5 Things Leaders Never Do In A Zoom Meeting

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many professionals to work from home and utilize online conferencing technology like Zoom. Zoom’s daily active users increased from 10 million to over 200 million in 3 months. Digital tools like Zoom are a great way to maintain communication when you cannot have a physical meeting, but there are certain issues to consider when using this technology. Here are five things leaders avoid doing in Zoom meetings.

1.     Looking unkept.

Get dressed; don’t wear your pajamas. If you are participating in a Zoom meeting for professional reasons, wear what you would wear if you were physically at the meeting with other people. If there is any chance you might stand up, whether that is to grab something at the far end of your desk or to stretch, make sure to wear the type of pants or shoes you would wear at work. Leaders always look the part, so show the people on the video conference that you respect them to take the time to look nice for them.

2.     Talking too much.

Just as if you were in the same physical space as the other meeting participants, don’t hog the meeting. Leaders speak when they have something to say and can communicate their idea in a relatively concise way. Be mindful how much you speak so that others on the conference call can add value. 

When using digital communication platforms like Zoom, you may not recognize the subtle, physical cues that help people to know when they can begin talking without talking over someone. Pause for a couple of seconds to let participants know that you have finished your thought or your slide. Leaders are aware of some of the limitations of digital communications and ensure others are heard. 

3.     Keeping their microphone on.

No one needs to hear you clear your throat, gulp a drink or release any other bodily noises. No one needs to hear your dog barking. Unlike with physical meetings, this is your opportunity to mute these sounds and spare others the distraction and you the embarrassment. 

Leaders minimize distractions. When you are listening to others speak, put yourself on mute. Still stay actively engaged by looking at your screen, but there is no need to keep your sound on, particularly if there are many people participating. If a colleague is presenting, consider turning off your video so the focus is on the presenter.

4.     Having a busy background.

Another distraction to others can be what they see behind you when you are on a Zoom call. Are you taking the meeting with a provocative painting behind you? Are you in the kitchen with other family members walking around?

Take the Zoom meeting in a quiet room. Set yourself up in front of a calming backdrop. While Zoom allows you to choose certain “wallpapers” as a backdrop, make sure they don’t detract from your presence. Leaders put themselves in a position in which people will focus on them and what they have to say.

5.     Inviting too many people to the meeting. 

Leaders value their time and your time. They call purposeful meetings, with the goal of inviting only those individuals they believe will add value to the discussion and be able to move the agenda forward. Because it may be easier for more people to participate in a Zoom meeting than attend an in-person meeting, it may be tempting to invite a lot of people. But too many people can render the discussion ineffective. Leaders know that successful and productive calls require every individual to be engaged, and having too many people on a video call can make this challenging.

Be smart about how you engage in Zoom meetings. To demonstrate your leadership remotely, look professional, don’t ramble, be cognizant of the noises and images that might distract other participants and invite only the people that need to participate in the conversation.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

How too many virtual meetings can cause employee productivity to plummet

New research reveals 42% of remote workers surveyed say they’re “more productive” when working for an extended period of uninterrupted time.

Remember the days in the office when you sat around a conference table with colleagues for a dreaded and always-too-long meeting? With most businesses shifting to working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those in-person meetings have now been replaced with virtual conferencing, and platforms like Zoom are soaring in popularity. 

But a report from Wundamail research reveals video conferencing is so “excessive,” that those meetings cost more than $1,250 per employee, per month in wasted time.

The findings were the result of surveying 20,000 remote workers across the US and UK from April 6-7, and represent a wide swath of ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, gender and region, and worked for teams of three or more in a range of small to SME companies.

Apparently, we are “overindulging in pointless chit-chat,” reports Wundamail, which stated—rather dramatically—in a press release: “Leaders must rethink their remote strategy fast, or we are heading for a global productivity dive and total economic ruin.”
The report further revealed that teams benefit from limited virtual meetings and “time away from their colleagues” in a remote setup to maintain work productivity.

When virtual conferencing becomes a distraction

Of those surveyed, 42% of remote workers found the continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps “deeply distracting” and felt most productive when working for a long period of uninterrupted time. 
Another 42% participating in video calls say they dial in and contribute nothing. Video conference fosters a false sense of completion, as 27% of employees found the virtual meetings to be “the biggest communication barrier” in their work.

Employees were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing, rather than video, because many could not remember key information, meaning 30% do not complete actions agreed over video calls.

