Creating a D&I Strategy that works

Last year we shared an article from the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) on how to read body language cues from other cultures.  You can read that article here

Picture by Damien McFadden

We were delighted that it had an overwhelming response, as it confirms our thoughts about how much diversity and inclusion (D&I) means to people.  So many of you engaged with our post that we have decided to expand on it further, and we have asked Dr Julie Humphreys, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Reach, to share some of the secrets to creating an effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Building the Strategy

Many organisations make their first mistake in D&I right at the start of their journey. The senior leaders put a strategy together and then roll it out to their teams, however the strategy can only really work if it is led by the employees.

Julie says “A Diversity and Inclusion Strategy needs to be built starting with the employees and reaching up to senior leadership. Here at Reach we started looking at D&I by creating Listening Groups. We held 66 sessions over a 4 week period and additionally sent out a survey via email for employees who were more comfortable that way. The aim was to really find out what our team members thought about D&I and the results led to a fundamental resetting and reframing of our D&I Strategy”

If you start with your colleagues then when you build your strategy you can ensure that the issues that are important to your employees are at the heart of it.

Making it Real

The next step is making your written strategy reality. The most important factor here is that the senior leaders ‘live’ the strategy and are really committed to it.

Julie says “We wanted to ensure that in addition to having a generic nationwide strategy, we also tailored strategies locally. We tasked over 80 senior leaders to create their own plans and set their own priorities. We provided the support to ensure that the local strategies were realistic and achievable, but ultimately we wanted the Inclusion Action Plans to be real life documents that everyone was committed to”

Finding a way to incentivise team members and leaders to make D&I a priority can be a great way to ensure that it doesn’t become a box ticking exercise and can lead to significantly increased engagement from all levels.

Supporting Employees

Julie says “One of the main issues that came out of discussions with our colleagues was that staff didn’t feel they had a ‘safe space’ to vocalise their feelings or concerns. In response Reach has created Inclusion Networks. Each network is sponsored by a Senior Executive who really wants to be part of that group and is committed to its goals.”

It’s important to remember that a key part of D&I is communication. It should not be up to minority groups to educate and raise awareness. It is up to everyone to ask questions, strive to understand and be inclusive. At Reach anyone can join an Inclusion Network to learn and to embrace diversity and inclusion.

A final comment from Julie “Remember D&I is for everyone, not just HR, not just managers, not just a legal or box ticking exercise. If you embrace it D&I can become part of the day-to-day life of an organisation and can have huge tangible benefits”

We have always felt that D&I can have a dramatic impact on motivation, retention and performance and we can’t wait to find out the results of Julie and Reach’s innovative D&I Strategy. We know that Julie is already measuring the success and we would urge any organization embarking on a D&I Strategy to do the same.

September 2, 2021 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

Inspire Your Team To Move On From Covid

Step 3 :  Task v People – Keeping The Right Balance

This month is our third and final blog in our series outlining the steps you can take to ensure your team are motivated and engaged as life returns to a long awaited ‘normal’. We have already looked at treating your people well now to retain them for the future (click here to read the first blog in the series) and how to involve your team in your business strategy (click here to read the second blog in the series). Last, but by no means least, we will be talking about the importance of putting people management higher up on your leadership agenda.

Unfortunately, I see the same mistakes being repeated by numerous organisations around their leadership agenda. The main one is that organisations promote their best technical people into leadership roles without giving them training in leadership skills and the ongoing support they need to be successful.  Those new leaders tend to focus on getting the job done, rather than motivating others to get it done.  In other words, they stay in their comfort zone of managing tasks.   The results are often a reduction in job satisfaction for the leaders, which has a knock on effect on their teams, performance and turnover.

Another issue that I come across regularly is that many leaders get too involved in the day to day details. This could be because they have not learned how to delegate or because they haven’t invested enough time in developing their teams to be self-sufficient.  If mistakes are made, the leader will step in and sort things out.

