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Johanna Varje

Make breathing exercises a health habit

Make breathing exercises a health habit

Do you know what it feels like to have a stress free body, relaxed shoulders and to breathe lightly and effortlessly? Have you ever considered how crucial breathing and the oxygen it delivers is to how our bodies function? Our understanding about human bodies and its mechanisms increases constantly. This year’s Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was given to discoveries on how cells adapt to oxygen availability. The significance of these discoveries is based on the physiological effects of oxygen availability on health and certain illnesses. This research has broadened our understanding of the mechanisms connected with oxygen availability. With that said, I’d like to bring up one of the easiest ways of affecting our bodies and stress levels positively – Breathing.

One of the simplest ways of helping our bodies recover is deep breathing. Something you do constantly throughout your life without even acknowledging can bring along several health benefits when done consciously, with thought. The correlation between breathing and psychological stress, as well as their correlation with the use of health services has been studied in Finland, too. By doing breathing exercises we can also improve our concentration and prevent insomnia. Breathing has several effects on our health because by breathing we affect our parasympathetic nervous system which affects how our bodies feel. Studies show that with the help of deep breathing we can lower our heart rate and the level of stress hormones measured from saliva. The stress and emotions we feel affect our bodies in different ways, but it’s also possible to use our bodies to affect how we feel. For example, stress makes our breathing more shallow but by breathing deep we can affect our feeling of stress.

The simplest way to explain what deep breathing is that it’s breathing deep while controlling your breath. There are many different kinds of breathing techniques and exercises. Here is an easy exercise that will get you started:

Settle into a comfortable position so that you can relax, focus and take a moment to yourself. You can close your eyes if it feels right. Breathe in slowly while counting to six. Breathe out slowly while counting to six, and hold your breath while counting to two. Repeat the previous steps; breathe in counting to six, breathe out and count to six, hold your breath. Repeat while drawing a rectangle in your mind. The long sides of the rectangles are breaths in and out, hold your breath during the short sides. Start practicing in small bits and increase the total time as you progress. Eventually you can extend the length of your breaths in and out and count to ten. Even just a few minutes of breathing is a good start. 

Once you’ve gotten a good start you can try different exercises and gradually increase the total time of each exercise. You’ll receive the greatest benefit by making breathing exercises a daily habit. By drawing the rectangle in your mind as you go your mind has something to focus on and you’ll be less distracted.

When you’re doing the exercises it’s good to remember to relax your midriff. If you’re tense your breathing will not be optimal. Try to direct your breathing to your ribs and lower abdomen rather than your shoulders. Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out either through your nose or mouth. You can let your thoughts come and go, or focus on an imagined figure like in the previous exercise. You may feel it’s hard to get started or it may feel uncomfortable, but keep in mind that the more difficult it feels to do breathing exercises the more you need them. Repetition is key and the more often you do the exercises, the faster you’ll start reaping in the benefits. Once you teach yourself these skills you can take your moment to breathe anywhere, even if your surroundings aren’t optimal for a calm moment.

Here are some exercises you can try once you’ve made some progress:

  • 4-6-8 exercise: Breathe in while counting to four, hold your breath while counting to six and breathe out while counting to eight.
  • Midriff breathing: Lay one hand down on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Breathe in a manner where only your abdomen is moving and chest stays as still as possible.
  • Effective breaths out: Breathe out very slow, long breaths emptying your lungs completely. Pay attention to how your breath in is completely automatic and effortless after breathing out effectively.
  • Yoga breath exercise: Sit in a comfortable position and place your index finger on your other nostril blocking the airway. Breathe in and switch your finger to the other side. Breathe in again and without switching sides breathe out. Repeat this and switch nostrils as you go.

If you want to mix it up try doing these exercises in different positions from time to time. Take your relaxation and recovery into your own hands and complete a breathing exercise at least once a day. With your example you can encourage your colleagues and make breathing exercises a healthy habit in your work community.

Written by:

Mia Bäck
Sports instructor (Bachelor), Health Coach, NLP Practitioner and Pilates Health coach.

Mia works as an advisor for physical training and health coach with people of all ages. Mia believes that we can affect most of our health issues with our health choices. She challenges people to take responsibility for their own well-being through small actions to achieve a holistic and balanced feeling of wellness and satisfaction.

Fem steg till bättre återhämtning

Fem steg till bättre återhämtning

Åtta timmars sömn garanterar inte tillräcklig vila och återhämtning i en hektisk vardag där vi måste lära oss nya saker allt snabbare och arbetet ofta är spritt över dagen. Det lönar sig att ha en proaktiv inställning till återhämtning och vila, precis som till träning och annan typ av personlig utveckling. En aktiv och medveten återhämtningsrutin utvecklar din återhämtningsförmåga och leder till mer bestående resultat.

När det gäller förändring kommer det bästa resultatet sällan genom plötsliga omvälvningar. Som flera studier har konstaterat är mikroåtgärder mer benägna att leda till bestående livsstilsförändringar än extrema och plötsliga förändringar. Det viktiga är att bygga goda vanor och rutiner. Men vad är det bästa sättet att lägga till mer återhämtning och vila i vardagen?