“Verbal communication evaporates the moment the call is over,” said Caroline Welsh, creative lead, Diskette, “Back-to-back virtual meetings rarely accomplish or produce anything solid.”
More than half of staffers working from home (56%) wish they spent less time on video calls, according to the report.
More alarming, noted the report, is that 73% of respondents considered video calls as “work done,” and Wundamail said it “suggests that video calls give a dangerous illusion of productivity, when in reality, very little work is completed or produced.”

Video meetings often plagued with technical troubles

The popular platform Zoom may exemplifies a business growing too quickly; numerous cybersecurity issues have been sighted (no password is required and the 10-digit entrance code has proven easy to hack). TechRepublic reported on how 12% of Zoom users stopped using it because of the well-publicized security issues. 

Welsh pointed out that Zoom is also experiencing perception problems—while it seems to want to promote itself as a professional business tool, schools have quickly rushed into using it for online schools. Other platforms are ready to pick up what may be perceived as slack from Zoom. 

Microsoft Teams now has customized backgrounds for video calls. Wundamail’s daily check-in software’s video conferencing feature had a 600% increase in sign-ups this week, said Welsh. “It’s good for reinforcing that accountability that is missing in Zoom.”

The most prevalent problem with video meetings, said 73% of respondents, are technical issues. Frequent interruptions and colleagues talking over each other is another significant (59%) problem. Additionally, one in three people suffer a lack of focus in video meetings.

Amplifying the worst of in-person meetings

The most inefficient elements of a traditional office are transferred, and often amplified, when applied to virtual meetings. Wundamail’s report said if a remote setup fails to adapt to a company’s needs, there could potentially be “a dip in global productivity.”

Following up on those virtual meetings

But there are “fixes,” especially when the only options are virtual meetings (at least until the coronavirus pandemic slows/curve flattens), and the report suggested, “Teams now need to introduce daily updates via written communication means, and automatic check-ins are the proven methodology to kickstart productivity.”

Communication is ineffectual, the report stressed, especially verbal communications. The multitude of technical issues, including every video buffer that adds static chips away at productivity. Listening to each team member on a video-conference call deliver a report is time-consuming. 

Making meetings more productive

The solution: Written communication (i.e. email) encourages team members to think independently by:

  • Asking questions on a regular schedule
  • Practice writing
  • Communicate essential updates

Sharing written notes before a virtual meeting, and follow ups afterwards “is more direct and efficient.”
Wundamail’s report concludes: “Businesses need to reduce video-chatting and introduce automatic, written updates and daily check-ins into their remote setups to keep productivity levels consistent.”

This post was originally published on TechRepublic.

Productivity Is Not Working

SOME QUESTIONS ARE infinitely more interesting than their answers. One such question started to echo around the internet in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdowns and has become increasingly frantic in the febrile weeks that have followed. The question was this: How shall we stay productive when the world is going to hell?

Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis. How should we self-optimize when we’re suddenly having to meet our deadlines with our roommates, kids, and inner critics screaming in the background?

If we’re lucky enough to be able to shelter in place and we’re not using that time to launch podcasts and personal projects and life-hack our way to some cargo-cult pastiche of normality, are we somehow letting the side down?

These are not practical questions. They are moral and philosophical questions. Yes, there are plenty of practical reasons why so many people are panicking about work. If we’ve been furloughed or lost our jobs, we’re scrambling to make up the shortfall. If we’re still employed, we’re worried about the long term, and if we’re relatively secure, we’re wrestling with survivor’s guilt.

But the drive to stay productive is about so much more than making rent. It is a moral discipline. When I check in with friends and family far away, I usually get an update on how productive they have or have not managed to be since we last spoke.

“Productivity” is not a synonym for health, or for safety, or for sanity. But as a precarious millennial who for the past 10 years has answered every cautious inquiry about my well-being with a rundown of how much work I got done that day, I do understand the confusion.

It’s hardly surprising that so many of us are processing this immense, unknowable collective catastrophe by escaping into smaller, everyday emergencies. A crisis you create for yourself, after all, is a crisis you might be able to control.

Frantic productivity is a fear response.

It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular, as we’ve collectively awoken from the American dream with a strange headache and stacks of bills to pay. My whole generation learned relentless work was the way to cope with the rolling crisis, with the mood of imminent collapse and economic insecurity that was the elevator music of our entire youth—the relentless tension between trying to save yourself and trying to save the world, between desperate aspiration and actual hope.

Right through the white-knuckle ride of my twenties and beyond, I clung to work as a way of protecting myself when I was scared, when I was hurt, when the future seemed to collapse on itself like a stack of marked cards.