If a leader parachutes in to save the day when problems occur, that has an impact on the motivation of the whole team.  You may as well have shouted across the office ‘I don’t trust you to get this job done, out of my way, I’ll sort it out’. How would that make you feel? Not very inspired or motivated, I would think.  Your team will also not learn anything from this sort of intervention, so next time you will be sorting out the same problem again.

To put it bluntly, if you are doing your team’s job…who is doing yours?  For me, inspirational leadership comes down to the ability to provide people with the right level of support and challenge for them to thrive, either at their current job or in progressing to meet their full potential.  It sounds simple, but that skill encompasses a huge amount of thought, planning, execution and effort.

A technical person promoted to a leadership role might be excited about the challenge of managing their own team (although that is rarer than you might think). Given the right training, coaching and support that person could develop into a great leader. However, without those key elements it becomes a lottery based on that individual’s skills and drive to learn for themselves, despite their unhelpful environment.

So, as our final step in the process of moving on from Covid, take some time out to consider what investment you need to make in your leaders to make the most of this precious resource.

April 29, 2021 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

Inspire your team to move on from Covid

Step 2: Involve your teams in your mission statement

Last month we started our series of blogs aimed at helping you inspire and engage your team to move on from Covid. March’s blog focused on treating your people well now (don’t worry April is not too late) to retain them for the future, which you can read here. This month we will be looking at how involving your employees in the development of your company’s vision and goals can really increase engagement and why having more people-centric aspects in your mission statement can add to its success.

These days, most organisations have a mission statement and a set of goals to work to which enable teamwork, a shared vision and, ultimately, to success. Many of these statements centre around the organisation’s customers and of course that is an essential part of any business. Some businesses have started to incorporate social, community or environmental aspects into their mission and that is to be applauded as well. Unfortunately, most mission statements are sadly lacking in the people aspects. I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to create a strategy for your entire organisation, but here is how I would advise you to make the most of your people in the development of your mission, vision, strategy and goals.

In the end, your employees will be the people on the ground responsible for bringing your business vision to life and ensuring the success of your goals, so why not seek their input right from the start?

This is a great way to increase employee engagement, especially when many of us are working remotely and feeling ‘removed’ from the organisation. Think of this as an extension of the long-used ‘ideas box’. This can be an anonymous process, but if you really want to increase engagement think about how you can involve your teams in the development of new ideas in an active way.

You could try a ‘Round Table’ – a virtual meeting with senior leaders and various levels of staff for open discussions which can bring forth ideas on how to improve and develop the business. Smaller groups are easier to manage in a virtual environment, but sometimes an ‘all hands’ meeting can encourage more discussion. Try break-out rooms for developing ideas without everyone speaking over one another.

If you have had a Motivation Review for your teams and know who your ‘Creators’ are (those people who drive change, challenge the norm and create ideas) then you could run some specific ‘ideas’ sessions. You could gather your ‘Creators’ together for brain storming sessions or divide them amongst other teams to help generate ideas in those groups. Sometimes people just need a spark to get them started, then the ideas tend to follow.

The key thing to remember with whatever initiative you undertake is to make sure that everyone is listened to, ideas are acknowledged and responded to. You don’t have to reply to each person individually, but ensure that you recognise people’s inputs, highlight the best ideas and explain why others will not be taken forward. Make sure everyone feels involved.

This process will not only leverage the combined experience and skills of your teams but will ultimately help you succeed in your goals. Be ready to launch your new (or updated) mission, vision and goals in line with a ‘return to normality’ and look forward to the gains in employee engagement, satisfaction and accountability of putting their own ideas into practice. All it will cost you is a little time…

Next month we’ll be sharing our final blog in the series helping you and your team move on from Covid talking about putting people higher up on your agenda, so remember to check next month.

March 30, 2021 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Inspire your team to move on from Covid

Step 1: Treat your people well NOW to retain them for the future

With a long awaited return to normal life finally on the horizon (albeit distant) now is the time to start thinking about how to inspire and engage your team. 2020 and the start of 2021 have been difficult for organisations across the world and there will certainly be more challenges ahead. As a leader you will have plenty to focus on over the next couple of months, however if you do not make your team a top priority you may find further problems arise, just when you think things should finally be returning to some kind of normality.

