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Always get dressed from the waist up and other WFH tips

Working from home

As office workers are now facing working from home (WFH) our friends over at Donorfy have put together some more handy WFH tips. Why? Because working from home is the only way they work, so they know what works. Here’s their handy, slightly irreverent take.

  • Always get dressed. At least from the waist up for video calls. Working in your PJs may sound attractive, but it’s not going to help you get your head into work mode. (We quite agree!)
  • Use a proper office chair and a desk. Laptops on kitchen tables, or even on laps, are not a long-term solution.
  • Discover the joy of a standing desk. It doesn’t need to be a real one. A board across two piles of books does the trick. And if standing doesn’t work, maybe try squatting.
  • If you can, make your home office a separate space from the rest of your home. Something you can close the door on, or store away out of sight. Especially if you have young children.
  • At the end of the day, declare the day ‘done’ – whether good or bad – and move your attention on to home. It’s too easy to just keep on working. Resist the temptation.
  • You’re at home, so slippers make sense. But somehow they’re a bit too ‘homely’. So get yourself a pair of work slippers. And when you’ve finished for the day, swap them for those fluffy pink mules you love.
  • Make really nice lunches. Artisan soups. Salads. Last night’s takeaway. You’re at home – the food doesn’t have to be bad! Don’t eat at your desk. And make good coffee – you deserve it.
  • Stay in touch. Pick up the phone. Use video conferencing. Use Slack / Teams or similar for office chat. Don’t just send emails – they’re too ‘heavy’. Make a special effort to keep the ‘water-cooler chat’ flowing.
  • Get out of the house at least once a day. Use the step counter on your smartphone or watch to guilt you into staying active. Post your walks on the chat. Praise others for making the effort to get out. (Lucy went as far as getting a dog to help her get out! Here he is.)
  • Be intentional about doing something different during what would have been your commute time and lunchtime. Read a book. Go for a run. Paint the shed. Or a ‘fake commute’ as suggested in the Lucidity blog.
  • Get in the zone with focus apps and music to work by. Despite what you told your parents when you were revising, you probably can’t focus when the music is loud and has lyrics.
  • You may be working remotely, but don’t be distant. Use the webcam whenever you can. Use screenshare to show colleagues what you’re talking about.

Got any WFH tips? Feel free to share them with Donorfy on Twitter or in the comments below.

A version of this blog was first published at www.donorfy.com.

How to stop people from panic-buying

A guest blog by Becky Slack and Emma Insley.

How might we change things when change is hard – and how might we change things when the world as we know it seems about to end?

These were among the questions discussed this week during the Lucidity Network Business Book Club meeting. The first meeting of 2020, nine Lucidity Network members took part, some with glass of wine or beer in hand, and all with useful insights to make about our book of choice: Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.

In the book, the authors argue that we need only understand how our minds function in order to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour. The first lesson in how our minds function is that humans make decisions based on emotional and rational thinking. The Heath brothers describe our emotional brain as an emotional elephant and the rational brain as the little rider perched on the top. To make change happen you have to reach both the emotional elephant and the rational rider. Then you have to clear the way for them to succeed. In short, to make change happen you must do three things:

  1. Direct the rider
  2. Motivate the elephant
  3. Shape the path

And given that we are currently facing the biggest disruption to life since World War Two, we thought it might be fun to apply the learnings from the book to the Coronavirus crisis. Among the scenarios discussed was that of how to stop people from panic buying and be more community minded. Here’s what we considered…

Clinic: How to get people to be more community minded in times of crisis?

Situation: As Coronavirus has spread around the world, shoppers everywhere have been stockpiling key items such as hand sanitiser, pasta and bread. The trend has seen supermarket shelves emptying, stores restricting sales and fights breaking out over toilet roll.

Stockpiling is completely unnecessary and risks vulnerable people being left without essential supplies. The government and supermarket chiefs have all confirmed that the country has plenty of supplies and that the UK will not run out. So far, these words have fallen on deaf ears. What will help people change their behaviour, become responsible shoppers once again, and support others in their community?

What’s the switch and what’s holding it back?
The behaviour the government and supermarkets want from shoppers is clear: people just need to purchase regular amounts of goods. Panic-buying in this way means that other people miss out – and miss out unnecessarily. However, this is a crisis situation and survival instincts have kicked in. Media reports and social media posts containing photos of empty shelves are causing people to engage in seemingly irrational behaviours.

How do we make the switch?

