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Dealing with workplace stress

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Jayne Carrington, Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness, explains how individuals can effectively deal with workplace stress

time-machineThe financial sector has always been a demanding place to work, but with the economic crisis creating seismic shifts in the industry, the stressful nature of the job has worsened all the more. This problem is being exacerbated by the fact that many individuals are facing extra pressure outside of the workplace, including financial worries and having the responsibility to care for their families – both children and older relatives. In fact across the individuals who called our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Helpline last year, , 85% of presenting issues were due to factors outside of the workplace, but had a negative impacted on work .  Unresolved stress from a multitude of sources can harm emotional and physical health, all of which will have an impact on an individual’s ability to do their job. It’s vital that both organisations, and individuals, recognise the true scale of this problem and take steps to better prevent and manage stress in the workplace.

When not dealt with properly, stress can lead to poor sleeping habits, ongoing fatigue, low energy levels, low nutrition intake and low levels of physical activity. And when such physical wellbeing is below par, productivity is negatively impacted. It’s essential that employers consider the real value of employee wellbeing; after all, a healthy, productive workforce means a healthy business. What’s more, The Wellness Imperative, a report from the World Economic Forum and Right Management, found that employees across the globe are eight times more likely to be engaged when wellness is a priority in the workplace, so it’s important to consider all possible routes to make this possible.

Employees flourish in  a workplace environment where stresses can be voiced and resolved – because often they don’t know who to turn to and don’t want to admit that they are facing either work-based or personal challenges. Employers who want to increase productivity, innovation and morale amongst their workforce should engage in intervention programmes to ensure that their employees get the support and guidance they need at the right time. However, individuals also have a responsibility to look at how they can manage their stress and be more resilient in challenging times. This means that individuals need to look at the situation or circumstances that create this strain and understand how they can implement attitudinal and behavioural changes that will enable them to successfully deal with workplace pressures.

Here are six simple steps that individuals can take to manage their stress levels effectively:
Think objectively about your reaction to stress – Firstly, it’s important to recognise the difference between stress anddistress; consider what is simply a ‘challenging’ time and when this changes to having a significant impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing. Then think about how you handle these situations. When under pressure, individuals’ typical reactions can change considerably. It’s helpful to identify the sorts of situations where your stress levels start to get out of control so you can understand how and why you typically respond and how you might amend your response to reduce stress and anxiety.

Jayne-CarringtonSeparate challenges into what you can and can’t control – Unfortunately, we can’t win all our battles but we can put our energy towards those which are within our control. Focussing your energy where it is going to be most effective is the best thing you can do to avoid becoming overwhelmed by factors that you have no power over.

Set manageable goals and stick to them – The trick is not to take on too much work at a time. Taking on tasks that you don’t have the ability to complete can be daunting and can quickly become an added pressure that you simply don’t need whilst at work. Only take on tasks that you know you will be able to achieve and push back on work that is only going to create more stress.
Learn how to think positive –The past few years has been turbulent for the financial services sector and at times of increased pressure and instability, it’s no wonder employees have lost enthusiasm and begun to think more negatively. However, it’s important to focus your energy on high points and think positively in order to approach challenges with a winning mindset. Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques can help to manage your problems in a more positive way.

Learn how to communicate under pressure – Often, in high-pressure situations, stress builds and communication between employees becomes shorter and more direct – especially over email. It’s important to note that managers are carriers of stress – if you are a leader within an organisation be aware of how you might be coming across to your team members as you may be bringing down morale. Having dignity in the workplace is really important. Think about ways you can keep negative thoughts in check or at least ‘vented’ using the appropriate channels.

Learn how to manage your time – According to research from the Bank Workers Charity, 65% of employees in the finance sector said that they work up to 30 hours longer than they are contracted to do so. Yet working longer hours can actually be counter-productive. Simple steps like completing key tasks that you may not enjoy first thing in the morning, can help you to manage your to-do list effectively.

Whilst we are slowly coming out of the recession, many organisations in the financial sector are having to do more with less, putting pressure on employees to drive productivity and performance.  These challenging working conditions will continue for some time so employees should look at ways in which they can become more resilient help themselves through these demanding times and know when to say they are struggling. Organisations also need to be aware of the stress that individuals face both in and out of the workplace and ensure that they implement wellbeing support programmes and inform their employees of the steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of stress. With both parties playing their part, the general health of the workforce will improve as well as the overall health of the business.