No matter how many marches I go to, there is some part of me that believes that if I can only self-optimize a bit harder then the world will right itself, no one I love will suffer, and death will have no dominion. So when the coronavirus crisis began, I started writing myself ambitious to-do lists on giant sticky notes—because when every cultural certainty starts collapsing in my hands like wet cake, writing ambitious to-do lists is how I calm down.

I would exercise in the mornings and write in the evenings. I would cook. I would sort out my finances. By week three, I would finally finish my book. I would organize my time so I had no time to feel any emotion other than manageable, everyday anxiety about my workload, with occasional breaks for feeling appropriately grateful that I still have a job I can do from home.

Unfortunately, somewhere between writing those to-do lists and watching over-promoted incompetents invite their voters to kindly die to keep the economy going in the manner to which it has become accustomed, the entire concept of linear time seemed to disintegrate, which really played havoc with my calendar.

These days, I have a new, surprisingly packed schedule of cooking, washing up, video-conferencing with everyone I’ve ever met, and hiding in bed hoping that history can’t hear me breathing.

The giant sticky notes are proliferating around the house, and my roommates tolerate them so long as I don’t start linking them together with red thread and pictures of my enemies.

Despite being various flavors of neurotic workaholic, my roommates and I have discovered that right now, while our personal productivity matters, what matters more immediately is that we all manage to live in the same house without killing each other. The human race as a whole seems to be coming to a similar realization.

There has always been something a little obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that if you stop running for even an instant, you’ll be flung flat on your face—but the treadmill is familiar.

The treadmill feels normal. And right now, when the world economy has jerked to a sudden, shuddering stop, most of us are desperate to feel normal.

This column is happening because I lost one of my three jobs to the Covid-19 crisis right around the time when I realized I had no idea when I was going to see my mum again, and after a few hours of crying and tidying, I emailed my kind editor in a panic and told him to please give me deadlines, I don’t know who I am without them. Why don’t I know?

The way most of us have been conditioned to think about work in the modern economy has all the hallmarks of hypervigilance. It’s what happens to people when they are trapped in abusive circumstances they cannot escape.

Psychologist Judith Herman observed that “the ultimate effect of [psychological domination] is to convince the victim that the perpetrator is omnipotent, that resistance is futile, and that her life depends upon winning his indulgence through absolute compliance.”

The body responds to relentless insecurity and threat with agitated alertness, looking for ways to protect itself from harm. This is how most of my peers have experienced the modern economy. We were told that if we worked hard, we would be safe, and well, and looked after, and the less this was true, the harder we worked.

The idea that hustling can save you from calamity is an article of faith, not fact—and the Covid-19 pandemic is starting to shake the collective faith in individual striving. The doctrine of “workism” places the blame for global catastrophe squarely on the individual: If you can’t get a job because jobs aren’t there, you must be lazy, or not hustling hard enough.

That’s the story that young and young-ish people tell themselves, even as we’ve spent the whole of our brief, broke working lives paying for the mistakes of the old, rich, and stupid. We internalized the collective failures of the ruling class as personal failings that could be fixed by working smarter, or harder, or both—because that, at least, meant that we might be able to fix them ourselves.

The cult of productivity doesn’t have an answer for this crisis. Self-optimizing will not save us this time, although saying so feels surprisingly blasphemous.

This isn’t happening because you didn’t work hard enough, and it won’t be fixed by optimizing your morning routines and adopting a can-do attitude. After the quarantine, after we count the lives lost or ruined, recession is coming.

A big one. For millennials, it’s the second devastating economic calamity in our short working lives, and we’re still carrying the trauma of the first. This time, though, we know it’s not our fault. This time it’s abundantly clear that we didn’t deserve it. And this is exactly the sort of crisis that gives people ideas about overturning the social order.

The Great Plagues of the 14th century famously shattered the feudal system by wiping out half of Europe and giving the few remaining workers a lot more bargaining power—but the Black Death also undermined the power of religion.

As broken communities surveyed the mounds of corpses, wondering what sins could possibly be proportional to this sort of punishment, they started to lose faith in God—and the Medieval Church began to lose power as an organizing force in everyday life. If the economic dogma of work under modern capitalism fulfills the same functions as the church of the 1400s—defining human value and justifying our place in society—the emotions of watching that dogma fail are akin to a loss of faith.

If frantic productivity is a fear response, the opposite urge—to tear it all up and declare deadline bankruptcy—feels like blasphemy. Laziness is the only sin out of the seven big ones that seems to count in the moral metric of the modern economy, and what other word is there for that edge-panic impulse to simply delete your email address and spend time doing small, gentle things that make being alive hurt a little less?

