The world changed. Organizations were dropped into the deep end, and no one had time to put their life jackets on. Has there been a time inrecent past when organizations and people have needed to deal with this much uncertainty? Once we’ve come out of COVID-19 pandemia or adapted to the situation, the world will not be the same as it was before.
With one or few weeks of remote work behind us, we’ve now learned how it’s done and people have built new routines and learnt how to balance the days. Organizations have been on a steep learning curve. They’ve re-organized work, adopted remote working tools and practices at a rapid pace, found ways to support their employees, and many have had to drastically modify their operations to secure their existence. Now it’s time to keep the business running, and to execute. Organizations also need to start planning ahead and start adapting to possibly changed customer demands and operating environment.
1. Customer understanding is once again the key
Do you already know how your customer’s business is impacted in the short and long term? Do you know if the previous demand is still there? Might the customer want you to serve them differently going forward? Restrictions and social distancing are causing huge impacts; we’ve already seen new services emerge and face-to-face services transform online. Some companies are manufacturing completely different products as usually (e.g. hand sanitizers instead of perfume). Perhaps everyone will love remote schools and getting food delivered to their doorsteps. Perhaps online yoga classes become a norm. Perhaps better business is found in new places?
Some services and products have not been available. Perhaps organizations have discovered, that they don’t need all of them after all. As further automation will take place, certain services may become redundant. The actions that were forced upon us may become the prioritized choice. Supply chains are impacted immensely. There are big and small roadblocks and delays here and there which cause a lot of inefficiency. These cascade to production facilities, distributors and merchants. Your customer is very likely preparing for financial challenges and some might even be struggling for existence. Do you know what your customers need now, and in the future and how they want it? Make sure you plan ahead for this and think about your customer strategies.
2. How do you maintain momentum
Leaders and managers are now faced with a whole array of (new) challenges. I foresee many teams losing their efficiency and new risks emerging and realizing. How to ensure everyone is still doing things, and that they are the right things? Set routines and practices for meetings and information sharing. Both are needed at more frequent intervals as you are targeting both work organizing and people leadership.
Do you know how your people are really doing? For many, workplace can be the place where you go and leave personal life behind for a while. Now they can’t do that. Furthermore, you worry about your loved ones and community at large. Employees maybe fear for their jobs – and their family members’ jobs. They also need to worry about their children’s care and education. Individuals are dealing with a lot.
How does a manager know if his/her team is still heading towards the same goal? Take time to ensure that the vision and targets clear to everyone and are they remembered. Try to understand whether “alternate truths” are born in discussion tracks and correct if wrong. It is good to understand that individuals may create their own truths as they are stuck in their own bubble and exposed to messaging from more and less reliable sources. Consider also, that as they seek to mitigate their uncertainty and search for information, what do they find.
Leaders need to consider how to increase transparency, create trust and reinforce direction. In the time of less physical structures we need even more interactional practices.
3. Revisit your plans
Do you agree with me that the world and operating environments will permanently change; either a little or a lot? If yes, it is time organizations revisit their strategies and plans. Let’s use the time we may now have in our hands and prepare for the future.
Build the starting blocks and get ready to run when you hear the start pistol. Virtual workshops work wonders and actually enable people to focus even more than in face to face meetings. When executed with skill, great results can be achieved.
Get your team together e.g. for scenario planning, customer insights, team strategies and visions, account strategies and action plans. Not only will this create clarity and direction, it also brings people together and creates a sense of community and commitment.
How do we come out as winners? Could the key ingredients be: positive mindset and drive, good leadership and forward-looking approach? What do you think? Stay tuned for further deep dives into the above mentioned and related topics by Gofore’s specialists!
Head of Business, Industry
It’s becoming clear that corona virus has changed the ways organizations function. In other words, how they work, their culture, and how they offer their services. Innovative ways of offering services emerge at high speed. Existing solutions are being used in various ways because there really is no time to plan the change. New ways are being tested quickly to see what works and what doesn’t.
In addition to current situation, the future of the society will face some big changes. For example, structure of the population and retirement will cause a lot of pressure on providing services. KEVA predicts that one third of municipalities’ employees will be retired in the next decade (https://www.keva.fi/uutiset-ja-artikkelit/joka-kolmas-kuntatyontekija-elakkeelle-kymmenen-vuoden-aikana/ ). This can cause lack of resources in service production, degradation of service quality, and reduction of services. This will affect health care companies as well. Quite similar to what health care is experiencing now. Corona virus is basically an exercise of what the future holds.
Working remotely is the new normal
At the moment, employees are working remotely in every single industry where it’s possible. Traditionally in our culture, work has been bound strongly to a certain place and time. In many organizations working remotely hasn’t been a part of everyday life and such a sudden change has been a shock. Challenges are of course partly technical, but the cultural change has been bigger issue. Some usual reasons why working remotely has not been common in organizations, are issues with trust (“do they really work at home”), appreciation of face-to-face working (“It’s much easier”), and culture (“We don’t usually work remotely”). Many still assume that people travel for meetings and workshops, and teams work physically in the same place. At its best, corona virus provides the needed boost for a change in attitude and culture. Negative attitude towards working remotely is truly being tested when there is no time for hesitation. When things get done, there is less justification for monitoring and controlling work. Demonstrating trust usually strengthens employee’s commitment to their work and to the organization. Organization’s ability to work remotely are growing tremendously at the moment. At Gofore, the change was easy as we usually work remotely quite a lot, we facilitate workshops virtually, and our teams are often geographically dispersed. It has been a pleasure to follow how fast our customers have adapted to the situation, and together we have sought the best (remote) ways of working.
