Distributed Workforce: Time to Rethink the way you work

After 5 weeks of New Zealand being in lockdown and forced to work remotely, I’m seeing companies and employees surprised at how much better it is; not only from a productivity but also a work-life balance standpoint. With many company executives considering what hybrid remote working might look like longer-term, I wanted to share the most commonly asked questions raised during my executive health and performance sessions and expand upon why this work style has more to offer.

Discussed:

  1. What is distributed work?
  2. What motivates people?
  3. Matt Mullenweg 5 levels of adaptation to distributed work
  4. Will distributed work be appropriate for your organisation?
  5. Why you should consider the distributed work model
  6. How to track and measure work
  7. Important considerations around distributed work in this current climate

Although many use the term “remote work” we prefer to use the lesser-known alternative “distributed work” as we believe it defines the model more comprehensively.

What is distributed work?

Distributed work describes a workforce that reaches beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment. A distributed workforce is dispersed geographically over a wide area – domestically or internationally.

In this challenging time where you’d expect things to slow down, many businesses are experiencing an increase in productivity, as staff no longer have the stress or need to commute, plus they are removed from the distracting environment of the office with the opportunity to design a workday that suits them and their productivity peaks. This is only the beginning of unlocking the potential of distributed work.

Distributed work is nothing new and there are many great examples across small and large multinational companies eg. Dell, IBM, Salesforce, General Electric, Jet Blue, and even Sears.

In our opinion, one of the thought leaders in this space would be Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress (open-source software which runs 31% of the internet) with 1,172 employees working in 75 countries. Let’s unpack some of the principles behind WordPress’ success and how that can be harnessed by other organisations.

What motivates people?

A motivated worker is a productive worker.

Daniel Pink outlines in his book Drive that there are three things that truly matter in motivating people: mastery, purpose, and autonomy. Additionally, Matt Mullenweg, argues the physical work structure allows the first two to flourish, but too often fails to offer sufficient autonomy.

What is Autonomy?

“Our desire to be self-directed, to have agency over ourselves and our environment.”

What better way to ignite this than distributed work.

Let’s now breakdown Matt Mullenweg 5 levels of organisation autonomy

  1. Level Zero autonomy is a job which cannot be done unless you’re physically there. Imagine a construction worker, barista, massage therapist, firefighter. Many companies assumed they had far more of these than it has turned out they really did.
  2. Level One is where most businesses sit. There’s no deliberate effort to make things remote-friendly, but in the case of many knowledge workers, people can keep things moving for a day or two when there’s an emergency. More often than not, they’ll likely put things off until they’re back in the office. Work happens on company equipment, in company space, on company time. You don’t have any special equipment and may have to use a clunky VPN to access basic work resources like email or your calendar. Larger level one companies often have people in the same building or campus dialling into a meeting. Level one companies were largely unprepared for this crisis.
  3. Level Two is where many companies have found themselves in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve accepted that work is going to happen at home for a while, but they’ve simply re-creating what they were doing in the office in a “remote” setting. Marshall McLuhan talked about new digital mechanisms initially copying the activities from the previous generation media before. You’re probably able to access information from afar. You’ve adapted to tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but everything is still synchronous, your day is full of interruptions, no real-time meetings have been cancelled (yet), and there’s a lot of anxiety in management around productivity. That’s the stage where companies sometimes install surveillance software on laptops. Pro tip: Don’t do that! And also: Don’t stop at level two!
  4. At Level Three, you’re really starting to benefit from being remote-first, or distributed. That’s when you see people invest in better equipment — from a good desk lamp to solid audio gear — and in more robust asynchronous processes that start to replace meetings. It’s also the point at which you realize just how crucial written communication is for your success, and you start looking for great writers in your hiring. When you are on a Zoom, you often also have a Google Doc up with the other meeting participants so you can take and check real-time notes together. Your company has a zero-trust BeyondCorp security model. In a non-pandemic world, you plan meetups so teams can break bread and meet each other in person a week or two a year.
  5. Level Four is when things go truly asynchronous. You evaluate people’s work on what they produce, not how or when they produce it. Trust emerges as the glue that holds the entire operation together. You begin shifting to better — perhaps slower, but more deliberate — decision-making, and you empower everyone, not just the loudest or most extroverted, to weigh in on major conversations. You tap into the global talent pool, the 99% of the world’s population and intelligence that doesn’t live near one of your legacy physical office locations. Employee retention goes way up and you invest more in training and coaching. Most employees have home-office setups that would make office workers green with envy. You have a rich social life with people you choose. Real-time meetings are respected and taken seriously, almost always have agendas and pre-work or post-work. If you get good at baton passes work will follow the sun 24/7 around the world. Your organization is truly inclusive because standards are objective and give people agency to accomplish their work their way.
  6. Finally, I believe it’s always useful to have an idea that’s not wholly attainable — and that’s level five, Nirvana! This is when you consistently perform better than any in-person organization could. You’re effortlessly effective. It’s when everyone in the company has time for wellness and mental health when people bring their best selves and highest levels of creativity to do the best work of their careers, and just have fun.