En bra utgångspunkt är att undvika alkohol, ohälsosam mat och negativ stress. Tänk också på en god sömnkvalitet, fysisk aktivitet och en varierad kost. För att inta ett mer proaktivt förhållningssätt till återhämtning och mentalt välbefinnande bör du fundera på följande saker:

  1. Attityd och motivation

Tillräcklig återhämtning och vila kräver att vår motivation bygger på en genuin vilja att förändras och att förstå fördelarna med det vi gör. Allt börjar från strukturer, från rötterna. Om vi inte har rötterna stadigt i marken, faller vi redan under den första stormen.

Vårt engagemang att förändras blir ytligt om vi inte tror på det och erkänner för oss själva att förändring är nödvändigt för vårt eget välbefinnande. Då återgår vi lätt till gamla vanor efter en kort rusch. För att hitta vår egen inre motivation, måste vi släppa yttre förväntningar och fokusera på vad vi själva behöver för att orka bättre. Ingen annan kan ta hand om vårt välbefinnande om vi inte själva tar ansvar först.

  1. Att ta och att välja bort ansvar

Vad innebär det egentligen att ta ansvar för sitt eget välbefinnande? Det handlar inte bara om att bära ansvar för våra egna handlingar och att godkänna konsekvenserna. Ansvar handlar också om vår attityd och hur vi förhåller oss till vår omgivning.

Vi väljer varje dag hur vi förhåller oss till exempel till morgonrusningen eller en jobbig kollega.  Hur vi hanterar de här sakerna är på vårt eget ansvar.

När vi inser att vi inte alltid kan påverka vår omgivning, kan vi befria oss från onödig oro och fokusera på det väsentliga. Det här frigör också resurser för saker som är viktiga för oss och förbättrar balansen i vardagen.

  1. En sak i taget

Vi behöver inte göra allt med en gång – och det ska vi inte heller. När vi fått för lite tid till återhämtning och sömn och i stället gör allt för att prestera, börjar vi lätt ta på oss för mycket på samma gång. Vi arbetar inte lika effektivt, vilket i sin tur ökar den mentala belastningen. Resultatet är ett ekorrhjul av otillräcklig vila, hjältelika prestationer och ineffektivitet.

Arbetet har under de senaste åren blivit mer självstyrande, och fler och fler bestämmer till stor del själva sina egna arbetsmetoder och tider. Kulturförändringen har varit så snabb att även arbetsledare står inför nya typer av utmaningar.

Att schemalägga sina uppgifter i en kalender är ett steg i rätt riktning. När vi reserverat en viss tid för våra uppgifter i kalendern, behöver vi inte hela tiden försöka komma ihåg uppgifter och tider utantill. Om vi bara försöker organisera dagens uppgifter i huvudet eller på att-göra-listor, är det lättare att de förblir ogjorda. I en kalender som delas av organisationen ser även kollegorna när vi är upptagna, vilket gör att det blir färre onödiga avbrott och att den gemensamma tiden blir lättare att koordinera.

  1. Lyssna på dig själv

Ibland måste man stanna upp eller åtminstone sakta ner. Att pressa sig själv till det yttersta är inte bra för någon. Ta en fem minuters paus under arbetsdagen och fokusera på andningen. Ta en kort promenad runt kvarteret. Lyssna på avkopplande ljud. Spring lite i trapporna.

Det bästa sättet att återhämta sig och koppla av en stund är att lyssna på sin egen kropp och själ. Att prestera och att bestraffa dig själv för att du tar en lätt promenad i skogen i stället för ett krävande gympass gör mer skada än nytta. Var barmhärtig mot dig själv och gör det som känns rätt i stunden.

  1. Be om hjälp

Om situationen redan har nått en punkt där hopplösheten och tröttheten känns för stor för att övervinna på egen hand, samla mod och be om hjälp. Tecken på utbrändhet är bland annat ständig trötthet, avsaknad av betydelsefullhet och mening i arbetet, försämrad initiativförmåga och andra stressymptom.

Ungefär en fjärdedel av befolkningen upplever utbrändhet minst en gång i livet, och ju tidigare man reagerar desto lättare blir det att göra något åt situationen. Ibland kan det räcka med att prata med en god vän för att få ordning på saker och ting och må bättre. Ibland behövs professionell hjälp.

Att frigöra sig från onödig belastning är ett steg mot bättre återhämtning och en mer bestående balans. Dessutom måste vi våga prioritera vårt mentala välbefinnande. Oavsett livssituation och bransch är tillräcklig mental och fysisk återhämtning en förutsättning för att vi ska orka och må bra på jobbet. 

AlvinOne är ett personligt verktyg för anställda som hjälper dem att följa sitt eget välbefinnande. AlvinOnes maskininlärningsalgoritm förutser kommande hälsorisker, och hälsoanalysredskapet analyserar det aktuella hälsotillståndet och ger hälsofrämjande råd. AlvinOne kan också skicka rekommendationer till användaren om tjänster som arbetsgivaren erbjuder på basen av hälsoanalysen. För HR och ledning gör AlvinOne analyser på gruppnivå om personalens välbefinnande till stöd för beslutsfattandet.

