How to beat the Back to Work Blues – Part 2

This is the second installment of tips in our How to Beat the Back to Work Blues series. This week we look at being a team player, communicating well, looking after yourself and more…

7. Be a team player
Who doesn’t want to work with a team player? The key is learning how to get the best out of everyone you work with, not just those above you. Quick says it’s all about “360 degree management. Don’t play politics but do learn how to work well with those above you, next to you and more junior to you.” It also comes back to having the right attitude. You want to “Be the person people want to work with because they’ll sing your praises even before a promotion is up for grabs”.
8. Communicate
This point is particularly relevant for bosses. Amanda Johnston, psychologist for organisational health expert, Konekt advises that bosses should keep a close eye on their staff, especially in the first couple of weeks after returning from holidays by:
• Reviewing their workload and assisting them to prioritise what needs actioning most urgently.
• Discussing activities and issues at regular catch ups (no matter how brief).
• Asking and listening to how their employees are feeling and what’s been happening. Really LISTEN to their answer.
• Acting – follow through on your promises to a staff member.
• Sharing information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures; clearly define employees’ roles and responsibilities.
• Showing employees they are valued and implementing schemes to recognise good work, such as employee of the month.
• Providing responsibility and accountability that make employees feel like they have ownership and control of their work environment.
• Cultivating a friendly social environment.
It’s also important that employees know they don’t need to deal with stress on their own and seek support from others. “If you begin to feel stressed, discuss this with your immediate supervisor or manager to make sure they’re aware,” says Konekt psychologist Kit Underdown. “That way you can work together to develop strategies to manage any stressful situations as they may arise.”
“Recent research conducted by Konekt (the Konekt Market Report) shows that around 12 per cent of reported workplace-related injuries are psychological injuries, such as stress, anxiety, depression and adjustment disorder. So it’s important for employees and employers to have strategies in place to address these issues early.”
9. Re-evaluate your work space
“The end of the holiday season, when workers return to the office, can be the toughest time of the year for employees and this is often evidenced in a significant drop in productivity levels – something that can have a lasting impact on a business,” says Psychologist Fred Cicchini from leading corporate health management organisation, Injury Treatment. Often it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference in our well-being.
Your working environment has an impact on your attitude and productivity at work. The amount of space you have to work in, the location of your desk, the comfort of your chair, the temperature of your office and environment and how much natural light you receive are all factors in your health and well-being at work.
“Offices that give employees flexibility to work in a number of environments, such as an open plan space which includes traditional desks, ‘café’ settings and sofas, helps ease the transition back to work and Australian businesses are embracing these offices more than ever before,” says FDC Construction & Fitouts Managing Director, Ben Cottle.
Ben explains that “There has been a huge rise in companys requesting these futuristic open plan spaces. Australian businesses are seeing the value that comes from providing employees with multiple connectivity points and allowing them to have the ability to work from anywhere at any time in an environment that appeals to them”.
Examples of these ‘lifestyle workplaces’ can be seen in FDC Construction & Fitout’s  recently projects for the CBRE office, located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, as well as the MBA award-winning Treasury Wine Estates Main Office in Melbourne. These fitouts feature open plan spaces, lounge areas, conferencing pods and traditional private desks, which give employees the option of transitioning between spaces. 
If you can’t convince your boss to remodel your office, then try some other solutions: 
  • Are you happy where you’re sitting? Maybe your desk gets the hot afternoon sun, or you don’t get any natural light. If you’re not happy where you are, request to move – there’s no harm in asking if it makes you more comfortable and productive.
  • Clear your desk out. This is not just a tidy-up – grab a bin or a large plastic bag and remove everything off the top of your desk and out of your draws. Be ruthless about what you put back, especially when it comes to paperwork. Ask yourself, are there any files or folders that could be archived or stored elsewhere to free up some space? How much stationery do you really need? Also review the layout of your draws – is everything in best place?
  • Don’t limit the tidy-up to your desk, get other colleagues involved – re-organise communal cupboards and spaces and get their advice on what would make your working environment more user friendly or aesthetically pleasing. Do cupboards or other pieces of furniture need to be moved? Would a couple of pot plants or new artwork on the walls soften your environment?
  • Chair check – how comfortable is your chair, really? A comfortable chair that is set up correctly for you is paramount to avoid any back and neck strain. Any niggles or discomfort will be particularly apparent when you return from some time off, so pay attention to your body in the first couple of weeks after your holiday. “The Konekt Market Report shows that 60 per cent of workplace-related injuries are musculoskeletal, so it’s vital to make sure workstations are set up ergonomically,” advises Konekt’s Mary Vetere. “In addition, taking regular breaks, moving around and stretching are important to help prevent such injuries.”

