Getting out of your comfort zone

I started this blog pre-lockdown and since then both Steve’s Kilimanjaro and my Mallorca triathlon have been cancelled due to COVID-19. I thought it was still worth publishing anyway (As both Steve and I hope to do these events in 2021).

Recruiters are bound to say that moving roles and “getting out of your comfort zone” is a good thing to do as we would love people to move roles. More frequent job changes obviously means more money for recruiters, but I am honestly writing this without my recruiter hat on and backing this theory up with evidence as you will read below.

The idea of the ‘comfort zone’ goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of ‘relative comfort’ created a steady level of performance.  In order to maximise performance we need a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called “Optimal Anxiety”, and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.

I have also referred to this in other blogs but Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also helps to show how we as humans benefit from getting out of our comfort zone and the top two elements of the hierarchy are covered by this.

Esteem – proving (to yourself) that you can do something that you may not have done before can give you a real feeling of achievement. If you surround yourself with good friends and family, the status and recognition that comes with it is also very rewarding.

Self-actualisation – if you have an element of desire to be the most that one can be then you will also find a challenge helps towards this and find it very rewarding.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of basic needs!

For this blog I will take my recruiter hat off and cover some personal experiences of getting out of your comfort zone (Some career and some non-career examples).

Leaving BT 

I could write a separate blog on this but here is my summary. Having worked at GMAP and then GeoBusiness Solutions I then spent 14 years at BT. I did change roles “fairly often” at BT but in hindsight I should have moved more often (and possibly earlier out of BT). Don’t get me wrong, my time at BT was great (until a few of the later years where I took the wrong career move) but now having been four years out of BT I do not look back.

When I left BT in July 2016, it was a big leap of faith. I was moving from a role that I could almost have had for life (nothing is certain, but BT was pretty much as safe as they come in terms of jobs) to starting a new business in a new area for me. Looking back at my experience, initially I leapt beyond “Optimal Anxiety” due to other pressures. Starting a new career and business and also trying to help care for my mother who had a rapid form of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away in February 2019.

Coronavirus aside, and with Steve helping me full time on the recruitment for the last year, I feel I am now in the “Optimal Anxiety” space, and this feels great. It’s hard to get that balance and it doesn’t always mean moving roles, but I can really feel a shift in my happiness and work satisfaction within this phase!

Kilimanjaro 

In September 2020 Steve will be embarking on a 8-day trip up Mount Kilimanjaro. Cartilage and ACL injuries from football have taken their toll on Steve’s knees (they hurt more when he walks down-hill) but Steve is now pushing ahead with building up to this challenge.

From my point of view on this trip, the challenge is 2-fold. Firstly, it is about getting the fitness to be able to walk for several hours up-hill (This will involve some challenging climbs in the UK with Snowdon, Scafell, Helvellyn etc lined up). Secondly, and perhaps most challenging and one you cannot fully prepare for, is that of coping with the altitude. Kilimanjaro is 6,000 metres high and at that level your blood saturation (Oxygen content in your blood) decreases to nearly 80%. The plan on this trip is to gradually increase the altitude to allow for the climbers to acclimatise to that level.

The reasons Steve is doing this are 5-fold

  1. Heading towards the big 5-0 and needing to set a big goal for himself.
  2. Wanting a physical challenge (that can accommodate his dodgy knees).
  3. Wanting to test his mental strength – as it’s certainly a case of mind over matter.
  4. Raising some money for causes that are close to him
  5. Mindfulness – Spending 8 days away from the usual stresses of life and not being in a digitally connected world (bit back to nature really)

Even though the Kilimanjaro trip is postponed, Steve is still focused on training and has set a September 2020 date of walking some of the Lake Districts highest hills in mountains to keep focus so he is ready for 2021.

Triathlon

Finally, on to my challenge this year – in October 2021 I will be competing in the Peguera (Mallorca) Triathlon. This will be a 1.9km open-water Swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run (In that order). To date I have done the last of these three disciplines/distances in isolation, but have never done the first two (The most I have swam in one go is 600m and the most I have cycled is 65km), let alone two or three of these one after the other.

I have run three marathons to date and I remember thinking after doing my first 10km race, that I could never ever run a marathon. I then entered a half marathon and started the training by increasing my distance each week by no more than 10%. I got up to 11 miles in training and then did my first half marathon in 1hr 42 minutes. That step up gave me the confidence to try a marathon and so I embarked on training and again increments of 10% each week up to 20 mile training runs. I find with running once you get to a certain level and go through the training it then becomes a habit. I ran my first marathon in 4hrs 20 mins. Gutted that I didn’t get under four hours, I tried again and came in at 3hrs 58 minutes – what a relief! My third marathon I finished in 3hrs 50 minutes and have felt a great sense of achievement at pushing myself, and have also given myself confidence and belief in my ability and potential fitness levels.

