’re already leveraging video chat and remote communications platforms for day-to-day operations, they can also leverage them to decrease employee travel and travel costs.
  • Improved customer service: Alpine Access saw its remote agents’ performance improve drastically after implementing a work-from-home policy. Agents closed 30 percent more sales than the year before, and customer complaints decreased by 90 percent. Keeping customers happy will encourage them to return, improving profits and reducing the cost of finding new customers.

The thought of saving significant costs may be enough for you to consider implementing a telecommunication policy. You might also be attracted to the thought of your employees being more satisfied, more productive and happier. These are all great benefits that can result from a work-from-home policy.

However, you should be sure to think holistically when considering a telecommuting policy. Telecommuting has its benefits and can lead to business growth but may not be right for all cultures, teams and workplaces. Be sure to sit down with your leadership team to consider the pros and cons of implementing one at your office before making a decision.

Article from Productive Leaders

How long should you stay at a job if you aren’t being promoted?

Career advancement is a major factor in employee satisfaction. And while promotions have to be earned, employees shouldn’t linger too long at a company if they aren’t climbing the career ladder fast enough.

Early-career employees should aim to get a promotion around every three years, according to Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter.

“If you aren’t moving up after three years, there is a problem,” he said.

Title changes tend to slow as you advance in your career, but you should continue to take on additional responsibilities and grow your skill set.

“Ask for what you want and negotiate for what you want,” said Kathy Caprino, a career and executive coach. “I don’t think it looks great if your title hasn’t changed for seven years.”

Make sure you’re really ready for a promotion

Don’t let your ego be the only reason you want a promotion.

Be sure to understand the additional responsibilities and expectations that will come with the job if you get promoted.

“I’ve had many people who thought they should be promoted and wanted to be promoted and then they got promoted — usually into a managerial position — and then say, ‘what the hell did I want this for?'” said Peggy Klaus, author of “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It”.

Understand your company’s ecosystem

How your company is structured sets the pace of promotions.

Some companies have many positions and job titles, making promotions a common occurrence. Other businesses are more flat and have less layers of management, and therefore fewer positions to aspire to.

“Every organization is a living, breathing system — with its own rules and processes that govern how it functions and operates,” said Caprino. “Ask those who’ve worked there for years and have been successful to share with you the unspoken rules, as well as the stated guidelines.”

If you hear ‘no,’ ask for other things

If you are denied a title change, ask about other perks that could also increase your career growth and improve your work-life balance.

“Be specific what it is you want,” said Klaus.

Don’t be shy about asking for a more flexible work schedule, a pay raise or the opportunity to work in a different department or be trained on new skills.

Look good without a title change

Recruiters like to see growth on resumes and online profiles, but there are other ways to show advancement besides a change in title.

In the section where you outline your job responsibilities, detail any additional duties and projects you took on, and be specific with the results.

“Explain how your responsibilities have changed even if you held the same role,” said Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.” “Explain how you went from managing 50 people to 150 or a budget of $6 million to $12 million.”

Know when it’s time to go

If you’re working hard and exceeding your job duties and still getting passed over for a promotion, you could be leaving money on the table.

“The fastest way to increase your title and compensation is to change jobs … if that’s not happening internally,” said Siegel. “It used to be viewed as a negative if you were considered a job hopper, now it’s the norm.”

Sometimes the lack of promotion has nothing to do with your performance and there’s little you can do to fix the situation.

“If your boss is vague about what you need to do to get promoted, that is a sign you might not be getting promoted,” said Garfinkle.

And if your boss did set benchmarks, but then the goal posts keep changing — that’s also a red flag.

“If they do this and it becomes a pattern, that would be a big clue that they are never going to give this to me,” said Klaus.

The feeling of treading water at work can be detrimental to your productivity and damper your eagerness to continue to perform well.

“If your job has become easy and you aren’t getting promoted, it could signal that you need a bigger role or should look for other jobs,” said Siegel.

Article from CNN Business

Why do companies use python?

