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WHY THE TWO MOST STRESSFUL PROFESSIONS, FINANCE AND HEALTHCARE, NEED TO BE MORE RESILIENT

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Bec Howard

A recent study of 33,000 employees by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe revealed that workers in the financial sector lost an average of 25 days per year to stress. This was second only to those in healthcare, who lose an average of 27 days – a loss in productivity that is estimated to cost the UK around £57bn a year.

Rebecca Howard

Rebecca Howard

The study also revealed that individuals in these sectors commonly experience poor diet, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise, especially when stress levels escalate. There are a number of traditional approaches and well being programmes aimed at sleep patterns and diet in order to counter stress levels, but what these initiatives fail to tackle is the thinking that has lead us into the feeling of stress in the first place.

So what if we could look at this problem in another way? What if we accept that stress is an inevitable part of the ever-changing demands of the modern workplace, but we look at ways to fundamentally change our relationship with it?

Forward-thinking leaders are now investing in the minds of their staff. More and more employers are now providing positive stress mindset interventions which enable staff feel more in control, empowered, focused and engaged in times of pressure. This new mindset approach is long-lasting, reducing anxiety, lessening fatigue and has been proven to improve performance.

Research from the University of Wisconsin demonstrated how a more positive mindset approach to stress, rather than traditional ‘stress management’ or well being tools, can improve resilience and personal effectiveness. In a study involving 30,000 adults, people with high stress levels who believed that stress was harmful were 43% more likely to have died in an 8 year period.In contrast, those with high stress levels but didn’t believe it was bad for their health had the lowest risk of death, even less than those reporting low stress levels.

The research clearly demonstrates how our beliefs and mindset shape our response to a situation. Therefore, if we can help employees to change their response to situations, they can feel more in control, perform better and be happier.

In order to create this more resilient mindset, there are three belief shifts about stress individuals need: Notice; Accept; Choose.This psychotherapeutic process allows groups of staff to recognise stress, notice its impact, accept its presence and connect with its motivation, and then begin their positive response to it.

Crucially, this mindset intervention does not reduce the stress. It works by transforming how people think about and experience stress. Following the work, 96% of participants report improvement in their understanding of issues at work, whilst 100% said they found benefits in managing their stress levels.

This mindset intervention is grounded in research, including a study of how a Fortune 500 organisation invited people to take a more positive view of stress. Within the company 229 middle-aged employees signed up to ‘stress management training,’covering the harm and benefits of stress, howto choose a positive mindset to stress by reflecting on times when stress had been helpful.Three weeks after the session, 100% of participants reported benefits including less anxiety, greater self-awareness and a more positive mindset. In addition they felt an increased ability to deal with stress, and a greater inclination to see positive aspects of stress, having previously seen it only as negative. At work they reported improvements in focus, creativity and performance, benefits that were maintained 6 weeks after the intervention.

What is interesting is that none of these benefits could be explained by a reduction in the amount of stress the employees experienced. This was directly as a result of the mindset intervention and how it transformed their response to stress, rather than reducing it.

Statistics suggest that professionals in the healthcare sector are even more stressed than those in the finance sector. Clinicians and nursing staff in A&E often experience life and death situations, and cannot simply close the door if they’re having a bit of an off-day. They are also time-poor and periods away from the workplace place a strain on services, so they clearly have a need for support, but must deliver it effectively to a large number of people in a short period of time.

This is where mindset interventions come into their own – mindset work is effective in large groups as it is self-reflective, and it is also safe as people are happy to attend a ‘Resilience’ programme as they want to be strong, effective, and perform well. As a result, sign-up is high compared to stress management programmes, where people can be reluctant to ‘out’ themselves as stressed to their colleagues and employers. The mindset intervention also deals with work and home issues in one, allowing employers to support and tackle all issues affecting performance at work, without direct intervention.