  • Direct the rider

1.Find the bright spots

The government/supermarkets/media should find examples of communities where people are shopping responsibly and supporting community members. In Lincoln, for example, volunteers are coming together to support vulnerable and isolated people by doing basic shopping and running errands for them. Sharing more stories about what people are they doing differently and why, rather than scenes of panic-buying, will help to spread kindness and consideration throughout our communities.

2. Script the critical moves

Fear of the unknown and a daily changing situation is creating panic. Ambiguity in messaging from the government about what to expect and how to behave is creating confusion. Everyone is feeling stressed, in danger and out of control. Stockpiling of food and toilet roll makes them feel in control.

A set of clear messaging is needed about what is happening and what the public needs to do will help them feel in control again.

  • Motivate the elephant

1. Find the feeling

We discussed how a feeling of pride and trust in our local communities is necessary if we are to feel safe. If we trust our communities to look out for us and to share their food and toilet roll, then we don’t need to stockpile. However, while many people enjoy online communities (such as the one offered by Lucidity Network) these are often geographically dispersed. Strong local community links are less common. One way to help build those quickly is to share stories of how good it feels to help or be helped by a neighbour.

  • Shape the path
  1. Tweak the environment

Rules on what people are able to buy and switching the big shopping trolleys for the smaller ones and baskets will prevent stockpiling, and opening shops earlier will provide an opportunity for vulnerable people to access essential supplies.

       2. Rally the herd

People are sensitive to social norms. More stories are needed that share positive experiences of self-isolating, to help show people that it’s not as scary as they may think, and which highlight the many ways in which communities are coming together to help each other – to encourage others by being role models. Tools such as the #Viralkindness Postcard make it easier to offer and accept help.

Lucidity Network Business Book Club readers were optimistic that good things would come out of this crisis – we were hopeful that communities will come together, and we will experience a greater connection to those who live closest to us if we chose kindness over panic and self-preservation.

The book

Switch: How to change things when change is hard By Chip and Dan Heath

Within this book, Chip and Dan Heath provide a clear framework to help people and organisations figure out a pathway to change when change is hard.

To join the Lucidity Network business book club

The Lucidity Network business book club is just one of the benefits of being part of the Lucidity Network. When you join you also get connected to a generous community who provide help, support and connection. You get monthly online training kits and webinars on those topics that are essential for a happy and productive working life, including innovation, managing up, learning from failure and unconscious bias. You also get access to group coaching, mastermind groups and events. For more information go here. If you’re interested in joining the Lucidity Network or have any questions, then drop Lucy a line at lucy@lucidityorg.uk.

Becky Slack is the founder and managing director of Slack Communications, which for the last seven years has provided editorial, communications and training services to mission-led organisations and entrepreneurs.  She is author of Effective Media Relations for Charities: What Journalists Want and How to Deliver it and co-hosts a creative writing retreat in southwest France called L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Retreat, France.

Emma Insley helps charities and social enterprises to measure and demonstrate their impact in a compelling way so that they can raise more money and achieve their mission.

 

How to stay connected, think positive and help each other

This sh*t got real. Supermarkets are selling out, the health service is on its knees and we are fearful of the many unknowns of what’s to come. It’s hard to stay positive when many of us are feeling that the advice about what to do has been unclear and inconsistent.

We’re in unprecedented times. This situation has never happened before so the hard truth is that there is no right answer. It’s a new virus. Experts are still learning about how it spreads, how it mutates, how infectious we are, how long it lasts and whether or not people who have had it will have immunity.

Every country affected has a different regime and demographic, every country affected is responding slightly differently. We are learning from others as we go along. The news has many inconsistencies and unanswered questions.

Social media is fuelling panic, pandemonium and poor behaviour. Economically the situation is a disaster, every industry and sector will be impacted and the impact is going to last a long time.

Self-isolation is going to take its toll. Humans are social animals, we live in communities for our survival. Anxiety, loneliness and depression can easily close in if we’re left in our own minds for too long. People at risk will depend on family, friends and neighbours to look after them. The health service was already stretched and now it’s bursting at the seams.

The situation is bloody awful and we have a choice about how we as individuals, communities and society respond to it.

We can choose fear, we can choose anger and we can choose to be defeated.

Or we can choose to help each other, we can choose to be compassionate humans, and we can choose to make a difference.

How can we help each other?

I was mulling this over at 3.27 this morning (anyone else not sleeping that well right now?) and I think the key is being able to shift your mindset. Think about the opportunities that this situation might bring, stay positive, make connections, help each other and do what you can to keep your pecker up.

Here’s my thoughts.