Matt Mullenweg, 2020

Will distributed work actually work for my organisation?

You may have previously said that distributed work would not work for your organisation, but what if I said you were most likely working remotely prior to COVID without realising it. Yup, you are working remotely effectively and you may have no idea. If you don’t have a Marketing, Accounting or Legal department inhouse, no doubt you are outsourcing eg. working remotely. Yet we don’t think twice about this. On the flip side, when we lose the oversight of a staff member we feel uneasy.

Why do we trust external organisations or contractors over our own staff? 

What do you think happens to company culture when employees don’t feel trusted to do their jobs?

Is this a healthy business model? So, how can we expand upon this?

How does your organisation track performance?

  1. Time in the office looking busy?
  2. Work output?

You don’t lose oversight within a distributed organisation, in fact, it shifts to a more productive measurable model – away from intangible (time in office) to tangible (work output).

The sad truth is the physical structure of work allows people to fall under the radar because if we see them at work looking busy, we wouldn’t necessarily question productivity or output. They may even escape being identified for months just doing the bare minimum.

However, when thrown into a distributed working environment it becomes quickly evident when someone is not pulling their weight.

For example when they don’t deliver on what was agreed upon.

On top of this from a management standpoint, staff are less likely to be micromanaged and continuously interrupted with pointless inefficiencies.

With a distributed workforce it is no longer a short walk to a desk for a casual chat. The managers now have to schedule a chat which should ensure they have a true purpose for touching base (with possibly an outlined agenda) vs a casual conversation pulling you away from the flow of productivity.

Cost Saving

A distributed workforce is not just an advantage from a productivity perspective, but also a financial cost-saving one. Companies no longer have to accept the massive capex and opex burden for large commercial spaces, fitting out costs, maintenance and monthly bills (e.g power, supplies etc). Just imagine what that reallocated budget could do in profit centres such as sales or R&D? This is not to say the office space, in general, is fully redundant. But it will no longer be a business necessity. I will discuss the future of workspaces in another blog post because this is an exciting topic 😉

Win-Win

A distributed workforce is truly a win-win situation as it also offers the staff the autonomy or flexibility to optimise their work-life balance which is one of the biggest contributors to stress and poor mental health.

An organisation is formed from individuals coming together, with no one member of the staff being the same. By forcing everyone to conform themselves to one workplace model while expecting high levels of productivity, you will naturally see organisational culture and engagement negatively affected.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. All of us have lived in a shared space with others at one point, whether with family members, friends or a partner. A successful situation requires a certain amount of compromise within the relationship to find a happy balance for communal living. This is tough enough within one household, but trying to find mutual ground for 50,100, 1000 staff members all with different roles, demands and preferences, GOOD LUCK!!

From the AC (too hot to too cold) to overhead lights (too bright or not bright enough); from the variance in alertness and productivity windows (Early bird vs Night owl) and workspace layout (open floor through to the private office). On a daily basis, we risk falling into the time-wasting, challenging conversations around who is the lucky one with the corner office or the desk with a view, best airflow, best temperature, location…. you get the point. This list seems endless.

Wouldn’t it be better to avoid these difficult awkward conversations altogether, while allowing people to maximise their own environments and attain higher productivity and happiness?

Next Step’s

You’re no doubt thinking this sounds too good to be true, but it is not. If executed correctly, this is as drastic a change as it gets for an organisation. With COVID-19, we have all been forced to take the plunge into the deep end without a systematic approach and while some of this change management process has been thrust upon us, why not take it for an extended test run?

Yes, it will involve some inevitable fires to be put out as we scramble to figure out this new digital business landscape of distributed work, video calls, collaborative software.

However, with no choice at the moment there is no better time for you and your staff to work through all the kinks with flipping the paradigm.

Keep in mind this. For most organisations, you’ll be functioning at Mullenweg’s Level 1 and 2 of a distributed workforce due to the nature of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. But the longer you work though these kinks and view it as an opportunity, you will progress into level 3 and above. This is where the true magic begins while removing any shackles that may be holding your business back from rapid recovery and growth.

