Field Report: how false memory & confirmation bias can hurt employee wellbeing.

Summary
VP of IT uses myMeeting.info to correct a false impression and an episode of confirmation bias re: the risk of isolation for a team member.

Context:
In psychology a memory bias is a cognitive bias that either enhances or impairs the recall of a memory or that alters the content of a reported memory.

How MyMeeting info was used:
During a first review of data visualisations (in which we also calibrate our algorithm to match company norms re: meetings frequency) we flagged that the VP of IT had one team member (John*) at risk of isolation (defined as not having met with any peers or supervisors for 7 days straight).

The VP challenged the data and said he distinctly remembers John being on the virtual company happy hour 3 weeks ago.

The calendar of the event supported this notion, because it showed John had accepted the happy hour invite.

However after checking the meeting dashboard for the past 3 weeks (inc. a deep dive in meeting attendance data for that event) the VP could see that John had not joined.

How this awareness drove behaviour change:
It seems this might have been a case of an initial false memory (I remember seeing John) further being supported by a confirmation bias (See, John accepted the invite) that John wasn’t at risk being isolated from contact.

Firstly, the VP immediately pinged John’s team manager, to set up a 1:1 that day and see why John has been out of touch for 3 weeks.

Secondly, HR requested we give them with a company-wide alert that notifies HR if a person misses 2 scheduled and accepted meetings in a row.

HR can now alert all team managers to investigate this issue within 24hrs.

Conclusion:
Meetings are scheduled, accepted, cancelled and rescheduled all the time. This can lead us to lose track if we actually met with a specific person or not (in particular if these are large group meetings).

Just because we recall something with a lot of confidence, detail and emotion, doesn’t mean it actually happened that way. Especially when dealing with the well-being of our team members.

Being able to align calendars, logged meeting data and personal assumptions increases our effectiveness as team leaders, because we have a more complete picture of what is and how to act on that reality.

*The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved

The reason Video calls drain your energy

Video chat is helping us stay employed and connected. But what makes it so tiring – and how can we reduce ‘Video fatigue’?

Your screen freezes. There’s a weird echo. A dozen heads stare at you. There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings and then, once you’re done for the day, the hangouts with friends and family.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting.

But what, exactly, is tiring us out? BBC Worklife spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, to hear their views.

Is video chat harder? What’s different compared to face-to-face communication?

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.

Delays on phone or conferencing systems of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused

Silence is another challenge, he adds. “Silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation. However, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about the technology.” It also makes people uncomfortable. One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.

An added factor, says Shuffler, is that if we are physically on camera, we are very aware of being watched. “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.” It’s also very hard for people not to look at their own face if they can see it on screen, or not to be conscious of how they behave in front of the camera.

How are the current circumstances contributing?

Yet if video chats come with extra stressors, our Zoom fatigue can’t be attributed solely to that. Our current circumstances – whether lockdown, quarantine, working from home or otherwise – are also feeding in.

Petriglieri believes that fact we feel forced into these calls may be a contributory factor. “The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, such as your colleagues, that reminds you we should really be in the workplace together,” he says. “What I’m finding is, we’re all exhausted; It doesn’t matter whether they are introverts or extroverts. We are experiencing the same disruption of the familiar context during the pandemic.”

Then there’s the fact that aspects of our lives that used to be separate – work, friends, family – are all now happening in the same space. The self-complexity theory posits that individuals have multiple aspects – context-dependent social roles, relationships, activities and goals – and we find the variety healthy, says Petriglieri. When these aspects are reduced, we become more vulnerable to negative feelings.

Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now – Gianpiero Petriglieri

“Most of our social roles happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed,” says Petriglieri. “Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now… We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.”

Shuffler says a lack of downtime after we’ve fulfilled work and family commitments may be another factor in our tiredness, while some of us may be putting higher expectations on ourselves due to worries over the economy, furloughs and job losses. “There’s also that heightened sense of ‘I need to be performing at my top level in a situation’… Some of us are kind of over-performing to secure our jobs.”

But when I’m Zooming my friends, for example, shouldn’t that relax me?

Lots of us are doing big group chats for the first time, whether it’s cooking and eating a virtual Easter dinner, attending a university catch-up or holding a birthday party for a friend. If the call is meant to be fun, why might it feel tiring?