10. Look after yourself
• Get a good night’s sleep to reset your body clock so you can get back into your old routine and get out of bed earlier to get to work.
• Make time for ‘you’ so you don’t’ feel your life is all about work. This helps to keep your mind and body ‘sane’. “The time and the way you do this may need to change when you return to work, but it is critical that you still make time for it,” says Amanda Johnston. “It also gives you something to look forward to each day, and this can assist you to get through some of the less pleasant aspects of life.”
• Exercise – A healthy body is linked to a healthy mind that will cope better with stress.
• Eat well – Same as above. Try to avoid stimulants where possible. Excess caffeine or nicotine can make you feel anxious or on edge.
• Drink plenty of water – Our bodies function better when we’re hydrated.
11. Get organized
• Make an effort to have your first weeks back as organised as possible – Your calendar or diary should be your best friend in the first two or three weeks. “Whether it be lunches, travel to and from work, or even what you’re wearing for the day, effective time management regulates your tasks and reduces the uncertainty of not having enough time to complete the task required,” Amanda explains. “Plus it allows for ‘time off/relaxation’ periods.” You can also use your phone to set regular reminders until you’ve established your routine again.
• Plan something enjoyable – This could be a get-together with friends, a weekend away or even your next holiday. “It’s important to have pleasurable activities to look forward to,” Amanda says.
12. Take regular breaks
• Move your body – Especially during the day when you’re at work. Get up out of your chair to have a stretch or walk around to keep the blood circulating and mind alert. “Micro-pause breaks and postural reversal (e.g. stretching to the opposite posture of what you have been doing) can help you stay fresher and more energised for longer,” explains Konekt’s chief ergonomist, Mary Vetere.
• Get outside – Get out of your office for some sunshine and fresh air. Rather than eating at your desk, eat your sandwich in the park or go outside to grab a coffee.
Image from

Thanks to our contributors for their wise words and advice:
Kym Quick is the CEO of Clarius. Clarius’ Candle brand provides IT staff to both the private and government sectors in Adelaide, and recruits across more than 20 major occupation categories.
Kym Quick, CEO of Clarious Group
FDC Construction & Fitout is a privately owned Australian company that was established in 1990 and is fully owned by the management team. Specialising in commercial construction, interior fitout, refurbishment, technologies and mechanical services, the company’s projects span the nation. FDC continues to develop its portfolio of high profile clients and industry relationships using a customer-centred work principle.
Konekt was founded in 2003 and is the largest private sector provider of organisational health and risk management solutions in Australia (listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, Konekt Ltd – ASX: KKT). Their focus is on helping organisations keep their workforce safe, minimise the impact of workplace injury, rehabilitate or redeploy injured workers, while meeting regulatory and compliance obligations.
Konekt solutions are delivered by Konekt’s national team of allied health professionals, servicing all Australian capital cities and major regional centres. The team is comprised of industry experts who are capably supported by leading edge technology, delivering sound, proven and secure services.

How do you stay upbeat at work after returning from holiday?

How to beat the Back to Work Blues – Part 1

Are the Christmas/New Year holidays now a distance memory? Chances are you’ll now be back at work and trying to get into the pre-Christmas routine of early-to-bed, early-to-rise, getting the kids ready for daycare/school, etc, etc…


If you’ve just started back at work (lucky you!) or have been struggling to master the 9-5 routine over the last couple of weeks, read on for some great tips on how to beat the back to work blues…


1. Get motivated


This tip will really set you up for the year ahead – don’t be the ‘passenger’ in your life this year, be the driver! Clarius CEO, Kym Quick, advises the mantra for 2014 is to “get motivated, get a plan and get involved! It’s the beginning of the year and time for you to make a fresh impression on the boss. The best way to do that is to return to work motivated and rearing to go”. Having the right attitude is paramount for success this year – in your career or personal life.
Image from


2. Identify goals and plan for the year ahead


The next step is getting organised. Kym Quick says, “Meet the boss and get a plan. You want to spend your time doing what the company needs you to do so make sure you have a work and development plan for 2014”. The advantage of having a plan is that is that it “gives you tangible goals on which to develop skills and capabilities. It’s also a great way to get motivated because it focuses your efforts and time investment…it’s not just about measuring and monitoring your performance, it’s about getting on the front foot, showing initiative, support and involvement with your colleagues”. Quick also suggests that we should “Set private goals too. Over time these will develop into public victories and keep you focused and motivated”.