At its best, working remotely increases labor productivity and frees time from commuting. The carbon footprint is reduced as travel decreases. Hopefully, these new habits remain also after the crisis. This way, we’ll have a positive effect on ways of working.
The situation forces organizations to a quick change in other ways as well. For grocery stores the demand for pick-up and delivery services has exploded, schools have moved to remote teaching, and health clubs have shifted to live web broadcasting. Payment methods lag behind and many of the entrepreneurs have to trust their customers’ goodwill to get paid for the service. Occasionally, the network capacity has failed. The future of many personal service companies is uncertain. Many public services have been simplified; what earlier needed a visit to the bureau, can now be handled through email. Health services have to be focused on treating the epidemic. All things that are not urgent, are postponed and dissolving these after the epidemic will take a long time. Wider use of digital services, automation and artificial intelligence could solve a lot of issues at the moment. Increased remote access would reduce people-to-people contact and allow location-independent business. It would also free time to social contact where it is especially needed. Most of all, we would be more prepared to situations such as this one we are facing right now. Pioneering companies have long been using different solutions for this that are worth exploring.
Unexpected change has created innovative ideas and most of all, courage to test different, even unconventional options, and act fast. In many ways, we cannot go back to the way things were, but hopefully these new skills will remain in our ways of working. This way, we can change to more proactive and agile culture, and move towards technology enabled services that are independent of time and place. The inevitable change came unexpectedly as a consequence of a very serious situation, but hopefully it can help us become a faster adapting society.
Head of Business, Recoding Society
Wie gestaltet sich ein virtuelles Treffen erfolgreich?
Virtuelle Besprechungen sind eine kostensparende Möglichkeit, interaktive Meetings durchzuführen und geschäftliche Prozesse schneller voranzubringen. Es gibt einige gängige Praktiken – hier finden Sie die besten, die sich bei Gofore bewährt haben.
Die Vorgehensweise lässt sich in fünf Phasen unterteilen (ähnlich einer Besprechung vor Ort)
Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom und Slack sind die derzeit beliebtesten Tools für Besprechungen. Die Auswahl hängt von Ihrem Team und dem Zweck der Besprechung ab. Einige Tools beinhalten bereits gemeinsam nutzbare Arbeitsbereiche – wie Skype for Business oder Zoom. Überlegen Sie sich, welche technische Anforderungen es gibt und entscheiden dann, welche Software am besten geeignet ist
Gängige Kombinationen, die wir bei Gofore bevorzugt einsetzen:
Teams /Zoom /Slack + Sharepoint Powerpoint /OneNote
- Google Hangouts + Jamboard /Docs /Pages
- Teams /Zoom + Mural /Miro (für fortgeschrittene Workshops)
- Die Anzahl der Teilnehmer sollte auf das Minimum beschränkt werden
- Einladungen rechtzeitig verschicken, möglichst mit einer Checkliste mit dem Hinweis auf die technischen Voraussetzungen, z.B. welche URL s aufgerufen werden muss oder telefonische Einwahlmöglichkeiten
- Bereiten Sie die Materialien vor, die Sie präsentieren und bearbeiten werden. Durch die verschiedenen Systeme der Teilnehmer wird empfohlen, große Standardschriftarten und wenig Text pro Folie zu verwenden sowie die Präsentation in Bezug auf Lichtverhältnisse im Raum zu testen.
- Stellen Sie sicher, dass alle Teilnehmer Zugriff auf die Dateien und Bildschirminhalte für die gemeinsame Besprechung haben.
Die technischen Mittel
- Der Voraussetzungen an Online Meetings sind einfach zu erfüllen: Internet Verbindung, Computer mit Mikrofon, Lautsprecher und Webcam.
- Bei einer Videoübertragung testen Sie Ihre Videokamera vor Beginn der Sitzung.
- Bitten Sie Ihre Teilnehmer, sich vor dem offiziellen Start des Meetings einzuloggen, um eventuelle technische Probleme rechtzeitig beheben zu können. Überlegen Sie sich einen Plan B, damit die Teilnehmer auch auf eine andere Art am Meeting teilnehmen könnten (z.B. über das Telefon und ohne Internet).
Der Ablauf des Meetings
- Stellen Sie sicher, dass Sie eine klare Agenda mit max. 3 Hauptthemen für das Meeting haben und alle 30 Minuten eine kurze Pause einlegen.
- Wenn das Meeting einen Workshopteil beinhaltet, ist es am besten, alle Besprechungsphasen zeitlich zu begrenzen. Planen und besprechen Sie gemeinsam die gesamte Agenda. Wenn Sie noch nie eine virtuelle Besprechung oder einen Workshop organisiert haben, ist es hilfreich, dies vorher mit Ihren Kollegen zu proben.
