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This article was originally published by HRM Online

By Edie-Louise Diemar and Kate Neilson

December 17, 2020

The summer break is nigh, and what better way to spend your downtime than listening to some excellent podcasts that will entertain and educate.

The longest year in history has almost come to an end (thank god). No one has been immune to the challenges of 2020, least of all HR. So the upcoming break is definitely well deserved.

For our last article of the year, we’ve rounded up four of our favourite business-related podcasts that you can enjoy over the summer break (in between all the ocean swims, big lunches and afternoon naps, of course). We hope you have a restful break and come into 2021 feeling refreshed, reinvigorated and prepared for anything.

In the meantime, here are our recommendations. Enjoy!

How I Work

What’s it all about?

Dr Amantha Imber’s How I Work podcast presents a series of interviews with respected leaders and experts, including Australians such as journalist Sandra Sully and comedian Julian Morrow, as well as well-known global names, including actress and writer Abbi Jacobson, renowned tech expert Rachel Botsman, former Harvard Business Review executive editor, Sarah Green Carmichael and many more.

Imber unpacks the routines, strategies and rituals of these leaders, leaving the listener with a bank of helpful hacks they can implement in their own working lives.

Acknowledging that many busy workers mightn’t  have the time to dedicate to a 40 minute-long podcast, Imber has trimmed some of her interviews down into 6-10 minute bite-sized chunks outlining her favourite tips – perfect for a lunchtime break (although now that we’re heading into the holiday season, you can probably treat yourself to a full episode).

What will I learn?

In one of her mini-episodes, Imber speaks with Laura Vanderkam, a global expert on time management, who offers advice on how we can make the most of what she calls ‘dead time’.

For the last four years, Vanderkam has tracked her time in 30 minute chunks. While she’s received great insights from doing this, she’s not suggesting others take such a rigorous approach – a week’s worth of tracking will give you enough interesting data points, she says.

Since tracking her time down to the minute, Vanderkam discovered she actually works much less than she thought she did; she’d tell people she was working 50-hour weeks, when on average they were 40-hour weeks. This sense of feeling, but not actually being, busy is common, she says, and can often signal that we need to spend more time doing focused work, rather than getting caught up in bitsy tasks.

Imber’s series is filled with plenty more simple gems of advice and easy-to-action changes. With a varied line-up of guests, there’s bound to be an episode that will make your working day that little bit more productive.

Who is this podcast for?

Those looking for new, innovative approaches to work (and life).

This Working Life

What’s it all about?

This Working Lifeaims to do what HR does every day, look for the “sunshine and humanity in the world of work”. It’s aired weekly on the ABC’s Radio National and  is also available online and on most podcast apps.

Host Lisa Leong is the CEO of a management consultancy 010 APAC, so she knows her stuff when it comes to understanding how people work.  While Leong offers expertise to this podcast, it’s her guests that really bring it to life.

Speaking to experts from a vast variety of fields, from academics, to classical musicians, to AHRI’s own CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett, Leong digs into how they work while also tapping into their individual expertise. Listen to Sarah’s interview, here.

Most episodes are roughly 25 minutes long, however there are also bonus episodes that run slightly shorter, depending on the topic. Leong’s bubbly personality and conversational style makes her a delight to listen to. In a year where most events moved online, This Working Life feels like you’re at a roundtable of experts; you almost want to join in on the conversation.

What will I learn?

Each episode starts with a warning that the ABC takes no responsibility for “improvements in your performance at work, advancement in your career, better relationships with your colleagues, or simply being a whole lot happier at work”. So it’s safe to say Leong and her producers think you’ll leave with some useful resources, from productivity hacks, advice on navigating workplace politics and even how to use humour as your “workplace superpower”.

On that last point, in one very entertaining episode, Leong speaks with behavioural scientist Dr Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, workplace coach (and improv comedian), about using humor in the workplace. Aaker and Bagdonas explain that most people don’t use humor at work because a) it can be risky and b) work is ‘serious stuff’, people think there’s no time for funny business. But according to these experts, humour is actually a useful tool.

Bagdonas explains there are four types of humour, and they can change a situation depending on how you use it. Being self-deprecating as a leader helps those around you feel comfortable, whereas if you’re lower down the org chart, a jab or light (appropriate) teasing towards senior employees can be a powerful way to get them on side.

