Category Archives: Coronavirus

Work-from-home-burnout

The real dangers of Work-From-Home burnout and how to properly tackle them

Work-from-home (WFH) burnout is a real, serious, and increasingly common risk for remote workers across the globe. Learn the signs of WFH burnout, how to combat it, and where employers/virtual managers and employees can reach out for help.

The world is grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to take a toll on nearly all aspects of people’s lives. The vast majority of the workforce across the globe has willy-nilly adapted to a new work environment — the new “normal” in the context of the pandemic. But working from home has also opened a Pandora’s box of workaholic tendencies, anxieties and fears, proneness to overworking and burnout, and potential mental health problems.

While the virus itself poses a risk to our physical health, the impact of the whole unnerving situation on our mental health is anything but negligible, and this is especially true for remote workers whose home has transformed into their office. Between working harder and longer hours from home and juggling family responsibilities, people who have been working remotely due to government-imposed restrictions are facing an increased risk of WFH/ lockdown burnout, with potentially long-term repercussions.

Work-from-home-burnout

Different Remote Workers in Different Industries, All Overworked and Burned Out

What used to exclusively be their own oasis of relaxation where they’d spent quality time with their loved ones and unwind has also become their work environment for several months now. In a recent BBC News video, three professionals working remotely in different industries share their WFH experiences in terms of feeling the signs of burnout and overworked during lockdown in the UK.

 

“When I used to work at the gym I’d finish my work at the gym and then get home and rest but this just feels like there’s no end”.

Ana, a young personal trainer living in the UK, has been intensely working from home since March. Stuck at home, she started posting more educational content and live streaming workouts on Instagram, which quickly increased the number of clients from different countries. To provide her services online to clients in different parts of the world, such as the US and Australia, she’s been working almost round the clock. “I’m constantly working”, confesses Ana. From 30 sessions per week, Ana now manages 50-60 sessions per week.

 

“Because I lost all the gig income, I had to really buckle down”.

For David Altweger, a middle-aged musician and owner of an independent record label, the pandemic has had a devasting impact on his gig income. Running a record label online requires a lot of hard work and longer hours, so it’s no wonder that David’s workload significantly increased. He starts his day at 5 a.m. with a strong coffee. David’s workday is around 16 hours, as he’s got to handle every aspect of his business himself, including design work, office work, and, with his distributor closed due to lockdown, even CD deliveries, which are quite time-consuming, taking him at least 2 hours a day.

“Sometimes I feel like Covid Father Christmas delivering music to people’s door”, confesses David. His Moka pot is his “secret weapon”, but at the end of the day, he feels “completely knackered”.

 

“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

Abbey, a young art director working remotely for an ad agency in the UK has been feeling the pressure to stay productive and has been experiencing the effects of overworking due to fear of losing her job too. “I’m doing ten times more because there’s so much uncertainty around jobs and everything”, laments Abbey, for whom “the need to keep working” at all costs is so strong and deeply embedded that she oftentimes refuses to tend to her physiological needs for food.

She finds it difficult to take a break just to have lunch because she “doesn’t know how to switch off”. A major contributor to her inability to switch off is the fact that work and relaxation take place in the same environment i.e her home. Separating the two is as difficult for Abbey as it is for other remote workers around the globe.

In America, where over 30 million people have filed unemployment claims since March, the pressure to stay productive and even be more productive than prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of overworked people working from their homes. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll , 45% of US adults say that this whole situation associated with the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

I find myself working all the time, even when I should be getting ready for bed”

41-year-old New Jersey resident and mother-of-two Alana Acosta-Lahullier is overworked and feels burned out to the bone. Alana says she feels “an obligation to get everything done right”, even if doing so is detrimental to her mental health and well-being. Between her full-time job, working remotely for an electrical contractor, parenting, and helping with the schooling of her daughter and son, who has ADHD on the autism spectrum, she’s “constantly on the verge of a panic attack”.

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

Even Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, MD, and associate professor of organisational behavior at the Business School for the World (INSEAD) admitted in late March that “by the time I went to bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted, edgy, and miserable” due to “panic-working” from home.

The obsession with staying productive at all costs is considered a “manic defense” by psychoanalysts. Panic-working gives us a false sense of security and the illusion of being in control. It numbs us in the short term but this defense comes at a high price – feeling disconnected from reality, our experiences, and other people, and completely burned out.

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

Remote workers are oftentimes pushing themselves too hard as a way of coping with their anxieties and fears caused by the pandemic and the recession. But overworking in an effort to stay productive does not serve them well; in fact, it’s akin to self-sabotage because it eventually leads to burnout, more anxiety, depression, and other repercussions on their mental and overall health.

Both employers/virtual managers and remote workers need to be aware of the increased risk of burnout associated with working from home, recognise the (early) signs, and effectively combat it as early as possible.

