Is Your Valentine a Co-Worker?

According to a survey by vault.com in 2014 (http://www.vault.com/blog/workplace-issues/love-is-in-the-air-vaults-2014-office-romance-survey/#slideshowAnchor),  more than 50% of those surveyed had had an office relationship.  The research showed that while the incidence of office relationships was evenly split, men were more likely to have a ‘random hook up’ than women.  Whatever that means!

Interestingly, both 8% of women and 8% of men met their long term partners at work. Valentines

The statistics are hardly surprising – people who work in an office spend most of their waking time with people at work and meet people with common interests and socialise with them as well.  When working closely together, it is not surprising that friendship and alliances turn to either romance or a sexual relationship – and the two are not mutually exclusive!

So what are the do’s and don’ts of office hook ups and romance?

Generally speaking, unless there is a policy forbidding office relationships they are not illegal or noteworthy when the people involved are two consenting adults.  Difficulties arise of course when one or both of the people involved is married or in a permanent relationship with someone else, and while some would say it is no one’s business, it is difficult to keep this sort of relationship a secret. Like it or not, people will pass judgement on those who are perceived to be committing adultery – projecting perhaps their own fears and insecurities, or projecting their own set of values onto others, judging the parties to be generally untrustworthy.

Emotional infidelity – where you spend time together, telling each other your problems, talking all the time, but without a sexual relationship – will have the same result as actual infidelity as the people with whom you work will assume you are sleeping together.

However, having sex in the office, while thrilling (so I am told) is fraught with danger.  You could end up on news websites, and Facebook, while your spouse, who finds out about your office romance and sexual encounters courtesy of said news websites and Facebook, heads to a divorce lawyer.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/christchurch-office-sex-caught-on-camera-from-busy-bar-across-the-road/story-fnet0gt3-1227205697002

There are so many things wrong with the scenario of the article above – both parties are/were in relationships at the time, the tinted windows they thought protected them, in fact did not, and no one knows how many people now have video of their interlude on their phones.  However from an employment perspective, depending on the terms of their employment, it could end their careers at this office – by conduct which could be alleged to have brought the company into disrepute, for example.

A relationship with someone in a supervisory role, or with decision-making authority in relation to salary or promotion is unwise at best and just plain stupid at worst.  If the relationship goes well, the perception of the person more junior in the relationship will forever be tainted with the whiff of favouritism.  You may as well leave now!

If it goes badly, the person in the more senior position can face sexual harassment or bullying claims by a jilted lover.  Even if that is the extreme case, coming to work every Monday morning, (in fact every morning) and seeing the person with whom you used to be in a relationship, is just not going to be enjoyable, for either person, but especially the person who did not want it to end.

So…given that 8% of people meet their permanent partners at work, what are some of the unwritten rules?  Essentially there are none so we offer up these tips based on research, not personal experience:

  • if you are both consenting adults and not in other relationships you should be free to explore the possibilities
  • You should however meet with your supervisors (assuming one of the parties is not your supervisor) and advise them of the relationship
  • Keeping it a secret does no one any good as believe it or not, you are not very good at keeping secrets
  • Do try not to get involved with someone who is married or in a long term relationship.  It rarely ends well, particularly if children are involved.  Remember the scene from “When Harry met Sally”, and Sally’s friend Marie is talking about her lover buying his wife lingerie and a new dining room table.  She laments ‘I just don’t think he is ever going to leave her’ to which Sally replies ‘Marie, no one thinks he is ever going to leave her’.
  • Don’t, just don’t have sex in the office.  There are security cameras everywhere.  People may walk in on you.  It’s just not that attractive to other people!
  • Relationships with those in a supervisory role should be avoided at all costs unless one of you is prepared to leave the organisation. Again be honest – if either of you wants to be taken seriously, you should avoid scandal and conduct your relationship free of the constraints of gossip and innuendo.
  • Do not spend all your time ‘popping in’ to each others’ offices – keep work for work, and your relationship out of work time
  • Discretion is the better part of valour
  • Never, I repeat never, send steamy emails to each other at work.  Imagine the horror of hitting ‘reply all’ by mistake with a suggestive email.

Office romance can be thrilling and also fraught with danger (which of course makes it thrilling).  But it can be very damaging to your career and other relationships.  Let your head rule your heart more than the other way around and wisdom will prevail to protect you making a terrible mistake.

Christmas Networking – What is worth saying yes to

‘We must catch up before Christmas’ someone says to you on the phone as you open yet another email with an invitation to a pre-Christmas drinks function, and your heart sinks.