This Working Life has been on air since 2016, so you would be hard pressed not to find something that interests you in the series’s back catalogue.

Who is this podcast for?

Those looking for an easy listen who also want to learn something new.

The Happiness Lab

What’s it all about? 

The Happiness Lab isn’t one of those preachy podcasts that claims the only barrier between you and eternal happiness is a daily meditation practice. It’s no-fluff, research-backed commentary that opens your eyes to the intersection between science and wellbeing.

Dr Laurie Santos is a cognitive scientist and professor of Psychology at Yale University. She interviews leading academics to uncover truly fascinating insights about human behaviour. Each episode offers the listener helpful resources (that you can actually put into action) to better manage their personal wellbeing.

What will I learn?

A favourite episode of ours is For Whom The Alarm Clock Tolls which interviews self-proclaimed idler Tom Hodgkinson, who has some radical ideas about how we should be spending our time (he only works 4 hours each day) – the episode also unpacks the concept of time famine, which HRM covered earlier this year. Another great episode is Make ‘Em Laugh which explores the phenomenon of emotional contagion. Again, HRM looked into some of the interesting research shared in this episode earlier this year.

You’ll also hear interviews with ‘ordinary’ people who’ve made drastic changes to their lives to become happier, such as a woman who gave away almost all of her worldly possessions in favour of a simple life travelling from friend’s couch to friend’s couch.

Scattered throughout are interesting facts shared by Santos, such as the exact amount of money we can earn before our income no longer impacts our wellbeing in a positive way (it’s far less than you’d think), as well as fascinating titbits. For example, why do you think gum sales dramatically dropped when the iPhone was introduced? It was because our brains became so distracted by our devices that we rarely stopped to look up, especially when standing in  line at a store, which is where most gum purchases were usually made.

Who is this for?

This is a podcast we all need in our lives right now. It’s perfect for those looking for practical, actionable ways to improve their happiness, or those interested in easy-to-digest research on the science of wellbeing. At the very least, it will put a smile on your face.

How’s work? with Esther Perel

What’s it all about?

While the Happiness Lab will probably make you happier, How’s work? with Esther Perel will take you on an emotional roller coaster.

Psychotherapist and relationship counsellor Esther Perel brings a whole new lens to how we examine work. In Perel’s other podcast Where should we begin?, she conducts  therapy sessions with real couples and How’s work? has a very similar format, but this time the couples are “coworkers, co founders and colleagues”.

Perel’s philosophy is that relationship issues don’t stop when we get to work. We spend a third of our lives in the workplace, so the connections we build with some colleagues, bosses or clients can impact our lives just as much as a marriage.

In the prologue for the series, Perel explains that if there is something wrong with our romantic relationships or friendships, we often try to fix them, root out the issue and try to patch it up. But at work we “endure our relationships”, she says. This podcast aims to change that.

What will I learn?

How’s work? is a bigger commitment than some of the others on this list. You won’t leave an episode with quick tips you can take back to work, but there are times where you will say “I know that feeling!”.

Managing relationships is part of the gig as an HR professional, so hearing a relationship expert’s take on various situations could be a valuable exercise in the long run.

It’s also a reminder that we can be oblivious to the things bubbling under the surface of our working relationships. Everyone brings a part of their ‘outside life’ to work, whether they mean to or not, and it affects how we interact with others.

As HRM has covered before, work spouses (i.e. strong, professional friendships) can be good for business, so it’s in an organisation’s best interest to foster strong connections between coworkers. But what happens when those connections break down? What if one person in the ‘relationship’ wants to take it further to catch up outside the workplace and their other isn’t ready?

Perel really makes you think differently about workplace relationships and how to approach them. You might find yourself looking at employees in a whole new light after listening.

Who is this for?

At almost an hour per episode, How’s Work? isn’t really something to pop on during your commute. We would suggest sitting down and really absorbing each episode, like you might with a serious documentary.

Coming from Gimlet Media, How Work? is a very slick production so the time will fly by as you become entranced by rawness each ‘couple’ brings to their session.

This is for anyone who has a close work relationship with someone or has to manage workplace relationships. It is unlikely that you will finish an episode without feeling like your world has changed, if even only slightly.