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The Fear of Making Mistakes at Work

The Covid-19 crisis and its fallout — including recession, layoffs, and uneven economic pain — as well as recent protests over police brutality and demands for racial justice have presented many of us with challenges that we’ve not encountered before. The high-stakes and unfamiliar nature of these situations have left many people feeling fearful of missteps. No one can reduce mistakes to zero, but you can learn to harness your drive to prevent them and channel it into better decision making. Use these tips to become a more effective worrier.

As they say, everyone makes mistakes. In many situations, you can correct your error or just forget about it and move on. Making a mistake at work, however, is more serious. It can have a dire effect on your employer. It may, for example, endanger a relationship with a client, cause a legal problem, or put people’s health or safety at risk. Repercussions will ultimately trickle down to you. Simply correcting your error and moving on may not be an option. When you make a mistake at work, your career may depend on what you do next.

The current culture that is perpetuated glorifies fearlessness. The traditional image of a leader is one who is smart, tough, and unafraid. But fear, like any emotion, has an evolutionary purpose and upside. Your concern about making mistakes is there to remind you that we’re in a challenging situation. A cautious leader has value. This is especially true in times like these. So don’t get caught up in ruminating: “I shouldn’t be so fearful.”

Use emotional agility skills 

Fear of mistakes can paralyse people. Emotional agility skills are an antidote to this paralysis. This process starts with labelling your thoughts and feelings, such as “I feel anxious I’m not going to be able to control my customers enough to keep my staff safe.” Stating your fears out loud helps diffuse them. It’s like turning the light on in a dark room. Next comes accepting reality. For example, “I understand that people will not always behave in ideal ways.” List off every truth you need to accept. Then comes acting your values. Let’s say one of your highest values is conscientiousness. How might that value apply in this situation? For example, it might involve making sure your employees all have masks that fit them well or feel comfortable airing any grievances they have. Identify your five most important values related to decision-making in a crisis. Then ask yourself how each of those is relevant to the important choices you face.

Repeat this process for each of your fears. It will help you tolerate the fact that we sometimes need to act when the best course of action isn’t clear and avoid the common anxiety trap whereby people try to reduce uncertainty to zero.

Apologise, but keep it simple

Genuinely say the words, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” and offer how you plan to correct it. Resist the urge to offer excuses or to start apologising repeatedly. On the other hand, don’t overdo it trying to make it up. Stay professional and business-minded, recognising how valuable company time is.

An apology conveys several major things: regret of the mistake, responsibility for it, and respect for the company and people in it. An apology also offers the opportunity for the other people to let go of their anger. The moment the apology is genuinely made is the moment that you can work to rebuild.

You can’t change the past but you can find a solution for the here and now. One apology to the right person or people along with a possible solution will come across much more positively than a bunch of unnecessary filler words and statements to the entire office.

Accept the consequences in stride

The management and the HR team can decide that you need another form of reprimanding. Or they can take you up on your offer on how you’ll correct the mistake. Whatever the case, accept the consequences and carry out your tasks without complaining.

This reinforces your apology and will likely generate additional respect. Whether it’s staying after work for a few days in order to remedy the work, reaching out to the wronged person, or going about your normal work tasks, do it and do it well. Don’t just say you’re sorry, show them through your actions. Be a better worker.      

Broaden your thinking

When we’re scared of making a mistake, our thinking can narrow around that particular scenario. Imagine you’re out walking at night. You’re worried about tripping, so you keep looking down at your feet. Next thing you know you’ve walked into a lamp post. Or, imagine the person who is scared of flying. They drive everywhere, even though driving is objectively more dangerous. When you open the aperture, it can help you see your greatest fears in the broader context of all the other threats out there. This can help you get a better perspective on what you fear the most.

It might seem illogical that you could reduce your fear of making a mistake by thinking about other negative outcomes. But this strategy can help kick you into problem-solving mode and lessen the mental grip a particular fear has on you. A leader might be so highly focused on minimising or optimising for one particular thing, they don’t realise that other people care most about something else. Find out what other people’s priorities are.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/mistakes-at-work-526244
https://www.inc.com/john-discala/4-ways-to-bounce-back-after-making-a-mistake-at-work.html
https://hbr.org/2020/06/how-to-overcome-your-fear-of-making-mistakes?ab=hero-subleft-3

Virtual Work Skills Have Become a Must

2020 is the year that work went remote. In a matter of days, entire workforces were sent home and told to set up shop. Employees with no prior experience working from home were asked to navigate digital communication platforms, online meeting tools, and a deluge of email.

When you couple the inherent challenge of communicating remotely with uncertain and turbulent times, creating a cohesive and successful remote team can feel like an uphill battle.

Maintaining strong, productive relationships with clients and co-workers can be challenging when you never see the person you’re working with. Yet, it is common to have ongoing work relationships – sometimes lasting years — with people you’ve never met in person.

We often think of “virtual work” as working with someone located outside an office, or in another city or country. This type of work is on the rise: a 2017 Gallup report found 43% of American employees work remotely; in another survey, 48% of respondents reported that a majority of their virtual teamwork involved members from other cultures.

However, virtual work also encompasses how we are turning to technology to conduct business with nearby colleagues, sometimes within the same building or campus. At a large consumer-products firm where we’ve been conducting research, an HR director recounted the changes she witnessed in employees located in two buildings a few miles apart. “Ten years ago, we would regularly drive between buildings to meet each other, but today, we almost never do; meetings are conducted by videoconference and everything else is handled on e-mail and IM.”

Research consistently indicates that virtual work skills – such as the ability to proactively manage media-based interactions, to establish communication norms, to build social rapport with colleagues, and to demonstrate cooperation – enhance trust within teams and increase performance. Our surveys indicate that only about 30% of companies train employees in virtual work skills, but when they do, the training is more likely to focus on software skills and company policies than on social and interpersonal skills. Our findings are similar to those of a 2006 survey of HR leaders on training of virtual teams, suggesting that while technology and virtual work itself has advanced dramatically in recent years, our preparation to work virtually has not.

Recent reviews of the last 30 years of virtual work research shows that the most effective workers engage in a set of strategies and behaviours that we call “virtual intelligence.” Some people tend to be naturally more adept at working virtually than others; yet, everyone can increase their virtual intelligence. Two specific skill sets contributing to virtual intelligence are 1) establishing “rules of engagement” for virtual interactions, and 2) building and maintaining trust. These skill sets are relevant to all individuals who conduct virtual work, including co-workers in the same office who interact virtually.

Communication Is Key

While employees struggle to find their places in a new virtual team, how can we ensure the forced—or in some cases, desired—distance doesn’t lead to a culture of silence and silos? How can you put your people first and ensure distance doesn’t come between relationships and results?

Communication technology. Once you know you’ll be working virtually with someone on a regular basis, initiate a short conversation about their available technology, and agree on the best means of communication (e.g., “We’ll e-mail for simple, non-urgent matters, but get on Skype when there is something complex that might require us to share screens. Texting is fine if we need to get in touch urgently, but shouldn’t be used day-to-day.”)

Best times to connect. You might ask your virtual co-worker, “What times of day are typically better to call or text? Are there particular days of the week (or month) that I should avoid?” Establishing this rule early in a virtual work relationship both establishes respect for each other’s time, and saves time, by avoiding fruitless contact attempts.

