By Gregor MacKenzie

Let me introduce you to Freddy, a snow white Samoyed with a lively and jovial temperament. Freddy is exceptionally effective in his role at Highland Marketing, being head of security at HQ. Also known to his workmates simply as ‘Fred’, this highly skilled operative spends his day patrolling our offices and grounds on the look out for scoundrels, hooligans and rascals. He plays a key part in protecting the team from the spritely local postie as well as the odd grizzled farmer passing by with their trailers overflowing with sheep. He is not keen on fish or sticky willows but is a sucker for dog biscuits, especially the orange ones shaped like a loveheart. Freddy often takes his friend Billy the groundsman for his afternoon walk around the fields and lochside surrounding our office, tying this in with the daily duty of pounding his beat. He is known in the glen as “Freddy the ever-ready”.

But there is an office secret that Freddy does not know about. We are a very busy and active workplace where stress and tension can escalate without being obvious to the workforce. Before this becomes a stumbling block, Freddy is on hand. He listens intently to any of his colleague’s challenges, allowing them thinking time to find the best direction to move in. He provides a moment of calm after intense days when heads are down. Every day he has one-to-one time with each member of the team. Freddy sees this as being his ‘play-time’ without knowing the benefits it brings to others. Freddy is the office diffuser.

­­Earlier this month the chief medical officer (CMO) suggested that workers with depression or anxiety should be fast tracked for NHS treatment. Professor Dame Sally Davies said that working days lost when employees are off on sick leave due to mental health issues are costing the economy £100bn per year.

This recommendation from the CMO sounds logical on the surface but would no doubt end up prioritising certain patients over others. Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “A health service that is free at the point of delivery should ‘fast-track’ all and not discriminate in favour of those who are economically active.”

Stress of any kind can have a negative impact on your every day activities, work, health and home life. Your body does not care if it is a big stress or a little one – they all take their toll. People can become numb to the stress on their shoulders, being mentally accustomed to the effects whilst dealing with the psychological issues. Stress can make smart people do stupid things, in the heat of the moment making a snap decision or a rushed judgment completely out of character. Studies show that stress is the basic cause of more than 60% of all human illness and disease being described as the nation’s number one killer. Stress contributes to heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, depression, migraines, fatigue, insomnia, allergies and breathing problems.

Does the common stress ball really solve any of these issues? Can repetitively squeezing a piece of colourful foam help in any way other than tiring out your arm muscles? Progressive attitudes have led to certain free thinkers even adopting yoga poses in their office chairs to combat stress. This is certainly entertaining for fellow colleagues but can you really feng shui your head space whilst Windows 8 is staring at you from your flat screen monitor?

My outlook on dealing with stress is straightforward. You will never get away from stress, it is part of modern daily life. It is how you let it affect you and how you deal with it that draws the fine line between producing efficient and innovative work and becoming a quivering shadow of your former self. You are in control of how it impacts your life and mental health. I attack stress head on and focus on the positives in life, which are more important to me than any negatives. Set backs can only produce a better me in the long run as I learn from them and evolve along the way. Work together with your team rather than butting heads. Offer your opinion with the understanding that it might not be right or agreed with, but at least you are influencing the direction of the project.

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I have never snapped a pencil in a fit of rage, squeezed the life out of a squishy stress ball or experienced (or had to clean up from) a “canary-fit” (feathers everywhere!). Freddy the head of security at HQ plays a large part in this. He holds an equal and valuable part of our team and could be the missing ‘muzzle’ piece in offices worldwide. Our team would definitely be worse off without Freddy in control.

IMG_0748 freddy2
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Gregor MacKenzie

Gregor MacKenzie

Design and Digital Manager
Born and reared in the wild Highlands of bonnie Scotland, Gregor started his working life as a 13‑year‑old “Saturday boy” for a local retailer bagging tatties into 3lb bags. From this strong foothold he decided to follow his heart rather than his “further-education” head and Gregor invested 14 years into the business, growing with it as he grew up himself. As the previous owners stood back into retirement Gregor moved forward and picked up the reins. A normal working day started at midnight leaving for Glasgow Fruit Market, working through the night, morning, afternoon and into the evening. Gregor was involved in every aspect of running a business including development, personnel management and client relations. He loved growing the business and steering it into new markets, networking with many small artisan family businesses as well as multinational suppliers. After many years of hard work invested, national economic pressures made the decision easy to close down the business before it was too late, but it lives on in his heart as the high standard of work he aims to output on a daily basis.

Alongside his daily work Gregor has spent most of his life surrounded by technology. He is at one with IT, specialising in web design and development, IT support and training, programming, coding, photography, stage lighting and sound, video production, IT hardware installation, maintenance and repair to name a few areas of expertise… he can even change the wee square battery in a smoke alarm at a push. Gregor relishes a challenge and will take on any uncharted hi‑tech projects with unmatched enthusiasm and a keen watchful eye.
A little about Gregor:
  • After a childhood stained by being a stubborn fussy eater, Gregor has flourished as a home cook and can now happily talk about produce, seasonality, trends, techniques and taste combinations until the cows come home. This is an excellent way to distract Gregor if the need arises, or if the cows are late.
  • Since the mid 90s Gregor signed off his e-mails with a casual ‘G’ in place of his full name. This allowed Gregor to garner the monikers ‘Big G’ and ‘G’. Gregor takes it as a compliment when referred to by these names.
  • Gregor’s first ‘proper’ PC was a Packard Bell desktop featuring a Pentium II 233MHz processor, 200Mb hard disk, 32Mb RAM, CD-ROM drive, 3½” floppy drive, 15" CRT monitor, 1 USB, 1 Serial and 1 Parallel port, running Windows 95.
  • There is a local legend in the glen that on certain nights of the year, when the moon is full and the stars are out, between the clocks falling back and the first cuckoo of Spring, then and only then, Gregor will casually but gracefully pick up his guitar and enjoy a night of heartfelt sing‑song‑ing with a room full of chums. Certainly a night etched with fondness into the annals of their memories, adorned with a post-it note marked “golden”.
  • Gregor enjoys DIY. His most recent project has been the design, evolution, redesign, building and completion of a stoater of a bar-be-cue, with an integrated spit-roast, giant chopping board, magnetic knife rail and an adorable handy wee shelf.

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