July 2, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Working Lives in Scotland

CIPD Scotland has created an insightful report on job quality in Scotland as part of their commitment to championing better work and working lives for all Scottish people.  What’s really interesting about this report is that it offers pre-COVID-19 analysis and insights on workforce health and wellbeing as well as skills and careers development.

This report adapts the CIPD Good Work Index to the Scottish Fair Work Framework.  If you have worked with Connect Three before you’ll know that we are passionate about helping businesses meet the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Framework.  We are proud to have been awarded the Glasgow Business Award for Fair Work last year, and in the last 12 months we have worked to help others create the same engaged, innovative workplace that we have been recognised for building with our own team.

So what are the key findings from the report?

One finding that we feel has extra relevance in our society right now is the positive correlation between flexible work and job satisfaction.  Now that more businesses have been pushed into creating flexible working environments for their staff, how will they move forward when we all return to office environments?

Connect Three’s Founder, Colin Lamb, says: “We have long been champions of flexible working and are happy to see this report’s finding that there is a positive correlation between being flexible and having a happier workforce. Flexible working practices allow everyone in your organisation the chance to shine, regardless of what’s going on outside of work.”

A finding that we were disappointed to read was that both personal and career development opportunities differ, often significantly, by gender, age, sector and occupational class.  The statistic in this which stood out to us was that there is a significant gap in the perceived skills development opportunities for the 45-54 age bracket.  It has started some interesting conversations amongst our team as to the skills development opportunities appropriate and available for this age group.

“One of the five pillars of the Fair Work Framework is opportunity.” says Gordon White, Connect Three’s Operations Manager. “Seeing this perceived gap in skills development opportunities for the 45-54 age bracket drives home how important Opportunity is when creating a happier and more productive workplace.”

Other key findings:

You can view all of the results from the report and download the unabridged version here.

For more information on Fair Work and creating Opportunity within your organisation, get in touch with Connect Three today on hello@connectthree.co.uk.

May 15, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Why is Remote Working so Exhausting?

Are you finding working from home is more exhausting and you are more drained than when you had to commute to and from a busy office?

I’m sure you are starting to read more about ‘Zoom Fatigue’ or Teams Tired’.  As with any new experience, by using these platforms which we may not be used to we are training new neural pathways in our brain.  This is one of the reasons why learning is tiring, even more so when we start down what was a familiar pathway (the work looks the same) but then have to divert to do the work in a different way (virtual meetings, mastering new platforms, presenting or receiving information in a different way).

Added to that, we are having to respond to multitudinous ways of being contacted; if my WhatsApp is stupid busy with work, personal and family calls at all times of the day, then it’s hardly surprising my ‘on’ button feels like it got jammed.

I recently saw this model from Nir Eyal on a former colleague’s LinkedIn post and all of a sudden it all made sense. His view is that technology can perpetuate a vicious and seemingly constant cycle of responsiveness. The alerts that go off at all hours seem endless.

When we look at the science behind our almost addictive reaction to such pings, it’s not surprising that our brains are exhausted. Somehow, that need to find out who needs us, wants something from us, needs to speak with us grows more and more irresistible – especially when many of us are missing out on our usual social interaction over a coffee, lunch or just someone wandering past your desk.

Experiments on response to stimuli with mice found that providing the same treats every time a mouse pressed a lever was less motivating than varying the rewards.  So, when we don’t know who could be needing us or what they could want it gets harder and harder to resist the ping. We tell ourselves it’s just a quick look and Bam! we get our attention fix – again; and by taking that quick peek (it never is) those neural pathways to fire up all over again.

Devices and platforms use triggers such as notifications to encourage us to take actions—opening the app, looking at Slack, checking LinkedIn etc. Variable rewards - messages coming in more frequently and from a wider social sphere -encourage us to take action every time: checking our inboxes, refreshing social feeds, and the like.