- Wenn die Sitzung der Ideenfindung dient, ist es gut, vorher Hintergrundinformationen mit allen auszutauschen.
- Erwägen Sie, die Sitzung aufzuzeichnen, insbesondere wenn einige Eingeladene nicht teilnehmen können. Denken Sie aber immer daran, vorher die Zustimmung zur Aufzeichnung einzuholen!
- Wenn Sie mit einer größeren Gruppe arbeiten, ist es sinnvoll, einen Partner dazu zu holen, welcher für Sie die technischen Dinge regelt und den Chat überwacht. Sie können sich dann ganz auf die Moderation oder auf Ihre Präsentation konzentrieren.
- Stellen Sie sicher, dass sich alle hören können. Begrüßen Sie jede Person einzeln, damit sie laut antworten können.
- Gehen Sie den Zweck und das Ziel des Treffens sowie die Tagesordnung durch – Präsentationen, Ideenfindung, Abstimmungen, Diskussionen in Kleingruppen. Denken Sie daran: Unklarheit führt zu Passivität.
- Fragen Sie nach den Erwartungen der Teilnehmer. Nutzen Sie dafür z. B. den Text-Chat.
- Bitten Sie die Teilnehmer, zu Beginn zu äußern, ob sie eventuell früher gehen müssen.
- Nutzen Sie „Eisbrecher“, um eine entspannte Stimmung für alle zu schaffen (fragen Sie uns nach weiteren Einzelheiten).
- Schaffen Sie eine angenehme Atmosphäre für einen offenen Austausch.
- Definieren Sie gegebenenfalls bestimmte Aufgaben für jeden Teilnehmer.
- Verhindern sie mögliche Störungsquellen: Telefone sollten weggelegt, Mikrofone stumm geschaltet werden, wenn die Person nicht spricht. Bitten Sie die Teilnehmer auch, alle anderen Fenster auf ihrem Bildschirm zu schließen und sich ausschließlich auf die Besprechung zu konzentrieren.
- Kündigen Sie mögliche Pausenzeiten an.
- Informieren Sie darüber, wie Teilnehmer sich verhalten sollen, wenn sie plötzlich gehen müssen.
- Gehen Sie die verwendeten Werkzeuge und Workshop-Methoden durch.
- Wer etwas sagen möchte, sollte ein Handzeichen geben, im Chat mit dem eigenen Namen beginnen.
- Es sollte immer nur eine Person gleichzeitig sprechen.
- langen Monologe sollten vermieden werden
Verwenden Sie nach Möglichkeit Video
Ein Videobild hilft, sich zu engagieren und den Fokus zu behalten. Leider kann es auch die Verbindung verlangsamen und andere technische Probleme verursachen. Nutzen Sie die Videoübertragung zumindest zu Beginn der Sitzung, um eine stärkere Verbindung der Teilnehmer untereinander herzustellen.
Einer langen Sitzung oder einem virtuellen Workshop zu folgen ist anstrengend. Es kann für jeden schwer sein, fokussiert und aktiv zu bleiben. Sorgen Sie für eine hohe Interaktivität und ein starkes Engagement aller, um die Energie auf einem hohen Niveau zu halten!
- Wenn die Sitzung länger als 1,5 Stunden dauert, machen Sie kurze Pausen (denken Sie daran, eine Dauer festzulegen).
- Verwenden Sie “Energiespender”, wenn Sie das Gefühl haben, die Teilnehmer werden passiv (fragen Sie uns nach weiteren Einzelheiten).
Den Fokus halten
- Halten Sie die Agenda sichtbar oder zumindest leicht auffindbar z.B. im Chat.
- Zeigen Sie immer das aktuelle Thema auf dem Bildschirm, um den Teilnehmern eine Möglichkeit zu geben, sich zu fokussieren.
- Dokumentieren Sie die Besprechung so, dass jeder die Aufzeichnungen mitverfolgen kann.
- Stellen Sie sicher, dass die Aufgaben dokumentiert und jemanden zugeteilt werden
- Wenn Sie in der Ideenfindung sind, ist es oft angebracht, sich in kleinere Gruppen aufzuteilen. Einige Kommunikations-Werkzeuge ermöglichen dies (wie z.B. Zoom). Vergessen Sie nicht, den Gruppen klare Anweisungen zum Thema und der Dauer zu geben.
- “Me-We–Us” ist eine gute Methode zur Ideenfindung und Problemlösung (fragen Sie uns nach weiteren Einzelheiten).
- Die Arbeit in kleineren Gruppen kann die Energie innerhalb des Teams steigern.
- Denken Sie daran, dass die Aufteilung in Kleingruppen auch etwas Zeit erfordert – berücksichtigen Sie das in Ihrem Zeitplan.
- Je kleiner die Gruppen sind, desto weniger Zeit werden sie für die Arbeit an den Aufgaben benötigen. Manchmal erscheinen 2 Minuten als eine sehr lange Zeit.