Part of it, says Shuffler, is whether you’re joining in because you want to or because you feel you ought to – like a virtual happy hour with colleagues from work. If you see it as an obligation, that means more time that you’re ‘on’ as opposed to getting a break. A proper chat with friends will feel more social and there will be less ‘Zoom fatigue’ from conversations where you’ve had a chance to be yourself.

It doesn’t matter whether you call it a virtual happy hour, it’s a meeting, because mostly we are used to using these tools for work – Gianpiero Petriglieri

Big group calls can feel particularly performative, Petriglieri warns. People like watching television because you can allow your mind to wander – but a large video call “is like you’re watching television and television is watching you”. Large group chats can also feel depersonalising, he adds, because your power as an individual is diminished. And despite the branding, it may not feel like leisure time. “It doesn’t matter whether you call it a virtual happy hour, it’s a meeting, because mostly we are used to using these tools for work.”

So how can we alleviate Zoom fatigue? 

Both experts suggest limiting video calls to those that are necessary. Turning on the camera should be optional and in general there should be more understanding that cameras do not always have to be on throughout each meeting. Having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could also help your concentration, particularly in group meetings, says Petriglieri. It makes you feel like you’re in an adjoining room, so may be less tiring.

In some cases it’s worth considering if video chats are really the most efficient option. When it comes to work, Shuffler suggests shared files with clear notes can be a better option that avoids information overload. She also suggests taking time during meetings to catch up before diving into business. “Spend some time to actually check into people’s wellbeing,” she urges. “It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern.”

Building transition periods in between video meetings can also help refresh us – try stretching, having a drink or doing a bit of exercise, our experts say. Boundaries and transitions are important; we need to create buffers which allow us to put one identity aside and then go to another as we move between work and private personas.

And maybe, says Petriglieri, if you want to reach out, go old-school. “Write a letter to someone instead of meeting them on Zoom. Tell them you really care about them.”

This post was originally posted on BBC.

Being late for meetings reveals more than we think

One of the metrics that Meeting.info tracks is attendance quality. How many people are late for meetings and how many leave early.

In this blog post we want to dive deeper into this metric, because there’s more to unpack around unpunctuality, from the point of employee wellbeing, besides our annoyance with it.

Several studies around lateness have been done over the years. And they reveal a more complex picture that managers might not be aware off.

Digging into the psychology of lateness reveals interesting possibilities about why people are late. It can indicate poor self-control, procrastination or the failure to set realistic goals. It can also be a sign of lack of focus or deeper-seated problems such as stress and anxiety.

Diana DeLonzer, the author of Never Be Late, conducted a study at San Francisco State University involving chronic lateness and found that of the two-hundred and twenty-five people in the study, 17% were chronically late.

The 17% chronically late, had trouble with self-control (were more prone to habits like overeating, drinking too much, gambling and impulse shopping), showed an affinity for thrill-seeking and displayed ADD-like symptoms like restlessness, trouble focusing and attention issues.

Secondly Pauline Wallin a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, has found that people who are chronically late often wrestle with anxiety, distraction, ambivalence, or other internal psychological states.

Habitual lateness may be part of that very hard to deal with phenomenon of passive aggression where someone is resistant, often in a way that is hard to put your finger on, that undermines progress and makes people feel uncomfortable because the aggression is there but unspoken.

While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as a manager who cares about team wellbeing (especially during forced work from home situations), keeping track of attendance is less about being a headmaster, and more about spotting potential deeper issues based on a behavioural signal.

Employees clock in more downtime when working from home

Since stay-at-home and shutdown orders were enforced amid the coronavirus fallout, hundreds of businesses in the U.S. have turned to working from home to reduce exposure. But as the remote workforce expands, employers and employees have been faced with a new set of challenges — one of them being more downtime.

Remote employees average two hours of downtime per day, which is 20 minutes more per day than on-site employees, according to a new Paychex study, where 1,000 remote and on-site employees were surveyed about their daily downtime at work.

