Exiting the lock down – strategy and execution

At the end of December, 2019, public health officials of China informed the World Health Organization that they identified a new virus which is causing pneumonia-like symptoms in the city of Wuhan. Soon after that, WHO named the virus as Covid19 and seeing its speed of spread across countries, declared it as a pandemic. As the virus started to spread, countries across the globe started taking several measures to prevent the spreading of coronavirus, ranging from complete to partial lockdown, testing, strengthening health care facilities and so on. In India, on March 24, 2020, the prime minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population as a preventive measure against the pandemic. On 14th April, PM extended the lockdown until 3rd May. On May 1st, PM extended the lockdown further for 2 weeks. We are currently in Lockdown 4.0, till 31stst May 2020.

The lockdown has had varied impact on people. While some adapted to it fairly well, and invested this time with their families, working from home, reading, writing, binge watching their favourite shows and doing what they usually missed on a regular basis. Some have found it tough, getting bored with monotony, getting anxious over the spread of virus, fear of loss of jobs, missing social activity. For the economy, this has been a huge blow. Companies across sectors have suffered, with business activity coming to a stand still.

The current situation, as it stands, is that there is still no cure for the virus. If the lockdown continues, the country would have to battle with both the virus and economic distress. Hence, the government is gradually relaxing the lockdown. For instance domestic air travel has started, albeit with restrictions. Offices have been opened, with reduced staff, and lesser number of days from office. Delivery has restarted. So while there might be a semblance of normalcy that people might be seeing, the number of cases continue to rise, and there is no other recourse but to learn to co-exist with the virus till a vaccine is found.

Governments, workplaces, schools/ colleges, health centres, religious places, malls, etc at individual levels should come up with well-designed guidelines for social distancing and hygiene norms, including testing at entry and exit. Government should keep in mind the high probability of increased cases once people are allowed to interact more freely, and hence bolster health care facilities.

We as responsible citizens need to take care of ourselves, our families, or domestic health, and teams. We should be fanatical about following safety norms and social distancing, continue to wear masks and wash our hands at regular intervals. For some time, we cannot go on vacations, we cannot go for or host huge parties. Our safety lies in prevention and prevention is possible when we are mindful of social distancing at all times. Exiting the lockdown doesn’t mean going back to business-as-usual.

A well articulated and comprehensive exit strategy needs to be implemented, which should focus on individuals and organisations. Atmanirbhar Bharat package has been announced, with fiscal support released in five tranches.

Exit plan to revoke lockdown:

·     Organizations across the country must ensure that the workforce adheres to the guidelines issued by the government. Organizations should encourage employees to work from home as much as they can and even if they want to continue with their businesses traditionally, they should call as less employees as they can and rest should work remotely. Only the employees, who can’t add to the business of the organization while working from home should be encouraged to work from office.

·     An advisory containing the guidelines to be followed, should be emailed to all the employees in an organization, and reinforced communication should become a part of daily routine.

·     Each employee should be tested before entering and exiting office.

·     Alcohol based hand sanitizers must be made available to staff.

·     Seating arrangements to be modified keeping in mind norms of social distancing.

·     People must commute by their own cars or bikes, which means they must avoid car-pooling.

·     For public transport, passengers need to follow social distancing, wear masks, and carry their own hand sanitisers,

·     Air travel and trains- On board pantry services should not be resumed.

·     Lavatories must be regularly cleaned and sanitized across transport and public places.

Economic activities needs to resume, except in coronavirus containment zones, albeit in a planned and cautious manner. And, each one of us has a role to play. If all of us follow the rules, we will help restrict the virus and rebuild the economy.

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Induction of Summer Trainees

It was a pleasure to induct our first batch of summer trainees to Marching Sheep today. Welcome  @ Arna Bairagi @Suman Das from Indian Institute of Management, Ranchi @Ridhima Mahajan from @IMI Kolkata to the tribe. We at Marching Sheep are using this time to strengthen our portfolio, make it relevant to the new reality and strengthen our team. COVID 19 cannot stop us now!

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Employee Engagement Activities For Remote Working Situations

Remote working will be an upward trend for times to come. While the current Corona outbreak might have pushed many organisations to embrace work from home as a response to the situation, the fact is – with technology making the world a smaller place, remote working will be the way to move forward.

