UNCONFERENCE

unconference

ˈʌnkɒnf(ə)r(ə)ns/

noun

  1. a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.

“at this unconference, attendees created sessions on the spot, making for an energizing and freewheeling exchange”

So what is an unconference anyway? I hear this asked all the time, especially now I’m talking a lot about the upcoming #NZLead Unconference I’ve been helping to organise. As described above by Google it’s an unstructured exchange of information and ideas in a group as opposed to following an agenda or programme of events as at a traditional conference. It emphasizes free exchange between participants and can change direction and focus as the discussions develop and grow.

Unconferences are also referred to as Open Space conferences, simply meaning they are participant lead. Typically the agenda is set early on in the day, by the attendees; anyone who wants to can raise an initiative or discussion topic and have it added to the format (or un-format) of the day. Any format is permitted; one speaker, no speakers, a facilitator, no facilitator – though generally attendees are there as highly skilled or knowledgeable people on a subject matter, or as in #NZLead’s case people who are interested and want to learn more or weigh in on a certain subject matter.

There are opportunities in unconferences to lead a discussion, track or session or simply to go along and participate, either way the expectation is that you give, share and collaborate and others will do the same to ensure there are takeaways for all. This could be in the form of anything from increased knowledge, expanded ideas, new thinking and or new connections and networking opportunities.

What then is the #NZLead Unconference all about? Creating more Humane Workplaces and one of the other equally passionate volunteers on the team, Katy Lloyd put it especially well in her LinkedIn post:

“How do we create more “Humane Workplaces?”  So what does actually this mean? It’s about what we can do we make our workplaces more successful, enjoyable and inspiring places to be.

We all know people are important and are the key to success for an organization. The unconferences provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals that are interested in how we can the people practices of organisations and how we can do them better. This is not just HR folk – but anyone who knows that people are the heart of the workplace and thinks we can do things differently and much better! The more diverse range of backgrounds and opinions the better.”

Or there’s more detail on the #NZLead website: http://nzlead.com/the-re-birth-of-a-more-humane-workplace/

 If you’d like to know more we’re happy to chat, here is a list of the crew working to pull this together, we’re easy to find on twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn:

AUCKLAND

Kylie Telford

Katy Lloyd

Laura Trethewey

WELLINGTON

Richard Westney

Tash Pieterse

How do you get there? Tickets are great value at $99

Looking forward to connecting and collaborating!

 

I like to Move It, Move It

I came across a fantastic infographic on exercise and improved productivity in the workplace developed for Wellness Week. It includes some very interesting stats, such as physically inactive people having a 50% higher chance of developing a coronary heart disease as regularly active people. Given my partners father passed away last week after a long history of minor heart attacks and his brother in law was rushed to hospital two days ago with such high blood pressure Doctor’s couldn’t believe he wasn’t having a heart attack – this struck a chord!

We all know that exercise releases endorphins and serotonin that eases the mind and creates feelings of positivity – helping to increase productivity and decrease the mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also increases mental alertness and energy levels, and, regular exercise has been proven to increase your overall wellness and boost the immune system, resulting in fewer sick days and therefore greater productivity.

I’ve been a runner, I’m currently a walker (hope to get running again!) and fitting my walk into my day be it at 10:30am, 12noon or 3pm dependant on work demands, meetings etc is a priority for me. On particularly busy or stressful days I find the time out to move away from what I’m doing and clear my head often ends in improved results. I’d go along with the infographic stats and be a part of the 60% that claim greater mental performance post lunch time exercise.

In our organisation we have a gym onsite, admittedly it’s not the flashiest gym in the world, but it has one of everything and costs next to nothing at $3 a week (which includes social club membership). We offer onsite Yoga and Pilates classes (at the expense of the attendees), we have fruit baskets on some floors (company provided) – and these are the obvious things I can find. But digging a little deeper I discovered company touch teams, inter-organisation cricket matches, walking and running groups and weight loss support groups. There were also groups supporting each other in marathons, stair climbs and tough-mudder competitions. But I had to ask around to find them.

So does exercise and improved productivity in the workplace also come down to communication? Are we not showcasing, promoting and advocating the importance of exercise enough?

Secondly, I wonder if workplaces are supportive enough of exercise? Or is it treated somewhat like the companies where if you’re not seen in the office you’re deemed not to be working? Do we allow staff the time in their days, lunch breaks etc to make time for exercise and to fit that into their own daily schedules?

It’s in companies’ interests to ensure staff have every opportunity to be heathy and fit and participating regularly in exercise. So why aren’t more of us putting more effort into this? Not only will exercise increase productivity, but culture and engagement would increase along with it. There’s some really simple ways companies could instigate more exercise in their employees’ days and here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Communicate! Let staff know what your company currently has on offer
  • Advocate; make sure staff know you’re supportive of their physical and mental wellbeing
  • Walking meetings
  • Encourage staff to take the stairs (create a stair challenge!)
  • Support company sports teams
  • Provide showers and space for staff to keep fitness gear at work
  • Standing desks (standing burns more calories than sitting!)
  • Organise lunch time walking groups; the easiest way to exercise and will have the added benefits of staff keeping each other accountable and building camaraderie amongst employees

And here are some great ideas for at your desk / in the office exercise (some you can do discreetly at your desk, other you may want to find a meeting room for!):

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/29-exercises-you-can-do-at-or-near-your-desk.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/health/workout-at-work/

Get moving!