Category Archives: Tips

Psychological-Self-Defence

Advanced Psychological Self-Defence

Protecting Yourself from the Expert Manipulation of Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Difficult People

Have you ever been in a relationship where, for some reason, you couldn’t quite figure out, you felt as if you were being controlled or restricted in some way? A relationship where you started to doubt yourself, your actions, and your emotions, or felt as if something just wasn’t right? If you have, there’s an excellent chance that you were being manipulated.

What, Exactly, is Manipulation?

While it does have a negative connotation, manipulation is a natural, effective and useful tool that helps us survive and thrive in society. We start using unconscious manipulation as infants and small children. For example, when they get hungry, babies cry. This manipulates their parents into doing what they need, giving them food. Children will often do the same thing once they realize how powerful their cries are, for example, using them to manipulate their parents into purchasing them a toy.

Psychological-Self-Defence

This type of manipulation is, truth be told, relatively normal behavior. All children do it, so the last thing you want to do is judge them or deride them too harshly. At some point, with discipline, most children grow out of self-obsessed manipulation and mature into adults who are considerate of others, kind and don’t need to use manipulation to get what they want or need; they ask. But it doesn’t always work out that way and, for some, immature manipulation traits can continue into adulthood.

When adults use wanton manipulation, however, it often is emotionally and psychologically dangerous and damaging. That’s because, at its core, manipulation is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) form of control. Control of an individual, a group, team, or organization, or even an entire nation. When a car salesperson pushes you to make a purchase, they’re trying to control both you and the situation to create an outcome that favors them (i.e., more sales). The problem is when their wanting to sell the car is more important to them, than your need to buy one.

You can walk away from that type of situation, of course, but it’s not as easy if, say, the person manipulating you is your partner, a colleague, or someone in power, and they’re doing it to ‘keep you in line’ or otherwise derive some other benefit from your abject obedience. In short, manipulation is a typical human trait that, when selfishly abused, can be quite damaging.

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.

The Different Types of Manipulators (And Why They Do It)

Manipulation covers a whole range of different scenarios and situations, from more ´mild´ forms, to those that are much more damaging and dangerous. To help us clarify, we´ve identified at least 3 types of manipulators:

  1. Immature – like a child, they don’t intend harm, but are merely self centred
  2. Entitled – they believe they deserve things to be their way, and don’t want to cause harm, but will justify hurting others, to get what they want.
  3. Pathological – they don´t care who gets hurt, or even enjoy causing harm to others. This includes sociopaths, who may act impulsively without thinking how others may be affected, and psychopaths who are cold and calculating and may even play along within societal rules to achieve their own objectives, but with zero regard for human life or emotions.

Identifying the Obvious (and Not So Obvious) Signs Of Manipulation

Some of us are very trusting people, and when we meet someone new, it may not even cross our minds that they could have ulterior motives, or not be completely trustworthy. You might dive into a new romance, friendship, or business partnership assuming that the person has none other than the best intentions, only to find a little while down the track that things start to go pear shaped.

If you´re nodding your head here, it´s likely that you may have been burnt before in this respect. You´ve probably had friends and family tell you that you´re too trusting or naïve. And they could be right.

On the other hand, some people (usually those who have been burnt too many times before!) err in the other direction, and could be very critical and closed off, even suspicious towards someone new.

As with all things, a bit of balance is called for. It is worthwhile as you are getting to know someone that you remain aware, but not hypervigilant, to the way they behave and communicate.

To know if you’re being manipulated, you need to know the signs and, if you will, symptoms of unhealthy manipulation. Like the early days of the flu, things won’t ‘feel right’ when you’re being manipulated. That’s the best time to nip it in the bud, frankly, so knowing what to look for (and all the many signs of manipulation) is vital.

Things Don’t ‘Add Up.’

One of the most common signs you’re being manipulated is when situations and circumstances don’t add up or make sense. If your new partner is trying to convince you, for example, to sign away your home to them so that you can save money on a new mortgage. That doesn’t make any sense and would be a big red flag that they may be manipulating you.

You Start To Question or Doubt Yourself

Some manipulators are very good at what they do. So good, in fact, that they can start to make you doubt yourself and start seeing things their way. Their manipulations can make you feel as if you’re going a little crazy as your brain tries to figure out what’s going on.