Av: Johanna Varje

Five tips for better rest and recovery

Five tips for better rest and recovery

Eight hours of sleep doesn’t guarantee sufficient rest and recovery in our hectic day-to-day lives. The speed at which we have to absorb new information and how our work days often leave us feeling scattered doesn’t help. A proactive stance toward rest and recovery is beneficial, just as it is with exercise and in other areas of personal development. Building our recovery routines actively and systematically develops our recovery skills and leads to long-lasting results.

When we talk about change, turning everything upside down all at once rarely leads to the best outcome. As several studies have concluded, micro-actions lead to lasting changes in behaviour better than extreme U turns. Building sustainable, healthy habits is key. But where do we begin when we want to add rest and recovery into our everyday lives?

A good place to start this journey is to avoid alcohol, junk food and negative stress. We should also pay attention to the quality of our sleep, physical activity and eating energising foods. In order to assume a proactive attitude toward recovery and mental well-being, we should also consider the following.

  1. Attitude and motivation

Sufficient recovery and rest requires that our motivation is well founded and based on genuine desire for change. Everything starts at the roots. If our roots aren’t grounded we risk falling during the first storm.

Commiting to change remains shallow if we don’t admit the necessity of change and accept that our well-being is at stake. Making changes without sincere commitment often leads to a temporary spurt and then we return to our old ways quickly. In order to find our inner motivation, we have to let go of outside expectations and focus on our personal needs. No one else can do this for us, we have to be responsible for our well-being first.

  1. Taking responsibility and letting go

What does being responsible for our well-being really mean? Be resposnible for our well-being doesn’t only mean owning our actions or accepting their consequences. Taking responsibility also includes our attitude toward the surrounding world.

Every day we choose how we react to morning traffic jams or an annoying colleague. The way we react is up to us.

When we understand and accept we can’t always affect our surroundings or other people, we can let go and stop using our resources on them. This enables us to focus on what’s important and relevant to us, and as a result it improves the balance of our day-to-day lives. 

  1. One step at a time

We don’t need to do everything all at once. In fact, we shouldn’t even try to. When we haven’t taken enough time to rest and recover, and our pace is based on maximising achievement, we often take on too much at a time. Overwhelming ourselves with too many things makes us ineffective, which in turn makes us feel even more overwhelmed. It quickly spirals into a vicious circle of insufficient rest, a heroic-like attitude toward achievement and inefficiency.

Today’s working life also requires more self-determination from employees than before. Individuals are increasingly in charge of their own work methods and schedules. The change in culture and attitudes has been so fast that leadership and management are also facing completely new challenges.

Timing your tasks into a calendar is a step in the right direction. By assigning slots for tasks we don’t have to try to remember everything all the time and can trust tasks will be completed in time, as long as we adhere to our calendars. It’s also easier to slip up on our tasks if they only exist in our minds or personal to-do lists. By using a shared calendar with our organisation our colleagues can see when we’re busy, and unnecessary interruptions decrease and coordinating our joint time becomes easier.

  1. Listen to yourself

Sometimes we just have to stop, or at least just slow down. Wearing yourself out doesn’t benefit anyone. Let’s remember to take a 5-minute break during the work day to do a breathing exercise. Let’s take a walk around the block and listen to relaxing sounds. Let’s run up and down the stairs to the office.

The best way add restful moments to our day to listen to our bodies and minds. Constant achieving and punishing yourself for not meeting someone else’s standards is useless. Sometimes that calm walk in the forest does more for your well-being than an hour-long gym workout. Let’s be kind to ourselves and do what feels right.

  1. Ask for help

If we reach a point where exhaustion and hopelessness feel like unbeatable obstacles, let’s ask for help. Signs of burnout include constant fatigue, a feeling of meaninglessness, loss of passion toward your work, decreased ability to take initiative and other stress symptoms. 

About 25% of us suffer from a burnout at some stage in our lives. The earlier we react, the easier it is to start healing. Sometimes just a good conversation with a friend can do wonders for our minds. At other times we may need help from a professional.

Letting go of being responsible for things we can’t affect is a commendable leap toward better recovery and a healthier balance. In addition, we have to have the courage and will to prioritise the well-being of our mind. No matter where we are in life, which field we work in, the sufficient rest and recovery of our bodies and minds is a prerequisite for our well-being, ability to work and coping with stress.

AlvinOne is a personal tool for employees to track their well-being. AlvinOne’s machine-learning algorithm predicts future risks. The AlvinOne Health Analysis depicts users’ current state of health and provides feedback on how they can improve it. AlvinOne may also send its users recommendations to use services offered by the employer  based on the results from the AlvinOne Health Analysis. Alvinone provides anonymised group level analytics for HR and management to support data-driven decision-making. Book a demo here.

