Change is as good as a holiday.

Well that's bullshit crap rubbish! I mean really. Lie on a beach drinking cocktails, or sell your house in 4 weeks? Sightsee in a new city, or pack up your life in 2 days? Go skiing for a week or move to another country with a 2 year old and 5 year old?

I mean what is more stressful in your opinion?

When I moved to Sydney 13 years ago, I got to do a little work with Expatriates. I helped organise cultural training for employees and their families moving to countries in Asia and also assisted with medical insurance claims. My experience left me with 2 indelible thoughts.

  1. Expat employees are difficult, and
  2. How amazing would it be to move to another country to live and work?
My first experience with Expat families was when the company I worked for, sent two employees to the Philippines, one as the head of the business and the other in a finance role. I helped organise the cultural training for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) and a couple. I was able to sit in on the training so I understood what it was all about, and subsequently desperately wanted to move to Manila with them! 

I have visited Manila since then and perhaps it wouldn't be my first choice for an Expat assignment but the idea that I could live and work in another country seemed exciting none the less.

Now I realise that perhaps those Expats were not so much difficult, they were just stressed! Actually, some of them were probably difficult but overall I just didn't understand the head exploding stress of packing up your whole life and moving to a different country where everything is slightly or very different, you don't understand the culture and you are still expected to do a good job. 

Over the past 4 weeks Arran and I have been in Singapore I have been reflecting on how we approached this change and how this approach has helped us through a difficult period. We approached the move with excitement and possibilities. We knew that we couldn't have the same style of housing that we had in Sydney so we decided to embrace condominium living. We knew we would be living in a much smaller place so we got rid of a lot of our furniture (not enough as it turns out) but we have the motivation of people visiting us soon will get us organized quickly in our smallish apartment!

Moving in day. Rainy and humid. View from our balcony
We have a view of the pool just 4 floors down, which someone else maintains as well as a kids playground and beautiful gardens. We have apartments all around us and instead of feeling overlooked we feel part of a big busy city. Sitting on our large-by-Singaporean-standards balcony drinking wine and blogging in the humid air is bliss!

View from our balcony as the sun sets
We have both started to make contact with people with know here. Me with a lovely colleague I met when working at Coca-Cola Amatil, who took me to just the kind of place I needed for coffee, and Arran a friend (and his wife) from high school, who invited us to their "condo" for drinks nibbles and dinner (just when we were getting sick of each others company). I also have other friends who are ready to catch up when we are. Both of us enjoyed a dinner with some of my new work mates in Singapore. Networks and contacts are important and in the 4 weeks we have,been here we have missed our social life and are looking forward to seriously ramping it up.

I'm sure if you approached an opportunity like this negatively you are never going to have fun or learn from it. If you expect things to be like home, they won't be. If you expect the same kind of housing with the same amount of room, you will be disappointed and if you expect people to be the same, well you are kidding yourself. And if you expect the weather to be the same and the ability to buy the same food and clothes well I guess you should give up*

How does this to relate to your career? Well I think it relates very well. Sometimes we end up in a place where we are not happy, and we don't really know how we got there and we don't know how to get out and move forward. This is a miserable existence and when I have been there myself my health suffered and so did those around me.  In these circumstances it's hard to get positive. The ability to make a deal with yourself about what you can learn for the experience and how long you are going to put with where you are can make a massive difference. It can get you focused with purpose in the short term.

I'm not feeling this way about my career. I'm generally happy. How could I not be? I have reached a  career goal and I still have so much to learn including the best way to work with a new business leader. Everything I touch at the moment seems hard and I don't know the answer, but I guess I will get there, as I have done before. I have never set up a payroll in South Korea, but I'm learning. I have never supported employees in the Middle East or Kazakhstan but I'm learning. Actually I'm still learning to even spell Kazakhstan! What did we do before spell check?

So tell me about when your career has been hard for you. How did you get through it?

Lisa xx

*I have already felt like giving up trying to buy swimmers. I'm only human.

Take a break

Last week, while at a work dinner I got talking to one of the Managers at my new job. I was telling him about the holiday I was going on and he was lamenting the fact that he never gets to use his annual leave, and could he have it paid out, instead of using it?* This is a question I am often asked, and I really don't understand it. I love going on holidays. Are there people who don't? I generally like work too, but the thought of no routine, lazing about, going somewhere new or immersing myself in a different culture is too much of a pull for me. I tend to use all my annual leave each year and am always having to save up my leave for the next holiday.

Part of my role in companies I have worked for is to help the business manage their annual leave accrual, which has become very large, and employees need to be encouraged or forced to go on leave, usually once an employee has more than 20 days leave in their bank. This seems a shame to me. The Union movement in Australia fought long and hard for employees to have good benefits, leave being one of them. Employees accuring such large amounts of leave, in my opinion, comes about in a couple of ways:
1. The business has no 'redundancy' in their structure, for example; companies can't afford to let people take leave because they have no way of replacing the work they do when they are gone, and/or
2. There seems to be a culture in Australia of working, working, working with no break. Exhausting.

When I was talking with this manager last week I said that even if I could pay out his leave, I fundamentally disagree with doing so. My belief is that people need a break, whether your work is physical or mental, taking some leave lets the body and mind rejuvenate. You know how you often have your best ideas when you're in the shower, or driving in the car? It's because you mind has switched off and is able to freely think. Holidays do something similar and with a few weeks off imagine what you can achieve when you return to work?

I'm very lucky of course. I'm writing this post from my balcony overlooking the palm lined beach at Fiji. Not everyone gets to do this, but even just spending some time at home has great benefits. Letting your mind and body rest lets different thought patterns emerge, even if you can't get away. If I have holidays over the Christmas/New Year period or during January (I call this time "Summer in the City") then I spend time at home and do outings around Sydney.

Are you longing for a break but can't see the end in sight? Here are a few ideas to get you through until you can have a proper holiday.

Inspire me

Sometimes it is really hard to get a chunk of time off, so I've found this day of inspiration for you. And a day of inspiration is better then nothing! Pulled together by my lovely friend Amanda Webb at One Degree HR this workshop is running in Sydney on 5 September. You can find all the info here . See you there!

Develop me

Starting in May each year, my Husband Arran participates in the Global Corporate Challenge. It's basically a health and well-being oriented team activity that his workplace participates in. Well our whole family ends up participating because for 16 weeks he wears a pedometer and wants us to walk everywhere. Lucky I like walking too. I think it's a great initiative because it produces excellent benefits for the people who participate. Have a look at this link. It's not a holiday but it has lots of scientifically proven benefits. Does your workplace participate?

Just for me

Packing your back-pack and heading for the hills is not the only way to rejuvenate your mind and body. During my busy week I aim to attend a couple of Pilates classes and one Yoga class at Quro Health Studio. The parts I like best are the meditative parts, where you focus on breathing. In and out. Simple and effective. Meditation has so many benefits and can be as good as a holiday and something you can practice every day. Don't know much about meditation? Have a read here about the benefits that can be achieved in as little as 10 minutes a day.
*Most employment legislation in Australia prevents the paying out on leave, unless under termination of employment.