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

Transition to a work-from-home culture has been challenging for managers across the globe. Finding new ways to ensure that their remote teams stay productive is one of their main priorities. However, instead of worrying about their teams’ underperformance, virtual managers should be on the lookout for overperformance, which has been found to be productivity’s enemy rather than its ally.

According to a 2017 working paper published by researchers at Harvard Business School, task selection is a common way through which workers manage their increased workload. More specifically, they tend to complete easier tasks, a behavior labeled as Task Completion Bias (TCB). Although TCB has been found to improve short-term productivity, it negatively impacts long-term performance measured by revenue and speed alike. Workers who do not exhibit this behavior tend to be significantly more productive than those who exhibit TCB.

Research shows that the vast majority of remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. They work harder and longer hours than ever before for different reasons, including the fact that employers apply increasingly more pressure for efficiency purposes. for financial rewards, and out of fear. Remote workers fear for many things – they fear for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones; the economic fallout and uncertainty of the future; they fear for losing their livelihood/financial security and no longer being able to provide for themselves and their family, and more.

But the reality is that overworking makes a remote worker more prone to WFH burnout.

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

Work-from-home or lockdown burnout refers to a state of exhaustion on physical, emotional, and mental levels caused by prolonged and excessive stress associated with panic-working/overworking from home and disruption to the work-life balance.

Although burnout is still not classified as a medical disorder, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included it in ICD-11 last year as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as “a syndrome” that results from chronic and unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

What to watch out for:

  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion and apathy
  • Depression and/anxiety worsening over time
  • Constantly elevated stress levels and reduced energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained all the time
  • Inability to focus and forgetfulness/memory issues
  • Lack of motivation, feelings of negativism toward one’s job
  • Declining performance, avoiding work or inability to switch off
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
  • Irritability, anger, and sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia)
  • Dizziness and headaches/migraines
  • Loss of/reduced appetite and/or gastrointestinal issues

Early recognition of these signs via virtual channels such as chat apps and video calls is of the utmost importance. It’s worth noting that a worker who is affected by WFH/lockdown burnout does not necessarily have to exhibit all of the above signs, because it manifests differently in different people.

Burnout can also weaken a remote worker’s immune system, which in turn may increase the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

  • Establish clear boundaries that separate work from personal life to prevent work-life balance disruption
  • Set office hours and create a schedule designating work, free and family time to regain control
  • Avoid the tendency of being the perfect worker, which adds extra pressure
  • Take time off to unwind and discover a new hobby
  • Maintain social interactions/connections to avoid social isolation and detachment
  • Don’t suffer in silence -Talk to your team, virtual manager and reach out for help
  • If you are a manager or supervisor, make sure you can provide first aid for mental health incidents involving anxiety, stress and burnout.
  • As an organisation, provide workplace mental health training and resilience building skills training for your managers, supervisors and leaders.

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

It’s absolutely crucial for virtual managers to learn to recognise the telltale signs of work-from-home burnout as early as possible in order to minimize its long-term impact on remote workers’ mental well-being as well as to properly address it in a timely and efficient fashion. The Workplace Mental Health Institute ( WMHI) is here to help virtual managers across the globe with a suite of tailored, top-tier and results-driven telehealth training courses and services, counseling, and coaching sessions on mental health, well-being, and resilience of employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re an employee working from home and you’ve been feeling the effects of burnout and overworked during lockdown, it’s in your best interest to take some time off to decompress and to speak with a qualified therapist. In case your job offers free counseling sessions through an employee assistance program (EAP), then do yourself a huge favor and take full advantage of it for the sake of your mental health and well-being in these uncertain and difficult times.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Social-isolation

Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide?

Dr. Greg Iacono was 46 when he decided that his career as a chiropractor was, sadly, unfulfilling, and started to contemplate a new career path. “As an admitted extrovert, I really loved being around people all day, including my staff and patients. At the end of most days, however, I was unhappy and, often, in pain from my own low back issues.” After 17 years in the field, including 6 years in Belgium and 4 in Peru, he made the decision to sell his practice and become a writer, something he dreamt about since being in high school.

Like many, for Dr. Greg the lure of working from home was strong. “I loved the thought of working at home and being able to truly be on my own schedule. No set hours, no early morning stress to be on time.” Divorced and living alone in his 3 bedroom ranch in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, the former “Dr. Greg” converted a spare bedroom into his writing room and, in 2011, began his new career as a blogger and copywriter. At the same time, he also started self-taught lessons on how to write a screenplay. He quickly started picking up clients and learned the intricacies of writing for the big and small screen.

Everything was going well until the loneliness and isolation starting setting in.

“The silence, to quote an old saying, was deafening”, he admitted. “There were many days when I longed for someone, anyone, to talk to about the day’s events, politics, movies, anything.”

Social-isolation
Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide

Although he was a father of 2, Greg rarely saw his adult children and had few close friends to pass the time with, and so the loneliness became worse. “There were days when I felt like a prisoner in solitary confinement, locked away from the world. I would go out to the grocery store just to be able to say hello to the cashier or make conversation with one of the other employees.”

