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How to reduce screen fatigue in 8 easy steps

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The truth about Working from Home

How to work from home – with breaks from the screen, exercises for the eyes and body, and tips for reducing the need for excessive online meetings.

Since COVID-19 arrived, record numbers of staff are working remotely have been inundated with web conferences, online meetings, and webinars using various online conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meets, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, Teams and many more. These excellent tools have helped us to keep in touch and adapt our ability to continue to keep large and small businesses and educational institutions operational to varying degrees during lockdown and quarantine.

For some the ability to work from home has been pure bliss and a dream come true for  others it has been  an absolute nightmare. Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, like it or loath it, the reality is that for the foreseeable future [at least] remote working is the current reality aka the new normal.

So how have you dealt with and managed with your remote working circumstance?

Have you established a routine for yourself and faced your remote working circumstances as if you were still going to the office OR have you taken a more relaxed approach?

Do you get up and get dressed and face your day the same as you would if you were going into an office or do you wonder around in your pj’s or other comfortable attire and only adorn a respectable business appropriate blouse or shirt when you know you have another online meeting to attend?

Have you created a dedicated workspace in your home or has your bed become your new office?

Have you started feeling less and less inclined to actively participate in online meetings or do you show up mindfully and purposefully because after all you still have deliverables and deadlines?

Have you begun to resent the alert that indicates you have yet another team meeting  to attend and WHY can’t they just send you an email?

Do you show up for your team meetings prepared to engage with your colleagues because even though you are working remotely you recognise the need to interact and stay connected to your team?

Have you found yourself glossing over emails and not purposefully engaging with the content and making mindful decisions based on those emails?

Is your energy levels and body language and facial expressions evident that you have lost the ability to engage and are operating on autopilot?

 

We know that too many online meetings and too many hours in front of the screen can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

While we can not escape the seemingly endless list of online meetings and lectures, we can try to achieve a little bit of balance in our day-to-day work-life.

This article will cover: 
  • The symptoms of screen fatigue
  • Exercises for the eyes and body
  • Why online meetings are tiring and how to reduce them
The symptoms of screen fatigue

So much information is transmitted digitally, and when the brunt of your job is information processing on a screen, fatigue can certainly set in.

Screen fatigue is a medical diagnosis called asthenopia. Asthenopia occurs as a result of staring at a computer, tablet, or phone for extended periods of time. Screen fatigue has multiple symptoms including headaches, pain around the eyes, dry eye, blurry vision, tired or watery eyes, tiredness, difficulty keeping your eyes open or focused on the meeting, sensitivity to light, and even vertigo. Asthenopia has also been called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS) and can be exacerbated by reading digital texts for extended periods, working in dim light, or excessive exposure to the kind of blue light emitted by screens. Some people even report an intense feeling of apathy and anxiety after excessive online meetings.

Like all medical conditions there are ways to minimize the effects and manage your health if you are beginning to feel the effects of CVS.

Here are a few that might just help you:

Glasses. Screen fatigue glasses are available so check with your optician or retail outlet if you think you could benefit from a pair.

Take a Break. If you were in the office you would get up and go to the bathroom or printer or have a quick chat to a colleague, perhaps even take a smoke or coffee break, go out for a quick lunch-time errand. So what is stopping you from doing the same while working from home? While you may not be able to walk over to chat to a colleague  you can still get up  and do something else for few minutes; grab a cup of coffee, maybe put on a load of laundry, perhaps a couple of quick laps of walking around the garden or up and down the driveway, maybe even do some gardening if that is your thing.

Reduce Glare. If you sit in a workspace that has constant glare from windows or lights, you may consider rearranging your workspace. If you can reduce external glare from the screen, your eyes will not have to readjust as often, while you are working. Antiglare screens are also available for this purpose.

Adjust Display. The brightness level of your computer screen can also factor into the fatigue your eyes experience. Go to the settings and find the brightness level. You can adjust it to a lower brightness, which will reduce the harsh light streaming from the screen.

Stay Hydrated. Proper water intake helps reduce eye strain, itchiness and irritation. Sometimes when we perform work that isn’t physically strenuous we easily forget the importance of drinking water. Get in the habit of keeping a bottle at your desk and refilling it as soon as it’s empty.

Exercise. Just to be clear, we want you to keep your job. We also want you to stay healthy and able to engage in this new environment, so take time each day to do some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes. Your physical and mental health is your priority.

Limit your screen time. Use the built-in features on your phone to report, monitor, and limit your screen time. Apple IOS and Android phones track which apps you use most frequently and how long you are on your screen. With those details, you can make changes to limit exposure and work more efficiently. Perhaps you are spending too long commenting and scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, which can result in more on-screen hours than desired. If your phone does not have these features, there are plenty of apps that do. These apps are typically based on the Pomodoro technique and allows you to work in 20-minute intervals while blocking all websites, pop-ups, alerts, and messages across multiple browsers and prevents certain apps from working. You can focus on one task at a time so you can finish that to-do list and have plenty of time to incorporate off-screen activities into your day.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule.Try looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Excessive time in front of a screen that is close to your face can cause screen fatigue. If you alternate looking at something up close and far away, you can help combat it (Marcin, 2017). Looking out the window or going for a quick walk can help.

Why online meetings are tiring 

Meetings are important to connect with teams, share knowledge, and build rapport. During these unprecedented times though, meetings are also a way to keep connected with our colleagues, as we learn to navigate our way into  a new and often very different world of work. We have all at some point in our work-life wished to just be able to work from home and avoid those horrid morning commutes through endless traffic and school runs which were just endless. If we remember why we wanted to that  when we could not have it a t that time; now might be a good opportunity to revisit those wishes and call to mind those reasons which seemed so far from reality at the time. What did working from home look like to you? What did you think it would be like? What was so appealing about working from home for you and has your opinion changed at all?