“When we have no memory or little imagination of an alternative to a life centered on work,” writes theorist Kathi Weeks, “there are few incentives to reflect on why we work as we do and what we might wish to do instead.” In fact, as Europe and America remain in enforced lockdown, many people are working harder than ever—but the work they’re doing more of is not “productive” in the traditional sense.

That does not mean it isn’t work. Childcare is work, as anyone who is suddenly having to do twice as much of it on top of their normal job can tell you. Cooking, cleaning, emotional and community management, all of which most of us are doing more intensely as we’re living together in lockdown, are work—they just don’t count on the ledger of human worth because the economy refuses to value them in its reckoning of what does, because most of it has been done in private, by women, for free.

Making breakfast, making the beds, making sure your friends and family aren’t losing their absolute minds is work that matters more than ever and will continue to matter in the coming decades as crisis follows crisis. It is not “productive,” in the way that most of us have learned to understand what that word means, but it is work, and it is worthwhile.

There is nothing counterrevolutionary about keeping busy. But right now, we have a finite opportunity to rethink how we value ourselves, to re-examine our metric for measuring the worth of human lives. Right now, the entire species is trying to work out how to live in the same house without killing each other—and that may well turn out to be the work that matters most.

This article first appeared on Wired

What does enforced home working mean for employee wellbeing?

As coronavirus sweeps the UK we will continue to see increasing numbers of people choosing or being forced to leave their usual office environment and work at home. We have already seen some major companies, such as Google, tell their staff to work from home.

While some employees might be pleased at such a turn of events, what does this really mean for wellbeing and morale? 

Much of the evidence about home working points to positive benefits, including improved work-life balance and increases in job satisfaction and productivity. However, it is important to note that such evidence is based primarily on studies of individuals who have chosen to work at home. And in many cases they will have collaborated with their employer to ensure this arrangement is effective for both parties.

Imagine now the situation where many thousands of individuals are forced to work from home, with little time to consider any adjustments that might be necessary to make this work. There are a number of potential pitfalls of this situation in relation to an employee’s morale. 

The most obvious aspect is that of social support or interaction. While some employees might welcome the increased solitude, we know that some home workers suffer from feelings of isolation or loneliness that can negatively affect their mental health.

The sudden removal of individuals from their work-based (and indeed other) social circles could have a significantly negative effect on the welfare of some. 

So maintaining communication networks while working remotely is important for the management of work tasks, but let’s also not forget that interpersonal interaction and sense of community is also important.

Employers need to think about how they can maintain levels of social support while their workforce is home-based – through using collaboration technologies perhaps, enterprise social media, regular online meetings or even just the occasional phone call.

Line managers should be encouraged to ensure employees continue to receive the same level of support and recognition they would in the workplace. 

Second, let us not presume working at home will necessarily improve work-life balance. In fact, a failure to properly segment work and family or home life can increase feelings of work-life conflict and actually lead to reduced work satisfaction.

Home-based employees need to feel they can still switch off at the end of the day and take breaks – this can be more difficult when the lines between home and work become blurred.  This might be complicated further if other family are also at home, which is likely in the upcoming few weeks.

Those who have tried to work at home with young children – or indeed with any caring responsibility – will appreciate how stressful this can be. It is the job of HR to advise and support individuals in developing an approach that works for them, such as allocating particular physical spaces (an office) as work and switching off once the door of that room is closed, or by sticking to strict working hours. 

Employers need to set expectations of what is expected for employees working at home including working hours and what employees are expected to deliver.

However, it is also important that businesses realise some homeworkers might not only be under considerable stress because of this change in environment, but might also be unable to work as productively during this period depending on their home circumstances. 

Third, the move to home working under usual circumstances should include a series of checks that a suitable working environment is available and all required equipment, including technology, is available.  This is more difficult when the move is sudden.

Employers should be taking steps now to make sure their workforce has the necessary tools to work at home effectively, is trained in how to use this and can access technical support if needed.

In addition, while businesses typically spend a lot of effort on ergonomic assessment in the workplace, this is rarely carried out for home workers. It is impractical to undertake such an endeavour at short notice for the whole workforce, but clear advice about working at home safely and healthily should be available. 

Employers need to create a balance between maintaining business as usual in relation to those factors that typically drive wellbeing, while also recognising that the fact things are actually far from normal might have a negative impact on employees’ productivity and mental health.

HR has a key role to play in developing advice and guidance and also working with line managers to ensure they are providing sufficient support to their team members. 

