Tag Archives: relaxation

My four-day weekend

This June I’d expected to be completing a three-year contract and looking for new full-time employment (without dismissing the possibility of a part-time role). I’m lucky enough to love my work but regard my paid employment as more of a cause than a career; I describe all purposeful activity as ‘work’ – sometimes it’s paid, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes that relates to the same activity! The line between the two has become increasingly blurred and I have concluded that work-life balance between different types of work is what determines my level of health and happiness.

Back to my non-career career, and what was planned for this June didn’t happen. My previous employers cut short my contract six months early but, luckily, I was able to seamlessly take up another role which, seven months in, I find really rewarding. That reward may be partly because the role is part-time – I enjoy a four-day weekend and can recommend it!

As an aside, I can confess to having worked an unofficial four-day week many years ago. I’m a believer in the principle of getting paid for work done rather than ‘hours on the job’ – a not insignificant difference. I was in a full-time job, which wasn’t office-based and I honestly felt I could get it done in four days (and I don’t mean by working 9.5 hours on each of those days). I was thinking of trying to make it official – discussing the idea with my employers – but my brother-in-law advised I simply do it unofficially. Which is what happened – I kept my phone on and was available for the five working days, but I reduced my hours to give me more time to be a father (commuting for six years I’d missed out on my daughter’s development). I got the job done, never missed any meetings and, to the best of my knowledge, no one was any the wiser about my ‘informal arrangement’.

But now I work Wednesday to Friday by arrangement and I can confirm I don’t get that dreaded ‘Monday feeling’ on a Sunday afternoon, nor even on a Tuesday! I don’t really know whether I can afford to be paid for only three days a week (the sort of charity jobs I enjoy are never particularly well paid…) but I do know the non-monetary compensation is massive. It’s taken a little getting used to; I have to keep my head down on a Friday afternoon when full-time colleagues around me are, understandably, winding down for the weekend. But for me the prospect of the four-day ‘weekend’ ahead keeps me going, committed to making sure my three days are fully worked.

Planning becomes all the more important when you know you’ll leave on a Friday and, in theory, you’ll be unavailable until the following Wednesday. My work involves 1-2-1 meetings so, with my flexibility reduced, almost invariably some of that planning has to happen on one of my days off, but that’s a price I’m prepared to pay for my re-balanced life.

Which is not to say that my ‘days off’ are spent sitting back doing nothing; I don’t even have enough time for some serious reading for pleasure, something I promised myself when I knew I was going part-time but have not achieved… yet. I have too many other interests to sit around idly but I now have half a chance of ticking off most of the items on the same to-do lists that I previously tried to cram into a two-day weekend.

Meanwhile, I’m also following with interest a national campaign for a four-day working week – something about which I blogged some years ago. How many people on their death-bed say with regret ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’? Time for us all to focus on what really matter maybe…

The three day weekend https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/time-trials-3-the-three-day-weekend

4 Day Week Campaign https://www.4dayweek.co.uk

Regrets of the dying https://bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying


An A – Z of social entrepreneurship: W – Z

As Global Entrepreneurship Week and this A-Z come to an end, the last four letters of the alphabet consider ways we can be kinder to ourselves. Investing in the people running social ventures is every bit as important as any capital expenditure.

 W – Working week

The UK is said to have one of the longest working weeks in Europe. Despite trends in part-time employment (or should that be under-employment?), zero-hours contracts and a perceived threat to UK jobs from migrant workers, I still think there’s a case for a three day weekend.

Workers would choose a Friday or Monday as their extra day – effectively extending the weekend nationally to four days with an associated economic boost for the leisure industry. Absenteeism and days lost through ill health could well go down and job satisfaction and productivity up. And if pay was for job done, rather than hours worked, it needn’t mean an automatic 20% reduction in wage levels.

For a more reasoned case for a shorter working week see www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/21-hours

X – x x x

The art of being yourself at your best is the art of unfolding your personality into the person you want to be. Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” Wilfred Peterson

A great number of us in the social economy so enjoy our (paid) work we would possibly do it unpaid if we could afford to. Certainly In my case the distinction between paid and unpaid work is becoming increasingly blurred.

But do you love yourself as well as your work?

My experience of working in the not-for-private-profit sector for 35 years is that we are better at caring for others than for ourselves. Our commitment to the cause often means we work ridiculously long hours for very little financial reward. Even where that’s our choice it can also be a selfish one; burn-out benefits no one – the sector loses experience and expertise and, at worst, it may put an additional burden on the NHS.