Something Feels Off (Your ‘Gut’ Is Telling You To Be Careful)

Knowing how to feel and trust your ‘gut feeling’ is essential to sniffing out a manipulator. It’s a little feeling that says ‘hey,’ this doesn’t seem right’ or ‘get the heck out of here, this is a bad situation´. If something feels ‘off’ to you, there’s a good chance it is and that you need to extricate yourself from the situation.

Understand the Common Manipulation Strategies

People who use manipulation for evil or immoral intent have specific tried-and-true strategies they use and use often. Knowing these strategies will make it easier for you to spot if you’re in danger of becoming the victim of a predator, sociopath or psychopath.

Initial Grooming and Creating Trust

This strategy involves being nice to you and creating a feeling of trust and security. It can happen quickly (within a few hours) or over a longer period of time (weeks or months).

Playing Your Emotions With a Sad Story

Human empathy is an excellent thing, no doubt. Manipulators know this and use sad stories to hit your empathy button. Portraying themselves as weak or a victim, ironically, is how they manipulate their victims.

Foot in the Door

A classic strategy of persuasion: I ask you to make a small concession, to which you reluctantly agree. Like the unwelcome houseguest who asks to stay for ´just a couple of weeks, til I get on my feet´ and is still living with you (rent free) a year later.

Separating You From Those Who Love and Care About You

This is one of the most wicked forms of manipulation, putting a wedge between their victim and those who care about them (and who may alert you to their ways). They create drama where there is none, making their victim believe that their family or friends have shunned them (or worse).

Praise or Putting You Up On a Pedestal

This is a prevalent strategy used by sociopaths. By showering compliments, they overwhelm their victim’s gut feelings, leaving them highly vulnerable. Manipulators have used this technique to steal from people for eons, preying on their victim’s vanity or lack of self-confidence. Praising you for following their orders or giving them what they want

Ridicule and Sarcasm

Praise can often be alternated with ridicule and sarcasm, designed to avoid addressing your concerns (no matter how legitimate), create shame and self doubt, and deter onlookers from even considering your perspective or supporting you.

Twisting the Facts

This can be the most frustrating, but sometimes you won´t even know it is happening. This can include exaggerating or understating the facts, bias, outright lying, feigning ignorance, making excuses, leaving out important details, using language to mislead, and so on.

Reciprocity & Guilt

They may go out of their way to do something for you. It could be just that they are nice, but beware, if they try to convince you that you ‘owe’ them, they’re using reciprocity as a manipulative tool. Or they may flat out blame you when something they have done doesn´t turn out well. This is where it starts to take a horrible turn and can often lead to…

Fear, Threats and Intimidation

Creating fear, threatening violence or to reveal intimate knowledge is a potent strategy and used by sociopaths and psychopaths frequently. Some will veil their threats (however thinly) with storytelling. For example, by telling their victim a story about “a lady who went to the cops but later disappeared and was never heard from again” or “imagine what would happen if your family found out about what you did¨.

Wearing you Down

All of these strategies can play with your mind and emotions to such an extent that after some time, you simply get worn down and end up giving in to the bully.

How to Protect Yourself

The very best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a sociopath or psychopath’s manipulation is to nip the problem in the bud as soon as it starts.

While most people are good, well meaning people just trying to do their best in this world, there will always be a small percentage,who are willing to trample on other people´s rights to achieve their own outcomes and agendas. Some of these are even wily or charismatic enough to make it into positions of power.

When it comes to protecting yourself, you really only have two options:

  1. Walk Away– If someone is trying to manipulate you, your best bet is to disengage completely and walk away. It might not always be possible, of course, but if it is, that’s your best course of action.
  2. Learn how psychological manipulation operates so you can spot it coming, and avoid you or your loved ones falling victim to it.

Either way, don´t allow yourself to be manipulated. The costs are simply too high. And when you see signs of psychological manipulation at play, whenever possible, speak out about it. If you don´t, you may find yourself or someone else in a world of trouble not too far down the road.

In our online learning course ´Psychological Self Defence´ we show you 18 different strategies you can use to handle a master manipulator, sociopath or psychopath, and how to protect yourself both in physically, mentally and emotionally.

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.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Facebook-logo Podcast Icon LinkedIN-logo

Social-Connection

Looking after your Social Connection

Moving from Conflict and Separation to Love and Belonging

As we counted down to the New Year, around the world millions of people were pleased to see the end of what for many has been the most challenging year in recent history, if not in their lifetime, and to welcome in a new year, with hope for something at least a bit more positive.

