Staying Engaged When Working Remotely

I’ve been working from home for years and I absolutely love it.

  • I don’t have to spend loads of time togging up – I can’t tell you how much I love the days when I can be relaxed and comfy working in my PJ’s and Ugg boots.
  • I have flexibility and freedom to manage my time – some days I’ll work from 5.30 or 6am until the kids get up, then switch off to ferry the kids to school, bounce home again to do a short yoga practice and get myself focused again, then dive back into things.
  • I can work in spaces that facilitate the work I’m trying to do – depending on what I’m doing, I move around the house and use different spaces to help me most effectively engage with the task at hand. If I’m thinking and reflecting to generate a solution, I’ll sit outside in the backyard. When gathering my thoughts and making notes I’ll sit on the couch. If I’m immersing myself in reading or material, I might relax on the bed. And when doing some heavy lifting on preparation and documentation, I’ll spread out across the kitchen table. Admin, organisation and logistics all happen in the office.

  • I have quietude and space – while I still ferry kids to school and travel to meet clients, I’m not in the rat race of the peak commute each day. Aside from the positive impact on my sanity , the time I don’t spend travelling creates a spaciousness in my day and brings a more calm, measured pace that helps me stay present and focussed.

 

Although there are loads of great things about working from home, this sudden shift, for many of us, will represent a significant change in the way we work.

Moreover, and while many people already work remotely to an extent – one or some days a week – doing it every day over a sustained period of time is altogether another matter.

Below are some tips around staying engaged as we start to work remotely on a wider and more sustained basis.

For those of us with Extroverted preferences

Although some people may relish the peace and quietude of silence and solitude to get their work done, this type of environment can send others positively stir crazy. Notably, those with more extroverted tendencies.

Working remotely and with limited face to face interaction has the potential to make extroverts very quickly feel isolated, disconnected, de-motivated and left out in the cold. After all, more extroverted individuals often feel highly stimulated, engaged and energised by the immediacy of interaction with others.

Office environments naturally offer a space for the type of interaction extroverts seek. Working at home on the other hand, puts up a very physical geographical barrier to the moments that arise naturally throughout the day – chatting with the barista as we order our coffee, exchanging chit chat in the lift on the way upstairs, catching up as we cross paths in the kitchen, or dropping by our colleagues desk to check in.

For those of us who are more extroverted, working from home doesn’t have to mean instant isolation. Rather, it just means we need to be more deliberate and conscious in creating opportunities to engage with those we work with AND with those around us.

  • Take advantage of the fact you don’t have to race out of the house to catch the bus or train – enjoy a proper sit down coffee or breakfast with the people you live with or make a video call to check in on a family member or close friend.
  • Schedule morning team break and be deliberate in taking the time to stop mid-morning – make a tea or coffee, step outside and connect with someone you work with. Schedule this time in your calendar and use it to help you foster meaningful relationships with your colleagues and teammates.
  • Find the fun – be creative in finding new ways to connect and work with your colleagues. Perhaps you’re looking to run brainstorming sessions, unpack problems and explore solutions. Have fun looking for, sharing and leveraging interactive technologies that enable you to be together, share ideas and engage real-time.

For those of us with Introverted preferences

Those of us who lean more to the introverted side of things, working remotely has the potential to be positively blissful. None of those constant interruptions with people dropping by your desk, peace and quiet away from crazy, noisy open-plan offices, a welcome break from the intensity of face to face meetings where everyone talks over the top of you and want everything now.

Yes. Bliss sweet bliss it is to work at home for individuals with introverted tendencies.

The challenge here, however, is that those of us who identify as introverts may retreat altogether into this naturally preferred habitat. Perhaps never to be seen or heard of again. At least until we email the final deliverable or announce the solution has been implemented.

For those of us who are more introverted, working from home may mean we need to be careful not to retreat too far. Staying connected is critical to stakeholder engagement and overall receptiveness to the solutions we generate and recommendations we make.

