14 May 2017

I was amazed at the number of private posts, tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn messages this week and the response to my short video on mental health.

I had no idea it affected just so many people. But when you think about it, as a race, humans were never meant to be caged in boxes all day. And whilst as kids we got time to run around, as adults we work long hours inside, often sat a desk. Even more worrying, society is changing so fast that even kids are getting less places to play outdoors and it is losing its priority in school, being swapped for more lessons ironically sitting at a desk. Getting out is essential. Moving is essential.

Lawrence Jones Working outdoors whenever possible

Lawrence Jones Working outdoors whenever possible

This is one of the reasons we have adapted UKFast over the years making it an increasingly dynamic environment, building gyms and encouraging running clubs, kettlebell classes, circuit training, yoga. And not just for the fact it encourages you to breakaway from your desks, but also for the interaction and stimulation that hanging out with friends and colleagues gives you. Teammates are continuously meeting new people from all corners of the business and that can only be a good thing,

To encourage interaction, when new teammates start we give them a bright green lanyard for their first 3 months which encourages people to say hello and make a concerted effort to get to know them. We recognise its hard starting in a new role, and a simple, “hi there, how you doing, I am Lawrence, nice to meet you,” goes such a long way.

Creating momentum is essential if you want to keep everyone in tip top condition and as healthy as can be, but there are no tax breaks for gym areas or collaboration environments, worse if you do take your team for a day-out to reward them, this is not tax deductible so you are being severely penalised spending money on them in these areas.

Nevertheless more and more businesses are increasing activities that genuinely engage their teammates, learning that a happy healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Its incredible that so many accountants can’t see the connection; profitability comes from productivity. Ask your boss or your manager or company accountant, “what do they think would inspire us to become more productive?”

Climbing Snowdon with my 2 eldest daughters. Poppy was only 5 years old!

Climbing Snowdon with my 2 eldest daughters. Poppy was only 5 years old!

If you are one of the old school types that sees this as “ridiculous” which I hear from time to time, you are going to lose your top talent. I believe creating a happy workforce is the single biggest responsibility I have as an employer.

Personally I do a great deal of exercise as I see keeping fit as essential if I am able to perform at my best level. But if you are doing exercise most days like me, you need to ensure you are resting and also allowing your muscles to repair. I have a sports massuese who looks after my muscles and keeps me on track, after all I am not getting any younger! I also am very careful about what I eat. I don’t eat dairy of any sort, or wheat. Eating the right food is essential if you want to feel good about yourself.

Talking about mental health with my physio this morning, she made a very good point, saying if people are struggling, they should consider getting a dog. “They get you outside walking them whatever the weather. They are always enthusiastic to see you and far more loyal and consistent often than humans can be. Its a great way of getting out of the house and having a companion.”

This is an inspired idea, especially as there are so many animals in rescue centres just waiting for someone to care for them.

I also think when people are suffering with mental health issues it can be hard for them to escape from their day to day problems as feelings can become overwhelming and at this stage its very easy to look inwards, when actually having things to focus on in the future can be a welcome distraction, even walking the dog and taking care of an animal is hugely rewarding and something to look forward to.

Work can be fun and doesn’t always have to be inside an office

Work can be fun and doesn’t always have to be inside an office

Someone on Twitter posted, “no one ever felt suicidal whilst playing sport.” To which Danny Massaro husband of World Champion Squash player Laura Massaro said, “try doing her work out and that might change your mind.” I have trained with Laura and Danny at high altitude on the squash courts in Verbier, oh boy! It was painful.

But joking aside, exercise and fresh air is essential to a balanced life. The endorphins and sense of achievement is unique to sport and can’t be artificially replaced.

Some of us need it more than others too. I really do struggle being cooped up for long periods in meetings. After a while I struggle with my attention span!

So this week I have the final part of the video on mental health where I share some of the ways I deal with the stresses associated with running a fast paced business. They are just simple common sense things that over the years Gail and I have put together as a formula after we struggled to keep up with the demands of the business.

Man’s best friend, sadly no longer with me, but great memories of fantastic times together.

Man’s best friend, sadly no longer with me, but great memories of fantastic times together.

If you are finding things in life challenging, share your story. A problem shared is a problem halved and believe it or not, many of us have been in the same boat and only came through the other side from a friend offering a helping hand. So get typing!

For everyone who messaged me this week, thank you for inspiring me with your openness and honesty. Just remember you can achieve anything you set your mind to. One step at a time.

Keep moving! Keep looking forward and have a great week.

Best LJ

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