Back to the triathlon and my biggest challenge to begin with is the swim – currently two lengths of front crawl and I am done! So I have been taking swimming lessons and 16 weeks in, I can now swim about 15 lengths without stopping. It’s been a real slog as some weeks I feel like I have made progress, and then other weeks I feel like I have taken a step backwards. What I have felt in this process is a real sense of achievement. I do feel as we get older we do like our comfort zones, but rising to a challenge like this has helped give me a real sense of accomplishment with even more to come. I know I have the ability to further improve all three disciplines and viewing and reviewing my Strava from time to time helps to back this up.

Conclusion

Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t just about changing jobs! It is all about trying to find the right balance in your life and a level of stress in your work and non-work elements that keep you motivated and give you higher self-esteem.

Rather than change jobs, it can also be taking on more responsibility or learning new skills. Rather than work related it can be learning a new skill or increasing your exercise for example. We all need an element of self-esteem so anything that can help towards that will help keep your life well balanced and help you maintain that happiness!

I’d love to hear your views on this concept of pushing your boundaries. Do you do this in your work and personal life? What are you doing this year to get our of your comfort zone?

Feature image: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Maslows Hierarchy of needs: The Chronic Traveller saved to Self-care and self-love on Pinterest

Business Survival (and Triumph) in the face of Adversity

This second part to the ‘New Normal’ blog summarises my reflections from hundreds of conversations had in lockdown with friends, family, clients, candidates, strangers, basically anyone who will speak to me. It has been really interesting to hear how businesses, and individuals, have been coping with the challenges that currently present themselves in these strange times.

Survival 

Most of us are in some sort of survival mode (perhaps this is where the ‘Stay Alert’ moniker comes from) – living day to day without much in the way of medium to long term future planning.  This applies to businesses as well as individuals.  This section will cover off staff related initiatives that businesses are doing in order to survive. 

The first thing we saw as recruitment consultants is the dreaded recruitment freeze. This happens at other times, but it is usually limited to one or two engagements. It reminded me of the lights going out on the dating game show ‘Take me Out’ (with the accompanying noise) as all our engagements shut down within a very short space of time. At this stage most businesses are looking at cost control (and cost reduction) in order to preserve their cash reserves. It is likely that these recruitment freezes will remain for the foreseeable future, particularly until furlough is finished. It may not be good to have new people starting whilst some of the existing team are furloughed and confidence (and revenue) is moving in the right direction.

That said, we have had several successful starters during lockdown. We had one candidate who managed to get 4 days of face-to-face time with their new team before lockdown. We have had a number of others that have successfully started in new roles while in lockdown and whilst there have been some minor technical issues these have all been overcome. Some employers may be considering new ways to assess candidates, one client offered a candidate a one month contract with a view to a permanent role. This wouldn’t work for all candidates but in this particular case it worked for all parties – it is effectively a month long final interview, for which the candidate is getting paid.

There is a lot to be said about furlough. The Job Retention Scheme seems like a good idea – helping businesses to support their workforce when business is struggling or unable to operate. Some businesses have embraced this help, others have felt politically unable to use the scheme, and other businesses have used it to public outrage as their actions are seen as going against the spirit of who it was intended to help.

Furlough itself, for such a simple word, does carry a myriad of complexity. I have spoken to some who are delighted to have been placed on furlough – getting paid to not work and use the time to get other jobs done or just laze around and watch Netflix! It is a great time to invest in your personal development, I know of a few people who are doing online courses to help their career (technical or softer skills) or learning new skills (guitar playing or photography). Some who have been furloughed are experiencing negative feelings, they feel less valued by their employers and have concerns about if, and when, they will return.

Those who are still working, particularly if their colleagues have been furloughed, can also experience mixed emotions. There are some that are feeling particularly stretched, having to pick up on responsibilities usually covered off by furloughed colleagues or fielding additional requests on the back of planning for the recovery. There is unlikely to be additional funds available to reward this effort. In addition, they may be seeing their furloughed colleagues who are not financially disadvantaged having a pretty good time of it (an advantage of not following work colleagues on social media!). Some who are working may be pleased that they are seen to be of value to the business and happy that they are not ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Who to furlough is also a challenge – the scheme is covering 80% of monthly salary, up to a maximum value of £2,500, so it may steer the selection away from experienced staff towards more junior recruits. Some businesses are deliberately being equitable with who to furlough in order to address some of the issues already outlined. This could mean furloughing half the team for 4 weeks and the other half for 4 weeks to ensure that everyone has been furloughed, regardless of grade and function. That could work well if workload typically involves relatively short-term projects and you have cover for niche roles.

Some businesses who are having to furlough staff earning over the £2,500 threshold have a challenge around maintaining salaries. It is typically the case that people adjust their lifestyle to work within their financial means and there may be significant mortgage costs that a number of staff over the threshold may have to meet before they think about other household bills. Some companies are topping up salary to ensure that their staff are not out of pocket, but this is a cost that the business must meet against a backdrop of reduced revenue. Such businesses will typically have strong cash reserves, ongoing income that has been resilient to the crisis, or a confidence in business picking up pretty quickly after lockdown rules are relaxed.

