Presenteeism – good or bad?

It isn’t so long ago that absenteeism was the scourge of the workplace. Colleagues taking duvet days, or time off sick. We were all over looking at it and managing the reasons why.

Recently I am noticing the rise of something else, in fact the complete opposite. Presenteeism. The martyrs that come to the office day in day out with their ailments. I don’t mean minor illnesses as such; we all work through them. These are the ones who come in, WHATEVER is wrong with them.

Barely able to speak or breath with a heavy cold, cough, sore throat. They still come in and take up station at their desks, like some loyal trooper. Breathing, coughing and spluttering their germs into the air con/air recirculation. Infecting a lot of the office.

What confuses me more about this is the fact that (most) organisations now offer a whole range of flexible options to workers. From the basics of working at home and being able to access emails, sharepoint and networks from home on your own devices, through to duvet days, flexible holidays and sick days.

Personally if I am not feeling great and I don’t need to be in the office (these days I can skype or teams into most meetings) then I tend to stay at home. Dual benefit here, I don’t have to drag myself into the office, endure a commute and try and make it through the day, realistically my focus is on making it through to home time, my productivity is low. The company benefit is that I am not in the office infecting all around me.

In some cultures where sick days are frowned upon then I fully understand why people may not wish to have sick time. The fear that this will count against them in some way. But we should also be working to change those cultures. Fear and working when ill is not a good way of getting the best out of your staff.

This links to another thought I have had for a while. There is a strange phenomenon that I have never been able to understand. That is the thought that if someone is sat physically in an office space/building that is owned/leased by the company then they are productive because they are there.

I understand with some colleagues there is a lack of trust, and that needs to be worked at, that trust gained. But for the most part this is not the case. A certain kind of person gains assurance from people being present. The feeling this somehow guarantees productivity.

My days when I work at home are far more productive. Even the ones where I do the washing, maybe a little shopping, a walk on the beach, or go out for coffee. The reason why? I still wake at the same time, I am ready to go at the same time, but my commute is about 20 ft from the couch to the desk. So all the time I would spend walking to work, getting changed, setting up for the day (as well as making tea, getting stopped and pulled into conversation etc) is not used and instead I am working from the moment I am ready.

So if you are a manager or employer I guess I have a couple of questions and a challenge for you:

  1. do you really think that your staff/colleagues are more productive when they come in the office ill?
  2. do you believe that someone being present in a workspace is more productive than someone who is choosing to use their time in a different way while working from home?

My challenge – can you work with your staff over a period of time to change that view and see if it works for you?


I dreamed a dream of foreign shores

A dream for me has always been to work in another country. There are a few places on the list San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Barcelona, Zurich and many many more.

When I was younger I travelled a lot with work, mainly within Europe, but also to the US and some other more ‘interesting’ locations. Thankfully most of my travel these days is within the UK, no more do I have the ‘glamour’ of airports and anonymous hotels for work travel.

When I travel for pleasure, there is something about some places that you enjoy as you pass through, but know that it is just a fleeting flirtation, and you are unlikely to return. A nice place to while away a few days, but no more than this.

The flip of that is that you also go to places that instantly feel like home. San Francisco and Bruges are two that spring to mind. Step out of a cab in the city and instantly feel like I have come home. The sights and sounds, the familiar places. Just that way that you relax into life as if you haven’t been away.

Explore a little to see if your favourite places are still there, that restaurant, the coffee shop, the bar with the live music, etc. Wandering around familiar areas, looking at changes and developments since your last visit.

There is however still a hint of romanticism around all of this. It is still just a holiday, a few days from life spent in another world. The every day reality of shopping, commuting, paying bills etc doesn’t exist in this space.

With the growth of services such as Air BnB and serviced apartments there is a middle ground now between the two. Rather than the distance of a hotel from real life, living in an apartment means that a holiday can feel more living in a city.