Emma Parry is professor of HR management and head of the Changing World of Work Group at Cranfield School of Management

This article first appeared on PeopleManagement.co.uk

Going 100% online increases odds of Meeting Recovery Syndrome

Admittedly a weird label for an issue most of us have experienced first hand.

Every week, employees spend about six hours in meetings, while the average manager meets for a staggering 23 hours.

The result is not only hundreds of billions of wasted dollars, but an exacerbation of what organisational psychologists call:

“meeting recovery syndrome”

This is the time we spent cooling off and regaining focus after a (useless) meeting.

When we sit through an ineffective meeting our focus is essentially being drained away, taking on average 45 mins to recover after a poor meeting.

Meetings sap stamina, productivity and employee wellbeing if they last too long, fail to engage or turn into one-sided lectures.

So besides being a nice pub quiz fact, why is this important?

Because since going full online due to the Virus crisis, many people are seeing an increase in communication.

From to chat, email and yes, from online meetings.

So as managers, team leader, HR it is important to know how well or poorly this increased communication is being conducted and handled.

So you have a roadmap to better serve your teams and organisations as they get used to 100% online working and meeting.

Interested in learning how to track markers that can trigger MRS and its adverse impact?

Sign up here to trial to http://myMeeting.info. Analyse meeting experiences, so you can to uncover how they impact team productivity and wellbeing.

When Your Employees Are Remote, You Have To Stop The Body-In-Seat Mentality

There’s an insidious attitude permeating many companies; that when employees have their bodies-in-their-seats, it means they’re productive. But if you’ve ever seen studies on actual employee productivity, or if you’ve ever forced yourself to sit at your desk for eight straight hours, you know that having a body-in-the-seat does not equal productivity. And the problem becomes especially acute when the body-in-seat mentality follows suddenly-remote employees into their home workspace.

Before the pandemic, a Leadership IQ study found that remote employees are 87% more likely to love their jobs than people that work in offices. Why? One factor is that normally-remote employees have figured out productivity hacks to enable themselves to spend more concentrated time on deep work. They’re able to focus without interruptions, and one way they accomplish that is with time-chunking. Unfortunately, that’s a concept that has been slow to permeate traditional working environments.

A study from RescueTime found that knowledge workers check email and Slack every six minutes, with more than a third checking email or Slack every three minutes. And 40% of knowledge workers never get more than 30 minutes straight of focused time. The email interruptions and lack of straight focus time help explain why knowledge workers, on average, have just 2 hours and 48 minutes a day for productive tasks.

By contrast, top freelancers, who’ve worked from home for years, have long known the fallacy of the body-in-seat mentality. And that’s why they’re more likely to work intensely for dedicated blocks of time. 

Time chunking (also known as time blocking) is essentially carving out pieces of the day when you can disconnect from email (or Slack or IM, etc.) and focus on performing work that requires deep thinking. It’s not a complicated concept, and you’ve no doubt experienced the drastic productivity improvements that time chunking creates. It’s just like when (pre-pandemic) you worked from a coffee shop and accomplished more in one hour than you would have accomplished in eight hours at the office.

If you want to drastically improve the productivity and effectiveness of your remote team, start giving your team dedicated blocks of time throughout the day when they have to be online and other times when they can disconnect and work free from interruptions.

For example, you could set core periods throughout the day, e.g., 10 AM-12 PM and 2 PM-4 PM, when employees have to be accessible online (via email, Slack, IM, etc.). You could even add these three sentences to your work from home policy:

Employees must be available to their supervisors and co‐workers during core work hours. There are two core periods each day. The first runs from 10 AM – 12 PM and the second from 2 PM – 4 PM.

Making this kind of policy change offers several benefits: First, you’re giving your employees periods of the day when they’re allowed to disconnect, to focus deeply on their work without interruptions, and actually produce great results.

Second, having times throughout the day when they can disconnect allows your suddenly-remote employees that have kids to connect with their family. It can be chaotic having kids and spouses around. But when your employees have an hour to disconnect from email and check-in with everyone in the house, they’ll likely be able to restore some semblance of order. And that means when they come back to their desk, they’ll be significantly more focused and productive.

Third, there’s much to be said for focusing on the results someone achieves rather than how long they sit in front of a computer. But when we’re operating with a body-in-seat mentality, we’re de facto telling people, “it’s not what you get done but how long you sit there that matters.” I’ve seen organizations where employees are online for three hours a day that accomplish twice as much work as companies where everyone is online for ten straight hours.