Over the next three months we will be publishing a series of blogs outlining the steps you can take to ensure your team are inspired and stay motivated for the future. This month we look at what you can be doing even before the lockdown ends.

Throughout the pandemic we have often heard the advice that, in order to get through it and stay sane, we need to live in the here and now. Don’t focus too much on tomorrow and the future, just enjoy what you can in the moment. The future has been an unknown and unpredictable thing, which can be a scary thought.

Whilst it is true that we cannot know the future, it is important to take whatever action we can to shape our futures. This may have to be one step at a time, ensuring we maintain our physical and mental health and leaving us in a good place to build from for the future.

If you extend this approach into leadership, then we can see how taking time now to fill our employee’s emotional bank accounts will increase employer branding and benefit our organisations in the future.

A key area of leadership is to provide a good balance of support and challenge :-

  • Set clear goals for your team – probably smaller ones
  • Be realistic with your expectations of performance
  • Deal with unmet goals in a firm, but fair manner
  • Don’t avoid issues now, thinking it is a bad time to address them
  • Always start by listening
  • Keep a regular check on your team’s mental health

Coach your teams to stay positive and build resilience, so that they can apply these skills to any situation that comes their way. There are many tools you could introduce to your team to help with this. I use one daily called ‘Mindchi’ to help deal with challenges and keep me focused on the positive. The key to a positive mental attitude is to keep things simple, practice regularly and build in support for when you or your team need additional help.

Pay particular attention to two-way communication. Brush up on your active listening skills and help your team focus on their positive achievements. Be clear and open about the future, whilst remaining realistic about changes that might be afoot.

Empower your teams to make the most of having more flexibility, while being clear about fixed-time meetings or activities. If you like to be in control, ensure you have light-touch mechanisms for keeping track of progress so your team don’t feel micro-managed, but you can get the information you need to do your job.

Last, but by no means least, get some feedback about how people feel you have treated them during the pandemic. What has gone well, what could have been managed differently and what can be learned. You could publish this feedback in print or video to demonstrate your efforts and build on your employer branding.

Making some small tweaks to your leadership approach now will help you start to prepare yourself and your team for upcoming changes. As always, if you and your team need support, we are here to help.

Next month we’ll be looking at stage 2 which focuses on why incorporating specific people aspects to your mission, vision and goals is key for the future.

March 8, 2021 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

How to get the best from your team in 2021

There had been a lot of talk about new starts, the end of Covid and getting back to normal in 2021.  Most of the leaders I have spoken to recently appreciate that, rather than returning to normal, businesses will be entering multiple change cycles in order to get things back on track.  Although this will bring some challenges, it will also bring opportunities to make some step-changes that can make a real difference.

The biggest challenge is likely to be how to take your employees with you on that journey in order to retain your best people and to help them to optimise their performance.

Restructuring

It seems very likely that many employees will be facing redundancy or role changes next year.  Obviously, your HR team will be there to support you with the statutory requirements of redundancies, but what about the more human aspects?  Being fair and supportive at these times will enhance your employer brand.  Use all forms of communication, both with those team members who are facing redundancy, but also with those team members who will be staying.   Demonstrate to your team that you are there to support them by actively listening and dealing with any questions or concerns in a positive manner.  Be available and put yourself in other’s shoes when dealing with issues.

Work/Life Balance

Ironically, over the past 18 months I have written several blogs about the benefits and down sides of remote working and remote leadership.  I am delighted that some managers who would never consider flexible working for their teams are now having to deal with it.  Most people need a balance of autonomy and team working, yet that balance is different for everyone.  So here are some of the issues to look out for and if you want to know more you can read my blog from September 2019 here

  • A drop in productivity – set clear goals and maintain regular contact with your team to keep things on track
  • A rise in stress levels – review goals to ensure people are working to their priorities. Recognise and reward good performance
  • Cost savings – you could make some great savings on office costs, but be sure to invest in technology to support home working effectively, as well as proving opportunities to work face to face
  • A drop in engagement – ensure you understand your team on an individual basis so you can engage them effectively

For all of these potential issues, your first point of call is to listen and understand what is causing the problem.  You can then help each individual to work out how they can resolve any issues.