There is still a huge part of me that thinks it would be worth the risk, applying for roles, working somewhere that would allow either a sabbatical, or with the possibility of transferring to another country for a secondment.

But, as much as it is something that massively appeals to me I can’t help but feel that I would still end up disappointed. The encroachment of every day life into my dream. The drudgery of commutes and bills. The reality of being in a favourite city but only exploring evenings and weekends. Not being able to take off for a few days etc.

Do you have any dreams that are long held, but you know you will never make them a reality?

Fear – does it control you or do you control it?

Fears are usually irrational, some are based on experiences we have had, many have no real cause. I have many fears. Heights, failure, being alone, old school FIAT Panda’s (those square ones, I told you fear was sometimes irrational). But I also have a strong sense of challenge, I like to push myself, to achieve, to constantly push at my boundaries. My fears are my biggest boundaries.

I want to tell you a little story at this point, please bear with me.
In 2007 myself and my partner went on a road trip to California, we hired a convertible Mustang, spent 17 days visiting cities, driving coastal roads, and visiting national parks. While in Sequoia national park we stopped at Moro Rock. I actually was very ill when we made this trip, and I was unable to climb the rock and take in the views. When we were getting ready to leave, a coach pulled up, with a lot of older people on it.

They got off and most of them gave their cameras to four of them, who took them on the hike and took pictures for those not able to climb. They said they had been waiting a long time to take the trip and see the sights. But they weren’t, they were there but not able to experience. I vowed that would never be me.

Facing my fears

Since that point I do all that I can to conquer my fears, I do not want to be someone who waits a long time to do something that they then can’t do. So from that point onwards I have tried to do things that really push me to the edge of comfort, and beyond.

We have been on several walking holidays in Italian, Austrian, German and Welsh mountains, I have hiked at 8,200ft next to sheer drops, I have ridden cable cars to get there. I drove on roads that were ridiculously narrow and two way. We returned to California and climbed the mist trail in Yosemite, a 1,000ft ascent on a 1.8 mile hike up the side of two waterfalls.

So what was my latest challenge?

Ebiking in the mountains

We recently went on a trip to the Swiss Alps, to the ski resort of Verbier, which actually offers a whole lot of things to see and do all year round. Amongst the things we planned was an ebike tour, starting in town, heading to the mountains, taking in some forest tracks, roads, views and lunch.

Bicycles are a great way to cover a lot of ground, but I am not a regular (or confident) bike user, the idea of a mountain bike tour of the mountains wasn’t for me. The energy levels and fitness required don’t match my levels. This is the benefit of the ebike (a mountain bike with built in battery and motor to provide assistance either constantly or on demand).

My guide met me at the hotel and we as we walked up to the bike hire shop we had a chat where I outlined my lack of ability, but also my fear of heights and how I try to overcome it. He assured me that although we were going high we would be on decent tracks and had options of different routes and complexities.

Reassured we set off and started up some gentle roads and forest tracks, all was good. To be fair for 90% of the time all was good. Two reasons really, firstly we had chatted and accepted my limits, secondly the ebike, the gentle assistance from the motor when setting off meant starts on hills were less wobbly, more controlled.

The first section, up into the hills and forest, then back down and into the town, to ascend another slope up to the restaurant was all ok for my fear. We stopped a few times to take in views and take pictures, I stayed further back from the edge than my guide, but enjoyed it, as the breathtaking views made it worthwhile.

The final stages of the climb to the restaurant was slightly different, a lot of big drops, on a road we were sharing with the (relatively sparse for a Saturday) traffic. A lot of high steep drops, a slowing of pace for me and more concentration.

However concentrating on the peddling, checking the route ahead and focussing on simply riding and enjoying the experience meant I was too distracted to worry too much about the height. We reached the top and the views were amazing, we had a lovely lunch and a brilliant chat.

Then we set off to head back down and into Verbier, I was given the choice, back down the road or a more challenging off road section and meet the road later. So obviously I chose the off road section as I was pushing myself.