There is a lot of talk lately about cognitive load and for good reason. We are in the midst of a pandemic and as managers and leaders must be aware of the trauma employees continue to experience. Anxiety is high and many  people have or are  experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in the past few months. Others struggle with the chaos of children and spouses at home. People have more on their mind and plate than ever before, and many are at their tipping point. Requiring staff to be online with cameras turned on multiple times a day is insensitive to the situation at hand. According to Sander & Bauman (2020), online meetings increase our cognitive load. We need to work harder to process non-verbal communication when working on-line and to try to concentrate, simultaneously hoping there are no home distractions (i.e. barking dogs, noisy lawnmowers, honking horns, screaming kids). At times our online virtual backgrounds fail, revealing a cluttered room on the screen.

There is no doubt that online meetings are here to stay. However, we can control the negative effects by reducing meeting frequency and what times they are scheduled.

Creating a shared, detailed agenda ahead of time using a Google doc can cut down on meeting length. Participants can comment or edit beforehand to make the meeting smoother and more efficient. Additionally, using a messaging platform can help reduce the need for meetings by allowing for team communication in real-time. Lastly, a quick touch-base phone call is often the best means to communicate. A call also reduces the stress of having to get dressed up, clear your calendar, and declutter your surroundings. The added benefit of being able to go for a walk and get away from the screen can make phone calls an appealing option. Zoom, Teams  and other online meeting platforms are great tools. But just because we have all these bells and whistles doesn’t mean we need to use them.

Trust your team, check in when needed, but do not require a cognitively burdened employee to be in back-to-back meetings all day.

5 Reasons to Take the road less travelled and succeed

Take the road less travelled

Have you been lead to believe that a career path is linear and prescribed and should be followed like a set formula; and if you don’t, the likelihood of success is marginal or is at best the luck-of-the-draw.

A non-traditional career path is not always the most comfortable approach, but it is one that can make job candidates more appealing to a smart recruiter or hiring manager. In my experience, intentionally making myself uncomfortable has helped me develop a more holistic skill set. For some, a non-traditional career path can be too challenging to handle. However, I have learned that you do not need to stifle internal anxiety about making big career changes. It is natural, and an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally. The key is to use that discomfort productively and ultimately master the situations that seem overwhelming at first.

There are (at least) five lessons I have learned throughout my career in which taking the “easy” route would have been perfectly acceptable, but by taking the road less travelled I gained much bigger rewards.

  1. DON’T OBSESS OVER BIG BRANDS OR LOGOS

Early on, I threw away the notion that big employer brands matter. Choosing to focus on a lesser-known company where the learning opportunities are exponentially higher will almost always bring your the rewards you are looking for. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that working at a big company with a reputable brand can be very good for professionals especially at the beginning of your career.

Big brands have the resources to train people well. If however, you desire a career with velocity and autonomy, a big company is not where you want to spend the entirety of your career. Many people who have grand career aspirations become dependent on navigating internal politics based on their employer’s logo and become less focused on the actual work. Large companies tend to be complex, bureaucratic organizations. While they might be highly competitive and impress your friends and family, you may be unable to progress your career quickly.

For me, moving on from a well-known brand allowed me to manage a large team at a young age; something that would have taken me years to achieve had I been concerned with working my way up the corporate ladder. This is the type of intangible experience that gives a career velocity.

if you are passionate about marketing but realized you want a broader scope as an example; working for a large company can  train you well for the workforce. If you know you want more, it is going to show. So make the choice and move to a smaller company that is perhaps less well-known, but where you can challenge yourself with roles and responsibilities that would have taken years to achieve elsewhere.

  1. TACKLE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HEAD-ON

As a woman, it’s vital to force yourself to have uncomfortable conversations with your managers about other priorities in your life, specifically if you have children and family obligations. You must set expectations both at work and at home to achieve enough balance to thrive in each environment. As a younger woman, finding your voice and setting those boundaries with your supervisors and senior managers can be challenging and intimidating. I have witnessed many young women burn out because they pretended that they did not have obligations outside of the office and instead poured the majority of their energy into their work. But that is not reality.

More recently, COVID-19 and the work-from-home culture has made having a family very apparent. You can’t hide the fact that kids are home because they are bursting into your home office, interrupting Zoom calls, and have home-school schedules that require your attention. It has brought about a reckoning. Previously, uncomfortable expectation-setting conversations about family responsibilities were mostly relegated to women, but that is starting to shift. The pandemic has democratized this aspect of work-life balance by making it more ubiquitous and gender-neutral.

  1. FIND AND LEARN FROM ALL TYPES OF LEADERS

The truth is that no one, not even an executive, is good at everything. Some are amazing people managers and fantastic at leading a team. Others are the wicked-smart types, geniuses but genuinely terrible at managing people.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the chance to work for, and learn from, the full spectrum of leaders. I spent several years working for a mentor who was a great leader of people and manager of teams. Later I went to work at an organization where my manager wasn’t a particularly great people-leader. Still, they were smart and creative and I gained a lot of important functional experience.

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect leader, and often we don’t get to choose who we work for. It often comes down to taking the initiative to recognize and learn from the strengths of whoever your leaders are at a given moment and translating both their strengths and weaknesses into skills that you can use in the future.

  1. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

Looking back, I have always taken on tasks and responsibilities that were “below my pay grade” as a way to build trust with my team. I will get into the weeds and write email copy, or go to meetings where I’m not expected. Even now, I often do things that others would consider to be their direct responsibility.

Doing the unexpected builds trust, affinity, and goodwill with your teams. It also builds credibility because you show your team members that you are a good practitioner, not just a figurehead devising strategy. It also throws ego out the door. When your team knows that if they need help with something, all they have to do is ask you and we will tackle it together. I believe this approach creates a healthy culture and establishes your role as a leader. Nobody wants to work for someone who delegates responsibility and is incapable of understanding what the real work looks like and what it takes for teams to be productive.

 

  1. DO NOT LET ANXIETIES OWN YOU

Some people are very risk-averse and they do not like a lot of change inmost aspects of their lives. If your career is the antithesis of your personality and you have found that when managing the anxiety that accompanies uncomfortable situations and challenging decisions you endure throughout your career, you have to move through it and not let it own you.