Other businesses I have spoken to have asked their staff to take a cut in salary for a period of time – this could be a flat percentage, or it could be a stepped reduction, depending on current salary and grade. It is not just the short-term impact on people’s earning potential as it could also be how this pandemic impacts wages growth in the future. Another option has been to encourage people to drop the number of days they do, from 5 a week to 4, for example.

Many people will have given up their planned holidays at Easter, May half term and the summer break, which means that there will be significant amounts of unused holiday. I speculate that there will be a general reluctance for people to use holiday up when in lock down. Businesses are encouraging working staff to use up holiday for a number of reasons. Firstly, having a break from work is necessary, although I am sure front-line workers are not able to take holiday at the moment. Secondly, businesses cannot recover if large swathes of their workforce are on holiday. Finally, some businesses operate holiday carry over and the ability to exchange any unused holiday for cash. This is clearly a liability that most businesses would wish to to avoid, reducing valuable cash reserves in order to service.

Triumph (and failure) in times of adversity 

Advanced planning for mitigating impact of a catastrophic episode such as Covid-19 on business is an impossible challenge, but it has been really interesting to see how businesses react in times of adversity. Of course, most businesses have a disaster recovery plan in case of a significant event that was to impact their business. But it usually focuses on IT infrastructure and assumes there are no impacts on external factors such as other businesses or consumers.  Inevitably this Corona-jolt to the economy will have repercussions in terms of the future viability of a number of businesses.  This will accelerate the pace of change and potentially compress 5 years’ worth of change into a few months.   

In the retail sector, businesses already struggling with an outdated offer, a bloated store footprint more aligned to consumer demands of days gone by, in a market better served by more agile, online players, will no longer find relevance, post-Covid-19.  This will be a case of ‘survival of the fittest’ where very few consumer facing businesses will be immune. 

Business leaders now, more than ever, need to find clarity in their communication, not only to customers but to their workforce.  Clarity is needed on the vision and strategy required to return to former glories (which in uncertain times is easier said than done). There will inevitably be some bumps along the road, but this clarity and confidence will engage and motivate the workforce.  I recall my time at CACI, when we lost a colleague in extremely tragic circumstances and this loss resonated throughout the office.  The leadership team engaged immediately and it was their actions throughout that ensured the impact was minimised.  Whilst nothing could replace the loss of a beloved colleague, such a tragic event galvanised the team and brought us closer together, a real triumph in the face of adversity. 

This crisis has enabled competitive collaboration between businesses in a range of sectors.  In the early days of the pandemic the Grocers were sharing resources between each other and collaborating to ensure that the nations shelves remained stocked. The highly competitive gym industry, with a range of different players, were sharing information in their support of each other and providing, where appropriate, resources to a combined lobby group where there was a collective interest. 

I have spoken to a number of employees who have been working closely with colleagues in other departments, often with people they haven’t really had prior dealings with before.  I have also learnt of redeployments (or secondments) from one department to another.  These types of initiative will certainly help employees gain a deeper understanding of different functions and allow new internal relationships to be formed. 

So in conclusion, the resilient, forward thinking businesses who can act fast to challenges, should survive but it will undoubtedly be a difficult time to all businesses across all industries.

If your team is struggling and you need short term or long term support, please speak to us. We are well placed to suggest suitable candidates and acting fast to get extra resource could be vital to your success.

Give us a call on +44(0)7918 653 877 / +44(0)7979 756 257 or email info@redtigerconsulting.co.uk.

Photos by Pixabay from Pexels

The bald truth

Male pattern baldness came knocking early for me. I can most likely thank my Dad’s genes for that.  When I was 19 years old my boss at the restaurant where I worked was walking down some stairs, with me walking in front, and he asked the question “Steve are you going bald?”.  Fast forward a few hours and I was at home trying to view my crown with various mirrors in order to confirm my fears.    

‘Steve, are you going bald?’

Throughout my early teenage years I always had problems with my fine hair – I envied all of my friends who always seemed to have cooler hair styles than me.  Products such as spray, gel, moose and brylcreem (!) never seemed to enable me to get the style I craved.   My early hair loss was to hit me during my time at University and it knocked my confidence for six.  In these formative adult years I was very self-conscious of my condition and it would take me at least a decade longer to be comfortable with the way I looked. 

Will-o-the-wisp 

The landing strip!