The transition to remote work has been beneficial to some workers, who have reported increased productivity due to fewer in-office distractions. When asked about the biggest reasons they decided to work remotely, 79% of remote workers responded with increased productivity and better focus, according to a study by Owl Labs, a video conferencing technology company.A breakthrough in mental health benefitsTelehealth substance abuse disorder treatment is a benefit your employees will value.SPONSOR CONTENT FROM

But other employees may be negatively affected due to supervisors being unable to physically monitor downtime, says Joey Morris, a project manager at Paychex.

“The two most popular reasons for downtime were that employees completed work too quickly and that the availability of work was inconsistent,” Morris says. “Interestingly, nearly one in three employees said they chose to make downtime during their workday, making this the third most popular reason.”

The study found three hours of down time a day was considered too much, leading to boredom and other negative effects. Workers are more likely to leave a job due to excessive downtime than to be terminated for it, Morris says.

“This kind of excessive downtime was related to lower rates of job satisfaction, salary satisfaction, and employee retention,” he says. “More than one in 10 employees said too much downtime was responsible for leaving or being let go from a position.”

However, downtime can have some benefits, too. Thirty one percent of employees said they chose to make downtime during the day, and 23% said their work wasn’t urgent. Thirteen percent said they could ask for more work, but chose not to.

Taking breaks at work is important to make employees feel more engaged and productive, according to a survey from Tork, as North American workers who take a lunch break every day scored higher on a wide range of engagement metrics, including job satisfaction, efficiency, and likelihood to recommend their company to others.

The top ways in which employees spend their downtime at work are browsing the internet, socializing with co-workers, texting or messaging, eating food and browsing social media, according to the Paychex study.

While employers may want to reduce downtime and increase employee efficiency, results from the study indicate it is important to maintain a balance, Morris says. Having too little downtime was nearly as bad for employee satisfaction as having too much.

“Efficient management of employee time is not only important to a business’ bottom line, but it is also important to employee satisfaction,” he says. ”Employees want to feel engaged when they come to work and there is an understanding that stagnation in any position can negatively influence one’s career trajectory.”

This article first appeared on benefitnews

What you can learn by tracking 1-1 meetings

One of the metrics that MeetingInfo tracks for individual managers is the total amount of time spent in 1-1 meetings as well as all the people you’ve had and haven’t had 1-1 meetings with during a chosen time period.

In this article we want to refresh our collective consciousness regarding the Value and Ideal Frequency of 1-1 meetings.

Value for employees

As an employee, 1:1 meetings give you the safety of always knowing where you stand based on constant feedback from your manager. It also provide a safe space to share with your manager any concerns and doubts you have.

Especially in a time when people are forced to adjust to a new work circumstances.

Value for managers

As a manager, 1:1s help you guide your team members’ development, resolve issues early on, and improve employee retention.

Gallup has found that when managers provide weekly (vs. annual) feedback, their teams are more engaged and motivated to do outstanding work.

Frequency of 1:1 meetings

Google’s Project Oxygen research shows that managers who have frequent 1:1 meetings with their reports tend to score higher in performance than managers who don’t have these check-ins. So the more often 1:1s happen in an organization, the better the performance of the average manager.

A weekly one-on-one is a best practice at any time because it injects a frequent dose of care into your working relationships. In times of stress, we all need more frequent care, and a weekly 1:1 is a great start.

So having a quick snapshot of knowing how often you’ve had 1-1 meetings

  • let’s you calibrate your schedule (if you feel it is too much or little)
  • stay clear about people you have not met enough with
  • Also stay alert for signs of low engagement or isolation if people frequently cancel 1-1 meetings with you and generally are missing meetings.

Leading Remotely: What Managers Need to Keep Teams Engaged

Managing remotely can be complicated. Add a dash of national emergency, and it becomes even more challenging to engage employees. As organizations across the world transition to a partial or fully work-from-home environment in response to COVID-19, understanding what managers need to lead remotely is a must.PULSE SURVEYUse the COVID-19 Pulse Survey TodayConnect with a Gallup representative to gain access for using Gallup surveys today.

Of course, not all managers view remote work the same way, especially when it’s driven by circumstance rather than choice. Some managers will embrace a little separation from their teams — they may even see it as an opportunity to get some uninterrupted work in. Others get energy and focus from their people and will feel isolated and less in a position to help their teams and their organization when they aren’t in the office every day. So while some managers are busy decorating their home office and celebrating not having to commute, others will resent forced isolation and feeling disconnected from their people.