For some people, the anxiety that accompanies navigating a career can be an unpleasant nagging, but it can be downright debilitating for others. By acknowledging its presence and moving through the discomfort, you learn how to manage it rather than let it manage you. Some people may view it as a weakness. I am proof that you can allow discomfort to exist and turn it into a tool to not only survive but to thrive.

Is corona-virus a career wakeup call for you?

Has 20Plenty turned in to 20Empty for you?

Are you fatigued by a prolonged lockdown and feeling like “Can this be over now?!?” Have you started to relook at your career i.t.o potentially making some changes?

Clinical psychologists have suggested that this pandemic has caused an emotional tsunami for many. “Peoples’ feelings are exacerbated to the extremes at the moment, especially because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” Suntosh Pillay. The toll this pandemic has taken on peoples’ mental health is leaving many in a perpetual state of stress.

While, for some, lockdown has afforded the opportunity to spend much needed time with family, which would not ordinarily have happened; for others lockdown has been a source of anxiety, hopelessness and disconnectedness. Financial stress, anxiety and panic has been cited by South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) as 3 of the major challenges South Africans are facing.

In addition to this, many people are being forced to re-evaluate their careers with many looking for ‘re-skilling’ opportunities to ensure they can adapt to the post lockdown world of work. Many people have found themselves retrenched or forced into unpaid leave and still others fear they could find themselves in the same situation and not have a position to go back to in the new year.

Has this pandemic caused you to consider pivoting or changing careers completely as you begin to prepare for life after lockdown?

Global research indicates that many people are attempting to upskill in the hope they will be able to be re-employed or be in a position to transition into a different sector.

Coronavirus has acted as a ‘wake-up’ call for many (Image: Getty)

Regrettable only 36% of polled employers has offered their employees support in improving their existing skillsets during this time. We know that without continuous improvements to skill-sets, existing members of staff are likely to become bored and demotivated because they are not being challenged or given the opportunity to grow. This is more important now than ever before. If staff are unfulfilled and unmotivated they will start to think about pursuing a career elsewhere when things settle down.

This in-turn is likely to mean businesses will need to invest huge sums of money in recruitment – with no guarantee they will be able to find anyone with the right attributes. So investing in continuous skills development with existing employees is the best way forward – and it’s also less costly.

For many this pandemic has been the wake-up call they were waiting for.The study found more than a third of those polled have reconsidered their chosen career since lockdown began.

Many workers fear they will not have a job to return to at the end of the crisis (Image: Getty)

In fact, one in 10 people are currently attempting to retrain for an entirely different job. However, 54 % of people surveyed fear they are too established in their current career to do something new; despite many feeling that they may not have a job to return to.

Business owners, have indicated that six out of  10 job applicants lack the skills employers are looking for and filling vacancies with workers who have the desired skillsets is one of their biggest challenges – even harder than retaining valued members of staff.

Recruitment is costly on a financial level, and there is a danger it could affect a business’ ability to grow because they can not find the right people for the job.

This is why continuous skills development is so important – it reduces the need for investing in recruitment because fewer members of staff want to leave as they are likely to be more fulfilled and stimulated. Furthermore, businesses can then grow with a workforce who has all the right skills for the business.

What plans do you have for continuous skills development as you prepare for life after lockdown?

What Does Covid-19 Mean For The Future Of Work?

Working from Home

There has been a lot of discussion around the impact technology and AI will have for the future of work. Many companies and countries have already adopted and adapted many of their offerings and services to be automated and or offered by some form of AI. South Africa launched its own journey into the Fourth Industrial evolution with the president committing to the country being an early adopter of this new way of being.

Then Covid-19 swept the globe, and the message about our future has become even clearer: what started as a few weeks of working from home has evolved into a catalyst for change regarding how we work and live.

 

Millions of people have transitioned to working from home globally and many South Africans have found they too have needed to join the fray. In addition, South Africans, like many others around the world, have also begun to stream online content for 8 hours or more each day.

 

It is safe to say that the traditional definition of office life has been put to rest, and now we are all left to wonder, what will replace it? Many employers have begun to ask whether it is necessary to return to the a pre-Covid world of Work and if not, what does this mean?

 

However, before we follow that rabbit hole  into the future, let’s get some context around the past that is so abruptly changing. Office spaces as we know them have really only existed since the 1930’s, with the birth of the cubicle occurring in the 1980’s. This style of work is not a long standing phenomenon, and even before Covid-19, it was already on its way out of style.  Employees were pushing for their freedom, with 80% of US workers reporting they would turn down a job if it didn’t offer flexible working arrangements. This requirement for job flexibility was a huge factor and had a huge impact on decision making especially when families were getting started. Employee demand pushed remote working opportunities to grow 44% since 2015.

So in essence Covid-19 has really only expedited what was already on the horizon anyway.

As a career expert and coach, I have found myself questioning how permanent these changes are? How will this affect employees in the workplace, especially those, whose careers have already taken a battering lately due to economic downturns.

One thing is certain though remote work is here to stay. This transition has already been set in motion with big tech companies like Facebook taking initiatives now by telling staff to work remotely for the remainder of the year, and in some instances, permanently.  Google has begun to rotate employees on site for a few days each week while ensuring facilities remain at only 10% occupancyTwitter has taken a somewhat different approach, where virtually all employees will work from home, permanently.

We have also seen our universities transition to blended learning approaches [some more quickly than others], with only a fraction of the student body and staff on campus at any given time. The rest are all on some form of rotation. Our schools have been forced to reinvent the way they teach while simultaneously attempting to salvage an academic year, and observe social distancing protocols. Rotation scenarios again being implemented across the vast majority of schools, colleges and universities. We have also seen parents getting progressively more involved in the children’s education rather than leaving this vital aspect of their childs’ development to the education sector exclusively.