Once the mindset intervention has been undertaken, individuals’ thinking is ‘rewired,’ allowing new thinking patterns to be created and emerge which are both immediate and long-lasting in terms of impact. These sessions have been attended by over 500 healthcare professionals to date and feedback has shown that 98% had better understanding of work and team relationships and 96% had increased their mental resilience.

Research clearly shows the similarities in the high levels of stress and pressure finance and healthcare professionals. Both sectors face similar high levels of absence due to stress and pressure, and this has an obvious effect on performance and productivity. The resilience mindset intervention sessions that have benefited healthcare professionals could create a similar impact to groups of workers in the finance sector, offering the potential to dramatically improve the performance and profitability of its teams and organisations.

Rebecca Howard is a Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapist and CEO of ShinyMind, working with organisations and companies to deliver resilience mindset solutions to improve performance.

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Sterling rises above $1.37 for first time since 2018; UK inflation rises

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Sterling rises above $1.37 for first time since 2018; UK inflation rises 1

By Elizabeth Howcroft

LONDON (Reuters) – A combination of heightened risk appetite in global markets and UK-specific optimism lifted the pound on Wednesday, as it strengthened to its highest in nearly three years against the dollar and five-month highs against the euro.

The dollar weakened against major currencies for the third straight session, helped by U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen’s urging lawmakers to “act big” on spending and worry about debt later.

The pound rose above $1.37, hitting $1.3720 — its highest since May 2018 — at 1045 GMT. By 1136 GMT it had eased some gains and changed hands at $1.3687, up 0.4% on the day and up 0.2% so far this year.

Versus the euro, the pound hit a five-month high of 88.38 pence per euro, before easing to 88.51 at 1137 GMT, up around 0.5% on the day.

The pound’s recent strengthening can be attributed in part to relief among investors that the impact of Brexit has not caused the chaos some feared, as well as a lessening of negative rates expectations, said Neil Jones, head of FX sales at Mizuho.

“Going into early 2021, there was a bearish sentiment building into the pound on the Brexit deal, in terms of maybe it had a limited reach, and then secondly an expectation of negative rates and so to some extent the market has been cutting down on sterling shorts because neither of those things have been quite so apparent as they were,” he said.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said last week that there were “lots of issues” with cutting interest rates below zero – a comment which caused sterling to jump.

The UK’s progress in rolling out vaccines is also seen as a positive for investors, Jones said.

Currently, the United Kingdom has vaccinated 4.27 million people with a first dose of the vaccine, among the best in the world per head of population.

“Further progress in vaccinations (a pick-up in the daily rate) by the time the BoE MPC meeting takes place on 4th February may prove enough to hold off on any additional monetary easing,” wrote Derek Halpenny, head of research for global markets at MUFG.

Inflation data for December showed that prices in the UK picked up by more than expected in December, to a 0.6% annual rate.0.6

Inflation has been below the Bank of England’s 2% target since mid-2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it close to zero as the economy tanked.

(Graphic: CFTC: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/oakpeyayxpr/CFTC.png)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft, editing by Larry King)

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Euro sinks amid broader risk rally against dollar

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Euro sinks amid broader risk rally against dollar 2

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro struggled to join a broader risk rally against the dollar on Wednesday as analysts said the risk of extended lockdowns in Europe to combat the spread of COVID-19 and the continent’s lag in a vaccine rollout were weighing on the currency.

Down 0.1% against the dollar at $1.2117 by 1130 GMT, Europe’s shared currency had only the safe-haven Swiss franc and Sweden’s crown for company in resisting a broad rally against the greenback by the G-10 group of currencies.

“We’re getting more headlines that the current lockdowns will be extended further, which could mean that the euro zone would be flirting with a double-dip recession before long,” said Valentin Marinov, head of G10 FX research at Credit Agricole, noting Europe’s lag in rolling out a coronavirus vaccine compared to the United States and Britain.