3. Get a mentor


No matter where you are in your career, everyone can benefit from having a mentor. Young or old, there’s always something new you can learn from someone else. The Clarius Recruitment Group have identified that sadly, “only half of Australian professionals have a job description and KPI’s and even less (21 per cent) have a mentor to help iron out career cricks”. Having a mentor can offer another perspective, help open your eyes to new possibilities and take you career to the next level. Don’t underestimate what you could learn by becoming a mentor yourself. “Get a mentor, be a mentor. Everyone has something to learn so identify someone you admire and ask them to mentor you. And show leadership by being a mentor for someone coming up through the ranks behind you”, says Quick.

4. Be a problem solver – Focus on the solution, not the problem
Every workplace has a ‘negative Nancy’ – just don’t let it be you! Whilst it’s not always easy to remain positive at work, challenge yourself to quash those negative feelings this year. Rather than presenting your boss with a problem, try to identify a solution (or solutions!). Quick says, “Managers don’t want to deal with the same problems they had the previous year so if you can convince them you’re the person to lighten the load you’ll be in their good books from the get go. Once the goodwill seeds are planted, get serious about your efforts for 2014 by meeting with your boss to plan your contribution and development needs for the year.” However, it’s important that you “Help out, don’t suck up. Put your hand up and help out. Whether it’s a request by a colleague, boss or someone from another team. Be the source of advice and inspiration,” advises Quick.
5. Lean a new skill
This will keep you feeling fresh and challenged in your role, and may even open the door to a new opportunity, promotion or even a new job. Quick believes that learning a new skill can help you stand out from the crowd, “In the current challenging business environment, employers are looking for people who can multi-skill while still being specialists.”
6. Identify your priorities and focus on them by setting timelines
There will always be too much to do in our working and personal lives. The trick is picking your battles and identifying what’s really important to you. Quick says it’s important to “Apply critical thinking to the way you work. This will help you improve practices and even save the company money – what boss wouldn’t love that!” Quick also believes it’s just as important to set timelines. “Don’t procrastinate. Having a deadline helps you manage your time so you can take on more responsibilities or free up time to up skill.” The quicker you achieve one goal, the quicker you can move onto the next!
Thanks to our contributor, Kym Quick for her wise words and advice:
Kym Quick is the CEO of Clarius. Clarius’ Candle brand provides IT staff to both the private and government sectors in Adelaide, and recruits across more than 20 major occupation categories.
Kym Quick, CEO of Clarious Group

Work Hard, Play Hard: Top 10 Tips for Managing Distractions in your Workplace

A phone that never seems to stop ringing, colleagues that just want to chat, last-minute/disorganised meetings, countless daily emails, or demanding children (if we work from home). We all experience and juggle distractions in the workplace on a daily basis. These distractions “have the ability to draw us in, take us off track and cause us to lose hours of our time, as they affect our ability to concentrate, and get the job done!” says Organisation and Management Consultant, Louise D’Allura.

Distraction management is definitely an area I can improve on. So I sought advice from some experts in the field, as well as those with experience and success in managing the distractions in their workplace.

This is what we came up with – here are our 10 top tips for managing distractions in your workplace (short of going AWOL!):

1. Establish what your role is and what you want to achieve
2. Plan your time
3. Manage meetings and avoid being “the go-to problem-solver”
4. Manage distractions from work colleagues and employees
5. Work from a different location
6. Tips for working from home
7. Disconnect from Social Media
8. Disconnect from email
9. “If I don’t do this task now, I’ll forget about it”
10. Take a break

1. Establish what your role is and what you want to achieve

The first step to managing distractions is to consider what you want to accomplish, or basically, what you are being paid to do, advises Louise D’Allura. “Before you even look at how to manage distractions the key is to understand what it is you’re paid to do. What are your KPI’s (key performance indicators)?” Asking this simple question will help you focus and prioritise the tasks at hand. “If you know how you will be judged you will be able to ensure you’re asking yourself ‘am I doing the tasks that represent the highest value to my organisation?’ Knowing this helps you to work out if your job is to solve other people’s problems then you need to have strategies in place to help you get your work done, AND meet the requirements of your role,” advises Louise.  After defining what it is you need to achieve, the next step is identifying the things (or distractions) that prevent you from doing this. “Without awareness you can’t change what you don’t know. So do an audit, get feedback from trusted colleagues and friends,” says Louise. 