How best to share information. If you’re collaborating on documents or other electronic files, establish a process to ensure you don’t inadvertently delete updates or create conflicting versions. File-sharing services such as Dropbox can help monitor revisions to jointly-owned documents (often called “version control”), but it is still wise to establish a simple protocol to avoid lost or duplicated work.

As the use of technology for all types of communication has become ubiquitous, the need for virtual work skills is no longer limited to telecommuters and global teams; it now extends to those of us whose work never takes us out of the office. Making a concerted effort to develop these skills by setting up rules of engagement and establishing trust early can feel uncomfortable, especially for people new to the idea of virtual work. Most of us are used to letting these dynamics evolve naturally in face-to-face relationships, with little or no discussion. Yet, workers with higher virtual intelligence know that these skills are unlikely to develop without explicit attention, and that making a short-term investment in developing the virtual relationship will yield long-term benefits.

Building and maintaining trust

Two types of trust matter in virtual work: relational trust (trust that your colleague is looking out for your best interests), and competence-based trust (trust that your colleague is both capable and reliable).

In order to build relational trust you must bring a social element into the virtual work relationship. Some people do this by starting conversations with non-work-related questions, such as “How are things going where you are?” or “How was your weekend?” Avoid making questions too personal, and don’t overwhelm your colleague with extensive details of your life. Keep it simple and sincere, and the conversation will develop naturally over time. Let your enthusiasm and personality show in your virtual communications. Keep it professional, but try adding a little of your own ‘voice’ to give your virtual colleague a sense of who you are, just as they would have in a face-to-face meeting.

Competence-based trust is highly important as well and to create such a relationship sharing your relevant background and experiences, indicating how these will help you support the current project. For example, on a new product development project, you might say, “I’m really looking forward to contributing to the market analysis, as it focuses on a market that I researched last year on another project.” Take initiative in completing tasks whenever possible and communicate that you’re doing so with periodic update e-mails. Doing this shows commitment to the shared task. Respond to e-mail quickly and appropriately.

Many virtual work relationships fail due to inconsistent e-mail communication. Silence works quickly to destroy trust in a virtual colleague. We recommend replying to non-urgent e-mails within one business day (sooner if it’s urgent). If you need more time, send a quick acknowledgement of the e-mail, letting your colleague know when you will reply.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.mckinsey.com/about-us/new-at-mckinsey-blog/this-moment-belongs-to-virtual-capability-building
https://www.td.org/insights/how-to-lead-a-virtual-team-7-skills-to-put-your-people-first
https://hbr.org/2018/10/the-virtual-work-skills-you-need-even-if-you-never-work-remotely

Knowledge Workers in the Ever-Shifting Gig Economy

The term “gig economy” was coined by former ‘New Yorker’ editor Tina Brown back in 2009. It was used to describe how workers in the knowledge economy were increasingly pursuing “free-floating projects, consultancies, and part-time bits and pieces while they transacted in a digital marketplace.”

The wisdom of the time was that the gig economy would completely change white-collar jobs and call into question the very existence of professional service firms: Why would anyone hire a data analytics firm for a project when you could have unrestricted access to a bunch of experts, connected by a digital platform from all around the globe, who could work together for your company? Given the freshness of the idea, it certainly looked like things were headed that way: the Netflix million-dollar challenge back in 2009 for creating and developing the best recommendation algorithm was won by a team that didn’t belong to a company — or even geography.

In the 1960s, Jack Nilles, a physicist who turned into an engineer, built a long-range communications system at the U.S. Air Force’s Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratory. Later on in his career, at NASA, he helped design space probes that could send messages back to Earth. In the early 1970s, as the director for interdisciplinary research at the University of Southern California, he became fascinated by a more terrestrial problem: traffic congestion. Unrestricted growth in urban areas and cheap gas were creating incredible traffic jams; more and more people were commuting into the same city centres. In October 1973, the OPEC oil embargo began, and gas prices quadrupled. America’s car-based work culture seemed suddenly unsustainable.

That year, Nilles published a book, “The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff,” in which he and his co-authors argued that the congestion problem was actually a communications problem. The PC hadn’t been invented yet, and there was no easy way to relocate work into the home. But Nilles imagined a system that could ease the traffic crisis: if companies built small satellite offices in city peripheries, then employees could commute to many different, closer locations, perhaps on foot or by bicycle. A system of human messengers and mainframe computers could keep these distributed operations synchronised, replicating the communication that goes on within a single, shared office building. Nilles coined the term “telework” to describe this possible arrangement.

However, nowadays remote work is the exception rather than the norm. Flexible work arrangements tend to be seen as a perk; a 2018 survey found that only around three per cent of American employees worked from home more than half of the time. And yet the technological infrastructure designed for telecommuting hasn’t gone away. It’s what enables employees to answer e-mails on the subway or draft pre-dawn memos in their kitchens. Jack Nilles dreamed of remote work replacing office work, but the plan backfired: using advanced telecommunications technologies, we now work from home while also commuting. We work everywhere.

As spring gives way to summer, and we enter the uncertain second phase of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear when, or whether, knowledge workers will return to their offices. Citigroup recently told its employees to expect a slow transition out of lockdown, with many employees staying out of the office until next year. Jack Dorsey, the C.E.O. of Twitter, went even further, announcing in an e-mail that those whose jobs didn’t require a physical presence would be allowed to work from home indefinitely. In a press statement, Twitter’s head of H.R. said that the company would “never probably be the same,” adding, “I do think we won’t go back.”

According to Peter Miscovich, Managing Director, Strategy + Innovation, JLL Consulting in New York, by 2020 gig workers will comprise half the workforce, and as much as 80% by 2030. In the very near future, says Miscovich, enterprise “Liquid Workforce” platforms will be based upon the emerging “Hollywood Model” of working where agile and “liquid” knowledge workers will be intelligently organized via the Internet on a project basis much like Hollywood movies are made today. The future Liquid Workforce will be organized via crowdsourced “uber-like” cloud-based work platforms providing greater workforce and workplace efficiency.

At some point, the pandemic and its aftershocks will fade. It will once again be safe to ride commuter trains to office buildings. What then? Many companies seem amenable to the idea of lasting changes. In April, a survey of chief financial officers conducted by the research firm Gartner found that three-quarters planned to increase the number of employees working remotely on a permanent basis. From an economic perspective, companies have a lot to gain from remote work: office space is expensive, and talent is likely to be cheaper outside of the biggest cities. Many workers will welcome these changes: in a recent Gallup poll, nearly sixty per cent of respondents said that they would like to keep working remotely after restrictions on businesses and schools have been lifted. For them, the long-promised benefits of work-from-home—a flexible, commute-free life, with more family and leisure time—have finally arrived.

And yet remote work is complex, and is no cure-all. Some of the issues that have plagued it for decades are unlikely to be resolved, no matter how many innovations we introduce: there’s probably no way for workplaces to Zoom themselves to the same levels of closeness and cohesion generated in a shared office; mentorship, decision-making, and leadership may simply be harder from a distance. There is also something dystopian about a future in which white-collar workers luxuriate in isolation while everyone else commutes to the crowded places. For others, meanwhile, isolation is the opposite of luxury. There may be many people who will always prefer to work from work.

But Brown turned out to be only half right. There has been tremendous growth in the gig economy, but most of it can be attributed to unskilled work such as driving (Lyft and Uber), delivering (food, parcels, etc. through DoorDash, Postmates), and doing simple errands (TaskRabbit). A vibrant gig economy for knowledge workers — engineers, consultants, management executives — has not really materialised.