Today there are many popular and sophisticated web-programming languages. All of them, without doubt, deserve a close attention and have undeniable advantages. Every company and every task requires a special solution, that’s why we need them all. But what is so special about Python if, as everybody knows, it was chosen by such companies as Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Dropbox, Spotify, Quora, Reddit, and, of course, Google? There should be a solid explanation, and that’s what we are going to outline in this post.

This article is for:

  • Startups searching an acceptable language for their ideas implementation,
  • Programmers or students deciding what language to learn,
  • Companies willing to intercept the experience of IT leaders.

We’ll try to answer the questions concerning:

  • What is Python used for nowadays?
  • How the companies benefited from acquiring Python?
  • What are the advantages of this prominent language?

The roadmap is clear, then we start.

Python Development: Benefits & Features

Python is a general-purpose dynamic programming language with special syntax and extended code readability. It’s also very flexible as it embraces multiple paradigms of programming in one language.

Python was the leader of the fastest growing programming languages ranking in 2017 and one of the favorites for the start of learning software development. In 2018, it tends to strengthen the positions in both rankings.

This language doesn’t limit the coders in the areas of possible usage and system complexity. Despite this, the language pays enough attention to the code formatting. This makes it readable and maintainable a lot, which ensures the code will work longer and have fewer bugs.

The steps to do programming are reduced in Python compared to Java or C, that’s why it enables creating working product quicker and with fewer expenses. Add to these features an automatic memory management with really big standard library and see the undeniable better hand of this outstanding tool.

What is Python used for in web development? It allows building a solid responsive website or service with no limits on the complexity and number of users.

What also makes Python a great choice is the following.

Machine Learning Uses Python

There are many projects concerning sophisticated machine learning algorithms, which use Python. Such projects now are in trend and there are prospects that machine learning industry with its processing will grow into one of the leading fields. Correspondingly, Python will also establish as a leading technology for the field.

Data Science Close Match

Why use Python for Data Science? Its extended library contains ready-made methods for data processing. For the same reason, Python is used in many scientific projects now as it has outstanding data visualization features. The simplicity and clarity of the language enable us to create huge projects and complex things without messing up with piles of code.

Asynchronous Operations

Why use python for web development? Python is a multipurpose language. That means it should be equally useful for both small and global projects. The popularity of a service today means the necessity to handle a vast number of request each moment and high loads. This is exactly the task Python can deal with. The improved asynchronous operations give Python an opportunity to compete in reliability with such languages as Java, C#, JavaScript.

Metaprogramming

One of the main benefits of Python is being truly object-oriented. It considers everything to be an object, including its own functions, libraries, modules. This means, Python not only can generate an efficient code but also allow manipulating the functions of the language itself. This can make software as scalable as never before.

Maintenance & Delivery Ease

Have you ever wondered why Python is used on Google? Surely, the company doesn’t limit itself to the use of just one language. Officially, the company also uses C++, Java, and Go for backend development. When they only started to develop a search engine, the decision was made to use Python as much as it’s simply possible in such a great system, otherwise write some complex parts with tough memory control on C++. Why did they do so? Of course, the speed, simplicity, and maintainability of the Python code and development contributed to the solution. Even the scripts written in other languages like Bash or Perl initially were soon rewritten into Python to make the system well integrated and easy to maintain. As we can see, the decision proved to be a success.

Article from xplace

Investec staff are getting unlimited leave – and can wear shorts to work

Investec is introducing a new flexible leave system in South Africa: staff can choose to get unlimited vacation time.

The bank and asset manager is also adopting a more relaxed dress code.

“An organisation that is bound by policy that restricts and constrains people through time and dress is a very limiting environment,”  Lesley-Anne Gatter, head of Investec SA’s human resources, told Business Insider South Africa.

A growing number of large companies in the US, including General Electric and Dropbox, have moved to a flexible leave policy in recent months. It is seen as an attractive perk, and the prospect of unlimited holiday has excited many prospective employees.

But there are downsides. Nearly 30% of those with unlimited leave “always” work on vacation, a Business Insider US study found. That’s a far higher rate than those with more traditional vacation policies. Another survey showed that workers with unlimited leave tend to take less holiday than others.