 

 

 

 

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IMF lifts global growth forecast for 2021, still sees ‘exceptional uncertainty’

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IMF lifts global growth forecast for 2021, still sees 'exceptional uncertainty' 1

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly a full percentage point less severe than expected.

It said multiple vaccine approvals and the launch of vaccinations in some countries in December had boosted hopes of an eventual end to the pandemic that has now infected nearly 100 million people and claimed the lives of over 2.1 million globally.

But it warned that the world economy continued to face “exceptional uncertainty” and new waves of COVID-19 infections and variants posed risks, and global activity would remain well below pre-COVID projections made one year ago.

Close to 90 million people are likely to fall below the extreme poverty threshold during 2020-2021, with the pandemic wiping out progress made in reducing poverty over the past two decades. Large numbers of people remained unemployed and underemployed in many countries, including the United States.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecast a 2020 global contraction of 3.5%, an improvement of 0.9 percentage points from the 4.4% slump predicted in October, reflecting stronger-than-expected momentum in the second half of 2020.

It predicted global growth of 5.5% in 2021, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from the October forecast, citing expectations of a vaccine-powered uptick later in the year and added policy support in the United States, Japan and a few other large economies.

It said the U.S. economy – the largest in the world – was expected to grow by 5.1% in 2021, an upward revision of 2 percentage points attributed to carryover from strong momentum in the second half of 2020 and the benefit accruing from $900 billion in additional fiscal support approved in December.

The forecast would likely rise further if the U.S. Congress passes a $1.9 trillion relief package proposed by newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, economists say.

China’s economy is expected to expand by 8.1% in 2021 and 5.6% in 2022, compared with its October forecasts of 8.2% and 5.8%, respectively, while India’s economy is seen growing 11.5% in 2021, up 2.7 percentage points from the October forecast after a stronger-than-expected recovering in 2020.

The Fund said countries should continue to support their economies until activity normalized to limit persistent damage from the deep recession of the past year.

Low-income countries would need continued support through grants, low-interest loans and debt relief, and some countries may require debt restructuring, the IMF said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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Leon Black step downs as Apollo CEO after review of Epstein ties

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Leon Black step downs as Apollo CEO after review of Epstein ties 2

By Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Leon Black said on Monday he would step down as chief executive at Apollo Global Management Inc, following an independent review of his ties to the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

While Black, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $8.2 billion, will remain Apollo’s chairman, his decision to step down illustrates how doing business with Epstein weighed on the reputation of one of Wall Street’s most prominent investment firms. Black co-founded Apollo 31 years ago.

Apollo said it plans to change its corporate governance structure, doing away with shares with special voting rights that currently give Black and other co-founders effective control of the firm.

The independent review, conducted by law firm Dechert LLP, found Black was not involved in any way with Epstein’s criminal activities. Black paid Epstein $158 million for advice on tax and estate planning and related services between 2012 and 2017, according to the review.

Black, 69, said that although the review confirmed he did not engage in any wrongdoing, he “deeply” regretted his involvement with Epstein.

“I hope that the results of the review, and related enhancements … will reaffirm to you that Apollo is dedicated to the highest levels of transparency and governance,” Black wrote in a note to Apollo fund investors. He will step down as CEO no later than July 31.

Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan, 58, will take over as CEO.

Rowan has often kept a low-key profile compared with Apollo’s other co-founder, Joshua Harris, 56, and spearheaded many initiatives that turned Apollo into a credit investment giant, including the permanent capital base the firm enjoys through its ties to reinsurer Athene Holding Ltd.

The revelations of Black’s ties to Epstein took a toll on Apollo, which Black turned into one of the world’s largest private equity groups. Apollo executives had warned in October that some investors had paused their commitments to the buyout firm’s funds as they awaited the review’s findings.

Apollo shares are down 1% since the New York Times reported on Oct. 12 that Black paid at least $50 million to Epstein for advice and services, when most of his clients had deserted him.

Over the same period, shares of peers Blackstone Group Inc, KKR & Co Inc and Carlyle Group Inc are up 19%, 10% and 23%, respectively.

“We think a large number of (Apollo fund investors) took a ‘pause’, and we believe the outcome (of the review) and changes today will cause most of them to return to allocating to future Apollo funds,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a research note.

