About hrgem

HR type. Fellow of the CIPD. Writer, speaker and blogger on all things HR and work. Author of the 'Putting Social Media to Work' book series. Believes that HR is all about doing good people stuff. Blogs at www.hrgemblog.com. Tweets as @HR_Gem.


I’ve been thinking that I ought to write something here about the current situation in which we all find ourselves. But what to write? There is content everywhere right now. Is there anything left to say, and if there is, will it be out of date in a matter of hours as restrictions become ever tighter?

I can offer only this.

There is no normal, today.
There isn’t much that we are in personal control of right now. Little we can influence in the day to day.
It is okay to feel stressed, anxious, weird, sad, unsettled, discombobulated.
Emotions are there to be felt, they are there to tell us something.
We are grieving. For what was, the things we had planned, the way of life that was ours until just a few weeks ago.
This is okay, too.

Don’t tell yourself how you ought to be feeling.
Don’t tell anyone ‘we will get through this’ and ‘everything will be okay’ because that isn’t necessarily the case and it might not be.
Don’t have high expectations of yourself right now. This maybe isn’t the time to learn a new language, do Coach to 5K, write a book, finish that qualification.
Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Take some deep breaths.

Do something, even if it just a small thing, for your wellbeing every day.
Get fresh air, take some gentle exercise in any way you can, make good food choices.

That is enough, for now.

Take care of you, and yours.

It is never the right time

It is never the right time, the perfect time, to take action.

Such a thing does not, perhaps cannot, exist.

There is only now. This one imperfect moment.

It isn’t January 1st. It isn’t Monday. Or a day when you will have more time or when the kids are older or when work is a little less hectic.

If you want to get fitter, lose weight, make those changes to help enhance your wellbeing, the time to begin is now. Today. Not tomorrow.

Because all too often tomorrow becomes next week becomes sometime becomes never.

The right time, the best time, is simply now.

PT Time

I’ve got a new Personal Trainer.

I know my fitness regime needs a shake-up, and even though I’m a PT myself, I know that someone else will push me harder than I will push myself. Someone else will make me more accountable.

I am now in client mode. I spent some time in the first meeting with my PT telling him about all my injuries and effectively setting up the excuses I will use when he pushes me harder than I really want to work. All the stuff I know people do to me and I take zero notice of.

I made special note to tell him about my dodgy shoulder. I did it whilst on a Tough Mudder course, I told him, hoping that sounded a little bit, well, tough.

Never mind, he tells me. He is used to working around injuries.  He had to work around his own when, as a paratrooper in Iraq, he got blown up and broke his back.

I didn’t have much to say after that.

He told me to arrive hydrated and fuelled. He told me to arrive ready to work.

We start on Saturday.

Send thoughts and prayers.

Being Good

‘No thanks, I’m being good’.

So said me this week, to the offer of cake from a colleague.

I am being good.

Too often we categorise food into either good and bad with nothing in between.

Good stuff is green, fresh, nutrient rich, healthy.

Bad stuff is sugar, fat, processed, carbs. Or whatever the latest diet craze has banned.

We then go on to to define ourselves the same way. Depending on what we have eaten we are therefore either good or bad too.  In my language to my colleague, it wasn’t the food to which I was assigning a binary value, but me.  I was by extension, being good or being bad based on whether I said yes or not.

It’s an unhelpful narrative.

You aren’t what you eat.

The words you say to yourself matter.


Exercise and me

All throughout my childhood, teens, twenties and most of my thirties I actively hated exercise.

I wasn’t very good at anything which meant that I didn’t believe in myself which meant I didn’t try.

Take PE at school. There are few things more torturous for the unfit, uncoordinated and under confident.  I was default useless.  So scared of going under water, I reached the swimming stage where you were required to dive for a brick and then stopped.  In the shallow end.  I was so dreadful at netball I was relegated to Goal Defence (for the uninitiated, it is the position furthest away from the action should be).  I couldn’t run so I’d sneak off during cross country and go home, and my mum would drive me round to the end of the course and I’d sneak back in the pack.  I stood against it, making fun of myself and eventually refusing to participate.

And then, if all that wasn’t enough….. the additional horror. Being picked for a team.

Let’s just say I wasn’t anyone’s first choice (or second, or third).

It took me decades to realise I wasn’t terrible at everything. I was just terrible at the stuff that involved hand eye co-ordination (no racquets required).  I was also pretty terrible and jumping over things and throwing things. So essentially, everything that we had to do at school.  But eventually, I found my thing and my thing turned out to be the gym.  I also love to cycle and to run (a bit).

Now, exercise is a fundamental part of my life.