Observing the mixed emotions and reactions across different platforms including both mainstream and social media, one word seemed to keep coming up as important for people everywhere: Connection.

It shouldn’t be surprising really, that after a year of social distancing, quarantining, isolation and disconnection, that people are yearning to reconnect.

We are social beings after all. If you think back to our caveman times (well, you can imagine at least), we went from being lone homo sapiens wandering the lands, to forming tribes, who had a better chance of survival by coming together to fight the sabre tooth tiger and raise offspring together as a community.

But besides survival, was there another benefit? Perhaps psychological in nature?

Social-Connection

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that once our basic physiological and safety needs are met, we then seek to fulfil our need for love and belonging. And there it is, we need connection not just for physical survival but for our psychological survival and wellbeing.

Social distancing has meant not just a physical distancing between people, it has also meant an emotional distancing.

Perhaps one of the most distressing phenomena we have observed in the last 12 months has been the increased amount of conflict brought about by world events and the stresses that it creates. I´m sure you can think of examples of the following:

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.

  • Conflict between family members with different perspectives or different levels of risk tolerance–with some questioning whether we should we have that get together or not, others feeling hurt or rejected when family members are too afraid to see them – sometimes even their own parents or children. Or perhaps they do get together and then argue about the politics of it all.
  • Friends fighting on social media about the definition of pandemic, about how many masks to wear, about the pros and cons of lockdown, quarantines, presidents and prime ministers. We’ve even seen close friends of decades end relationships on the basis of philosophical differences. Of course, the trolls jump in to stir up the drama and discontent.
  • Partners who have become ‘COVID casualties’, no longer able to sustain a romantic relationship, either due to distance or domestic distress.
  • News articles about brawls in the street, fights in the supermarket, not to mention protests, riots and the like.

Indeed, it seems stress levels are at an all-time high, and conflict is at every turn.

Considering Moving to a Deserted Island?

Most people have at some point entertained the idea of escaping to a deserted island (if you could find a plane to get there!). When we keep coming into contact with people in a conflictual space (whether overt or covert) it can make us want to stop contacting and connecting with people at all. When every interaction raises our emotional temperature or requires a greater amount of emotional regulation on our part, no wonder we are feeling burned out by people. When the world and everyone in it is crazy, it is easy to want to withdraw from it all, in a self-imposed quarantine.

The problem is that while getting away from everyone may sound lovely, peaceful and refreshing, and indeed there can be many benefits from periods of self-reflection, it´s not a long term solution. The flip side is loneliness.

Loneliness has been recognized amongst psychologists as a huge concern for mental health, long before we ever knew what social distancing was:

  • A 2018 survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that more than two in ten adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated.
  • A Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.
  • And in a nationwide survey from the BBC, a third of Brits said they often or very often feel lonely.

And loneliness is not so much about being physically separate from people, as it is about feeling emotionally separate. That’s why you can be physically in contact with people, yet still feel lonely, or vice versa, oceans apart yet still feel loved and connected.

What are the benefits of Social Connection?

It is well evidenced that we DO benefit from positive social connections, mentally, emotionally, and physically:

  • Quality relationships help maintain brain health, slowing down cognitive decline and reducing risk of dementia.
  • Helps you live longer: a review of 148 studies shows that people with stronger social relationships improve their likelihood of survival by 50%.
  • Reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral infection, something we should all be interested in right now, and helps us to recover from disease faster.
  • Lowers rates of anxiety and depression.
  • Better emotion regulation skills.

And conversely, lack of social relationships has been found to have a detrimental effect that is just as bad as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity, in terms of their association with illness and death.

What Do We Do About It?

So, if getting away from them all isn’t the answer, what can we do to reduce the conflict, and the so often subsequent distress and create more positive social connections with people?

1. Turn off the News / Social Media?

News and social media are part of the problem. In a previous article of WorkLife we talked about how the media feeds on fear and negativity to capture our attention and sell. Hence, it is clear that it is good to unplug from time to time. The problem is not with the mediums themselves, they are just a tool after all, the problem is that it is practically impossible to control the type of input you are getting. So even the most self-aware person with great mental habits cannot fight against our natural emotional responses to emotional content, nor can we beat the bots who program us for heightened emotional arousal (and therefore sales in advertising).

Is it realistic to stop using these tools altogether in this day and age? Well, those who do, report being happy with the decision, but for many of us this may be quite drastic. And it can have the unwanted side effect of further disconnection from others. So, if you do decide to unplug for a while, make sure you are filling that gap with other, more healthy types of connection.