Louise D’Allura from The Revamp Experience

Louise recommends considering the below questions to “work out what is working and what’s not”:
• Do you always offer to help when it isn’t asked?
• Do you attend too many meetings?
• Do you know what To Dos you have to do and how long they will take?
• Do you know how you’re performing?

2. Plan your time

It sounds obvious, but the more you plan what you’re going to do, the better you’ll manage distractions. Business Coach, Maureen Pound suggests two ways that you can make better use of your time:

1. “Block your activities in chunks rather than trying to multitask and getting distracted switching from one thing to another.”

2. “Plan what you are going to focus on for the day and the week. The clearer you are about what is important to get done, the less likely you are to be distracted.”

3. Manage meetings and avoid being “the go-to problem-solver”

There are always a couple of people in every organisation who are looked to in times of crisis for their problem-solving abilities. “If you’re the one everyone relies on when there is a crisis – but you’re still working late getting around to your work at the end of the day, the question is how do you still contribute to your workplace without getting drawn into everything? If this sounds familiar it won’t surprise you to know that a lot of people who struggle with this, hate to let others down by saying no – even if it leads to them being overwhelmed by work/commitments and no time for family,” says Louise.

The solution? Louise advises to “Work out who are the people that can interrupt you vs those you can ask to get back to when it suits YOU. Always ask how long will it take (and assume they are terrible estimators!); work on your standard lines so you don’t get drawn into conversations!”

In regards to meetings, the trick is to work out if you really need to attend before-hand. Ask questions such as: “if the meetings have clear outcomes and agendas? Are the essential people that need to be there, there? or is it every man and his dog?…ask these questions, and get out of attending if you can,” advises Louise.


4. Manage distractions from work colleagues and employees

We all have certain times of the day when we work best and it’s important that others we work with understand this (and vice versa!). “Manage distractions and interruptions. Research shows it takes most people 10 minutes to return to focused work after they have been interrupted,” says Joshua Uebergang from Online Visions. We need to be proactive and part of the solution in managing the distractions around us – quite often it’s all about training.

“Communicate with those who distract you. Say when you can be approached, explaining your reason to help them understand it’s not personal. It helps to designate a time-period for your most important tasks where you “train” people to never interrupt,” advises Joshua.

Maureen Pound believes that a consistent approach is the most successful: “Tell people you don’t want to be disturbed during certain times. Try to keep them the same each week, so people know not to interrupt during those times.”An “open plan working environment can be fun when co-workers have a healthy balanced relationship,” says Anna, blogger at

“However even in a fun office it can be difficult to survive when everyone is in the same room. Personally, as a writer I struggle with noise. However it has been a year now of me trying to get used to this open plan office design and I must say I am getting better”. Anna’s tips for surviving in a noisy, open-plan office are:

1. Exercise your selective hearing – the more you try to isolate your mind from the noise the better it will become eventually.

2. If you cannot tune into the work mode while everyone else is talking around you, get head phones. This is what I do as well. Head phones plugged into my phone or working computer with the type of music which helps me concentrate.

3. Ask others to shut up! Always an option but might appear to be a little rude.

4. Demand to have a personal office. Might also result in a negative outcome.

5. Pay attention to when your co-workers are louder and plan your writing work (or whatever cannot be done in the noisy environment) around it.

Failing this, you could always try working off-site…

5. Work from a different location

There is such a thing as being too accessible. If you work in an office with other colleagues or employees, they will come to you with (often well-intentioned) questions. You’re there and it’s easier for them to quickly ask you a question, rather than trying to work something out for themselves. Even if it’s a quick question, lots of them can be exceptionally distracting.

Amanda Tallent, CEO Bennetts Boots wide calf boots identifies with this situation; “We have shops and a main office but my husband (business partner) and I decided to work from home. In part to get the space to get our work done, when we are at the head office we are bombarded with questions and can’t help get distracted, resulting on us working in the business instead of ON the business”. Amanda raises a good point in that your job as business owner/director is to work ON your business. You need to schedule time to do this, so being inaccessible by working away from the office, or letting your team know when you can’t be disturbed is a good start.