While remote working has several benefits (like – reduced overhead costs of office space and travel), it also poses certain challenges. Remote working by almost complete workforce for extended durations, as is demanded by the present pandemic situation, isn’t something many of the organisations are geared up for.

Even with jobs where physical presence of employees can be done away with for the accomplishment of the required tasks, remote working does have certain pertinent issues that need to be addressed – the major ones being of accountability, employee engagement and experience.

Employee engagement happens to be an important part of an organisational culture of any progressive company. Engagement is based on the evidence of trust between the employees and the organization, where promises and commitments are understood and fulfilled from both sides. Being and feeling that you are a part of the team with clear goals, strong & authentic values, and a supportive environment helps employees know that you are valued. Employee engagement helps drive talent retention within the organization and instils a sense of belonging in the employees thereby enhancing their motivation levels and productivity.

If we view the current situation as an opportunity to learn and adapt, one thing that organisations need to look at is how to provide a superior employee experience while working remotely, keep them engaged and motivated.

Employee Health and wellness

In remote working situations, most organisations use an online attendance system wherein each employee is required to login at specified time. Alongside the attendance, it is equally important to keep a track of the health status of the employees along with their families, not just in the present pandemic situation, but on an ongoing basis. Having a well articulated health and wellness strategy, policies, practices and interventions as part of the overall HR strategy will give a sense of being cared for to the employees.

Team Rituals

While working remotely for extended durations, your employees may feel disconnected sometimes.Creating unique rituals and traditions helps remote teams to bond in the virtual space and also helps in keeping the company culture strong. For example – having Friday after-work drinks at respective places over a video chat, keeping a separate chat for cute pet pictures, sharing the fun fact of the day. For instance, several managers are connecting with their entire teams over zoom calls once a day. This is not just to take stock of work, but to bond as individuals. Individual needs are being addressed, and people are coming closer not just as colleagues but as human beings.

Online games

Have a quick break while playing Charades or Pictionary online with your remote team. A little competition and distraction from routine aid greatly in building a strongly-connected team. Just like we have a recreation corner/ break-out zones in offices, creating an online fun space once a week, may be on a Friday, might help keeping those engagement and bonding levels up.

Virtual challenges and competitions

Another great way to motivate your remote employees is to organize some sort of virtual competition with a small incentive. Hold a photo contest, a trivia quiz, even a sports competition and see how much fun it can be. The organisational values and behaviours can be woven into the reward and recognition process, and weekly/ monthly recognition of the right behaviours will keep the team engaged, and the organisation culture and values alive. For instance – a client organisation is running a virtual campaign during this period wherein each value is focussed on each week, and employees are sharing stories around those values.

Watercooler chat

Informal communications at workplace help employees to familiarize themselves with other team members and shift from 9-to-5 mindset, whereas online work is something limited to the duties and work hours only. Every remote team is a small community that should promote socializing and human interactions just as much as efficiency and productivity. By creating a “watercooler” chat process, encouraging team members to connect over coffee one-on-one with members within the team, or cross functionally, will help strengthen bonds and relationships.

Online Learning Interventions

There are many types of skills and knowledge acquisition that can be undertaken through online learning interventions and training programs. This can be effectively used to up-skill your employees along their existing line of work as well as for learning soft skills. New learnings are also a great tool to keep the employees motivated and gainfully busy. This is an ideal time for organisations to launch zoom learning, coaching and online programs for employees to learn and grow.

This lockdown situation can be used as a perfect opportunity to have autonomy over work-life balance and tap into different new learning opportunities without missing out on the main job. Employee engagement starts with trust and communication between the company and its people. A well-planned and effective engagement plan during remote working situation can help to keep employees productive, loyal and happy with the organisation, which will greatly benefit the company growth and business success.

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Identifying and Dealing with Triggers of Stress

The current spread of corona virus and its repercussions on organisations, the economy at large and on each one of us individually influences how we are responding to the situation, both physically and emotionally. It is imperative that we closely monitor our mental and emotional well-being, understand our stress triggers and deal with them constructively so that we emerge from this crisis strong. In this article, we have tried to break down the issue of stress so that each one of us can deal with it in our own ways.

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s response to any challenging or demanding situation -actual or apparent. Any type of challenge whether it is related to work, completing certain tasks within specified time, a significant life change or facing any tough, adverse circumstances can cause stress. Even events like getting married, receiving a promotion (and hence dealing with increased responsibilities) could cause some amount of stress!