Finally, when your employees get to disconnect for a few hours a day to accomplish deep-thinking work, guess who else gets to unplug and enjoy similar accomplishments? You! It’s an absolute treat for most leaders to have a few hours when they know that they won’t be interrupted and, thus, can produce better and faster results.

In our study “Interruptions At Work Are Killing Your Productivity,” we discovered that when people get interrupted frequently, there’s only a 44% chance that they’ll leave feeling like “today was a really successful day.” By contrast, when people can block out interruptions at work, there’s a 67% chance they’ll leave feeling like “today was a really successful day.”

The body-in-seat mentality doesn’t work well when people are the office, and when they’re working from home, it fails miserably. Top freelancers (e.g., writers, programmers, artists, etc.) have long known that it’s important to disconnect to accomplish great work. It’s time for suddenly-remote teams to learn from them and end the body-in-seat mentality once and for all.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

Managing Employee Experience in a Pandemic

Focusing on employee experience is key to a quick recovery post-COVID-19.

By Dr. Anna Tavis

What a difference a week can make in the midst of a pandemic. In a matter of days, companies went from response planning to shutting down facilities and sending employees to work from home. Targeting to “lower the curve” of the highly contagious disease, companies, cities, states, and even nations went into near complete shutdown.

By some estimates, the overall loss of productivity in the U.S. in just the first month of the pandemic amounted to about 64 percent. It is becoming increasingly clear that the overall personal and economic toll of the pandemic on the working people around the world will be unprecedented and will by far exceed the financial crisis of 2008.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been invoked amply since the epidemic has begun to spread. For many companies, ensuring the safety of their employees came first, followed by making technology tools available.

Technology turned out to be the easier part. In the next step, managers’ attention needs to be directed to a different set of moments that matter: employee experience (EX) at the time of a pandemic.

For many, the required change of behavior to “social distancing” became a euphemism for “physical and social isolation,” representing the true psychological stress test to the collaborative cultures companies worked so hard to build.

The compounded threat of the contagious disease, the impact on employees’ families, job security, and the disruption to the invisible social fabric of life in general may leave lasting scars and impede eventual recovery after the crisis.

The focus on EX requires paying attention to all levels of employee needs up and down the Maslow hierarchy. It requires addressing the basic needs for safety and retaining jobs as much as encouraging professional growth through the time of the crisis, whether working from home or in the office.

Empathy, transparency and trust rise up on the priority list for every manager. With most teams and organizations working remotely, here are a few proven principles for successfully managing people through the crises:

  • Empathy comes first. Make time to listen. Know employees’ concerns and leave time for an informal connection.

  • Be transparent on performance goals and outcomes. Set up time for check ins. Provide feedback.

  • Trust that projects would be done. Gauge when to step in and help and when to get out of the way.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Set up a schedule of communication with your team that is consistent, regular, and inclusive.

It is easy to dismiss the importance of focusing on EX in a time of national crisis. But hard lessons learned from the earlier natural disasters and recessions of national magnitude show that investment in employees provides the highest returns when recovery is around the corner.

It is the loyalty, commitment, and dedication of the employees that will bring your businesses back and ensure ongoing success. Chart your recovery strategy now, invest in EX.

Dr. Anna Tavis is academic director of the human capital management program and a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies Division of Programs in Business.

This article first appeared on HRO Today

Alcoholics Anonymous: Staying sober during the coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has uprooted every sense of normalcy.

It created job loss, grief to those who lost loved ones because of the virus and instilled the new normal: social distancing measures and self-isolation.

There are reports of increased domestic and child abuse, shortage of food at local pantries and increased need for counseling of all kinds, from stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

So how have people, particularly those with substance abuse issues coping with the new circumstances?


Alcoholics Anonymous is a nationwide nonprofit organization for those who are trying to quit drinking.

Local AA groups normally meet in person at churches, local clubhouses or other community centers, but after those locations started to close down due to coronavirus concerns, many have transitioned to online platforms instead.

Each AA group chooses their own way to host meetings, whether it’s a conference call or video platform, but so far zoom has been the most popular format to host the meetings, said Jim S. chair for Williamsburg Area Intergroup, an organization that supports the individual AA groups.

WYDaily is only using “Jim S.” since Alcoholics Anonymous is based on the condition of anonymity.

A member of AA himself, Jim said he replaced his drinking habit with AA meetings, starting a garden and playing guitar.

“For me personally, I have discovered you can’t replace something with nothing,” Jim said. “The main thing I want to stress is AA’s primary purpose is to stay sober and us to help the others –– the newcomers.”

And because the meetings are anonymous, those who attend don’t have to show their face and can just listen in.