Managing through my hair crisis was a challenge – there were various ways I learnt to cover up thinning areas to try and avoid being called out.  My receding hairline went through various stages, from rapidly diminishing hair at the temples through to full on landing strip at the front (which can be seen on the photo below) always trying to disguise the barren areas with strategic hair placement.  I never needed to opt for a full-on Bobby Charlton comb over but I did give up trying to hold on to my wisps in my late 20s when I finally decided to go for the complete shaved look.  Of course, there were comments at work but I found that if I didn’t rise to any of the nastiness or insults then these would soon go after everyone has got used to my new hair style. 

Wispy landing strip and hair beginning to recede

The (Hair) Transporter 

Fortunately for me there are some people out there that don’t mind men who are bald and some have a real thing for bald men. I was trying to think about famous bald male sex symbols and I could think up a few: Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Pep Guardiola, Thierry Henry, to name a few! There seems to be a higher level of stickiness in me remembering bald men who play villains, Voldemort in Harry Potter, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, Walter White in Breaking Bad (who had hair when he was good), Dr Evil in Austin Powers, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, and Blofeld in James Bond. There are certainly some celebrities who spring to mind with more hair to share: David Ginola, Russell Brand, Harry Styles, Brad Pitt, Jason Momoa.

I recall a failed first date with a Liverpool make-up artist who proceeded to tell me about all her famous bald men fantasies. This included Simon Rimmer (celebrity chef), who she seemed to be regularly messaging on Twitter, and Peter Cox, the lead singer of 80s band Go West, who this particular lady had managed to track down and date for a while. I didn’t see her again.

My ‘likeness’ to a handful of bald celebrities has been noted over the years: way back it was Duncan Goodhew (the Olympic swimmer), then it was PJ (from the 3rd series of Big Brother, famous for his under the sheets altercation with Jade Goody and looking like me). At the 2012 FA Cup Semi at Wembley an Everton fan called me Jonjo Shelvey (former Red, now playing at Newcastle), which was to be the first and last time that particular reference was made.

Burns Night with the one and only Greg Wallace aka Steve Halsall

More recently it has been a likeness to Greg Wallace.  Despite the fact that he has nearly 10 years on me and doesn’t have a bushy beard it has certainly caused confusion with the public on a couple of occasions. Firstly, after exiting arrivals at a UK airport I was greeted by a gathering at the barriers who were clearly there to see the Greg Wallace.  There was a mild buzz as the doors to ‘nothing to declare’ fizzed open, but this was followed by the realisation at close quarters that I was never their beloved Greg.  Secondly, a photo was posted on Facebook by a friend (thanks Ruth) with the caption ‘Burns Night with Greg Wallace‘ which caused quite a stir as one friend in particular was very impressed! Finally, a barista at the Euston Pret swore blind I was the man himself, and this is the one and only time I have profiteered from my ‘likeness’ by getting a free coffee!  

So bald can be sexy (although I’ve never been likened to the traditional sexy bald men) and there are loads of advantages to having a partner that is bald – they are not going to clog up the shower or hoover with stray hair and they certainly won’t be stealing the last of your shampoo and conditioner. 

Baldist bigots 

Follically challenged, baldy, slap-head, bald as a coot, chrome dome, cue ball, skullet (new one to me) are some of the phrases used to describe people like me who have lost their hair. These are used behind our backs and to our faces. I recall as a 14 year old getting a tour round a prospective High School with my parents and the headmaster (who along with my Dad, was bald). After exiting one classroom I remember the door opening after we had left and a pupil shouted ‘slap-head’ down the corridor at us. I didn’t know whether it was directed at my dad or headmaster. Needless to say I didn’t go to that school.

I didn’t choose to be bald, nature did, and of course there is always fun to be had at another person’s expense. There is always someone who feels it appropriate to point out that you are bald (no sh** Sherlock!) or mock your lack of hair. This is typically done in a group to try and be funny and in doing so belittle you. I am sure these things were said in jest with little malice intended but it does, even now, make me uncomfortable on the inside as I remember how I used to feel.

If someone was to make fun of a person because of their race, sexuality, gender, handicap, other visible condition, whatever – they would be rightly pilloried. In mental health awareness week I was saddened to learn about the mental health issues of Luke Chadwick, the former Man United footballer who was publicly ridiculed because of his physical appearance. It seems like teasing someone because of their appearance is deemed more socially acceptable, but to me it is not. It still carries on now, with my beard growth I now get comments like it ‘looks like your head is upside down’. Yawn. Perhaps it says more about the insecurities of the individual who is making the ‘fun’, feeling the need to belittle someone to their own benefit.

Lean on me 

Research suggests that ‘male pattern baldness‘ is likely to affect half of all men by the age of 50.  This means that as I rapidly approach that age there is one thing I don’t need to worry about, but I do have a number of pals who are going that way.  To them, I feel your pain, and have been there, got the t-shirt, albeit nearly 30 years earlier.  If you need any advice then you know where I am – if anyone has made you feel uncomfortable with reference to your baldness make it known to them that it is unacceptable or just send them a link to this blog. 

