According to aForbes articlepublished at the onset of the COVID pandemic, people leaders across all industries are facing similar challenges for their teams and themselves. Using the Resilience Institute’s combination of Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow, leaders and employees alike can learn the essential skills required to thrive in an uncertain and changing environment.
But first, what do Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow mean when discussing resilience?
The ability toBouncemeans to recognise resilience failure and to regain optimal function. In other words, when you aren’t operating at optimal performance, bounce is detecting what is happening and committing to getting yourself back on track.
WeGrowwhen we look after ourselves mentally and physically via self-care, adopting and maintaining positive habits that permeate throughout our personal and professional lives. Ensuring good sleep and a healthy diet helps to give us a positive outlook, which translates into staying calm under pressure, countering negative thoughts and reducing impulsivity.
When weConnectwe enter a state of union, be it a physical, emotional, cognitive or spiritual connection. With ourselves, others or even with nature, Connection is a powerful skill in the resilience toolkit that allows us to have heightened emotional intelligence (EQ), empathy and self-awareness.
We enter theFlowstate when we have a strong concept of effective, engaging and skilful responses to challenges. In Flow you are “in the zone” and have deep focus, achieving optimal performance and situational agility. Like top athletes who get “into the zone” when competing, the Flow state sees us operating at our peak.
HOW DO I BALANCE BEING AN INSPIRATIONAL AND COMFORTING LEADER WHILE CONTINUING TO PUSH ON PERFORMANCE?
Connect and Flow. It’s essential that your team know and trust that you are empathetic to their individual circumstances, whether you front a team of one or one thousand. Empathy and Emotional Literacy are two facets of connection that all great leaders possess. Combined with Flow, you can practice Situational Awareness and Agility that lead to optimal performance. Some days are harder than others and if your team feels safe knowing that they won’t be punished on difficult days where they aren’t as productive, they will work to make up the productivity on their better days. It’s a balance of give and take, of trust and of Connect and Flow.
HOW CAN I RESPOND TO COUNTLESS QUESTIONS FROM MANAGERS AND FRONTLINE WORKERS WHEN NO CLEAR ANSWERS EXIST?
Bounce. Reduced revenue, reduced working schedules, redundancies. Some industries have been hit harder than others but very few companies have been immune to some sort of reductions. No one can have all the answers but it is possible to instill confidence in others even when you don’t know what’s around the corner. Tactical Calm helps people understand that panic and anxiety are not the only options in uncertain times. Just like how fear can easily spread from one person to the next, so too can calm radiate throughout the team. Even if events do have less than ideal outcomes, Tactical Calm and Bounce show your resilience.
HOW DO I MAINTAIN MY VISIBILITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE ORGANISATION WITH LIMITED INTERACTION OPPORTUNITIES?
Grow and Flow. By adopting a Growth Mindset and building a comprehensive Personal Plan you can be prepared for the interactions and opportunities that arise, regardless of whether they are in person, in a virtual meeting or over email. Just like how if you think of a red car you begin to see red cars everywhere (called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or Frequency Illusion), if you prepare yourself for opportunities, visibility and influence then you start to see those chances arise and confidently step into them.
HOW DO I CONTINUE BUILDING MY PERSONAL BRAND WITHIN THE COMPANY WITHOUT APPEARING SELF-CENTRED?
Flow. By finding your Optimal Performance and understanding Situational Awareness you can continue your personal development while still being empathetic of others. Personal success and emotional intelligence are not at odds with each other but are intricately linked. Equally, by demonstrating an ability to deliver on your objectives during times of turmoil can be an inspiration to others.
HOW CAN I KEEP MY TEAM ENGAGED WHILE WORKING REMOTELY?
Resilience training. Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow are greater than the sum of their parts and a resilient team is one who collectively works together in all areas. With the right training, entire teams can help each other stay engaged and supported no matter what is thrown at them. What’s more, a team that has collectively gone through resiliency training together can use that common ground to remind and support one another with best practices.
Founded in 2002, The Resilience Institute has been training people and corporations Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow by bringing together modern preventative medicine, positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and neuroscience. By delivering high impact, practical, evidence-based and integrated Resilience training, clients have built healthier bodies, achieved greater levels of emotional intelligence and have developed stronger minds, bringing their tremendous performance benefits of resilience to work.
Now with an app available on Android, iOS and the web, users can measure, learn and achieve their resilience goals from anywhere. With micro-learning video and audio sessions, daily goal tracker and an AI-powered chatbot, resilience training has never been more available.