Zoom Fatigue

12 months ago most of us hadn’t even heard of Zoom and now many of us are spending more time ‘on zoom calls’ than we are on anything else!  Some of you will know exactly what zoom fatigue feels like by now, so how can you and your team avoid it?

  1. Try to keep your zoom meetings short and sweet with a clear agenda that you stick to.  Allow time between meetings to prepare and to plan your next actions
  2. Either turn your camera off or hide ‘self-view’ so you can focus on the person you are meeting with
  3. Choose Speaker view rather than Gallery view in group meetings, so you can focus on the person speaking rather than what everyone else is doing
  4. Quit your other applications so you can concentrate on your zoom call rather than trying to multi-task.  Do I need to remind you to put your phone away or on silent?
  5. Schedule some ‘screen-free time’ every day.

My feeling is that if you were a busy person in the office, then you are likely to be on

back-to-back Zoom meetings now.  The issue is that you need to make time to think, work and to lead (inspire your teams).

Health

Most leaders will have already experienced this issue throughout 2020, where employees are worried about coming to work due to concerns about catching Covid-19.  This is particularly the case if individuals are at a higher risk.  Obviously, you will be following Government guidelines to ensure that your team are safe at work, but as well as this it is your responsibility as a leader to clearly explain these measures to your staff and to ensure that they feel they can come to you if they have any concerns.

And let’s remember that mental health is just as important as physical health.  Look for the signs that people may need more support or breaks, and work with them to maintain their motivation levels.

In these changing times, your leadership skills will be more important than ever…ensuring that your team are balancing work and home life, giving your team a structure whilst maintaining a level of flexibility and ensuring they stay motivated and focused.  If you need any help with any aspects, I am just a phone (or video!) call away.

December 2, 2020 at 9:17 am Leave a comment

Will things ever be normal again?

In April 2020 an estimated 7.5 million people were put on furlough in the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with millions more asked to work from home. On 1st August 2020 the government changed their stance on the advice ‘everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home’ (!) to allow employers the discretion to decide whether staff should return to work.

So, the question is…have your team returned and are things back to normal?

During the lockdown I had many conversations with people looking forward to returning to normal, but it may not be possible to go back to how things were before. If your team are back, then you may have already encountered changes and if you are planning to bring your team back soon, then there are pitfalls to be avoided.

Here are my thoughts on some of the possible issues and my advice on how you can resolve them

Furlough Envy?

In certain sectors businesses were all but shut down and almost every member of staff will have been furloughed, but even in these cases a skeleton staff would have to remain. In other cases, leaders will have had to make tough decisions about who to furlough and who to keep working. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ and a study by Westfield Health certainly supports this with over a third of people surveyed saying that if they were furloughed they would rather have been working and if they were working they would rather have been furloughed.

Those still working may feel like they have missed out on what amounts to paid holiday, including quality time with family and basically an easy ride. Those furloughed have likely spent several months wondering why they weren’t asked to keep working and whether there will be a job for them in the future.

What’s the Solution?

Well you won’t be surprised to hear that my answer is to keep lines of communication open. Ensure that your employees feel comfortable airing any concerns, ensure you listen carefully to their issues and give clear and honest answers to any questions they may have.

Loved Working from Home a little too much?

Not everyone will have enjoyed working from home, some will have found it lonely and isolating and will be chomping at the bit to get back to the office. However, it is likely that many people have found the flexibility that comes with home-working very enjoyable and have thrived. These employees may not be so keen to return to 9 to 5 in the office.

What’s the Solution?

If team members come to you asking if they can continue working from home, then I suggest you give the matter serious thought. There is a lot to be said for remote working, including serious savings on office costs, but it is not a decision to be taken lightly. I believe that many roles can work flexibly, including an element of home working. You have now been able to test-drive remote working. Take a good look at the past few months, what worked and where were the problems. Do some research into technology that can be used to help facilitate home working. Perhaps you can have a hybrid arrangement – time working from home and time in the office. Bear in mind that as things return to ‘normal’ work could be significantly busier – will your team still be able to work effectively from home then? Be open and honest with your employees about your decision and reasoning so that they can get on board. The worst comment I have heard recently regarding home working is ‘you manage your own time, so long as you do your hours’ in other words ‘I trust you, but I don’t trust you’. Be sure you don’t go down that route.

Health Fears

During lockdown even those who are very nervous about Covid-19 or particularly at risk have been able to adjust their lives so that the danger is at a low level. With life returning to normal and people returning to work, many will feel that the risk is increased. Others will be excited that things are getting back to normal and may not want any increased health and safety measures imposed on them. The cross-over between these two groups is sure to cause fireworks!

What’s the Solution?

The government has clearly said that employees should only return to work ‘if it is safe to do so’ and this safety rests with you as the employer. It is essential that a full Covid-19 Risk Assessment is carried out, with all reasonable measures taken to reduce the risk of infection. These measures should be very clearly explained to your employees before they are asked to return, with a clear method outlined for staff to ask questions and be reassured. All employees should be reminded of the importance of abiding by the new safety guidelines and the consequences for infringements, to ensure everyone is happy to return safely. Most importantly Health and Safety should not be neglected in other areas because of concerns about Covid-19.

My final piece of advice is to remember to watch your team’s state of mental health carefully as this has been a challenging time for us all. However, we are not in this alone! Be available to offer support where necessary and ready to invest in professional help if it is required.

It is essential to recognise that the dynamics of work have changed during this time. The companies that will thrive over the next few years are those that see this change as an opportunity and make the most of it.

August 28, 2020 at 9:40 am Leave a comment

Maintaining Motivation in Lockdown

In my experience the ability to successfully manage a remote team is the best test of a leader’s effectiveness. This unprecedented time, where many people are required to work from home is a great opportunity for more leaders to develop these essential skills. It is not enough for your workforce to simply go through the motions, ticking off their assigned tasks. You need to ensure that they are still motivated and engaged during this difficult time and into the future.

I’ve put together some tips which may help you. These are all based on  real life examples from my clients and together I believe they provide a framework to best practice for inspirational remote worker leadership.

Team Huddle

Whatever you call it; Progress Report, Catchup, Update Meeting a regular get together where you all share information, updates, issues and successes should continue even when your team work remotely. These meetings are best conducted using teleconferencing or video chat technology. Keep to your normal schedule, whether that is daily, weekly, fortnightly and ensure the meetings are still short and focused. You may find that some adjustment of format is required to make it work, but it will be worth it to maintain momentum.

Coffee Chat

Of course you don’t have to bring a coffee, but a casual get together over the phone or video chat is a great way to create that bond that we all have when we see each other regularly in an office environment. It’s nice to make this a regular day, but with no compulsory attendance. Perhaps you can vary the time each week to fit with people’s commitments at home. Everyone can just drop in and talk about whatever they like.

Start and End of Meetings

If your team is smaller in size consider calling on people one by one to ask how they are feeling at the beginning and end of each meeting. Give people maybe 30 seconds each, but remember to note down any issues and follow-up with anything that is more serious or that may effect the team as a whole.

Team Wellbeing

This final tip is a little more complex. Some of your team are bound to thrive on remote working whilst others will struggle. Being isolated will effect everyone’s mental health in different ways, so remember to continue your regular 1-2-1’s with your team. If you can do this by video so that you can observe their body language and facial expressions. Take action to resolve any issues that may occur and be ready to offer additional support if required.

Finally here are some quick tips for you to check with your team

 

  • Do they have the right environment to work at home. Is there a room or space set up as their office and do other people in their home know not to interrupt them when they are working.
  • Have they set a schedule for their working day and are they taking regular breaks like they would in the ‘real’ office. People should get up and move around every 45-60 minutes and totally switch off at the end of the working day
  • Do they have the right equipment to be comfortable ie. A proper desk, adjustable chair
  • Are they eating well and keeping hydrated. With no junior to make the tea and coffee, no assigned lunch break and the kitchen within easy walking distance people who work from home often snack rather than eat properly and forget to drink enough water
  • Are they taking regular exercise – energy levels drop significantly if you just sit all day and all evening
  • Are they taking some time out to think, to be creative and to learn, if nothing else self-isolation gives us time – something that is normally in very short supply
  • Have they got realistic goals? In theory you can get a lot more done at home, but only if you pace yourself and manage interruptions and distractions
  • And finally do encourage all of your team to reach out if they are feeling isolated or depressed

I am optimistic that this experience will change the way we work forever. Managers who have not allowed their teams to work from home can build the trust they need to let this continue. The constant merry-go-round of work and everyone being overloaded can be replaced by valuing time to think, plan and be creative. If we all can learn to work more effectively, rather than just working more, then we can all be happier and more productive in the future.

 

 

 

April 8, 2020 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Does appraising your team fill you with dread?

Do you love being a leader? Enjoy motivating your team and achieving goals together? Do you like to be a friendly face that your employees feel comfortable talking to? Is the one bad part of your year appraisal time?

Almost four years ago, I wrote a blog addressing the thorny issue of the annual appraisal, however many of my leadership clients are still telling me how much they dread them. You can read my original blog here. In this blog I will expand on the advice I gave then, helping to make appraisals a positive experience, for leaders and their teams.

Prepare

For leaders, this takes 12 months of regular reviews with each employee. The appraisal itself is just the formal process of confirming the year’s performance. More than that, it is your chance to help your team to look forward and develop themselves and their career.

Ensure your team do not feel blind-sided by the appraisal by giving them an agenda and some questions to review ahead of the meeting. If your appraisal system is an ongoing process, they should be aware of their objectives and be able to give thought to their own performance.

Atmosphere

It is important to have a business-like, but relaxed environment during appraisals. Choose your appraisal location carefully. It will need to be private, but not too daunting. Staring at each other along a conference table big enough for twelve is not going to create a comfortable conversation. However, the pub is not the right place either!

Questions

Allow time to discuss the personal aspects, not just work objectives. Before diving in with your evaluation of their performance, start by asking them how they feel they have done in specific areas. These questions should be in line with the preparations you asked them to make, so that they are primed to answer. Encourage them to talk by using open questions and be sure to listen carefully to their point of view.

Feedback

Find areas to give genuine, positive feedback so that employees feel motivated and encouraged. If something has not gone so well then analyse together what can be done to improve. This should not be the first time they hear about an issue, problems should be addressed as they occur, rather than waiting for the annual appraisal. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep, for example about pay and rewards, or a training course.

Plan

Always finish your annual appraisal with agreeing on a plan moving forward. Decide on future objectives, how you are both going to measure success and what responsibilities you each have. If training or support is required then agree who is following that up. End the appraisal on a positive note.

Ongoing

If you make notes of your regular, informal reviews, then the appraisal should be one of the easiest and most satisfying jobs that you do.

For me the whole point of appraisals is not a box-ticking exercise and certainly not an opportunity for you as a leader to criticise what your team have done wrong, but a key process which measures and develops the individual’s performance, while enabling them to think more widely about what they want to achieve in the future. In my view, getting appraisals right is critical to the success of the organisation as a whole.

March 6, 2020 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

Does getting out of hours emails stress you out?

Do you often receive emails from your boss outside of work hours? As modern technology enables us to be available 24/7, this is a growing issue. Gone are the days when the end of the working day meant relaxation away from work place worries.

The University of Sussex carried out research looking at businesses that banned their employees accessing their emails outside of work hours. They found that some employees found it helpful to switch off, but others were more stressed when they were unable to keep on top of their work communications. So what should you do if you are getting emails after your work day has ended?

