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.
Libramont Regenerative Alliance : Messages from the Woods
The Resilience Institute Europe had the honour to participate in a unique event reuniting more than 100 business leaders, philosophers, scientists and experts in the woods of Bertrix in Belgium.
Surrounded by a beautiful and old forest, we brainstormed and exchanged ideas to rethink our economic and entrepreneurial model and move towards a regenerative economy. We were all truly inspired by speakers among which Nicolas Hulot, Frédéric Lenoir,Bertrand Piccard, Gauthier Chapelle and other experts, and by leaders of large and small companies showing us that change is possible. It led to very rich dialogues and insights. I personally went home with 5 main messages.
1-The need for change is super urgent.
We all know that climate change is an undeniable threat to the planet. Even though we know this, the facts, trends and evolutions as exposed by the experts were truly chocking. We need to hear these messages much more. Yes, Greta, we need to panic!
2-Communication does matter.
While panic and fear are good to wake us up, we need to find inspiring and positive ways to communicate, uniting everyone behind this project. People will only take actions if they are touched in the heart, if they feel inspired and guided by a purpose. We need leaders, in all areas of society, who can guide us and inspire us, even if the path is not clear and no one has “the” solution. Events like Regenerative Alliance, initiatives as Sign for my future, organizations as B-Corp are very hopeful signals. We need more of those initiatives and courageous people who are willing to stand up and take the lead.
3-Nature can inspire solutions
Biomimicry seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. As an example, in the late 90’s Japanese engineers modeled a bullet train after a kingfisher, to solve the loud booming sound when the train was exiting typical train tunnels. Janine Benuys said: “When we look at what is truly sustainable, the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world.” We do have huge room for improvement in that area, reconnecting ourselves much more systematically with Nature as a source of inspiration for seeking new solutions. We need to change our mindset, become humbler and understand that every species, including humans has a reason for fitting in this world. Isn’t it time that we open up, go beyond analytical thinking and trust our intuitive brain much more?
4-Start with Self
“Be the change that you want to see in the world”. The challenge that we face is so big that we cannot solve it using the same old paradigm as the one that brought us to this urgency state. We need to enable all of our dimensions – body, heart, mind and spirit – to be ready. This is at the very core of our work at The Resilience Institute Europe. After these two days, I am even more convinced that resilience is an accelerator for the change that we seek. Science shows us that we can all learn the skills to become resilient; it requires reflection, awareness and daily practice. Personal transformation will facilitate collective transformation. As the Dalai Lama stated in a funny way: “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.
5-Politicians, Scientists, Entrepreneurs, Business leaders: unite!
Building on personal transformation, collective transformation will emerge faster. This requires all actors in society to collaborate and roll up their sleeves together.
The Regenerative Alliance was the best proof that that once you bring people together, it broadens the mind and opens the heart. It is of course easier to do this with people who are already convinced. Convincing the rest of the population is an enormous and complex challenge, with many consequences for all. How to do this without social chaos? Innovative and courageous leaders might well show us a path…
Article by : Katrien Audenaert, Partner The Resilience Institute Europe
Our life is a blaze of consciousness in an eternity of emptiness. Behind us is 13.8 billion years of an expanding universe. Ahead may be 2.8 (or more) billion years. Human life is a fraction of a billionth of time. So short and so precious. So meaningless and yet so real.
The transcendentals since the time of Plato have been Truth (science or logic), Beauty (arts or aesthetics) and Goodness (religion or ethics).
In 2018 we are poised on an unsettling edge. On one hand, there has never been a better time to be alive. We are healthier, living longer, richer, educated, and enjoying life in a way unimaginable to previous generations (seeEnlightenment Now, Stephen Pinker, 2018). On the other, population pressure is consuming and cooking the planet. Social withdrawal, anxiety and depression continue to push one in four into mindless suffering.
In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that keeps accelerating, we feel like we are clinging on. Some have given up, let go and feel disenfranchised (see Yuval Noah HarariTedTalk). Harari says belief in the global economy multiplied by liberal democracy has collapsed. Today, more people die from eating too much than from starvation. More people kill themselves than are killed by wars, crime and terrorism combined. The current prescriptions are not working.