Sometimes working from home is not always the best solution, as Amanda says that their three-year-old daughter can also be a distraction, “As wonderful as it is to both be close to her as she’s growing up, the reality of trying to do a phone training session while she’s asking the same question over and over even though you have answered it, or deciding to sing at the top of her voice just as you pick up the phone…is proving to be more challenging than we had first thought”.

Pick your locations – sometimes a table in the corner of your local coffee shop is as good as anywhere!

6. Tips for working from home

• Limit your housework tasks and use them to your advantage
The challenge of working from home, rather than from an office each day is that you can’t escape the mess that surrounds you – dirty dishes, washing, clothes that are begging to be folded, etc. It’s also amazing how much housework gets done when you have a deadline or need to get something completed. Housework is a great procrastination tool, but you can use it to your advantage, says Darryl van Rooy. “Each hour – do some small and quick home duties – clean the toilet. Again, it’s a time signal and a break for your brain. Also if you have a crappy day at work and feel like you have achieved nothing, at least you can say the toilet is clean – you have achieved something.”

• Remove the distraction
Writers have an established reputation for being the masters of procrastination, but writer Helen Collier is on a mission to quash this preconception. “As a writer I sometimes just need to crack on and get the article finished. Working from home has its benefits, but when I first started working for myself I found that I was so busy with my non-work related distractions, that half a day could go by and no work has been achieved. I’m also a puppy owner and he has other ideas about what we should spend our time doing and comes and regularly nudges my elbow and looks at me longingly.” Helen’s advice is simple: “remove these distractions – out of sight out of mind. Puppy goes outside with a bone, and mobile and email are switched off. If I don’t know about it, I can’t get distracted by it. And the cooking and washing, well…there’s plenty of time for all that once my article is done and dusted”.

7. Disconnect from Social Media

“Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pintrest, Tumblr – OFF. Have a play at lunchtime when you’re munching your sandwich,” says Darryl van Rooy, owner of Sunbury Carpet Cleaning.

8. Disconnect from email

• Limit how frequently you check your email
How long could you last without checking your email? In some businesses, email is more critical than others, but most businesses could probably get away with checking emails a couple of times a day, rather than every five minutes.

Darryl advises, “Don’t fire up your email program until you need to send an email. This will mean the emails that people have sent to you won’t be actioned straight away. You will answer them – if you take some time to respond, it gives the impression that you are busy. Other business people don’t really like dealing with people that have nothing to do – it gives the impression that you are a poor business performer.”

• Turn off email alerts
The “bing” alert noise that most smart phones produce when we receive an email these days fuel our desire to procrastinate on what’s important – TURN THEM OFF! Maureen Pound agrees, “Turn of any sort of beeps to signal arrival of new emails or messages. Checking them will only distract you and get you off-task”. The same also applies to your phone, says Maureen: “Turn off your phone if you would not like to be disturbed. Surely people can wait an hour or two for you to get back to them”.

9.  “If I don’t do this task now, I’ll forget about it”

GUILTY! Often the small, simple jobs that we think will “only take a minute” take longer than we expect, and cause us to lose focus and forget about what we were originally working on. “Have your diary open and if something flashes into your head, write it down on the day it needs to be done,” advises Darryl.

10. Take a break

Darryl van Rooy has run his own business, Sunbury Carpet Cleaning for five years now. Whilst it might sound strange to stop working, Darryl believes that having morning and afternoon tea breaks are essential, especially for home based businesses, as they “give your brain a chance to relax and you also tell yourself that half the morning/afternoon is gone – that might make you work faster or pat yourself on the back for getting a lot done”.

Thanks to our contributors for their wise words:

Amanda Tallent, Bennetts Boots: Bennetts Boots specialise in high-quality leather boots for wide calves, whilst keeping fit, function and fashion first-of-mind.

Darryl van Rooy, Sunbury Carpet Cleaning: Darryl’s business specialises in carpet and mattress sanitizing services in Sunbury, Macedon Ranges and Northwestern Suburbs of Melbourne.

Joshua Uebergang, Online Visions: Online Visions is a specialist ecommerce design, development, and marketing company based in Brisbane.

Helen Collier, Just Words – Helen is a freelance writer and PR pundit. She hopes her clients never realise how much she’s juggling at one time!   