Think before you post – think about the impact your social media post has on others. Catastrophising posts create mass hysteria. Do we need to know that South London Sainsburys shelves are empty or Tesco in Birmingham has been ransacked. Perhaps tell your local friends and family these insights to save them a wasted trip, but no need to broadcast it to the whole world. Post positive stories, acts of kindness, helpful articles or advice and even cats on robot vacuums in shark suits if it might cheer someone up. Bring light, not darkness with what you share.

Stop panic buying – buy what you need. The shops won’t run out of pasta. You don’t even like pasta. Stop posting about the panic buying it just encourages other people to panic buy. Some of the most vulnerable people are on low incomes and buy their food weekly because they don’t have disposable income to stockpile. If we all buy up all the no frills, budget ranges then the people who can only afford to buy those either have to spend all their budget or go without.

Look after each other – How are you neighbours doing? Do you know them? Can you check in on each other? I’ve seen great community work on this already, people offering to go shopping, collect prescriptions and have phone chats with those on their own. How might you help? How are you already helping? – share your story. 

Keep connected – human beings crave connection, even us introverts like hanging out with other people. Technology is a great enabler, use videoconferencing, set up WhatsApp groups, pick up the phone – whether you’re working at home or stuck at home. If you want to connect with others check out Facebook groups that offer advice and support. I’ve found the different groups I’m part of very helpful so far. I run the Lucidity Facebook community which offers help and support for leaders and managers. Join us here.

Sort out your sock drawer – have a go at shifting your mindset to a positive one and use the time you’re not going to work or socialising with friends to do something useful and constructive. Sort out your sock drawer, finally find out what’s in those boxes in the loft, put your books in colour order, rewrite your website, groom the guinea pig, paint the kitchen. 

Learn something new – how many times have you thought, I’d love to learn <insert thing> if only I had the time? Well here it is. There’s hundreds of online courses, people with expertise with time on their hands and teaching books to read. Get curious. Just think you could be fluent in Catalan by the time we are allowed back out. Learn to cook, play guitar, sing, get to grips with the rules of cricket. If you think carefully, the list is long.

Binge on books and Netflix – maybe this is my opportunity to watch Game of Thrones (No I’ve never seen it) or some of the classic films that I’ve not seen either. When someone recommends a book, I’m the person that buys the book and puts in on the shelf for when I have time to read it. If that’s also you, here’s the opportunity to get some of that reading done.

And finally I’ve received so many comments about my blog with tips on working from home, I’m going to run a webinar on the topic. Get quick, practical tips to help you form good habits and be happy, motivated and productive working from home.

Asked to Work From Home_ live webinar 26 march - Copy

Join me on Thursday 26 March at 12:30pm UK time (GMT) for this 75 minute webinar for tried and tested tips for working from home, and learn;

– Systems to focus and ensure the important work gets done
– Practical tips to apply straight away to make working from home more enjoyable
– Tips to stay connected to others, look after yourself and stay motivated.

This is a live webinar so you’ll have your opportunity to ask questions directly, as well as receiving my guide on how to make time to think. Here’s the sign up link.

You’ll have more, better ideas for how to stay connected, think positive and help people. Please help us all and share them in the comments.

Take care x

Quick tips on how to be successful at working from home

Working from home

In 2012 I left a full time permanent job to go freelance, and I started working from home. I believed (and still do) that I could make more of a difference working with lots of different individuals, teams and organisations than being on the inside of a big, slow-moving establishment.

I remember how it felt when I first decided to work at home permanently.

Great in theory. Terrible in practice.

Working from home as your main way of operating is very different from having a permanent job and working from home occasionally to get a report, application or strategy paper done without interruption. The days span out ahead of you with so much to do, so many intentions, a million movable deadlines. You’re accountable to you. Who will find out if you don’t get dressed, if you eat all the Hobnobs or catch up on Netflix? I’ve learned that to successfully work at home, be productive and remain sane there’s some things that you need to put in place.

We’re all different and the first lesson is to find your own systems, routines and tactics that work for you. You might be choosing to work from home, or it might be something that is necessity because of the coronavirus situation. Either way, you have a choice. You can choose to make the most of the opportunity and do your best. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at working from home, or if you’re new to it, here’s some tips that I hope will help.

Have a routine

Get up at the same time each day. Get washed and dressed. Wear clothes, that if you had an unplanned video conference or if a client or colleague popped in for coffee would be acceptable. I don’t mean that you have to wear a suit, but you do have to wear something.

Start work at the same time each day. Sit at a desk. Give yourself breaks. The worst thing is to potter about putting off work doing ‘important’ tasks like washing, cleaning up, and sorting out your sock drawer. It’s fine to do these ‘important’ things as long as you start work on time. For me, I always feel like I’ve achieved if I’ve put a load of washing on – and my rule is that it must go on before I go on my fake commute (see below).