Investec employees will get to choose whether they want to move to unlimited leave.

According to a Business Day article, those who do will be paid “according to their output”.

Investec believes this should prevent abuse of the system “as the conversation with any offenders will be about their performance rather than ‘why you didn’t come to work on Monday’.”

“The idea is to push even harder for high performance as people will have an incentive to finish their tasks quicker. But, above that, high bonuses will be paid for innovation and initiating things, as opposed to just completing tasks,” Business Day reports.

“The leave policy is less about time and more about how work is contracted, people’s roles and the clarity around their roles and deliverables,” Gatter told Business Insider.

“People are saying, in this day and age, give me my time back, give me control of my own time,” says Nicola Tager, head of careers at Investec SA. She believes the new unlimited leave system will result in an “out of the ordinary” experience for staff, and drive an “out of the ordinary” performance for clients and shareholders.

‘Dress for your day’

Investec’s new relaxed dress code will offer employees the freedom to choose their attire based on the tasks and meetings for the day. Gatter says this is a “dress-for-your-day” approach and not a “dress down” policy.

This means that employees can now show up in shorts and T-shirts, depending on who they are meeting during the day.

Article from Business Insider

The hottest tools in coding in 2018 included React and Python

You can learn a lot about the world by paying attention to trends in coding. Hot new tools in computer programming circles often illuminate what people care about and what businesses are investing in.

Trend data from this year suggest that building quickly reactive web pages and data science are increasingly important. Managing the differences between web browsers is less of an issue.

To understand this year’s coding trends, we examined the question-and-answer site Stack Overflow. It’s one of the world’s most visited websites, according Amazon’s Alexa rankings. Programmers use Stack Overflow when they are stumped. They post problems to the site and invite other programmers help them out by suggesting an answer. More than 6,000 questions have been posted per day in 2018, on average.

Users posting questions must categorize their query. For example, if it involves the JavaScript programming language, they’ll add a “JavaScript” tag. We explored the fastest-growing tags for questions posted from January to November 2018. The data reveal what programmers are using—or at least trying to use.

Vue.js is the hottest topic of 2018

Vue.js is a tool that makes websites run faster, by only reloading the parts of a page that need to be changed for the site to be reactive, rather than the whole site. Only a little more than 900 questions were asked about Vue.js in January, compared to about 1,600 in November. (We excluded tags with fewer than 0.5% of all the questions in November).

React.js,—the sixth fastest-growing tag on Stack Overflow—is a similar but more popular tool than Vue.js. The rise of React and Vue is a result of companies increasingly needing webpages that are fast and nimble, particularly companies that are selling products and don’t want to lose customers because their site is too slow.

DataFrame, Pandas, and Excel: The importance of data science

DataFrame and Pandas, the third and fourth fastest-growing tags, are coding tools for manipulating data. Two others—Python, the most popular coding language for data scientists, and TensorFlow, an application for doing machine learning—are among the top 11.

On the other hand, the second biggest faller is Excel-VBA—a tool for doing complicated analysis in Microsoft Excel. This is a sure sign that data scientists today are abandoning Excel for programming languages like Python and R that offer am easier environment for big data tasks.

Twitter Bootstrap was the coldest topic of 2018

The fastest-declining tag, with less than half as many questions in November as in January, was Twitter Bootstrap. One of the primary uses of that tool was that it makes website layout appear properly in different browsers. Historically, browsers sometimes interpreted code very differently, so tools to make sure they looked right on different browsers were necessary. Today, websites appear properly at different screen sizes and across different browsers, so tools like Twitter Bootstrap are not as useful.

Article from Quartz

The Inverted-U Model

Balancing Pressure and Performance

(Also known as Yerkes-Dodson Law)

Have you ever worked on a project that had a tight-but-achievable deadline, and that needed your unique, expert knowledge for it to be completed successfully? Even though you found it challenging, you may have delivered some of your best work.