After almost a year working and writing at home by himself a number of things had drastically changed. Greg found that he slept a lot more hours every day and, unfortunately, drank and smoked marijuana a lot more as well. “I was definitely self-medicating and in the throes of depression, something that I never in a million years would have guessed would happen, especially to me as I had always had such a positive, outgoing personality.”

It was when he started contemplating suicide that Greg knew something had to change, and fast. “When I started thinking about self-harm I knew that something had to give”. The problem was, he had no idea what that change could, would or should be. The solution came from an unlikely source; the local dog park.

“I was at the local park where they have an area for dogs to play with other dogs, and there was someone there with their dog and its puppies, giving them away to good homes.” Greg adopted one of the pups and named her Xena, Warrior Princess, after the beloved TV show of the same name. Never having owned a dog, it was a brand new adventure, teaching Xena basic commands, learning about dog habits and dealing with ‘accidents’. But something happened during those first few weeks and months that Greg never expected; his despair and loneliness faded.

Today, Greg and Xena are inseparable and can be seen around the park in Kennesaw nearly every day, running and playing together. “I never knew how important companionship really was until Xena came into my life,” he says, “but thank my lucky stars she did, because I was really a mess. I think Xena might just have saved my life.”

The Effect of Social Isolation on a Person’s Mental Health

Right now, as COVID-19 wreaks its wrath on humanity, millions of people find themselves in a similar situation to Dr. Greg, working from home, isolated and, in many cases, lonely and in despair. Some of that despair comes from the fact that the world is in crisis, which is understandable, but some of it also comes from the simple fact that human beings are social animals and, when the ability to socialize is taken away, a negative impact almost always occurs.

For example, while writing her doctoral thesis, academic Frances Hollis, a professor at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London, found that people who worked from home shared many distinct disadvantages. These include anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, Isolation, lack of self-discipline, little or no exercise, difficulty setting boundaries.

Evolutionary psychology shows us that humans, like many other animal species, rely on each other for survival. Think about the times of cavemen and women, we needed a tribe so that the tasks of survival – hunting, gathering food, maintaining shelter, and keeping the children out of harms way could be shared amongst the group, with the tasks allocated to the most appropriate tribe members for the job at hand. While a lone individual could not protect against a dangerous predator, as a group they could protect the tribe and ensure their survival. To be excluded from the group pretty much equated to death. These days, that same social isolation and disconnection (especially in the form of rejection – but that is another story) can feel like a social death.

Not only do we need and want to be around other people, it seems these days many of us actively avoid being alone. In fact, in a study at the University of Virginia, 25% of women and 66% of men chose to subject themselves to electric shock rather than be alone with their thoughts.

So while it is certainly true that working alone at home brings a certain level of freedom and flexibility, the lack of human interaction, however small, can be problematic. The nuances of even small interactions with colleagues, let alone large meetings, working one-on-one with a partner or sharing stories with workmates, simply cannot be replaced by the disembodied avatars that are so popular in today’s virtual, online world.

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Does Isolation Affect Introverts and Extroverts Differently?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. While there is nothing wrong with being either an introvert or extrovert, per se, isolation seems to affect extroverts more adversely simply because they seek out companionship and are energized when around other people. When isolated for an undue amount of time they can become tired, depressed and even desperate. lacking the human interaction they crave.

On the other hand, studies have shown that brain activity in introverts is higher than extroverts. Introverts are ‘deep thinkers’, so to speak and, in times of isolation, all of that thinking and internalizing their thoughts can lead to overthinking. That includes both positive and negative thoughts. During an extended period of isolation, introverts may find themselves dwelling on their negative thoughts which can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and even feelings of worthlessness.

In short, whether extrovert or introvert, long periods of isolation like we are now experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic can be detrimental to their mental health and thus solutions must be found to overcome this pressing challenge.

Could isolation it be beneficial?

Besides the obvious health rationale in the current context, it is a common theme in stories of personal development and spirituality, that people have often chosen to spend a period of time in social isolation, in order to reflect, meditate and engage in a process of self discovery. Many great thinkers such as Lao Tzu, Moses, Nietzsche, Emerson and Woolf have championed the intellectual and spiritual benefits of solitude.

In the 1980s, Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani holed himself up in a cabin in Japan, passing the time with books, observing nature, and enjoying silence. He reported feeling free from the incessant anxieties of daily life at last I had time to have time¨. Not dissimilar to what many of us experience when on holidays or vacation.

Jack Fong, sociologist at California has studied solitude and speaks of éxistentialising moments´. ´When people take moments to explore their solitude,not only will they be forced to confront who they are, they just might learn a little bit about how to out maneuver some of the toxicity that surrounds them in a social setting´.