Author: Johanna Varje

Henkinen hyvinvointi on aikamme suurin haaste työpaikoilla

Henkinen hyvinvointi on aikamme suurin haaste työpaikoilla

Stressiperäiset sairaudet aiheuttavat 40% poissaolopäivistä Euroopassa ja stressi on suurin yksittäinen terveyshaaste työpaikoilla. Negatiivinen stressi aiheuttaa univaikeuksia, kognitiivisen toimintakyvyn laskemisen ja pahimmassa tapauksessa kuukausien sairauslomaan johtavan työuupumuksen. Työuupumukset ovat lisääntyneet etenkin milleniaalisukupolven keskuudessa, ja arviolta joka neljäs suomalainen sairastuu työuupumukseen jossain vaiheessa työuraansa.

Asiakastyössä AlvinOnella olemme myös huomanneet, että stressi ja henkinen kuormitus korostuvat työyhteisöjen haasteina alasta ja organisaatiosta riippumatta.

Kyse ei aina ole johtamisesta tai ruuhkavuosista – Työelämän murros vaatii työntekijöiltä kovempaa tahtia, jatkuvaa oppimista ja osaamista uusilta alueilta. Nykyään työ vaatii enemmän digiosaamista, itseohjautuvuutta ja ajanhallinnan taitoja.

Oppimisen kiihtynyt tahti ja digitalisaation vaikutukset näkyvät eri tavalla eri ikäryhmissä. Kun milleniaalit korostuvat tilastoissa työuupumusten osalta, 55-64-vuotiaat korostuvat masennustilastoissa. Uniongelmista puolestaan kärsii 30% suomalaista vuosittain iästä riippumatta.

Voidaanko johtamisella ratkaista henkiseen kuormitukseen liittyviä haasteita? Uudet toimintatavat ja organisaatiorakenteet vaativat uudenlaisia tapoja johtaa. Etenkin itseohjautuvissa organisaatioissa henkiseen kuormitukseen liittyvät haasteet usein korostuvat ja vaativat erilaista johtamista kuin perinteisissä organisaatioissa.

“On yleinen harhaluulo, että itseohjautuvissa organisaatioissa tarvittaisiin vähemmän johtamista. Asia on juuri päinvastoin. Sitä tarvitaan enemmän, kuin perinteisissä organisaatioissa. Usein työntekijöiden kokema kuormitus johtuu juuri puutteista johtamisessa: työnkuva ja tavoitteet ovat epäselvät, työntekijä jää liian yksin, esimies ei ole koskaan paikalla ja vastuut sekä päätöksenteko on poukkoilevaa”, kuvaa Miia Savaspuro,  joka on syventynyt aiheeseen teoksessaan Itseohjautuvuus tuli työpaikoille – mutta kukaan ei kertonut, miten sellainen ollaan.

Henkilöstön henkinen ja fyysinen hyvinvointi on yrityksen tärkeimpiä menestystekijöitä ja niitä tulisi johtaa kuten muitakin liiketoiminnan strategisia alueita. Hyvinvoinnin haasteita ei enää myöskään ratkaista yksinomaan tarjoamalla henkilöstölle sähköpöytiä tai järjestämällä tyky-päiviä – Strateginen hyvinvoinnin johtaminen vaatii johdolta  tavoitteellisuutta, sekä sitoutumista ennaltaehkäisyyn ja yksilökeskeisiin ratkaisuihin.

Hyvinvoinnin johtamisen tulisi keskittyä terveyden ylläpitoon ja ennaltaehkäisyyn. Kun puhutaan henkisestä kuormituksesta, paras ajankohta tukea yksilöä on ensimmäisten hälytysmerkkien kohdalla, jopa jo ennen kuin hän on itse tunnistanut tarpeen tuelle. Olemme kuitenkin tottuneet ajattelemaan, että apua pyydetään vasta kun on jo pohjalla ja monella on iso kynnys hakea apua.

Reagoimalla jo ensimmäisiin merkkeihin yritys myös säästää kustannuksissa. Useiden tutkimusten mukaan yksi sijoitettu euro ennaltaehkäisyyn maksaa itsensä takaisin 2-13 -kertaisena*. Haasteeksi muodostuu riskiryhmien tunnistaminen näin varhaisessa vaiheessa, kun kyse on terveistä ihmisistä, joilla ei ole olemassa olevaa hoitosuhdetta. Toisinaan esimies voi toimia tahona, joka tunnistaa ja ohjaa alaisiaan palveluihin tarpeen mukaan, mutta tämä toimintamalli vaatii esimiehiltä valtavasti osaamista ja lopputulos jää usein vaihtelevaksi.

Ideaalista olisi, että jokaisella yksilöllä on työkalu, jolla voi arvioida omaa jaksamistaan silloin kuin se hänelle sopii ja matalan kynnyksen kanava, jota kautta hän voi saada tukea tilanteeseensa. Tuki voi tarkoittaa keskustelua esimiehen kanssa, digitaalista hyvinvointipalvelua tai ohjausta työterveyshuoltoon.