As I discuss with all my executive clients, it will not be easy. However, Taylored and the team is here to help guide you throughout this challenging situation. If you need support in adaption or just want to run something by us, please get in touch.

In the meantime, we will keep blog posts coming highlighting important considerations to help guide you through this transformative time.

7 Edible Anxiety Therapies: To Support COVID Stress

How are you going as we head into Level 3 of NZ lock-down?

Any old nutrition habits starting to creep in? Or perhaps you have used the time to really nail down a new way of eating, or refresh your menu?

Regardless, it is an interesting time for all of us, and we are all different, and therefore cope with things differently.

Something I have noticed coming up a few times in conversation is anxiety and for many different reasons. Some people find they have a lot of anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic, and staying healthy, particularly as we head into Level 3 and start to go back out into society, albeit in a controlled way. Others find anxiety around the economy, and how this is hitting them financially. Also, there are those of you that have been struggling with simply being confined to one or two spaces, and how to deal with the lack of freedom they feel, or dealing with being around family a lot more than normal!

Whatever it is, anxiety is no fun for anyone, and its effects can range from psychosomatic paralysis, through to depression, to full-blown panic, anger and rage.

Since we are somewhat stuck in this situation for at least another fortnight, and then some, since we all know things are not going to simply go back to normal, it is absolutely essential that we address this issue, which affects our mental, physical and emotional health, as well as that of those around us. Now, I know anxiety well, and because of this, I have both researched and experimented with a range of things, in order to somehow allow my higher faculties to regain control, and even turn things around into a positive situation we can actually learn from.

Sound good?

Even better sounding, to me at least, is the fact that a lot of these things occur in an edible format!

So, what can we eat, and every single day, to help us calm feelings of anxiety, cope with the current situation, whatever that may be for you while achieving enough mental grounding to find the positive?

Here are my top 7 edible anxiety therapies 😊

1. High-quality protein

Ok, so this protein thing gets talked about a LOT, so much so that you may think it’s just an easy go-to for nutritionists who don’t really want to come up with something new…But the constant recommendation for high-quality protein is due to the fact that it is so super important for every single aspect of health, and thus mental health is absolutely no exception. In fact, it is so important that low protein consumption is directly related to risk for anxiety, as well as other mental and cognitive health issues.

Why is this?

High-quality protein sources (animal proteins such as dairy, eggs, meat and fish) contain an abundance of mood-enhancing minerals and vitamins, including iron, zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and magnesium. However, the thing that protein sources give us that no other food can make up for are the amino acids, as many of these are precursors for neurotransmitters, molecules playing a major role in the signal transmission of feeling states throughout the brain and body. For example, the essential amino acid tryptophan is required for the production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter when it comes to positive mood and coping with stress. The amino acid tyrosine is required for dopamine production, and glutamate and glycine function as neurotransmitters exactly as they are, although they perform opposite functions. Glutamate is required for excitation and action, and glycine for calming and relaxation. These must be in balance for optimal mental health.

Since protein is required for so many different functions throughout the body, and large amounts are used to build and maintain muscle mass and organ health, it is not uncommon for neurotransmitter synthesis to be less than optimal in a low quality/refined food diet. High-quality protein sources provide ALL the amino acids, at levels that support all the many roles of protein and the amino acids in the body. As mentioned in Part 1. of this two-part series, at least 1.2 g per kg body weight per day is necessary to support optimal health, and this requirement increases for active or older individuals. Soy protein also provides the amino acids at high levels but does not supply the minerals and vitamins that animal proteins do, particularly Vitamin B12.

 

Vitamin B12 has its own link to mental health, with deficiencies found in issues such as depression and dementia. If you are vegan, or a vegetarian who has a low intake of dairy and/or eggs, it is essential to supplement with Vitamin B12.

2. Collagen or glycine

Collagen is a type of protein that is high in the amino acid glycine, which, as a I mentioned above, is a neurotransmitter with roles in calming and relaxation – it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and has shown promise in the treatment of mental health disorders such as OCD, and is also a sleep aid. Glycine can be taken as a powdered supplement (take around 3 g or 1 tsp per dose, with up to 3 doses per day), but this amount of glycine is also provided in around 10 g of collagen, and when you take it as collagen, you are getting all the other benefits of collagen, such as joint and skin health.

It is very important to keep in mind that neither glycine nor collagen, can count towards your daily protein intake, as collagen has a protein quality of zero (it lacks the amino acid tryptophan) and glycine is only one amino acid.