Our very notion of work is changing – and not just from a geospatial perspective.  Workplaces are being reconfigured. Various industries have overhauled their spacing policies to observe social distancing protocols. The trend of less space per person has reversed into more space per person, allowing fewer people per building. We have seen online facilities been utilised with progressive proficiency, even for those who were once overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect.

While remote work offers a slew of improvements for the workplace, a 25% reduction in employee turnover and 77% of employees reporting increased productivity, to name a few, it also brings unique changes and demands that companies may not be fully aware of, yet.

Between 2005 and 2019, the number of people working remotely across the world grew by a staggering 173 percent.

Working from home is no longer reserved for certain industries and professions – it is becoming the number one workplace benefit people are looking for in a job.  A recent survey by executive recruiter Jack Hammer revealed that remote working and flexitime are increasingly being implemented by South African companies as a means of enhancing employee engagement, wellness and productivity.

While there are signs pointing to a big spike in remote working over the next two years, South Africa still lags about four or five years behind the global working-from-home curve? WHY??

South Africa is a country that embraces ubuntu. We like being together. The attributes that make South African culture unique – our laughter, our humanity, our solidarity – may help in part to explain why we have been slower to embrace remote working than our global counterparts.

At the individual level, differences in personality types mean some people are simply better suited to remote working than others. Self-initiation and self-motivation are crucial traits, as are the means and ability to build systems that can support individuals to work effectively from home.

At an organisational level, the challenges are linked with leadership and teams. People feel disconnected from their teams and believe they do not perform as well when they are not physically in the same space. Executives report difficulty in leading effectively when teams and individuals are not physically present.  These are two conundrums we are going to have to figure out, because good leadership and agile teams are important aspects of future-ready organisations.

Many South Africans started working from home in March and now almost seven months down the line many continue to work from home. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 (94%) decision-makers responded that they regarded it as essential to allow parents more time with their children. Cisco South Africa country manager, Garsen Naidu, says they were fascinated to learn that working from home did not negatively impact productivity. “We were fascinated to learn that working from home did not significantly impact the output. Employees are still as productive as they were in the office, partly as a result of not spending time getting to the office and settling in. It suggests that an employee’s mental energy remains finite, within the context of traditional roles and tools,”

South African businesses are more willing to embrace remote working. Those that remain reluctant may find themselves pushed that way by necessity.

Additionally, with another 18 months to two years of continued rolling blackouts ahead of us, this may be the very thing that pushes South African businesses to take the leap and catch up with the rest of the world regarding remote working. Meanwhile, reliable internet connectivity plays a vital role as it has implications on stress levels of employees.

“Connectivity emerges as an important factor for success in remote working…, and illustrates that remote working only functions successfully with remote connectivity. Connectivity is the key to the digital office.” The digitalisation of the home office must take into account the personal circumstances of the employee,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. Terry Bell says he believes that a large number of companies will adopt the practice of remote working after the lockdown because the benefits of working from home for employers are significant. He adds that with fewer cars on the road would mean reduced road fatalities and less pollution. “I certainly do see that working from home is going to become much more common. It’s a lot cheaper for employers because they don’t have to provide office space. From a worker’s point of view, they end up working as individuals, they will then end up being negotiated with as individuals.”

It’s extremely advantageous for employers, and productivity does not fall.

For a young country like South Africa these are important considerations. We have a growing population and we are one of the most rapidly urbanising places on the planet. When we reflect on a horizontal city like Johannesburg, with its sprawling footprint, or Cape Town with its gridlocked roads, and it is easy to see how asking people to travel further is just not realistic; working from home just makes sense.

Remote working should be standard practice post Covid-19. The lack of office space will necessitate it, social distancing will demand it and investments in advanced digital technologies, infrastructure and collaboration tools will facilitate it.

COVID-19, of course, is not the first attack on our jobs. The fourth industrial has already changed the job landscape. As it is, humans and machines are increasingly working together, bolstering efficiency and productivity. The workforce is becoming  increasingly more structured by project rather than job function, allowing tasks to be created and dismantled flexibly.

Many companies may opt for a reduction in workdays. Others will rethink their ratio of permanent employees to gig workers. Expect to see leaders pivoting towards business models that create new digital and online forms of value. Until now, the concept of unlocking the digital dividend has been largely elusive.

 

promotion problems

Transitioning back to work after lockdown

promotion problems

Staying mentally healthy as the country begins going back into workplaces.

Life as we knew it has changed and our reality is very different today than it was 100+ days ago. Many of us were in various stages of lockdown for extended periods of time. and even as many of the initial restrictions were lifted , many have still remained and will remain for the foreseeable future.

As we begin to emerge from what felt like hibernation for many, we are all to aware that life is very different and things will never go back to the way they were.

As we start to return to work, and our children return to school there is a lot to think about. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and it is normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds.

Many people feel confused, worried and apprehensive about going back to the workplace and even more feel anxious about sending children back to school. Amid this worry there is also the harsh realisation that indefinite lockdown is not sustainable and life still needs to carry on.

Organisations are considering a range of adjustments to the way work is done, to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, and your individual circumstances.

Everyone’s situation is unique. However, as you  return to work, there are some general principles that will give you the best chance of getting back to work and staying mentally healthy over the coming months.

 

Talk and connect

It is important to keep in touch with colleagues and your line manager. You don’t need to talk about work, but a quick check-in will help you feel connected. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus in different ways. You may have been bereaved, felt overwhelmed or isolated, or been unwell. If you share this with others they will be better able to help you in the months ahead.

Plan and prepare

Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:

  • How will you get to work?
  • Will anything be different as you enter the building?
  • Who will be there?
  • Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
  • Are you on a rotation schedule?

Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager

If you have not received a return-to-work briefing from your line manager ask for one.

This is a chance to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions that you have. If you have something important you want to talk about, make a note of it for when you have a briefing or perhaps drop your manager and email with your concerns. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and we are all trying to figure things out as we go along. NO one person has all the answers so raise your concerns and ask your questions – chances are you are not the only one who has the same concern.