Clipperty lopp 

The idea for this blog came about when I was shaving my head during lockdown.  I have seen a number of people complaining about the state of their hair and missing their hairdresser/barber.  My wife spent around 2 hours cutting her sons hair the other day – it looked like a science experiment with clippers and string.  There have been quite a few newsworthy home haircut fails and my friends often preface any photos of themselves on social media with some sort of apology about their ‘lockdown hair’.  For those with hair I would imagine getting it cut will be one of the main luxuries you crave once lockdown is over?

I see lockdown as a great opportunity to ‘test the water’ with a new style.  You can’t really mess up a buzz cut (or a razor shave – although if you nick your scalp, particularly in the shower it does feel like you are going to bleed to death!) and you can do it in the comfort that it will grow back before anyone sees you.  If you want to you can also make an event of it (like a couple of my friends have done) in order to raise some much needed money for a chosen charity. 

That said, once you go for a short cut you do need to keep on top of it.  I keep on top of mine at least every week – any longer and I start to look like Riff Raff out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

Hair? Makeup?

Bald benefits 

I don’t think many of my friends will remember me with hair – in fact, if I was suddenly to gain a full head of hair (like Wayne Rooney, or more recently, Xherdan Shaqiri) I think it would freak most of my friends out! 

There are a number of other benefits to being bald: 

  • I am used to it and had to deal with it early – so it’s one less thing I have to worry about in middle age 
  • I have saved a shed load of money on shampoo, conditioner and trips to the barbers
  • It is one less thing that I have to worry about fixing when I’m going out (or on a zoom call!), or get caught in a sudden downpour 

Baldies of the World Unite 

I am not sure what this has to do with recruitment or location planning – there has certainly been an explosion in Barber Shops since male pampering has become an acceptable social norm.  Unfortunately, bald men will always be subject to teasing and name calling – this is a form of bullying and some will inevitably happen in the workplace.   I also think the topic is related to the mental health and wellbeing themes that we write about as it is certainly something that affects people in different ways. I just hope that members of the bald fraternity empathise with some of the observations I have made in this blog, and those who choose to make fun think twice.

I have now lived more years on this planet without hair than with.  Never one to reveal our secrets to ‘muggles’ there is an undocumented code amongst fellow baldies – we certainly never reference our baldness in front of non baldies.  I just wish that non baldies would do the same.  One thing that’s guaranteed is that at least some of my friends will be joining me over the next few years; welcome to this exclusive club! 

How to cope with working from home

The demands on our homes as an office space have never been higher. The team at Red Tiger Talent are used to working from our home offices and have an appropriate setup to ensure that we can conduct our work in comfort and with minimal distraction. Critical to our collective well-being in the months ahead will be to adapt to a new work regime (if you are used to being in an office) and new ways of working (with a de-centralised workforce).

Our ability to work from home will be impacted by the closure of schools from tomorrow. This will put an extra burden on those parents with children that require supervision and/or home schooling.

This is by no means a definitive list but, based on our experience, provides some suggestions on what you can do to ease the transition.

Further information can be found in a previous blog about the office-home balance. Read ‘The Office home Balance‘ here.

Other ideas and suggestions from our readers are welcome (please add in the comments below) as I’m sure there are plenty of other things that can be done.

Man working from home
Make yourself a space for your office, not just sitting on the sofa…