We need a new story.
The Resilience Institute is delighted to release our2018 Global Resilience Report. Our purpose is to help people bounce, grow, connect and flow. We aim to reduce suffering and enhance the physical, emotional and cognitive experience of life.
In this report, we explore measures of resilience in 21,239 people and see what changes after an intervention. We posed six questions based on 3,963 people who completed an assessment before and after resilience training interventions:
1. Can we bounce from distress and reduce suffering?
Depressed symptoms reduce by an average of 30% (29-86%) Distress symptoms reduce by an average of 32% (28-82%) Key improvements in insomnia, self-doubt, self-critical, stress symptoms and hostility
2. Can we learn to be calm, present and alert?
Stress mastery improves by 33.3% (27-70%) lead by relaxation and presence
3. Can we improve our physical wellbeing?
Physical wellbeing scores improve by 46.9% lead by improvements in health awareness, fitness, sleep quality and nutrition
4. Can we develop emotional skills and empathy?
Emotional intelligence scores improve by 25.3% lead by assertiveness, empathy, and emotional insight
5. Can we train our minds and make better decisions?
Cognitive scores improve by 35% lead by optimism, decisiveness, agility, and focus
6. Can we find fulfilment, connection and flow in work?
Noble aspirations such as compassion, purpose, fulfilment and flow increase this category score by 29.6%
We will leave you to take your time exploring the full report and the data. In short, small and practical steps in the right direction secure a massive impact. On average the resilience ratio of participants before and after an intervention improved by 38% on our growth ratio.
We are hugely proud of our clients, their leaders and our teams. We have made a difference to human life. Suffering has been alleviated. People are growing at physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual levels.
Further, when people are resilient they take better care of others and make wiser decisions in life, business and nature.
Using an evidence-based approach (The True), an integral model (The Good) and an aspiring vision for the possibility of being human (The Beautiful), we are making a small steps toward a good life.
A good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Bertrand Russell
Amidst the exuberance of opinion, ask a good question and then see what the data says before drawing conclusions. Blessed with an abundance of data from our Resilience Diagnostic we asked: what is the difference between the top ten percent and the lowest ten percent?
This proved to be a fruitful question.
There is a jaw-dropping difference in what matters to the top decile as compared to the bottom decile. It was not exactly what we expected. Well, if you want to understand what is good for you, the answers are clearly visible in the results.
In brief, we took 21,200 assessments and grouped people by resilience ratio. This is the overall score from 60 resilience factors ranked on the Resilience Diagnostic. Our logic is that the resilience ratio captures the multiple different pathways or styles that lead to flourishing (optimal resilience).
Then we looked for the key asset factors that distinguish those top performers from those struggling. In other words:
What are the key disciplines of excellence?
In the table below you can quickly identify what really matters. The columns show the percentage of scores in the very often and nearly always category for the top, middle and bottom decile (10%) from the resilience ratio.
Pretty clear, isn’t it?
The high scores for top performers underpins that these are practices they simply don’t negotiate. Excellence is based on consistent execution of these key factors.
They cluster; first cognitive – focus, optimism, presence, decisiveness. Second, spirit – purpose, fulfilment, values alignment and third, maintenance – vitality, bounce, sleep and perhaps assertiveness.
Interestingly, fitness and nutrition did not make it.
What excellence avoids
Then we look at the risk (or liability) factors that vary most widely between the three deciles. It is clear what the highest performers take great care to avoid. These disciplines of excellence define what to counter in your life.
The first cluster is energy mastery – counter fatigue, overload, apathy and sloth. The second is equanimity – counter worry, self criticism, chronic symptoms, self doubt and hypervigilance. We believe the ability to down-regulate intensity has become a critical discipline.
Again, top performers simply do not indulge in the topics of complaint. One consideration I am left with. Never forget to be humble. Don’t doubt yourself but do check the consequences of your decisions and actions.
Rather than preach, we invite you to explore the data and consider how you rank your disciplines of excellence.
Our 2018 Global Resilience Report is due shortly. In the meantime, we will put up a few key conclusions that we believe might be of interest. For those interested in the full report, please leave your details with email@example.com.