Try not to panic and slip into a paranoid space

Take things one step at a time

The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks and months so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. The life you knew and were familiar with prior to lockdown is gone and will very likely never return. We have a long journey ahead. We may never be able to go back to our old ways of working so this could give us an opportunity to do things very differently, and even better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take one day at a time.

Monitor and review how you are getting on

It is important to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy?) and check-ins with your team members and manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through COVID-19 together.

Be mindful of those who may have been directedly affected or infected by this virus. Be supportive and check-in if a team member has had to deal with the illness or loss of a family member due to COVID-19. many of those in  essential services have has to deal with unimaginable conditions from and emotional and psychological perspective. Many of them have brought these  traumas home and family have had to deal as best they could. so be gentle and be kind with those who are struggling you may not know what they have has to deal with on the home front.

Finally

Everyone is finding their own path and things might not always go to plan. It is important to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. Returning to work is not always easy, but having support can make a huge difference. If you are finding it difficult, ask a trusted colleague or friend to help you work through the questions and identify some concrete actions that you, or they, can take to help you.

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5 important ways to get through job loss quickly

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I have Coached Over 200 Career Transitions — Here is A Routine That Helps People Bounce Back Faster

Losing your job takes a serious toll on your confidence and stirs up all kinds of unpleasant emotions.

Realistically though, it is likely that we’re going to face some kind of job loss or significant job change at one point or another in our careers.  Sometimes this change reaches far beyond the scope of our individual control and comes as a surprise to us. The best we can do is be prepared to manage this adversity and take some time to focus on ourselves. I’ve worked through over 200 career transitions over the years – including a couple of my own (most have been my clients’).  Self-care is critical to successfully getting through this time.  Here are five ways I practiced self-care after I was laid off — and I think you should try this routine, too

  1. I paused.

Losing your job can often be a big shock to your system.  Sometimes we know our organization is going through significant changes, but sometimes the change comes as a complete surprise.  Whatever the case, when the change impacts you personally, it can really hurt and take a toll on your confidence.

Depending on who we are and how we react to things, we might become emotional as we react to the news. The best advice I can give here is to take a breath.  If your employer is presenting you with a severance package, make sure you DO NOT sign anything in the heat of the moment. Take some time to  review the severance package offer after you get over the initial shock factor that will inevitably happen.

Reach out to a friend or colleague that you trust and get their input. Lean on your support system and let your feelings out in this safe environment. You don’t want to be embarrassed by emotional, irrational behavior in front of your former employer. Save the insanity for close family and friends (lucky them).

For me, the pause was critical because getting laid off was a very emotional experience. Taking time to breathe allowed me to have a rational and professional discussion with my employer about severance.

 

  1. I resolved the outstanding issues with my employer, A.S.A.P.

After the ‘pause’, it might still take you a few days to get your emotions back in check. Once you can get through thinking and discussing your new situation  without bursting into tears or fuming in anger, set your sites on closing the loop on outstanding items with your employer.

 

For your own mental health, you’ve got to get the details resolved as quickly as possible. Having the details of a severance looming over you for days, weeks or months is simply exhausting. You owe it to yourself to get closure so you can move on.

In most cases, your employer should appreciate that this is an emotional situation and provide an appropriate deadline (a week or so) for you to get back to them on their offer of severance. If they don’t give you some time to get your act together, count your blessings that you no longer work for them.

So, you have done your due diligence in terms of reviewing the details and terms of the severance offer, now you need to respond to them. I always suggest having this conversation via email so everything is documented. Avoid the phone if you can it can muddy the waters. You also don’t know what might set off potential emotional outbursts. Make sure you get all of the details from your employer such as how and when the severance will be paid, what happens to your benefits, what happens to any sort of other company programs and any additional amounts owing. Get all the information that you can to minimize any need for follow up contact. You likely won’t want to talk to them again.

 

  1. I didn’t try to find out why I was laid off.

I have heard people say time and time again that they need to understand why they have lost their job in order to move on. They want to know what they have done wrong, or how the employer decided that they should be the employee to exit.

The fact is, a lot of time, the reason that an employer provides a severance package for you is so that they don’t have to share this information with you. Quite frankly, it might even be none of your business, and part of some broader organizational plan.

For me, adopting an ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude was the key to self-care when I was laid off.  What value is there in knowing the organization’s point of view, anyways?  Would it really change the current situation? Probably not. If anything it would only serve to inflate your anger and frustration levels. So take time to  make peace with the reality that you are out the door and see it as an opportunity rather than a set back.

 

  1. I got into a routine.

I allowed myself some time to mourn the loss of my job. This is an important step many people seem to forget to do or chose not to do. Loosing a job is much like loosing a loved and the  lose needs to be mourned. For me, this was the end of the longest-term relationship I had ever had. Grieving was important, but I set myself a deadline to be sad. I cried and moped, but only for a week. At the end of the week, I started into a routine.

It was summer and I wanted to take advantage of the time away from work and focus on the positives of being away from work. I got up every single morning and planned an outing with my little guy. Every day we were up and dressed. You’d be surprised how therapeutic getting up and going outside can be.

Getting into a new routine is critical to your career transition success. Part of establishing this routine was knowing what I would say when people asked ‘How’s work?’ I actually practiced my response so I could answer confidently without stumbling or feeling insecure.

 

  1. I set an unemployment deadline.

While I only allowed myself a week to be sad about losing my job we all know the grieving process has no hard and fast deadline. The reality is that, sometimes, we have to work through the emotions of things , and that can take a while.  While I wasn’t sitting at home and moping, I was still going through all the feelings of job loss.  I wanted some time and space between that job and my next one.  Since I was laid off in the summer, I set myself a deadline of autumn (fall) to get on a structured job hunt. Setting parameters and clear goals for myself were really key parts of my self-care and managing my overall mental health.

Job loss is hard. Period. There is no magic formula to work through the grieving process and there are no standard timelines. When it comes to self-care and job loss, you’ve got to take a moment to reflect what will work for you.  Focus on those things that give you comfort, structure and a sense of purpose. It’s inside those things that you will find a transition process that is uniquely yours. On the other side of that transition is your future career success.