Culture

Gig workers in the knowledge economy will have to work with and for firms that have pronounced values, incentives, practices, and preferences. But they do not assimilate easily into these organizations (unless they join them) as they often work at arms-length with them and are seen by people in the organizations as outsiders — or even threats —impeding effective cooperation and creating the potential for conflict. In this context, gig workers often struggle to understand, let alone accept, the larger organizational processes, people, and politics of many of the people they have to work with. Performance assessment may also be problematic, especially if the gig worker is hired by a firm to do a job that the traditional metrics of most organizations still cannot properly capture.

When you start listing these problems, it becomes less of a mystery why the firms still prefer to hire knowledge workers as full-time employees or other firms with knowledge workers rather than contract directly with gig workers, despite the ability of tech to reduce many of the more obvious costs.

This may, at last, be about to change. But not from the advent of any new technology — it’s from the global pandemic that is forcing the global economy to its knees. The organizational factors that act as barriers for knowledge-based gig work are the same ones that in the past have inhibited remote work by full-time employees. If these issues can be resolved, whether a remote worker is full-time or gig-based is simply a matter of contractual documentation. Clearly, the experience of working during the pandemic provides useful insights on how to successfully contract knowledge work to external contractors. But we need to approach these lessons carefully.

Tasks Are Vital

Knowledge work is not uniform and, to the extent that you can even talk this way, a given “unit” of knowledge work is itself highly complex. A university, for example, educates students for degrees. A unit, therefore, could be the degree that a student comes out with. But a lot of very different tasks go into creating that unit. So what does “gigification” mean in this context?

Universities could certainly consider using gig workers for graders, teaching assistants, or for pre-recorded online lectures. But it is unlikely that the majority of milestone classes (face-to-face or virtual) that need to be delivered live at specific moments will be delivered by gig workers. Since any degree will inevitably involve both kinds of classes, university teaching will always be hybrid between the two, at least at the course level, possibly even at the class level.

The lesson is that all knowledge-based work can be unpacked into a set of different tasks. To figure out the future of the gig economy for knowledge workers, therefore, we need to analyse things at the task level rather than at the work level. We have found the simple process chart shown below to be extremely useful in figuring out which kinds of tasks are amenable to gigification.  It involves asking these three basic questions about each knowledge-intensive task involved in delivering a product or service.

The Covid-19 epidemic could well prove to be a pivotal point in the gigification of knowledge work, and many firms will be attracted by the prospects of the direct and indirect cost savings that the gig economy model seems to offer.  But given the complexities of knowledge work there’s also a risk of overreach and wasted investment.  The simple task-based categorization we propose will help managers make smarter choices about how just what tasks should be contracted to gig workers.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://serraview.com/gig-economy-impacting-corporate-workplace/
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/can-remote-work-be-fixed
https://hbr.org/2020/06/will-the-pandemic-push-knowledge-work-into-the-gig-economy

Effective Screen Time While Working from Home

Before the quarantine, most of us likely thought that we have spent almost all of our workday at the computer. But little did we know that you could spend so much more. Between commutes, meetings, chats, watercooler talks, coffee breaks, and lunches, we had many opportunities throughout the day where our eyes would have less screen time and detach from the digital realm.

Now with those natural breaks eliminated, there’s little to no break from the connection to technology. In particular, video calls add an extra layer of fatigue. Having to focus on multiple faces simultaneously while also being conscious that everyone can see you creates an added layer of mental and emotional exhaustion that wouldn’t be experienced as acutely in an in-person setting. The extra time in front of the computer can also cause eye strain and muscle fatigue because you need to hold your body rigid for hours to stay inside a camera’s range.

A recent study found that the average office worker spends 1,700 hours per year in front of a computer screen — and that was before many of us began working from home. Add to that our frequent use of phones and other digital devices, and you’ve got a recipe for unhappy — and possibly unhealthy — eyes. What are the implications for the eyes during this period of greatly increased screen time?

When we’re moving between meetings and offices and interacting with people face-to-face, it’s a simple fact that we move our eyes more. We blink more, which helps keep the eyes lubricated and comfortable. But when we look at a screen for extended periods, we tend not to blink. In fact, focusing the eyes on computer screens or other digital displays has been shown to reduce a person’s blink rate by a third to a half.

According to Esen Akpek, professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine and an expert in dry eye, not only does extensive gazing — such as that which occurs when reading on a computer screen — dry the eyes, it also starts a vicious cycle. “When your eyes become dry, that reduces reading speed, which further increases exposure time and worsens dryness,” Akpek has said, “and this can ultimately lead to inflammation of the eye surface and a self-perpetuating chronic dry eye.”

Gone are the days when we could break away from our computers with post-work pub trips, theatre visits, or meals out. Work events and conferences, too, once provided a much-needed respite from staring at displays all day, while meetings could be conducted device-free and in-person. Due to ongoing lockdown measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we’ve come to rely on screens more than ever; not just for work, but to keep our social lives going, too.

In order to help your time management and regain energy, there are ways that can reduce or eliminate technology throughout the day. Here are a few tips and tricks that have been proved to be most effective.

Limit meeting duration

Normally, setting aside blocks of time to get work done is a good idea. But if you find virtual meetings draining, this practice is even more essential for you right now. Block out time on your schedule where you’re not available for meetings so that you can temper how much virtual communication you have each day. That could look like setting aside most of a morning or afternoon as a meeting-free time or blocking out a few one-hour chunks of time throughout the day to detach and focus on other work.

More physical less digital

In order to balance out the increased screen time both on and off the clock, look for ways that you can take the low-tech route. Brainstorming for an article? Write out your thoughts on paper. Creating a road map for a big project? Sketch the initial draft on a white board. Reading a book? Pick up a print copy. Exercising? Go outside on a run. Anytime you can reasonably choose a physical option over a digital one, take it. Stepping away from the computer not only offers you a digital break, but can help you be more creative.

Get up and move

To cancel out the fatigue caused by sitting rigidly in front of your computer, move around as much as you can. In between meetings, take a walk to the kitchen to refill your water or coffee. When you need a quick break, do a few simple movements like rolling your shoulders to get the blood flowing. If you have a standing desk, move it up and down so you’re able to both sit and stand throughout the day. If you don’t have a standing desk, put your computer on a high counter or bureau to get an opportunity to stretch your legs. And if you’re on a normal phone call and don’t need to be taking notes or looking at documents while you talk, consider standing up or even walking back and forth during the conversation.

Activate the blue-light filter on all of your devices

One of the most effective ways to immediately reduce eye strain is by installing a filter that warms the tone of your display. Although the eyes absorb blue light naturally, prolonged exposure from computer displays can lead to eye strain, according to Prevent Blindness. The consequences include irritation as well as difficulty focusing.

There are a number of free tools out there, including f.lux and the open-source Lightbulb, which users can download immediately in order to modify the tones on their displays. macOS and Windows 10 users can also opt to make use of night-time filters bundled into their operating systems. These can be found under display settings in each OS and can be activated throughout the day if needs be, not just at night.

Tech-free breaks

Although it may feel more “efficient” to eat lunch at your computer, your brain will thank you for taking a break from the screen. Eat lunch while chatting with your family members in the kitchen, looking out a window, or reading a physical book. Stepping away from technology not only gives your brain a break but also gives you the added bonus of perspective. I find that even when I take a short lunch of 15 to 20 minutes where I simply eat without doing anything else, I feel more peaceful at the end than I did before. I also find that I tend to have a clearer sense of the big picture of what’s occurring in my life and work.