Networking has never been more important, to raise your profile and that of your firm, and build your personal brand.  At this time of year, it seems that you could be networking full time and not doing any actual work.  Leave aside the fact that you need time to purchase Christmas gifts and plan for lunch with relatives.

So it is important to maintain your equilibrium and stamina at this time of year, and also maintain your focus.christmas nextworking

Work is still important and must remain your main focus – keep the Christmas break in mind as you work through the days until you can have a break.  Make a task list at the beginning of each day and review it at the end of the day and week.  Just like 30 June, 24 December is usually a deadline for a lot of clients wanting their work done so that they can enjoy the break too!

Choose your events carefully – there will be many invitations coming through the mail, email and social media, and these will not just be work related.  Ask yourself if you need to say ‘yes’ to all of them?  If work related, will clients be there?  If no one’s feelings are going to be hurt and it feels like it is just ‘one more thing’ you need to attend you should probably politely decline.  If it is a friend you haven’t seen for a while, suggest a catch up early in the New Year when it is a bit quieter, and set a date for that.

Look at your diary carefully – if you have already accepted three invitations in a week, a fourth will probably be too much.  Look at your diary as well for work related deadlines – going out for Christmas drinks to be followed by karaoke is also fraught with danger if you have a major deadline the following day.

Keep an eye on consumables – and by this we mean your weight.  Drinks and canapés are plentiful and you will gain weight if you are not careful.  Just having three drinks is the equivalent of an entire extra meal, so rethink the cheese platter at the end of the night.

On that note try and get exercise at the beginning of the day.  Not only will it help keep the weight down, it will clear your mind and give you energy for the day ahead.

Only 4 weeks to go – you can do it!

Forget about smoking – sitting is now bad for your health

Sitting for long periods of time at a desk has now been suggested as having the same detrimental effect on our health as smoking.

In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald Sarah Berry referred to two different studies that showed that for every hour of watching TV while seated, we cut 22 minutes from our lifespan. The other study showed that smoking shortens a smoker’s lifespan by 11 minutes per cigarette. As Ms Berry pointed out, people who sit down and smoke for long periods are in big trouble. There are no studies to our knowledge which show the effect of someone who smokes but who walks around while smoking!sitting in a chair

For those of us who work in office environments, this comes as quite a shock. More and more professional services firms are embracing the “open plan” office format with moveable desks that encourage people to stand up while they work. We’ve long known from a workplace health and safety perspective that sitting for long periods of time at a computer is detrimental to our health – it is bad for our eyes and musculoskeletal system, and can cause headaches. Most organisations encourage those sitting at computers for long periods of time to get up and walk around every now and then. But very few people actually take that advice, preferring to continue working, or just not thinking about it.

Those who are lucky enough to work in an environment which encourages staff to get up and walk around will have the opportunity to do this. But if you work in a job where you are largely sitting at a desk in front of your computer all day, how do you prevent the ill health associated with sitting for long periods of time?

  • If you have to make a phone call and don’t need to make notes of it – stand up while you do so. This is a discipline that will take practice and conscious thought in order to change the way you work.
  • Don’t fill a jug of water up at the beginning of the day. Get up and frequently refresh your water glass from the tap rather than from the jug on your desk.
  • If you have to go to the bathroom, go the long way.
  • If there are internal stairs at your office use them instead of the lift
  • When you finish one job, stand up and stretch your legs before starting the next.
  • While you’re sitting down, do individual leg raises in turn, while you’re working. This is also a good left brain/right brain exercise.

Do you have any other tips to become less sedentary in the office?

17 Rules of Email Etiquette in the Office

Email is used more and more as a means of communication. Back in the last century – in the 1970’s and 1980’s, lawyers could get away with telling clients that a draft of a document was in the mail. Now, if a document is drafted it can be sent instantly.email-etiquette

There are lots of unwritten ‘rules’ around the use of email and if your firm does not have a policy around the use of email, it should draft one post haste.

If you are a junior lawyer, remember that if you are providing advice to a client via email you should always get your supervising partner to check and authorise it to be sent. In the same way that letters to clients are usually signed by a partner, emails containing legal advice should not leave your computer without being checked by someone with authority to sign mail.

Think of your emails as another form of communication that is sent on the firm letterhead. Everything you write will have the firm’s name on it. Remember the affidavit test – every piece of correspondence you write could end up as an annexure to an affidavit, read by a judge and on the public record. Even if you are sending an email internally, think of the content being placed on the firm noticeboard before you hit ‘send’ to judge whether or not it is a good idea.