  • Be deliberate to check back in with the mothership each day – even if it’s just to report on progress, ask questions or re-assess priorities.
  • Proactively engage with your colleagues and stakeholders – don’t leave them behind and out in the cold as you power forward in the sweet bliss of your newly found peace and quiet. Take some time to stop and reach out to your colleagues and stakeholders to get their feedback, input and perspectives. This doesn’t always have to be a call. You might send a quick poll to check in with where everyone is at.
  • Speak up on calls – don’t let the motor-mouths dominate remote meetings. Take a deep breath in and speak up when you have something to say. Trust me, they need to hear it and it’s worth asserting for the 1-2 seconds that you need to step in a start speaking. If some online meetings are particularly unwieldy and out of hand, approach the organiser separately and perhaps ask them to take a more structured approach to managing discussion and inputs to ensure everyone gets heard.

We have loads more ideas to share with you, and will be doing so over the coming days and weeks.

Next time, we’ll be looking at ways to stay motivated when working remotely. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Image Sourced from Unsplash by; Avi Richards, Dillon Shook, Freestocks and Aleks Dahlberg

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Set to Work Remotely

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

As I see more and more of my clients asking their people to start working from home with the unfolding global events, I can’t help but ask myself how well equipped are we to transition so suddenly to a remote working environment?

So much of the work we do at M.A.D. Mindworks is to help leaders and their teams find ways to be more present, more connected, and more effective. Some of the simplest things we can do in this space is to spend time together. 

To take the time to get to know each other, understand that we all have different ways of thinking and working, and better harness strengths from the diversity around the table.

Much of this can be seriously compromised in remote work settings.

Tools like email are already over-used and horrendously abused. This becomes rampant in remote work situations. While in many ways it is understandable and makes perfect sense, it provides food for thought and pause for caution as we ready ourselves to move into a remote working situation, suddenly and en masse.

The tendency to use email for all communications is often driven by our desire to get something done, driven by our own agendas and timeframes, and because it suits us, enabling us to hit send and pass the proverbial ball to someone else along ethernet.

This can be relatively harmless when the message is simple, black-and-white, and fully fact based with clear easy actions and unambiguous next steps.

It becomes highly problematic when the situation is more complex, more emotive, or has the potential to insight different interpretations, different reactions, and different perspectives -all signals for the need for exchange, discussion and dialogue.

What happens when we mis-use channels like email is that we often set of an interminable email trail, unwittingly offend or trigger tension and conflict, waste precious time, and often generate more issues or create even more work than we solve or get done.

Below are some simple tips from the M.A.D. team on maximising your presence, connection, and effectiveness in a remote work setting:

Check your tendency to default to email

Each time you open an email take a moment to pause and ask yourself;

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

 

  • Is what I am about to send best delivered via email?
  • Is there a back-and-forth or exchange of ideas required?
  • Could this be dealt with more effectively through a real time conversation?

 

 

Leverage technology that facilitates real time video conversations

With the plethora of apps available today that make it easy, not to mention free, to have video calls, it seems there’s no excuses. And no, worrying about what you look like on camera doesn’t count!

I regularly use these channels to connect with clients. In fact, I have several coaching clients I have never met in person and all our ongoing engagements are facilitated via video-based apps. These forums approximate as closely as possible in person presence and connection providing us with critical non-verbal information that we need consciously and unconsciously as human beings in order to connect and communicate most meaningfully.

Stay focussed and engaged

Some of us are more adept than others at working alone and in isolation. This is simply a function of our core preferences and tendencies and how different people thrive in different environments.

For those of us who prefer a lot of human contact when we work, the prospect of working remotely and at home can be daunting. This brings with it challenges around staying focused, feeling energised and maintaining our motivation and drive. If this sounds like you, there are loads of things we can do to combat this.

  • Start your day with a focusing routine – This might look something like sitting down with a tea or coffee and reviewing your key priorities for the day, taking five slow breaths before you dive in and get started, or simply taking a moment to focus and presence yourself.

Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

  • Make time for virtual coffee – You could also include scheduling a mid-morning coffee catch up with a colleague where you both stop work and dial in on a video call to have and informal catch up over coffee.
  • Exchange experiences via group chat – Leveraging group chat forums where you share photos, videos, and other dynamic materials with your teammates throughout the day can also create a sense of energy, engagement and fun.
  • Reach out and ask for help – Most critically if you find yourself really struggling it’s super important to reach out and let someone know that you need a little help.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to maintain your presence, focus, connection and effectiveness as we embark on this sudden transition to remote working, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to have a conversation!

Let’s get loud!