Another practice that’s benefiting myself as well as many of my time management coaching clients is post-work outdoor physical activity. This includes taking a walk, playing basketball in a driveway, gardening, or anything else that gets you active. This split from the digital world refreshes your brain and helps to create some separation from the end of your work day and the beginning of your personal time.

Don’t e-socialise right after working hours

In the last few weeks, we’ve been forced to find increasingly creative ways to stay in touch with our friends and loved ones – whether on Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Google Hangout.

Just as you wish to break up your working day, it’s important not to hop straight from work to online catchups, however. You should leave a little room for a break to reduce the strain on your eyes, perhaps by getting up for a short walk, making a snack, or catching up with the people you live with. Try to leave yourself a little breathing room in the schedule while organising your digital commitments to ensure you aren’t glued to your computer, tablet or smartphone all morning.

Take up a new hobby

Besides saving time on travel, lockdown has freed up dozens of hours per week that would have otherwise been spent on going out or meeting up with people in-person. While this is the perfect time to catch up on boxsets, or the latest shows that have passed us by, it’s critical we don’t fill all these hours up with yet more screen-related activities.

It could be the best time to engage in a long-lost passion, learn how to cook, or take up more exercise. There are hundreds of activities you can take up now and then throughout the lockdown period to ensure you’re keeping yourself entertained while resting your eyes after a day locked to your computer. This may also help to more effectively maintain a work-life balance, with these lines threatening to become intertwined very easily.

When it’s possible to go back to more in-person communications, it will be a wonderful relief. But in the immediate term, some of the added digital load is unavoidable. These strategies can help you counter that load and reduce digital fatigue.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.itpro.co.uk/business/business-strategy/355372/8-tips-for-reducing-screen-fatigue-while-working-from-home
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/protect-your-eyes-from-screen-time
https://hbr.org/2020/05/5-tips-to-reduce-screen-time-while-youre-wfh

Innovation in Isolation: How to Trigger your Creativity

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” Rollo May

Our journey towards the isolation economy is well underway as workers are getting increasingly comfortable working from home. Unfortunately, however, as we work in isolation, we miss out on some of the positive elements of workplace interaction and collaboration that we have taken for granted. As working from home becomes the new normal, we will need to relearn many of our previous collaborative activities and make them as productive they used to be, while secluded in our homes.

Nowadays, we are forced into working from home by a once-in-a-generation pandemic, but many of our isolation behaviours will persist once the coronavirus is behind us. Even though remote work has certain advantages and may also enhance productivity in many respects, innovation is one thing that becomes harder to do and may suffer as a result.

There has a general feeling that more meetings have occurred since the isolation began, more than we used to before. During the first week, it was about catching up with everyone to talk about the latest news, vent and get support, but then by the second week, it became apparent that people were scheduling meetings to avoid being alone.

In our modern lives with never ending social media and on demand entertainment, we had already excelled in avoiding being alone, especially when these services use psychological triggers to keep us always-on and engaged in a continuous content consuming frenzy. We have started to hate being alone according to a 2014 study: “many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts” for even 6–15 minutes.

Innovation is difficult in Isolation

Innovation in isolation is hard because human creativity needs idea sharing and interaction to flourish. Breakthroughs never come from lone inventors who toil alone in a dusky lab. Instead, they thrive when ideas are shared, challenged, and refined. For this reason, local coffee shops and office cafeterias have always been hubs of creativity and innovation.

Increases in population density have always led to a higher rate of idea generation, productivity, and economic output. Cities are where innovation happens, and this is due to the increased opportunity for the exchange and clash of concepts. The ability to share ideas is the primary reason innovation is localized. Silicon Valley and Seattle have become the hotbeds for technology innovation. Similarly, other cities have become centres for innovation for automobiles, banking, financial services, and other industries.

Innovation only happens when knowledge builds on knowledge and ideas build on ideas. When you are working from home, you have fewer collaborative encounters, and the rate of innovation suffers.

When workers are isolated, co-workers are unable to have unstructured and spontaneous discussions that serve as the root of innovation. Yes, you can have productive meetings using Zoom. But the casual conversation you have while walking in and out of a conference room or meeting someone in the breakroom doesn’t happen, and those are the chance encounters that often lead to flashes of creativity and innovation.

But innovation is still possible. Today, even potential vaccines for coronavirus, designed to end our solitude, are being developed in isolation. But vaccine development is progressing at a rapid rate because scientists around the world are and sharing their research. This collaboration is critical for allowing advances to being built on top of one another.

Creativity and the Science Behind It

There is solid evidence that proves why solitude, if harnessed mindfully, can improve our creativity in everyday life. And it all starts with brain waves.

For instance, when we’re in deep sleep, the brain enters into the Delta wave, which is an unconscious state when repair and healing occur. If we move towards consciousness, the next wave is Theta, which activates during light sleep. One is usually in Theta just before sleeping and just after awakening. While these waves are fantastic for random creations and ideas (remember that crazy dream you had the other day?), we can’t easily enter them at will or control them.

On the opposite end, we have Gamma waves, which represent the brain processing information and learning with intense focus, and Beta waves, which is the reductive state of mind — alert and focused. We’re operating in a Beta state for most of our day, making reductive decisions and executing.

Alpha Power

In the middle of these two extremes, we have the Alpha wave, which is produced when the brain is in a relaxed, unfocused state usually associated with being awake but idle (i.e. not concentrating on any specific thing). Alpha waves are correlated with creativity since creativity requires expansive thinking instead of reductive. According to a 2015 study, researchers could trigger a surge in creativity if they specifically focused on enhancing alpha waves. In this study, they used electrical triggers, but it’s widely accepted that meditation and mindfulness also work in getting the brain in an Alpha state.

And herein lies the magic. We can actively try to influence our brains to produce alpha waves for creative thinking and problem solving. Think of the places where you usually get your best ideas. For most people, the answer is while taking a shower and lying in bed just before going to bed. We’re now isolated in potentially the most alpha-inducing environment we could be. But we need to see past the confinement and into the opportunity that’s right in front of us.

How the Internet Came to Life

There are ways you can create massive and world-changing innovations while working from home, but you need to be deliberate about it. Since you will always need collaboration and idea-sharing for innovation to happen, you need to learn how to do so without the benefit of a physical interaction.

The best way to innovate in a remote environment is by creating a community of people who work on solving a problem independently, but collaboratively. Such communities, called Networked Improvement Communities, have been responsible for some of the most breathtaking innovations. As an example, take the development of The Internet, the most significant creation of our time.

The Internet was created through idea sharing and networked improvement. Designed by a group of pioneers working independently across universities and research institutions around the world, it was driven by a common desire to have different computers connected to each other. Creating the Internet required a high degree of information sharing, and its development was guided by a manifesto that was adopted voluntarily by a diverse set of innovators who shared in the common goal.

Networked improvement communities require a shared goal or shared area of interest and require multiple people working, usually independently, toward developing solutions to achieve the common goal—the communities need to agree to share progress with others. The network as a whole then uses what they learn from each member, and this boosts the collective knowledge of all participants and gets the entire community closer to achieving the shared goal. This is how breakthroughs are most likely to occur.