Home working advice 

  1. Find and define your space – Some people may already have a dedicated office or space but if you lack a room you need to find an area that you can regularly sit at which ‘mimics’ your traditional workspace.  This can be a kitchen table or breakfast area but you need to ensure sufficient space to house a laptop and be in close proximity to appropriate power sources (for both laptop and phone).  It is advisable to avoid something like the sofa (particularly with the tv remote controls close to hand).  If you and your partner are working from home it is advisable to try and find separate rooms to work in if possible. 
  2. Get dressed and feel the part – It is easy to not bother getting dressed for work when home working but there is certainly a benefit in changing out of your nightwear into acceptable daywear to conduct your day’s work.  It will make you feel more professional and make you prepared for any (planned or inadvertent) video calls that may happen. 
  3. Try to commit to specific working hours – It is good to try and commit to a routine and communicate this to your colleagues/clients/suppliers.  I personally prefer to start work early (7am) in order to get some quick productive wins out of the way. It is also important to have an end time that you try to stick to if possible.  The working hours may be impacted by other factors such as need to look after your children.   
  4. Pay special attention to desk ergonomics – Good posture is important to ensure you don’t develop any physical problems and that starts with the height of the table (and the level of your workstation) and your chair.   This extends to using a handsfree device or headphones when having calls – certainly avid cradling your mobile between your head and your shoulder.  General advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/ 
  5. Stay engaged with work colleagues and associates – Your business is likely to have announced changes in procedure and adoption/increased use of technology (such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime, Zoom, GotoMeeting) to facilitate remote working. It is important that you take time to contact people via video or audio calls if possible.  This will help with reducing any feelings of isolation and reduce the amount of emails you send.  This is a great opportunity to speak to us at Red Tiger Talent if you want a careers catch-up. 
  6. Be prepared for downturns in online connectivity – It has been reported that the infrastructure for broadband and mobile telecommunications are struggling for capacity at specific times, particularly in major areas of population.  These infrastructures have been designed to service the ‘normal’ daytime populations and are often lacking bandwidth to cope with this flipped demand. 
  7. Prepare for reduced workload – Inevitably there will be less business being done and in theory less travel means more time to do things.  It is important that you plan to fill these gaps with things to give you a sense of achievement.  Examples include: 
    • Email or hard drive housekeeping – there is always a need to ensure your inbox is clear, unnecessary emails deleted (particularly if they have attachments) and required emails are filed away.  This is also the case with drive space either locally or on file servers.  The spring clean can also be quite therapeutic. 
    • Update your CV – you may not have done this for a while but now is a good time to at least reflect on skills and achievements since you last updated your CV. 
    • Training – perhaps there are some online courses you wanted to do but didn’t have the time?  Are there any work-related books that you could read or re-read?  Think about your skills gaps and set yourself some objectives on learning new skills. This is also something that may be worth speaking to Red Tiger about. 
  8. Build in downtime during the day – It is important to take regular breaks throughout the day.  Try, if possible, to avoid distractions such as TV, games and social media.  It is better to use the time to either get some exercise/fresh air (see below) and give your eyes a rest from looking at a screen. 
  9. Keep your body healthy – This is extremely important, particularly if your previous commute involved exercise or a visit to the gym, you need to fill the gap.   For anyone with a lack of ideas there are plenty of Youtube videos that give instructions on exercises you can do at home.  Other activities include: 
    • Stretching your legs – as long as you are keeping a safe distance from other members of the public then this is permissible.  Go out for a walk, run or ride a bike. 
    • Check in on a neighbour – particularly if you have old and vulnerable neighbours it is worth checking in on them.  Of course, you will need to keep an acceptable distance (2 metres) but they may be in need of something or at least some human interaction. 
    • Plan/prepare meals – meal times will need extra planning, particularly with alternatives as your required ingredients may not be available.  Use the time to work up a shopping list and plan meals (and alternatives) for the week ahead. 
  10. Focus on maintaining a healthy mind – Try to reduce stress and anxiety which will be heightened in this current state of isolation:
    • Practice some mindfulness – even if it is a 5 minute meditation – more advice can be found in our previous blog, ‘Practice Mindfulness – it really does work’ here.
    • Write a journal – this can be a very good way to ‘share’ your anxieties 
    • Read a book – any form of escapism can help with mindfulness 
Make sure you take regular breaks to stretch your legs, hydrate and get away from the screen

How to cope with young kids at home 

We now have to be prepared for an extended period of isolation in our homes with our partners and children.  Think of the challenges of a rainy weekend but for a longer period of time!  It is going to be a stressful time – parents tasked with keeping kids occupied during the 6 week summer holiday will know this.  We mustn’t underestimate the stress and anxiety that our kids will feel and we can certainly support them through the most restrictive and uncertain times they have ever been through. 

The challenge will vary depending on how old your children are and their boredom thresholds.  This is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to regain some of the old traditional family values that many of us will remember from our childhoods.  Most parents with teenage kids will know that the days of the whole family sitting around the single household tv (or if you are really old, wireless) are long gone but this may be an opportunity to encourage proper family time.  It may be worth giving it a week or two before implementing some of the recommendations, when the boredom really starts to kick in! 

How many of these can your kids tick off the list?

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it serves as a good starting point: 