7 key benefits of Career Transition Coaching

Career Coach

Career transition at senior level is difficult as there are only a few available opportunities and plenty of very tough competition. More and more senior managers and executives are using career coaches to gain competitive advantage. Many of the best business leaders engage executive coaches. Career coaching can help executives navigate career transition quickly and effectively. Engaging a career coach will substantially improve competitiveness, marketability and ultimately the success of your job search and long-term career.

If your strategy is to send out hundreds of  copies of your Curriculum Vitae and hope for the best, you will quickly discover that this doesn’t work and is a futile use of your time.  Even if you have the best LinkedIn profile, it is not a guarantee of success.

A good career coach will help you articulate your best attributes and highest skills for a prospective employer to notice. A career coach will help you  develop an effective job search strategy to identify the best target companies and secure your ideal position.

It can significantly reduce the time it takes to find your ideal position by helping you develop a comprehensive job search strategy. Many people including senior manager and executives  find it difficult to articulate the value they can bring to an organisation and as a result how to pitch themselves effectively feels awkward. Many are also unsure what exactly they are looking for in terms of both position and type of company and this can be a significant disadvantage. If your vision is not clear, then you cannot develop an effective strategy to achieve it.

Get help to create a Vision. Vision guides you! In simple terms, if you are going on a business trip or holiday, you would not arrive at the airport without knowing what your destination is. Your destination guides your choice of airline and ultimately which terminal to arrive at. Your career transition journey is no different. If you don’t know where you are going to how will you know when you get there?

A career coach can help you create an impactful Curriculum Vitae (CV) / Resume and LinkedIn profile. Many people forget that the purpose of a CV / Resume is to get the interview and not the job, and as such this document must be carefully constructed to articulate just enough information to create interest and impact and encourage an employer or recruiter to reach out. BUT…. not too much information! At Renata Career Coach we sometimes see CV’s / Resumes that lack impact, are poorly written and in many cases are simply a cut and paste of a job description with little attention given to achievements. Remember that the attention given to each CV / Resume by a recruiter or potential employer is very short so making an impact quickly is essential!

Develop your networking skills. Some experts say that 70% of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking. Others say it’s more like 80-85%. Which ever statistic you believe what is clear this is substantial and as such incorporating a comprehensive networking strategy into your job search strategy is one of the most important actions you can. Effective networking provides a focused way to talk to people about your job search and can help you obtain leads, referrals, advice, information, support and most importantly uncover hidden promotion job opportunities. A good career coach will help you review various opportunities, networking events, existing contacts, developing new contacts and how to prioritise those that could generate the best results.

Preparation for interview and the overall assessment and selection process. Most organisations now have comprehensive recruitment and selection processes consisting not only of competency-based interviews, but also psychometric assessments as well as situation-based presentations. Having someone help you prepare for this puts you at a distinct advantage versus your competition. In our career coaching practice, we help you identify and segment your achievements across your entire career and then help you articulate them in a structured and impactful format. This process alone greatly assists Executives in interview preparation therefore it can also help you. Remember …. 90% preparation = 10% perspiration. 10% preparation = 90% perspiration!

A good career coach will hold you accountable for the goals you have set, offer valuable advice and expertise, and help you acquire different perspectives. Inevitability, there will be setbacks throughout your job search journey and your coach will be there to pick you up and encourage you to keep focussed and face your next challenge with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.

On-boarding into your new position. Depending on the terms and duration of engagement, some career coaches provide on-boarding coaching. The first six months of any position can be critical for both the organisation and the new appointee. On the one hand the hiring organisation will need to see evidence of added value from you. On the other hand you  will need to feel that you have made the right career decision.

Various sources of research have shown that the average executive failure rate within the first 18 months is approximately 40%! A career coach can help with embedding and securing the success of the new relationship and provide a confidential environment to discuss goals, objectives and any potential issues that may arise.

In conclusion, you must remember that the role of a coach is to facilitate you to acquire different perspectives to get more out of work and life. The true value of the coaching process is gained from the work you put in between sessions.

At Renata Career Coaching we provide 1-2-1 coaching for people who are in career transition or planning to change jobs. We tailor a structured programme appropriate for the needs of each individual which results in a professional and effective job search campaign and improved confidence.

Our career coaching service can include:

  • Skills and competency assessment
  • Curriculum Vitae / Resume preparation
  • Development of a Comprehensive Achievements Profile Document
  • Development of a Job Search Marketing Plan
  • Effective networking
  • Engaging effectively with Executive Search Consultants
  • Interview training

For those people looking for an improved alternative to the traditional outplacement program, our Career Coaching programme provides unique and highly customised support on how to conduct a professional job search campaign. Ideal Careers Happen by Design let us at Renata Career Coaching help you find the ideal career that suits you

For a free no-obligation consultation please contact our office via email at renatafester@career-coach.co.za

Career Coach

promotion problems

5 Unexpected ways promotions make your life harder

promotion problemspromotion at work often brings status, power, and hopefully, a raise. However there are often unanticipated downsides to promotions, which we are seldom aware of until we are in the new position.

 

Here are 5 things that I did not expect to come with a job promotion.

We often think that a promotion will bring more money, success, and status, but there are drawbacks to almost every promotion.

Longer hours are pretty much inevitable. Issues that used to be someone else’s problem are now yours. Managing people can be tough.

I once received a promotion where I’d manage a new department at a small company. The change brought lots of interesting challenges and boosted my self-esteem, but there were some very hard moments, too.

 

Here are five ways that getting promoted made my life more difficult:

 

  1. I had to go to bat for myself

Before my promotion, I had a great manager. He protected me from the loose cannons in management, tooted my horn to the senior and executive management, supported me in my work, gave me opportunities, and generally had my back.

Now, he is my peer, and we could commiserate about the difficulty of being managers in the company, but he could no longer shield me. It was now up to me to stand up to the big shots and fight for my department.

