June 2020
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The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
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The COVID Stress Challenge

 

The COVID Stress Challenge

We live in crazy times and given the number of stressors flying about us it's no wonder many of us are struggling to retain a sense of equilibrium. Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Monsef, recently said, "What the pandemic has done with the self-isolation measures, with the closures of some of the support systems, is create a powder keg." She was referring to the recent increase in domestic violence across Canada, but it's not a stretch to imagine business relationships being strained by the stress we are all under with the current situation. And, we need to consider our employees who are working from home cloistered with their spouses, children and pets. As a business owner, or manager, you will be feeling a great deal of stress – perhaps you are having difficulty paying rent, managing staff, keeping your customers safe, or even keeping your business open.

Here are 5 simple things you can do to at least reduce your stress a little so you don't let COVID grind you down. Who knows, maybe you can you use these tips to jump start redefining your life and business in a way that works within the current confines of business life and the "new normal."

  1. Limit your exposure to media sources. The media thrives on dishing out bad news; reporting on a pandemic or a disaster is something they do well. The problem is that they repeat the same information and messages ad nauseum. Some people watch every hourly news broadcast, as if something might change for the better. It rarely does and to be constantly bombarded with bad news, bad vibes, is harsh on your psyche. By all means catch the early morning news and perhaps the National in the evening, but don't link yourself to a news feed 24/7. Give your brain a break.
  2. Take time – uninterrupted time- to assess your current situation and make a plan. Run that plan by some people you trust and respect and then put it into action. Once you have done that, try to stop worrying. There is little else you can do to change what is going to happen, other than tweaking the plan as things change.
  3. Talk to your employees about the situation. Gather them online and get their input. The very act of bringing them together and involving them will generate team spirit and you will no longer feel so alone. They will feel less stressed and so will you.
  4. Talk to all the other stakeholders in your business; your bank, landlord, accountant, lawyer, suppliers, and anyone else whose support you might need and who in turn need to know how you are managing and what plans you have for moving ahead. You will be surprised how calming it can be to have everything out in the open and to take control – however minimally.
  5. Take a little time for yourself. During turbulent times you need a few moments when you remove yourself from all the stressors. Many CEO's of major corporations believe in the power of meditation and mindfulness. Spending 15 minutes a day just sitting and focusing on your breath, and nothing else, will allow you to clear your head. You will be surprised how this will both reduce stress and help you make sound decisions. Don't like meditation? Then simply go for a walk, or sit in your garden and take time to notice the sounds, the smells, the visual stimulation. Focus on the petals of a flower, a bug walking across the patio, really focus to the exclusion of all else. Be in the moment and only that moment. String together several of these moments and once again your head will be clearer and your stress reduced.

Someone once said, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Take the COVID stress challenge above and see if you can come out of these tough times stronger, calmer, and more mindful.

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The COVID Stress Challenge

 

Managing Your Workforce Remotely

Covid-19 has fast-tracked us into a new business paradigm that was, just a few months ago, only slowly infiltrating our business lives. A Gallup poll recently showed that by the end of April, 63% of people had worked from home in the preceding seven days. A Global Workplace Analytics survey shows that between 25% - 30% of the U.S. workforce will be working from home post-pandemic for multiple days of the week. Interestingly, some 77% will want to work from home.

This "new norm" will require managers to rethink, not only their management approach and practices, but also learn new skills. Here are 8 things you should bear in mind if some, or all of your workers are working from home.