3. Essential fatty acids (the ‘omega-3s’)

The essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are found in animal sources, such as fatty fish (salmon and trout), and ALA is found in vegetable sources, such as linseed/flaxseed, walnuts and some algae. All are exceptionally beneficial in their own right, and show significant anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant properties. However, EPA and DHA have benefits for the brain in particular. While the body converts ALA to EPA, and then to DHA, this is done in a very limited manner, and, rather, ALA has its own benefits in the body, including the lowering of blood sugar and improved skin health.

The brain is an organ with one of the highest compositions of lipids (fats), and the fatty acid make-up of the brain’s grey matter is around 50% polyunsaturated fatty acids, of which around 33% are Omega-3s. Although DHA has been suggested to be the primary omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, recent research has suggested that EPA shows significant promise for the treatment of mood disorders, while DHA has greater benefit for cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s. 

What does all this mean?

Fish oil (with high concentrations of both EPA and DHA), is extremely important for brain health, ESPECIALLY if you are someone who is prone to anxiety or comes from a family with a history of neurodegenerative conditions. If you do not eat a lot of fatty fish, taking a supplement is important, even if you consume significant amounts of nuts and seeds. However, there are some tricks to selecting a good fish oil supplement, as quality will affect the actual levels of EPA and DHA in each capsule, as well as the degree of lipid oxidation, and thus rancidity.

Recommended high-quality fish oil supplements include Be Pure Three and Thorne Research Super EPA. Be Pure Three is also an NZ product and contains Vitamin E to assist in the prevention of lipid oxidation during storage.

4. Minimally processed complex carbohydrates

There is a reason we crave carbohydrates when we are feeling low, and a very good one, that has its foundations in biochemistry.

Above I mentioned that the amino acid tryptophan is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Well, in order for serotonin to actually do its job transmitting messages throughout the nervous system, it must first be released, and this release is controlled by food intake, primarily carbohydrates. To make a complex story simple, carbohydrate consumption increases serotonin release, but, while protein helps make serotonin in the first place, simply eating more protein (or fat for that matter) will not promote its release.

Complex carbohydrates, although looked down upon in some circles, are digested and absorbed at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates, and therefore promote prolonged serotonin release, rather than a simple short burst, meaning they are a much better go-to for anxiety.

Of course, the major point to note here is that healthy, whole-food, minimally processed carbohydrates are very different to their refined counterparts, so go for beans, legumes, unprocessed whole-grains and root vegetables, especially those packed full of colour.

A breakfast high in both protein and complex carbohydrates, such as porridge and Greek yoghurt, or even protein powder (my go-to), is the best way to tackle this and will set up serotonin production and release for the entire day.

What if you are following a keto diet?

You can still consume some carbohydrates, as long as they have a minimal impact on blood sugar, so pick wisely. For these diets, orange and purple kumara are extremely good options; 100 g of orange kumara, for example, contains under 20 g of net carbs.

Also, if you are following a keto diet and feeling a lot of anxiety with it, it may be a signal from your body and mind that you need more carbohydrates in the mix. Recent research has shown that dietary ketosis can still be achieved in a diet containing 15% carbohydrate as energy, which, for most people, is around 75-100 g carbohydrate per day. So listen in and be sure to follow the approach that is best for your holistic health.

5. Coconut oil or MCT oil

This little gem of an oil contains a large proportion of medium-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to possess anti-depressant properties. Of course, MCT oil is purified medium-chain triglycerides (which carry fatty acids), so will have a similar effect. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is not fully understood, however, medium-chain fatty acids are remarkably anti-inflammatory, and this property is likely to be involved.

You can add MCT oil to your coffee (start with 1 tsp only as it can cause digestive distress at high doses in some people), and coconut oil to your cooking, baking or even smoothies.

Even a coconut cream is an option for these benefits, and chilled coconut cream makes a lovely treat if you want something a bit special after dinner.

6. Spinach and other leafy and/or dark greens

Spinach (and other dark greens such as rocket, kale and broccoli), is another nutritionist old fave go-to, but that’s because it is another food absolutely packed full of nutrients. For mental health, a key vitamin in spinach and other dark greens is folate (Vitamin B9). Folate deficiency is extremely common in both depression and anxiety, as well as a number of clinically defined mental illnesses.

Folate plays a very important role in a pathway called the MTHFR pathway. This is the pathway responsible for methylation in the body, and methylation is absolutely critical for both physical and mental health. Actually, it is more correct to point out that it is a BALANCED methylation that is critical for physical and mental health – both too little and too much are a bad thing. Without going into extraneous detail (which I would LOVE to do but maybe in another blog post all of its own because that would be geeky and cool), folate is the molecule that actually allows the methylation pathway to run, which means it is an essential vitamin for us.