Focus

I’m a list lover. I write a list at the end of the previous working day of the most important tasks to do the following day. I re-assess the list first thing in the morning and then I force myself to do the priority tasks first. Don’t write a list of everything. It works best for me when I have three clear priority tasks. I mean tasks that are manageable. For example if you have to write a marketing plan, don’t write ‘Do marketing plan’ on your list. Break it down into smaller chunks. For example, you might start by 1. Get email response rates and web analytics 2. Analyse the email response rates 3. What can you learn from the results and how might that influence your email marketing going forward? The days when I don’t do this are not as productive as the days that I do. It’s that simple. However not always that easy.

Work in chunks of time

The Pomodoro Technique suggests breaking your time into 20 minute chunks. I know my concentration span is about 45 minutes. What’s yours? Start to experiment. Start a piece of work that you need to focus on. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Then gradually set the timer for longer. How long can you focus for? Find your optimum and then set a timer and break your work into chunks of your optimum size.

Turn off distractions

When you work from home there are, at any given moment about 17,000 distractions that take you away from the tasks you need to get done. Turn off all distractions. Turn off notifications on the million apps you have on your phone. Put your phone out of arms reach. Turn off your email. Get a task done on your list.. Then, and only then check your email, WhatsApp and your dogs Instagram. (Yes, Gary has his own page – check him out here!)

Work when you’re at your best

We’re all different. I know I do my best work first thing in the morning. I often get more done between 6am and 9am than the whole of the rest of the day. Think about how you work and make sure you schedule the hard work at the time of day you’re most productive. Then in those slump times, when you’re less productive, go for a walk, have a power nap or do some of the admin that you can do on autopilot.

Do a fake commute

I’m a big fan of the fake commute. Whether that’s a walk round the block via the local coffee shop or a stroll round the park or even for some the walk from the front door to the spot where you’re working – fake a commute. I think this is helpful for two reasons. Firstly, it signals the start of serious work, which, if you’re working from home can be tricky (especially if you’re not choosing to work from home, but it’s happened because of a necessity of the current coronavirus situation). Second, if you have a walk it gives you time to get your thoughts in order for the day and it’s a transition from non-work world to work world.

I don’t do a fake commute home. I’ve only just thought of it now as I’m writing this blog. Maybe I’ll give it a go.

Sit at a desk

It’s a lovely thought, loafing about on your sofa getting work done. However, in my experience it’s better to sit at a desk. Better for your posture. And also better for concentration. There’s advice about cordoning off a part of the house for ‘work’. I have an office in the spare bedroom, but I tend to work on the dining room table. Maybe because it’s nearer the kitchen, or maybe the light is better. I honestly don’t know. My tip is to work at a desk and work in the spot in the house that you feel most like working in.

Don’t have food that you can graze on in the cupboards

This is a very tricky one right now with people stockpiling food in preparation for self isolating and panic stories about supermarkets selling out of pasta, tomatoes and toilet rolls. (I’m not suggesting you eat toilet rolls) For me, if I have any food in the cupboard that I can pick at, snack at or in the case of cake ‘neaten up’ then its so distracting that I can’t concentrate until I’ve eaten it. And I can’t just eat one biscuit in the pack. The whole pack has to go. So, if this resonates with you, simply don’t have food that you can graze, pick or neaten in the cupboards.

Connect to other people every day

This is the most important tip. If you do nothing else take note of this one. Humans are social animals. We need connection. I’m an introvert. I like my own company. I’m happy alone. I’ve travelled on my own a lot and had a marvellous time. In fact, some of the worst experiences travelling alone involved being adopted by well meaning families who didn’t want to see me having dinner on my own.

However, extrovert or introvert, we’re fundamentally all social animals and need connection. I remember when I was new to working from home having a chat with a client on the phone. They were the first person I’d spoken to all day. They needed to get on with their work. I was asking them what their plans were for the weekend because I didn’t want to get off the phone! This was a problem!

If you’re working from home ensure that you have connection. Not on email or messenger. Have a conversation with another human being. Schedule at least one phone or video conference call with a colleague, friend or client each day. Talking to the dog/cat/guinea pig doesn’t count here. You need a two-way conversation.

Connect today

I’ve got two things that will help you work from home. First join the Lucidity Community Facebook group. A place to connect, ask for help and get support on anything work related. Here’s your link

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I’m also running a free webinar on being happy and productive when working from home on Thursday 26 March at 12.30.  Here’s your link to sign up.  

And if you’d like to connect, please drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk and we can book a time for a chat.