Covid-19 has catapulted us into a strange new world of work. Many of your people are working from home. The initial novelty is wearing off. Business and team leaders wrestle with how to lead and motivate. People leaders wonder how to support people, manage risk and continue learning and development.
A New Reality Presents
Those of us thrust into remote work wrestle with family boundaries, find our daily routines upside down, and discover that sustained self-motivation is tricky indeed. We are confronted with rethinking how home can operate as a workplace. How do we maintain our team connections? How do we engage effectively through virtual meetings? Do we even want to continue to work like this?
Remote work has been creeping up on us with a boom in digital tools. The current crisis has accelerated the transition. As the cost savings to business become clear, remote work is becoming an inevitability. There are significant benefits. Office costs will fall, commuting time and frustration has collapsed, and the call for “work-life balance” has been answered. We are sorting through a messy transition. We are heading into the unknown.
The Risks of Remote Work
We are still coming to terms with the risks. Four present clearly:
Most homes are not designed for remote work. We work in bedrooms, try to focus amidst family activities, and negotiate the temptations of the kitchen and Netflix.
Our daily rhythms and transitions are upended. One can get lost in the dramas of home life and challenged relationships or sit for hours in front of a screen. Maintaining sleep, exercise, relaxation and work rhythms is even more testing. The discrete breaks of daily commutes, meetings, coffee breaks and office activity are no more.
The emotional connection, support and motivation provided by our work community has been replaced by virtual calls. Many feel isolated and lonely. The buzz of the human marketplace cannot be replaced by digital interaction. A sense of meaning will be hard to sustain without the messy physicality of human interaction.
The natural interactions of leadership, teaming and coaching as we move in and out of work tasks, have gone. Many remote workers will end up confused, overloaded or misguided. Leaders face deep questions as to how well they are providing direction, support and autonomy. Some may overperform and fatigue. Others may disengage and lose themselves in distractions – or worse.
Immediate challenges for Leadership
What is the role of the business in helping people create productive workspaces at home?
What should leaders do to make sure people are safe, healthy and well?
What is the responsibility of leaders to support productive and resilient life rhythms?
How do we train people for effective virtual presentation, empathy and influence?
How do we rebuild leadership, teaming and coaching in virtual teams?
What will training look like in a virtual and digital environment?
Opening up a laptop at home is the easy part. The hard part will be finding our way through these six questions. As the acute phase of Covid-19 settles, people leaders will need to make time to address and meet these challenges. It is going to be an interesting and creative advance into novelty.
We share offer some early thoughts and support here:
From the perspective of ecosystems, biodiversity, and resilience, Covid-19 is a gift that no one expected. We have once in a century opportunity for creative leadership.
This camera trap photo at dam in the Timbavati (Greater Kruger), overlays the action. A leopard with two cubs, hyena bloated with an evening feast, porcupine, dwarf mongoose, baboons and spurfowl.
World-wide, the consuming monster of humanity has retreated. As 4.5 billion humans are restrained, nature is flourishing and demonstrating incredible resilience. Many have advocated, suffered, and prayed for this reality.
In our gardens, birdlife is noisy. Swans, dolphins, fish and birds are returning to our waterways. Sea-life is on the brink of a massiverecovery. The skies are clear, pollution has dropped to levels that are saving millions of lives – countless billions if we consider our fellow species.
While human leadership presses for consumption and economic growth, we have been granted a precious opportunity to pause, reflect and respond with wisdom.
The biological resilience on full display around us, is good for us too. Our suburbs are quiet and clean. Traffic jams, manic flying and endless meetings have dropped away. We have precious time with loved ones. We can read, reflect and initiate a more contemplative path.
Yes, many are frustrated, lonely and afraid. What a good time to learn about and practice the innumerable resilience skills that we have not found time for – walk, breathe, stretch, sleep, read and debate. Rather than wailing and gnashing about mental health, perhaps we can appreciate, relax and allow recovery to take place. The very insanity you long for, is the cause of most suffering.
Environmentalists, biologists and physicians have begged the world for exactly what this media-hyped pandemic has delivered. Where have their voices gone? We should be celebrating, sharing and redoubling our resolve to lean into more sustainable solutions.
The Covid-19 pandemic is challenging us, but in comparison to the annual cost of preventable deaths, it does not rank in the top 20 for this year.
We will save and enrich many more lives, by grasping this opportunity to bring restraint, wisdom and deliberate stewardship to our planet.