 

  1. I was working more overtime

I was already working long hours with no overtime pay before I was promoted. Now the expectations for overtime seemed par for the course. When there was a problem, my weekend was blown and I was never off the clock. I needed to be there for the customer, at any time of the day, night, or weekend.

 

  1. I didn’t get to make my own decisions

I was now charged with managing people however I still did not get to decide exactly how my department was run. My decisions were sometimes overruled by upper management, and the fallout from those decisions ended up being my problem to sort  out.

When I anticipated problems and wanted to do things a different way, these were often management decision were often micromanaged, and I was still required to enforce upper management’s ideas and decision  while keeping “my” employees under control and performing well. This conflict can make middle-management positions stressful and exhausting.

 

  1. Co-workers undermined me

When I was promoted to middle management, some of my peers criticized me and got obstructive of projects. When trusted colleagues whisper in the bosses ear about you, it can be hard to get that negative impression out of the boss’s head. Suddenly, I needed to fight for my reputation.

 

  1. No one trained me for my new role

Some companies provide training to help workers transition into a new role, but many companies usually don’t. I didn’t always feel competent enough to manage things, never having managed a department before.

I had many good leadership qualities — creativity, passion, and honesty — that helped me “fake it,” but I didn’t really know what I was doing half the time in terms of organizing and managing. Some training or more support to negotiate new responsibilities would have certainly been hugely beneficial both to me and t the organisation.

Sometimes, a new job just doesn’t fit right, but you don’t always get to try on the new role before you take it. I was awesome at the job I had before the promotion, but I’d say I was mediocre at being a manager.

So consider the new position very carefully — if it doesn’t look like it will fit, consider passing up that promotion and waiting until the right position comes along. You may just be happier where you are!

The Problem with Promotions: 5 Tips for Moving into Management

promoted to Manager

Well done you have  been promoted! Congratulations! All that hard work and focus has finally paid off. You are in your first leadership role. It truly is something to be proud of.

A lot of people want to be promoted. They want the recognition that they have done a good job. However, a lot of challenges surface in a new leadership role. Leading people is very different from leading projects. Leading people taps into different aspects of your capabilities. The changes are also a little more subtle. Expectations from all levels in the company will also be different. What will be considered acceptable behaviour will also be very different. Relationships will be different. And no one gives you a handbook about what to expect.

Here are some of the changes that occur when you move into management and how to deal with them on an emotional, mental and physical level.

 

A Transition Model

A good way to think of transition is through the prism of William Bridges’ Transition Model.

It’s made up of three parts:

  1. Accept that the status quo has changed and say goodbye to what was.
  2. Expect discomfort and accept that when you start the change there will be many questions, but few answers. Understand that this is a temporary situation. It’s a period of time when you are going to be tested. Reflect, be flexible and move forward despite the uncertainty.
  3. Revere the past and welcome the new.

 

Mark the end of the chapter

It can be helpful to mark the end of the old chapter with some sort of ritual. Rituals help you understand that a shift has taken place. It could be simple like going down memory lane and remembering things you did well, having a final dinner with old colleagues or taking a trip. Find a ritual to signify the end. Then you can move on to the next level.

 

Changes With Your Relationship With Yourself

How you see yourself must change in order to be an effective new leader.

Emotionally: Explore your emotions. As you enter this new phase are you feeling confident? Ambitious? Hesitant? Curious?

Mentally: Examine the mindsets you have about yourself. Are you feeling equal to your peer group? Are you deserving of this promotion? Are you ready? If not, what do you need to do to get ready?

Physically: Are you fit enough for the role? Will you be traveling? If your new role involves travel, it can be difficult to exercise while on the road. Take an inventory of your physical health and how you can improve or maintain it.

 

Relationship with Your Team

People are often promoted because they have shown competence on a technical or skills level. However, when they get into leadership they may not have been primed for the way their former peers, as well as their news ones, may see them. If you are promoted from within the ranks, there may be growing pains from your former peer group. You may be the one who “changed” now that you are in management. It’s a common problem.

Remember, always, that you’re supposed to be in this role. Your former peers may not see it, but there have been few promotions where everyone in the company agreed with it.

If underlings are complaining, there is likely a need buried in there. Ask them, specifically, what they want. What can you do to make it work? If you don’t call it out, the team may inadvertently sabotage the decisions that are being made. Calling it out shows that you’re in control and that you want to hear what they have to say.

Mentally: Set a vision for how you want to work with your new team. Make deliberate choices about your relationship with them. Be clear with yourself what you do and don’t want.

Feel free to join them for drinks, but establish boundaries. Leave after two drinks, for example, or limit socializing to lunches, etc. Even though you are part of the team, you can’t be one of them. It can hurt when you have to give tough feedback, etc.

Emotionally: Continue to empathize. Make sure they know you hear them. You may not agree with every suggestion they make, but validate their opinions and thoughts.

Be aware that your direct reports will share more information with you than they ever did if they were a peer. Some of it will be personal. Anticipate this aspect of leadership.

Physically: Decide how physically close you want to be to your direct reports. Even if you’re in an open office, establish boundaries. Maybe private conversations have to be held outside of the open area.

 

Relationship with Your Work

You go into a specific field because you like doing the actual work. You like writing the code or recruiting candidates. In leadership, the relationship to your work changes. Your value-add shifts. The pace of work slows and it’s less about the day to day output. Use the pace to your advantage.

Mentally: Accept that you are in it for the long-haul. Embrace that your biggest contribution is to create a new set of leaders.

Emotionally: Learn more about the people on your team. Even if you came up with them and think you know them, there are likely aspects to them you don’t know. In order to manage people, you’ll have to know about their professional goals, etc.

Physically: Find a way to do what you used to do — in small doses. You can’t lead and do the day-to-day work and do both well. Your direct reports also don’t want you doing their job, since it will make them miss out on opportunities to grow.

 

Relationship with Your Peers

Mentally: Expectations have changed at every level. Your new peers expect you to perform at their level. It’s not just about the quality of your work, it is also your attitude towards work. Your former peers may not confide in you anymore now that you are in management, and that’s okay. Accept that you now represent the organization as a member of the management team.