We started narrow path, which led behind a farmhouse with a gentle slope in front of us and through a tunnel. The other side of the tunnel the path was narrow, the drop steep. I lost focus here and tried to stay as far away from the edge as possible. By doing this I kept having to stop, as I was too close to the side and kept getting grounded.

This was where the fear zone of my mind had taken control. One of my stops was on a bend, I went to start and couldn’t, my mind was telling me I was too wobbly, if I started here I would pedal off the edge of the mountain. Now the rational part of my brain knew I was in no way going to ride off the side of the mountain, that’s stupid. But the fear part is quite strong. So I got off, pushed the bike around the corner and restarted.

Fairly soon we got to a more muddy, rocky steep track which would lead us down and back onto the road. As I said earlier, this was all about challenging myself and so we decided that I would try and relearn the standing position for this downhill section.

Now this was totally my choice, my guide gave me the option to remain using the seated position but I didn’t I wanted to push myself. You can see what is coming next right, long story short, I had a fall. I fell off my bike, on a steep muddy mountain slope, close to the edge.

This was actually a good thing for me at this time, the fall was not serious a little tumble, slightly muddy, pride bruised, bike and rider fine. But what it did was to relax me and overcome some of my fear messages. I had fallen, I wasn’t injured, I hadn’t skittered off the side of the cliff. I was a lot braver on the next few sections until we reached the road.

Once on the road I even exceeded the speeds I had been comfortable with earlier. So the good points for me were I had ridden up and down steep slopes with big drops, I had fun, I survived, I fell, I didn’t fall off a cliff. In total the ride was just over 14 miles with a 2,907ft climb (and descent). Another good push on my fears and worries.

So whats the point Pete?

I know I have basically written a post that says it is about fear but is just bragging about holiday experiences. Partly yeah. But mostly I want to show that most of my fears are irrational, and I have decided not to accept them.

Never will I be a climber, a serious mountain walker, someone who enjoys heights. The day after ebiking I got a gondola up the mountain and I was scared witless the whole way. On the way down I gripped less, looked around (usually I take my glasses off so I can’t see), it stopped on the way down, the sudden halt making it swing wildly. I didn’t enjoy that, but it didn’t scare me as much as it would have previously.

So my point is, some fears are really difficult to overcome, some need professional help to start to get over. But some we can control ourselves. I enjoy pushing my limits, taking myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. The challenge, the pride in knowing that I have achieved something that I never thought was possible. Money can’t buy that feeling.

My question to you – have you ever thought about some of your fears, and questioned whether you think you could over come them? Take some small steps and work towards things. Once you experience that pride in achieving it is slightly addictive.

So give something a try, whats the worst that can happen?

Is online you true to you?

What about me?

I would like to think, and in fact have been told by people, that my online persona and my real life self are the same. I am passionate on many subjects, have many thoughts and opinions and I share them freely.

Clearly I write this blog, but I also post a lot on all kinds of different social media platforms. But it mostly mirrors the conversations I have in person, maybe a little more jokey, maybe not, depends on the subject.

Perfect I am not, I engage in discussions (heated debates?), I try not to be personal and attack, I make liberal use of the mute and unfollow buttons. I rarely block, has to be something serious for that.

The good points of social media/online interaction far outweigh the bad for me (making friends, a sense of community, connecting people, seeing people support each other, discussions on mental health, seeing movements grow for the greater good, pics of puppies, genius memes, discussions around TV shows/Movies/Music that you enjoy)

However, there are few things I hate about online/social (an account that just retweets others, lots of political/strange opinion posts, people that use anonymity to attack others mainly).

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now, and I guess the time has never quite been right. Every time I get close to publishing, someone posts something online, and I think that they will ‘believe’ this is directed at them.

Well you know what it just may be. So, if that is the case you can take that two ways. Either as a mirror held to your behaviour, or you can think I am mean and attacking. Because actually I am not bothered.