“A lot of potential problem drinkers have fears they will be recognized or identify as having a problem if they show up at a meeting,” Jim said.

Prior to the crisis, Jim said they didn’t have a significant online presence but now it is easier to reach AA than ever before.

“In many ways, this has been an opportunity for us to expand the types of meetings and the kinds of support we offer,” Jim said. “It’s very possible we would continue these online meetings because we discovered how useful they are.”

He said he hopes the new format doesn’t turn people off from joining or attending a meeting if they are struggling with alcoholism.

“People tend to get depressed, or fearful or any number of emotional reactions to this kind of stressful situation,” he said. “The isolation seems to put people in a position where drinking is easier.”

Rick Gressard, a chancellor professor of education at the College of William & Mary, agrees.

“The isolation and loneliness is really an enemy of recovering in a sense because so much of recovery is focused on building support systems and having support,” he said. “This is a dangerous time…be aware of that.”

Gressard specializes in addiction counseling and created the college’s New Leaf Clinic, working with college students who received violations due to alcohol use.

Other ways people can cope with alcoholism is to work with a counselor, practice meditation, seek support from family members and even using spiritual resources.

From smartphone apps, online meditations and teleconferencing counseling sessions, there are multiple resources available, Gressard said.

“The Williamsburg community has a lot of really outstanding specialists who are available,” he added.

Gressard said AA uses the acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, which could signal the person is heading toward a relapse.

“I think the main thing is looking for the irritability,” he said.

While Gressard said anyone can get edgy being confined, other signs to look for is the person letting go of their support system such as not attending AA meetings, meeting with their sponsor and reducing contact.

When asked how he felt about Virginia ABC stores being open during the coronavirus, Gressard said he doesn’t see it as essential business.

“For people who can drink responsibly, it can be a source of comfort and relaxation,” he said. “It’s not one that I recommend, but it is the reality that it is.”

But if the stores were to close, he feels two things would happen.

“People would get more irritable just because they didn’t have access to something they enjoy,” he said. “The other thing is people who are addicted, if the alcohol weren’t available, they would probably go into alcohol withdrawal.”

Alcohol withdrawal is a very serious condition,” he added. “It can be lethal..in very severe cases.”

This story first appeared in the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily

Companies scrambled to set up virtual workspaces. Is this the future?

Remote-only organizations pose complex management challenges. Two scholars share their thoughts on how to navigate our sudden new reality.

Has the future of work, the all-remote workforce and even the virtual organization, arrived in full force? Though online technologies have made remote work increasingly common, most companies and organizations are still run out of brick-and-mortar facilities. Now they are scrambling to stand up virtual workspaces overnight.

Melissa Valentine, assistant professor of management science and engineering, has spent years studying these issues. Jen Rhymer, who is about to join Valentine as a postdoctoral fellow, has closely studied software companies that operate entirely independently of a physical headquarters.

The big lesson, they say, is that remote-only organizations pose complex new management challenges. The biggest ones: developing trust, collaboration and information-sharing among people who never meet in person and who may be on opposite sides of the world.

Here are some of their thoughts:

Getting the technology right. It takes more than a laptop, an internet connection and apps like Slack or Zoom. The technology for remote work and virtual teams is straightforward and keeps getting better. The bigger challenge is addressing the human issues. If workers are suddenly working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many will be juggling childcare, noise and a slew of other disruptions.

That is guaranteed to cause a drop in productivity, but it will also reduce the intangible benefits of working in the same location. Think here of the informal brainstorming over coffee or the casual exchanges of information. But the issues go deeper: How do you build trust and social ties, which are crucial for creative collaboration?

Being forced by a crisis to embrace remote-only work is different from creating a remote-only workforce at the start. Companies that structure themselves as location-independent have developed norms and practices that bridge the emotional and logistical distances. The same is true for their workers. For such companies, remote-only work can reduce costs, expand the talent pool and boost productivity.

By contrast, being forced by a crisis to work remotely is likely to be disruptive and frustrating. It may be better than shutting down, but it will likely lead to a big drop in productivity.

Building trust and collaboration. All companies need to establish a culture of shared priorities and accepted practices for working together. It’s easier for traditional companies, where people see each other and interact informally.

Remote-only companies often try to fill the void with organized social efforts, from online happy hours to retreats and discussion groups. The topics don’t have to be relevant to the business. The goal is to build ties and a sense of community. However, cautions Rhymer, these efforts won’t work unless CEOs and senior managers participate as well — as equals, not as bosses.