Halten Sie den Zeitplan ein
Das Schöne an virtuellen Besprechungen ist, dass sie für die Teilnehmer gleichberechtigter sein können als bei Veranstaltungen vor Ort. Stellen Sie sicher, dass während der gesamten Besprechung nicht dieselben Personen dominieren, und laden Sie die Stillen ein, ihre Meinung zu sagen. Geben Sie die maximale Redezeit vor.
Nutzen Sie den Chat
Alle Anruf-Tools ermöglichen den parallelen Chat. Um schnell Feedback zu erhalten, bitten Sie die Teilnehmer, ihre Gedanken in den Besprechungschat zu schreiben. Geben Sie dann einige Minuten Zeit, damit jeder die Kommentare lesen kann, bevor Sie fortfahren.
Zusammenfassen und überprüfen
- Haben Sie das Ziel erreicht?
- Was sind die nächsten Handlungspunkte?
- Haben alle vereinbarten Aufgaben Eigentümer und Fristen?
- War die Sitzung für die Teilnehmer nützlich?
- Was fühlte sich wichtig an?
- Was könnte beim nächsten Mal verbessert werden?
- Denken Sie daran, allen für ihre Zeit und ihren Beitrag zu danken!
Schicken Sie mögliche Aufnahmen, Workshop-Materialien, Besprechungsnotizen und Aktionspunkte an alle Teilnehmer.
Denken Sie bitte auch an Folgendes:
Der virtuelle Raum ist stärker auf den Ton angewiesen und Sie verlieren viele Details der nonverbalen Kommunikation. Daher müssen Sie der Interaktion mit den Teilnehmern mehr Aufmerksamkeit widmen.
Lesen Sie hier mehr über das Thema: https://gofore.com/en/how-to-have-a-great-virtual-meeting/
Die Zeit ist wertvoll. Freuen Sie sich über jeden, der seine Zeit ihrer Veranstaltung gewidmet hat.
Wünschen Sie weitere Tipps?
Wir unterstützen Sie gerne bei der erfolgreichen Planung und Durchführung Ihrer virtuellen Besprechungen! Zögern Sie also nicht, uns zu kontaktieren: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wie man ein großartiges virtuelles Treffen veranstaltet https://gofore.com/en/how-to-have-a-great-virtual-meeting/
Depending on your current organisational culture, the transformation from face-to-face meetings to virtual ones can be tricky. There are some aspects that you should consider before planning a virtual meeting, for example event purpose, targets, group size and locations, since they impact on how you should run your event.
There are some common practices that are easy to learn and apply to your to all your virtual meeting. To help you succeed in your digital encounters, we collected our best practices into five phases, following a common meeting flow: 1. Before, 2. Start, 3. During, 4. Close, 5. After.
Let’s go through each phase, one by one:
Decide which tools you are going to use
When deciding which tool to use for a call, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom and Slack are currently the most popular meeting tools. All have their pros and cons, but you’ll manage with each of them. If you want to participate people, you also need some kind of shared workspace. Some tools come with this already, like Skype for Business or Zoom, and some don’t. In those latter cases, you need to choose a separate tool for collaboration.
We recommend trying out these combinations:
- Teams /Zoom /Slack + Sharepoint Powerpoint /OneNote
- Google Hangouts + Jamboard /Docs /Pages
- Teams /Zoom + Mural /Miro (for more advanced workshopping)
Setup a shared space
- Make sure all your teammates have access to shared meeting files
- Prepare the materials you’re going to present and work on
Test the equipment
- If you’re able to use video stream, test your camera before the session starts
- If the participants are new to you, you have a big group of attendees or the meeting is going to be a lengthy one: start 10-15 minutes earlier to check that everything is working properly. You can also have a check-up session a day before the actual meeting – in that case the participants will have more time to fix their tools, if any problems occur.
- Remember to have a backup plan for those who have troubles joining the call, seeing the screen, using the collaboration tools etc. (Believe us, this happens quite often.)
There are a lot of things to consider, so always prepare well
- Make sure you have a clear agenda for the session.
- Flow: If the meeting includes workshopping, it’s best to timebox everything. Plan and walk through the whole agenda. If you haven’t organised remote meetings or workshops before, it’s good to rehearse with your colleagues beforehand.
- If the meeting includes ideation, it’s good to share background information about the ideation topic beforehand.
- Send information about the event beforehand to participants: agenda and system requirements. Encourage them to choose a good (quiet) location and ensure their tools are working. Give your participants also the possibility to get prepared.
- Consider recording the meeting, especially if some invitees can’t participate. Remember always to ask for recording consent, beforehand though!
- If you’re using a company meeting room for your meeting/workshop, it’s good to reserve the room 15 minutes before the event. You will need some time for getting organized.
- Consider having a co-host: If you’re workshopping with a large group, having someone helping you out with facilitating the event is useful. It decreases your organising pressure and usually shows in the participants’ satisfaction. While one host is presenting, the other one can concentrate on fixing possible practical challenges. Just remember to practice the choreography beforehand with your peer.
Start with a check-in with all the participants
- Make sure everyone can hear each other. Say hello to every person individually, so they can reply out loud.
- Start your session by going through the purpose, target and the agenda for the meeting. Inform about the possible different phases that are included in the meeting (e.g. presentation, ideation, voting, discussions in pairs). Note: Unclarity breeds passiveness.