In terms of etiquette, follow these simple tips:

  • Make sure the subject matter is relevant and accurately reflects the content of the email. It is easy to reply to an earlier email sent to you about a completely different subject. Change the subject line or write the email in a completely new one.
  • Always start with a greeting – ‘Dear x’ or ‘Dear Ms Y’. Depending on your relationship with the client the greeting can be less formal, such as ‘good morning’ but never start a work email with the content only. Again, respect and consideration are paramount.
  • Make sure you have spell check turned on and that you have spelled names correctly.
  • Punctuation is still important but please never use multiple exclamation marks or question marks.
  • Remember your manners. Please and thank you are still important in emails.
  • Use the same rules of writing as you would if sending a formal letter – good sentence structure, paragraphs, bullet points, headings.
  • Double check that the recipient is the correct one. With email systems your computer remembers names you frequently use. If you have two clients with the first name ‘Susan’ check that you have sent it to the right person.
  • Keep emails brief and to the point.
  • Never assume intent or tone from an email.
  • If you refer to an attachment make sure it is attached before you send it.
  • Think before hitting ‘reply all’ to an email to many people – does everyone on the email really need to be read your response?
  • Never use all capitals – this is considered to be shouting.
  • Use the CC field for those who really are receiving the email for information only. If you want that person to respond include them in the ‘To’ field. You can also send the ‘sent’ email to another person saying ‘just for your information’ rather than the BCC field.
  • Remember if you use ‘BCC’ that person may not realise that they have been blind copied and may ‘reply all’, alerting the original recipient to the fact that this person was blind copied.
  • Be careful when forwarding emails – some emails are lengthy and have many emails below them that may contain sensitive information. When in doubt, don’t.
  • Never forward jokes on work emails.
  • If you feel angry about an email you have received don’t respond straight away. Think carefully about your response.

Email is fast and easy to use. But don’t let that fact diminish the importance of what you have to say or how you say it.

How to decide what networking events to attend

WOULD YOU GO TO THE OPENING OF AN ENVELOPE?  HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NETWORKING EVENTS.

Networking is a vital skill needed for all professionals wanting to increase their profile. You will be invited to a myriad of different events and activities – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, keynote speaking events, drinks, cocktails, seminars and learning & development opportunities.  But how do you choose which ones to attend?Networking events 2

Here is our simple guide of things to think about before you accept that invitation, or in some cases spend money, or your employer’s money:

  • If it is a legal seminar, is it in your area of expertise or related to it?  Or is it an area where you can cross sell your expertise?
  • Will a colleague who needs support be speaking?
  • Will a client, or a potential client, be speaking or attending?
  • Is the intended audience just lawyers, or other professionals in the area?
  • Who will be there – ask the organiser for information on the type of person they are hoping to attract (they won’t give you names but may give you information you can work with)
  • Is the speaker of interest?
  • Will you learn something for yourself, which you can use or pass on to the firm on your return?
  • Will the event add value to your practice or personal development?  Can you identify the ways it will do that?
  • Will you be able to meet new people and more importantly have an opportunity to speak with them and ‘sell’ yourself.
  • Make sure the event matches up with your personal brand – what is it that you want to be known for as a professional?

And finally – here is a great tip from a senior female in the legal profession, for whom networking is both purposeful and fun:

“I keep a record not only of what I attend and why, but what I don’t attend and why and review this on a quarterly and annual basis.  This helps me see if I am giving my time and attention to the same things, and people, and if I am rejecting the same sorts of invitations.  It means I can assess if what I am attending is adding value, and more importantly, what I am not attending and what I might be missing out on.”

I think that is great advice, don’t you?

Valentine in the Office – People Will Know!

Let’s be honest – a flirtation or a whole new relationship at work will certainly make coming to work a whole lot more interesting.  The downside of course is that this doesn’t just apply to you but to everyone watching your relationship bloom – and no matter how good you think you are at keeping secrets, think again.???????????????????????