Maureen Pound, Business Coach – Maureen Pound is the business coach for the brave. Are you a capable person who is procrastinating at the moment? Contact Maureen for a complimentary procrastination buster session at

Louise D’Allura, The Revamp Experience – Louise is an Organisation/Time Management Consultant and Mentor for The Revamp Experience. Since 2009 The Revamp Experience has been helping individuals and organisations increase their energy, decrease their stress and regain control of their time, workspace and well-being.

Anna, blogger at
Anna is a blogger with a keen interest in fitness and business. Blogging for a living (and for fun) Anna loves researching and writing about these areas, as well as a variety of other topics.

Work Hard, Play Hard: Top tips on dealing with conflict in the workplace

Out of the four below personality types, which best describes you at work?:

1. Analytical: Thinker, perfectionist, good attention to detail
2. Amiable: Team player, diplomatic, loyal
3. Driver: Strong, independent, high achiever
4. Expressive: Good communicator, passionate, creative

For each positive trait these personality types have, there are also some negative points, which are the things we need to focus on when trying to resolve conflict in the workplace.
Workplace conflict is something that will affect everyone at some point in their working career. It might be directly, where we find ourselves clashing with a colleague, boss or employee or indirectly when we get caught in the conflict cross-fire of other work colleagues.

When we’re working at least seven hours a day, conflict at work can really put a downer on our outlook when we feel like we’re ‘going into battle’ everyday, which is why we’ve dedicated this post to advice on avoiding workplace conflict.

With some help from our expert panel, we’ve identified some common themes and key strategies for addressing conflict.

1. Conflict is good
Shane Warren from Waterworth (a human resource leadership and organisational development consulting firm) looks at conflict from a different angle and says, “I always encourage people to accept that conflict is in fact good, because this shows people can be bothered to have an emotional investment in the work experience (apathy is the true killer to team dynamics)”.

Clair Couttie from fibreHR agrees that being open and honest is best: “Welcome conflict. Deal with it quickly and openly, don’t push it underground by not addressing it. Facilitate difference of opinion in a structured and safe way.”

When involved in difficult conversations, always remember “It’s not ‘what you say’, but how you say it (as my mum says!),” says Felicity Murray from Strategic Administration Services Australia (SASA).

2. Pick your battles
My grandad once wisely said, “You can’t win ‘em all!” which rings true in the workplace. “Individuals must be smart and you need to choose your battles well – don’t waste time and energy fighting a fight you can never win. Be sure to access your power of influence and run with it – what you cannot influence you are better learning to accept!” says Shane.

To avoid taking criticism at work personally, Felicity offers these gems of advice:
1. Think like a business owner and rise above the emotion of it
2. Focus on the outcome, not the reaction
3. Remember to ‘lead by example’

3. Define expectations – within the company and your team
“Grey areas” can lead to a grey culture. Most people like to know where they stand and uncertainty can lead to frustration, negativity and a lack of productivity.

When managing expectations, Felicity says it is important to take a step back and “Firstly, be clear about what they are”.

Lack of role clarity and goal setting “is often the biggest reason for conflict at work,” says Clair. Problems can arise when “Roles have not been clearly defined by management with some roles overlapping in accountability and responsibility. Where there are no clear goals set it is often difficult to make effective decisions in the best interests of the business.”

The solution? This is where management comes in. Someone needs to take charge and ensure that every team member is on the same page. This is where a clear and concise induction procedure comes in handy. Good habits are cemented when there is clarity around roles and goals for new team members. Clair believes that it’s important to “Define appropriate corporate values and behaviours. In this way when inappropriate conflict behaviours arise performance management can be undertaken quickly and in a structured way that is clear to all parties”.

4. Learn how to negotiate
“Learn how to say ‘no’” is a common bit of advice thrown to people who are overwhelmed by their workload. But sometimes saying ‘no’ isn’t that simple. If ‘no’ isn’t a word you’re comfortable with, put on your negotiating hat and learn how to offer alternative solutions.

Felicity suggests, “Don’t say no but rather offer solutions”. Asking simple questions such as “When do you need it by?” helps to establish the urgency of the task. Offer solutions such as, “I will be able to do it for you by end of next week (rather than ‘no’ because you’re too busy)” or “Perhaps Sally can help, would you like me to ask her?” are helpful options says Felicity. “Communicate if there are issues with your workload such as “I will be able to do this, however, that will need to be pushed back until next month.”

5. Have the right people in the right roles
If you think back to the jobs you have enjoyed previously, chances are they involved tasks that you enjoy and/or are good at. Melinda Walker from Elite Success Coaching believes this is paramount. “If people are doing what they enjoy doing and they drive satisfaction from it, then they will and do spend less time complaining about their workload and their workmates.”

