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This is part of a series looking at micro changes that can help improve your health and your life at work and at home. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.

Are there parts of your daily life you want to change? Do you feel that only a big massive change will make a difference, and that that's just too difficult of a challenge?

Sometimes, it's not a big change you need, but a number of small consectutive changes that can set you onto the pathway to success.

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If you focus on making small incremental changes to your actions – micro skills – you can make a real difference in how satisfied you are with your home and work life, as well as your health and well-being.

This is the first article in a series that will focus on micro skills: One set will be aimed at employees, another set aimed at managers.

The series also aims to bring attention to the Employee Recommended Workplace Award, created by The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell, Canada's largest human resources organization, to honour companies who are focused on improving the health and well-being of their employees. Employees take a unique online survey and their score determines if their workplace wins.

When employees or managers make changes or focus on mastering key micros skills each day, these micro skills can have a positive effect on employees' health, engagement and productivity. But it works best when both employees and managers are putting forward the effort to make positive changes.

Micro skills are the conscious decisions we make each day to achieve a desired outcome. Like pebbles tossed into calm waters, they start out small and grow outward. They are typically small, focused decisions, such as deciding to drink a glass of water instead of a can of pop to decrease your sugar intake and improve your hydration. It seems insignificant, but this can have a big impact on your health. For example, this micro choice can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 24 per cent.

Employees can make changes to improve their own health, and managers can make changes to improve life for their entire work force. Management's daily approach to employees has a dramatic impact on workplace culture and employees' motivation and feeling of worth.

Employers can enhance feelings of worth by consistently providing motivation through authentic compliments – such as noting good work and saying thank you – for contributions by their employees. This supports employees' basic need for recognition.

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Each day, employees and managers make hundreds of small decisions, so it's not hard to get lost in the complexity of demands that inundate you from both home and work.

There is no expectation that an employee or manager will be perfect. But by making small changes to improve the micro skills listed below, employees and employers can make changes for the better.

It's long been said that you can be guaranteed of two things in life: death and taxes. Well, there are actually three – the third is stress. Every employee has two life flows of work and home, where stress originates every day. How you deal with those pressures define your stress load, health, engagement and ultimately your productivity.

External stressors can be the root cause of stress both in the workplace and at home. These stressors include change, job security, manager-employee relationships, culture, trust in leadership, work demands, bullying and working conditions. How effectively employers develop organizational competencies, strategies and programming ultimately impacts their success at curbing these stressors that can have a negative impact on employees' psychological and physical health.

All employees at times have some degree of external stressors that can stem from interactions with their spouse, children and family members, as well as work relationships. Stress can also come from financial pressures and gaps in their physical and psychological health. How effectively an employee is able to cope with these stressors ultimately affects their quality of life and fulfilment.

The following issues will be discussed in this series to promote employee micro skills:

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  • Physical health: fuel, sleep, steps/activity
  • Mental health: gratefulness, peace, coping
  • Financial/relationship/life health: spending, time, distraction

Employees who practice each of these nine daily micro skills over time increase their opportunity to manage the complexity of their lives and improve their health and reduce stress.

In addition to adopting the employee skills for themselves each day, managers can also consider the benefits of the micro skills that they can add to their management approach. These include workplace experiences of:

  • safety
  • honesty
  • compassion
  • direction
  • humility
  • listening
  • framing
  • acknowledging
  • prioritizing

None of these micro skills is complex, and they do not require formal training. When practiced they can positively effect the employee-manager relationship that can also have a positive impact on employees' health, engagement and productivity.

The more consistently that managers demonstrate each micro skill daily, the better their results. No manager needs to be perfect, just committed to start each day with the intention of improving each micro skill.

Life is complicated. Many things can be outside your control, but these nine micro decisions and skills are within the control of both employees and managers. Life success and fulfilment are achieved one small decision at a time. Micro skills are one way to slow down, focus and do things well each day. As the old adage goes: inch by inch, life is a cinch.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

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This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link: tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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