I for one have a hard time resisting the alerts, and an even harder time not ‘just quickly checking’. In fact - there goes my phone now!

CJ

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If you are a leader struggling to set ground rules to protect the well-being of your remote teams, you may find value in our free one-to-one coaching sessions.  Find out more by emailing hello@connectthree.co.uk.

April 29, 2020Comments are off for this post.

How Taking Our Business Digital Has Taught Us To Be Human

We’re in week six of working from home and now this really does feel like normal. We’ve all embraced video conferencing with gusto, we’ve found new and innovative ways to service and support our clients, and we’ve just got on with things as best we can, under the circumstances.

While some aspects of working from home have certainly proven challenging, there has been one huge and surprising advantage; we’ve got to know each other and our clients a whole lot better. We check in regularly with each other to see how we’re all doing. We’ve seen each other’s kitchens and living rooms and noted each other’s taste in art and interiors. We’ve said hello to children and partners. We now know who’s messy and who’s tidy, who the good gardeners are, the best bakers and cooks. From a business perspective, we’ve developed a strong understanding of our clients’ unique, immediate and longer-term challenges and how we can best support them.

Most of all, we’ve really understood how this crisis is impacting every single one of us at both a personal and professional level. I think it’s fair to say, we’ve all become more human as a result.

This has also manifested itself in some of the changes we’ve made to our internal communications. At Connect Three, we now have a weekly session with a focus on providing regular updates on how the business is performing and how that’s changing week-to-week. Added to that we have a Friday Happy Hour where we commit to hanging out with each other, taking part in trivia quizzes (we know who the music nerds are now) and having a virtual look round each other’s houses. We also send out a weekly survey to gather how everyone is feeling about the week ahead (we have all gone through ups and downs) and what each person is focussed on achieving, not just at work but for themselves.

We all agree that we know each other a lot better than we thought we did before and want this to continue into the future. It has made a real difference to how we communicate and ask for help.

Looking After Our Health

Of course, looking after our mental health has taken on renewed importance in recent weeks. Some of our team have recently taken on the challenge of running 5k every day to get out in the fresh air, have a bit of mental downtime, and support and encourage each other in getting through lockdown.

For the Most Part, it's Still Business as Usual...

Although it is impossible to run in-person programmes at the moment, there are a number of clients who remain incredibly dedicated to continuing to develop their staff, especially those in the food, telecom and finance sectors. Almost all clients, however, are looking for support and advice in helping to scenario plan the best approach to strategy review, and the best way to pick up their business again as we move towards the relaxing of lockdown and coming out of furlough in the coming months.

As a result, we’ve put more focus than normal on understanding our resource capacity. We’re regularly assessing who’s over stretched and who might have more availability to assist. This has allowed us to maximise resources right across our team and, importantly, help each other out as needed, spreading the workload to meet changing client demand.

It also has an added benefit in allowing our people to experience working with each other in a different way on client accounts that they may not have experienced before, and to learn some new skills or ways of working.

In many respects, business continues to move on and be done, albeit differently to how it might have been done just a few short weeks ago.

What Comes Next?

In some sense, we’re very much in a holding pattern at present, waiting for the economy to reopen and get started again. The real work will begin when we return to the office, and while it’s almost impossible to say how the books will look at the end of 2020, we’ve already made some estimates as to where we hope to end up and adjusted costs accordingly.

For now, however, we’re mostly looking forward to a return to our offices in Glasgow, meeting up with colleagues, partners and clients again, all hopefully in the not too distant future.

We can help with many aspects of your business, both during and post-lockdown, so please get in touch to find out more.

CJ

April 17, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Shona: Three Ps from Me to You…

So, with nearly four weeks of lockdown under our belts and it being another three weeks until we find out what decisions are going to be made next, I felt the time was right to share some of my reflections.    As I’ve connected with friends, colleagues and clients over the last month it has become clear that while we’re all experiencing the same thing, the way we’re experiencing it is unique to each of us.