Why is methylation important for mental health? Well, methylation is needed to make creatine, which is great for athletes but also has a role in reducing depression. The neurotransmitter dopamine, that’s the one that makes us feel amazing or ‘on a high’, gets methylated and this methylation is associated with a reduction in rumination (those thoughts going around…and around….and around….and around…). Methylation is also important for the production of choline, which, among many other things, assists in mental focus.

 In addition to methylation, folate performs other roles that are important for optimal mental health, such as helping to conserve glycine, which you will remember above is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter and calms us down (which is SUPER for anxiety). Folate is also a star player in the prevention of anaemia, and since anaemia is a lack of red blood cells and therefore the ability to carry oxygen around the body, having enough folate means our brain will get enough oxygen, which again, is critical for optimal mental health.

 How much spinach do you need to eat per day? 300 g would give you your recommended intake, which is pretty much one of those small pre-packed bags from the supermarket.  However, remember that broccoli, rocket and kale are also high in folate, and so are leeks, so if you are eating a good serving of leafy green and/or cruciferous veggies every day, you are onto a good start. You also get a really good amount of folate from legumes such as chickpeas and liver (if you are keen to go that route! but don’t overdo the liver – keep it to once or twice per week only as it is very high in Vitamin A, which is toxic in high doses).

7. Herbs

Last but by no means least, are herbs.

Most people think of herbs as a way to add flavour, but these little plants are an absolute goldmine of phytonutrients, including some that can modulate brain function. In particular, a compound called rosmarinic acid has been shown to produce anti-depressant like effects, via a number of mechanisms that include upregulation of a super important molecule in the brain called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. You may have heard of BDNF if you have read up on the positive effects of fasting, as BDNF plays many roles in the brain (that fasting helps to activate) such as the growth and differentiation of new brain cells, and synaptic connectivity, which basically refers to how well signals are transmitted between nerve cells.

Herbs which are particularly high in rosmarinic acid are spearmint (which is your traditional garden mint), basil and sage, but oregano, thyme and rosemary also contain rosmarinic acid at lower levels.

Before you think you would need to eat a plateful of herbs to get any kind of decent benefit, simply 3 tbsp of fresh, raw spearmint will give you over 200 mg of rosmarinic acid, which is comparable to amounts used in scientific studies to produce significant health benefits.

 

Summary

If we take a good hard look at the list above, it isn’t hard to see, with the way that diets have become low in fresh whole-food produce and meats, and high in refined, processed carbohydrates and sandwich ham, why mental health has also taken a downwards turn. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

You can totally eat your way to feeling amazing – calm, motivated, focused and stress-free all at the same time! And you can do this healthily, and yummily, with no added sugar 😉.

 

-Dr. Carlene Starck

COVID-19: Everything thing you need to know

Now deemed a Global Pandemic we are learning more day by day about COVID-19. With all the hysteria across the media, it has become difficult to determine what is hype and what is true. From people panic shopping and fighting over toilet paper, the world is going a little bit crazy.

In this post, we will aim to provide you with an overview of accurate up to date information. Following this post, we will discuss strategies on how to combat this issue.

Hysteria:

First of all, I need to address the panic, we all need to calm down……… There is no need to prepare for the end of the world and stock up on supplies like toilet paper and food. Well not in New Zealand at least as we produce all essential supplies (food, toilet paper etc) in New Zealand, we are not reliant on global markets. Even the supermarkets are requesting for everyone to calm down and to shop as normal, there is plenty to go around. 

From a hysteria standpoint, the timing couldn’t be worse for NZ/ southern hemisphere with the changing of seasons and drop in temperature and as we head into flu season. As a result of lack of education and understanding of COVID-19, people that are suffering from common flu are unnecessarily concerned for the worst and stressing our health system which is going to need every spare bed atm. What is the difference between common flu and COVID-19? Stay tuned as we will highlight this below so you can stay informed and rest easy.

Important: COVID-19 is treatable.

 

Stop stressing! 

Don’t forget stress is one of the leading causes of disease (something I have written extensively around) so you are not doing yourself any favours worrying about things you cannot control. Our hope in this article is by sharing the facts we can help in easing any anxiety or stress you may have. Our next post will begin to address what you can do to mitigate this and the anxiety around it.

What is it COVID-19?

Similar to SARS, research points out that the virus also originates from bats. COVID-19 causes respiratory and intestinal infections in animals and humans. 

What happens in the respiratory system and immune system in response to the virus?