And because 70% of an individual’s engagement is driven by their manager, it’s crucial that leaders individualize to best support them.

Where Remote Managers May Struggle

There are three things that managers have to do perfectly to create the right level of engagement for their people. All managers are likely to struggle in some of these categories at one time or another, even without the added strain of managing through substantial distractions.

  1. Individualization. When people are in the office, it’s easier to have one set of rules for everyone. But when many employees are working from home without a dedicated office, when children are not in school or daycare, and when neighborhood broadband connections are stressed to capacity — individualization is king.

Managers have to figure out where structure is required (e.g., no crying children during client calls) and where it is flexible — like shortening meetings by five or 10 minutes to allow people to transition between calls and reset an activity for a child at home.

There may be a need to accommodate flexibility to hours worked (e.g., shortened schedules), available hours (e.g., schedule all meetings in the afternoon when a child is napping), or the meaning of “close of business” (COB) to mean midnight or even 8:00 a.m. the following day.

Managers need everyone to be able to give their best and they need to create a space so their employees can do so.

  1. Communication. While many managers are effective communicators, taking that show on the road — or more specifically, home — means that the only method of communication is what your managers are providing. If an email tone is too harsh, there is no facial expression to soften the sting. If your question during a phone conference feels abrupt, there might not be video that shows you literally leaning into the conversation in interest instead of a perceived attack. For this reason, videoconferencing may be ideal and should be encouraged.

Much of our language is nonverbal. When managers are forced to limit the nonverbal cues available to their direct reports, they increase the chance for miscommunication, defensiveness and conflict. Managers need to communicate with their teams in multiple ways and through multiple mediums to keep expectations clear, to reinforce priorities, and to help understand and address barriers to maximizing their team’s work while they are away from the office.

Managers need everyone to be able to give their best and positively impact the organization, and they need to create a space so their employees can do so.

Managers should ask how employees prefer to be contacted. Are text messages OK for urgent issues, or is that an invasion of privacy or stressful? Do they have everything they need to videoconference comfortably? Managers should also proactively schedule weekly check-ins with their teams, replacing the informal office conversations that relationships are made of.

  1. Accountability. When everyone is physically present, it tends to be easier to evaluate the level of effort people are putting in and the output your team is generating. The reason most remote employees can work remotely is that they’re doing the type of work that may be harder to count or measure productivity against. That is no reason to neglect accountability.

Managers must create or improve upon their systems for holding their teams accountable when everyone is working remotely. This is based in communication but includes tools for measuring timelines and deliverables, check-ins, and evaluation of submitted work.

It’s important that everyone understands the quality of work expected from them while working remotely — and that your managers are prepared to assess and hold team members accountable for their continued performance.

For example, managers can use online task or project management tools so that everyone has visibility on what’s important now. Managers can also proactively set check-in meetings for certain projects to encourage progress on specific pieces of work. It also doesn’t hurt to ask helpful coaching questions such as, “What challenges might you face in getting this done?” Get the invisible gorilla or elephant into the conversation.

Where Remote Managers Thrive

In times of crisis, it’s worth remembering the benefits of remote work. Managing remotely allows individuals to get creative, leverage their strengths, and engage with their teams in different and meaningful ways.

Your managers are in the best position to minimize any negative effects of working from home. They are also best positioned to create new methods and processes for getting things done. Here is how you can set your managers up for success:

  1. Trust them. Give them latitude to embrace acceptable risk in trying new things. Managers are going to have to get creative on everything, from creating an engaged work team to meeting clients’ needs in a very uncertain time. Managing remotely will include taking some risks. Whether it is taking a videoconference outside, creating new documentation procedures or sending care packages, let your managers innovate on the best ways to connect their teams and get work done.
  1. Be open to discovery. Be open to finding out things about your business that might surprise you. You may have a team or role that you didn’t think could be effective remotely — or inversely, a team that you were confident in that ends up struggling. Be open to learning lessons from this experience and even having some of your thinking about your work, your organization and your customers turned upside down as a massive field experiment in remote work is currently underway.

Managing remotely allows individuals to get creative, leverage their strengths, and engage with their teams in different and meaningful ways.