Forward-thinking organisations across health care, education, technology, and other sectors have created Networked Improvement Communities to boost innovation. Understanding and implementing these innovation communities in your organization can enhance your ability to develop significant new offerings that can change the world.

Take that time for yourself. Just enjoy the silence or do some meditation. If the fancy takes it, jot some things down or paint your wall or discuss within yourself how the world might be a better place. It is in these moments that we find clarity, unexpected solutions and a childlike wonder at how we ourselves are all we need. Let your imagination take you there. Don’t force it.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://medium.com/navivest/harnessing-the-benefits-of-isolation-for-innovation-30a9a3fec638
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kmehta/2020/05/04/innovation-in-the-isolation-economy/#6dd7f7204643

https://yourstory.com/2020/04/innovation-critical-isolation

Recruiting Top Talent – A Hidden Gem during the Pandemic?

Many potential new hires who have applied for, been interviewed for, or even been offered a new position are now in limbo. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of social distancing, self-isolating and the majority of people working from home, recruiting and hiring at this time and even afterwards, will pose its own challenges. The steps that HR departments or hiring managers have to take in order to avoid losing out on top talent and boosting their employer brand will determine the future of most businesses post coronavirus outbreak.

Will this outbreak turn the remote workforce into the new reality we all sensed it could become? Should hiring managers and employers invest in top of the line digital interviewing tools? Are they using their time in lockdown to create a unique business advantage? Even though this is an unpredictable and overwhelming time, it could very well be the perfect time to dust off ideas that would normally take a lot of time to put into practice or simply open the mind to new and exciting ideas.  At the same time, there’s never been a better time to assess your organisation to help you to prepare for life after COVID-19, including the people within it.

Recruitment is a topic many businesses are not even thinking about right now, and it’s even more difficult to plan which roles you’ll be ready to fill when the pandemic is over. However, there is a way you can ensure that when you can hire, the best people are ready and waiting.

Building a pool of suitable candidates interested in working for you, can be done through smart recruitment marketing, social media and digital campaigns. A talent pool is almost a queue of candidates ready to step into roles which include a wide range of skills and people at different stages of their professional career. In a world of data-driven recruiting, talent pools are more useful than ever before.

According to The Economist, 4/5 of CEOs worry about skill shortages, while outside hiring at the top reached record highs, causing business for large global search firms to increase by 9% to 15% last year alone.

Nowadays companies are laying off workers and downsizing as we speak. Some industries are simply collapsing. It seems that an unprecedented number of people, all over the world, from new graduates to seasoned veterans, will be looking for new employment. At the same time the ‘war’ on top talent may recede for the time being. As companies revisit and rethink their international strategies and business practices, workers are recalculating their personal purpose and individual and family priorities, with serious implications for their geographic and work preferences and travel habits.

All of the sudden, the pool of talent has changed and expanded, whilst leaders have to prepare companies and organisations for recovery and regrowth.

A Lesson In History

Throughout history, economic hardships have created windows in which exceptional employees and leaders are widely available for a small window in time. During the late 1940s, many companies were struggling. At HP, business was slow and finances strained. But as legions of great engineers came out from of closing U.S. military labs, HP’s legendary founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard figured out that they couldn’t let such amazing talents pass them by. When asked how they could afford to keep taking on new people in those difficult years, their answer was simple: “How could we afford NOT to!”  Years later, when asked about their unrivalled success they routinely said that their willingness to invest in talent no matter the external economic climate was quintessential.

Harvard Business School’s Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria, and Franz Wohlgezogen considered the benefits of this kind of long-term thinking in an analysis of 4,700 companies across the last three recessions. They discovered that 9% were able to come out in much better positions than they entered because of their “progressive” focus. They did cut back, but were extremely selective about when and where they did so and, more importantly, they continued to make strategic investments. Rather than thinking you’re either hiring or you’re downsizing, they ‘copied’ the HP approach after the war, understanding they could do both things if they were smart about it.

Unfortunately, most organisations make the mistake of uniformly freezing hiring in downturns. During the 2008 global financial crisis, BCG and the European Association for People Management surveyed 3,400 executives, including 90 senior human resources leaders in more than 30 countries, to see how they were responding. The most frequent action was to scale back recruiting. At the same time, survey participants rated the selective hiring of high-performing employees from competitors as one of the three most effective responses to the crisis and the one with the best impact on employee commitment. This irrationality is widespread. Those who stay rational can exploit it.

Talent At the ready

It may seem like an obvious point to begin with but building a talent pool now means that when you can hire again, and hopefully you will be soon, the talent will be ready and waiting for you. By putting in the hard work now, you’ll have a group of engaged and talented candidates ready to contact as soon as roles become available. As they’ve registered their contact details with you, you can be confident that they are interested in working for your business, which give you a head start once it’s back to “business as usual.”

Better quality in hiring

Because you aren’t rushing to fill urgent requirements, using this time to build a talent pool means that you have longer to collate and source the best talent, which is a luxury that is rarely available. With a wide range of individuals and skills to choose from in your talent pool, all of whom are ready to start working, you’ll be able to compare expertise to find the best talent for you.

As there is less rush to fill key roles, it also means you won’t miss out on talented candidates that may miss the deadline by a few days. Instead, you’ll have collated them over the lockdown period, however long that may be.

Fast hirings

It should go without saying but having suitable talent at your disposal will make filling vacancies a much quicker and smoother process. When you’re eventually ready to hire again, it will be beneficial if you can hire talented people quickly so that critical roles can be filled, and your business can return to normal! This will give you more time to focus on growing and rebuilding other aspects of your business, knowing that the recruitment side is very much under control.

Plus, with many people, unfortunately, being made redundant as a result of COVID-19, the sad truth is that the faster you can make a talented candidate an offer, the more likely they are to accept. In the aftermath of a pandemic, people will need employment and crave job security. As much as we hate to admit it, when it comes to the best talent, it may just be the early bird that gets the worm.

Build rapport with the candidates 

The talent pool approach to recruitment is largely candidate-centric, giving candidates more control. It helps you to build long term relationships, giving the candidates a chance to learn more about your business and what you can offer them. They’ll become familiar with your employer brand as they follow you on social media, receive your email updates and even research your business on their own. This makes it much more likely that a candidate will want to work for you, increasing the chances of your offer being accepted. Regular updates and content are essential to maintaining your talent pool; this provides more touchpoints to capture the attention of passive candidates and helps you to build relationships.

Talent pools also encourage two-way communication; unlike standard recruitment practise where the employer holds all the cards, engaging with your talent pool creates opportunities for candidates to talk to you. This improves the candidate experience massively as the recruitment process feels much less lonely and more transparent.

To find out more about how you can build a ready-to-hire talent pool, get in touch with the team at Talent Works International. Our experts can help you to conduct talent attraction campaigns, manage candidate data and most importantly build up and maintain your talent pool ready for when this pandemic is over.

motivate your best candidates

Once you are convinced that you have the opportunity to bring in someone you really want, arrange to have the person speak to senior leaders who can share their love and passion for your company and describe the value they hope to build with the new colleague. Pay can be important but research shows that what truly motivates knowledge workers is a high level of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In these trying times, flexible work arrangements will no doubt continue to be key, as will the chance to keep on learning and growing while working to build something larger than ourselves.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our echnology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.hrtechnologist.com/interviews/recruitment-onboarding/hire-talent-post-coronavirus-pandemic/
https://hbr.org/2020/05/now-is-an-unprecedented-opportunity-to-hire-great-talent
https://www.talent-works.com/2020/04/06/heres-why-you-should-be-building-a-ready-to-hire-talent-pool-during-lockdown/

Employers’ Organisational Reaction to COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, has lead to a global pandemic. Governments have shut borders and imposed quarantines, and companies have imposed travel bans. The human and economic impacts on businesses have been stark.