2. Manage Your Own Responses to People

Yes, people can be jerks. But part of our development as adult human beings is to learn to navigate that. In fact, that is something we strive to teach our children from the first moment they begin to interact with other children.

Emotional intelligence is about being able to empathize, understand others, manage our own emotions, and relationships with people, not to run away and withdraw from others.

It’s good to be humble and remember that we have also been jerks to others at some point in our lives. Wasn’t it nice when others made room for our shortcomings? It can be helpful to step into a place of compassion, remembering that most people are doing the best they can with the resources (emotional or otherwise) they have available. Instead of allowing yourself to get frustrated or angry with others, recognize that they may actually be struggling themselves. This will allow you to approach them with greater kindness, or at the very least, help you to cool down a little while you consider your response.

3. Respect Diversity

Respect for diversity is crucial if you are going to have other people in your life. Not just diversity of gender, race or culture, but diversity of perspectives, beliefs and opinions. Because as soon as you have more than one person in a room,sooner or later differences of opinion, great or small, are unavoidable.

While it can feel great to surround ourselves with like minded people, there are benefits to having people from all walks of life, perspectives and ideologies in your social circle. It makes you a more well-rounded person.

In fact, many people love the sport of engaging in a debate over the merits and pitfalls of different ideas, but this only works if both people enjoy the debate, and it is done with a great deal of respect for the other person as a person, and therefore entitled to their beliefs.

At the end of the day, the world is full of different people. It would be pretty boring if we all thought and behaved the same. So, if you are going to nurture your relationships and social connections, “to each to their own” is a pretty wise philosophy to adopt. Stop trying to change or control everyone else (an impossible task), and immediately a weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

4. Listen to Understand

“But I can’t actually respect their opinion because it is not just different, it’s immoral, evil or downright dangerous!”, you may say. Unfortunately, adding a moral judgement doesn’t help matters. But consider for a moment – is it REALLY likely that your partner/family member / friend / colleague who previously was a regular ‘good’ person with positive intentions, overnight turned into a horrible, reckless person with no care nor concern for others? Or is it more likely that perhaps you´re not really hearing what they are trying to communicate. Nor them, you.

Genuinely try to step into their shoes, and understand what they are saying, even if you already have a counter argument for it in your own head. Where are they coming from? What is leading them to come to a conclusion so different from yours? Get curious. There might even be something to learn here.

Consciously remind yourself that ultimately, they have a good intention. You may disagree on the details but it’s likely that you both want to see the same outcome, you just have different ideas on how to get there.

5. Agree to Disagree

With so many polarizing topics being discussed right now, sometimes it is simply best to agree to disagree. As mentioned, diversity is good, but we don´t want to be so divided we can´t function. With some people it might be best to agree not to discuss certain topics. That is fine too. You can still love each other and bring a lot of positive to each other’s lives. Know which conversations to have with whom, and when.

6. Don’t Make Decisions in a Crisis

Sure, take some time out from people if you need to, but keep it in balance. Don’t write off entire relationships on the basis of one disagreement, or a relatively short period of discontent or distress.

In psychology we have a saying “Don’t make decisions in a crisis” which is pretty good advice in a whole range of scenarios. If you cut off people too easily, or if you only ever have relationships with people who never hurt you, offend you, anger you, disappoint you, or let you down, you will end up a pretty lonely, and bitter, person.

Accept that part of having relationships with other humans means experiencing the lows as well as the highs, accepting people for who they are, even if they are imperfect in your view.

Come Together

Human relationships are complex, messy, and often frustrating, yet they are also necessary, beautiful and meaningful. Make 2021 a year of reconnecting with the people in your life from a place of compassion, love and kindness. There is already enough fear, anger and stress in the world. As has become so abundantly clear – life is short, and we never quite know what is round the corner, so connect in ways that you can be proud of within yourself, so you can live with no regrets.

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.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Facebook-logo Podcast Icon LinkedIN-logo

Workplace Wellbeing Tips Get-people-moving

10 Essential Elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy – Get People Moving

As Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, said to me“Take care of your employee’s mental health. It’s a high priority. You’re going to get better performance. Everybody knows that”. And it’s true, when you take care of your employees mental health, businesses perform better. In short, a happy employee is a productive employee.

The good news is that, while happiness is mostly up to the individual, individuals are socially driven. Good environments with good habits set up the stage for individual and collective happiness. Which brings me to element number two – Get People Moving.