Exercise calms me when I am anxious or stressed.

It boosts my energy when I am tired.

It gives me confidence.

It supports my whole wellbeing.

It has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of (spoiler: so much more than I ever believed possible).

Sometimes, it makes me feel a little bit badass.

When I tried to do exercise that I didn’t enjoy it felt like a chore. Now, often, it is the best part of my day.  I found my exercise thing.  You don’t need to be amazing at it.  You don’t need to look good while you are doing it.

You just need to find your thing, and go for it.


The Selfie Tree

I have recently returned from a much needed holiday on the beautiful island of Ibiza. We stayed in a wonderful hotel overlooking the sea.  Underneath our balcony was a tree, standing on the edge of rocks which then dropped away down to the water below.  The tree was twisted, with one gnarled branch at a height just perfect for sitting on.  It didn’t take long before we noticed something….. the stream of holidaymakers taking photos of themselves sat upon this particular tree.

Photos, plural.

Each situation almost the same. Multiple poses would be struck, many worthy of a glossy magazine photo shoot. A pause for review.  Resume to take more.  And some more.  Eventually, one photograph presumably worthy of uploading would be achieved and the theatre would cease.  There’d be another pause for the upload, and off they would go…. until the next visitor to the selfie tree.


I’ve always taken a lot of photographs. For me, they are a way to capture a memory and return to it.  I am especially partial to a selfie with my Other Half.  But there was something about this particular holiday photography that made me uncomfortable.  From the point of view of the observer, it didn’t feel like capturing a moment of happiness, but something else entirely.

The desire for picture perfection, the ‘living my best life’ depiction, filtered, photoshopped, life through the lens.

And the question occurs….. what does this mean for our wellbeing?

When what seems to matter is not our lived life but the look of it.

When it is our outer self and our representation of it that is prominent.

Seeking not to be comfortable with who we are but instead focusing on how we look externally. Judged the same way, courtesy of the ‘like’ button.

True personal wellbeing comes from within. It is beyond the superficial and the transitionary. It’s about feeling good and functioning well.  Our overall satisfaction with our own lives.  Being comfortable with who we are and what we have.

What we see on social media isn’t always real. Sometimes it is the 50th pose, the filtered version, an artificial construction.  And this is what we must remember before we let the picture perfection influence how we feel about our own self.



Salad Free Zone

Holidays play havoc with your waistline – and your fitness levels.

Outside of normal routines, often with fewer opportunities for exercise. Ice creams, beer gardens, meals out. A cheeky afternoon tea and cake. Seaside fish and chips.

This past week I’ve officially been living in a salad free zone. I’ve managed a few short runs but that’s about it.

But I’m ok with it. There’s room for balance in all things. Every now and then it’s just fine to drop your routine and have a little of what you fancy.

What matters is picking it back up again afterwards.

See you in the gym, tomorrow.

Running Tourist.

I love to run on holiday, especially when there’s a chance to run by the sea.

There’s something about the air, being somewhere new, not being entirely sure of your route.

Yesterday was hot. I set out with a vague idea where I would head after a glance at Google maps. I ran through a housing estate before stumbling upon a beautiful cove and following a coast path for a little while. Not wanting to simply retrace my steps when it was time to turn for (holiday) home, I picked a random road that looked like it was heading in roughly the right direction.

Shame about the giant hill in the middle of it. Half way up, I had to stop for breath. Heat and hills aren’t my favourite combination. Another, much fitter runner cruised past me. He clapped me on the back.

‘Carry on, you can do it.’

And he was right, I could.

Miracles don’t happen


I spotted an article on social media a couple of days ago.

It told me how I could lose 10lb in a week, and reduce my body fat by 10% at the same time.  It was entirely exercised based advice.  Apparently enough sit ups, push ups, squats and lunges, all from the comfort of my own living room, will have me dropping numbers all over the place in double quick time.

Yeah, right.

The only way you could really lose that much weight in such a short space of time is to go on a very, very low calorie diet (say around 500 calories a day) – and that assumes you were already eating a heck of a lot of calories on a daily basis.

Weight dropped fast also often tends to be made up of water and glycogen. The numbers on the scales might show lighter, but you haven’t made any real difference to your body.

Even assuming it is technically possible, any method for dropping this much weight or body fat this fast is not a sustainable long term way of eating or living.

It is a tempting idea though, and that’s why there is a market for this sort of material.  These articles are ill-informed and irresponsible.  The consequence?  Just more unnecessary pressure, more unrealistic expectations.  More stuff for us to feel bad about.

There are no quick fixes.  Just hard work and consistency.

Sorry about that.