- Tell why you have invited these people in your meeting and tell about your expectations towards the participants
- Ask about expectations (utilise e.g. chat for this)
- Ask participants to inform in the beginning, if they need to leave early.
- Introduce people to each other (faster), or let them introduce themselves (takes more time)
- Use “ice-breakers”, to set a relaxed mood (ask us for details)
- Create a safe space for everyone to talk. Be an example.
Set working instructions
- Introduce roles, if there are any specific ones.
- Require focus: Phones should be put away. Microphone are supposed to be on mute if the person isn’t talking. Ask participants to close all other apps on their screen and focus solely on this meeting.
- Inform about possible breaks that you’re planning to have.
- Inform how to behave, if a participant needs to leave suddenly.
- Go through the tools and workshopping methods used.
- Set a protocol on how participants are allowed to speak (e.g. using icons, writing in chat, and starting with their name when they speak).
- Only one person should talk at a time, although there should not be long monologues.
Use video if possible
Video stream helps to engage and keep focus. However, it may also slow down the connection and cause other technical problems. Utilise video stream at least in the beginning of the session, to get more connected with your participants.
Keep the energy high
Following a long meeting or workshop remotely is tiring. Maintaining the focus can be hard for everyone.
Use your tools to engage and interact, to keep the energy levels high!
- If the meeting lasts more than 1.5 hours, have short breaks (remember to be very clear about the continuation time).
- Use “energizers”, if you feel that people are getting passive (ask us for details)
Keep the focus clear
- Keep the agenda visible, or at least easy to find (e.g. post it in the meeting chat, once everyone has arrived)
- Keep the current topic visible on screen to maintain focus.
- Write the meeting memo so that everyone can see it.
- Ensure action points are documented, reviewed, and have action owners.
Break up in small groups, if relevant
- If you’re ideating something, breaking up into smaller groups is a good idea. Some call tools enable this (like Zoom). Remember to give the groups clear instructions about the topic and the amount of time they’re allowed to use for it.
- “Me-We-Us” is a good method for ideating and problem solving (ask us for details)
- Working in smaller groups at times boosts energy within the team.
- Remember that dividing into small groups also requires some time, to get people oriented
- The smaller the groups, the less time they will need for working on tasks. Sometimes even 2 minutes can seem like a very long time.
Be strict with airtime
The great thing about remote meetings is that they can be more equal than live events for participants. Make sure same the people don’t dominate throughout the meeting and invite the silent ones to speak up their minds (you can try using a timer, for example).
Utilise the meeting chat
All call tools enable chat. For quickly collecting feedback, ask participants to write their thoughts in the meeting chat. Then allow few minutes for everybody to read the comments before proceeding.
Summarize and review
- Did you reach the target?
- What are the next action points?
- Do all action points have owners and deadlines?
Ask feedback: Was the session useful for them? What felt important? What could be improved next time? Remember to thank everyone for their time and input!
Share the materials
Share the possible recording, workshop materials, meeting memos and action points to participants.
To summarize things up
Some things to remember:
#Virtual space relies heavily on sound and you lose a lot of the non-verbal communication. Thus, you need to pay more attention to interaction with participants. Read more about the topic here: How to have a great virtual meeting
#Thank people for attending your meeting. Time is valuable, and yet they have decided to use it in your event. Show that you appreciate their time, and they will be happy to join your next session!
Wish to get more tips?
We are happy to help you in facilitating your virtual meetings successfully. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at: email@example.com.
Jonas Rajanto, Grape People, Basics of Virtual Facilitation
Working remotely and having virtual meetings has quickly become quite relevant, thanks to the coronavirus. For a while now we at Gofore have been interested in the best ways of facilitating virtual meetings and have trained many of our experts in them with Grape People. Having facilitated numerous virtual workshops and meetings myself I’ve found my go to way facilitating virtual workshops and here I’ll share few tips I’ve learned.
Before the meeting
There are few things you should understand before starting a virtual workshop or a meeting: the impact of your surroundings and technology available on the meeting.
Virtual space relies heavily on sound and you lose a lot of the non-verbal communication. Many prefer using video connection in order to feel more present but sometimes this can cause problems with bandwidth and cause e.g. “robot sound”. So you need to make sure participants stay focused without an eye contact. Ask participants to close all other apps on their screen and focus solely on this meeting. This seems radical but will be well worth it.
The other thing you need to ensure right from the start is the availability of good technical tools, including the platform you use. Make sure your participants know how to join in the meeting and where to get help if they have trouble. A technical check a day before an important workshop is a very solid idea. A good-quality headset or a speaker phone is a must too. Instruct your participants to join in using their own connection and microphone so everybody’s voice can be heard loud and clear.
As to platform I’ve been quite happy with Pepix, the video conference system we have at Gofore and MS Teams but there are also free tools available for use. Zoom is an online video conference platform that has a great free plan available or you can use Google Hangouts or even WhatsApp group calls.
Plan your agenda and share it with your participants beforehand to ensure all the right people are attending. Also prepare your presentation and online boards well. This will tell your guests you value their time and they will appreciate the virtual meeting more.