Similarly, Matthew Bowker, and psychoanalytic political theorist argues the ´a person who can find a rich self experience in a solitary state is far less likely to feel lonely when alone´. An interesting thought.

However, the research tends to agree that there are certain preconditions for solitude to be beneficial. And they seem to be a) if it is voluntary, 2) if we can regulate our emotions effectively, 3) If we can join a social group when desired, and 4) if we can maintain positive relationships outside of it.

So with that in mind, and given that at least at the individual level, the current restrictions may not be entirely voluntary, how can we cope with the social isolation during the COVID pandemic, without experiencing loneliness?

Tips For How To Cope with SocialIsolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you’re reading this, and are one of the many people now confined to home while the world deals with COVID-19, the tips below will help you to cope, stay healthy both physically and mentally, and maybe even learn something new and valuable.

1- Use Video & Technology To Keep In Touch with Family, Friends and Colleagues

Many people today, especially under the age of 30, use their smartphones to communicate with loved ones and colleagues, usually in the form of text messages. While this is good, it lacks the face-to-face interaction that humans need and desire. For that reason, using a video-chat software, like Skype, Whatsapp and Facetime, is vital. Being able to actually see the face, or faces, of the people you’re talking to, adds the human element to your conversation that no amount of texting can replace. The smiles, the joy and even the tears of those you love and care about simply carry more weight when you can actually see their face.

2- Keep Social Media Use to a Moderate Level

Here’s a fact about social media; it’s been found that when people tend to scroll endlessly through their social media feed on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms, they feel more left out than included. The biggest drawback to social media is the lack of actual face-to-face communication, which can lead to further feelings of isolation from friends and loved ones. In times of isolation like these, it would be better to use social media sparingly and instead use video chat and phone calls (see Tip1).

3- Make a Plan, and a Schedule, and Stick With It

Being forced to stay at home and shelter in place is abnormal, to say the least. It simply doesn’t ‘feel right’ and can add to your anxiety and stress. That’s why you should start every day by making a plan for your day and writing/typing it down so that you know what you’re going to do in the hours ahead. A schedule is also important because that’s what you ‘normally’ have to follow, so set one for yourself and stick to it. Doing these things will help you to feel more centered and calm, as well as proactive, about the situation, which can be quite helpful for your mental state.

4- Reach Out to Those Who may Need Your Help

One of the best ways to boost your mood and feel useful is to help others and, during this crisis, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. Check on an elderly neighbor (while abiding by social distancing and using protective devices) or call a friend or relative who is sick. If possible, visit your nearest animal shelter and volunteer or send an email to someone you know might be vulnerable.

5- Go Outside and Get Some Sunshine

It’s long been known that sunshine helps the human body create valuable Vitamin D, which can boost brain function and improve a person’s mood. Plus, getting outside (if possible) gives one the feeling of being more connected to the community, can be quite exhilarating and lets a person know that, while things right now are a bit frightening, the earth is still turning and, soon enough, better days will be upon us.

6- Exercise

If you’re not positive for COVID-19 and physically able to do so, exercise is one of the best ways to stay both physically and psychologically fit during this crisis. Being isolated is bad enough but being isolated and inactive is even worse since our mental and physical state often goes hand-in-hand. Below are a few things you can, and should, do while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Walk around your neighborhood, if possible
  • Practice Yoga, Tai-Chi or another stretching type exercise
  • Ride a stationary bicycle or another indoor exercise machine
  • If you have a pool, swim. (The CDC says that properly maintained pools are safe.)
  • Work out with weights
  • (What other in-home exercise ideas can you come up with?)
7- Engage in Activities that are Comforting and Enjoyable

It’s important that you feel good about yourself and your situation and the best way to do that is to do something that brings you joy. Playing with your dog or cat can be very comforting, as well as taking a nice, soothing bath. Catching up on your favorite TV shows or streaming movies can be very enjoyable, as can cooking or baking something delicious to eat. Hobbies are especially good at this time as well, like working with wood or building with Lego bricks. Anything that brings a smile to your face is good and valuable during this time.

8- Make Plans for the Future

Here’s a fact; the pandemic won’t last forever and things will slowly get back to normal. Until they do, you can make plans for the future and the things you want to do, see or create. Plan your garden for the spring, for example, or a trip to visit your friends in another state. Make a list of goals or things you want to accomplish before year’s end or even plan an event for your family and friends when this is all over. Planning for the future helps you to forget, at least for a short while, about the present problems we’re all facing. As Victor Frankl wrote about in ´Man´s Search for Meaning´, having a future purpose can be the difference in physical, as well as mental survival.

9- Be Intentional with Your Time

When isolated many people tend to simply let days slip by, wasting away the hours doing next-to-nothing, which can lead to increased feelings of desperation and regret. A much better plan would be to use all of this extra time we’ve been given to learn something new, whether it’s a skill, a hobby or even a new language. President John F. Kennedy suffered a number of horrible sicknesses as a child but, alone and bedridden for months at a time, he became a voracious reader. As President, he was a skilled orator and learned historian, likely due to all of those months in isolation that he used to read as many books as he possibly could.

