We’ve all enjoyed episodes of the Great British Bake Off, glued to the screens as the timer ticks by and creative bakers run out of time, with soggy bottoms and lop-sided masterpieces. Most people have experienced cringing in empathy when a passionate baker watches their creations going wrong, and we’ve felt their pain during stinging criticisms from Paul Hollywood.
Despite the gleeful enjoyment of audiences all over the world, the bakers of Great British Bake Off have a lot to handle: insane pressure, stress, long days, multi-tasking, time management, planning… the list goes on. For 10 weekends in a row, the bakers are in the tent from 7am until 8pm, dealing with anxiety about baking, the stress of actually baking, and then the emotions of succeeding and failing – one baker must leave each week.
While we sit laughing at the cake puns and innuendos, perhaps we should be paying more attention to the lessons we can learn from those brave bakers.
What can we learn from the bakers for our working lives?
Despite the laughing and joking onscreen, and the fact audiences love to watch people fail, the Bake Off experience is a highly stressful one. The contestants show an incredible level of skill in planning out their elaborate bakes, trying to get their timings right, dealing with failure publicly, and improvising on the spot. These are all important lessons to learn and improve throughout life, especially at work.
In order to pull off their masterpieces, the bakers have to be precise and accurate about their ingredients, practise their bakes, and work to meticulous detail in order to ensure everything goes to plan. These are important skills for anyone who wants to succeed in their tasks at work, and key traits that managers should be helping their teams to improve.
For your next project or piece of work, think carefully about the time it is likely to take and add in a bit extra for any unforeseen delays. Think about how many steps are needed to complete the task, and what each one will involve before you get started. Don’t forget to include research time into your plan – you can’t start anything if you don’t know everything that’s required.
Planning out plenty of time to get your tasks completed will help to take the pressure off, and avoid rushing, ensuring all completed work is the best it can possibly be. With the right amount of time, you can double check your workings, edit where necessary and triple check your work ticks all the boxes.
This is as important for individuals as it is for businesses. Better work will help to create more leads and sales, improve brand quality, and ensure happier, more productive employees.
Some people can multitask. Some can’t. Work out which type of person you are and organise your workload accordingly. This will ensure you can commit properly to each task, rather than trying to juggle loads of half-finished threads at once and get nothing finalised.
Of course, this is easier said than done in many working environments, but planning in specific tasks on specific days, or even hours, will help to make sure you aren’t spread too thin by the end of the week.
Not only do you need to organise your schedule, you also need to organise other people’s expectations. Make sure you have achievable deadlines to work to, and explain how long you need. People with different responsibilities won’t necessarily understand what is required when they ask for your help – if you don’t tell them, you’ll feel the pressure.
For efficient business practises, different departments must work together to achieve objectives, so it is important that processes are implemented companywide to get everyone on the same page.
No matter the situation, sometimes it can all get a bit too much and we feel overwhelmed. The important thing to do in this position is to take a step back, and try to evaluate the situation from an external perspective. Will the world really end if the project you’re working on won’t be ready until 9am Monday morning rather than 5pm Friday? Depending on who it’s being sent to, it probably won’t matter, as the recipient will have left for the weekend. This small delay may give you an extra hour to work on it, without effecting those who are waiting.
With stress, it’s also important to communicate how you feel. Let your manager or colleagues know if it feels like you have too much to do or not enough time. When you’re stressed, you’re less productive, so it benefits the whole business to ensure employees can work to their best potential.
Stress within organisations can be extremely damaging, causing a reduction in productivity and team work, so it is important that policies are in place to avoid piling on the pressure.
How can HR teams and managers help their employees with their workloads?
HR teams need to ensure that an organisation’s processes and policies consider employee wellbeing and that different departments have communication channels available to avoid creating silos. If your departments don’t talk, how can anyone collaborate effectively?
You can also implement stress management and wellbeing initiatives to help employees learn how to avoid conflict and stress. By educating your workforce, and ensuring managers have the relevant people training, you can help to make sure everyone is working with the support they need.
Managers need to check in with their team, evaluate their workload and help them prioritise when to-do lists start building or redistribute tasks so everyone can plan their time more effectively. They can help manage other departments’ expectations to reduce pressure on their people, and find alternative solutions when deadlines are unrealistic to achieve. This ensures employees will have the freedom to do their best and avoid internal conflict.
So when you’re watching Great British Bake Off this year, try to pay a bit more attention to the emotions of the bakers, and what you can learn from them, rather than just laughing at the next under cooked cake.