Clair believes that part of the key to success is to “Embrace and understand diversity. Everyone has different backgrounds perspectives and values which can enrich a team. The key is to understand these in teams and appreciate everyone’s strengths and acknowledge development areas.”

What are some strategies that you can use to ensure that you have the right people in the right roles?

1. Identify the different personality types within your workplace. Clair suggests using organisational psych tools such as DiSC and MBTI to help “start the conversation and create shared understanding”. These are great tools that can be extremely beneficial in a variety of workplaces, but they must be used with care. Instruments such as MBTI and DiSC “need to be used responsibly to assist in understanding of differences rather than to divide or excuse inappropriate behavior,” advises Clair.

2. Start to match employee’s strengths with specific tasks, as Melinda explains below:
a) The devil is in the detail – “People who are good with detail should be creating things like computer programs, working with numbers, spread-sheets, office manuals that kind of thing.  Essentially anything that involves a lot of detail.”

b) People who need people – “People who are good with people and not so good with detail should always either be in sales or at front of house, greeting people to your business and making them feel welcome.”

c) Lone Wolf – “People who are good at working on their own and not taking direction should be in charge of a sales team, be in leadership or be involved in organizing training for the staff and ideally running it as well.”

d) Comfort Seekers – “People who are good at being comfortable and like stability and don’t have any real desire to move up the corporate ladder are the best people for maintaining your database and your clients.  They should be the ones doing the follow up and making sure your clients are happy.”

Melinda believes it’s important to recognise that “People are an emotional lot yet essentially we are all very similar and if you know what motivates someone and what makes them happy by understanding their personality types better then you will have a far more cohesive and productive workplace.”

A huge thank you to our contributors for their wise words:

Shane Warren, Waterworth – Waterworth is a human resource leadership and organisational development consulting firm working across the Asia Pacific

Clair Couttie, fibreHR – fibreHR is a generalist HR consultancy operating in the SME space with up to 70 different clients across a range of industries.

Melinda Walker, Elite Success Coaching – Melinda works with businesses to develop their people by creating high performing teams who are committed to the culture of an organization. Together we increase cohesion and productivity for individuals and within teams.

Felicity Murray, Strategic Administration Services Australia (SASA) – SASA is Australia’s leading Strategic Administration Services provider.
For over 21 years, founder and principal specialist Felicity Murray, has
supported business leaders and owners, developed administration processes
and programs, and recruited, managed, trained, coached and mentored
Administration staff across Australia.

Work Hard, Play Hard: Top tips on smashing emails

Life’s officially back to normal after the summer holidays. How do I know this? I can finally park the car in my local shopping centre without having to do laps looking for a free space! It seems that the hordes of school children and uni students who called the mall home most days throughout the summer holidays finally have somewhere else they have to be.

The sad thing is that most of us are also back behind our desks and the summer holidays are but a distant memory. But before you book your next mini-break, try to look for some positives in your role. Maybe there’s a training course you can enrol in to extend your skills, or perhaps there’s a better way of doing a task you do every day, like checking and responding to your emails. 

This week we’ve dedicated our blog to all things work: great products that will get you excited about your next business trip, meeting or presentation, and tips on how to deal with stressful work situations, like emails coming from all directions. Watch this space for more helpful tips on how to survive and thrive at work this year in our Work Hard, Play Hard series.

Email is used for everything from communicating with colleagues and friends to marketing products and events. Generally speaking, the more you send, the more you receive. So how do you cope when you’re faced with an inbox of 100+ emails per day? There’s got to be some strategies that we can use to help us ‘work smarter, not harder’, so we put our hand up and asked for some advice. Check out some of the fantastic suggestions and solutions our contributors shared with us below:

Problem 1:
Email becomes an unproductive distraction (you may even use it as a form of procrastination)
Personally, I find email a terrible distraction. Every time I access my inbox to look for a piece of info someone has sent me, I catch myself going through new emails and feeling overwhelmed by additional tasks I need to complete.