* THL 2019. Hyvinvoinnin ja terveyden edistämisen kustannusesimerkit. https://thl.fi/fi/web/hyvinvoinnin-ja-terveyden-edistamisen-johtaminen/hyvinvointijohtaminen/vaikutukset-ja-kustannukset/hyvinvoinnin-ja-terveyden-edistamisen-kustannusesimerkit#mielenterveydenedist%C3%A4minen

THL 2017. Vaikuttavuus ja kustannukset. https://thl.fi/fi/web/hyvinvointi-ja-terveyserot/seuranta-ja-vaikuttavuus/vaikuttavuus-ja-kustannukset

European agency for safety and health at work 2014. Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial risks. https://osha.europa.eu/en/tools-and-publications/publications/literature_reviews/calculating-the-cost-of-work-related-stress-and-psychosocial-risks

Yhteystiedot:
Johanna Varje
johanna@alvinone.com


Miia Savaspuro
miia.savaspuro@gmail.com

 

 

Author: Johanna Varje, CEO & co-founder at AlvinOne

 

 

AlvinOne ja Vincit aloittavat yhteistyön

AlvinOne ja Vincit aloittavat yhteistyön

Alvinone aloittaa yhteistyön ohjelmistoyhtiö Vincitin kanssa. Vincit LaaS, eli Leadership as a Service, on Vincitin kehittämä työkalu, jolla toteutetaan palvelevaa johtamismallia, organisaatiomuutoksia ja joka tekee johtamisesta avointa ja ketterää. LaaS tukee myös organisaatioiden itseohjautuvuutta ja osallistaa henkilöstön päätöksentekoon.

AlvinOne on suomalainen ihmisten hyvinvoinnin kehittämiseen erikoistunut startup-yritys, joka on kehittänyt työkalun hyvinvoinnin seurantaan ja edistämiseen. AlvinOnen analytiikan avulla voidaan ennustaa tulevia terveysriskejä, analysoida nykytilaa ja ohjata käyttäjiä ennaltaehkäiseviin hyvinvointipalveluihin heidän tulostensa perusteella.

Henkilöstön tyytyväisyys, itsensä johtaminen ja hyvinvointi liittyvät vahvasti toisiinsa, joten Vincitistä ja AlvinOnesta tuntui luontevalta, että tuotteet toimisivat yhdessä ja muodostaisivat kokonaisvaltaisen työkalun johtamisen ja henkilöstön hyvinvoinnin tueksi. Asiakasyrityksille yhteistyö tarkoittaa sitä, että heillä on tulevaisuudessa mahdollisuus ottaa käyttöön AlvinOne ja LaaS yhdessä tai erikseen.

“Olemme innoissamme päästessämme aloittamaan yhteistyön AlvinOnen kanssa ja integroimaan terveyspuolen vahvan näkemyksen osaksi LaaS-työkalua. Uskomme, että jatkossa LaaS pystyy tuottamaan asiakkaille yhä parempaa systeemistä ymmärrystä johtamisen eri osa-alueista ja niiden vaikutuksista toisiinsa. Tuomalla toisiamme täydentävän osaamisemme yhteen pystymme tarjoamaan myös LaaSin loppukäyttäjille entistä monipuolisempaa arvoa.”, kertoo Vincitin henkilöstöjohtaja Johanna Pystynen.

AlvinOnelle yhteistyösopimus on ensimmäinen laatuaan, jossa AlvinOnen algoritmit ja analytiikka viedään osaksi toista tuotetta. Yhteistyösopimus ei rajaa pois muita yhteistyökumppaneita kummankaan osapuolen osalta ja molempien tuotteiden tekijänoikeudet pysyvät alkuperäisillä omistajilla.

”Uskon vahvasti LaaS:in toimintamalliin ja että yritykset haluavat tehdä hankinnat yhden luukun periaatteella. Yhteistyön myötä, yritys saa yhdessä paketissa nykyaikaisen työkalun johtamiseen, itsensä kehittämiseen, henkilöstön hyvinvoinnin edistämiseen ja henkilöstölle tarjottavien palveluiden hallintaan”, kertoo Johanna Varje, AlvinOnen toimitusjohtaja.

Vincitillä toimipisteitä Suomessa Tampereella, Helsingissä, Turussa ja Oulussa, sekä Kaliforniassa Palo Altossa ja Orange Countyssa. Vuonna 2018 yrityksen liikevaihto oli 43,5 miljoonaa euroa. AlvinOne aloitti toimintansa 2017 loppupuolella ja on saanut suuryrityksiä asiakkaakseen Suomessa ja Ruotsissa.  Tavoitteena on kasvaa ensin Suomessa ja laajentua muualle Eurooppaan seuraavan kahden vuoden aikana.

Lisätiedot:


Johanna Varje
Puh. +358440423101
johanna@alvinone.com

 

Johanna Pystynen
Puh. +358504412126
johanna.pystynen@vincit.fi

Five reasons why corporations should buy from startups

Five reasons why corporations should buy from startups

Corporations and startups are working together more than ever, both in the form of collaboration where both learn from each other and as buyers and sellers. Whether a corporation co-operates with startups in the form of co-creation or is sourcing from a startup, they are most likely looking for for something new. They maybe want to strip off old habits and see if they could create a leaner process, find an entirely new angle or solve a problem no one has solved before.

