Millennials are ruining the workplace

I’ve read an awful lot of ‘Millennial bashing’ in my time, however over the last week I’ve seen some pretty malicious news stories arguing Millennials are ruining the sanctity of our workplaces. I mean, take this quote from Marketing Week for example;

“Millennials have become a somewhat maligned generation, characterised by their individualistic nature (me, me, me), the value they place on material things and their lack of desire to work for them (see research).”

Research, much like that cited by Marketing Week, does not, in fact, suggest that Millennials have a lack of desire to work, far from it.

In recent years, the focus of our workforce has shifted towards a better work-life balance, which research links to increased employee engagement, productivity and business success. And whilst this shift is being put down to the rising Millennial workforce, I don’t believe they are to be ‘blamed’, because I don’t believe they are the only ones driving this change, and nor do I believe it’s a negative move.

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With the rise in mental health awareness campaigns and the increase in reported stress at work and families disrupted by long working hours, it seems this shift reflects that, as a society, we are attempting to find a better balance. A way to manage both our work and personal lives in a mutually beneficial way.

Our work patterns have been challenged by many (see Mental Health Foundation and Time to Change) to be causing an increase in health issues and yet, the Millennial workforce is calling for change, ‘expecting’ flexible working (as one feature put it), and this is deemed as an unwillingness to work.

Personally, my ‘expectation’ for flexible working comes not from a place of laziness but from the hope of a better life, both personally and professionally.

Flexible working has been introduced to ensure that our workforce can maintain their required hours, but also maintain their mental health, their personal commitments and to ensure their lives revolve around more than working, which many of us would struggle to do working a typical 9-5. Particularly as the age of retirement only seems to be going up, it’s more important than ever that we are able to live healthy, happy lives, both in and out of work.

Interestingly as well, quotes much like the one from Marketing Week suggest Millennials are self-centred, which again, is quite contrary to research, which actually indicates that Millennials are most driven to work for companies aiming to better the world.

No one likes the idea of change but, before you write Millennials off as ‘ruining our workplace’, perhaps try ‘improving’ first, and see what good might happen. After all, it won’t be long before they’re running them.

If you liked this blog, read another story relating to Millennials here.

Learning to live with an invisible illness: my battle with MSK

I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time but finding the words to explain something that has literally changed my life hasn’t been easy but, here goes…

The best way I can think to describe Medullary Sponge Kidneys (MSK) is, imagine a piece of natural sponge, the way that looks, well, that’s how my kidneys look.

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All rights belong to the creator

Because of these holes it means I am also riddled with calcium deposits, or kidney stones. This then leads to increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and Kidney infections, which can lead to sepsis and death as worse case scenarios. MSK also causes chronic pain in the lower back and can lead to Kidney failure.

My MSK journey started in my last year at uni. Every month I was having at least one UTI and they came on really suddenly and got bad quick. Doctors fobbed me off as not drinking enough, despite my pleas that something was wrong.

I continued battling with doctors until one day, in the middle of the night, I woke up in complete agony and collapsed in the bathroom.

I was urgently admitted to Poole Hospital’s urology ward, where I was finally diagnosed. I was put on low dose antibiotics to control infection, which I take once a night for the rest of my life and I regularly have blood taken to check my kidneys aren’t failing. Eventually I was also referred to a dietician who broke the news that my meat loving self would have to be more vegan.

As well as being a ‘part-time vegan’ I also have to eat a low sodium/salt diet and need to avoid refined sugars. Alcohol, however, is fine; a small win. I really struggled at the start, many foods low in salt are high in protein. However, practise makes perfect and eventually it became easier.

Since changing my diet (and sticking to it) I’ve found I get infections much less frequently and even the back pain is essentially gone. However, I’m still learning the things I can and can’t do and how to manage my condition.

I went to Greece with my partner last summer and whilst there had a UTI. I carried on taking my medicine but towards the end of our first day we agreed I needed to see a doctor as I was struggling to walk and was bleeding when I went to the toilet (sorry TMI). But getting a doctor to come out was going to cost a couple hundred euro and we didn’t have that kind of money so instead the hotel recommended we go to the hospital. What I haven’t mentioned was that we visited Greece during late June 2015, you know, when money just didn’t exist within the country? We entered the hospital and it was like one of those zombie apocalypse films. It was deserted, many of the lights weren’t switched on and it was eerily silent. Eventually we found someone and I was given stronger antibiotics.

I struggled along, hoping the antibiotics would work. They didn’t and on our last day I became delusional, my temperature rocketed and I couldn’t move. Finally, it was time to get on the plane and head home, it was the longest three hours of my life.

We landed and drove to the closest hospital where I stayed for a week while they managed my severe kidney infection and temperature of over 40 degrees (that’s over 104 Fahrenheit). Before being discharged I was warned about the seriousness of sepsis and how close I’d come.

In hindsight the heat of Greece, combined with the high salt and protein food, it’s no wonder the infection took hold and I realised how important it is that I drink plenty and eat right if I want to carry on doing these things. I’d also never go away without backup antibiotics now too.

The other part of my condition I’m slowly learning to manage is exercise. I’ve always been an active person so when I realised that exercise was making my back pain flare up and triggering infections I feared I would never be as active again. However, recently I’ve been slowly introducing it back into my life, building my workout each month. I’m now training to do a 5k run for charity in July, something I didn’t think I’d be able to do again.