During the meeting
- In the beginning of the meeting go over who are present, making sure everybody can hear others and others can hear them. Say hello to every person individually, so they can reply out loud.
- Use an icebreaker to set the mood of the meeting. You can e.g. ask everybody to write in the meeting chat something easy, such as what they had for lunch, and after that, what their expectations for the workshop are. Pick a couple persons to share more about their expectations out loud as well.
- Show “the meeting rules” on screen and go over them. I usually use these instructions:
- Stay focused, and inform in the chat, if you need to leave early.
- Keep your mic muted always when you’re not speaking.
- Say your name first when you start to talk.
- Be patient in case of technical difficulties.
- Keep the agenda and meeting notes visible for all via screen sharing.
- Keep people engaged and interested by using different methods and tools. Give clear instructions on every method.
- Virtual whiteboards are very useful. My favourites are Miro and Mural, both of which have great selection of features, including voting. Miro has also screen share and chat available.
- For quickly collecting feedback, ask participants to write their thoughts in the meeting chat. Then allow few minutes for everybody to read the comments before proceeding. If needed, choose one topic to be discussed further.
- When you want to hear everybody’s thoughts about the matter in hand, ask all the attendants in turns to share their thoughts. This way you make sure only one person is speaking at a time and everybody will get an equal chance to voice their opinions.
- Make sure you ask participants to give feedback on their way out of the meeting. You can ask everybody to e.g. use an emoji in the meeting chat to represent their experience. A quick feedback round is useful too.
Virtual meetings can be as or even more productive than face-to-face meetings, so you might start to preferring them even after the current pandemia is over. Nevertheless, let’s stay healthy and safe, but still productive!
According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, one out of four working-age Finns has experienced burnout symptoms. According to Statistics Finland, more and more people are driven to burnout. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has stated that people with work-related stress run twice the normal risk of premature death.
According to Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, work stress is caused by both work and the employee’s personal characteristics. In his thesis of 2004, researcher Jari Hakanen from The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health stated that burnout was primarily caused by work, but as the symptoms intensified and people became more run down, their private lives were also affected. Burnout becomes first apparent at home – not in the workplace – as the extra energy that should be devoted to private life is invested in work, trying to cope with the load.
“To avoid burnout, it is important to experience success and have the feeling that your efforts are recognised and valued.”
– Jari Hakanen, From Burnout to Flow (Fin Työuupumuksesta työn imuun)
Burnout is an organisational problem. It’s not OK for 25 % of employees to suffer burnout, with repercussions for their organisation and their private lives. Burnout should be treated as a systemic problem.
But why is self-management such a buzzword?
In their book, Self-management (Fin Itseohjautuvuus) Martela and Karenko discuss the reasons for self-management. They attribute self-management to megatrends such as a faster rate of change, increased knowledge work, and increasing technology. The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Individuals and organisations must make snap decisions that are clever and properly timed. This is not possible in a higly hierarchical organisation. On the other hand, people also expect more from their workplace: more freedom, opportunities and a balanced culture. For millennials, relevance and flexibility are greater motivators than money. Silos and power–structures must be dismantled if you want to succeed in the above mentioned circumstances. While self-management pushes requirement of dealing with complex and rapid changes to individuals, it also offers a solution for serving customers and staff better.
Self-management does not realize simply by telling people to manage themselves. In Miia Savaspuro’s book titled Self–Management Arrived in The Workplace (Fin Itseohjautuvuus tuli työpaikoille), Laura Sivula says that freedom does not mean less work. On the contrary, work has become more demanding both in terms of time spent working and the content of work. In the same book, Veera Iliev says that burnout is often caused by two factors: people having no clear idea what is expected of them, and people being too hard on themselves. In the same book, Petri Aukia points out that self-management requires a good understanding of yourself, i.e. the greater the difference between your work–self and personal–self, the greater the problems you will have in a self-managing organisation.
Self-management is a double-edged sword. In a self-managed system, stress is caused by unclear targets, endless interruptions, hurry, unclear responsibilities, constant change and lack of feedback. On the other hand, a self-managed system enables employees to work at their own pace as well as to affect on their duties and work processes.
Self-management may appear publicly to be more fun than it actually is. Nobody shares their personal or company level failures on social media. Companies compete on creating the coolest work culture. In practice, self-management is not fun. Self-managed environment emphasises performance, sets no limits and fosters on uncertainty. To survive in a such environment, one needs self-awareness, confidence and initiative. Also self-managed organization has tons of bureaucratic tasks. However, now it is up to individual perseverance to get regularly all the needed but not-so-fun things done.
Modern knowledge work creates an illusion of autonomy. One can work anywhere, anytime. This results people pinging others at any time through a variety of channels. An individual needs to have strong inbuilt time and information management mechanisms in place, to benefit from such a setup.
Self-management may also create a free-rider problem, where people who do not work for a common goal enjoy the benefits. If decision-making structures are not defined, unofficial hierarchies and a leadership vacuum may arise. In such an occasion the people with the loudest voice will fulfil the vacuum. While self-management fosters fast change, the change programs are often abandoned. This results layers of unfinished structures and processes.