  1. Get your kids to timetable what they want to do (or at least what they want to achieve from this extended break).Dust down the board games – most households have board games of some description.  If not, there is usually at least a pack of cards.  My advice is to try and avoid playing Monopoly as I don’t know of any family that hasn’t witnessed a game descending into a world war! 
  2. Teach your kids some key life skills – it is likely there will still be a need for home teaching via online resources as per instructions from the school, but this could be an opportunity for your kids to help with the housework and gaining other skills.  This ranges from household tasks such as cooking (give them responsibility to choose what to cook/bake), cleaning and laundry, through to other skills such as growing plants, mowing the lawn, doing the recycling, cleaning shoes etc. 
  3. Encourage them to write a journal of their experiences during these times – this is hopefully something that we will not witness again for generations.  This is an opportunity for them to capture their thoughts and feelings for the benefit of future generations. 
  4. Spring clean and get rid of unnecessary clutter – Do you have a cupboard that needs to be cleaned out and sorted?  Perhaps it’s the garage?  Do you hoard electronic gadgets that are just decaying in a drawer?  This is a good opportunity to get things ready for the tip, car boot or ebay. 
  5. Ensure you have a good selection of books – It may take a while but it might be worth creating a mini family book club where all of you take turns to read a book (or you could take turns in reading it aloud to each other) and then chat about it at the end? 
  6. Catch up on box sets – With on demand and streaming services we’ve never had more content at our fingertips.  It might also be an opportune time to dust down some of the old box sets you have on DVD/Bluray.  Try to get a consensus on what to watch to ensure that the whole family watches it together, ensure everyone has a say as there will be plenty of time to watch multiple series.  This could be a challenge as we are all so used to using our own personal devices to watch what we as individuals want to watch. 
  7. Allocate some time for children’s self study / practice or home tutoring – It is likely that the schools will be making available some online resources or homework for the kids to do.  Whilst I think it will be unreasonable to allocate the hours usually spent at school to home study it may be a good idea to dedicate a small proportion of the day for focused study and learning. 
  8. Facetime/Skype/call the family – Over the next few months this will be a great way of keeping in touch with loved ones in different households, make sure you include   any elderly relatives or friends.  One idea is to give it more of a purpose than just a chat-  perhaps ask a relative to relay a story to the whole family? 
  9. Have a break from social media – Social media has been very useful in helping distribute official advice relating to the virus but it has certainly contributed to heightened panic due to mis-information.  It might be worth you committing to removal of some or all of your social media channels. Let’s face it, our timelines are going to be pretty boring for the foreseeable future. 
  10. Embrace the Playstation/Switch/Xbox – Many parents show a passing interest to their kids’ obsession with gaming (mainly driven by a desire to ensure their online safety).  Now is our chance as parents to get involved, particularly with multi-player games such as Minecraft, Fortnite or Super Mario Kart.  This could be our time to shine and demonstrate that years of practice on a ZX Spectrum, C64 or Sega Megadrive has not all been in vain.  Getting to an acceptable level of skill on one of these games will gain kudos with your kids and you can also use it at bargaining power when you want them to watch the Office boxset or Karate Kid movies. 
  11. Exercise – As of writing this we are still permitted to go outside as long as we keep an appropriate distance from other people.  Kids will need to go out at least once a day for some fresh air and some exercise.  It is also possible to exercise inside with plenty of online instruction videos and even dusting down the wii fits can help. 

I am certainly open to any other suggestions that people may have on activities for the kids – what works, what hasn’t.  The coming weeks and months will be a learning curve for both parents and children. 

Covid-19 and its impact on business

There is little doubt that we are living in unprecedented times – the months ahead are going to be challenging for everyone as we significantly change the way we live, and work, in order to cope with the Covid-19 crisis. In Part 1 of this blog about Coronavirus we highlighted some of the impacts that the virus has had on our own recruitment business.

Read ‘The impact of Covid-19 on the working population’ here.

In this second part will look at some of the impacts on wider commercial business practices.

The recent announcements regarding tightening of advice around working from home if you can, avoiding large gatherings and eliminating non-essential travel may seem very draconian, but in comparison to restrictions in other countries the UK have been relatively lax in their approach to date. There is no doubt that commercial business activity will suffer in the months ahead and firms will be frantically walking the tightrope of redefining ‘business as usual’ whilst following the advice from authorities about the safety of their staff, suppliers and customers.

It is hoped that the tone of this blog will be relatively positive – despite the impact on my own business and family it is an opportune time for everyone to take stock and re-evaluate their behaviours and practices, both in their personal and work lives. My twitter timeline is already filled with local businesses and their offers of and cries for help – with the public responding with mostly positive action. I do hope that this crisis will reverse the factions that have certainly become increasingly common in society and give people an improved sense of togetherness and belonging to their local community.

Here are some of the key implications that I see from this which involves ripping up of the old rules around previous business practices at a time of crisis:

Improved Information Management

This is not referring to the way we store and access data in an IT sense – this is related to how we as people and businesses choose to manage the information we ingest and emit.

Individuals – we all need to get better at filtering information we receive in order to extract the most relevant messages.   We all suffer from information overload – I am personally feeling it just with staying on top of the communication about Covid-19. I would suggest we need to be more selective about the streams of information that we choose to read.  We also have a duty to each other to try to avoid any conjecture or speculation and be as clear and concise as possible in our verbal and written communication.  A previous blog talks about communication skills and advocates picking up the phone rather than emailing if possible. Read ‘Walk the Walk’ here.

Businesses – how do we appropriately manage the bombardment of (mainly) digital messages to our colleagues/suppliers/clients?  Keeping a distributed workforce engaged and informed has particular challenges and the most appropriate means of communication really does depend on the target audience and whether there is a need for one or two-way communication.   

Potential Solution:

I envisage increased use of video conferencing solutions for two-way communications such as MS Teams, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp or Zoom (all of these are things that Red Tiger Talent can help train people in the use of, if required). Conference calls will certainly be increasing in their use – a top tip here is make sure these meetings start on time by setting a 5 minute reminder and ensuring that you include speed dial links in the invite if available. Too often online meetings are delayed as a critical attendee does not manage to get on at the required time due to missing the information to get on the call.