But is it risky to buy from a startup? Can they deliver on time and are their resources adequate for the needs on a global multi-million euro corporation? The answer is yes. It is as risky as anything else is where you are turning accustomed ways of doing things upside down and trying to create something new. It’s always risky to take a step into the unknown and be the first – or one of the first ones. Just as with investing, the higher the profit expectations are, the higher the risk. If you’re ok with low profit margins, you can play it safe and keep doing what you’ve been doing. But if you want change and higher profits, it means higher risk. And in the long run, is playing it safe a sustainable approach that maintains your competitive advantage in a constantly evolving world?

I wanted to share five good reasons to buy from a startup as a corporation. (There’s plenty more, but I’m trying keep this compact.)

  1. Innovation. You’ll almost definitely get something new that challenges current models. Startups are not stuck in old habits and are not in the business of repeating history. They have a vision of how things should and could be, and they tear down barriers to reach it.
  2. Cost efficiency. Startups operate with limited resources and have had to be innovative in order to reach where they are now financially as well. They’ve built their internal processes to be as lean and cost-effective as possible. They have avoided anything that doesn’t bring value. This means customers don’t end up paying for inefficiently used resources hidden in the price of the product.
  3. Commitment. People who work at a startup didn’t join in because they wanted an easy-going job where they can complete given tasks and then go home. People who work at startups are hungry for change and results. They’re passionate problem-solvers who want nothing more than to succeed in their mission. They commit to solving your problems and value each customer as their highest priority.
  4. You’ll receive a product suited for your company’s needs. Startups are rising from a blank sheet of paper. They want to hear your ideas and know your needs as a customer and will build their product on that, and keep building. (Or at least they should.) When you buy from a startup you can be a part of that development process without carrying out the work, and enjoy using a product developed for your needs.
  5. You’ll be a forerunner. Do you look at your competition and try to do what they’re doing or do you want to stand out as a forerunner who does things differently and is willing to renew yourself to keep up with the world? Build your image and brand as a trailblazer that’s constantly moving forward and developing, and you’ll attract like-minded talent and clients.

With that said, startups come in as many forms and colours as the people founding them. Relying on a startup isn’t a guarantee of innovation or progress and selecting a startup to source from – or any company – should be done with thought. When buying from a startup, ask the difficult questions and learn about how committed they are to your cause. Whichever way your shared journey goes, it will help the startup clarify their purpose and eventually become better.

If you’d like to discuss further reasons to buy from a startup or just have a chat about the subject in general, you can reach me at johanna@alvinone.com.

 

 

Author: Johanna Varje, CEO & co-founder at AlvinOne

How to make health surveys more inclusive

How to make health surveys more inclusive

We work closely with occupational health care providers and international companies with thousands of employees in order to prevent illness from affecting productivity in the form of absences, reduced performance, undesirable retention rates, higher insurance costs and to boost a positive employer image through happy, healthy employees. We work with both traditional browser-based health surveys, paper surveys as well as an artificial intelligence empowered app that are all used to analyse health and well-being in order to find potential risks before symptoms occur. Our analytics provide scientifically valid results and effective feedback for individuals.

As you might have noticed, most health-related questionnaires and analyses ask about the respondent’s sex and only offer ‘male’ and ‘female’ as options. There are a multitude of reasons behind this, including difficulty of obtaining data concerning non-binary persons and lack of understanding why inclusion is important. We were no different and hadn’t taken the necessary measures to fix it – until now. We had, of course, thought about and it was on the to-do list, but just recently we proudly released an updated version of AlvinOne where we have placed our best efforts in making it more inclusive and less binary when it comes to sex and gender.

The shift into a more inclusive model turned out be a bit more of challenge than I had initially anticipated. Now that we have done it, I wanted to share how we, a small company with limited resources did it so that maybe someone else who is struggling with similar issues could have an easier time doing it. And maybe if it feels a little bit easier, more companies would take that step toward a less gender-normative and more inclusive approach in their products.

According to several studies, discrimination toward non-binary genders in health care is usually caused by lack of knowledge and training. In order to contribute to closing this gap in information or at least in an effort to not contribute to maintaining it, I’ll start by defining some basic concepts related to the matter.

Gender as a term means the cultural norm you identify with, while sex means the sex assigned to a person at birth. Not all languages, such as Finnish, even have separate words for sex and gender which might cause some confusion. Transgender by definition means that a person’s gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. Cisgender means that a person’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Cis is a Latin prefix and means ‘on this side of’ while ‘trans’ means ‘on the other side of’.  If a person identifies as transgender, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person identifies as “the other gender” either. We have been taught to only recognize two genders and this binary view is what has led to sometimes unintentional discrimination against transgender persons through gender-normative practices and institutional structures. In order to break down these harmful structures, largely held up by dichotomous gender assumption, we need to start looking at gender as a multidimensional spectrum. This is a pretty wide area to cover and I’m by no means a qualified expert to cover it as such, but I want to share my experience on how we are attempting to make health surveys and analyses more inclusive at our company.

