Mitchell Palmer were invited to write a series of blog articles on employee engagement for the SimplyHealth Insights Hub. We wrote about what engagement is, through to the impacts of  VUCA environment and our generational differences.

You can see all 7 of our blog posts by clicking the link below:

Debbie Mitchell on the Insights Hub


Recently, I carried out some research, asking people how they manage their own stress or anxiety at work. I invited them to share ALL of the techniques or approaches that they use, good and those perceived to be ‘bad’ (eg alcohol!). The results were really interesting, and provide some insight into how organisations and people managers can help their team members to manage their own stress. From the c70 participants 250+ stress-relieving responses were received, and these have been grouped into a number of categories. The most popular categories were Hobbies, Mindset and Exercise.

3. Hobbies

Hobbies came in as the third most popular way in which employees manage their stress. This included a range of activities from cooking to reading to dancing. Some found it relaxing to do chores, others enjoyed word games or shopping. The social interaction and physical effort varied across the remit of the group, but in all cases, hobbies were seen as a great way to switch off from work and focus the mind on other things.

What can people managers do? It might be the case that hobbies are nothing to do with what happens in the workplace, and the use of them as a stress reliever suggests that they should remain very separate. However, people managers can still play an important role here they can:

  • Be curious about their team members’ hobbies, show an interest, and recognise an individual’s achievements in this area.
    Encourage the commitment to those hobbies. Acknowledge and encourage employees to make time for their hobbies, promote their experiences and achievements through internal communications.
  • Enable space at work for people to practice their hobbies. Provide a small quiet space where people can read or do word games or knitting during breaks. Have a bake off to encourage those with cooking skills to practice and share their skills, or hold a show case so that others can experience the stress relieving qualities of the hobbies of others.
  • Leave them to it. Not everyone will want to shout about their hobbies. Recognise that some people would prefer to keep it to themselves – acknowledge that that’s ok too.

2. Mindset

Our second most frequently used stress reliever was all about mindset. In this category, participants talked most about having a positive mindset, keeping things in perspective, thinking about the bigger picture and the future, and some mentioned using Mindfulness (having had training or self-learning) as their chosen technique. How can managers help?

  • Use coaching techniques to encourage a positive mindset. Challenge negativity and provide timely and constructive feedback. Use some great open questions to help employees to re-frame their concerns. And most importantly, listen to what they have to say.
  • Communicate openly about the future, about the bigger picture and about purpose. Making connections for people between what they do and what it could mean for customers, suppliers or other stakeholders can be engaging and can help people focus and add value.
  • Encourage learning about mindfulness and advocate its practice. This could be through a formal training programme or self-learning – there are plenty of books, audios, online resources etc – or look to my friend Justin Standfield and his blog (and fantastic training) at for some simple top tips and the benefits of Mindfulness for individuals and business.

1. Exercise

Exercise came out as the most frequently quoted stress reliever for participants. The nature of exercise varied, from the gym to yoga, but with simply walking (often with the dog) as the most popular choice. How can employers support this?

Whilst many employers opt for providing gym facilities, or subsidising health club membership, the costs of this may be prohibitive to smaller companies or to non-profit organisations. However more and more we see fitness experts encouraging the use of non-cost exercise – so money or lack of facilities doesn’t need to be a barrier. At minimal cost, employers could:

  • Encourage employees to take walking breaks, providing information about local walking routes from the office that could take 15 – 30 – 60 minutes. Promote ‘taking a walk’, encourage people to take a break from their desks at lunchtime – or anytime they feel they need a break – and managers should set an example by doing it themselves.
  • Set up walking groups – this could encourage good collaboration and cross team support, as well as the stress relieving and health benefits of taking a walk.
  • Introduce ‘walk and talk’ meetings, so that instead of discussing things in an office space, meetings take place in fresh air.

In 50 Tools for Employee Wellbeing, I have provided a range of tools, including some of those mentioned above, that help organisations build and maintain resilience, health and happiness among their employees. Organisations of all sizes can take some actions and implement some ideas that can promote and encourage wellbeing without incurring significant cost. Each tool includes guidance on when to use it, how long it will take and how to get the most out of it. Most importantly, the book explains how to measure the impact of each tool to show what’s working and where efforts are best focused.

Exciting news … we listened, we developed, we’re launching

Having run two successful coaching training modules for the last few years, we have now added two more exciting modules to our coaching programme.

  • Module 1 focussed on developing an understanding of what coaching is, developing some of the core skills, and introducing the GROW model.
  • Module 2 has developed this knowledge further, with more insight into the GROW model, a short opportunity to practice, and learning about appreciating difference.

We’ve been working with the feedback from these two modules given by attendees on these modules and we are now delighted to be able to introduce…

Coaching Sprint – Module 3

This is a 3-hour session, aimed at delivering short and sharp coaching practice, and encouraging participants to coach continuously. In this module, we cover

  • Coaching in the moment
  • Speed GROW coaching
  • Quick real scenarios
  • Top tools

This module aims to develop the skills of your managers and coaching advocates and build a stronger coaching culture and capability in your organisation. No slides, fast moving, lots of real practice. Up to 8 delegates.