For a cause that’s near and dear to my heart I must say this Friday please ‘Let’s get loud!’ for anyone with hearing loss and who could benefit from the programs at the Shepherd Foundation.
My tiny nephew Andrew, whose now just 3 years old, was born with hearing impairment in one ear. Early detection and early intervention programs like those offered by the Shepherd Program were absolutely amazing in assisting Andrew in his development. My nephew adores music, loves to sing, and already is a budding musician. All testament to the amazing the programs offered by the Shepherd Foundation!
Every year 1 in 1000 babies in Australia are born deaf and hearing loss is the most common disability among children.
So let’s get loud this Friday 18th October and help The Shepherd Centre support families of children with hearing loss.
Of course you can share your LOUDEST images of support via social media using the hashtag #LoudShirtDay and tagging @ShepherdCentre and @LoudShirtDay on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Say Cheese!

Every now and then I run a little social experiment. When I’m walking down the street, I make a point to smile at everyone I walk past. Now, I don’t mean I get in anyone’s face or do anything particularly weird or unusual, just a casual smile and meeting of eyes as you walk on by.

What I love about this is that pretty much everyone responds. Instantly. With a smile.

If they don’t, well, it means they’re in a seriously bad mood or trying very hard not to reciprocate.

This is because smiling is an automatic response and one that occurs so rapidly in the brain, that the mechanism is activated before we realise. It’s a simple and very beautiful thing, this natural human reflex to respond to a smile with a smile.

Unfortunately, when we’re under a lot of stress or we’re having a bad day, the last thing we really want to do is break into a big broad beaming smile. It’s a little like looking back on those family gatherings where someone decides to take a whole group shot and you have to say “cheese” for the camera. By the time the shot gets taken, those broad grins somehow slip into surly grimaces.

Yet we know from the research, that a smile, along with a little humour, offers us one of the fastest ways to re-set, re-balance and re-establish equilibrium through the course of the day.

The good news too is that the smile doesn’t actually have to be real! So the grimace you make as you glare at the camera can actually work. As long as the corners of your mouth are lifted, this physical movement of the facial muscles is enough to pour a wonderful chemical cocktail that cascades through the brain and body to give yourself a little lift.

So next time you’re feeling under the pump, stressed out of your mind, or just plain grumpy, take just one second to stop and life the corners of your mouth.

So here’s to saying “Cheese”!

The Underrated Art of Listening

I’m one of six kids. In the pecking order, I’m number four. Technically I’m a middle child. Yet, not only am I sandwiched between four brothers, I even had to share the middle position with one of them!

Growing up was chaotic to say the least and those who shouted loudest or fought the hardest usually won. The prize…well, the first piece of pizza, the most chips, the front seat of the car…the usual stuff kids bicker and banter about.

In this environment, what I learnt was to speak up and speak out. To stand up for myself. To argue my point of view or justify my position. Holding my own against four brothers was no mean feat and I regularly joke that I had the princess well and truly knocked out of me by the time I stepped into the big bad world.

And I got very good at holding my own, asserting my view and articulating my arguments.

In an environment where there were so many of us, vying for whatever we needed in that moment – be that airtime, attention, treats or sweets – what we focused on was being heard, arguing, forcing our point of view and talking over the top of each other.

What I was absolutely woeful at, however, was listening. We all were. In such a noisy space, there was never a pause or a moment of silence. Just lots and lots of noise.

This realisation dawned on me when I was about twenty. I was participating in a tutorial at university. I was so caught up formulating what I wanted to say, that I completely missed what was actually being said by someone else in the class. I wasn’t listening at all.

And this is a dangerous inner world to indulge because it very quickly degenerates into a one-sided conversation – with myself! Not only was I formulating a very one-sided, and potentially very limited, view of the world, I was cutting my nose to spite my face. Without having fully heard and understood what the other person shared, how could I effectively participate in a full and dynamic conversation? What value would my response have, if it did not fully appreciate, encapsulate, and respond to the other persons ideas or point of view?

This was a vividly formative moment in my life. It was the moment that I first recognised that I was an absolutely terrible listener. Second, it was the moment I decided that I was going to learn to listen.

Ever since then, I have put in a concerted effort to really listen. To be fully present and give the person my full and undivided attention. To try to receive whatever it is that they share without judgment and without being busy inside my head formulating what I want to say in response.

It’s been challenging, because if you’re used to talking, being quiet isn’t such a comfortable place. Moreover, just because I wanted to become a better listener, didn’t mean I was good at it or always got it right. And I still need to put in a concerted effort to listen.