• Limit how often you check your email
Unless your job is entirely driven by receiving emails i.e. answering customer queries that only come through on email, limit yourself to how often you check your emails. I allow myself half an hour every couple of hours to check emails and prioritise the ones that need an urgent response. Most people are happy if you respond on the same day you receive their email, and if it’s a life-or-death situation they’ll usually call instead.
• Turn off the New Email pop-ups and alerts
If you receive a message or alert every time you get an email, you’ll go insane. Curiosity will drive you to check your inbox, so turn off your email alerts and focus on what you’re doing.
• Close your inbox when you’re not checking your email
This will limit your desire to click on your inbox, ‘just in case’ anything new has come through. Complete the task you are doing, and then check your email.

Problem 2:
You can never find important emails when you need them

• Use folders to stay organised

Anton Martin from Sherpa Design is a big fan of creating folders for clients or projects. “It’s important to organise all of your current projects or clients into their own folders to keep your inbox clean and to have relevant client emails easily index-able,” Anton explains.
• Archive the folders you don’t use anymore
To avoid the infinite list of folders down the left-hand side of your inbox, have a Spring Clean every now and then and archive old folders you don’t use. Anton recommends archiving “Previous clients email folders so they remain organised and free up precious email storage”.

Problem 3:
You have 100+ new emails in your inbox and you don’t know where to start OR you never seems to get quick responses to your emails

• Sort emails by subject when you start going through them so you can work through email trails quickly
• Review the way you use email subject lines

The title of your email could be affecting the effectiveness of your emails, explains copywriting expert, Jess Woods of Woods of Words: “Email subject lines should be catchy, yet informative. You want to attract attention so that your email stands out amongst the crowd (and it will get read before others) yet remain focussed on the matter you are emailing about.”
• Don’t use start your email in the header line
“There is nothing more off-putting than an email header that reads: “Can you work on this and….” before concluding the sentence “…that by Friday please” in the body of the email. It looks unprofessional and is often sent straight to the trash pile,” says Jess.

·  Use reminders to follow up on important emails that you need a response to
Elizabeth Moore, Brand Manager of Wallsneedlove recommends using ‘“Boomerang’ which sends a reminder after a specified amount of time if they haven’t responded, making it much easier to send follow up e-mails”.
·   Always proof read your emails before sending
Does your email make sense and will your recipient understand what you mean? “Read over what you have written before sending and you are much more likely to get the response you want,” advises Elizabeth.  

Problem 4:
You can’t get on top of the amount of emails you receive

• Find a strategy of categorising your emails so you can work through them.

Landon Kahn, Marketing Manager for Todae Solar has a great system called the Zero Inbox principle that he uses to manage his inbox. “You can ensure you spend less time on email and more time on more important tasks by categorising your emails and actioning them straight away,” explains Landon. You’ve got five options on what to do with emails that hit your inbox:
1. Delete – if it’s unimportant delete it (or archive)
2. Delegate – if it is a task that someone else is able to do forward it to them straight away.
3. Respond – Some emails my require a response (and then archive)
4. Do – Action it immediately if need be
5. Defer – If you don’t have enough time, defer it with a reminder for later (but remove it from your inbox).
• Identify serial email offenders
Work out who sends you the most emails and try and find an alternative way to communicate. If it’s a work colleague or client, schedule a regular (brief but focused) meeting where you can discuss points that would usually be emailed. Ensure your team members and colleagues know when they should and shouldn’t cc you on emails. Remove yourself from unnecessary mailing lists.

Problem 5:
We sometimes forget there’s a person at the other end of an email

  • Focus on your intro

“It’s important to remember when e-mailing that you are still talking to someone. We get so many e-mails these days it can be hard to keep up, both with whom we have e-mailed and who has e-mailed us,” says Elizabeth Moore of Wallsneedlove. Elizabeth recommends starting your email off “with a genuine and attention grabbing intro. My go-to-intro is ‘Hello [name], I hope this e-mail finds you well.’ Be genuine and show attention to detail”.

Thanks to our contributors for their advice:

Anton Martin, Sherpa Design: Sherpa Design is a boutique web design and online marketing shop that specialises in crafting your vision into an awesome website, and then taking that website and turning it into a profitable business tool. Check out their work:

Jess Woods, Woods of Words: Jess is the owner of Woods Of Words, offering freelance copywriting and PR services in Sydney. Check out examples of Jess’s work and the service she offers at

Landon Kahn, Todae Solar: Landon is the Marketing Manager for Todae Solar. Check out Todae Solar’s services and projects at

Elizabeth Moore, Wallsneedlove: Elizabeth is the Brand Manager of where she runs the social media platforms and manages SEO. She has worked in social media and marketing professionally since graduating college in 2010. Check out what can do for you.