Or, think back to a project you worked on where there was little pressure to deliver. The deadline was flexible and the work wasn’t challenging. You may have done an average job, at best.

There’s a subtle relationship between pressure and performance. When your people experience the right amount of pressure, they do their best work. However, if there’s too much or too little pressure, then performance can suffer.

This relationship is explained by the Inverted-U Model, which we’ll look at in this article. This helps you get the best from your people, at the same time that you keep them happy and engaged.

About the Model

The Inverted-U model (also known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law), was created by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson as long ago as 1908. Despite its age, it’s a model that has stood the test of time.

It shows the relationship between pressure (or arousal) and performance.

According to the model, peak performance is achieved when people experience a moderate level of pressure. Where they experience too much or too little pressure, their performance declines, sometimes severely.

The left hand side of the graph shows the situation where people are under-challenged. Here, they see no reason to work hard at a task, or they’re in danger of approaching their work in a “sloppy,” unmotivated way.

The middle of the graph shows where they’re working at peak effectiveness. They’re sufficiently motivated to work hard, but they’re not so overloaded that they’re starting to struggle. This is where people can enter a state of “Flow,” the enjoyable and highly productive state in which they can do their best work.

The right hand side of the graph shows where they’re starting to “fall apart under pressure.” They’re overwhelmed by the volume and scale of competing demands on their attention, and they may be starting to panic.

The Four Influencers

The shape of the Inverted-U curve shown in figure 1 is for illustration only – in reality, the shape of the curve will depend on the situation, and the individual person.

There are four main “influencers” that can affect this*. These are:

  1. Skill Level.
  2. Personality.
  3. Trait Anxiety.
  4. Task Complexity.

We’ll now look at each influencer in greater detail:

Skill Level

People’s levels of skill with a given task directly influence how well they perform, which is why you need to train your people intensively if you want them to cope in high-pressure situations.

For instance, if they’re not practiced enough to do a task, they’ll feel under serious pressure, and they won’t perform well. What’s more, people are less able to think in a flexible, methodical way when they’re under pressure, which is why they need to be able to fall back on well-rehearsed responses.

Personality

A person’s personality also affects how well he or she performs.

For instance, some psychologists believe that people who are extroverts are likely to perform better in high-pressure situations. People with an introverted personality, on the other hand, may perform better with less pressure.

Trait Anxiety

Think of trait anxiety as the level of a person’s “self-talk.” People who are self-confident are more likely to perform better under pressure. This is because their self-talk is under control, which means that they can stay “in flow,” and they can concentrate fully on the situation at hand. By contrast, people who criticize or question themselves are likely to be distracted by their self-talk, which can cause them to lose focus in pressurized situations.

The more that people are able to lower their anxiety about a task (with practice, or with positive thinking, for example) the better they’ll perform.

Task Complexity

Task complexity describes the level of attention and effort that people have to put into a task in order to complete it successfully. People can perform simple activities under quite high levels of pressure, while complex activities are better performed in a calm, low-pressure environment.

Note:

Remember that these are only influences. With experienced, good people, their self-discipline and sense of professionalism should help them avoid performance issues on the left hand side of the graph. Their training and experience will also help them on the right hand side of the graph, although there is a point at which even experienced professionals may become so overwhelmed that their work suffers.

Using the Model

The simplest way to use the Inverted-U Model is to be aware of it when you allocate tasks and projects to people on your team.

Most importantly, start by thinking about people’s workloads, and about the pressure that they’re already experiencing. If people are overloaded, see if you can take pressure off them – this will help them increase the quality of their work. By contrast, if they’re underworked (it can happen!), you may need to keep them sharp by shortening deadlines or finding extra things for them to do.

From there, balance the influences that contribute to pressure, so that your people can perform at their best.

For instance, try to provide team members with tasks and projects of an appropriate level of complexity, and work to build confidence in people who need it.

Also, manage negativity in your team, and train your people so that they have the skills they need to do a good job. (Our article on Training Needs Assessment will help you do this.) Tools like the Four Dimensions of Relational Work can also help you match tasks to people’s personalities and interpersonal skills.