When I met my partner, I showed him the DISC model of Behaviour Styles and we shared some insights from a simple assessment. He ticked an item that went something like “I like to listen”. He was shocked and surprised to see that I had not ticked the same item. I had to explain, that while I really do like to listen to people, the way I’m built and the way I was raised, does not naturally predispose me to listen first and speak after. Rather I’m more inclined to shoot from the hip and just keep talking.

What emerges here is the classic difference between introverts and extroverts. Individuals with extroverted tendencies show an inclination to talk through, or verbalise, their thinking. Those with introverted traits on the other hand, may prefer to fully think things through before sharing their ideas or opinions.

These different modes of thinking and working create the fast chatter that comes from one side, often with people talking over one another, and the silence of the pause on the other side. Those who prefer to talk, find that silent pause excruciatingly uncomfortable and can’t help but fill the space with, well yes, more chatter.

Those inclined to introversion tend to be more naturally reflective. They fundamentally like to listen first, to observe and absorb what it being said or shared around them. Then they like to sit with that for a moment while they process and formulate their thinking. When they do finally decide to speak, they tend only to speak up if they truly believe what they have to say has legs and is worthwhile sharing.

These are admirable qualities that form the backbone of great listening. And the people I have observed most closely through the course of my career, and sought to emulate, are the more introverted individuals who do exactly this.

I find the dynamics of introversion and extroversion fascinating and fundamentally believe that we have tipped the scales in our working world too far towards the extroverted scale – valuing primarily those who speak first, dominate the conversation, or assert their views most powerfully and forcefully. This leaves little or no space for the more measured thinkers and listeners in the room. It also means, if we indulge, and ultimately reward, these behaviours too much, we may be missing some of the best ideas in the room, ending up with a very one-side and potentially limited, view of the world.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

With Gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team.

Its Stress Down Day!

Try this recorded exercise for more details on how to master this breathing technique.

Let us know how you go. And of course, we’d love to hear what you do to stress down too, so do share your ideas.

With gratitude, from all of us at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Happy International Yoga day!

Why not try this simple practice? We’d love to hear how you go. Use this simple breathing to start with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rS5RvOyk2E&feature=youtu.be

Three reflection questions to articulate and position your value

Two types of cheese with corn on toast – what makes you feel appreciated?

My daughter was terribly excited about making me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. It was all her idea and she was very decided about it. When the day finally came I let her loose in the kitchen under the supervision of my partner.

With an enormous smile of pride on her face she served me two types of cheese with corn on toast.

Perhaps it’s the makings of a new craze in breakfast. It might even dethrone the famed avocado and feta smash. Or not.

It doesn’t really matter. What mattered was she made a genuine effort to show me that she loved and appreciated me.

Science shows that feelings like gratitude and appreciation set off a cascade of feel-good neurotransmitters in our brain. It feels good to do good. It also feels good to tell others that what they did made you feel good. And it feels good to hear that what you did made someone feel good.

It’s an all-round win:win really. Whether you’re showing appreciation or feeling appreciated.

The problem is that sometimes we don’t always, or easily, recognise when someone is trying to show us they appreciate us. That’s because we all have different ways of showing we care – be that words, gestures, actions, gifts, quality time etc (Gary Chapman, 1995). And if the way we show appreciation doesn’t line up with the other person, things can easily go awry.

What might start out as a genuine effort to do good or be kind could be completely misconstrued.

If I was judging breakfast in terms of the avocado-and-feta-smash-trend, then my daughters innovative and novel take on breakfast might seem completely outlandish and something café society isn’t quite ready for. But looking at breakfast as the results of some incredibly creative thinking on the part of a little girl working with a poorly stocked fridge and her sheer determination to make mum breakfast in bed – well, this leads one to an entirely different conclusion.

What’s useful here is stepping outside of our own world view when it comes to what we define as “good” and simply stepping back to observe the intention behind someone’s words and actions.

Then recognise and value that for what it is.

If we all did this just a little more often at work, we might even have better working relationships with those around us.

Think about someone you work with.

What opportunity do you have to tell or show them you really appreciate them?

 

For more information refer to:

The Neuroscience of Gratitude

https://www.whartonhealthcare.org/the_neuroscience_of_gratitude

 Giving Thanks can make you feel happier

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

 The Five Languages of Love, Gary Chapman 1995