This is how we started

We started exploring how the changes in AlvinOne could be done by finding the places in the product where sex or gender is mentioned and how that information is used. The following matters came up:

  1.   The section that analyses alcohol consumption uses information regarding the respondent’s sex directly as it is embedded in the question itself. There is one question specifically that addresses gender: “How often do you drink more than seven restaurant servings of alcohol (men) or over five restaurant servings (women) during one day?”
  2.   The questions in this section are based on a globally used and scientifically validated model, Audit C, and we can’t change any questions without compromising the scientific validity our product.
  3.   In the other parts of the product the respondent’s sex doesn’t have a significant impact on the questions asked or the analytics and no require major changes would be required.
  4.   Lack of data. We have an incredible, unique database with over 10 million health factors from over 190 000 subjects. Beyond its size, the strength of the database stems from structured data collected from a fairly heterogeneous group of working people between the ages of 18 and 64. However, the respondents are categorized as either male or female so any trends or correlations found cannot be directly applied to non-binary persons.
  5.   Adding more options in the registration phase where users enter their sex doesn’t solve the whole issue; we need to consider what kind of results and feedback we give the end-user regarding their alcohol use if we can’t base the feedback on our own data or the binary system that Audit C relies on.

When I drew up my first suggestion in flowchart-form and presented it to my colleagues and developers, there were so many unanswered questions that we had to take a step back and reassess the situation. If we just changed the question concerning the user’s sex in the registration phase, the alcohol question would still include binary sexes in the question itself. If we change the question itself, it might not be scientifically valid.

I had to return to doing more research, more trial-and-error, and what you do when you want the unbiased and honest opinion of others – ask people what they think on social media. We eventually had to accept that there is no perfect solution, but our efforts led to definitive and vast improvement, and sometimes the process can be more valuable than the initially desired result. If we couldn’t resolve the issue by completely fixing it – meaning that we’d be able to provide an equal amount and quality of information to all genders in the product at hand– we’d have to do the next best thing.

We’d also have to consider how to communicate openly why we ask about gender in the first place, give the end-user the all the information necessary to support their decision-making in how to proceed and the option to skip the questions that require any gender or sex information. And of course, ideally, we’d have to do this without making the use of the product more difficult and without overwhelming users with information if it is not relevant for them personally.

We ended up doing the following:
  1. We added ‘other’ and ‘rather not say’ as options when we ask about the user’s sex in the beginning when the user registers to use the app.
  2. If the user selects one of the new options described above, a text box with a second question pops up where we explain why we ask about the user’s sex and explain how sex assigned at birth might affect how the body processes alcohol. It’s not just size that differentiates how typical male and female bodies process alcohol. Several factors such as hormones, body-fat balance and medication used in a transition process may affect how our bodies respond to alcohol. We then ask if the user would prefer to have their answers analysed according to a male-typical or female-typical body or if they’d like to skip the questions regarding alcohol consumption.
  3. We couldn’t really change the question about alcohol itself or add a ton of information  right next to the question (nor did we want for the user to have to have restate their sex every time they complete a health analysis in the app) so instead we made sure the app knows what the user’s preferences are for all future analyses and asks the right question about alcohol consumption accordingly.
  4. In the settings of the app, we added the possibility to later change the sex you selected or the preference of how your answers should be analysed when sex information is used.

As I have lately come to understand, instant perfection is near-impossible with these things. Regardless, we have a responsibility to constantly evaluate and challenge ourselves (and our businesses) on whether we are being as inclusive as we could be. If the answer is no, it should be openly discussed even when there are no ready solutions. Transparency and dialogue are crucial for improvement.

P.S. If you have any tips on the subject and how to further develop our solution or the issue in general, feel free to contact me at johanna@alvinone.com.

Useful links about the subject:

GLAAD, Tips for allies of transgender people: https://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

GurveyGizmo, how to write gender questions for a survey: https://www.surveygizmo.com/resources/blog/how-to-write-survey-gender-questions/

 

 

 

 

Author: Johanna Varje, CEO & co-founder at AlvinOne

How to survive the winter blues

How to survive the winter blues

According to some, it’s impossible to stay in Finland for the entire winter without losing your mind. The social media in Finland is filled with people complaining about how dark it is. The light we have is gray. Th sun sets early in the afternoon. This is Finland.

Approximately 30% of Finns become gloomier than normal at the end of fall, as the amount of natural light decreases. Actual seasonal affective disorder caused by the winter’s darkness is much less common – only about 5% of the nation is affected by it – but most of us feel a bit less cheery and feel the need to resort to comfort food and sweets to feel better. We feel tired and might need several more hours of sleep per night and cannot resist the cakes and chocolate.

There is no reason to lose hope entirely, although you see the sun much less than during the summer. (North of the Polar Circle the sun doesn’t rise at all during the winter months.)

There are some ways that have been proven to make you feel better during the dark season. Spending time outside during the light hours of the day, exercise and taking care of social relationships – although you instinctively want to wrap yourself in a blanket and watch Netflix all night long – help make you feel better. Some find light therapy lamps helpful as well.

Studies say that as many as four out of five people feel better during the dark season when using light therapy in a correct way. Best results are achieved when using the light from a half an hour to an hour daily, and when you are exposed to the light as early as possible in the morning.