This epidemic has been a wake-up call for companies to carefully review the strategies, policies, and procedures they have in place to protect employees, customers, and operations in this and future epidemics.

With industries including travel, hospitality and retail under extreme financial pressure as a result of measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the UK, many businesses are facing difficult decisions when it comes to the employment of staff.

The impact on businesses is already significant. Individuals have been told to avoid bars, clubs and theatres, and many events have been cancelled. Much of the UK’s car production has paused and airlines such as British Airways have advised staff to prepare for layoffs.

Some businesses have made it clear they are doing all they can to avoid making staff redundant. Former England footballer Gary Neville took to Twitter to assure his followers that although his two Manchester hotels would be closed to the public from next week, no staff would be made redundant or asked to take unpaid leave.

Employers needed to consider all options available to help them to manage workforce costs and avoid redundancies, said Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD. For some organisations this would mean considering measures beyond maximising home working and restricting overtime to keep people in jobs, he said.

Director of Epic HR, Gary Cookson, noted that all these measures will inevitably come with their own downsides, and there wouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach for all businesses, or indeed all staff members. Cookson advised organisations to talk openly to staff about the options, but added that HR “might be surprised by the [positive reaction among staff to] creative responses to the situation, particularly if it is made clear that the business wants to avoid redundancies”.

Updating Benefits Policies 

The likelihood that increasing numbers of employees will be unable to work either because they are sick or must care for others means that companies should review their paid time off and sick leave policies now. Policies that give employees confidence that they will not be penalized and can afford to take sick leave are an important tool in encouraging self-reporting and reducing potential exposure. Our employer survey found that nearly 40% of employers have or plan to clarify their pay policy if worksites are closed or employees are furloughed.

While few companies outside of Asia have closed worksites yet because of the epidemic, about half of the Chinese companies we surveyed had shut down worksites at least temporarily. Such closures will likely become more common outside of Asia should the epidemic continue on its current course.

Most firms will treat Covid-19 in their policies as they would any other illness, and sick leave or short-term disability insurance would be applicable.  However, exclusion from the workplace might not be covered by disability policies, and prolonged absence could last longer than available sick leave. Our survey found that more than 90% of employers in China paid their workers in full and maintained full benefits during furloughs. Companies should promulgate clear policies on this now and communicate about these with employees. Most will want to offer protections to their workforce to the extent this is financially feasible.

Ensuring employees can effectively work from home

While many jobs (retail, manufacturing, health care) require people to be physically present, work, including meetings, that can be done remotely should be encouraged if coming to work or traveling risks exposure to the virus. Videoconferencing, for instance, is a good alternative to risky face-to-face meetings. Nearly 60% of the employers we surveyed indicated that they have increased employees’ flexibility for remote work (46%) or plan to (13%).

Communicating with Employees on non-working Issues

Dangerous rumours and worker fears can spread as quickly as a virus. It is imperative for companies to be able to reach all workers, including those not at the worksite, with regular, internally coordinated, factual updates about infection control, symptoms, and company policy regarding remote work and circumstances in which employees might be excluded from or allowed to return to the workplace.  These communications should come from or be vetted by the emergency response team, and they should be carefully coordinated to avoid inconsistent policies being communicated by different managers or functions. Clearly this requires organizations to maintain current phone/text and email contact information for all employees and test organization-wide communication periodically. If you don’t have a current, universal contact capability already, now is a good time to create this.

Cancelling Conferences & Rescheduling Meetings

Yes. There is mounting evidence that social distancing can delay the epidemic and potentially save lives, so most meetings and conferences should be converted from in-person to virtual. Some states and localities are banning meetings of more than 250 people. If you have a meeting, limit the number of attendees and encourage those who are older or have chronic disease to attend virtually. Provide room to allow attendees to sit or stand at least six feet away from others. Discourage hand-shaking and assure that proper handwashing facilities (and/or hand sanitizers) are easily available. If you have any questions about best practices, contact your local health department.

Prepare staff for other roles

With many organisations facing a significant drop in business as a result of social distancing measures, many staff may find themselves unable to carry out their jobs in the same way, either because they are not needed or because the nature of their role means they can’t work from home. To work around this, employers can consider offering different duties to those staff that reflect the new needs of the business, said David Harris, managing partner at DPH Legal.

But, Harris added, such measures were subject to employees having the right terms in their contracts. Anything that amounted to a variation in an employee’s contract needed their consent, he said, suggesting that in such cases employers should consult with individuals and come to agreements on a one-to-one basis. “Obtaining consent before you press ahead is important because otherwise you’re risking a claim arising,” he said.

Prepare staff to temporarily join other businesses

There are already some encouraging stories circulating of staff within the hardest hit sectors being redeployed to other now high-demand areas. For example, earlier this week (18 March), it was announced Inverness theatre company Eden Court was to work with its funders, the Highland Council, to find ways for its 200 employees to join the authority’s response to Covid-19.

The theatre was faced with laying off 200 staff, with 75 per cent of its income coming from ticket sales and bar/cafe takings. Details were still under discussion, but potential options included using the engagement team, who already work with children, young people and the community, to collaborate on the delivery of education projects for young people in the Highlands.

There are also recruitment platforms which are helping businesses with their vacancies – such as in the logistics sector for example – to be matched with companies faced with having to let staff go who might possess relevant skills.

Reduce hours

One obvious option many employers have already looked at is reducing employees’ hours to share the salary hit fairly and evenly among staff. Martyn Dicker, director of people at Unicef UK, said this was something he’d had to consider in previous similar situations in the past, and something which could work well. 

But Jo Stubbs, global head of product content strategy at XpertHR, warned employers attempting to reduce working hours unilaterally without such powers being written into workers’ employment terms, could amount to a fundamental breach of contract. “In these circumstances, the employee could pursue a claim for an unlawful deduction from wages, breach of contract or constructive dismissal,” she said.

Employers should speak to their personnel to gain voluntary consent for any cuts to hours outside of their contracts, and suggested putting any agreement in writing.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/coronavirus-employers-avoid-redundancies
https://hbr.org/2020/03/8-questions-employers-should-ask-about-coronavirus
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alonzomartinez/2020/03/03/what-employers-should-consider-amidst-a-coronavirus-crisis/#49e6371a2180

Mental Health and its Importance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As news about the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate the headlines and millions of people—in the U.S. and the world over—are being asked to self-quarantine, it has become increasingly significant to pay as much attention to our mental health as we do to our physical health. 

“Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite fear, anxiety and erratic behaviours,” says Dr. Kelly Vincent, a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Encinitas, California. “When fear takes control, both our nervous system and emotional part of our brain go into overdrive. This response can lead to impulsiveness, panic and feeling out of control emotionally,” she says. “If a person has a pre-existing mental illness or history with anxiety and depression, it can often worsen and intensify during times such as these,” Dr. Vincent points out. If the stress and anxiety worsen then “it may trigger negative physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, insomnia, digestive issues, weakness and fatigue,” tells Dr. Janine Kreft, an Austin-based clinical psychologist. 