Ask your managers what they are finding and learning, and think about how that evidence supports or rejects your perceptions of remote work for your organization.

  1. Evolve your culture. As humans, we tend to empathize best with situations we have personally experienced. There is a huge opportunity for us to experience remote work firsthand that we would otherwise not encounter. This can make our overall work culture more inclusive and more friendly to a variety of workers, including those who will work from home long after COVID-19 subsides. This allows us to think more strategically about when, why and how remote work should be approached in the long run.

What Remote Managers Need

Once your managers are equipped with the tools they need to manage their teams and keep your organization moving forward, what they need next is your support to do all the right things — perfect communication, accountability and individualization — which you can provide in three specific ways:

  1. Listen. Ask your managers what they need, and listen to their answers. Each manager will have their own perspective on the situation — good, bad or otherwise. And depending on their approach, they may need different things from you. It’s best not to assume how the situation is affecting them; let them share their experience and needs so you can tailor your approach to supporting them.
  1. Communicate frequently. Strong leadership inspires everyone. Ask your managers to find out what people need to hear from their local managers and what they want to hear from the top. Position your support around areas like accountability and quality, and encourage efforts to keep everyone engaged and connected while remote.
  1. Expand technology support. Even your most tech-savvy manager will be dealing with a variety of technical difficulties if they are not used to working remotely. Ensure your technology team is ready to assist managers and their teams. Open all available resources to keep work occurring from anywhere and everywhere.

Although many managers are leading their teams from a distance for the first time, they can succeed if they keep the fundamentals of excellent management in mind — and if they have the support from you, their leader. A positive mindset, a listening ear and greater flexibility can make all the difference in a time of crisis.

This Article First appeared on Gallup

Meeting Info App: what is it? what does it do? where might it go?

In the past weeks we’ve been listening to out network about the impact of woking remotely.

An issue that kept coming up was that team managers and HR felt they had reduced visibility on how this Work from Home switch impacted employees.

While many used survey tools to get some kind of a pulse, from conversations another theme started to emerge:

The default action to combat reduced visibility, was to increase meeting frequency, which, they all agreed, was well intentioned but not healthy in the long run.

So that lead us to explore a question that piqued our interest: If online meetings are increasing, how can meeting (log) data help increase visibility re: team and individual wellbeing?

So we triaged three key issues to increase visibility for:

  • Are our remote teams collaborating enough (or too much)?
  • What is the level of connectedness within and between teams?
  • Who is showing possible signs of isolation or lower wellbeing in general?

And that is what the MVP of MyMeeting.info will do for both individual team manager and HR/C-Suite leaders.

To get started two steps are required:

  1. Sign up to receive your personalised dashboard.
  2. Ask your IT Admin (managing licences of video platforms used internally) to approve Meeting Info App.

Once that is done, you’ll get historic and new insights on how your team(s) deal with the current work-situation. Based on non-verbal meeting log data.

Want to see what the situation is like for your team? Sign up for a free trial.

Now, I’d like to share how we view the role of data.

Us humans hate uncertainty and helplessness, so it comes as no surprise that many analytics tools focus on two key features:

  • Having/creating huge data sets, to transfer onto users a sense of certainty, by (over)sharing fact after fact after fact.
  • Providing “actionable nudges or prompts” to help you do something with those massive data sets.

We see the value of data in clarification, not instruction.

However tempting it seems to look at data for answers, its superpower lies in being an aid, mirror or reality check to our thought process.

Most of us know what we need to do. Why we don’t do it, often has little to do with knowledge and more with not being able to see the issue for what it is.

And that is how Meeting Info helps.

Reflecting back what is actually happening.

Based on internal meeting behaviour.

Then we trust that you can figure out if and how to best approach the situation. Because you get the team dynamic & relationships. You know your organisation’s culture and guidelines. You don’t need outside handholding.

That is what the current version will do. Help clarify three issues:

  • Are our remote teams collaborating enough (or too much)?
  • What is the level of connectedness within and between teams?
  • Who is showing possible signs of isolation or lower wellbeing in general?

Do these issues concern you as well? See what your data reflects, by signing up for a free trial.

Look ahead: more internal meetings + adding external meetings.