The All Blacks have famously mastered resilience through a model of Red versus Blue behaviours. In Red we are overloaded, confused and at risk. Think quarter finals against France in 2007. The All Blacks realised that they had to master the Blue state: calm, clear and skilful. The shift was drilled in practice, in matches and in after match reviews. It works – mostly. In many sports, it is a duel to see who can stay in deepest Blue.
Leadership Expertise Framework
RED: overloaded, confused at risk and reactive. We default to destructive behaviour. In RED, we are operating from our reptilian brain with too much drive from the amygdala. Behaviour is reactive, rigid and fails to grasp the opportunity.
YELLOW: under pressure but focused and working hard to establish new behaviours. The amygdala is still active but we are actively focused on the effortful execution of a new behaviour. This is very expensive for the brain, awkward at first, and exhausting.
GREEN: under pressure but calm, relaxed and skilful in displaying expert patterns. The amygdala is quiet. The skill is so well practiced that you are now expert. The brain is quiet and the flow of activity is effortless. In fact, you are inflow– fast, fluid and expert.
The Science of Expertise
A huge opportunity exists for us to explore and pioneer the science of leadership expertise – WhatAnders Ericssoncalls deliberate practice. We have barely begun to exploit what chess masters, musicians, athletes and mathematicians achieve with deliberate practice:
Practice with specific objectives, quick feedback and intense focus
Practice out of your comfort zone and work your motivations
Know that practice will trump talent every time
Work with a skilled coach
Take for example, a customer failure debriefing with the person responsible. Insight and mastery is a journey through three stages.
RED: angry, frustrated, and shouting we bawl the victim out in front of the team
YELLOW: angry but focused we debrief in private and follow process with tense discipline
GREEN: calm, focused and caring for the person, we examine the cause together and seek resolution
As leaders, we make or break leadership impact depending on how well we master the testing situations. When RED, we cause chaos. YELLOW is very difficult. GREEN delivers effectiveness – we have embedded expert skill into the process of leadership.
This is a journey of learning that demands incisive reflection, careful planning, deliberate practice, coaching, and patient mastery of the situation in focus. Deep learning occurs in the science and practice of resilience.
Define the situation
Rather than striving to be the best leader ever with all the skills, focus on the situation that can deliver the greatest gain. This may be a difficult colleague, board meetings, customer negotiation or media briefings.
Accurately describe your current level of performance
Let’s say you know the board doubts your ability on an issue. You are anxious and flustered in board meetings. At times you are RED, leading to stuttering, frustration and poor articulation of your plan. Sometimes you are YELLOW and it is really challenging to stay calm, focused and tuned into the board.
Visualise clearly the specific behaviour and outcome you seek
In the board situation, craft a clear vision for being calm, focused and tuned into the board. Feel what it is like to win their respect, attention and confidence. Hear your words clearly articulated around your plan with humour, flexibility and concern for their needs. GREEN.
Define and focus on the competencies you need to master
In this case, we are dealing with high level competence and complexity. A combination of tactical calm, empathy, presence and influence. Start with the highest impact change. Let’s say that is demonstrating deep calm and personal presence. This is your first practice point. Say that it is fluctuating between YELLOW and RED. The specific goal to practice is staying calm and holding your presence in an intimidating, high consequence situation.
Seek out strengths you can build on
Lean on a situation where calm and presence come naturally. You are at GREEN. Explore how you can take that skill and memory into the board situation.
Get a coach to rehearse, practice and drill the new behaviours
Find a coach or team willing to work with you in rehearsing tactical calm and presence under pressure. Use role play and specific questions to be tested by the “board” while you work on holding calm presence during your response. Be prepared to drill the practice many times. Athletes do this all the time. Leaders far too infrequently. With practice, you will experience more GREEN and less RED.
Get feedback, define improvements and practice again
Engage the situation and find a “friendly” on the board to give you feedback. Take your learning back to the coach. Refine the focus, drill the detail and try again.
Step by step, master leadership expertise by moving from RED, to YELLOW and to GREEN – one situation at a time. Remember thelong-term strategy. Pick your battles, conserve energy and don’t be afraid to confront the hard stuff.