Essential Element #2: GET PEOPLE MOVING

What is Get People Moving about? Well, it is about improving the general fitness of individuals. And the number one thing we can do to improve that, is to help people get off their behinds, stand up, and get moving.

Workplace Wellbeing Tips Get-people-moving

Let’s face it, sitting is the new smoking. It’s REALLY bad for you. And, on top of that, it wrecks the look of the bottom half of your body through muscle and organ atrophy (due to lack of exercise and compression) – Oh! You knew that? I figured you did but often we need a reminder. Other times we just need a kick up the butt, but we avoid getting one because we are sitting down (joke lol).

Joking aside, the question to ask is – How can we get more movement into what we do every day? A company I heard of moved the photocopiers back into a room so people would have to get up and walk to get their printing from time to time. I’ve heard that at Zappos, every 20 minutes or so loud music goes off, people get up and start dancing. What are you willing to do?

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.

I’ve also heard that many of the world’s most successful leaders and business owners have standing desks with a slow moving treadmill under them. Not only does this help their physical and mental health but it also helps ideas to flow.

Look, I get it, you know this stuff. Heck, you might even be the one telling others all about it! But, does that mean you are doing it? Knowing is one thing, doing is another. But it doesn’t have to be a huge effort. Sometimes the biggest difference is made by smallest and simplest change.

What small change can you make today that will bring the most results to your wellbeing?

By the way, we interviewed Jenny and Craig recently on the topic of physical and mental wellness. They are a brilliant couple that have a great approach to this. You can watch the video of the interview here – https://youtu.be/z0WXG-MQZyE

Our next essential element of a workplace wellness strategy will be the Smiling Policy.

Talk soon!

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.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Facebook-logo Podcast Icon LinkedIN-logo

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”.

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.

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.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Facebook-logo Podcast Icon LinkedIN-logo

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.

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.

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.

How to stay calm in the storm

How to stay calm in the storm

9 simple strategies to swim while others are sinking

The storm arrives. A deadly virus spreads. People start dying. Borders don’t matter. Armies are helpless. Stock-markets plunge. Economies around the world tumble. Thousands lose their jobs. Relationships break up under stress. News of doom and gloom is the flavour of the day, every day. Depression skyrockets. A mental health tsunami is at hand!

Welcome to the world we live in. Disruption is the new normal. This is a time of many inner and outer changes; changes that will lead to great stress and unhappiness if left un-managed. This stress can lead to toxic build-up within that creates immense mental health problems and can sabotage the happiness, health and harmony we enjoy in our day to day life.

Neuroscientists have found that chronic stress shrinks the area of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and decision making, which can lead to impaired cognition. Chronic stress can also contribute to significant health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, anxiety, depression, and more.

How to stay calm in the storm
How to stay calm in the storm

How do we handle this storm that has come upon us? How do we stay centred even as the world shakes? How do we swim while others are sinking? How do we manage our mind to continue to enjoy peace, stability and calmness even as the external storm rages outside?

Wisdom is the stabilizer of life – Vikas

Wisdom is the stabilizer of Life. Wisdom teaches that we live in two worlds simultaneously, the inner and the outer world. Our external world is not always in our control, but our inner world can always be in our control.

To become joyful and experience happiness in our daily life it is necessary that we maintain awareness of both these worlds. Awareness is the practice of staying awake moment to moment; to be fully present, to choose deliberately.

The more aware we become, the greater our control over our life grows, and vice-versa. Here are 9 powerful solutions to a time of crisis, guaranteed to keep you calm in the storm of life.

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.