Now, Meeting Info is focused on the clear and present urgency for more insight on how people are adjusting to working with their teammates remotely.

The next versions will deepen this issue and also explore new issues as companies move offline again and more business processes get re-activated.

For a sense of direction, Mary Meeker recently released a new trends report surrounding Covid-19. In it she highlights concerns that organisations have regarding large scale remote working and beyond:

  • Ensure creativity is captured and productivity is maintained (figuring out ways to better capture maker schedule vs manager schedule)
  • Determine which teams are optimized by working together in-person all the time / some of the time / rarely
  • Maintain engagement and culture(s), recruit / train / develop / retain people, and manage human resources
  • Think about recruiting if physical proximity to headquarters / office is less relevant

These are some of the themes that we aim to address in next, based on your priorities as organisations start to ramp up.

We are excited to be of service and look forward to you joining us on this journey as you use myMeeting.info

Why Video Chats Are Wearing Us Out

In the early days of the pandemic, as shelter-in-place orders became the norm and people rushed to find ways of staying connected, it became clear that technology would save us. We wouldn’t have to be alone while staying at home, and this was good news.

While remaining grateful for the incredible way in which our screens have offered us up to each other, fast forward five weeks and many of us are finding ourselves exhausted from the never-ending video calls and virtual experiences.

It’s not that we don’t want the option of connecting in digital spaces, it’s just that we are finding them emotionally and energetically costly. We can’t quite name why, but they seem to take more energy than the face-to-face encounters we are used to. Oddly, in many cases, they actually leave us feeling lonely.

Given the novelty of our current reality, there’s no research to look to for specifically why this is the case right now, even though we know there is a precedent for this in online vs. embodied connectivity.

We can, however, consider some basic ideas in order to help us evaluate how to best care for our selves and our relationships in this time of primarily digital connection.

While humans are neurodivergent in terms of sociability and interpersonal preferences, we are all sensual beings. When we encounter each other, we take in information from many senses. Certain people and their places have specific smells. Often, physical touch in one form or another is involved in an encounter. In essence, the mere physical presence of another has the power of stirring feelings and awakening all of our senses.

When we connect via screens, much of this is lost. Limited to only audio and visual sensory data, it’s easy for us to feel a sense of being “alone together.”

This term, coined by Sherry Turkle, deftly describes the odd sense of anti-presence that we are talking about right now. Whether this is related to the limited context that each party sees of the other, or the simple lack of full sensory data, we cannot know.

Another dynamic that plagues video-based connection is the constant presence of one’s own image as they interact with others. Spontaneous and authentic communication is benefitted by the ability to be fully in the moment without the kind of acute self-awareness that comes with watching oneself during a conversation. For anyone with even a mild version of an inner critic, this can have a massive impact on how one is, or is not, in the present moment of a conversation in an authentic and available way. There’s a certain kind of cognitive dissonance here. We are on the call to connect with another but our ambient awareness of ourself redirects our attention.

Finally, the odd new way in which time moves is likely a contributor to our feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm in regards to interpersonal interaction. When we were moving about in the world, every request for a get together was made with an awareness that peoples’ calendars were full. Very likely we felt as though we had greater agency and options in responding to peoples’ requests of us.

Now that all of our connections are done from home, I find people responding in primarily one of two ways to interpersonal offerings. One response is fearguilt, exhaustion, or resentment which comes from feeling as though there is no “excuse” for saying no to a gathering or event since everyone knows we’re all home and “available.” The second is an automatic “yes” to as many offerings as possible to distract from the realities of our present situation.

It’s crucial for us to pace ourselves in this time of physical distancing. To be healthy in our relationships with our selves and with others, we must consider what is and isn’t working in this new economy. The following suggestions offer ways to enhance our digital connections and strengthen our intentionality in how we relate to self and others in this time of physical isolation.

1. Tend to your self. 

Just as it’s important to don our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Will my emotional and energetic cup be filled or depleted by video conversations today?”

To stay healthy, we must take our own internal-well-being “temperature” before we simply say “yes” to every opportunity to connect. We must also realize that our needs and desires for connection in digital spaces may change from day to day or, even, from hour to hour.