Getting along with the darkness might help too. Maybe the darkness is here to remind us not to constantly demand full energy levels and maximum results from ourselves. It’s ok to sleep a little longer and take it easier during the darkest months.

Try these tips when battling the gloominess winter months in the north might bring:

1. Light therapy treatment

According to studies, this is the fastest and most effective way to treat symptoms brought out by the dark season. For results, the light needs to be directed to your brain through the eyes. You don’t need to stare directly in to the light, having breakfast or reading a book near the light does the trick.

2. The outdoors

There may not be many hours of daylight, but you should take use of them by going outside. Make tomorrow’s meeting a walking meeting or schedule a lunch in a deli a bit further away. Use a part of your break to catch some daylight outside. The morning hours are most effective for soaking in some daylight.

3. Don’t become a hermit

When you’re feeling tired the appeal of the sofa might be very strong, but don’t forget to spend some time with people close to you as well. The well-being of your social relationships has an effect on your overall well-being as well, not the least during the winter’s darkness.

15 minutes can make a difference!

15 minutes can make a difference!

Have you noticed how more and more celebrities tell they’ve moved from hard-core workouts to more gentle ways of exercise? New information on the health effects of physical activity has led to all the more people choosing a lighter and softer way to stay in motion.

Children need a lot of exercise, and naturally move along the day while they are playing. There are aspects in the way children move that we adults should learn some lessons from. Health-enhancing physical activity is different from exercise and training, and requires less effort than sweating breathless at the gym. Including both of them in your life is good for your health, but adding more physical activity to your day is a good place to start.

Any kind of motion and exercise that has positive effects to your health can be called health-enhancing physical activity. It might include physical strain at work, walks in the park, riding your bike to work, dancing or stretching. Having good aerobic fitness helps you feel better and stay active.

We’re not all top athletes, but we all want to stay healthy and active. New studies say this can be achieved with a small amount of exercise: adding even 15 minutes of light exercise to your day is beneficial to your health. Nevertheless, adults who are physically active for one or one and a half hours daily gain the most benefits. The more versatile our exercise is, the better we feel.

Exercise is proven to have several beneficial effects on our health, both physical and mental. Regular, moderate exercise is also proven to help prevent certain illnesses.

Some effects of health-enhancing physical activity can be seen immediately during exercise. Your heart rate rises, your breathing becomes more effective, the metabolism in your bones and joints speeds up, your muscles receive more oxygen and the blood circulation in your brain increases. This is why taking a walk outside makes you feel like your thoughts clear up, which makes walking meetings an excellent way to gather new ideas and suggestions at a workplace. Exercise breaks are also becoming more common at the workplace are an easy way to add that 15 minutes of exercise to your day. They also keep you alert and productive throughout your work day.

In addition to this, adding physical activity to your day improves the quality of your sleep. Moderate activity might have a positive affect on symptoms of sleeping disorders in just a couple of months. It’s definitely worth a try!

Did your holiday end too soon?

Did your holiday end too soon?

If going back to work after the summer holidays makes you anxious instead of excited, try our tips for feeling better about it. Maybe they’ll make it a little easier.

One more week of your holiday left, but you’re already feeling a little weepy and depressed? Many of us feel anxious about going back to work. Sometimes going back to your every day routines makes you feel low even if your workplace is fun or you’re studying for your dream job.

Holidays are about taking it easy: you might sleep longer in the mornings, go to bed later at night, drink more wine than usually and eat less healthy. All of the sudden you should be able to go to sleep in time and wake up early. Will there be any time left for other things than work?

Studies show that women are more prone to feeling low and anxious at the end of their holidays than men. Returning to work is also harder for younger people. More than half of people between the ages of 18 and 22 experience anxiety at the end of their holidays.

Spending time with your friends and family, adding exercise to your day and cutting down on alcohol consumption can make the return to every day life a little easier.

Experts also say it’s easier to go back to work if you prepare for it before you start your holidays. It’s good to prioritise the work you need to get done before your holiday starts and make a list of a couple of the most important things you should start with when you return. It gives going back to work a more controlled feeling.

It might also be good to think about what you think makes a good holiday in advance. You won’t have time for everything – and you shouldn’t try to – but making some plans gives your holiday structure. On your holiday you can live exactly the kind of life you value. If your family and friends are what’s most important to you, now you have the chance to fully focus on them.

Here are some tips to make it easier to return to work:
1. Start giving structure to your days before you holiday is over for example by going to sleep and waking up earlier, and by keeping your meal times regular.
2. Try having an easy start when going back to work. If possible, don’t book the most challenging tasks, meetings and decisions for your first week.
3. Some studies suggest having several shorter holidays is better for your wellbeing than one long holiday. The relaxation our holiday provides you is long gone in a couple of weeks after returning to work. Try dividing your next holiday into shorter periods throughout the year.
4. Your holiday is over, but life goes on. Do fun stuff after work, go outdoors and enjoy your hobbies, the nature and spending time with your loved ones.
5. Peer support is a powerful tool. You’re not the only one coming back to work. You can share your holiday highlights and your best tips on how to make it easier to return to every day life.