  1. Have a willingness to make and follow hard choices – Crisis forces you to take a realistic look at the bigger picture of your life and make some hard choices to move forward. Be willing to do this rather than resist it. Make difficult choices if you need to and demonstrate a whatever-it-takes attitude. Remember, it takes less energy to get an unpleasant task done “right now” than to worry about it all day.
  1. Have a personal vision – Having a personal goal of getting out of the crisis, as it will become the light that guides you forward. A goal will motivate you and make it easier to take corrective measures while having no goal will just make you drift and lose direction through the crisis. Goals give you power. Choose not to waste your precious present life on guilt about the past or concern for the future.
  1. Set a clear strategy – To reach the goal, plan a clear strategy, and communicate it to others who are a part of it. Plan your journey forward and walk the plan. It is a truth that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Simplify your life! Start eliminating the trivial things. Eliminate unnecessary commitments.
  1. Focus Avoid multi-tasking; it is tiring for your brain. When you have many things to do, multi-tasking may look like a good idea at first. But our brain cannot multi-task; it quickly switches between tasks so it appears to us that we are multi-tasking. In fact, it only adds to your stress. It is more efficient to do one thing at a time andwith focus, so that you increase your performance and finish the task earlier with less stress.
  1. Take baby steps – A wisdom teaching says ‘If you know but do not do, you do not know!’ To learn how to swim, you must get wet. Take positive and persistent action on a regular basis. Even if the results are not fast to come, trudge on ahead towards your goal. Take baby steps if you have to, but whatever you do, make sure you are moving ahead all the time. The direction you are going in is important, not the speed.Just do what’s in your power, and brush aside all other concerns. Remember as the wisdom master Lao Tzu said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. So, take action, today!
  1. Be persistent – Probably the key quality to coming out of crisis is persistence – a determined mind that just never gives up. Once your mind is set, stick to your target with crab-like persistence, changing only if a better way shows itself. Practice consciously doing one thing at a time, keeping your mind focused on the present.
  1. Capitalize on opportunity – There is good even in the worst of times. Identify this by looking deeply at how you can benefit in the long term from the current crisis. Be quick to spot opportunity and to seize it to your advantage. Warren Buffet, the world’s best performing investor, is famously known for making his greatest and largest purchases at a time of crisis when everyone else is selling. Welcome change as an opportunity and challenge to learn and grow
  1. Be patient – Be willing to wait for the reward of your efforts. Believe that the strong man is a patient man. A crisis has little flexibility for the impatient or the irritable. Take time to be alone on a regular basis, to listen to your heart, check your intentions; re-evaluate your goals and your activities. If you have an endless to-do list, prioritise your activities and do the most important ones first.
  1. Stay optimistic – The night is darkest before the dawn breaks. Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining. The sun shines even when the clouds cover it. The dark night leads to sunrise and the day will end in darkness. Be aware of the larger movements and rhythms of life and stay optimistic even as you go through this time of chaos and crisis. You are bigger than it, and this is not the end of your life; it is just a comma in the sentence of your life, not the full stop. Having a positive mind-set is the greatest asset you can have in a time of inner or outer crisis.

We may be in the middle of a surging wave, but with the strategies I’ve shared above, we can always learn to surf it, and come out on top.

Vikas Malkani

Vikas Malkani (aka Mr. Wisdom)

Founder of SoulCentre, Asia’s Premier Centre for Meditation, Mindfulness and Stress Management.

Vikas has been called the ‘World’s #1 Wisdom Coach’ and is a TEDx Speaker, a bestselling author and a coach who trainsindividuals and businesses to get maximum results with minimum effort.

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.

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.

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.

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

Stay-fit-in-COVID-19

Staying fit while working from home

Welcome to the new normal…for now. Most of us were expecting more free time now that we are home, but find ourselves busier than ever; homeschooling our children, working or figuring out alternative ways to bring in income, and contemplating exactly how to survive these changes and understand what they will mean for us and our family.

While adjusting to the new schedule and the stress of the entire situation, you may find yourself more sedentary than ever which is wreaking havoc on the health of your body. We are here to guide you with some simple enjoyable steps to get you heading back in the right direction.

Why do we need to move?

Movement has more benefits than you may have ever imagined and is one of the most critical pieces to staying well during this time. Besides the basic benefits of body composition, did you know that movement:

Stay-fit-in-COVID-19
  • Increases the feel good hormones in your body to lift your mood
  • Helps to balance out stress hormones
  • Improves the function of your lymphatic system to rid your body of toxins
  • At moderate levels it boosts the function of your immune system

The repetitive contraction and relaxation of our muscles acts as a pump to our lymphatic system helping to clear toxins out of the body. When we are stationary, our lymphatic system becomes stagnant, much like the murky water at the edges of a pond, and drags down the functionality of our immune system. If we can’t clear the toxins out of our body that are already there, we won’t have the capacity to handle new ones coming in. So, get moving today and everyday to begin to assist your body in keeping you healthy.

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.

Here are some of our favorite ways to stay active right now while at home in addition to typical activities like walking, jogging, hiking and yoga.