Stress is different for everyone. What stresses me out may not even bother you or vice versa.  May be because some of us are better able to manage stress than others; or may be because we are better attuned to dealing some situations while others might overwhelm us.

It would also be right to demystify the myth, that stress is always a bad thing to happen. In small doses, stress can do good. All of us are equipped mentally and physically to handle some measure of stress. It challenges us to stay alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. It can give us the push we need, persuading us to do our best.  But we need to be watchful, when it gets too tough and demands in personal and professional life exceeds our ability to cope. That is when it starts impacting our physical and emotional wellbeing.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress is a part of our lives and can impact us in many ways. It may be impossible to stop it from impacting us, but the best we can do is manage it better. The first step to doing so would be identifying its symptoms. But recognizing these symptoms can be harder than we think.

People handle stress differently, hence its symptoms also may vary. Symptoms could be implicit or same as those caused by a medical condition. They could either be physical, emotional, behavioural or cognitive.

Most common physical symptoms of stress include fatigue, lethargy, headaches, insomnia, low energy, frequent colds or infections etc.

Feeling overwhelmed, becoming easily agitated, frustrated, irritability and moodiness could be emotional symptoms of stress.

Behavioural Symptoms could be changes in appetite, exhibiting nervous behaviours like nail biting, fidgeting, procrastinating, social withdrawal.

Cognitive Symptoms are the most difficult to identify which include concentration lapses, forgetfulness, constant worrying, being pessimistic to name a few.

It is important to be aware of these common warning signs. This can prevent stress overload. Else, ongoing stress, if not addressed on time can cause or aggravate serious health issues like mental health problems – depression, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases – heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, skin and hair problems etc.

What are the triggers of stress linked to work?

Since stress is a very personalised phenomenon, a stress trigger could be an event, stimulus that causes stress and could be different for all of us. Numerous surveys and studies confirm that workplace pressures and fears are a leading source of stress and has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. Some of the potential sources of workplace stressors include:

Basic to the job – which include long hours, work overload, time pressure, difficult or complex tasks, lack of breaks, lack of variety, lack of adequate resources and poor working conditions (light, spacing, temperature etc). Given the current lockdown situation, some people might be facing issues in delivering on the basics. In certain cases, like in manufacturing or sales field jobs, there might be a complete stand still. For those who can work from home, handling of household chores and distractions might be leading to stress.

Job Content – Unclear /ambiguous work, conflicting roles and responsibilities, vague organizational boundaries and responsibilities for others can cause stress. In the absence of regular meetings and face to face interactions, this could possibly aggravate and be an area of concern.

Career Development – Lack of opportunities for job development, lack of growth opportunities/promotions, lack of training, and job insecurity is a major reason for stress at work. The current situation which has been impacting the economy, growth of organisations and in some cases business continuity will impact employee careers.

Relationship at work – It includes poor relations with superiors, team and subordinates create an environment which is critical, demanding and unsupportive. At times even leads to discrimination, bullying and harassment which creates stress. On the contrary, a positive social dimension of work can reduce it to a large extent. In remote working situations, lack of managerial empathy, connect can be extremely stressful.

Organization Culture – The organizational structure and climate where there is little or no participation in decision making, influenced by office politics, no stability, frequent changes like restructuring, mergers relocations etc are major contributors to workplace stress. The current situation’s financial impact may reflect in salary raises, pay-outs and layoffs and other drastic policy changes in many organizations leading to heightened financial stress amongst employees.

Work-related stress is a management issue

Stress is a costly affair. In the US industry it costs over $300 billion annually as a result of stress related – accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity and medical/ insurance costs.

It is important for employers to recognise work-related stress as a significant health and safety issue and take appropriate steps. Given the current crises we are in, employee mental wellbeing has become an extremely important area for organizations.

Workplace Culture – Employers need to work on creating robust relationships with managers and colleagues, employee participation, level of responsibility, authority and decision making, optimal workload, flexible working hours, and career development prospects which are key factors defining the work culture of an organization. Specially amid the rumours and speculations doing the rounds these days, organisations will need to pay extra heed to connecting with their employees, regular communication to ensure a positive culture.  Employers need to lead with empathy and enable its managers to build psychological safety in teams– conduct awareness and sensitization sessions that help them build trust, acceptance of vulnerability and failure and ability to speak up without fear.