  1. Your body will produce mucus in an attempt to contain or trap the virus. 
  2. The infection involves overstimulation of the body’s defences against viral infections. Cytokines, proteins secreted by certain immune cells, signal for more immune cells to enter the picture and try to engulf the virus, resulting in cell death and increased inflammation.
  3. Due to the high replication rate of the coronavirus, it often overwhelms the immune responses leading to local tissue destruction and depletion of infection-fighting cells. Cytokines also can travel via the circulatory system to other organs such as the kidneys, liver, and small intestine. Dramatic increases in cytokines are referred to as a cytokine storm and this appears to be a distinguishing feature of severe respiratory viruses vs lesser viruses like the common cold.

Not all people with the virus will experience all three stages and also in some cases, you may be a carrier of a virus but have no symptoms (meaning you can unsuspectingly pass it on).

How COVID-19  spreads

As a new disease, we are still learning how it spreads but below as of 19th of March the CDC believe these are major methods: 

 

  • Human interaction

 

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Passed through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

 

  • Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

 

    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (have symptoms)
    • Potentially it is possible before people show symptoms. However, it is not thought to be the main method in which the virus spreads.

 

  • Contaminated surfaces or objects

 

The virus could potentially spread through cross-contamination of surfaces or objects that have the virus on it and a person touching it and then touching the mouth, nose or possibly eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main method for the virus spreading.

 

What happens if you feel sick?

Remember that symptoms of the common cold or seasonal flu can be similar to symptoms of coronavirus, which can make it difficult to determine what might be going on. Especially with New Zealand heading towards flu season. Here is a great chart to review symptoms and determine next steps.

Determine what you are dealing with

We encourage anyone with signs of a respiratory infection or COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath) to contact their primary care physician for guidance. Ideally where possible connect with your doctor online or by phone to reduce the risk of transmission. 

If you develop severe symptoms or are in the high-risk groups outlined below and develop shortness of breath, call 111 or go to the nearest emergency room after calling ahead for safe arrival instructions. 0800 358 5453

 COVID-19 risk factors:

If you are high- or medium-risk and fall within any of these risk factors below, it is recommended that you self-isolate and practice social distancing for a minimum of 14 days, even if you have no symptoms. 

 

  • Age: 

 

While the overall global mortality rate of COVID-19 is currently estimated to be around 3.4% by the WHO (as of March 3), early reports out of China and a similar pattern identified in Italy (the highest number of coronavirus deaths outside of China) show that the mortality rate increases with age. The mortality rate is highest (14.8%) for those over the age of 80. This most likely due to older individuals often suffer from at least one chronic health condition that stresses their immune system, increasing their risk. 

Children are rarely affected by the disease. 

 

  • Pre-existing conditions

Adults with preexisting conditions like heart disease and diabetes or chronic lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, COPD have a greater risk of being affected by any virus, including COVID-19 because of decreased ability to fight off infections due to a less robust immune response. In China, coronavirus patients with heart disease had a 10 per cent mortality rate, while those with diabetes had around a 7 per cent mortality rate, far greater than the global average — which WHO estimated at 3.4% on March 3rd.

 

  • Immunocompromised adults 

Immunocompromised means the inability to normally respond to environmental exposures including viruses or bacteria due to a weakened immune system. People who are immunocompromised include those with diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis B, chronic kidney disease, autoimmune conditions, malnutrition, and cancer because those conditions do lessen one’s ability to mount an adequate immune response. 

 

  • Smoking

 

Adults who smoke on a regular basis (cigarettes, cigars, marijuana) are at an increased risk for more severe upper respiratory infections overall. Some Experts believe that this is one of the reasons that men in China died more often than women from coronavirus was because of their smoking habits. 

Social distancing: bell curve

Why should we consider social distancing? 

This is a manageable/treatable disease but if we don’t control the spread we will surpass the health systems capacity and will result in a higher mortality rate as health professionals won’t be able to keep up with demand. The primary goal is to slow the spread of disease, a concept which is being referred to as  “flattening the curve” which you will see depicted down below. Essentially it will provide us the time to manage the disease but more importantly and often forgotten it will also allow the health system the capacity to deal with other business as usual cases eg. trauma, surgeries, chronic diseases etc. If capacity is maxed out COVID-19 patients won’t be the only ones who will suffer the consequences! 

The new research also showed that 97.5% of people who are infected develop symptoms within 11.5 days. About 1% of patients, however, show symptoms after 14 days – outside the window of the CDC’s quarantine guidelines.

Cure

Once again no need to fear. The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research director Professor David Paterson told news.com.au they have seen two drugs used to treat other conditions (Malaria and HIV) wipe out the virus in test tubes.

Prof Paterson said the medications given to some of the first positive cases of COVID-19 in Australia, had already resulted in “disappearance of the virus” and complete recovery from the infection. 