Coaching Circles – Module 4

This 4-hour session facilitates a coaching circle for 4-6 participants. This is intended as both a coaching experience, but also action learning session. By the end of the session, participants will have the skills and knowledge to facilitate coaching circles in your organisation for themselves! You can get great benefits from an in-house coaching circle – from greater empowerment and ownership of problem solving, to more creativity and innovation, and better relationships across your business. Ideally participants will have already completed modules 1 and 2 as a minimum, and are recognised by you as effective coaches or those with great potential. Why not give it a try?

Want to develop internal coaching specialists?

We’re also working on a final workshop – Deep Dive in Module 5, released later this year, will help you to establish a small number of coaching specialists in your organisation, minimising the need for external coaching support, developing your coaching culture and improving skills and performance for your people and your business. We’ll be combining advanced coaching skills, mindfulness and NLP to help you to develop coaching specialists. Max 8 delegates.

Get in touch to book our new modules for 2017

Dates available in October, November and December

A few weeks ago, I met one of my heroes. A week before, my hero was on TV, on the verge of ruining his life, and the lives of those around him because of his addiction to alcohol. But this isn’t about alcoholism – it’s about change.

I had to watch Jeremy Kyle. It’s not my normal viewing, but it featured one of my childhood heroes – footballer Kenny Sansom – being put through a celebrity intervention. After Jeremy had done his usual comforting/shouting/supporting/shouting routine, they brought round a car and told Kenny that his life was about to change and he was off to rehab. Everyone thought this was a brilliant idea – except for Kenny. We watched as he struggled, as he wept and as he refused, telling anyone who would listen that he didn’t need it, he wasn’t ready, he was getting better, he was controlling his habit. Kenny didn’t get in the car. But a few days later, with relentless support from the show’s psychotherapist, Kenny checked into rehab and had been in recovery for three months when the show aired. A week after watching, by total coincidence, I met Kenny in person – sober, funny, bright … and I hugged him as he told me then he had been ‘alcohol-free’ for 15 weeks.

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about that ‘get in the car’ moment. I have wondered what might have been going on for Kenny in that moment – facing that great opportunity alongside the fear that if he were to get in the car, life would change. The fear that if he gets in the car, all the things that he has relied on as coping mechanisms, for support or as a day to day ‘normal’, would have to change. And when you have relied on them for so long, that’s a very scary moment. When things go well, you have a drink. When things go wrong, you have a drink. What happens without that drink? You have to rely on something else. And you only have everyone else’s word that it will be “better”. So for sure that car is going to be a scary intervention, because if you get in things may never be the same again.

You see, it’s all about change. And it could be the same issues with any type of change. Changing your lifestyle. Changing an aspect of your life – at home or at work. Or, more worryingly, having something changed for you without any control, influence or involvement – someone organising the car and pushing you through the door.  And so I begin to wonder how we can help – at home or at work. How can we encourage someone to “get in the car”.

Recognise the past: There will be reasons for the choices made, why habits form or why behaviours are demonstrated, and although understanding those factors should be left to qualified psychotherapists, what should be recognised is that when a change happens, there is a loss. Something familiar and comfortable will end and be replaced by something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Recognise that, talk about it openly, embrace it, but don’t dismiss it – it might provide the platform for the discussion to move towards the future.

Walk in their shoes: In the words of the late, great Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” It’s important to understand their perspective, not to judge, and not to pass on your own personal and unsubstantiated view to others. It’s dangerous to assume that everyone should deal with things in the same way that you would. Instead, encourage diversity of thinking, allow them to be different and most importantly LISTEN to what they have to tell you about walking in their shoes.

Look forward: Starting to envisage how things might be can be a powerful process. Helping someone to consider what they want their life or their work to be like, and what they want their experience to look, feel and sound like, can really help them to commit to new habits or behaviours. Allow them to use their own language – don’t use yours or try to translate theirs into your own. Allow them to consider their future, rather than enforcing yours. Simply wanting it for Kenny was not enough for Kenny: he needed to want it for himself to make it happen.

Give it Time: The show’s counsellor didn’t give up and walk away from Kenny. He maintained regular contact, and he continued to address concerns, answer questions, and offer support and encouragement to help Kenny to make the right decision for himself, by himself. By continuing the conversation, the opportunity was left open, and ultimately it was taken. Patience is important – not everyone will react in the way that you expect them to, and certainly not in the same way as you do. Allowing space for someone to react and adjust in their own way will be key to encouraging them “into the car”.

Provide support: Kenny talks of the great support he had – and still has – from family and from the professionals and fellow addicts who he met whilst in rehab. But he also says he gets great comfort and motivation from the support of former clubs and team-mates, and from the fans, people he doesn’t know, Twitter followers etc.. Kenny’s preference seems to be to talk about his addiction and his recovery: he makes jokes about it, but at the same time he is seen sometimes being vulnerable about it. The lesson is to recognise the need for ongoing support – even after ‘rehab’ – and to respect the preference an individual has about how that support can most effectively be offered. Don’t switch it off at the point of a change, but ask what support is needed, and do what you can to provide it.

Change for the better can happen. Kenny is still sober, and living life a day at a time.

debbie and kenny

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