What should you do to support self-management?
Kirsi Ahola from The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health says that burnout always develops as a combination between work and the individual. According to Dec and Ryan’s self-determination theory, a self-managing corporate culture must offer employees feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness.
- Autonomy means people being free to decide on their own matters and motivation being intrinsic.
- Competence means work offering challenges and successes.
- Relatedness means people being valued and nurtured.
According to publication of The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health titled Efficient Burnout Intervention (Fin Vaikuttava työuupumusinterventio), support at personal level rarely fixes the situation. Changes must be made to duties and work procedures. While structures and processes are always in a state of flux in a self-managed organization, support structures must provide security and permanence. When people burnout, an organisation’s structures must be reviewed. Burnout is never an isolated event. Attitudes, structures and practices must be tuned at organisational level. The whole organization must aim for minimizing conditions conducive to burnout.
Susanna Paarlahti of Pihlajalinna presented her ‘canary in a coal mine’ theory in the Kauppalehti newspaper on 15 October 2019. A person suffering from burnout is not an isolated case, but a victim of circumstances. The workplace is running out of oxygen.
Throughout the organisation, three things need to be clarified:
1) Purposeful leadership. Accelerated change means that organisation is undergoing constant change. The direction and goals must be communicated constantly and continuously. The goals must be clear to everyone. On LinkedIn, Marika Toivola stated that “a good leader does not let experts work ‘in peace’”, while the leader is responsible for building the community. Clear goals mean that management explains repeatedly to everyone: what kind of an organisation it is, what it believes in, what its values are and what it is striving to achieve. Good management practices have a positive impact on the wellbeing of both management and employees. Good leadership practices should be stressed, such as regular team meetings, active feedback and prevention of bullying. Good communication has a generally positive effect on staff wellbeing. Good communication should be encouraged.
2) Decision-making process. Decision-making processes must be clear. Self-management does not mean being indecisive. Everyone must be aware of who is making the decisions and who can asked for help. Decisions must be done quickly. A self-management organisation needs plenty of ground rules. At individual level, the organisation must set ground rules to protect individuals. It’s not OK to work overtime. The organisation must demand individuals to prioritise their tasks. On the other hand, while employees gain more power and responsibility, many will reach a new professional level.
3) Psychological safety. Psychological safety helps one to ask for help and voice own opinions. Rules must allow a constructive debate. And again, if the debate leads to conflicts, we have the above mentioned decision-making process and ground rules set. Psychological safety also means that no one is berated, trolled or mocked.
Organisation must continuously take care of its people and help them to take care of themselves. Everyone can contribute by raising issues and suggesting solutions. Sharing experiences and problem-solving together also relieves stress and builds community. Organization can support self-reliance by adding awareness, providing structures and giving feedback. Awareness of stress and its origins must be increased. In terms of productivity, whitespace, energy, positivity and communication are just as important as time, money, content and quality. By taking employee wellbeing seriously bigger problems can be avoided.
Managers must use most of its time for leadership and communicating the above mentioned. People must be at the top of the backlog of managers. In a hierarchical organisation, most time is spent on management, whereas in a low-hierarchy, self-managed organisation most time should be spent on leadership.
Self-support of individuals
People must be provided information and tools regarding the self–management. Self-management is a skill that must be learned: one must be able to schedule, prioritise, understand personal and common goals, communicate transparently, create and understand data, and know how to fail fast. These are things that are not taught elsewhere in life. During the first 20 years at school, you are made to believe that the best results are obtained by grinding through books on your own, until you’ve reached perfection. And now, you should learn that an average performance is OK. Or asking a colleague quickly for help is the best way to go.
Life balance is based on self-awareness. In his book Intelligent Self-Leadership (FIN Älykäs itsensä johtaminen), Pentti Sydänmaanlakka compares self-management and self-awareness. Self-awareness stems from accepting yourself as you are. A person with high self-esteem approves herself. A high self-esteem helps a person to befriend with him/herself. Low self-esteem results in being unsatisfied with yourself, and hoping to be something different. Self-esteem is built on three pillars: safety, self-awareness and competence. Improving self-esteem requires active thinking. Adequate self-awareness and self-esteem are needed to create a base for self-management. Jari Hakanen of Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare writes in From Burnout to Flow (FIN Työuupumuksesta työn imuun) that the key resources for work are optimism, self-esteem, resilience and systemic intelligence.
Wayne Dyer (1981) viewed self-knowledge and balance as a line. Diseases are treated between 1 and 2, while a high-quality life resides between 2 and 3. People rarely put enough effort into having a better life. If you ain’t sick, you will concentrate on something more concrete than on life.
Pentti Sydänmaalakka states that self-management consists of conrete actions spanning on long timeframe. Self-management requires prioritisation, scheduling, discipline, tolerating uncertainty and being outside your comfort zone. While self-leadership requires self-reflection, assessing your own characteristics objectively and taking others into account. Self-management means exceeding your current self. This creates positive self-reliance, which radiates positivity on spheres of life. We associate self-management with positive images of happiness, drive and enthusiasm. Still many suffer burnout precisely because of self-management. People who are used to hierarchical structures and clear duties are merciless when given authority to lead themselves. People have learned all the way from the school that you must always put your best foot forward. Once they become their own managers, a vicious circle awaits. A merciless boss follows them everywhere inside their heads.