If you’ve been feeling anxious, frustrated, angry or downright confused lately, know that you’re not alone—we are all in this together.

Within weeks, the familiar symptoms of mental illness can become universal reality. A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found nearly half of the respondents saying that their mental health was being harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly everyone on this planet is experiencing varying degrees of grief, panic, hopelessness and paralyzing fear. If you say now how terrified you are, the most common response you will get is “What sensible person isn’t?”

But that response can cause us to lose sight of the dangerous secondary crisis unfolding alongside the more obvious one: an escalation in both short-term and long-term clinical mental illness that may endure for decades after the pandemic recedes. When everyone else is experiencing depression and anxiety, real, clinical mental illness can get erased.

While both the federal and local governments have responded to the spread of the coronavirus in critical ways, acknowledgment of the mental illness vulnerabilities has been hasty. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has so far enlisted more than 8,000 mental health providers to help New Yorkers in distress, is a fortunate and much welcomed exception.

The Chinese government moved psychologists and psychiatrists to Wuhan during the first stage of self-quarantine. No comparable measures have been initiated by our federal government.

The unequal treatment of the two kinds of health — physical over mental — is frighteningly similar with our society’s current disregard for psychological stability. Insurance does not offer real uniformity of coverage, and treatment for mood disorders is generally deemed a luxury item. Given the fact that we are facing a dual crisis of both physical and mental health, those facing psychiatric challenges deserve both acknowledgment and treatment.

There are roughly four responses to the coronavirus crisis and the social isolation. Some people take it all in stride and rely on a foundation of unshakable psychic stability. Others constitute the worried well, who need only a bit of psychological first aid. A third group who have not previously experienced these disorders are being catapulted into them. Last, many who were already suffering from major depressive disorder have had their condition exacerbated, developing what clinicians call “double depression,” in which a persistent depressive disorder is overlaid with an episode of unbearable pain.

Social isolation generates at least as much escalation of mental illness as does fear of the virus itself. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist, found that social isolation is twice as harmful to a person’s physical health as obesity. For example, solitary confinement in prison systems causes panic attacks and hallucinations, among other symptoms. Isolation can even make people more vulnerable to the disease it is intended to forestall: Researchers have determined that “a lonely person’s immune system responds differently to fighting viruses, making them more likely to develop an illness.”

In order to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing, here are a few handy strategies to help you during these trying times:

Reduce Social Media & News Input

“I would encourage everyone to limit their exposure to the news and to customize their social media feeds—by following more accounts and pages that make them feel good—regardless of the current pandemic,” says Dr. Kreft. “Your brain is built to problem solve. And when you are already feeling fearful, it naturally seeks out stimuli in your external environment to reinforce the feeling of fear. The brain then deletes, distorts and generalizes all incoming information that does not align with your current emotional state or beliefs. So, if you spend a significant amount of time following the news, it reinforces more reason to worry— thus creating a vicious cycle.”

Get your Information from Trustworthy Sources

Some legitimate and reliable sources of COVID-19-related news and updates include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “It is helpful to adopt a more analytical approach as you follow news reports about the coronavirus. You will also want to verify information that you receive from family, friends or social media,” says the American Psychological Association (APA). Moreover, “consume only what you need to know, what’s most relevant to you and particularly what is happening or anticipated in your own community,” suggests the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Maintain Connections with Friends & Family

“Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress,” states APA. “You can maintain these connections without increasing your risk of getting the virus by talking on the phone, texting or chatting with people on social media platforms,” it adds. In addition, you can take virtual tours together of museums, national parks and other sites via Google Arts & Culture, tune in to live-streamed concerts and other events or play online games with friends, suggests NAMI.

If the symptoms of stress and anxiety get any worse and you feel it is impairing your ability to function, please speak to an experienced mental health professional at the earliest.  “For anyone who is unsure about attending therapy sessions outside of home, especially those who the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has described as being at higher risk, you can ask your health care provider about tele-therapy or mental health services online,” notes NAMI. 

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

“Protecting Mental Health during Epidemics” Study prepared by Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Rehabilitation Unit Technology and Health Services Delivery Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), originally appeared in Spanish.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2020/03/24/how-to-protect-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-according-to-psychologists/#7f164f1841cb
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/opinion/coronavirus-depression-anxiety.html

The Art of Focus – Dealing with the Pandemic Effects

Focus represents a stabilising force which leads us to insight, innovation and productivity, and those factors are expediting our recovery. It goes without saying that we are all stronger when we have control over some part of a solution, even as we are battered by the news and isolation of this ‘internal blizzard’ we are all facing.

It has been weeks since we settled into our new reality of remote work and being constantly barraged by news of how bad things can or will get. We are desperately trying to find new and relevant ways of doing business. For most of us, maintaining a high level of focus in order to be productive has been one of our key struggles during this time. This should result in us practicing attention management now more than ever, not just for the sake of our productivity, but for our peace of mind as well.

Practicing attention management is about maintaining control of where your attention goes, and realising when it’s being stolen, either by external distractions, internal thoughts or by anxiety fuelled by our social distancing. The more you become aware of your distractions, the easier it becomes to manage all of them. For the majority of us, distraction has become the norm, and the first step in changing our habit is awareness, because you can’t change a habit that you don’t think you have.

Start by acknowledging what’s distracting you. What’s taking your attention right now? Do you have kids at home? Are the dishes piling up in the sink? Or that news notification that just popped up on your phone? Once you can pinpoint where your attention is going it will become much easier to stay sharp and focused on what you are actually supposed to be doing.  

If you are working long hours in order to manage a company that provides essential services, or you’re an executive in charge of an isolated office in a home which you share with your now homes-schooling kids, it is of utmost importance that you take the time to grieve the loss of what used to constitute ‘normal’ and focus on what lies ahead.

Settle on the Now and Plan for the Future

While there are many times in life when it’s helpful to look your five-year plan or reflect on the past, during a time of crisis, it’s much more helpful to zoom in rather than zoom out. You can’t change what happened or know what will happen down the road, so focus your energy on right now, where you have some power.

When you’ve got you are focusing on the present moment, try and figure out what you need. Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of thinking, “I just need to stop crying,” decide what will help you do that. Maybe it’s going and reading out in the sun-filled balcony, maybe it’s calling your best friend, or maybe it’s just stopping and taking a few calming deep breaths.

This may sound overly simplistic and cliché, but going deep into the details of your life during a difficult time can strengthen you. If you find yourself wondering how will I would get through this week, just fixate on the next best thing you could do for yourself.

Using the Reward System

Lists are pretty powerful: They allow you to make sense of the day and bring some order to the chaos of life, especially during a tough time. Write everything that’s worrying you about what you need to accomplish on your to-do list (even if it’s something that normally comes easily, like “take a shower”). Set up reminders on your calendar, or use an app to help you out.

For example, you can use Fig, a wellness app that allows you to populate a to-do list with non-traditional wellness items as simple as stretch, drink water, breathe deeply, or call your mom. Because we are more or less tied to our phones nowadays, it can be extremely helpful to have a place where I can be reminded of small ways to stay healthy and sane during these trying times.

You don’t necessarily need an app to stay healthy or to pat yourself on the back—but do make sure you pause to acknowledge that just washing your hair and getting dressed during a crisis is something you can truly be proud of.

Ask for Support

When you’re going through a rough patch, your first instinct might be to hole up and disconnect from the rest of the world. But don’t ever forget that your friends and family are there to help.