Another reason for us to flatten the curve and provide scientists like Prof Paterson the time they need to design a cure which could be distributed worldwide.

Keeping safe in the meantime

It is simple, practice good hygiene and social distancing where possible. 

  • Most importantly due to the nature of how it spreads through bodily fluid, if coughing or sneezing do so into your left elbow as many people are now greeting using right elbow touch instead of a handshake (weird I know, but best to be safe than sorry).
  • Wash hands frequently (at minimum 20 sec, see image below) and carry a hand-sanitiser with you and use frequently (if you can find one…).
  •  
  • If you use tissues, do not reuse them, throw out after use.
  • Avoid highly populated areas, where possible.
  • Aim to keep a 1.5m distance between other individuals to prevent spread.
  • Clean and disinfect everything after use.
  • Avoid travel were possible. 

Sick or medium-high risk

  • Self-isolate a minimum of 14days.
  • Wear a mask around other people. You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). 

Future

The news is not all bad. I am one to always look on the bright side and there are plenty of learnings to take away from this outbreak. For example, it will greatly impact our lives in so many ways, some of which we probably haven’t thought about yet. I will touch on some of these in future posts, I will discuss things like the future of the workplace etc.

Next post

Stay tuned for our next post where we will discuss the science and nutrition around prevention and management of COVID-19.

Sleep Month: How is your Sleep?

Sleep is the most important factor that underpins everything, if you are not sleeping you are sacrificing your health, well-being, longevity and performance (both work and sporting).

Being good at sleep is not like being good at sport or business, you don’t win any awards for being a great sleeper! Sleep is something that is traditionally private, until it being bad at it begins to seep into other areas of your life, such as when your health begins to decline or your focus starts wavering while at work.

Some will use lack of sleep as a badge of honor, stating that they can train, work, and be more productive with all the spare time gained from not sleeping. We all know these people that claim the amount of hours of sleep that they don’t have time for and that they function optimally with minimal sleep. In fact there is even a  “sleepless elite,” like Barack Obama, Dean Karnazes, Martha Stewart, and Marissa Mayer. Who claim to sleep only four or five hours a night. However, I would argue 99.99 percent of the time, they are lying to themselves. They are instead functioning at a suboptimal level and the cost of this is their health. Sure there is variance in optimal amount of sleep needed from person to person, but it is by no means this drastic.

The average night’s sleep today equates to approximately 6.9 hrs whereas in 1910 the average was 9 hrs! That is a substantial decline in a short period of time and we are paying for it!

Close to home in Australia a study published in March this year calculated the financial and nonfinancial costs associated with inadequate sleep for the year of  2016–2017 (US dollars). “The estimated total financial cost of $17.88 billion represents 1.55% of Australian gross domestic product. The estimated nonfinancial cost of $27.33 billion represents 4.6% of the total Australian burden of disease for the year.”

Chernobyl

If you cast your mind back to the disaster at: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, The gas leak at Bhopal, The Zeebrugge ferry accident, The Exxon Valdez oil spill. When you do a little research, you’ll find that these and many other major industrial disasters have been directly linked to sleep deprivation. Therefore, the financial cost associated with lack of sleep has great potential to be significantly higher.

With the ‘24/7’ society there is no ‘off’ switch and with the increasing night time use of TV, internet and mobile phones this means adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep is becoming increasingly compromised. With this paradigm shift to 24/7 society, we have more shift workers who are required to service the needs of our society. I am sure everyone knows someone that works night shift. This roster exposes them to significant circadian disruption which is likely to add to the growing financial cost of sleep deprivation seen at the workplace. Quite a scary thing to think about when a lot of the shift workers are those that work in healthcare. To put this in perspective 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors and sleep deprivation.

 

University student sleeping in lecture hall

Sleep loss is happening across the population spectrum from children, students to adults. We are all affected. The table below from a 2004 study in America highlights children of various age groups and clearly identifies their lack of sleep, with many not even achieving the desired number of sleep hours. A study done with Auckland University students in New Zealand showed that a large number (39.4%) of university students where suffering from significant sleep deprivation symptoms. What was interesting and shocking from this study was that students were presenting with clinically significant levels of depression (~17.3% of students) and anxiety (~19.7% of students).

Sleep across a 24hr period (2004 America Study): 

Age Group Suggested (hrs) Average sleep (hrs)
Infants 14-15 12.7
Toddlers 12-14 11.7
Preschool 11-13 10.4
School aged Children 10-11 9.5

(Note: All sleep times are averages.)

 

Summary 

Hopefully this has started to highlight to you the impact of sleep and its importance. As I mentioned at the beginning, sleep underpins everything and if you are lacking in that department you are functioning at a suboptimal level and accelerating the aging process.

Stay tuned for the rest of the month of August as we provide you with the tricks and tools to hack your sleep and get you back to performing at your best.

 

References:

Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, A., & Antic, N. (2016). Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

Aurora, R. N., Collop, N. A., Jacobowitz, O., Thomas, S. M., Quan, S. F., & Aronsky, A. J. (2015). Quality Measures for the Care of Adult Patients with, 11(3).

Ferrie, J. E., Kumari, M., Salo, P., Singh-manoux, A., & Kivima, M. (2018). Sleep epidemiology — a rapidly growing field, (October 2011), 1431–1437. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyr203

Hillman, D., Mitchell, S., Streatfeild, J., Burns, C., Bruck, D., & Pezzullo, L. (2018). The economic cost of inadequate sleep, (July), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy083

Report, M. W. (2011). National Sleep Awareness Week Unhealthy Sleep-Related Behaviors, 60(8), 2005–2008.

Samaranayake, C. B., Arroll, B., & Fernando, A. T. (2014). THE NEW ZEALAND, 127(1399), 13–22.

Smaldone, A., Honig, J. C., & Byrne, M. W. (2007). Sleepless in America : Inadequate Sleep and Relationships to Health and Well-being of Our Nation ’ s Children, 119(February), 29–37. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2089F

Create a Common Workplace Language: Taylored Wellness Vision Document

Get everybody on the same page! Develop a workplace language.

In our previous posts we discussed the current business landscape, reflecting on current, past and future trends. In this post we will provide you with our ‘Taylored’ structure that will aid in ensuring the success of your workplace wellness program.

Success Begins with a Plan

If your workplace is establishing its first wellness program or re-energising an existing program with a new strategy. Success begins with a plan! Before you begin making any change, take the time to establish a “Wellness Vision Document”. With so many moving parts in a business it is vital to have a document that you can regularly reflect on. This will allow you to recall ‘why the program was established’ and ‘what you are trying to achieve’. It also ensures deliverables and targets are met keeping everyone accountable while not losing the site of the vision. Basically the aim is to get everybody on the same page and develop a common workplace language!

Naturally your businesses will go through busy periods which makes it especially hard to maintain a program. However, it is during these periods  that it is most valuable to maintain and have a wellness program, as it will not only boost deep work and productivity but it will also keep your staff healthy and happy. A “Wellness Vision Document” will be your guiding force in difficult times like these, and will ensure success.

A common workplace language is one of the key determining factors when it comes to the success of a program. If staff are unsure of what is expected or don’t feel comfortable the program is set up for failure. This is where creating a common why and direction, that reflects the desires of the business is vital.

Taylored Wellness Vision Document Template:

Block out some uninterrupted time with those who are passionate about well-being and those who will be key within your business to implement a Workplace Wellness Program.

Who should be in your Wellness Team?

The purpose of this group is to select leaders that represent different areas of your business to ensure each departments are addressed. This team will act as leaders across all divisions of your businesses, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard.  Success of wellness programs has been linked to employee engagement in planning stages of a program because you get to the real source or root cause of issues instead of a perceived issues. The number of people in this group will depend on business size, keep in mind the bigger you go the more challenging it will become.

This group will be known as your Wellness Team, should meet regularly to reflect, ensuring everything is on track and to improve when required. As for any plan things will change, so view this document as a working document instead of a rigid document.

Part 1: Overview

  • Rate: Current Workplace Wellness (1-10):
  • Background: Why is a workplace wellness program important to our business?
  • Workplace WHY: A purpose, cause or belief that inspires your workplace
  • Workplace Wellness: What do we do well?
  • Workplace Wellness: What areas we you need to improve?

 

Part 2: 

  • What current business processes Inhibit health in the workplace?
  • What current business processes Enable health in the workplace?

 

Part 3:

  • Key stakeholder:                                                                                                                               Internal (within company):                                                                                                               External (contractors, partner companies etc)
  • Anticipated benefits: What effect will the program have on the workplace
  • Benchmark: What are great examples to model and measure up against?
  • Justification for resources: What is the ROI?
  • Criteria for success and measurement: What metrics would be essential to track progress?
  • Risk, challenges and constraints: Do any barriers exist, that would impact the success of this program?
  • Milestones: Short and Long term goals
  • Deliverable’s for stakeholders: What is expected from each key stakeholder?

 

Need someone to facilitate this process?

Enlist Taylored Health & Performance to help you design a full proof Wellness program.