  1. Trust is going to be a bigger issue than it was when you could talk face-to-face every day. You need to be able to trust your employees and they need to trust that you will do right by them. Yes, it is a two-way street.
  2. If only some of your employees are working from home you need to bear in mind that those remote workers may feel less important, less valued, less trusted. A recent survey reported in the Harvard Business Review found that they may have concerns that their onsite colleagues or managers are talking about them behind their backs. It doesn't matter if this fear is unfounded, it will still damage morale.
  3. When remote workers have issues they are more likely to sit on them for longer, rather than trying to resolve them. In their article, A Study of 1,100 Employees Found That Remote Workers Feel Shunned and Left Out; authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield discovered that 84% of remote workers said an issue dragged on for a few days, while 47% admitted that they let issues drag on for weeks. Imagine the loss of productivity during that period.
  4. Often, people working from home miss the camaraderie of the workplace, the water-cooler effect if you like. As a manager try to engage your remote workers in a conversation that spans more than work. Ask about their family, what their plans are for the weekend. It doesn't have to be extensive nor intrusive but a little conversation that isn't focused on work will demonstrate that you care. It may also allow them to feel comfortable in bringing up issues or concerns that might be affecting their productivity.
  5. It's important you familiarize yourself with new technology such as video-conferencing. Sure, you can simply call your employee by phone, but it will be far more personable, not to mention real, if you make it a video-conference call. It's surprisingly how much better face-to-face management is than talking to a disembodied voice. Plus you have to get out of your PJs and so do they!
  6. Learn to video-conference effectively. Look at the camera frequently, not just at the person's face on the screen. Think how disconcerting it would be if in person you never made eye contact. Videoconferencing is no different – eye contact is important. And, focus on the call, don't start reviewing your email, or checking a document. Mute your phone and close your email browser.
  7. Be clear about workload, your expectations, and the deadlines you set for remote workers. Be specific not vague.
  8. Remote workers often complain about being ignored – out of sight out of mind. Be there whenever your employees need you. Communicate often and reply within hours not days. The bonus is that if you communicate quickly and efficiently they will too. Win-win.

Early surveys are beginning to indicate that people working from home are actually more productive when working from home. Of course, the quality of management will have a lot to do with those figures. One thing is certain though; remote workers will become increasingly common. We as managers face a "new norm" it is our responsibility to rise to the challenge.

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The COVID Stress Challenge

 

Coach's Corner - Building Resilience

What is resilience? As defined by the Webster's Dictionary, it is "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change."

The past few months and looking forward to the coming months, resilient people and businesses will recover and succeed. The recovery and adjustment will not be to the old ways, it will be to a "new normal" that has been imposed by current situations and restrictions—social distancing being one by-product.

The question for many is how do we build resilience? What are the steps or processes that we can incorporate into our lives that strengthen our resiliency? How do we move forward successfully?

"Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good."
― Elizabeth Edwards, Author of Resilience

Here a four ways to build resiliency into our lives as we move forward in our business and personal lives.

  1. Relationships. Strengthening and focusing on relationships with people who we value as friends and closely linked associates, will provide us with a greater feeling of not being alone. We are stronger together. Who are we spending time with?
  2. Health and Wellness. Staying healthy and fit is important at all times and a crucial part of building resiliency. Keeping the body exercised and healthy contributes to our overall well-being and our ability to deal with stress and anxiety. What are we doing each day to keep our bodies healthy?
  3. Setting Goals. When we have a sense of purpose and have set ourselves achievable goals, we will find ourselves in a positive frame of mind. By accomplishing even smaller goals each day we will feel stronger despite what is going on around us. What have we accomplished today?
  4. Positive Thoughts. By having a hopeful and positive outlook on life, we expect good things to come to us. Positive actions and thoughts lead to positive results. Dwelling on the negative usually brings us down whereas focusing on the positive pushes us up and forward. What good things have we learned from the current situation?

Resilience is found in our response and reactions to a situation. When we choose how we respond and react and accept the inevitable change, we will overcome the adversity and grow stronger as individuals and as businesses.

"No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can't take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action."
― Ryder Carroll, Digital Product Designer and Author

Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching

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Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation
450 O'Brien Road, Suite 205, Renfrew, ON, K7V 3Z2
Phone: 613-431-3951 | Fax: 613-431-7840
info@rccfdc.org
www.rccfdc.org

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