If we are feeling overwhelmed, emotionally dysregulated, or exhausted, it may be best to decline an online connection or two in order to preference some intentional connection with our own selves. We can only pour out to others from a full cup and filling our emotional reserves takes intentional effort.

2. Consider covering the image of your self on the screen.

There is a certain level of hyper-attuned self-awareness that happens when we observe physical images of ourselves. When we are experiencing this in real time during conversations, we are taken out of the moment and a part of our brain gets active evaluating how we are presenting our selves. This makes for costly conversations.

My son suggested I cover the square containing my image with a sticky note when I commented on this dynamic recently. This single action has saved me in the past week. I encourage you to give this a whirl in platforms where you can’t hide your image. In platforms that you can, give that a try.

3. Make intentional choices about what platforms you use to communicate within and who you choose to engage in them.

As we all know, the rise in subscriptions to services like Zoom and apps like Marco Polo have been staggering of late. It is incredible that we have these tools to help us stay connected. It is also important to think intentionally about which platforms are least taxing with each conversation we hope to have.

Be sensitive to dynamics like lag or pixelated images as these make our conversations more draining. Ask others which platforms they prefer and respect their wishes if and when you can. If you are coordinating with people with less technological savvy than you, provide plenty of time to help orient them before the time of contact.

4. Consider the phone some of the time.

In this time of so many video connections, the limited focus of a phone call may actually enhance authenticity and felt/lived connection. Setting the stage for a call can enhance this even more. Brew a fragrant cup of tea and find a window to gaze out of. Resist the urge to multi-task while on the phone and bring yourself fully to the call. Notice how this feels in relation to video calls and connections.

5. Get creative about ways of increasing the authenticity and spontaneity of digital encounters.

Privilege experiences where you are sharing space with others but possibly not just sitting statically and looking at each other. I participate in a weekly movement experience with 50 other people.

We all move in our own physical spaces, however we’d like, to the same music. While we can see the grid containing all the images of others, no one is focused there. It is surprisingly connecting and powerful. Similar spaces exist for art-making and meditation and, I’m sure, a million other activities. Seek these out or create these for your community.

Let’s all keep connecting as we can, tending to the ways in which we do so. We’re in this together and we’ll get through this together. Let’s do so with care.

This article first appeared on Psychology Today

5 Ways to Run Better Virtual Meetings (and Transform Your Culture)

Meetings. Some are dreaded, others are valuable. Make sure your meetings are productive and a good use of time…your culture will thank you for it.

Virtual meetings are a necessary evil. How you manage your meetings says a lot about how you’re managing your organization; especially if your workforce is remote. If you start late, spend a lot of time chit-chatting, and wander around in your meetings with no specific outcomes, then your business likely runs the same way.

The strongest message about how you want your culture to perform is embedded in how you conduct your meetings.

Here are five ways you can develop more efficient and productive meetings that will, in turn, drive the right culture in your organization.

1. Start with a “culture moment”

Organizations that proactively manage their cultures do so in every meeting. Virtual meetings are no exception.

Use the start of your meeting to get your team aligned with your expectations for how people should be thinking and acting. You can’t be everywhere, but your expectations should be.

Here are some suggestions for how to start those meetings:

  • Tell a story: “Let me start this morning by telling you how I saw Finance and Operations working together to advance this project … “
  • Give recognition: “Before we start, I want to recognize Christy Jarvis for the extra effort she put in last weekend to make sure we got the numbers out on Monday … “
  • Ask for stories or recognition: “Does anyone have a good story or someone we should recognize this week?”

These stories are more important when managing a remote workforce. All online interactions must be purposeful because we aren’t gathering information while walking down a hallway. When we don’t have the formal office setting, virtual meetings become the main hub of connecting your team around company culture.

When you talk about what you expect people to be doing, you will see more of it. Your people are always looking for clues as to what will please you.

But remember, keep it positive, not what you don’t like seeing. There is already plenty of negative information floating around in most organizations.

2. Start on time

It sounds simple, and yet 95 percent of meetings don’t start on time. When you don’t start your meetings on time, you’re sending several messages as a leader:

  • My time is more valuable than yours.
  • I’m OK with you sitting around doing nothing.
  • Schedules and deadlines are flexible.
  • Wait for me and my direction before acting.
  • I’m OK with you being late and starting your meetings late.

