Actionable strategies to improve wellbeing at work.

What if ‘positive thinking’ and relentless optimism aren’t the solution to happiness – but part of the problem?

Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote

Video Arts Wellbeing Essentials take on the tricky topics of motivation, wellbeing, positivity, mindfulness and resilience at work. The collection includes 32 short videos and nine e-learning courses that help your people make small changes in their behaviour to improve their wellbeing at work. Starring Sally Phillips, Tom Bennett, Javone Prince and Lucy Liemann.

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Available as video or e-learning courses

Embracing Failure:

Go to your room with all the other stuff I’m ashamed of!

Choose to see failure as a sign of you reaching the edge of your comfort zone. Fight against perfectionism, which just makes you miserable. Try deliberate imperfection. You could actively seek out low-risk experiences of failure – try new skills where it won’t matter it you fail.

Fire Your Inner Critic:

A sloppy and haphazard staging of weak material

We all have an inner critic, but we don’t have to follow its instructions, or believe what it says. Treat your inner critic like a toddler, not a boss you must obey. Personify you inner critic, by giving him or her a name, so it won’t be a god-like voice of truth anymore.

Be Kind To Yourself:

I am an unreliable, foot-dragging, moronic dunce

We often treat ourselves in ways we’d never treat even our least favourite colleague – yelling internally at ourselves, setting expectations we can’t meet, berating ourselves for less-than-perfect work. Catch yourself in the act of self-criticism, it is not self-indulgent to treat yourself well.

Keep A Sense Of Perspective:

We’ll be roaming the streets, shouting at the pigeons!

We catastrophise: if something goes slightly wrong, we assume everything’s gone terribly wrong. We project disasters in our future. Try to keep perspective and recall previous occasions when you catastrophized, remembering that a catastrophe didn’t follow. Ask yourself how you will feel about it one day, one month or one year from now.


Tony to baggage reclaim

Consider why colleagues are behaving in a way that annoys you. Try stepping into their shoes and seeing things from their perspective. Beliefs, not events, cause distress – figure out which beliefs are making you upset. Recall when you have behaved badly and remember your reasons.

The Worst-Case Scenario:

I think your positive policy may be having a negative effect on us all, Captain

Instead of ‘looking on the bright side’, it can be useful to ask ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ In considering the worst outcomes, you realize that you could cope with most of them.


Julia thinks we’re an idiot!

If you think people have negative views of you it’s easy to find “evidence” of that. Don’t let a lack of confidence lead you to read things the wrong way. Ask for feedback regularly.

You Don’t Have To ‘Feel Like It’ (Motivation Follows Action):

Harness the amazing benefits of my unique seven step Productivity Power Play Package!

We tell ourselves that we need to be in the right mindset to work, but actually that makes it harder. Focus instead on taking some physical actions – and the ‘motivated’ mindset will usually follow.

Don’t Confuse Effort With Results:

I love the smell of emails in the morning

You are not a machine, and a tiring day does not mean a good day. Focus on results: define the most important three results for your day, and do them in the times you are naturally most productive. The rest of the day is for lesser tasks. Take regular breaks, especially in stressful periods.

The First Hour Of The Day:

If I get my claws into you now, your day is screwed

How you spend the first hour in the office will determine your momentum for the rest of the day. Use it to work on a challenging project, before checking email or voicemail, rather than plunging into distraction right away.


All of the world’s libraries and emporiums in a single magnificent volume!

It’s all too easy to get acclimatised to the good things in life, and focus only on the bad things. Think about what you’re grateful for – you can even try writing them down. Don’t forget the tiny things!

The Power Of Ritual:

Children of the 6th Realm! Let the Power guide us!

Rituals can help with work and happiness. If you enjoy a specific moment at work, resolve to do it at the same time each day. Use a ‘shut down routine’ so you can leave work feeling good.

Memento Mori:

But it’s all a bit morbid isn’t it? Thinking about death all the time?

Philosophers agree that life is more vivid and meaningful when we take time to contemplate mortality. It can also make us more compassionate. Consider keeping a ‘memento mori’ – as reminder of your mortality. Make choices by asking how you’d like to be remembered at your own funeral.

Keep Learning:

Learning shmerning

Find ways to learn and develop yourself, from workplace training to learning a language. Build on your existing strengths, and follow your natural curiosity – it’s a better motivator than ‘what will help my career?’

Don’t Compare Your Insides To Other People’s Outsides:

Try and look cool everybody!

We only have access to our own inner monologue of worry and self-criticism but nobody else’s. Resist comparing your insides with other people’s outsides – remember that social media is an edited highlights reel, not reality.