Interval Workouts

Set a timer with alternating rounds for exercise and rest and choose how many exercises and sets you will do. Here are the combinations we use most often:

Interval-Workouts

Interval Workouts

You can choose any exercises, just make sure you are pushing yourself to work hard. The key is to get creative, make it fun and mix it up to keep it exciting.

Ladder Workouts

Choose 2 exercises and begin with 1 rep of each. Then increase to 2, 3, 4, etc, all the way up to 12 of each. Then come back down decreasing by 1 rep each set until you get back to the bottom of the ladder.

Ladder-Workouts
Ladder Workouts

Alphabet Workouts

Assign a variety of exercises with a varying number of reps for each to every letter of the alphabet. Then without looking at the list, write out a sentence or a variety of words and assign the exercises based on the matching letters. Here is an example using just one word. Make it as short or long as you like:

A-Z-of-workout tips
A-Z of workout tips
Welcome-workout-tips
Welcome workout tips

Note: If you´re not sure what some of these exercises are, you can find them easily on google!

EVERY DECISION TO MOVE IS A GOOD DECISION

No matter what type of movement you choose, you are making the good choice. A decision to care for your body right now should not add extra stress to your life, but should be a choice that feels good to your mind and body. Start today with one choice to move that sounds like fun and then continue each day.

Have kids at home right now? Get them involved too! Moving is not about perfection, but about fun and the many benefits it can provide you physically and mentally. Working out as a family with these exercises is not only fun, but helps the kids burn off their pent up energy and lets them use their creativity in designing workouts, setting them up for a lifetime of health for themselves.

Our children love when we turn any movement into a competition! See how creative you can get to take your mind off of the stress you are dealing with. Think of new ideas like obstacle courses, tag, relay races, and hopscotch. Let them see how much fun it can be!

Craig-and-Jenny-Dumnich

Craig & Jenny Dumnich

Founders & High Performance Consultants at The Fusion Performance Institute

Craig & Jenny D focus on the human factor to guide individuals and businesses to identify and break through
barriers to success, accomplish new goals and overcome challenges in their personal and professional lives

Selling-in-tough-times

5 Tips on how to sell in these tough times!

Reading this you might feel, selling is not really what I do. But bear with me, because here is the most important message upfront: we are all in sales.

Selling is the art of persuading other people to act upon influence. And the better you can articulate your ideas, the more likely it is to have people support them or act in your best interest.

  1. Remove uncertainty

In order to sell you must remove uncertainty. People try to avoid any type of risk and that’s why they are usually skeptical when you approach them with any type of suggestion.

Let’s assume there is a scale from 1-10 (1 equals no certainty and 10 equals absolute certainty). Where would you expect a typical customer to be at? Well truth is, you never know. Everyone is different. That’s why it is so important to come across as a professional and focus on getting them to a 10, not on figuring out where he is at.

  1. Personality matters

Selling-in-tough-times
5 Tips on how to sell in those tough times!

The results you see in your life are the results of what you think about all day long. That requires you to make sure that your mindset stays focused on things that really matter. These days we hear a lot about Corona and its economic impact. However people buy from people and as some goods and services will still be bought, make sure you get your fair share of these deals.

Stay positive, because positive people attract other positive people. And these people make faster decisions and will seek for opportunity to spend more time with you and tell others about you.

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.

  1. Change the story

People like winners. And winners that ask for help are even more appreciated. Throughout the crisis and especially after a few weeks when people got used to it, those who play the victim card, will loose. Change the story.

This crisis impacts all of us in the same way, does not prioritize or discriminate against anyone. Therefore, connect to your friends, customers and random people you meet. Strengthen and build relationships. Help when help is needed. You are all on the same team. That will pay off big time.

  1. Use your free time wisely

Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Therefore use the time you have to prepare for the changes to come. But don’t wait for them, as you can actively create them. This crisis is going to radically change the way we work, socialize, travel, shop… Think about ways to add value to people and existing businesses. What problems could have been avoided? How could this crisis be handled better. Write down all your findings and turn those ideas into money.

  1. Have video calls every day!

The most important piece of advice is keep in touch with people you know, don’t really know and those you would like to get to know. Zoom and other free video tools allow you to have video-calls with people all around the globe. Build your network, keep in touch, make sure people keep you on their mental map. Every crisis has winners and losers. It’s up to you to pick your side.

Philip-Semmelroth

Philip Semmelroth

Sales & Profit Specialist, Germany

Philip Semmelroth is Germany´s leading Sales Strategy Expert, helping organizations to boost their business.