Everywhere we look there is a plethora of insights, thoughts, tips and techniques about how to make the most of the world we’ve found ourselves in.  Personally, I’m glad to be through the binging stage and while I found some of it helpful, some of it positively unhelpful.

These three Ps are definitely not new concepts, nor are they anything that many of us weren’t already doing, but the context for each of us has shifted as we’ve all found ourselves in uncharted territory.  My intent behind sharing them is that they might go some way to helping you make sense of your thoughts with either yourself or with the support of a trusted friend or external coach.

Prioritise ~ I find that I’m now making more conscious choices about how I’m spending my time and who I’m spending it with.  I’m dropping ‘should do’, focusing on the ‘want to do’ and as a result I’m connecting more with my purpose (the Start with Why concept from Simon Sinek) and identifying were I can be most proactive (the Circle of Control concept from Stephen Covey) as well making the most of my days both personally and professionally.

Practice ~ I like to think of this as experimentation with purpose.  If you don’t dip your toe in the water and practice you’ll never know.  No one said it would be easy and progress is better than perfection (admittedly I’m still struggling with this concept!). I’ve recently discovered the work of Susan David which has taken my own thinking on resilience and emotional agility to a deeper level.   Seeing it as a set of skills to learn, grow and thrive as a person is helping me overcome the blips in my practice and reframing stumbling blocks as stepping stones is helping sustain and build my self-confidence.

Positivity ~ I’m a practical optimist and by encouraging my inner critic to speak to myself like I would speak to my best friend I’m starting to judge myself a bit less and show myself a bit more compassion.  Without doubt, understanding when Imposter Syndrome is hampering me and being able to deploy ways to manage that has been a game changer and is equipping me to develop stronger connections with my tribe and seize the right opportunities when they arise.

I’m starting to see how these three Ps are helping reframe my approach to each and every day… definitely starting to feel less discombobulated and connecting more with my ‘buildbackability’, while accepting some days will be better than others and there is no right way to feel right now.

I’d love to engage and explore the above in more depth so if what I’ve shared has resonated with you and you’re curious to explore more, please reach out to me.

Thanks, Shona

 

April 2, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Can you do training courses during lockdown?

If you are an employee on furlough or self-employed and unable to work because of lockdown, it may seem like the perfect time to keep up to date on your skills, or take part in personal development, but will that affect your government support?

If you are seeking help through the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme there is nothing in the potential support that will be affected by you undertaking self-development.

If you have been notified you are an employee on furlough, while you are not able to work for your employer, you can undertake training (subject to following the current public health rules) as long as you are not making money for your employer, or providing services for your employer.  Ultimately, whether or not you are required to do the training needs to be agreed between you and your employer, but it is a discussion you should be able to have comfortably with them.

Should you do training now?

Learning new skills, taking part in group events (even if they are online), and keeping your brain active can all be really important steps in combating the negative effects of self-isolation.  It can be all too easy to become lonely, complacent, bored and even depressed during this uncertain and turbulent time.  By taking steps towards self-development, and focusing on the future, you can bring a positive light to the situation.

Can I receive Coaching now?

Similar to group training, one-on-one coaching can be hugely beneficial to both your personal and professional development at this time.  Find out more about Connect Three’s pro bono coaching offering this month.

Disclaimer: all information correct at time of publication. If in doubt, we recommend you seek advice from HMRC or your employer.

March 31, 2020Comments are off for this post.

COVID-19 Scottish Business Support Summary

Our friends at Glasgow City Council were kind enough to share this guide which Business Gateway has prepared.  It offers an at a glance summary of the help and support available to businesses and individuals from HMRC, the Scottish Government and other sources.

Download your guide here

March 31, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Helping your People through Tough Times

At Connect Three we believe in the importance of employee engagement and its power to drive the success of our business and the businesses that we work with.

Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, and the uncertain times ahead, it is even more important that we focus on driving the engagement of our people. Even if we are not sure what lies ahead, our people need to feel confident that we are leading them in the right direction.

The Connect Three team has already been approached by clients, partners and friends to help them to understand what key points they need to consider in the short term for their people, and how to apply strategic thought to decisions made in the coming weeks when it is so hard to tell what the long term impact will be on your employees and business.

In the absence of a crystal ball, it is essential that we remain as positive as we can and assume that a new normal service will resume so make decisions now based on what you want the future to look like for your employees and ultimately your business.

There is plenty of government information on how to keep your employees healthy, so this short guide is designed to help kick start your thinking on what you need to be doing for your people, and what help is available for your business.

Download your copy of the guide.

March 25, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Pro Bono Coaching

The Connect Three team is offering pro bono, remote, 1-2-1 coaching sessions for up to 30 business owners/leaders until the end of May to help support people during this tough time. Maybe you are concerned about the future, or want to build personal resilience. Perhaps you are just looking for ways to be your best self, or navigate complexity and change.
 
Whatever your reason might be, we are offering a safe space to talk to someone who is trained to coach you through this crazy time. We will listen, coach, and help you to identify your best options for the way forward.
 
We want to help as many people as we can so please share this far and wide. If you could use some help, email hello@connectthree.co.uk and we'll be in touch.

March 20, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Creating Psychological Safety for Remote Workers

Being an effective team leader in a digital environment is not an easy task.  When there is physical distance and even time zones separating team members, there can be a real challenge to maintain culture and a sense of collaborative working.  How do you develop an office environment where staff feel safe to speak their minds, make mistakes and ask questions when they are not in the same room?  Essentially, how do you create ‘psychological safety’ in a digital workplace?  The term, coined by Prof. Amy Edmundson, can seem like an alien one when put in the context of a remote team interacting digitally; but it can be done.

Now that Scottish schools are closing, and non-essential travel is banned, teams used to sharing a workspace may be forced into a remote working situation and culture can instantly suffer.  Here are some quick tips for helping your team maintain a psychological safe environment while working digitally:

  1. Choose your technology carefully

Email, Slack, HipChat, WhatsApp and other text based systems are likely to be used frequently with remote teams, but users need to be aware that it is hard to convey tone by text.  Comments and jokes can easily be misconstrued, and emojis are not the answer!  By making use of video calls body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are all much more apparent and easier to interpret.

  1. Consider a buddy system

A buddy system ensures that everyone has someone whom they are comfortable to go to for support and advice.  You know that two minute chat over a coffee in the office where you sense check an email before you send it?  When your team works remotely it can make a big difference having someone to depend on for simple questions like these.  It can also help to make everyone feel valued when they know that someone is equally reliant on them for help and advice.

  1. Keep social

Do not forget to allow for ‘water cooler’ chat.  With social distancing being promoted as a solution to the COVID-19 epidemic, creating a space for people to socialise is more important than ever.  Set it apart from daily work updates by creating a different chat group, or slack thread specifically for the ‘fun stuff’.  As a leader, set challenges like getting people to answer questions about themselves, or take photos of their desk or videos of their home town – ensure everyone has an equal chance to talk about what they consider to be important.

  1. Ensure that failures, lessons and successes are shared

Even when times are tough, and you think that people need ‘a win’, do not shy away from sharing the bad news with the good.  Missed tenders are as important as won contracts when building comradery between staff.  It is important to ‘walk the walk’ when aiming for a psychologically safe workplace – sharing your own mistakes can help others feel comfortable asking for help when they are struggling.

  1. Maintain 1:1 conversations

Check in regularly with your team on one-to-one chats, by phone or video call as well as email and text chat.  Not everyone communicates in the same way and some may feel too intimidated to speak up in group chats and email chains.  Use these private conversations to discuss projects, progress and longer-term goals.  Remote teams can easily drift apart and having a shared long-term vision is important.