Calling the people who love you the most during this pandemic can be extremely therapeutic. They were the ones who always kept you grounded and focused on the present moment. It is important to keep them anchored in your thought process by simply asking them for advice in terms of the tasks you should be doing next. Don’t be afraid to reach out, nobody should be alone in this and everybody is experiencing similar emotions right now so reaching out is not at all a selfish act.

Acknowledging the Pain

Now, nobody can say that they have tried to escape their own feelings by focusing their attention to the pain they are experiencing. Obviously, there are times when wallowing in your own sadness and accepting and understanding the pain is what works best, the important thing is not to judge yourself.

Most of the times, the key to handling our very own crisis is to remember that you have total control over your life. You have to accept that there are times when you have to live with the sadness and anxiety within and, of course, there is no easy fix to the situation. However, there are small things you can do to take care of yourself.  

If you can remember this, you will soon discover that in every moment of your life, there is a right thing you can do in order to gain the strength and momentum you need to move forward.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/curtsteinhorst/2020/03/31/how-to-focus-in-a-time-of-coronavirus-crisis/#34252cf66ac9
https://hbr.org/2020/04/is-it-even-possible-to-focus-on-anything-right-now?ab=hero-main-text
https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-simple-step-that-will-get-you-through-a-crisis

Dealing with Layoffs during the Pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to expand, the damage done to the job market looks ever more likely to be deep and long lasting. Worldwide, managers are not only dealing with the stress and remorse of having to let go a number of their co-workers, but many of them will also be feeling an underlying anxiety about their very own positions. If laying off employees is the only way to keep the business going, how do you handle feelings such as guilt, remorse and sadness? What is the best way to deliver the news when you can’t meet face-to-face? What do you say to the employees that have made the cut? And what can you do to overcome the fear about your own future?

Normally, layoffs have mostly been cut and dry with showing off as little emotion as possible. They were carried out in such a manner that made employees feel like they were just another number due to how they were being treated. Obviously, the difference between a good layoff and bad layoff is all about how they’re handled.

Layoffs that are being done during this uncertain period of time should not be any different than the ones that were normally done, there shouldn’t be any discrepancies. Many organisations make spontaneous decisions to fire their people due to fear and uncertainty. It’s only after they’ve sent their workers packing that they recognise they have made a mistake. This leads them to mass rehires afterwards. To prevent this from happening, companies should first evaluate their cash flow to see whether layoffs are the only way forward.

What the Experts Say

Firing people is difficult in normal times; but given the Covid-19 health crisis, the task is “emotionally and cognitively overwhelming,” says Joshua Margolis, professor at Harvard Business School. He continues by stating: “This experience for most of us is unfathomable. There’s a great deal of uncertainty and people’s minds are whirring. As a manager charged with dismissing a wide swath of employees, you’re pulled in different directions: Your heart goes out to people, but you have a responsibility to the company.” Furthermore, the tension that employers are experiencing right now is at least doubled given that they are worried about their very own fate. Kenneth Freeman, Dean Emeritus at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business has said: “You’re human and you’re going to have a lot of those anxious moments. But the key is to try as best you can to separate your personal worries from the task at hand. In your role as a manager, you need to be there for your people.”

Are layoffs required?

If you’re the one making the decisions about layoffs, Margolis recommends asking yourself one question: is downsizing your workforce truly necessary? The impulse to cut costs is understandable, but this is not a recession that takes place every few years. Significantly, this pandemic will live in the memory of people for years to come and the psychological impacts of it are yet to be comprehended at their full capacity. As a leader, you are required to show resourcefulness, creative forward thinking about how your company can save as many employees as possible. Talking with the management team and discussing every other possible alternative is also an important, logical step to make. Firing people should represent a last resort kind of situation and if you absolutely have to do it, try and avoid multiple rounds of letting people go.  

Research

If you decide layoffs are necessary or others have made that decision for you, then make sure you’re prepared before you reach out to the affected employees. Figure out what and how to say to each and every one of them. Talk to them on a personal level. People are likely going to have a lot of questions regarding the why, the timing, their benefits, and severance package (if applicable). These conversations may need to happen fast, but you’ll have a better chance of easing both yours and employee’s anxiety by providing them answers of what happens next.  Reach out to HR, your legal department, and any other senior leaders who might be able to help you prepare answers to questions such as: When will I receive my last salary? and Am I receiving an unemployment benefit?

Communicate Openly and Often

Be honest. Transparent, open and timely communication help increase employee trust instead of them being blindsided. Companies should organise constant meetings in order to hand out valuable information and address any existing concerns. Due to the pandemic, organisations should use online video conference apps such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Maestro or Tele-Town Hall. While employees have the option to call in or attend without video, leaders are recommended that they keep their cameras turned on. It helps create a more human experience.

Communication during a crisis should never be spontaneous and should always have a plan. In fact, it’s crucial that everyone, from leadership to management, is on the same page and wants the same things. Otherwise, employees will receive paradoxical information that can lead to distrust and rumours. Leadership should take the time to explain how the business is currently being impacted, what changes are there to be made and why. When employees understand the why behind the decision it increases their trust in the company and doesn’t take a toll on their self-confidence or increase their anxiety levels.

The worst possible thing imaginable that an organisation can do is blindside their workers and conduct layoffs through email. If in-person isn’t possible, given the social distancing requirements we all have to follow, employers should opt for video calls instead. Furthermore, they should be proactive in providing their now ex-workers with options for them to move forward such as unemployment benefits, a severance package or other benefits. This helps put employees’ minds at ease regarding survival and the next few steps.

Lead through Empathy

This is a sensitive time for many. While it is understandable to protect the company, the layoff process usually lacks the empathy and compassion needed during a stressful time.

Therefore, employers should lead with empathy when laying off their workers. Employees will remember how they’re treated during this time. If they’re treated poorly, they’re more than likely going to speak poorly to their network and through online reviews about the company and their experience. Consequently, when business picks back up again and the company is hiring, they’ll struggle to win over quality talent due to a damaged reputation.

Be direct and human

The message you present to them must be crystal clear and concise. For example: “I’m sorry, but at end of the month we are going to terminate your job.” By communicating this information directly, it may come off as a tad cold but it actually allows the employee to have a grasp of the whole new situation he or she is in. It is vital that you express your recognition for all of their hard work and dedication. Afterwards, explain to them that they are being laid off due to the exceptional economic climate we are all in and that it has nothing to do with their job performance. It’s important that at the end of the discussion your future ex-employee feels appreciated and loved.  

Focus on your wellbeing

Last but not least important, take care of yourself. If lucky, this is the only time managers will have to face something of this magnitude. However, it is highly unlikely it will be the only time managers deal with a challenge during a period of great uncertainty. Although it may sound like a truism, the best coping mechanism there is when things are uncertain is self-care. Try and eat as healthy as possible, exercise regularly, try meditation or yoga, get a good night’s sleep and read a good book in your spare time, do not change the screen from your laptop to your phone, disconnect. We are all together in this situation, nobody is alone. The problem here is to make people understand that they are not alone whatever their specific circumstances are.

How can Great People Inside help you assess your ‘remote working’ workforce?

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.prnewsonline.com/layoffs-pandemic-tips
https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidilynnekurter/2020/03/31/3-ways-to-layoff-employees-with-dignity-during-a-crisis/#7b762a252f7f
https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-to-lay-off-employees-with-empathy-decency-during-a-pandemic.html