Working from home, whether you choose to or it’s been forced upon you, has it’s ups and downs, no doubt. If you feel like you’re unable to cope, the above tips and message will hopefully give you some solace, as will the fact of knowing that you’re not alone during this crisis. We are all in this together.

Managing-a-Crisis

Managing a crisis may be a function of culture

By now almost every country around the world has confirmed cases of Covid-19 and chances are – no matter where you live – you are currently either working from home or at a spatial distance from coworkers and customers. In these surreal times of being confronted with an invisible threat political, community, and corporate leaders are hearing the call to respond, to provide answers and solutions. It is especially in times like these, when contrasts in leadership styles come into full view. As you follow the global news you may have already asked yourself: How come the growing number of countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak are handling the pandemic the way they are? And what might influence these different responses to the health scare?

While there are several factors shaping how societies are dealing with this novel virus, many of the diverging approaches to manage the global pandemic can be attributed to culture. Political systems, societal structures, and emergency response protocols are all results of the collective behavioral preferences of the group that designed them. People from different cultures aren’t just randomly different from one another. They differ in quite specific, often predictable, ways. This is because each culture has its own way of thinking, its own values and beliefs, and different preferences placed on a variety of different factors.

Simply put, culture impacts everything groups of people do – especially, how they solve problems and how they manage crises.

Managing-a-Crisis
Managing a crisis may be a function of culture

As of now, roughly three months into the global outbreak, three coronavirus response macro trends have emerged. Let’s call them the authoritarian (contain at any cost) approach, the liberal (let’s adjust ourstrategyin real time) strategy, and the populist (it’s only a flu spread by China) method.

Before we compare these three crisis management styles, let’s look at a tool set which trainers and coaches in the field often refer to: cross-cultural dimensions. Dimensions are an interculturalist’s measuring units. They allow practitioners to compare behavior preferences across cultures, based on robust data collected in nation cultures all over the world. Dimensions indicate how people act along a certain spectrum: We either value universally applicable laws and rules, or we tend to weigh particular situations separately. People are either more long-term oriented, or short-term motivated. And so on.

Among the cultural dimensions most relevant in assessing the response to the coronavirus pandemic are Hierarchy vs. Egalitarianism, Individualism vs. Group Orientation, and Task vs. Relationship.

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In countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore the response to the outbreak was rather swift and governments clamped down rigorously. This can be seen as a reflection of the fact that the cultures in these countries tend to be quite hierarchical, collectivist, and relationship-focused. One anecdote from Taipei may serve as an example: During this crisis the Taiwanese government is monitoring people’s movements via the GPS in their phones. When one person’s cell phone battery died it took less than 30 minutes for government agencies to call the person’s landline. 5 minutes later, the police were at their door to check if they were home. While this might seem excessive to many people from liberal Western societies, citizens in hierarchical and highly collectivist cultures find these measures acceptable.

As the virus began spreading throughout Europe the responses to the crisis were as dissimilar as the cultures of the continent are. In mediterranean cultures like Spain and Italy which are one or two degrees less hierarchical, group-oriented, and relationship-focused (compared to the above mentioned Asian cultures), the reaction to the health threat was much less immediate. Only as the rapid spread of Covid-19 became apparent did the authorities dial up the severity of counter measures. Keep in mind as well, that – as part of the European Union – Italy and Spain have a responsibility to coordinate border shutdowns with their EU neighbors, since this restricts the free movement of people, goods, and services among the countries which are part of the Schengen agreement.

This is also the case for Austria, Germany, or France – three countries in which individual civil liberties are highly valued and not easily curtailed. Leaders in these countries only gradually gave in to the warnings of virologists and health experts. It was only with hesitation that German authorities imposed curfews and a piecemeal lockdown of public life.

Then, why is it that the mortality rate of Covid-19 patients in Italy is so much higher than in Germany? Experts are still examining this, and it unsure if culture plays a role here. One aspect to consider, though: Italian households often still consist of three generations under one roof, whereas Germans tend to leave the nest in their early 20s.

The third response group currently on display are countries like the United Kingdom or the United States – two countries like-minded in many of their cultural values. In fact, almost all Anglo-Saxon cultures, including Australia and New Zealand, tend to rank very high on the individualism and egalitarianism scales. Personal rights and individual freedoms are paramount in Anglo cultures and any attempt at restricting these rights are typically met with fierce public resistance. Combined with a sense of exceptionalism, these countries are exploring their own path in the fight against the coronavirus.

In the end, no matter which region in the world will have responded most effectively– culture forms the way they manage the crisis.

Christian-Hoferle

Christian Höferle

Founder and CEO of The Culture Mastery

Christian Höferle is German by birth, American by choice, and Bavarian at heart, and he is the founder and CEO of The Culture Mastery, a U.S.-based cross-cultural consultancy serving multinational organizations through tailored training and coaching programs.

Balance-and-harmony

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Create certainty in uncertain times

As a mother of two teenage daughters, business owner and CEO, Montessori educator, loving wife and caring homeowner, I know what it means to “juggle chainsaws”. During times of uncertainty, like this pandemic, it is my duty – better yet, our duty – to stay informed on the topic of safety, take the best safety measures, stay home, wash hands and make the best of the situation. The latter is probably one of the hardest tasks for most people. “How in the world do I keep a safe and sound mind during this uncertain time?” you probably ask. The answer is: “Create as much certainty as you possibly can in your own environment. That starts with your mindset, your clarity, and your time ownership.”

Right now, parents are either working from home amongst all the other family members and chores that are waiting to be done, or in the worst case one or both parents lost their jobs and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their business afloat.

Teachers are asked to move their curriculum to an online version and students are asked to stay focused in front of a computer screen (if they’re lucky enough to have a computer) for an entire day – day in, day out. Daycares have been closed for safety pre-cautions, toddlers, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners are expected to stay entertained while mommy and/or daddy work from home. In worst cases, mommy and/or daddy are trying to figure out how to pay rent, groceries, utilities because the income is no longer coming in.

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong
Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Financial stress, lack of communication and constant arguing are some of the main reasons families fall apart. This stress is heightened through this time of uncertainty as emotions are raw and amplified.

We (the parents and guardians) are asked to stay calm, figure out our “new normal”, maintain “socially distant” and remain calm for the sake of ourselves and our family.

Amongst all, we yearn human connection!

To add insult to injury, being annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious, makes our kids annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious as well.

This means, if you want your children to stay mentally strong, you, the parent have to  take care of yourself first, gain clarity, find joy, be grateful and stay/become calm. Sounds simple. I personally use two apps to gain more calmness and clarity, especially in times of uncertainty. Your contentment will reflect on your environment and the people that live in it:

So the question now is HOW? How to make time and space to juggle all these TASKS? How to create a NEW NORMAL? How to deal with UNCERTAINTY? How to COPE? How to stay CALM?

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The answer is simple and complex all in one: Create elements of CERTAINTY:

  • Have family meetings: dump all your thoughts on a big piece of paper, talk about your ideas, thoughts, fears and hopes with each other – be free of judgement.
  • Create a time-system with chores and responsibilities for each child, each family member, make specific time slots for specific tasks, love on each other, be grateful for one another
  • Set boundaries: in time & space, outline working hours and family-time hours.
  • Let everyone in the family have a voice and allow them to be part of this process and find agreement in it. Put it in writing and hang it on the fridge.
  • Plan free time for fun & balance.
  • Make time for family activities, create & play games, give all family members ownership for specific tasks (see meaningful task list).
  • Move, make intentional time do yoga or a workout routine (either together or separately)
  • Create clarity and certainty: talk & listen, strategize and give gratitude for the things
    you have (rather than focusing on the things you don’t have at the moment), be intentional

You are in this together, your children are an active part (or at least that’s the goal) of your family. Allow each family member to be a contributing member and watch how this time will draw you closer together. It is work and it will be worth it.

  • Give your child/ren meaningful tasks, allow them in the kitchen and integrate them in everyday chores. Rebellious behavior comes from frustration and frustration is caused by meaningless tasks.
  • Have a clear daily structure and allow time for creativity. Allow boredom to spark creativity.
  • Make time to spend outside (keep your distance to others, use all safety measures to not be exposed), walk in the rain, go bike riding, jog, play ball with your family, plant a small garden or plant some seeds – all of this will make your inside time more bearable.
  • As a family, create boundaries, make a day planner with the tasks that each family member wants and must complete.
  • Make a vision board with the things everyone would like to do, once this time is past, be specific and write it down what each family member is looking forward to.
  • Create an individualized space for reading, to study, to work, to play, to be by oneself and also intentionally create time and space to come together, create new games and play them, be creative, paint, sculpt and cut.
  • Identify home improvement tasks that you can do together.
  • Cook meals together, bake, make easy recipes, picnic, work out, do yoga via YouTube or an app.
  • Laugh! Hug. Talk, listen, sing and make up songs, dance, learn a new language together, read a book together, watch funny YouTube videos, go through your old pictures together and scrapbook a photo-book.
  • Write or draw letters to friends and family, create a book together (draw, write and be creative).
  • Build a fort,
  • Create your own funny videos on your phone.
  • Create a gratitude jar where everyone gets to write something that they are thankful for each day on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in the jar.

In simple terms: create balance and get harmony.

Balance-and-harmony

Balance and harmony

As a parent, this all starts with ME, my communication. I am in charge of my kindness, wellbeing, calmness, my joy and therefore I am in charge of how my children are kind, well, calm and joyful. My inner peace will flow over to my children, my environment and my family. It starts with ME. I take care of myself, remind myself daily that the quality of thoughts, words, feelings and tasks are my choice. I reap the results. I connect with kindness, understanding, knowledge, structure and fun to the people that are closest to me. I create the ripple effect that I yearn for. It starts with me.

AGES 2 - 3

  • Pick up and put away toys
  • Make bed
  • Dust with a cloth or swiffer
  • Put away Silverware
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Wash doorknobs
  • Fold rags and dishtowels
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Put clothes up in dresser

AGES 4 - 5

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Set & clear table
  • Feed pets & water plants
  • Wash windows & sills inside
  • Wipe kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Match socks
  • Simple garden work
  • Prepare simple snacks
  • Use handheld vaccum

AGES 6 - 8

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Put away dishes
  • Clean up spills
  • Prepare and pack lunches
  • Sort, wash & fold laundry
  • Take out trash & recycle
  • Simple meal prep:
    – Wash produce
    – Weigh ingredients
    – Simple cutting

AGES 9 - 11

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Clean stove & microwave
  • Mop & sweep * Vaccum
  • Clean toilets
  • Tightening screws
  • Make smoothies
  • Simple baking
  • Volunteering in neighbourhood

AGES 12 - 14

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Mow lawn
  • Babysit siblings
  • Cook
  • Clean full bathroom & kitchen
  • Keep environment tidy
  • Change lightbulbs
  • Simple sewing & mending

AGES 15+

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Babysit for pay
  • Organize home office
  • Sort & file documents
  • Iron clothes
  • Wash car
  • Trim hedges
  • Simple home repairs
  • Make meal plans
Brigitta-Hoeferle

Brigitta Hoeferle

Renowned Montessori educator & parent, International Speaker, Founder of The Montessori School of Cleveland, and Owner and CEO of the NLP Center of Atlanta

Grief-and-Loss

4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

As COVID-19 has become a household word across the world over the last month, many of us find ourselves in uncertain territory. We are grieving the familiar bedrock of our lives like office time, schedules, in person meetings, and social activities. With children home from school, self-quarantines in place in much of the world, and restricted travel we are all navigating a new normal.

As we walk this unfamiliar path, perhaps fear, questions, and doubt are trying to overtake familiar landmarks like balance, trust, confidence and faith that things will all work out.

You are not alone. Most of the world can resonate with feeling anxious or uncertain, or walking through the pain of loss. Loss of job, routine, finances, stability, or even loved ones. But, believe it or not, there is hope and help despite how hard things might look in this moment. You can find your way again by taking these steps when your world feels out of control.

Step 1. Establish your mindset

It’s said that mindset is everything. You would never begin a journey without knowing where you are hoping to end up. In the same way, when we are in uncertain times, we need to have a mindset that will withstand the trial.

Grief-and-Loss
4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

One way to combat a negative attitude that often accompanies hardship is to choose a centering thought. Be intentional and choose something that is meaningful to you like a favorite expression, a significant truth, a motivational quotation, or a faith-based truth. Make it your own and refer to it often. Put it on your emails, social media, or say it in conversations to keep it in the forefront of your mind. When we choose a mindset that is framed in the positive it help us avoid getting stranded on the dark path of negativity.

Step 2. Determine your non-negotiables

In a crisis, instead of constantly reacting to your circumstances, a bit of proactive planning will give you a head start. Stay focused by creating a list of your non-negotiables. Think about things like physical, emotional, mental, and soul care. Then ask yourself a few questions: What’s important to me? What routines will I try to keep no matter what? What can’t I live without? What won’t I tolerate? What guidelines would I like people to follow?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, make a realistic list of what you need. Whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep habits, regular social activities, faith involvement, children’s bedtimes/schedules, or working hours, you get to decide how you’re going to navigate your hard place. Once you’ve made your choices, be sure to communicate your needs to others so they can help you take care of yourself in this way.

If you don’t determine what your absolutes are, they will be determined for you. So be proactive!

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Step 3. Ask for Help

In researching my two books, Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places, I surveyed hundreds of people who had faced all manner of loss, grief and hardship and asked what their greatest struggle was during that time. A huge percentage said that although they were lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless or afraid, it was very difficult to ask for or accept help.

Pride, shame, embarrassment, or guilt are significant roadblocks that stand in the way of hurting people getting the help they need. But it’s important to understand that being in need is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human!

Many people want to help and when we allow them to, we give them a chance to feel good in an uncertain time. Trying to handle everything on our own will burn us out. But in times of uncertainty, we have a chance to see the best, and be the best, in terms of our relationships.