Sorry, who was that speaking just now?

Voice memos (or pre-recorded videos) can also be used to distribute a one-way message.  Either way, recording of meetings or messages in audio/video is a good practice to ensure everyone is included in the communication and that you minimise the need to repeat communications.

Travel embargo

The social media images of key commuter locations (or pubic transport) over the last couple of days have shown that most people are taking the advice and limiting their travel and face to face meeting time.  This is going to accelerate with the shutting down of key public transport networks.  Most businesses tend to keep a tight handle on their travel and subsistence costs but it still astounds me how much is spent on travel that clearly isn’t mission critical.

People are taking the advice and limiting their travel and face to face meeting time

Potential Solution:

This scrutiny and justification of business travel (only when absolutely necessary), as well as complete restrictions on international travel is an area that could really demonstrate that business can still be achieved via remote contact only.  There are three key inefficiencies in the travel process.

  • Lost productive time to transport delays/cancellations and transfers are transport interchanges
  • The actual costs of travel, which seem to be increasing all to often
  • Delays to decision making caused by the task of co-ordinating diaries for numerous people to be in the same room at the same time

This efficiency saving could potentially outweigh the benefits of face to face.  Cost savings are immense and there are also significant environmental benefits as well.  You only have to look at the images of air pollution in China pre and post lockdown to see the very visible benefits.

‘China’s air pollution dropped dramatically after coronavirus lockdown’

I would argue that out of this crisis there is a clear opportunity to adopt new business practices – do we really need to ‘see the whites of peoples eyes’ in order to do business or is it now acceptable to see the whites of their eyes via a video call? In the future clients may think more highly of their suppliers if they are demonstrating an increased consideration of environmental and health factors in their preference for an online meeting. Advances in VR technology must surely mean that meetings of the future will feel like we are all present even though we are not?

Working from Home

The news yesterday of the UK schools closing by the end of this week is not a surprise. It will certainly increase the challenges on households as parents juggle their ability to do their job remotely with looking after their children. There are also major challenges around childcare for key workers who will still need to go to work, this includes anyone within the NHS, Grocery or Pharmacy businesses, and logistics/delivery.

The detail on coping with working from home and suggestions on how to keep the kids occupied are the subject of a future blog (frantically being written!) but here I wanted to focus on the positives of the situation. We engage with businesses that have different attitudes to flexible/home working, ranging from the ‘must be seen in the office’ all the way through to 100% home based. We covered some thoughts on this in a previous blog. Read ‘Flexible working: Trust is all you need’.

Some of the newer start-up businesses we speak to have found the transition very easy as they already have the infrastructure in place to support home working. Other businesses that may struggle with the transition to operating a completely remote workforce. It is not just about the technology it is about the teams being comfortable will new ways of communicating – this could be a time when new stars will rise from businesses and people who fail to adapt may wither into the background.

This period of enforced home working, whilst challenging due to the economic deflation that will be an inevitable result of such a global catastrophe. This will hopefully demonstrate to those inflexible businesses that home working can be done, and that people can be trusted.

Potential Solution:

The outcome may result in increased adoption of technology to enable workers to interact with colleagues, suppliers and clients in a remote manner.  I hope we will see more flexible conditions in employment contracts about where your normal place of work is.  Most of my candidates who are parents ask about how much flexibility there is in the role. This can be a significant factor to someone accepting a role.  This flexibility may not just be days of the week expected in the office, but also around typical working hours.   There are financial issues to be overcome around reimbursement of travel costs to the office if you are a home worker – but if everyone was contracted to work from home this would be a great incentive to severely restrict travel into the office. The added benefit being reduced office space requirements (apologies in advance to any office agents).

See you on the other side (but speak to you before)

It is fair to say that in any crisis there are winners and losers.  This will provide a fundamental shakeup of businesses and there is no doubt there will be job losses before things recover.   Those businesses that adapt and adjust best are the ones that will survive, and I suspect that any business that still clings on to outdated old school beliefs may fall by the wayside.    We have already seen this in retail with the demise of the Department Store as an outdated concept that has failed to adapt to the times.

There have been some positives out of this period – I for one have noticed an increase in activity connecting to long lost contacts.  These are people who do not circulate in the same orbits as you and so it is very rare that you meet (ships that pass in the night).  It is typically because you can’t get a date/time/location that works for the both of you.  Now that the location factor has been removed it is far easier to get a date/time that works.   Some would argue that if it was important to meet with these people then you would, but the counter to that is the old school sales funnel which largely suggest that the more conversations you are having the more opportunity will present itself.

So use this opportunity to re-connect with old acquaintances – you never know what business may come out of it!

Author: Steve Halsall

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels