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Work Life Balance

Richard Branson on Parenting and Work-Life Balance

Raising a child is the most wonderful experience you can have, and also the most important responsibility.

Richard Branson

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Q: My first child was born last year, and I’m finding it difficult to maintain a work-life balance. As a father yourself, how have you managed? – Daniel

Congratulations on becoming a father! Raising a child is the most wonderful experience you can have, and also the most important responsibility. Over three decades of fatherhood I have tried to put everything toward being a good dad – I value this over and above any professional success.

When my two children, Holly and Sam, were growing up, my wife, Joan, focused her time mostly on raising the kids, and I worked from home – at first from our houseboat, which we moored on a canal in London’s Little Venice neighbourhood, and now from my hammock on Necker Island in the Caribbean.

I also took my family along on work trips whenever possible, so I was often on the spot to deal with minor mishaps. We shared many joyous moments.

If you share in your kids’ lives and give them a chance to take part in yours, you will have a much better relationship with them, and you will waste far less energy worrying about what they are doing. One of the great things I learned from my children was that I was a better parent when I was also their friend.

When they needed guidance or discipline, I’d recall my own youthful misadventures and explain how I resolved those problems and what I learned from them. I carried over that sort of sharing, understanding and energy to my work life, and I believe that it made me a better manager.

If you are struggling to juggle your home life with your career commitments, both can suffer. Part of the solution may be to treat time with your family as a priority. When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family – put it in your work diary.

You will also need to prepare your colleagues for those times when an emergency will come up at home and you’ll need to drop everything to deal with it, because this is almost certain to happen.

But rather than thinking of these two aspects of your life as antagonistic, why not combine them? As I’ve often said, I don’t divide work and play: It’s all living.

For the first 10 years or more, you may need to work different hours or perhaps you simply won’t be able to commute to the office quite as often, but these days, that’s not an obstacle. Flexible hours enabled by technology can allow parents to perform well at their jobs and take care of young children at the same time.

If you’re an employee, talk with your boss about how working from home could boost your productivity, remembering to share some specific examples of how your work will improve.

If you run a business, consider investing in technology that will allow you and your staff to work flexible hours – your investment will pay dividends in the long run. You will all be less stressed by long commutes and less discouraged about missing those special moments, from first steps to first words, so you will have more space to think creatively.

We have recently introduced a new solution at Virgin that allows people to access their desktop computers on any device, from any location. You may even find that it saves you money because fewer people are in the office and can share desks (a practice known as “hot desking”). Overall, this is about giving people options.

But if you opt to work from home more often, make sure that you don’t become a slave to technology – manage your phone, don’t let it manage you. I get through emails, check social media and answer calls in batches, switching on the necessary devices to deal with those things that need my attention and then switching them off again to focus on other matters.

Just as you’ll help your kids with their homework, you may find that they can take part in yours. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but discussing your work with them can be a good way to spend time together and can help you see problems from a new perspective.

Some of my best ideas came from conversations with Holly and Sam. I’m very fortunate, in that Holly now works with us at Virgin on health issues as a special projects manager, and we’ve collaborated with Sam on various creative projects, like his diary about his Arctic travels.

However you decide to resolve your situation, I think you’ll find that your supervisors and colleagues will be much more understanding of your needs than you might expect. As more women have entered the workforce in recent decades, one of the benefits has been that people have become much more aware of the importance of fathers – and more supportive of efforts to be a great dad.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

Work Life Balance

4 Ways Sleeping Naked Makes You Healthier and Wealthier

What if I told you in just ten seconds a day, you can sleep better, make more money, reduce stress and lose weight?

Travis Bradberry

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Sleeping naked can improve your sleep habits and income earning capacity, while reducing stress and helping you to lose weight. All you have to do is take off your clothes. While there are countless strategies floating around out there to help you improve in these areas, none is as simple — and many are less effective — as stripping down before you go to sleep.

Since only 8% of people sleep naked, almost everyone can discover the benefits of sleeping in the buff. This may sound far-fetched, but hear me out before you throw those cozy flannel pyjamas on.

1. You sleep better naked

We’ve always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrates exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. The catch here is that your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep.

When you don’t get high quality, deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think. This slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity and increases your emotional reactivity.

Related: 7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that lowering your skin temperature increases the depth of your sleep and reduces the number of times you wake up at night. Stripping down to your birthday suit is a great way to lower your skin temperature without changing the temperature of the room.

2. Sleeping naked reduces stress

We all know that prolonged stress is bad news. It suppresses your immune system and increases your risk of heart disease, depression and obesity, in addition to decreasing your cognitive performance. Stress throws your cortisol levels out of whack. Proper rest helps to restore normal cortisol levels, which improves your stress level, regardless of what’s happening around you. As described in the section above, sleeping naked will help you to get a better night’s sleep.

3. Sleeping naked is healthier

Sleeping naked has a slew of health benefits, including helping you to lose weight. A study conducted by the US National Institutes of Health found that keeping yourself cool while you sleep speeds the body’s metabolism because your body creates more brown fat to keep you warm. Brown fat produces heat by burning calories (300 times more heat than any organ in the body), and this boosts your metabolism all day long to help you lose weight.

In addition to the metabolic effects of sleeping in the buff, removing your clothes improves blood circulation, which is good for your heart and muscles. The quality sleep you’ll enjoy also increases the release of growth hormone and melatonin, both of which have anti-ageing benefits.

Related: 10 Things Successful People Tell Themselves Every Day

4. Sleeping naked builds confidence

Confidence doesn’t just feel good; it’s the pillar of success. It pushes you to try new things, take on challenges and persevere in the face of adversity. A University of Melbourne study found that confident people earn higher wages and get promoted more often than their less confident counterparts. Sleeping naked makes you more comfortable in your own skin. As your comfort with your body increases, so does your self-esteem and confidence.

Bringing It All Together 

The benefits of sleeping naked are many — so many that you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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Work Life Balance

Even If You Work Hard And Love What You Do, You’re Still At Risk Of Burning Out

And no, it can’t be be resolved by blowing off some steam or meditating for 30 minutes.

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When we’re deeply immersed in our work, we’re often committed to a goal and a quality standard and making progress accordingly. This is what people mean when they talk about “engagement.” Is the person not only working hard, but truly invested in what they’re doing?

Naturally, however, working hard can result in stress, which can lead to burnout, even if a person is extremely passionate about their work. A recent study from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that nearly one in five people are both highly engaged with their work and experiencing exhaustion and burnout.

The researchers conducted an online survey to suss out the conflicting emotions this group feels toward their jobs – these individuals are interested in their work, but they’re also frustrated and stressed out by it. They’re stressed out to the extent that they think more about leaving their current jobs than people who aren’t engaged with their work do.

Related: How To Go From Burnout To Breakthrough

In other words, there’s such a thing as too much engagement. So what can we do to make sure workers don’t get too wrapped up in their work? The answer isn’t workplace programs that involve nutrition or meditation, the researchers warn.

“While we know that chronic stress is not good for employees, company wellness initiatives are not the primary way to respond to that stress,” study lead Julia Moeller writes in Harvard Business Review. “Our data suggests that while wellness initiatives can be helpful, a much bigger lever is the work itself.”

The researchers break down the factors that determine a worker’s experience into two categories: Resources and demands. If a worker has tangible resources such as time, money and equipment at their disposal, as well as intangibles such as empathy or even friendship from their team, they’ll be better off. They’ll also benefit from rewards and recognition for the work they do.

But if all of this is coupled with an environment that doesn’t demand that they work or think too hard – one that fosters work-life balance and doesn’t involve goals so lofty they’re impossible to achieve – most workers with this set of circumstances will thrive.

Related: What I Wish I Knew About Avoiding Burnout As An Entrepreneur

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

Want More Productive Employees? It’s Time To Get Physical, Together

Exercising with your employees can help to keep them productive, energised and motivated, while strengthening your team both physically and mentally

Belinda Mountain

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There’s a growing awareness that health is a huge contributor to people’s productivity at work, both in terms of mental health and physical health.

But getting employees to exercise in their own time, using their own motivation, can be challenging. How then, do we get them off their office chairs and get their heart rates going, in a fun and inspirational way? Doing it together may be the key.

Five Benefits to Team Exercise:

1. Motivation

If you’re running a race alone, it can be very easy to simply stop, because all you’re letting down is yourself. But if you’ve got a team mate cheering you on from the other side, waiting for you to pass them that baton, you’ll be that much more motivated to carry on.

Related: Is There A Link Between Physical And Financial Wellness?

The same applies to a game of volleyball, ten pin bowling or even a group obstacle course. The Fedhealth IMPI challenge has a corporate race over a distance of 10 – 12km, which includes 18 obstacles that will be hugely motivating to everyone competing. This event is held throughout the country from early April, featuring a variety of obstacles that foster teamwork and build morale.

2. Level Playing Field

In a corporate situation it can become very much an “us and them” scenario, where management sits in their ivory towers and is far removed from the day-to-day running of the business, and the people who perform these tasks.

Group exercise makes everyone equal: placing them on a level playing field where they can converse, get to know each other and work together.

It’s a case of: leave your job titles and organograms in the office, get on your tackies and have some fun! Tiffini Wissing, Fedhealth member and founder of Cool Kids’ Cabs agrees, saying:  “I love obstacle courses…I even took my entire team at the office which included 30 ladies from management, our cleaners and our drivers to do one!”.

3. Leadership

You’ll be amazed by how a different context can bring out qualities in people you may have never expected.

Related: Why You Should Be Swopping Your Lunch Meetings For Spinning Class

They may be quiet as a mouse around the board room table, but put people in a challenging physical situation, such as having to get 10 people over a three metre high wall, and you could see new leaders emerging.

Team sports and activities can highlight people’s attributes in a surprising way, and help you learn more about the individuals who make up your company.

4. Empowering

Getting people to try new things is one way of showing them their true potential, and this can extend into their careers too. If they achieve a task that they formerly thought impossible, like running 2km through the mud, or wading through a river holding on to a rope, they are highly likely to take this mindset into the office.

Tiffini says: “My staff absolutely loved it and hated me for it simultaneously! It was so empowering for so many of them who never in a million years thought they’d be able to do anything like it.”

There’s no doubt that getting your staff members to team up and complete a fun activity together has multiple health benefits.

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