Apollo shares jumped 4% to $47.65 in after-hours trading on Monday.

“We continue to follow these events closely and will evaluate how Apollo addresses its issues,” the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest U.S. public pension funds and an Apollo investor, said in a statement.

Epstein was found dead at age 66 in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges for allegedly abusing dozens of underage girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was suicide by hanging.

FALLING OUT

Black previously said he had paid millions of dollars to Epstein, but the exact size of his payments was revealed for the first time on Monday. Beyond the $158 million in payments, Black made two loans to Epstein totaling $30.5 million in early 2017.

Dechert said in its report that Black’s social ties with Epstein, who built his fortune by endearing himself to powerful figures in high society, went back to the mid-1990s.

Epstein won Black’s trust by resolving an estate tax issue for him in 2012 potentially worth at least $500 million, the report said. He ended up advising Black on various aspects of his personal financial affairs, from his family office and airplane to his yacht and artwork.

Black believed that Epstein provided advice over the years that conferred between $1 billion and $2 billion in value to him, according to the Dechert report. Black said in his note to investors that he had paid Epstein a fee equivalent to 5% of the value he generated on an after-tax basis, and not tied to hourly rates.

Black and Epstein’s relationship deteriorated after Epstein failed to repay $20 million of the loans and Black refused to pay tens of millions of dollars in fees that Epstein demanded, according to the Dechert report.

They severed ties in October 2018, according to the report. Black knew Epstein had been convicted in Florida a decade earlier for soliciting prostitution from a minor, the Dechert report said, but there was no evidence suggesting Black had knowledge of the other alleged crimes before they were publicly reported in late 2018, culminating in Epstein’s July 2019 arrest.

On Monday, Black pledged $200 million toward “initiatives that seek to achieve gender equality and protect and empower women,” as well as helping survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

Apollo said it would pursue a “one share, one vote” corporate governance structure that would do away with shares with special voting rights. It said the move could qualify it for listing on the S&P Global indices.

Apollo also said it would seek to give its board more authority to oversee its business, eroding the power of its executive committee led by Black.

The board will be expanded to include four new independent directors, including Avid Partners founder Pamela Joyner and physician and scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee, Apollo said. Apollo co-Presidents Scott Kleinman and James Zelter will join the board and take on increased responsibility running day-to-day operations.

Apollo had about $433 billion in assets under management as of the end of September.

(Reporting by Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh; Additional reporting by Lawrence Delevigne and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Leslie Adler and Kim Coghill)

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EU sees no cliff-edge ending for COVID fiscal stimulus

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EU sees no cliff-edge ending for COVID fiscal stimulus 3

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European governments will not need to abruptly end fiscal support for their economies after the pandemic, top officials said on Monday, noting that any withdrawal of stimulus would be carried out gradually and only once the economy has recovered.

Euro zone public debt rose sharply during 2020 and is likely to exceed 100% of GDP this year as governments borrow to help individuals and businesses survive lockdowns.

The higher debt raises concern about how to deal with it down the road and when to start cutting it again, since the EU last year suspended its rules limiting budget deficits and debt, known as the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).

EU finance ministers are to discuss when to reintroduce any borrowing limits in the second quarter of this year.

“I believe it important that finance ministers debate and reach a common understanding on the appropriate fiscal stance by the summer. This can then serve as guidance for the preparation of their draft budgetary plans for 2022,” the chairman of the euro zone’s group of finance ministers, Paschal Donohoe, said on Monday.

“To avoid any misunderstanding, let me stress that this is not about an imminent withdrawal of fiscal stimulus,” he told the economic committee of the European Parliament.

“We all agree that our immediate priority is to shield our citizens, in particular younger cohorts and those most exposed to the crisis. There must be no cliff-edges,” he said.

Joao Leao, the finance minister of Portugal which holds the rotating presidency of the EU and therefore sets the agenda for EU finance ministers’ work until June, was equally cautious.

“We should not withdraw stimulus too early. We need to make sure the suspension clause for the SGP remains in force at least until we return to pre-crisis economic figures,” he told the committee. “We need to make sure jobs are maintained as well as the production capacity of companies.”

He said first cash from the EU’s 750 billion euro post-COVID economic recovery programme should reach the economy in the first half of the year.

“Real funding should be getting to the economy before the summer or in early part of the summer,” he said.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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