However, bear in mind that you won’t be able to balance influences in all situations, so make sure that you know how to motivate your team effectively, so that you can help them perform in all situations.

Note 1:

Although not addressed as part of the Inverted-U Model, it’s also important to remember that people can experience pressure from other sources (for instance, from their personal lives or from any underlying concerns about their role or organization). Bear these external pressures in mind when setting deadlines and allocating tasks.

Note 2:

Don’t worry about people becoming too skilled or too confident – you can use the other influencers to balance this, so that they feel the optimum amount of pressure to perform at their best.

Note 3:

Don’t, whatever you do, confuse “pressure” with “stress” in this model. Stress is all about people feeling out of control, and it’s a wholly negative thing. If you seek to increase people’s stress (rather than increasing positive pressure), all you’ll do is create an unhappy, under-performing workplace.

Key Points

The Inverted-U Model illustrates the relationship between pressure and performance. According to the model, there is an optimum level of pressure at which people perform at their best. Too much or too little pressure can lead to decreased performance.

There are four main “influencers” that can affect how much pressure people feel:

  1. Skill Level.
  2. Personality.
  3. Trait Anxiety.
  4. Task Complexity.

You can use the model by managing these four influencers, and by being aware of how they can positively or negatively influence your people’s performance.

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5 Powerful Exercises To Increase Your Mental Strength

The following guest post is by Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker in Lincoln, Maine. In addition to working as a psychotherapist, she is also an adjunct college psychology instructor and she serves as About.com’s Parenting Teens expert.

Psychology often discusses mental health — but what’s not often discussed is a clear definition of mental strength. To me, mental strength means that you regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstances. Developing mental strength is about finding the courage to live according to your values and being bold enough to create your own definition of success.

Mental strength involves more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment. It’s about establishing healthy habits and choosing to devote your time and energy to self-improvement.

Although it’s easier to feel mentally strong when life seems simple — often, true mental strength becomes most apparent in the midst of tragedy. Choosing to develop skills that increase your mental strength is the best way to prepare for life’s inevitable obstacles.

Many exercises exist that can help you develop mental strength. But here are five that can get you started:

1. Evaluate Your Core Beliefs

We’ve all developed core beliefs about ourselves, our lives and the world in general. Core beliefs develop over time and largely depend upon our past experiences. Whether you’re aware of your core beliefs or not, they influence your thoughts, your behavior and emotions.

Sometimes, core beliefs are inaccurate and unproductive. For example, if you believe that you’ll never succeed in life, you may be less apt to apply for new jobs — and inadvertently, you may not present yourself well on job interviews. Therefore, your core beliefs may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Identify and evaluate your core beliefs. Look for beliefs that are black and white, and then find exceptions to the rule. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Modifying core beliefs requires purposeful intention and hard work, but it can change the entire course of your life.

2. Expend Your Mental Energy Wisely

Wasting brain power ruminating about things you can’t control drains mental energy quickly. The more you think about negative problems that you can’t solve, the less energy you’ll have leftover for creative endeavors. For example, sitting and worrying about the weather forecast isn’t helpful. If a major storm is headed your way, worrying about it won’t prevent it. You can, however, choose to prepare for it. Focus on what is only within your control.

Save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals.When your thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to more helpful topics. The more you practice expending your mental energy wisely, the more it will become a habit.

3. Replace Negative Thoughts with Productive Thoughts

Although most of us don’t spend time thinking about our thoughts, increasing your awareness of your thinking habits proves useful in building resilience. Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t ever do anything right,” hold you back from reaching your full potential. Catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control and influence your behavior.

Identify and replace overly negative thoughts with thoughts that are more productive. Productive thoughts don’t need to be extremely positive, but should be realistic. A more balanced thought may be, “I have some weaknesses, but I also have plenty of strengths.” Changing your thoughts requires constant monitoring, but the process can be instrumental in helping you become your best self.

4. Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions. In fact, mental strength requires you to become acutely aware of your emotions so you can make the best choice about how to respond. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.