Executives should also display their own trust by refraining from monitoring their employees on a minute-by-minute basis. They shouldn’t eavesdrop on employee emails or chart their keystrokes per minute. The focus should be on the ultimate output, not on a worker’s specific activities.

Creating a rich public decision trail. At companies with employees spread across many time zones, real-time conversations and written exchanges aren’t often feasible. But people still need to understand the background for how and why decisions were made.

With a rich decision trail, all the discussions and debates that lead up to a decision are documented and codified so that people can go back and understand why those decisions were made.

Opening a single source of truth. Workers need access to the big picture about an organization’s strategy and priorities, and perhaps even about work in progress that may not be directly relevant to them. It’s a repository of information that is clear, uncontested and accepted as true at that time, and then maintained so that it is always current. This is especially true for asynchronous companies, in which people collaborate across all time zones and can’t easily discuss issues in real time.

Breaking down the barriers to sharing work. You want workers to post work as it’s underway — even when it’s rough, incomplete, imperfect. That requires a different mindset, though one that’s increasingly common in asynchronous companies. In traditional companies, people often hesitate to circulate projects or proposals that aren’t polished, pretty and bullet-proofed. It’s a natural reflex, especially when people are disconnected from each other and don’t communicate casually.

But it can lead to long delays, especially on projects in which each participant’s progress depends on the progress and feedback of others. Location-independent companies need a culture in which people recognize that a work-in-progress is likely to have gaps and flaws and don’t criticize each other for them. This is an issue of norms, not tools.

Preparing for the future. The experience of cobbling together a remote-only system on the fly is likely to be chaotic and unpleasant for many people. Technology makes it easier than ever to be location-independent, but unless companies focus on creating an effective remote-work experience, don’t count on workers falling in love with it after the pandemic. Is remote work the wave of the future? It depends on how organizations respond today.

This article first appeared on Stanford.edu

Half working from home during lockdown are unhappy with work-life balance, survey finds

Experts warn of ‘significant physical and mental wellbeing challenges’ for staff working remotely, and urge employers to recognise their continued responsibility here

Half of employees working from home during the lockdown are unhappy with their work-life balance, a survey has found.

A poll of 500 workers, conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) over the last two weeks, found 50 per cent of respondents were not happy with their current work-life balance, with 48 per cent putting in longer and more irregular hours than they would under normal circumstances.

A third (33 per cent) reported feeling isolated, while increased concerns over matters such as job security and the health of family members were causing sleep loss for 64 per cent of respondents – a problem compounded by irregular hours, according to the IES.

The figures were the interim findings of an ongoing study into the wellbeing of home workers. Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the IES and survey lead, said the figures “painted a picture of a new home working workforce that faces significant physical and mental wellbeing challenges”.

“Employers need to recognise they are still responsible for the wellbeing of their staff, even when working from home, and there are a number of steps they can take to improve employee wellbeing,” he said.

The survey also found a decline in other measures of wellbeing since the government introduced restrictions on movement. One fifth (20 per cent) of respondents reported increased alcohol consumption, 33 per cent were eating less healthily, and 60 per cent admitted exercising less since the lockdown started.

There was also an increase in physical complaints. More than half of respondents reported new aches and pains associated with bad posture, including in their necks (58 per cent), shoulders (56 per cent) and backs (55 per cent).

Stuart Nottingham, director of Sun Rehabilitation, said it was no surprise that the sudden surge in people working from home was accompanied by an increase in aches and pains. “Health and Safety Executive guidelines state a laptop is a temporary work device because of posture,” said Nottingham, highlighting that most people working from home will be doing so on a laptop without a proper screen or monitor.

To make matters worse, most dining tables were slightly taller than a standard office desk, adding to bad posture, he said.

Workers need to lift their laptops on to a riser or stack of books to position it at a comfortable height, and use a separate keyboard and mouse, said Nottingham. As a minimum employers should supply a separate keyboard and mouse to each worker who doesn’t already have this equipment at home, he said. “We don’t need to be going into desks and everything else, just do the basics well,” Nottingham advised, adding that sitting on a pillow can help posture at a dining table if they need to sit higher.

Nottingham added that employers needed to ensure workers had a routine, which would help with work-life balance, stress and sleep. Comparing the situation in the UK to that in France – which last year passed legislation giving employers the right to disconnect from work – Nottingham said employees should be encouraged to put away their work devices and log off when they have worked their contracted hours each day.

“When people are at work, you’re at work. And when you’re not at work you walk away from your desk, you close your laptop and don’t open it again until the next day,” Nottingham said. “You get a routine and you stay in that routine.”

This post was originally published at PeopleManagement