Just Don’t Think About It! (The Backfire Effect):

Suppress that thought, crew, that’s an order!

You can’t push thoughts out of your head – in fact, trying to do so will generally make them louder. If you are friendlier toward them the more stressful ones will often float away of their own accord.

You Are Not Your Emotions:

Sunshine and positivity right up till midday

Understand that your emotions are not you, even though it’s easy to assume they are. Your feelings about certain things will come and go, like the weather. If you label your negative emotions as they arise, they’ll fly away faster…

Get Everything Out Of Your Head:

Was it buckgrass or wheatbuck salad?

The human mind is a marvel, but it’s a terrible device for storing lists of information. If you don’t write lists, you’ll be stressed by what you might be forgetting. So make lists – they bring immediate relief from stress, even before you tackle the tasks.

Don’t Spread The Anxiety Virus:

We’re talking mass redundancies! Aaaaagh!

Emotions are contagious, anxiety especially. Anxiety will get in the way of productivity, so communicate urgency calmly, and be careful not to spread anxiety.

Show Your Vulnerabilities:

Five years of presentation training in two minutes

Showing too much confidence will intimidate rather than inspire employees. Try and be open with them about your insecurities and failures. Encourage your staff to act in the presence of insecurities, rather than trying to eliminate them.


We’d like to opt-out of the cloning programme!

Transparent workplaces are high-morale workplaces, so keep all your staff informed. When you’re near the top of an organization, it’s easy to assume other employees are as informed as you are. Share as much information as you can about your company’s plans.

You Can’t Force ‘Fun’:

Chief fungineer at your service!

There’s nothing more cringeworthy than ‘fungineering’. Forced fun usually backfires- employees can resent it. Instead, try to create opportunities for people to engage in what they find fun. Focus on giving people autonomy, not making the workplace fun.

Celebrate Small Accomplishments:

I’m an elf, not a hippy

Focusing on big distant goals mean satisfaction is rare and short-lived. Instead, break work into smaller accomplishments, and keep a list to mark off each small win.

The Perils Of Over-Planning:

Abort Mission!

Planning seems like a good thing, and in moderation it is, but it can also be a sneaky form of procrastination and a way of avoiding the fear of actually starting. Make the most basic plan you need in order to take action, then act, and revise the plan as you go.

The Bias Toward Action:

Don’t you EVER put Science in inverted commas!

If you’re facing a fork in the road… take it. Be Bold. You regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do. Inaction means you can berate yourself forever about what might have been. Once you’ve taken the plunge, by contrast, you’ll find a way to feel good about what you’ve done.


No more soggy stains and ugly socks

Multi-tasking isn’t a thing. It just means failing to do any one thing properly. Switching between tasks has an interruption cost, it takes longer to get back to focus. Focus on one task at a time, until it is complete, or you will struggle to make progress.

Targeted Acts Of Kindness:

We can’t all just drop what we’re doing and be kind – we’re on the clock here!

Being helpful or kind to a colleague will make you feel good: targeted, not random acts of kindness. Focus on where kindness is needed, not just on “being a nice person”. Don’t cut kindness out of your life when you feel time’s at a premium – it’ll make stress worse.

The Cheese Sandwich Solution:

We’re gonna need a smoothie transfusion!

Sometimes the solution to your stress is a simple one. Physical causes like hunger, fatigue or needing exercise are often to blame. Make sure you stay fed, well slept and exercised to avoid stress – you could even keep a note on your desk to remind you.

Get Physical:

Captain, we seem to be infected with some kind of lethargy virus

When dealing with a stressful or overwhelming challenge, don’t chain yourself to your desk. Sometimes the solution isn’t in your head. Try changing your physical situation as a refresher. Time in nature is priceless – even five minutes in the park has been shown to help.

Reward People Like Grown-Ups:

This is Billy Big Ears! Have some respect!

Reward people the way you’d like to be rewarded. The best awards tend to be non-physical, like praise and respect. An opportunity to work on a challenging project can be a highly motivating reward.

Embrace Your Introverts And Pessimists:

Dragging the rest of us go-getters down

We tend to assume a happy workplace means a workplace full of extroverts and optimists. In fact, introverts and pessimists have a major role to play. Pessimists help foresee and forestall problems; introverts are great listeners and thinkers. So embrace your introverts and pessimists.

Entrust People With Big Responsibilities:

Huuuuge responsibility! Tiny little shoulders

Make people happy by making their work meaningful. Entrust them with slightly bigger responsibilities than they might feel ready for, and resist the urge to monitor their progress obsessively.

Illustration of videos on iPad

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