We changed the clocks for daylight saving time this past weekend. Usually a key harbinger of spring, the time change just hasn't had as much impact this year. Maybe that's because many of us who live in the northern hemisphere are still pretty much snowed-in, with only the slightest signs of a gradual thaw. But there are signs—like the slow but steady drip from the massive icicle I watch through my window, willing it to melt faster.
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr
Anyone who has lived through this frigid, lingering winter, knows that weather affects mood. From the physiological and psychological reactions to reduced daylight and perpetual cold, to acute stress caused by hazardous driving conditions and having to winter-dress children every time they leave the house; life in general is just a bit harder when facing a harsh winter.
On the flip side, sunny days and balmy temperatures have been shown to increase optimism and boost energy levels. In fact forty years of research suggests there’s a strong link between the weather and our moods. Perhaps springtime optimism is a bounce-back reaction to the dampening effect of reduced daylight that contributes to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or maybe it’s an instinctive reaction to the season of rebirth and hope.
Either way, spring is almost here (it comes back every year!) and it’s a good time to revisit the lessons of the season as they apply to the workplace.
Remove the Weeds
Spring is a great time to take stock of past projects and reset those that may have stagnated over the winter. It’s also a great time to reduce physical and mental clutter, not to mention slimming down the infobesity that slows you down. Let spring be your inspiration to clear the weeds from your workday—here are a few ideas to get you started.
Have you left loose ends that are causing projects to drag on when they’re otherwise substantially complete? Tie them up and move on!
Do you have a foot high “to read” pile you’ll never really get to? Ditch it or donate it: chances are the information you meant to extract is stale now anyway.
Are you receiving multiple emails from sources you are only marginally interested in and could find anytime if you had an immediate need? Take some time to unsubscribe to everything that isn’t essential. While you’re at it, put some filters and rules in place so your incoming email gets automatically sorted and prioritized and doesn’t just accumulate in your inbox (3,606 emails in your inbox is just silly)
Leverage the Light
We can also take advantage of the surge in optimism and energy that most people experience with the onset of spring to launch key initiatives. Research shows that optimism is associated with more than mood; it also influences people’s ability to cope and even limits changes in the immune system that typically happen in response to stress. So this optimistic springtime is a great time to start a new health and wellness initiative, for example, since you can leverage that optimism and the natural serotonin boost that’s triggered by increased daylight.
With people generally experiencing a more optimistic frame of mind and higher energy levels, spring is also a much better time to initiate change. It’s much easier to get people on board when they’re feeling positive and optimistic than it is when they’re mired in the winter blues. And all that extra energy sure comes in handy as people manage the transition to the new way of doing things.
Sow New Seeds
Spring is also a good time to plant the seeds of future success. In the HR function that might mean:
Starting a new recruiting campaign that will chug along over the summer and come to fruition in the fall, ensuring a bumper crop of new, quality recruits before year end.
Helping management engage staff in a business process improvement initiative that will generate long term cost savings. Suggest that management make it more motivating by giving employees input into how recaptured costs will be used—they’re more likely to agree when in an optimistic, springtime frame of mind.
Setting up that mentorship program you’ve been thinking about so your best talent can be groomed for growth and the mentoring relationship can germinate when people are pre-disposed to embrace new beginnings.
Optimism is contagious and spring is one of the most optimistic times of the year. Help your employees (and yourself) make the most of the upside offered by warmer days and brighter thoughts in this season of renewal.
If you’ve ever watched children playing a game of Marco Polo in the swimming pool, you have a fundamental grasp of the power of feedback. With eyes closed, relying only on the voices of other players, the person who is “it” (Marco) must find and tag someone in the pool. Players respond by shouting “Polo” whenever Marco shouts out. These audio clues provide a stream of feedback that Marco follows until the goal of tagging another player is achieved. Without the feedback, Marco would flounder around the pool blindly with little opportunity to succeed.
Although there’s a lot of evidence that brain health is improved when a mind remains active and challenged; increasingly, research shows that mental downtime is even more important. In his article in Scientific American, Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime, Ferris Jabr writes:
Brain Health by Dan Century, Flikr
“Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. “
Some research suggests the brain’s ability to make sense of
In today’s workplace, multitasking is appreciated by many as a good work habit and a sign of commitment to the job. Some people seem to be able to juggle personal crises, help co-workers and still get their work done. While they may whirl like dervishes, they seem to take it all in stride without breaking a sweat. These people are powerhouses of productivity—or does it just seem that way?
Mardi Gras Multitasking by Bart Everson, Wikimedia Commons
Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was considered by some to be as powerful as the president during his
One of the most challenging aspects of training is quantifying results. The reason it’s challenging stems from the fact that learning can be difficult to measure. In the workplace, however, it’s critical to measure results to determine whether required information has been absorbed and skills have been acquired—not to mention gauging whether the investment was justified.
Excellence by John Fischer, Flickr
To make sure they can effectively measure the impact of training, good workplace training program developers create learning objectives using a specific format that ensures results can be assessed. Each measurable learning
Cultivating an understanding of risk management fundamentals is valuable at any level of an organization: whether you’re an executive considering the broader risks your company is exposed to in a globally competitive environment, or a front line supervisor responsible for workplace safety.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Pro-Active Risk Management
Ideally, risk assessment and mitigation is part of every planning process. One of the most common areas where pro-active risk management can improve outcomes is at the project level. When planning a project, risks can be categorized into two groups.
Internal Project Risks: These are risks to the project
Self Concept by Nathalya Cubas, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
In 1960, Prentice-Hall published a book by well-known plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz. This book, Psycho-Cybernetics, went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide and is still considered one of the most influential writings about self-concept and the power of visualization in attaining goals.
Maltz discovered that the majority of his patients who underwent cosmetic surgery procedures were still dissatisfied with their looks after the “problems” were corrected. He concluded that people were responding to some inner perception of how they look, rather than seeing what was now in
USA gold medal winner Heather O'Reilly by Geoff Livingston, Wikimedia Commons,Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The story of success, writes that accomplishment is all about practice, timing and the doors that are opened for you along the way. In fact, Gladwell firmly believes that inherent talent has little, if anything, to do with success. He provides a number of convincing examples and trends that support his premise: success is about being in the right place at the right time with access to the right people and tools; and that mastery of
Geographic Project, Barrie Eyre, Wikmedia Commons
We recommend that vacation time be a time to unplug, unwind and recharge. Taking work on a vacation does not help with any of those objectives. On the other hand, turning remote work into something enjoyable in a vacation-like environment never hurt anyone.
This is not to suggest that “workations” replace regular vacations. On the contrary, this is about doing the work you might normally do in your home office or at a co-working location on a beach, at a cottage, on your patio or even on a mountaintop.
Sometimes a change
Anyone who has lived through this past winter (yes, it’s over, even if Mother Nature hasn’t quite conceded the point yet!), knows that weather can affect your mood. From the physiological and psychological reactions to reduced daylight and perpetual cold, to acute stress caused by hazardous driving conditions and having to winter-dress children every time they leave the house; life in general is just a bit harder when facing a harsh winter.
Grasshopper of the ZEBRA Stelzentheater, by Katharina on Flikr
On the flip side, sunny days and balmy temperatures have been shown to increase