“So all of that plays into the story that tomorrow’s ECB meeting, while uneventful in terms of policy announcements, could convey a relatively dovish message to the market. On top of that, President Lagarde could once again jawbone the euro, so the euro is kind of lagging behind.”

Marinov also noted price action in the pound, which hit $1.3720 – a 2-1/2-year high – and 88.38 pence – its highest since May 2020 against the euro – as a contributing factor to euro weakness. [GBP/]

There was also focus on a story by Bloomberg News, which reported the European Central Bank was conducting its bond purchases with specific yield spreads in mind, a strategy that would be reminiscent of yield curve control.

Elsewhere, the risk-sensitive Australian dollar gained 0.4% to $0.7727. The New Zealand dollar, also a commodity currency like the Aussie, gained 0.25% to $0.7133.

DOLLAR WEAKNESS

While the world will be watching Joe Biden’s inauguration as U.S. president at noon in Washington (1700 GMT), traders were more focused on his policies than the ceremony.

U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen urged lawmakers at her confirmation hearing to “act big” on stimulus spending and said she believes in market-determined exchange rates, without expressing a view on the dollar’s direction.

The index that measures the dollar’s strength against a basket of peers was up almost 0.1% at 90.510. The euro forms nearly 60% of the dollar index by weight.

It also fell 0.1% against the Japanese yen to 103.81 yen per dollar.

While the dollar has perked up in recent weeks on the back of a rise in U.S. Treasury yields, investors still expect the currency to weaken.

“We remain bearish U.S. dollar, and expect the downtrend to resume as U.S. real yields top out,” said Ebrahim Rahbari, FX strategist at CitiFX.

“Continued Fed dovishness remains important for our view, in addition to global recovery, so we’ll watch upcoming Fed-speak closely.”

Positioning data shows investors are overwhelmingly short dollars as they figure that budget and current account deficits will weigh on the greenback.

(Graphic: Dollar positioning: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/oakveyombvr/Pasted%20image%201611132945366.png)

UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief investment officer Mark Haefele reiterated a bearish view on the dollar, saying that pro-cyclical currencies such as the euro, commodity-producer currencies, and the pound would benefit “from a broadening economic recovery supported by vaccine rollouts”.

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin fell 4%, trading at $34,468.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry 3

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Burberry stuck to its full-year goals on Wednesday after a media campaign fronted by high-profile English soccer star and social justice advocate Marcus Rashford drew a younger clientele to the British luxury brand.

Higher full-price sales would boost annual margins and Asian demand remained strong, Burberry said, while warning that it could suffer more sales disruption from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Manchester United striker Rashford, 23, has won plaudits for his campaign to help ensure that poorer children do not go hungry with schools closed during the pandemic.

A first coronavirus wave last year cut Burberry’s sales by as much as 45% before a bounce back on strong demand in mainland China and South Korea, which continued in the last few months.

Shares in Burberry were up 5% to 1,825 pence at 0905 GMT, with Citi analysts saying that improved sales quality from fewer markdowns would drive full-year consensus upgrades.

Burberry’s 9% sales decline in its third quarter was worse than the 6% fall in the second, and the company said that 15% of stores were currently closed and 36% operating with restrictions as a result of measures to curb COVID-19’s spread.

“We expect trading will remain susceptible to regional disruptions as we close the financial year,” Burberry said, adding that it was confident of rebounding when the pandemic eases given the brand’s resonance with customers.

In the third quarter, comparable store sales in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa declined 37%, hit by shops shut in lockdowns and a lack of tourists visiting Europe, but in the same period, it posted sales growth of 11% in Asia Pacific.

Burberry said that Britain’s new relationship with the European Union would cause headwinds, warning of a modest increase in costs to comply with new rules and also the impact of an end to a scheme for VAT refunds for non-EU tourists.

This would make Britain a less attractive destination for luxury shopping when tourism returns after the pandemic, Burberry said, adding that it would try to mitigate the effect.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton, James Davey and Alexander Smith)

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