If you are a leader and you are feeling daunted by the prospect of suddenly managing people remotely, get in touch with Connect Three and let us know where you are struggling and how we can help.

March 20, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Remote Working with Children at Home

It’s been mere hours since our First Minister announced that we have 2 days to prepare for the schools closing thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic.  Since the story broke on Twitter I’ve already had a frantic phone call with my husband, my mother, and I’ve had a teary call from a friend who is a single working mother.  I have 3 children aged 8, 6 and 3 - how on earth am I going to work from home with stir crazy children in the next room?

Firstly, I don’t have all of the answers.  I am lucky enough to have a dedicated office space in my home, and I will be working with my husband who will happily take on as much child wrangling as I will, but I know that not everyone is in this good a position – or anything like it.  I have, however, been working from home for over 10 years and I have weathered every childhood illness, in service day and snow day going.  I once recorded 13 hours of online training material with a new born baby on my knee… so if nothing else qualifies me, I have some experience in remote working with kids.

So here is my guide for parents getting things done while the schools are closed:

  1. Make a Schedule

If you are not used to working from home, the best suggestion I can give you is: treat it like you are going to the office.  Get up at your usual time, get dressed and get started.  Make a schedule and stick to it as much as you can.  It might take a while, but it means that your children will start to understand that even though you are at home, the rules are different than on a weekend, and until it is a certain time, you are not able to play.  It is a two way street though, so when playtime comes – put the laptop away and get playing!

  1. Communicate with everyone

Speak often to your partner, your kids, your team, your boss – let them all know what you are doing and when.  Explain any problems you are facing and share solutions.  Communication will stop you from feeling isolated and ensure projects progress as planned with as little interruption as possible.

  1. Get help when you can

You cannot work non-stop from 9am-5pm with kids in the house if you are the only responsible adult available.  Someone is going to need juice when you are on a conference call, or a toddler is going pull the entire pot cupboard out onto the kitchen floor when you need to proof-read a document…you get the idea.  I cannot advocate bringing other people in to look after your children at the moment when we are being advised to self-isolate, but if you have someone who can safely help you, do not be too proud to accept the help.

  1. Work the hours that work for you

If you can, be flexible with your hours.  A translator I work with puts in a 7 hour work day, split into two blocks with 7 hours off in the middle while her partner works and she has the children.  Consider shifts, get up early, or sleep in and go to bed late, utilise nap times - do what works for you.

  1. Draw a line somewhere

When the boundaries between work and home, family and business get blurry it can be easy to never fully ‘switch off’.  My advice is to be present.  Commit to whichever activity you are doing – if it’s playing with the kids, then put the phone down.  If it’s work, then set some guidelines for the family, get somewhere quiet, and get focused.  Boundaries and guidelines are the remote working parent’s friend!

  1. Be Mindful

If you have found yourself in a remote working environment that you did not plan on, would not ask for, and generally are not prepared for, it can be hard to stomach the ‘you are so lucky’ comments that others will be making.  Try to embrace the change in circumstances by mindfully appreciating the opportunity you have to maintain your career and spend extra time with your children.  Be grateful that you get this time to enjoy with them, and that technology and your company are allowing you this opportunity when many others are not so lucky.  Try to gain some perspective and practice gratitude as you and your children settle into this new rhythm together.

  1. Relax

Things will not go to plan.  If things go wrong, the schedule falls apart, and you spend the 30 minutes you had planned for emails on sorting out a dispute over Netflix – it’s ok.  Kids will be kids, work will be just as unpredictable, and the shops will continue to run out of toilet roll.  Breathe.  Speak to your team, your friends and your family.  Share war stories with other working parents, take time to yourself whenever you can and celebrate the small victories.

This is my plan anyway, I’ll check in on day 25 of quarantine and see if I’ve stuck to my own goals! Good luck to all the dads and mums out there.  Please chat with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to let us know how you are getting on.

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