It’s a difficult time to be navigating the complex world of business. Whilst adapting to new ways of working remotely, a practice which looks to become the new norm, professionals at all levels of business are experiencing new challenges.
Whether workers are going for a promotion, trying to keeping up team morale or fire-fighting a never-ending to do list, times are hard and without being able to interact with colleagues face to face, simple tasks can suddenly become complex. Even those in more senior positions are needing to find new ways of working, to effectively manage and nurture not only their teams but also themselves.
A recent report by RADA Business, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, revealed that, contrary to what many may believe, anxiety is actually most prominent amongst those at senior director level, with 94% of professionals struggling with anxiety around communicating. This group were also found to suffer feelings of anxiety the most – 10 times per month – which is twice the national average.
However, the world-renowned performance coaches at RADA Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, build upon actor training techniques, centred around body, breath and voice, to help business professionals develop the necessary skills to improve their performance in the workplace.
To help senior business professionals navigate the anxiety-inducing world of remote leadership, Kate Montague, RADA Business tutor shares her answers to some of the more common questions, which have been put to the RADA Business team since the lockdown began, by senior leaders.
I’m finding remote working stressful, how can I manage this stress more effectively?
As leaders, we have to accept that there will be times when things become stressful and Covid-19 certainly hasn’t been an exception to this. Acknowledging that we are out of alignment with our working habits currently and seeking the tools and techniques to help is the first step.
At RADA Business we look at where stress is manifesting itself and it often extends beyond the psychological and takes a physical form in the spine and showing up in our posture. Taking a stretch, rolling out the shoulders and releasing the neck is a healthful activity between calls.
Conscious breathing also helps to make us more comfortable physically, and also calms the nervous system. Take a moment to sit or stand tall, then become aware of your breath and breathe deeply and fully a few times a day. This is a useful tool for reducing stress and helps to clear the mind. Deep breathing in this way releases dopamine, the body’s ‘happy’ hormone, which helps to make us feel better, more emotionally responsive and less emotionally reactive. If you’re stressed focus on lengthening the out-breath, or if you’re tired and need recharging, focus on taking a few fuller in-breaths.
I’m struggling to land my messages through virtual mediums, how can I show up effectively online?
There is definitely a knack to presenting effectively via virtual mediums, and getting it right will certainly help you convey both confidence and professionalism.
Firstly, consider your posture: make sure you’re sitting tall, lengthening through the spine. Think of your pelvis as a foundation stone to your spine, let it relax into the base of the chair.
Ground yourself with your feet flat on the floor – this will help you to connect your breath to your speech so you’re able to communicate with depth of tone and clarity.
When using visual platforms, consider your framing to ensure your head is nicely centred, balanced on your shoulders, and neither too close nor too far from the camera. Lighting is also hugely important on video calls – we need to be well lit from the front so those we’re presenting to are able to read those all-important expressions, which are key to communication. If you have a tendency to rush, remember to take moments to pause and breathe. Using eye contact to connect with your listeners will help slow down your communication so others have more time to process and absorb what you have to say.
Temperamental video conferencing software and poor Wi-Fi connections can cause some technical problems through online mediums. Be sure to check in with your audience and have them feedback by asking some simple probing questions such as “Is everything clear up to this point?”, or field any questions they may have. This will ensure your message has been received and has landed as you intended.
How can I reassure my team while I’m struggling with my own anxieties?
Firstly, acknowledge your own challenges. Bosses often face burnout when they refuse to admit they’re struggling, however when you are willing to look after yourself first you’re in a far better position to help and reassure others. Take time each day to tune in and listen to yourself as you would a friend and provide your own coaching. Ask yourself: “How am I doing?”, consider the answer and apply to yourself the response you might give a friend if they were to say: “I’m feeling anxious, stressed, burnt out…”. Give space to connect with your kindness and empathy. Acknowledge where you’re doing a good job, and make space for your inner guidance to show you where to go next in terms of a difficult decision or action. We all feel anxious at times, so let those feelings come forward, remember to breathe, and address them in the moment so they are processed, which will help you to reconnect with your innate clarity and intuition.
When reassuring your team, whether they’re feeling angry, anxious or upset let them bring their own feelings forward too, rather than suppress them – they’ll respond to this. In body-led psychotherapy we say all feelings are welcome: it’s a non-shaming, non-judging atmosphere. Schedule in 10 minutes each week to check in with the team and ask them how they are coping, what they need, or how things could be better. Inclusion has never been so important so allow your team to vent, or share what is current for them, and show that you see them.
My progression feels stinted, how can I impress my superiors when they can’t see and hear me at work?
Make yourself visible by being proactive. It’s easy to feel as though we’re doing lots of work and not getting noticed, especially when working remotely, but having clear intentions and going out of your way to make them visible will help you to be seen. Don’t let the boss do homework, instead offer them what you have to share – send them something to watch or read; offer to lead a meeting; offer to head up a new project – serve it to them on a plate. Be sure to ask for guidance and feedback too, as this will help to keep the conversation going and ensure you are front of their mind. Put yourself out there and let yourself be visible.
How do I keep up team morale while we are short staffed?
Being short staffed is never easy but the relationship you have with your team is everything. Rapport and intimacy become even more important when a team is downsized, so regular check-ins are essential. It’s important to ensure that your team’s workload is relatively balanced in order to prevent exhaustion and burnout. Schedule regular catch-ups with the team to oversee their work but be careful not to micro-manage – teams are more responsive when they’re able to work to their own deadlines, whilst still meeting your needs of course. Also bear in mind that the warmth of giving praise helps to re-engage teams who may be under pressure or missing colleagues who are no longer around. We thrive on celebrating the wins, so be sure to factor in time to thank the team, perhaps at the start of an update meeting or why not setup a quick ‘digital round table’ with the pure intention of praising the team? Be sure to take your time when delivering praise and make eye contact with your team – this will give your message a clear sense of genuineness.
I’m trying to move into a new role but now isn’t a good time and I feel stuck, how can I get noticed?
If it really isn’t the time then focus your energies on a new temporary goal that you’re able to get passionate about in the interim and that will allow you to grow in other ways. You may find that taking time to acquire new skills in other areas will have an impact on your routine performance and there are plenty of ways to skill up. Make time for a short-term course, undertake a side project, engage in continued professional development (CPD) – anything to keep your mind active and to keep you growing whilst your usual routine is feeling static. Developing a new project or hobby that you can talk passionately about often comes with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm, two traits that are bound to help get you noticed by the people at the top.
During these challenging past few months, business leaders have seen just how resilient they can be. In the face of adversity, there’s now potentially a deeper awareness of how performance at work is impacted by how well we nurture the holistic self – the spirit, mindset, physical and emotional well-being all play a part in how we deliver. There has been an acknowledgement of strengths while simultaneously more willingness to acknowledge vulnerability. This really is key as it leads to deeper human connections, which is the bottom line of any business. Regardless of what trade we’re in, it’s all about human endeavour and although stressful for many, the recent months have helped us to learn about balance and to become more attuned to what we as individuals need, as well as how to be more responsive to our colleagues and clients.
Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans
- Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
- 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
- 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
- QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career
Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.
And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.
With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).
To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.
Careers-focused learning takes priority
If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.
However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.
As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.
Technology sector is voted most futureproof
The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).
Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.
Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.
Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments:
“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.
“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.
“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”
Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:
“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.
“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”
The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.
Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.
Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request.
Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party
By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.
There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.
- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
- Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
- When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
- Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
- Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.
To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.
Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world
By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland
As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.
For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.
In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.
For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.
Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.
Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.
As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.
This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.
An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.
What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.
Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.
Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.
Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.
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