Different Work Styles for Different Personalities.

We all have different drives, personalities and priorities and these will affect how we feel about out of hours communication. Some people are highly driven by achieving at work, whilst for others quality time with friends and family is a more important priority. Some employees enjoy having flexible hours, which will mean that the end of their working day may not be 5.30pm and their ‘weekend’ may not be Saturday and Sunday.

Many will find that they sleep better knowing that they have checked their emails before bed. However, some people prefer to structure their hours and switch off from emails and work until the morning.

Action: Think about what you are comfortable with as an individual and what may cause you stress. Reflect on whether you are happy to receive and reply to emails out of working hours. When you know what you are comfortable with, it makes putting boundaries in place a lot easier.

Healthy Boundaries.

As an employee, you should never feel forced into replying to emails outside of working hours. Although these days it may seem like we must always be available, we don’t have to be. Emails are becoming more and more accessible, with some of us even having them coming to our watches, but we should recognise that we don’t have to keep checking them.

Some employees may find it difficult putting healthy boundaries in place. You may worry that late emails are a test from your employer to see how dedicated to the job you are or, having read an email, you may be drafting a response in your head until you can send it. The reality is that in a 9-5 office environment, there should be mutual respect that emails don’t need to be exchanged outside of office hours.

Action: Although people, including your boss, may send emails outside of working hours it is up to you as the recipient to choose whether to open them, or to reply to them. Once you have decided what level of communication you are happy with, communicate this clearly to your boss and other team members and then stick to your boundaries.

If your employer emails you outside of work hours, you can choose to ignore the email until the morning. This is setting a healthy boundary. If you start to reply to emails late at night, it may give the implication that you are happy to do this.

Global Business

Having colleagues, clients or suppliers all over the world means that we need to connect with people in different countries, whose business hours are different to ours. This means, naturally, we have to be more flexible. However this shouldn’t automatically mean you should extend your working hours – your employer needs to give you flexibility too.

Yet, some countries are creating their own healthy boundaries. France introduced a law in 2017- called ‘The Right to Disconnect’. I love this concept. It would give many hard workers the ability to switch off from work and reset.

Action: As well as making us more contactable the modern world also comes with some great technological advances which allow us to manage our working hours. One of them is the ‘schedule send’ button available on some email service providers. So, if you need to email global contacts consider using this so your email arrives during their working day.

Work Overload.

If people don’t switch off outside of work, they will reach overload. It is not unusual for some people to be checking their emails before they go to sleep and as soon as they wake up. This makes relaxation difficult to achieve.

A study done by the University of Reading showed that 61% of managers found it difficult to switch off from work due to technology. 54% admitted that they check emails outside of working hours. To work efficiently, the brain needs to rest. Without this you will not operate efficiently and in the end, a lack of downtime could affect your mental health. You need to ensure that you are spending enough time taking care of your own needs.

This should also be the case when it comes to holiday time. Having a break away from work has many benefits, including boosting your mental health and allowing your stress levels to reduce whilst you take much needed time away from work to focus on yourself and your family. Therefore, you should be able to take some guilt free time out, especially over the festive period.

Action: You can enable the ‘Out of Hours’ or ‘Auto Responder’ function on your email. This allows you to feel at ease that people who email whilst you are away receive a response, but that they know you are not going to get back them personally. You can include alternative people to contact in your absence, or if necessary your mobile phone number, but only in case of emergencies. You can also set your mobile devices not to notify you of incoming communications during certain hours, so you are not tempted to respond.

November 29, 2019 at 12:44 pm 2 comments

Remote working – is it a help or a hindrance?

More and more companies have turned to remote working in order to save money and to gain access to a larger pool of resources.  Interestingly, I was speaking to a manager this week who noted that remote working includes anyone in your team who is not sat in the same vicinity – they could be in another country, another town, half a mile down the road working from home, in the same building but on a different floor, or even on a different part of the same floor.