Are those the messages you want your team to believe? Are you seeing those beliefs pop up in other areas of your business?

3. Have an agenda

Having an agenda doesn’t mean it needs to be drafted and distributed prior to the meeting. Having an agenda means you have a specific meeting agenda and outcome in mind.

If the meeting gets off track, you bring it back to your agenda. If it gets off track on something more important and necessary, then you know how to adjust the agenda.

Regardless, you should be operating as someone who has a specific plan for the time spent with your people.

The following are some of the questions you should ask yourself as you prepare your agenda:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • What information do I need to make a decision?
  • Have I invited the right people to attend?
  • Is this meeting even necessary?
  • Am I trying to do too much?

As you get in the habit of asking yourself these questions, the answers will come more quickly and naturally.

4. Keep your team engaged

One of the biggest challenges teams face while conducting virtual meetings is the distraction of multitasking. When employees are behind their computers at home, there’s no way to tell if they are opening browsing tabs and working on a different project. This unfortunately leads to unengaged team members and an unproductive meeting.

When people multitask, they disconnect from the conversation. Our brains aren’t meant to focus on more than one task at a time. Developing ways to keep your team engaged will keep them focused on the meeting at hand and actively thinking about the outcome.

Try some of these suggestions for engaging your team:

  • Use the chat feature to ask your team specific questions. Their answers will be recorded in front of everyone on the call so you can refer to them when continuing the discussion.
  • Conduct polls with your meeting attendees to vote on any decisions or to gain their perspective on a question.
  • Utilize breakout rooms if your video conference platform has this feature. This activity is a great way to encourage your team to brainstorm in small groups and then bring their ideas to the whole group.
  • Ask for and offer feedback. Keeping a steady flow of positive and constructive feedback between yourself and your team will keep them engaged and increase collaboration during the meeting.

Higher levels of employee engagement mean higher levels of focus. When employees focus on the results the organization is trying to achieve, the company continues to move forward.

Developing a strong company culture can only be done when every employee is actively engaged. Practicing this skill during meetings will increase your team’s engagement levels and ability to innovate.  

5. End with a “who’s-going-to-do-what-by-when” list

If you’ve spent your time well in the meeting, you have some outcomes and next steps. Don’t lose that productivity by assuming people know who is going to take the next action and by when. Be purposeful about it.

As you come up with next steps, ask “Who’s going to take this action and when should you report back?” If no one steps up or it’s not obvious, then you make the assignment. Here’s some guidance on those to-do lists:

  • Assign tasks to individuals, not teams or functions.
  • Have a realistic deadline.
  • Hold your people accountable for their assignments.
  • Check-in along the way with those who have assignments.
  • Use the next meeting to get updates.
  • Meetings are only productive if they lead to timely actions that achieve results.

Everything you do drives your culture. Virtual meetings are no exception. Make sure your meetings reflect the culture you want in your organization.

This post was originally published on Inc.

Infographic: HR suffers people data gap during coronavirus crisis

As the world grapples with the threat of coronavirus, organisations are looking to their HR function to support business critical decisions around jobs and continuity planning. HR directors and managers in particular are being asked critical questions by their leadership teams, but do they actually have the data and tools to answer them?

Industry analysts Fosway Group recently conducted a study of HR professionals that has revealed that many are relying on outdated technology and data sets to support crucial strategic decisions at this time.

“As the Covid-19 crisis has unfolded, the pressure on HR teams has intensified dramatically. Suddenly they have been asked for all sorts of answers and data to support strategic decisions that for many organisations is frankly about keeping the lights on, ” explained David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group.

“What is not helping is that, for the majority, their HR systems are not actually designed to record or analyse the data necessary to provide business critical answers.

There is enormous reliance on managers and spreadsheets to support new daily reporting, and only a minority have the tools to model the future impact of Covid-19 on their workforce and ongoing business operations,” he added.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Only one in four HR professionals said it was easy to report on key statistics including how many people are self-isolating, working remotely or are hospitalised.
  • Only 30% of HR leaders believe their team has the skills to analyse and predict the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation.
  • Just 13% have found it easy to do the analysis.

The full results of the research can be seen in the infographic below.

Fosway Group infographic

This article first appeared on HRzone