Re-imagine your life
Relax, look around, be curious, and apply creative optimism
Take this opportunity to become a better version of yourself
Treasure your loved ones and make time to deepen connections
Celebrate and support the resilience of nature
Re-imagine your lifestyle
Get rid of a gas-guzzling car or switch to an electric vehicle
Maybe you might consider solar power
Do you really need all that junk-food, drunkenness and revelry?
Commit to and lock-down your new daily practices
Re-imagine your career or work
Could you work from home more often?
What about testing the calling you feel?
How could you collaborate more widely through digital?
What might you do more actively in your local community?
Is this an opportunity for a family business?
As always, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times call for leadership. We know that pandemics, economies, politics and society are complex systems that will interact in unpredictable and chaotic ways. Leadership is already severely tested. Few political systems have the balance of authority, responsibility and freedom to ride this black swan.
Thus, we find ourselves in dogmatic short-term manoeuvring and grand-standing. For the real leaders, this is the opportunity of the century.
Congratulations to Macron for suggesting that we call a global ceasefire. The world could unite against the greed-fuelled violence that always punishes the poor. If the major powers agree to stop supplying, funding and stoking conflict, developing economies may recover.
Leaders and political systems get rich on weapons manufacture. Let’s call it. Enough!
If ever, leaders were to nudge our transition to clean power it is now. Oil demand has collapsed. High tech, clean energy is ripe to mature and replace fossil fuels. We could tax fossil fuels and incentivise clean power.
Leaders and political systems thrive on oil. Enough!
We are on the threshold of smart work and intelligent lifestyles. Virtual platforms and real-time global transactions could massively reduce travel. We know and can track the key lifestyle factors that help us thrive. Cars, late nights, flights, substance abuse and sloth could be constrained. Home-based offices and community centric work and recreation will expand. Smarter life at lower cost is already in play.
Leaders and political systems do thrive on excess and impulse. Enough!
We must protect the planet from ourselves. Some regions respect and treasure nature. Most exploit whatever they can. This Covid-19 pause is the perfect opportunity to stop waging war on nature. Might we co-operate to protect critical ecosystems and crush the scourge of forest burning, water pollution, wild-life trade and over-fishing. Ecotourism is the perfect opportunity for biodiversity, climate hedging and economic activity.
Rise up young leaders. Enough of pale and male dinosaurs. Where are the young people? Where are the female leaders? Where is your voice Greta? Jacinda? Erna? Katrin? Sanna? Reader?
If you fail to take this opportunity to re-imagine our world and our lives, you are abdicating to a century of regret.
Step up and lead. Many of us are ready to help you.
Over the past decade, flexible working arrangements have become standard practice around the world. Indeed, some distributed teams and freelancers of the gig economy may never actually meet their colleagues in person. For many organisations, it makes sense to allow office staff to telecommute. The arrangement saves money, reduces transit time and carbon footprint, increasesmillennial engagementand supports diversity. Gallup revealed that54% of office workerssay they’d leave their job for one that offers flexible work time.
Working from home – but not by choice
Flexible working may once have been considered a perk but the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what some have labelled theworld’s biggest work from home experiment, forcing thousands of employees to work remotely if their job allows for it. Immediately after the outbreak, an estimated 60 million Chinese workers were placed under full or partial lockdown. As COVID-19 spread, organisations across South East Asia, then Italy and the USA implemented emergency remote working arrangements. Some employees are allowed into the office on roster, while others are being asked to work from home until further notice. Companies including Twitter, Google, Amazon and Apple haverestricted employee traveland requested people stay at home where possible.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, is a proponent of remote working and optimistic about the shift.
This may be simple for a tech company with a young workforce, equipped with modern laptops and robust cloud infrastructure. But many organisations have been caught off guard. They have no business continuity plan for a suddenly distributed workforce. Most production lines can’t function without human labour and, as a result, China’s manufacturing production has fallen torecord lows. Global supply chains have been seriously impacted and, with demand waning, the global economy is slowing, possiblytowards a recession.
For security reasons, many jobs can’t be easily shifted to a remote arrangement. Miltary and banking are two obvious areas. Nevertheless, COVID-19 is going to trigger experiments that will test human, technological and organisational resilience and ingenuity.
Remote working to maintain productivity
Countries like Singapore are less vulnerable than many others. Flexible working arrangementsare commonplaceand have made it possible for top talent to deliberately balance their careers with lifestyle. Companies like Dell are also prepared, having initiatedworkplace transformationprograms back in 2009.