But the one good thing that’s come out of all this is I’ve really learnt a lot. I’ve learnt that being vegan is actually super yummy. I was terrified at first, thinking I’d miss meat and struggle to cook without it, but actually I find I rarely miss it and vegan cooking is not only simple but introduced me to a lot of things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

The other thing I’ve learnt is to listen to my body, it’s taken a long time but I find I’m healthier now I know my limits and know when to take care of myself. It’s not been easy, and it certainly reminded me that no one is invincible but I’m getting there. It’s changed my life but I refuse to let it change me.

Businesses back sleeping on the job

Employee well-being is a huge area, with so many different aspects to be considered. After all, each person is different and thus so are their lives and therefore their needs.

So it’s unsurprising that every week there seems to be a new concern in the workplace, debating whether employees are truly being appreciated and their well-being cared for. For instance a few weeks ago we were arguing whether tattoos should be more accepted in the workplace.

The hot topic of this week seems to be sleep, or rather the lack of it.

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From CEOs paying their employees bonuses for getting their seven hours a night, to companies encouraging their employees to nap at work, getting in enough Zs is currently a big well-being worry.

But, this is where I feel conflicted. Yes, sleep is super important, it’s a time for our memory to take stock, so we can remember all those clients’ names and faces, the things we need to do tomorrow, and that really great idea you had in the shower. And it’s also a time for healing, for our bodies to do a little rejuvenation. In fact, seven hours of sleep each night can reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease and breast cancer.

But, how stressed out would you feel if someone said you weren’t getting enough sleep so therefore your chances of gaining weight and dying young were higher? And how about if they said you’d miss out on a £350 a year bonus if you didn’t change?

As someone who has struggled to get enough sleep each night since birth I find the idea of being pressured and bribed into sleeping a really worrying prospect. The only good way to sleep is to be able to completely switch off and relax, people can’t be bought into sleeping more, can they?

Actually, a recent study would argue that you can’t, finding that work stress is causing our poor sleeping habits. So, if you really want to increase your employees sleep and their well-being perhaps we need to think about how to tackle their workload and stress first.

I worry that, if companies are opting for cash incentives or worse, scare tactics, to get their employees to sleep more – it could have the opposite effect. I totally get why they’re so concerned, sleeping more will improve health and therefore reduce the cost of absence, which stands at around £29billion per year in the UK, and can also increase employees’ focus and well-being, so it’s a win-win. But, when thinking about trying to help increase employee sleep, I would say that worry isn’t the emotion you want to evoke.

April Fools is no joke for corporate PR

April Fools can be a source of great PR, showing your brand to be unique, playful and interesting. Companies such as Virgin, Churchill and Google are consistent players each year, with increasingly ridiculous pranks, each aligned with their brand and just believable enough to hook customers.

But, the important thing, as Google discovered today, is knowing where the line is and how to tickle your customers, not tick them off.

Many seem so intent on finding a joke they forget that, if positioned incorrectly, it can be detrimental to brand image. The joke must be thought out; aligned to the brand and the customers, it must work (looking at you Google), and it must be light-hearted, no one wants a joke that’s over the top or in bad taste. If it isn’t all those things then it’s better for a brand to just give it a miss.

Another brand that got it wrong today comes from that app that keeps dragging up your past, TimeHop, who today ‘tricked’ users by updating them on their future self. Whilst it was a clever twist on their usual service, what wasn’t clever was its implementation. The problem was that I thought it was some horrible new update sharing predictions of social media in the future. It also wasn’t at all personalised so many of my ‘future self’s statuses’ were not even close to things I’d say. And, the biggest flaw, I actually didn’t get that it was supposed to be tricking me because it so obviously wasn’t real. A huge fail by the throwback app in my opinion.

Of course, if done right, April Fools can have a great pay off. Here’s a list of my top 5 personal favourite April Fools jokes by brands.

Churchill’s ‘Éau Yes’

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I like this just because of the play on words, and it seems every person and their dog are releasing fragrances, so why not this dog? The fragrance even came with added smell insurance, promising to give you compliments if the fragrance failed to attract compliments from others.

Tesco’s bouncy aisles
I desperately wanted this to be true last year. Being a short person I know the pain of products on high shelves. What made this joke though is that they did acknowledge this was a problem but also conveyed how difficult it would be to solve. After all, trampolines down small aisles aren’t exactly easily approved health and safety wise.

British Milk Council – “Unicorn milk”

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The thing with this one is that they did take the advice of ‘if you can’t then don’t’ but yet still found a way to engage and make people laugh. The sarcasm and cynicism of the message puts a spin on the usual silliness and gives it that dry British edge. It also represents how predictable brands doing April Fools is now and the, almost forced, nature as a result. It worked brilliantly and has already seen them feature in lists for great April Fools responses.

Domino’s Edibox
Again, I think I liked this one because I wished it was real but also because it totally seems like something they’d do. After all, they really did put hot dogs into pizza crusts so why not edible boxes?

Microsoft Office: Return of ‘Clippy’
Many of us remember Clippy with a mix of infamy and nostalgia and that’s why the return of Clippy was so funny. People wanted it to happen but also remembered quickly how incredibly irritating he was. Perfectly aligned with the brand and spot on humour for the day.