Y – Yes

I have a poster on my cellar wall at home – it reads ‘say yes more than no’. It’s bold, simple and effective (see it at  http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2010/08/say-yes-more-than-no) It’s a wonderfully positive approach to life that I try to follow (and people who know me well can manipulate me to say ‘yes’ when they want my help…)

But, like being over-passionate about a cause, not knowing when or how to ‘say no’ can also be self-defeating. It feels great to feel valued, wanted and needed, but learning to say no (without feeling guilty or causing offence) is probably one of the most useful skills you can acquire early in your career to sustain yourself.

Z – Zzzzz…sleep, rest and relaxation

When you’ve said ‘yes’ too often, and worked longer hours than is good for you or your productivity, you need to know how to re-charge your batteries. Not easy when you’re excited by what you’re doing, but rest and relaxation is an essential part of most people’s 24-hour day.

In 2007, a hotel chain put up hammocks in their UK headquarters – allowing staff to take short naps as necessary. Whether the company still encourages siestas is not reported.

For those with less enlightened employers here are 20 excuses if you’re found napping at your desk http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/managing-infosec/best-excuses-if-you-get-caught-sleeping-in-your-cubicle-17776

A bonus – wise words from the wonderful Nicholas Bate at Strategic Edge…                           Pause and consider 101 http://nicholasbate.typepad.com/files/pause-consider-101-pdf-v1.pdf

Finding peace in Hertford

Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.

Nic_in_TSS_reception (2)The Secret Space is well-named – tucked away off a bustling street in Hertfordshire’s county town. Outside is a courtyard (“it’s a real sun trap” I’m told) inside it’s serene, clean and calm … just the place for a first step into employment for people recovering from substance abuse.

The Secret Space is a centre for complementary therapies (including massage, acupuncture and reflexology) and yoga – designed to benefit both the providers and purchasers of those therapies. “It’s about bringing people back to their bodies, learning how to relax and deal with issues in a positive way without resorting to substances” explains Nicky Kearns, who manages The Secret Space (as the only paid employee).

What I love about social enterprises is that outsiders often can’t distinguish between paid staff and trainees (known as volunteers at The Secret Space). Nicky sums up her philosophy perfectly “We all aim to be professional, our personal stories aren’t important for business success”. And it occurs to me that there’s probably an even thinner dividing line between people with clinically diagnosed substance abuse issues and many who over-indulge in alcohol on an all too regular basis and deny they have a problem.

Complementary therapies are an astute offering for a social enterprise supporting people trying to leave behind an unhealthy past (diagnosed or otherwise). And, according to Nicky, it works on a number of levels for the volunteers “…Complementary therapies bring relaxation from stress, anxiety and pain, some of which may be brought on by other areas of their recovery – counselling, group work etc… When our volunteers learn how to give a treatment, the deeper understanding and the act of giving the treatment is very healing. If you give a treatment, it’s very relaxing and rewarding for you as well as your client.”

Yoga__9065 (2)

The volunteers at The Secret Space gain skills and work experience in an area that is beneficial not just for their recovery now, but for coping with life in general. As well as learning about giving treatments, they may also learn about others aspects of setting up a business, customer service, sales and marketing, setting up a website. The expectation is that if people don’t move on to paid employment in complementary health, they will be able to use other skills, in reception, customer care, and administration for example, in other fields.

Just as the future for the first group of volunteers is unknown, so it is for The Secret Space itself. A child of the Crime Reduction Initiatives charity – a mere 5 month old toddler in fact – the enterprise has 2 – 3 years to become financially independent. Nicky knows it won’t be an easy adolescence, which is why it’s just as well she loves her work.

“ If you’re starting a social enterprise, it has to be something you’re passionate about because you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it. You need to enjoy it. Your business idea has to be financially viable, but you should also choose an area you have experience in and/or where you have good connections.”

For someone like me who’s not good at delegation, Nicky’s third and final bit of advice also resonates. “Don’t underestimate the people you’re working with – particularly when they’re volunteers. Learn to let go, people are very capable and if you give them the opportunity, they’ll learn.”

Discover the peace and tranquillity of The Secret Space at www.thesecretspace.org.uk

Enterprise essential – don’t try too hard – relax

Great ideas often come to people when they’re relaxing – in the bar, the bath, and in bed. Few people have their best ideas at their desks! This means you need to carry some means for easily recording ideas as they come to you – particularly if it’s in the middle of the night. A pad and pen can work well.