Organisations of the future will be looking at these examples of flexible working success and reimagining business continuity. What happens in a future where COVID-19 is but one of many threats, ranging from virus to terror, climate to political unrest? Could your organisation continue operations if the office was shut down? Is your technology infrastructure capable of handling the shift? Can your managers lead remotely? Perhaps, most importantly, are employees equipped to deal with the challenges of being physically isolated, potentially for long periods of time?
Remote working is not a new idea
Opportunities for remote working haveincreased dramaticallysince the advent of the internet. Those with specific skills can live productive – even nomadic – lives equipped with just a laptop and wi-fi.
Working from the bedroom (or beach) is a dream for many but the reality may present a shock. Some people thrive in their own space, operating without the distractions inherent in the modern, open-plan office. AChinese remote working studyshowed that employees were 13% more productive at home, mainly due to the quieter environment. As you may expect, they also requested less sick days. Think about our ancestors: we evolved hunting and gathering in small, close-knit groups. In the evenings the tribe would gather and tell stories around the fire, then rest and repeat at sunrise. Public transport, open-plan offices and densely populated cities are not our natural environment. A home in the suburbs might not be such a bad place to work after all.
In reality, however, most home environments are not optimised for serious productivity. There may be family members present during the day or no suitable area available for work. The dining room table is fine for the occasional email but video conferencing won’t work if there are toddlers crying in the background. The boundaries between work and home can easily blur and many employees will find themselves working late, suffering disrupted sleep routines, experiencing resentment from partners and kids, and feeling lonely.
Companies need to lead the way
Governments are understandably focused on the medical implications of a pandemic like COVID-19. Organisations will need to lead the way in terms of securing productivity and supporting the livelihood of those in their care during turbulent times.
McKinsey’s report,COVID-19: Implications for business, states, “Protect your employees. The COVID-19 crisis has been emotionally challenging for many people, changing day-to-day life in unprecedented ways. For companies, business as usual is not an option. They can start by drawing up and executing a plan to support employees that is consistent with the most conservative guidelines that might apply and has trigger points for policy changes. Some companies are actively benchmarking their efforts against others to determine the right policies and levels of support for their people. Leaders must communicate with employees with the right level of specificity and frequency.”
At the Resilience Institute, we work with organisations around the globe to provide assessment and training – oftendelivered digitally– that equips individuals with action plans to improve their resilience and leaders with insights on how best to look after their people in times of crisis. Reporting on 60 factors of resilience we believe the future lies in providing targeted, relevant support, at the right time, wherever employees might be.
As such, we have prepared the following guide to help organisations equip their teams and leaders for success.
10 Tips for Remote Working Success
1. Set up a dedicated workspace
Employers are probably aware that most employees work from home even if they have not signed a flexible working arrangement. Areport by Fortunereveals that 68% of people check work email before 8 am, 50% check it while in bed, 57% check on family outings, and 38% regularly check at the dinner table.
If we expect employees to be productive in the home environment it is necessary for them to create boundaries, both physical and time. Most organisations will be unable to ship standing desks to every staff member’s home but some simple tips will improve safety and wellbeing.
Considering that staff will primarily be using laptops it is important that they learnoptimal postureand take regular breaks. If budgets allow, companies may choose to ship a laptop stand plus external keyboard and mouse to each employee who is working from home.
To assist with focus in a potentially noisy environment, employees might choose to wear noise-cancelling headphones. For those in sales roles where client interaction will be required it is worthwhile investing in quality USB headsets that transmit and receive clear sound.
Encourage employees to blur their background if necessary during video calls (Skype has a setting for this) and to use an appropriate lighting source if client communication is necessary. A small, clip-onLED ring lightcan provide excellent illumination for a few dollars.
2. Encourage communication
Many employees enjoy the social aspect of work. Being suddenly isolated can result in feelings of loneliness. Motivation may decrease.
Use group conversations to stimulate formal and informal communication. Consider a “virtual watercooler” where employees can discuss a range of topics. Create a thread called “Working from Home” so people can share anecdotes, tips and success stories.
Encourage video calls whenever possible. Being able to view faces will reduce ambiguity and build a sense of connection. Equip employees with some guidelines around video call best practice, especially those who may be new to the technology.
For calls with large groups, nominate a conversation facilitator who ensures each person has an opportunity to contribute. Some people may interrupt or speak out of turn so create some protocols for group call etiquette.