Mental strength also involves an understanding of when it makes sense to behave contrary to your emotions. For example, if you experience anxiety that prevents you from trying new things or accepting new opportunities, try stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to continue to challenge yourself. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions takes practice, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows.

Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become. Instead of saying, “I wish I could be more outgoing,” choose to behave in a more outgoing manner, whether you feel like it or not. Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain, and tolerating that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.

5. Reflect on Your Progress Daily

Today’s busy world doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection. Create time to reflect upon your progress toward developing mental strength. At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behavior. Consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow.

Developing mental strength is a work in progress. There is always room for improvement, and at times this will seem more difficult than at other times. Reflecting upon your progress can reinforce your ability to reach your definition of success while living according to your values.

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3 Exercises That Build Mental Strength in Just 5 Minutes

Whether you’re tempted to give in to your craving for a cupcake, or you’re about to give up on your goals, perseverance isn’t easy. But before you blame your lack of willpower or make an excuse for your less-than-stellar performance, consider this: It only takes a few minutes a day to build the mental muscle you need to reach your greatest potential.

Building mental strength is similar to building physical strength. Doing 50 push-ups a day would only take a few minutes of your time, but doing it consistently would help you build a tremendous amount of upper body strength.

The same can be said of your mental muscle. In just a few minutes each day, you can train your brain to think differently, manage your emotions, and behave productively. With consistent exercise, you’ll build mental strength.

While there are many exercises that can help you grow stronger, here are three that will help you build mental muscle in five minutes or less:

1. Identify three things you’re grateful for.

Counting your blessings—as opposed to your burdens—has a big impact on your psychological health. Studies consistently show that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.

Make gratitude a daily habit by intentionally identifying three things in your life you are grateful for. It could be as simple as feeling thankful for the clean water that comes out of your faucet or appreciating the cool breeze on a warm day.

Studies show that you can physically change your brain by making gratitude a habit. Write in a gratitude journal, list the things you feel grateful for over dinner, or make it a habit to identify what you’re thankful for before you go to bed. Over time, being thankful becomes like second nature, and you’ll experience benefits ranging from improved sleep to greater immunity.

2. Practice mindfulness.

It’s impossible to stay strong when you’re rehashing something that happened last week or predicting that horrible things are going to happen tomorrow. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now.

Science shows that mindfulness has a multitude of physical and psychological benefits, including reduced stress and a more compassionate inner dialogue.

So take a minute to focus on what’s going on around you. Listen to see what sounds you can hear. Look around the room and see what you notice. Do a quick scan of your body and pay attention to how it feels.

With regular practice, you’ll increase your ability to focus, which is tough to do in today’s fast-paced world. You’ll also be able to enjoy each moment because you’ll be less distracted by yesterday’s problems and tomorrow’s worries.

3. Act “as if.”

It can be tempting to wait until you feel different to make a change. But waiting until you feel good about yourself before applying for a promotion, or waiting until you feel happy to invite your friends out for a night on the town, could backfire. Instead, studies show you should behave like the person you want to become. When you change your behavior, your thoughts and emotions will follow.

When you’re sad, you might hunch your shoulders and look at the floor, but doing so keeps you in a depressive state. Put your shoulders back and smile, however, and you’ll feel an instant boost in your mood.

Don’t expect feelings of confidence to come out of nowhere. Instead, ask yourself, How can I act confident? Acting like a confident person, even when you’re filled with self-doubt, helps you feel surer of yourself. Research shows acting confident even increases other people’s confidence in you.

Try asking yourself, What would a mentally strong person do? Then, act as if you feel strong already. And you’ll grow a little stronger.

Do Your Mental Push Ups

Every day is an opportunity to develop mental muscle. Simple, short exercises performed consistently over time will help you build mental strength.

Additionally, pay attention to the bad habits that rob you of mental strength. Feeling sorry for yourself, giving up after your first failure, and giving away your power are just a few of the habits that can wreak havoc on your mental weightlifting routine. Giving up those unhealthy habits will help you work smarter, not harder.

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