Emotionally: You may have a feeling of aloneness. Expect less feedback the higher up you go in the organization. Your direct reports will give you feedback, but your peers and your boss may not. Trust in yourself that you’re doing all right, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are.

On that note, don’t be afraid to take risks to grow your self-confidence. You won’t lose your position over one bad move.

Physically: Remember: you represent the organization at outside associations and clubs.

 

The Take Away

Promotions and change are part of your professional career, and should be welcomed. Above all, it’s important to accept that they are transitions, and setting expectations for transitions is the first step to managing them. When you expect that there will be periods of uncertainty and that relationships with people may change, it’ll be easier to move through the change while still being productive.

 

Have you experienced any of these in your promotion? How have you navigated it – share your experience .

Warning: 5 Unexpected Changes that come with a Promotion

 

Promotions come with several changes many employees don’t consider until they’re in their new role.

Every year when companies schedule their annual performance reviews, there are discussions about promotions. Promotions come with several changes many employees don’t consider until they’re in their new role. In my work with CEOs, one of the most common and disturbing trends in today’s workforce is the attitude of entitlement.

Employers and employees perpetuate an attitude of entitlement. Employers want to demonstrate their loyalty, and often one of the most common ways to do this is to promote an employee that has been with the company for a long time. While well-meaning, this often results in the activation of “The Peter Principle” in which companies promote employees to the highest levels of incompetence.

This ultimately leads to termination, and initiates a painfully slow unravelling of an employee’s confidence, engagement, and ability to perform.

Employees in turn perpetuate an attitude of entitlement, by getting themselves into a corner that has no escape, by telling themselves, “I deserve a promotion.” They allow their egos to drive their career advancement. They are often drawn to the idea of a higher-ranking title and a higher rung on the career ladder.

The Fallout of Unwarranted Promotions

Promotions come with significant changes that both employers and employees overlook until it’s too late, and staff have been moved around.

Two current clients are dealing with the fallout of promotions that should have never been granted and promises that should have never been made. We’re working diligently to:

  • minimize/contain further damage,
  • shift the culture from high entitlement/low accountability to low entitlement/high accountability, and
  • save a valuable, loyal, long-term employee with vital institutional knowledge from walking out the door.

Changes That Accompany Promotions

Promotions are not just about rewarding loyalty, and moving employees up a ladder. To set up everyone for success, employees must think about the following criteria prior to accepting a promotion position:

  • New job requirements

Do YOU (the employee) pass the “GWC Test?”

Do you Get it:  Do they truly understand their role, the culture, the processes and systems, the pace of the organization, and how all of these elements come together to form a well-oiled machine?

Do you Want it: Do they genuinely like their job? Do they believe in what they are doing? Are they excited about coming to work to see the progress that is occurring? Do they want to use their experience, talents, and ideas to further the organization?

Do you have the Capacity to do it? Capacity is a multi-pronged word. It applies to mental, physical, emotional, spiritual (in some cases), and intellectual capacity, as well as having the capacity of time to do a job well.

  • Integrating the demands of the new position into your personal life

    It’s likely that the new position will require additional travel either locally and or Internationally and very possibly longer hours. Employees must consider this carefully. They should also have these conversations with their “significant other” who may need to pick up the slack in their absence.

  • Giving up responsibilities you really enjoy

    Promotions often involve movement from a hands-on practitioner role to a management/supervisory role that takes employees out of the trenches where they are doing what they love. Leaving behind the work they love doing may sound glamorous initially however, not doing what you love doing permanently can be a source of significant stress and unhappiness.

  • Learning tasks and responsibilities you may not enjoy

    Conversely, you will likely have to become knowledgeable in areas you may not have naturally pursued. This is common when companies promote rock-star sales employees to a sales leadership position. They move from being in the field responsible for themselves, to being in a corner office responsible for others. Being a team leader may not have been something you would ordinarily have wanted to do however the promotion position requires that you manage a team. Now you have to learn how to do that.

  • Changing the dynamics of office friendships

    This is one of the most surprising and difficult challenges that accompany promotions.

    With any promotion comes a very real change in dynamics and relationships with colleagues. Where once you were able to sit and bemoan manager with your colleagues because you were one-of-team(us) and shared many of the same frustrations – that is now different. You are one of “them”. The guys you once believed didn’t “understand” or was “divorced from what was happening on the floor.” You may have developed good friendships along the way and now that you have moved up the ladder the line has to be drawn in the sand. As a member of the management team, you may well be privy to many sensitive and confidential conversations about your friends that you will not be able to share. Be sure you are  willing to establish the boundary and change the dynamics of your friendships? This is a question only the employee can answer for themselves.

Promoting Strategically and Effectively

Ambitious employees can do many things to set themselves up for successful promotions, including:

  • Leading or engaging in initiatives outside of their traditional roles
  • Being coach-able and open to feedback
  • Mentoring others
  • Delivering on what is expected of them and being known as someone reliable
  • Engaging in professional development and sharing this knowledge with others

Employers must think about career trajectories and organizational impact far in advance of  scheduled performance reviews. Consider why you are offering the promotion- Is it a loyalty decision? Is it a competency based decision – remember the higher up the ladder you go these less technical skill is needed and the more strategic skills ( e.g. soft skills- people skills, negotiation skills) are required.

Perhaps an employee is a good promotion candidate, but requires some coaching and training to step into the new role. This training is often not about how well the person can do the job – because lets face it; the reason the promotion discussion is even on the table is because the person has already proved their technical competence. So what else does the person need to be set up for success? These steps must be executed in advance of the promotion so that business proceeds with minimal disruption..

Unsuccessful promotions leave a trail of disappointment, broken trust, and failed executions. These can also be a costly exercise both financially and reputation-wise for the company.

When thoughtfully executed, however,  successful promotions yield tremendous benefits for everyone involved, empower the company to attract & retain great talent, and propel and promote continued growth.