Even while the work itself is self-managed, organization must however provide a clear framework of commonly agreed vision and targets. The framework will provide power and responsibility. The framework ensures that everyone proceed towards the same direction and the same goal. Employees are given the opportunity to plan, either alone or in teams, how to achieve this goal. The framework helps people to define their own roles in such a way that everyone moves towards the same target.
It takes motivation, time and energy to change oneself. Change thinking and ways of doing things on a personal level. In addition to work environment, burnout may be exacerbated by an employee’s personal characteristics, such as a strong sense of duty and excessive performance requirements. Poor stress management skills can result in skipping breaks and frequently working longer hours. Early intervention can help to prevent potentially serious consequences. Please, look after yourself and your colleagues.
A quality life is built around quality habits. Aim for creating smart ways of working. Smart habits. Visualise this as an elephant and its rider. The elephant represents habits. A simple creature that is strong and lives by its instincts and needs. The rider is the conscious mind. Clever and full of ideas, but weak. As the load and stress increases, habits-elephant overwhelm the thinking mind-rider. It takes time and energy to internalise a habit. Praise yourself for small victories and, if you stray off the golden path, lead yourself back. It takes an average of 66 days to learn a simple habit. Perseverance, that’s the trick.
- Be merciful
Show yourself some mercy. This will motivate and encourage you. Develop your self-confidence. Congratulate yourself regularly for everything you’ve achieved. When you understand that you are currenlty reaping the rewards of long-term achievements, you will prioritise better. You are doing your best. Assume that everyone else is too.
Keep your spirits up. If you feel good, you will feel more motivated; when you’re motivated, you’ll concentrate better; and when you concentrate better, you’ll achieve more. Happiness and balance comes from good relationships and feeling good about yourself. Not just one or the other, but both together. Happiness and balance are achieved by combining high demands and strength with gentleness and acceptance. Challenges should make you feel useful, while you are also lenient on yourself when short on time or energy.
Be aware that you can affect your feelings and reactions through self-awareness. You have the ability to control feelings within you and to observe the related process. Try to inhabit a positive emotional environment. You can do this by consciously processing negative feelings and accentuating positive ones. When something happens, you can choose how to react to it. Process negative feelings constructively, and accentuate positive feelings.
- Be firm
Learn to say ‘NO’.
The first step in taking responsibility is to limit your personal area of responsibility, prioritise work and complete tasks that you begin. If you say ‘Yes’ to everything, you’re not really in control of your life or achievements. Divide your time and energy smartly. There’s always room for improvement.
Don’t shy away from some crap jobs. There are always plenty of motivating interesting jobs, but do some of the less attractive stuff, too. But don’t fill your days with them. Don’t be a freeloader, but you don’t have to shovel shit all day, either.
Quantify matters. Track your working hours and your tasks for one week. Find out what you spend your time on. This will give you a better idea of which jobs must be done and what you really have time for. Consider how you allocate your time at work. Work must have creative breaks and innovation, in teams and individually.
Plan and work on small items at a time. Finish what you started. Crossing the finish line creates energy. People tend to plan too optimistically. Huge goals are never achieved.
Prioritise. Which things are truly important in the long run? You will achieve more when you have fewer items on your list.
Do things quickly. Don’t try to be a perfectionist, just publish. It will retunr to your desk in the future, if it’s not good enough.
Check out the Eisenhower decision-making matrix.
- Seek balance
Make sure to recover from your work every day. Get enough rest and do something completely different to get your mind off your work. Allow yourself time to prioritise, innovate and develop your Production Capacity (PC) instead of just Production (P). Breaks, ‘whitespace’, are where you both recover and have your best ideas.
Live a full life. Divide your energy suitably for all aspects of life. Reflect on and study yourself. Reflection is the key to learning. Strive for “quality participation”. Is what you are doing at the moment the best you can do for your team?
Develop your ability to change. Change will only accelerate in the future. Resilience means that while change is always present, you should still try to strive for and finish things, and become better.
Listen, help and lead by example. You will often feel more competent when helping others.
Choose your battles carefully. Also in your mind. Make a conscious effort to avoid dwelling on things you can do nothing about. You don’t need to have an opinion on everything. Create your personal DON’T TOUCH list about the things you should steer clear of. Consider Stephen Covey’s idea about three concentric circles. The biggest circle is the circle of concern, things you may be worried about but have no control over (the weather, global economy, politics...). The middle circle, the circle of influence, are matters that you may be able to influence indirectly. The smallest circle describes matters you can genuinely control.
- Ask for help
Since the simple stuff in life tends to be the trickiest, plenty of help is available for getting to grips with your own wellbeing. Tell a colleague or supervisor that you’re out of puff. They are both certain to provide support.
Get a coach who will gently nudge you onto a better path.
If you are completely wiped out, start by visiting occupational healthcare, and then talk to your HR department. Take a couple of weeks off work and return with a lighter workload.
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