Take care x

Six secrets to create an inclusive environment at work

Inclusion

There’s a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion right now. Diversity just means different. Every single one of us is a unique human being with different experiences, values and beliefs.

Any difference is diversity.

It might refer to gender, ethnicity, background, skills, age or experience. The list goes on and on. But simply ticking the diversity box and throwing a mix of different people together doesn’t mean your teams will perform. High performance, creativity and innovation require inclusivity. This is different to diversity.

We define inclusion as, ‘feeling, valued, trusted and safe. Having a sense of belonging such that you can be your best self and do your best work.’

Many organisations treat inclusion as a word to add on to the ‘equal opportunity and diversity’ agenda. Inclusion is not a tick box exercise either. Inclusion is about a culture where people feel genuinely valued, trusted and safe. Where people feel that they belong and that they can bring their best selves to work.

Research by Deloitte shows that inclusion directly enhances performance. Teams with inclusive leaders are 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively. They also found that a 10% improvement just in the perception of inclusion increases work attendance by almost one day a year per employee, reducing the cost of absenteeism. Really making people feel valued, trusted and safe takes time, thought and effort.

Inclusion is a feeling

Have you ever been to a wedding on your own where you didn’t know anyone? You’re all there to celebrate with the bride and groom on their happy day. And whilst you were most definitely part of the celebrations, did you feel included?

Do you feel included in your working life?

Do you arrive at your place of work confident, ready to be your best self and do your best work? Or do you turn up at your organisation and feel you need to change to be like everyone else? For example, have you ever not spoken up, or modified your behaviour to fit in? If you feel like you can’t be yourself at work, that you’re pretending to be something different, then you’ve already experienced how it feels to work in an environment that’s not inclusive.

I believe that to do your best work you have to bring your whole self to work. If you leave a part of yourself at the door because you’re trying to ‘fit in’ or be something you’re not then its exhausting. It’s also very hard to be happy and do your best work when you’re trying to be someone you’re not.

What about innovation and inclusion?

Different perspectives are valuable for innovation as they can counter ‘groupthink’. And while you may feel more comfortable working with people who share your background or opinions, collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like you stretches you to think more critically and creatively. However, this sort of diversity is only helpful to innovation when opinions can be genuinely heard. Getting a group of people in the room to develop ideas is pointless if only the loudest, most senior or most conventional people are heard. Diverse teams enable innovation but only when they operate in an inclusive environment where people are encouraged to be themselves, to solve problems, to generate different solutions and are genuinely listened to.

Bias is inevitable

We all have bias. Whether that’s consciously or unconsciously, perhaps you have a bias about gender, age, sexuality or ethnicity? Do you have affinity bias where you’re more likely to like people who are similar to you? Or a bias referred to as ‘halo or horns effect’ where you assume someone is great or awful in all areas, because of their performance in one? How about recall bias where you remember and place greater emphasis on recent events over past ones when making decisions? Or do you prefer conformity and have a bias towards agreeing with the rest of the group? Or confirmation bias where you look selectively for information to back up a pre existing view rather than treating all new information equally? Or what about a beauty bias equating beauty with competence and likability and lack of beauty with incompetence or being less liked?

If bias in inevitable, how do I create an inclusive environment?

  • Treat everyone equally well. Creating an environment of inclusivity is about being aware of the biases that exist and treating everyone equally well. That’s not treating people the same because the way I need to be managed is likely to be different to the way you need to be managed. An inclusive manager treats us both equally well and in a way that makes us feel valued, trusted and safe.
  • Believe in and commit to your people. To treat people well you have to believe in them and be committed to their success. Start with checking in what you’re believing about your work colleagues. Are you committed to them? If not why not?
  • Deliberately seek out difference. Ask people on the edge of your network for their thoughts on a work problem. For example, seek out opportunities to ask colleagues whom you don’t usually work with – the Lucidity Facebook Community is there for exactly this too.
  • Check yourself. We’re all guilty of ‘The Susan Boyle Effect’ – making judgements on someone’s talent based on our views of how they appear, sound or behave. Next time you notice yourself doing this, check yourself and challenge your assumptions.
Are they right – or not?
  • Commit to bringing your real self to work. Your greatest achievement to be your best self . Don’t change who you are to fit in, be proud and courageous in expressing your different opinions, perspectives and the value they bring to your organisation.
  • Build trust. One way to do this is to be more open about sharing failures and learning from them. You might do that in a team meeting or your next 1:1 and encourage others to do
the same.

Are you already inclusive in your approach? Do you have success stories about trust and value at work? Please share your tips and stories below.