Importantly, remember that if you think that the relationship needs to be kept a secret, this is probably a good sign that it is not a great idea. There’s a reason for your reluctance to go public.  But leaving judgement aside, if you decided to ignore our previous post on this topic and passion is overtaking your brain and you throw caution to the wind in relation to relationships and sex in the office, know that these are the signs other people will notice:

  • you start finding excuses to work late together
  • you are seen arriving at work together or leaving together, in the same car
  • you are often missing at the same time and no one knows where either of you are
  • you loudly announce that you are leaving and what you are going to be doing and your office partner does the same – but something intended to be obviously so very different from your activity that everyone wonders why you both feel the need to announce it
  • you are seen leaving the office and going in separate directions only to be seen later going into the same restaurant or bar
  • there are twigs or grass in your hair after lunch
  • you both have a sudden need for stationery at the same time
  • you start talking about the same movies you have seen
  • you agree with each other all the time in meetings whereas there used to be quite robust discussion
  • you obviously know someone’s view on a topic on a meeting agenda ahead of time
  • you defend each other against criticism
  • you attend the same interstate conferences
  • your holidays and sick leave happen to coincide
  • you suddenly stop bringing your long term partner to firm events when they are invited
  • you suddenly don’t seem as efficient as you once were
  • you both bring an ‘I heart New York’ mug into the office after your allegedly separate holidays
  • you spend a lot of time in each others’ offices with the door shut
  • you appear to exclude others from social conversation and only talk to each other
  • you touch each other a lot in what is ostensibly a regular co-worker touch but one which lingers a little longer than necessary
  • your shirt is not buttoned up correctly after lunch
  • your fly is undone after lunch
  • your dress is on inside out after lunch

There are many more.  Again, discretion is the better part of valour.  If you are going to indulge in office romance, be assured that every nuance of your behaviour will confirm the view, once taken, that the two of you are an item.  It is best to come clean earlier rather than later.

Sleep is one of the weapons you need against stress

There are many ‘weapons’ you need in your arsenal to ward off the effects of stress in a high pressure environment.

You need to eat well, exercise, reduce alcohol intake, and get an appropriate amount of sleep.  Of course all of these things are good for our general well being and will assist in warding off a number of other ailments later in life as well, including heart disease and stroke.

However sufficient sleep, and GOOD sleep, is one of those things that is often neglected, as we rush to cram as much in to our days as possible.  And lack of sleep can make you feel dreadful – any wonder that it was (and probably still is) used as a weapon of torture.Sleep reduces stress

Did you know for example, that:

  • Staying awake for 17 hours decreases performance to the same extent as a blood alcohol level of about 0.05%.  So the next time your boss asks you to pull an ‘all nighter’, you are more likely to make mistakes.  If you are involved in a big transaction requiring long hours even a 15 minute power nap will help restore energy and reduce the risk of errors.
  • Most people are drowsy around 3pm and 3am, when most fatigue-related accidents occur (and also when the urge to eat high carbohydrate and/or sugar is at its highest), doing away with all good intentions on eating well
  • When you are asleep, memories and experiences are sorted and stored for future reference.  Deep REM sleep often brings weird dreams as your brain stores these things.
  • Adults aged 25-55 yrs need at least 7 hours sleep per day for good health, in either one block or 3 shorter blocks.
  • In an 8 hour period of sleep, most people will have 5 blocks of 90 minute sleep cycles.
  • If your partner tells you that you snore, go and see a sleep specialist as you could have obstructive sleep apnoea which means that your brain could be waking you up hundreds of times a night to remind you to breath without you even knowing it.  No wonder you’re tired.

A relaxing routine before bed will help get you to sleep.  Importantly, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed.  If you have trouble going to sleep download a relaxation CD or a sleep App that will play relaxing sounds to help you drift off to sleep – if you concentrate on those sounds without going over your ‘to do’ list in your head in bed, it will help get you to sleep.

MOST importantly, avoid reading your phone or tablet in bed.  These devices, while convenient, emit blue light which is on the same light spectrum emitted by the morning sun, as opposed to the light of the evening which is on the red spectrum.  The light from your device interferes with your natural circadian rhythms and if you are already someone who has trouble going to sleep, it will make it worse.

Read a book, or an e-reader which is not backlit (black text on grey background, like a book).

As William Blake said:

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.

Anyone feel like a nap now?

Retrain Your Brain

Our brains are essentially lazy.  This may come as a surprise.  Did you know that our brain processes millions of pieces of information every day?  And yet we can only consciously deal with a limited amount of information.Brain Training 2

So our brain takes shortcuts – our neural pathways recognize certain things from memory to make life easier for us.  For example, when you look at a telephone on the desk you don’t have to think about what it is or what it does.  Your brain has stored this information so that it can quickly process what it is.

Unfortunately the same goes for our learned responses to situations.

Ever got knee shakingly nervous before a presentation? The next time you do one you will probably have the same response.