Step 4. Stay engaged with others

There are many ways you, too, can be a source of help and comfort to those around you. Try one of these ideas to encourage and help others while maintaining your relationships:

  • Call a friend and ask how they’re doing, giving ample time to listen.
  • Have coffee dates or happy hour with friends or family by Facetime or video conference.
  • Change your regular book club or study group to phone or video, and take a moment to share your highs and lows with each other.
  • Download a video sharing app for your phone and use short video messages to stay in touch with groups of friends or colleagues.
  • Order a box of cards online and take time to write one note of encouragement per day to someone you care about.
  • Read an uplifting book at the same time as a friend and make a weekly phone date to discuss it.
  • Host a virtual dinner party where you and your friends make the same thing at your own homes and then sit down to eat together online.
  • Meet friends for take-out and maintain social distance by eating and chatting in your parked cars next to each other! (if your local authorities allow you of course!)

These practical steps are a way to set your course toward positivity and caring for yourself despite the tumultuous world circumstances. Even amid grief and loss you’re facing today, you can walk through the next days and months with hope, purpose and clarity.

Sarah-Beckman

Sarah Beckman

Speaker, Pastor, and Bestselling Author of Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places

Has CoronaVirus Attacked Your Career

Has CoronaVirus attacked your career harder than your immune system?

The majority of the world’s workforce is currently going through a challenging, unpredicted situation, so if you’ve lost your job or are facing job loss and feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared, don’t panic- you’re not alone!

First and foremost, recognize and remind yourself as often as necessary that this is not your fault. You’re not in your current situation because you made bad decisions, didn’t work hard enough or didn’t plan properly. There are things in life within our control and things in life outside our control, and this is one that’s out of our control. We can’t control the circumstances, but we can control how we react to them.

Being thrust into isolation further complicates the situation for many of us that aren’t used to working from home, aren’t able to work from home, or have children in the household to look after. Some of us are going to have to accept immediately available work, even if it’s not what we want in the long-term, and others are going to become freelancers or entrepreneurs launching the business idea we’ve had for years!

Whatever your situation, a good place to start is by defining or reevaluating your “why”. Your “Why” is your vision, your purpose and your bigger picture reason for why you do the work you do each day. Before all this virus chaos started, how aligned was the life you were living with the life you want to be living? Having worked in recruitment for the past 15 years, I can confidently say that before the virus struck, there were hundreds of thousands of people unsatisfied with their jobs/careers/incomes. If you are one of them, there’s no better time than now to make a change. As many of us are being hurdled into forced change, let’s remember that it can be a very good thing!

Has CoronaVirus Attacked Your Career
Has CoronaVirus attacked your career harder than your immune system?

Here are some questions that might help you discover or rediscover your “Why”:

  • What do/did you like about your current/most recent work?
  • What don’t/ didn’t you like about your current/most recent work?
  • What are some of your top skills and best characteristics?
  • How or where could you utilize them? What industries require similar skills?
  • What makes you stand out from others with a similar education/work experience?
  • What would you be doing for work if anything/everything was an option?

Don't forget to subscribe to our monthly eMag - WorkLife

Expert insights and tips on how to build resilient and mentally healthy workplace cultures delivered straight to your inbox each month.

Now that we’ve established a strong mental foundation, it’s going to be important that those of us looking for work or anticipating the need to look for work in the near future are productive and taking action now so we can come out the other side of this on top!

Here are five productive actions you can take, while in isolation or lockdown to set yourself up for success!

  1. Update your CV/ Resume/ LinkedIn Profile. When listing employment, education, and responsibilities, start with the most relevant/impressive ones and leave the less relevant/ impressive ones for the bottom of the list. Highlight your transferable skills, characteristics and qualities, and emphasize what makes you stand out from others with a similar background. Lastly, be more memorable by including volunteer work, awards and recognition, a famous quote, a photo or something unique that would catch a hiring manager’s attention.
  2. Apply for local jobs or remote work that’s being advertised online. A lot of companies are also going through transition periods and many employers will still be engaging with candidates, conducting video interviews, and even beginning digital training for new starts.
  3. Prepare a few interview outfits including shoes and accessories, then take a photo of them so you don’t waste time the day of an interview worrying about what to wear!
  4. Practice roleplaying common interview questions with a friend, relative, flatmate, etc. You don’t have to live together- practice over the phone or video call. If you’re both looking for work, alternate interviewer and interviewee!
  5. For those of you looking to start your own business, check out the book I published last year called From Freelance to Freedom where you can learn more about my business journey and receive practical advice for launching and scaling your business. (Available on Amazon as a kindle download or paperback for a heavily reduced price due to the pandemic)

Be sure to follow up and follow through! If an employer is debating between two equally qualified candidates, and one of them phones in to follow up, they might decide to go with that applicant because of their pro-active nature.

Remember, your self-talk and mentality are a massive factor in your ability to thrive and achieve career success. Hiring Managers are humans which means they have a limited attention span and can forget things. Taking action now, being memorable, and following up can make a difference.

Kristen-OConnell

Kristen O’Connell

Founder and Director of Superlative Recruitment, Ltd

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