Keep virtual meetings short. People will often multitask (that’s why having cameras on is useful) and they’ll almost certainly zone out of anything beyond an hour. Allow rest breaks for meetings longer than an hour.
Don’t see COVID-19 as an excuse to roll out more systems and software. Starting a Slack board may seem cool but how distracted are your employees already? Can you make use of existing tools, like Yammer, Skype, Hangouts or Sharepoint?
Encourage employees to have virtual coffee breaks where they can openly discuss non-work topics. Using technology effectively can help maintain and even build company culture. It will be integral to human success in a physically disconnected future.
3. Be empathetic
Employees will be working from the sanctuary of their home space and this brings with it all kinds of challenges, from theWhite Tennis Shoe Syndrome(finding any distraction more appealing than the current task) to the lure of the fridge, to kids who also happen to be locked down at home.
While running remote working experiments you’ll connect with employees who’ve just woken up after a rough night. You’ll hear screaming in the background. Some people will be hyperproductive (take note) and some will be wallowing in procrastination and doubt. Managers are not immune to this – they may feel the pressure more than most.
Everyone responds differently to challenge so ask people how they’re doing and show them that you care. Emphasise the importance of the organisational mission and how much their contribution counts towards the greater goals.
Be really clear about performance objectives but allow space for adaptation to the new arrangement.
4. Create a culture of recognition
High-recognition companies have31% lower voluntary turnoverthan companies with poor recognition cultures. Use remote working as a way to encourage recognition, both peer-to-peer and from leaders.
A simple first step is saying thank you. The next step is public recognition. When teams are distributed geographically they miss the small wins – things that went well but don’t deserve a group email. Take the opportunity to recognise small wins by broadcasting daily or weekly group updates that are dedicated to good news, gratitude and success stories.
5. Hold virtual training sessions
When group workshops and conferences are impossible due to the risk of infection, employee training does not need to stop. Most training companies can offer webinar versions of their content, enabling employees to dial in remotely.
Tools likeZoomenable video meetings and webinars, with advanced functionality like chat and breakout rooms for one-on-one discussions. Zoom’s share price increased by 67% in 2020 withseveral large conferencesswitching to digital-only format.
Virtual summits and training sessions make sense, both environmentally and in terms of limiting the spread of viruses. They may not be quite as fun as a face-to-face event but they can certainly still be effective.
The Resilience Institute offers introductorywebinarsand deep-dives into specific areas including bounce, sleep, focus, emotional intelligence and high performance.
6. Encourage transparency
In times of crisis, transparency builds trust. From a team productivity perspective, shared task lists can help groups collaborate more efficiently. Tools like Trello (free), JIRA (paid) andMicrosoft Planner(included with Office 365) enable the quick creation of boards (projects), tasks and delegation.
Highly visual, shared boards become the central repository of work in progress and are much easier to manage than email. Leaders can quickly identify which employees need additional support, based on the number of tasks assigned and forthcoming deadlines.
Consider letting teams explore agile ways of working. You may discover an emergent workflow that forms the basis for future business continuity planning.
From the perspective of company communications, it is important that leaders maintain contact and share important updates as swiftly as possible. Crisis situations are an opportunity to strengthen relationships and practice real-time resilience. Transparent and authentic communication creates a foundation of workplace trust.
7. Offer virtual wellbeing training
Employees will take time to adapt to a completely new way of working. Some will take advantage of the extra time and go for walks or attend group fitness classes. Others may lack the motivation to get out of their pyjamas.
Working from home is an opportunity to save money and improve diet by preparing meals at home. Encourage employees to move throughout the day and provide them with resources to encourage mindfulness and calm. Promote healthy sleep habits and discourage working late.
Keep training sessions short and focused. Encourage the use of self-assessment tools to build personal insight.
The remote working experiment is an opportunity to develop high-performance habits, both individually and as a team. How about reserving the first 90 minutes in everyone’s diary for Flow State – the most important task/s for the day. After this, we share a collective break (meet at the virtual watercooler / Slack), then batch process emails and make video calls.
Some might schedule a second “flow zone” for the afternoon, followed by a break and time for recovery.
Bear in mind that some people will have kids arriving home in the afternoon, so they will compensate by working late. Be empathetic and discourage extremely late nights and weekends online. Leaders will need to model these behaviours because remote-working culture starts from the top.
The dangers of long hours arewell documentedanda studyshowed that upper-level managers who used their phones after 9 p.m. experienced decreases in quantity and quality of sleep.