Did you ever get called into the principal’s office, and get nervous?  When your boss asks to see you, you may get nervous and assume you have done something wrong.

Do you get cross with yourself and tell yourself you’re hopeless and stupid? Maybe someone in your past said this to you and it is stored in your memory.

Do you shout over the top of someone who disagrees with you?  Your brain recognises the disagreement as a threat and responds with the ‘fight’ response.

The point is that our brains have so many stored, easy ways to respond, in the neural pathways that we have to work hard to re-wire them and learn new ways of responding.  This takes time and is like learning a new language.

So when you find yourself responding in your usual way to everyday situations, stop and ask yourself if this is helpful and if there is a different way to respond.  The anxiety of public speaking can be replaced by telling yourself it is excitement rather than nerves (same response by the way) and taking deep breaths.

Smile when the boss calls you into her office – chances are you have done nothing wrong.

Remind yourself when you make a mistake that no one is perfect and ask what you can learn from it.

Take a deep breath when someone disagrees with you, actually LISTEN to what they are saying and then respond. The short time taken to do that will reduce the risk of your getting angry.

These are just a few examples – think about your learned responses to situations and decide to teach your brain not to take shortcuts with your response.

Stamina – Christmas is just around the corner

‘We must catch up before Christmas’ someone says to you on the phone as you open yet another email with an invitation to a pre-Christmas drinks function, and your heart sinks.Stamina

Networking has never been more important, to raise your profile and that of your firm, and build your personal brand.  At this time of year, it seems that you could be networking full time and not doing any actual work.  Leave aside the fact that you need time to purchase Christmas gifts and plan for lunch with relatives.

So it is important to maintain your equilibrium and stamina at this time of year, and also maintain your focus.

Work is still important and must remain your main focus – keep the Christmas break in mind as you work through the days until you can have a break.  Make a task list at the beginning of each day and review it at the end of the day and week.  Just like 30 June, 24 December is usually a deadline for a lot of clients wanting their work done so that they can enjoy the break too!

Choose your events carefully – there will be many invitations coming through the mail, email and social media, and these will not just be work related.  Ask yourself if you need to say ‘yes’ to all of them?  If work related, will clients be there?  If no one’s feelings are going to be hurt and it feels like it is just ‘one more thing’ you need to attend you should probably politely decline.  If it is a friend you haven’t seen for a while, suggest a catch up early in the New Year when it is a bit quieter, and set a date for that.

Look at your diary carefully – if you have already accepted three invitations in a week, a fourth will probably be too much.  Look at your diary as well for work related deadlines – going out for Christmas drinks to be followed by karaoke is also fraught with danger if you have a major deadline the following day.

Keep an eye on consumables – and by this we mean your weight.  Drinks and canapés are plentiful and you will gain weight if you are not careful.  Just having three drinks is the equivalent of an entire extra meal, so rethink the cheese platter at the end of the night.

On that note try and get exercise at the beginning of the day.  Not only will it help keep the weight down, it will clear your mind and give you energy for the day ahead.

Only 4 weeks to go – you can do it!

Is your workplace committed to good mental health?

Did you know that it is Mental Health Week this week?

Mental Health week (from Sunday 5 October 2014) coincides with and marks World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Mental Health Week aims to educate and engage people about mental health issues.  There is still a high degree of stigma associated with mental health in the workplace – people don’t want to admit to it for fear of being judged, or for fear that it may impact their career progression, or their performance.  So often people suffer in silence.

In workplaces, mental health issues, most commonly depression and anxiety, may come to light in the context of a performance management discussion, or when there is a crisis of some sort.

People with no experience of mental health issues don’t know what to do in these situations.

The most important thing to do if someone comes to you to talk to you about a diagnosis, or a concern that they may need help is to listen, and without judgement. The same applies if you decide to approach someone you think may need help.  It is hard for people to open up about these issues – don’t make it harder by dismissing or passing your own judgement.

Anyone can do a mental health first aid course – you can find the details here (https://mhfa.com.au).  While this topic is a long one here is a very basic list on what to do, based on the guidelines of the mental health first aid course:

A –approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis

L –  listen non-judgmentally.

G – give support and information (look at the Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.com.au) website for example for resources)

E – encourage the person to get appropriate professional help ( and the best place to start is the GP, or your EAP service, if you have one)

E – encourage other supports (eg, family, friends – encourage them to talk)

The best thing you can do for someone suffering any illness is to be kind, and mental illness is no different.