The challenge of communicating effectively is still the same.  They admitted that, even when people are in the same building, if they have to get out of their chair to speak to them the chances are they would send an email instead.  Not even pick up the phone, they would send an email – how worrying is that!  This is a sign to me that leaders have less time to spend with their teams.  Email is not the answer to that problem!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of remote working – I have done it for 30 years – although I have always been able to choose where I work rather than being remote all the time.  Whether you enjoy it or not is highly influenced by your own motivators (I need a balance of independence and teaming), but it is equally influenced by how you are managed, and the team culture that your leader encourages.

So let’s look at why you may have switched to remote working and what the issues could be.  Then we can focus on what you, as a manager, need to do to continue to inspire your remote workers.

Productivity

From personal experience, I know I can easily double my productivity when working at home.  However, that is because I have put in place the disciplines needed to enable me to be more productive – I have a separate office, with a door I can close, reducing interruptions; I have the technology I need to enable me to connect to the outside world; I take regular breaks to ensure I don’t over-work or get fatigued; I keep hydrated and fed so that my energy levels and concentration can be extended; I am accessible to others and let them know what I have achieved.  I’m sure you will have your own tips on this, but even these are not always easy to attain, so many people can be less productive at home, if their disciplines are poor.

Action: Schedule regular contact with your remote teams, either by video or telephone or by meeting up at a convenient location.  If they are not being productive, understand why not and what needs to change.

Stress

No commute, no queuing for a coffee or the printer, it is easy to see why remote working can be less stressful than being in the office.  It can also provide a better work-life balance, because some of that commute time can be put to better use, whether it be to do the school run, keep fit or to socialise more.  However, if your team interacts less with their colleagues they can soon become isolated.  Perhaps goals and expectations won’t be clear, maybe you won’t know who’s doing what or if achievements are appreciated.  All these can lead to higher stress levels.

Action: Make goals, targets and expectations clear to your team, as well as ensuring good performance is recognised and rewarded.

Costs

If you have thousands of in-office employees then they all need a desk, computer, phone, maybe even an office.  You’ll need a canteen, kitchens, toilets, some companies even provide a gym and a swimming pool in to increase staff morale.  So it’s easy to see how having remote working teams can reduce these costs.  However, a word of warning.  It is essential that your teams meet face to face on a regular basis and the company will need to provide a good base to do this. I don’t mean “a hot-desking area” where you get to sit with anyone from anywhere in the company, I mean areas where employees can sit or meet together with their team-mates.  This takes some co-ordination from you as a manager.  It is also essential for you to be clear that you expect your team to participate in these meetings.  In between these face to face communications, your teams will need to collaborate during their work, so you’ll need up-to-date systems for document sharing, video and teleconferencing, which don’t come cheap.

Action: Although you may be able to save money by switching to more remote working, in order to make it work you will need to invest in other areas, such as communications technology and shared meeting spaces.

Engagement

If there is one thing that builds the best employee engagement, I would say “trust”.  Allowing your teams to choose to work remotely at times shows a huge amount of trust. Finding ways to include them, listen to them, thank them and praise them can help to motivate them and maintain high performance.  Everyone needs different levels of interaction and independence, so it is key to be able to understand what makes them tick.  Of course if you are a task-focused leader who struggles to do these things when people are on site, you are going to find it harder when they are working remotely.  Consequently you are less likely to encourage remote working at all.

Action: Ensure that you understand your team’s motivators so you can engage with each individual in the best possible way.  Focus on what they deliver rather than how long they spend at their laptop.

 

So you can see that there can be pros and cons to remote working. If managed effectively, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.  If you have a remote working team and are finding effectiveness and engagement an issue, please get in touch.

September 3, 2019 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Alan Adair

Contact Details

Alan Adair

Extra Dimension
Helping you and your teams to be more engaged, motivated and effective.

21 Pelican House
Stone Close
Poole
BH15 4GE

Tel 01202 830047

Email alan.adair@extradimension.co.uk

Website
www.extradimension.co.uk

RSS Extra Dimension

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Alan’s tweets