That may seem a little harsh. But a lot of what I see is people who don’t care but think others should. So, it is ok for them to be mean and offensive, but if people respond, or post what they believe to be an attack on them they get upset and launch revenge attacks.

What do I mean?

There are a lot of people who use social media well, it is a true reflection of them as a person, or an organisation. The promote, share their views, give their opinion, direct, help and support others.

Other people use social media to share their lives, what they eat, where they go, what they are thinking. We get a detailed view of their lives and habits.

Some people share politics, others sport, food, culture, charity etc etc. All are good. We all have opinions and we should all be able to share them, and this can be where the trouble starts.

The problem with opinions is that we all have them, and we are all allowed to share them. Sometimes you may agree with them, others not. Opinions can be challenged, discussions can be had, we can agree to disagree. What we can’t do is tell someone their opinion is wrong, because it is their opinion.

When does it go bad?

I have seen a lot of occasions in the last few months where online social media interaction goes bad. On two levels really, one is where people get inflamed by something and then repeatedly write tweets that don’t directly name anyone, but mock their opinions, views or what they do.

Every now and again a snarky tweet or post appears. Not aimed directly at someone, no one named, but enough detail that when you know, you know. Nothing direct as that would be a level of confrontation that they are not happy with. Diggy enough that if the person it is aimed at responds, the poster can claim to be victimised.

More often than not these people are anonymous, sometimes not. Sometimes they block people, then talk about them. Very occasionally they are brave enough to direct a post or tweet to a person, but it usually is deleted fairly quickly.

The other trend I have seen recently is for people to gang up on others. Round up their posse to help them to prove that they are right. One person responds, then it is the equivalent of the primary school ‘Pile on’. Disturbingly some of these people jump on any tweet/post/response from a person and then their chums come.

Is this just debate?

There is an argument to be put forward that part of the benefits of social media is the ability to promote debate. Engage those that have other opinions and have a discussion. This is a great thing, it leads to all sides in a debate learning something, maybe leaving it with a different viewpoint or understanding, even when your opinion doesn’t change.

That would be great. A feisty debate can be a fine thing. But I am not sure the constant attacks, jibes and pile ons by the keyboard warriors and their disciples is this.

My main reason for that is that they often don’t have the courage of their convictions. So when physically in the same place as their counterparts they never say anything to their faces. In many cases actively avoid them (then use this as a basis for another post saying they were ignored – if you block someone, that isn’t inviting an approach) or at least can’t even make eye contact.

If you thought you were right, and had the courage of your conviction, you would have the discussion face to face.

So what about you?

Was there really a point to this or was it just a moan?
Kinda just a moan really, but my ask of you all is are you happy with how you are on line and how that relates to how you are as a person?

Oh and if you think this post is directed at you, ask yourself why you think that.

My socks – what they tell you about me …

There have been a couple of blog posts that I have written that relate to image, clothes etc (Hiding in plain sightPersonal Brand, Egos) But this one is slightly different.

I don’t really suffer with Mental Health issues any more than anyone else, but I do believe that we all manage our mental health on a daily basis. Continue reading

Role models – what are they and how do we choose them

This is a post I promised a lot of people I would write a long time ago, the draft was started in March, and I sit here in June completing it. So what took me so long? This post more than ever I wanted to get right, but then I realised it never would be, so I just need to get on and post it.

Role models are a common thread in my posts, often referred to as a colleague, an old boss, or named role models. My life and career has been influenced massively by role models, good and bad. Continue reading

Hiding in plain sight

This is a blog post I have been thinking about all day, the subject was a suggestion from a friend. As a result I have been wracking my brain for examples from my own life. Interestingly I remembered examples that show both sides of this post.

The post is around how we deal with the prospect of blending in, not being noticed, not standing out from the crowd, and the opposite standing out to blend in. Once I flicked past all of the times I have done this in my personal life (this post would be huge if we went into all of those) I focussed more around work. Continue reading