Safe physical work environment – A healthy workplace environment involves the physical environment of the office or shop floor and the occupational health & safety of its employees. Employers can reduce the worry of its employees by looking into the safety of the workplace. In current situations, extending medical and insurance benefits to employees and their family members would be key. Once the lock down is over, having a phased plan to get people back to work, ensuring complete sanitization of the workplace, make work from home a formal policy will go a long way in creating a safe work environment.

Customised Wellbeing Solutions – The symptoms and triggers of stress could be different for every organization. Employers need to deep dive into the same by administering wellbeing surveys to recognise the specific stress triggers for its employees. Accordingly offer solutions, interventions, introduce activities and even policy changes to mitigate the stressors.

Stress is a part of life. All we can do is focus on things that are in our control and worry less for things which are out of our control. Create healthy boundaries like setting realistic deadlines, take appropriate breaks from work, prioritize, adopt healthy lifestyle practices like exercise, diet and sleep. This way we can surely prevent stress overload and manage it without impacting our heath.  Stay Positive! Stay Healthy and Safe!

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Employees are your greatest assets! Take care of them!

Coronavirus, a topic which is nearly impossible to avoid these days online, on TV or in conversations. Conferences have been canceled or postponed, travel on a stand still, social interaction zero and organizations are working hard to deploy business continuity plans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Our working lives have been challenging for a while now, dealing with generational diversity, emergence of technology, volatile economic conditions, workplace burnout and many more but the emergence of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to a massive change, more uncertainty, and new challenges for many of us.

We all are well aware about the steps that need to be taken for protecting our physical health amidst this pandemic, but what about our mental health?

Between social media’s endless stream of information and news reports of mandatory quarantines, it is very natural for people to experience concern, fear, and anxiety.

Not a new concern, but now more prevalent

Concerns about health, trust, work, finances, children, family and the uncertainty of what will happen have created a perfect storm for serious behavioral health issues in the workforce.

The March 25 survey of 88,000 people by Evidation Health found a 68% increase, in just one week, of concern about someone in the household contracting COVID-19 along with a 59% increase in anxiety levels.

In the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans reported feeling anxious at least a few days a week.

Recently WHO named burnout a workplace syndrome which costs $125 billion per year. Workforce emotional wellbeing and behavioral health were already priority challenges prior to the pandemic. Extreme stress, fear and burnout may be the precursors for long-lasting problems such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Promoting workplace mental health during this crisis

We have to understand the importance of mental health in this time of COVID-19. It is foundational to overall health and maintaining the mental health of people right now is a fundamental priority for maintaining workforce health.

As workplaces continue to grapple with the best course of action for maintaining the health, safety, and productivity of their employees, they must also consider employee’s mental health.

Strategies to support mental wellness efforts for organizations or leaders

1. Lead with empathy: When communicating business related information, start with a statement that the organization is foremost concerned about the safety and health of its employees.

When employees hear inconsistent messaging from leaders about sick leave, for example, or if some managerspressurize employees to look at P&L at this stage, and send conflicting messages about job continuity, the damage to morale, engagement, and workplace culture can be devastating.

2. Communicate with full transparency: Regular, open communication is the key. With so much uncertainty, it falls to leaders to be the calm voice of reason and reassure employees.

Create psychological safety by including both logical and empathetic statements in all communication and convey that ‘whatever happens we’ll do the best we can for you.’ Build trust, allow employees to voice their concerns and share vulnerability, give assurances that it’s ok and we are all in the same situation.

3. Consider the impact across the board: Whatever our circumstances, this outbreak is going to have an impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. Good work is great for our mental health and it’s important that we preserve the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work wherever we can. Try to share response in a way that protects the physical and mental health of staff – starting with those who are at greatest need.

4. Be flexible: One of the biggest stressors for many employees is the well-being of those they may care for. Due to the current situation we may have increased responsibilities, like child care, elderly care, household chores. Offer support for navigating these responsibilities by providing flexible timings for those zoom meetings, plan those one on one connects etc.

5. Promote access to support: You may provide access to support services through your workplace. If you have mental health champions, allies or mental health first aiders make sure they have the latest information to share with the other employees.

6. Don’t stop the social: From virtual team quizzes to conference call coffee breaks, the best way to combat loneliness during this time is to maintain connection with your colleagues. This could mean setting up one-on-ones; small team chats, or involving the whole organization, just make sure it becomes part of the weekly routine.

7. Seek opportunities for growth and development alongside crisis planning: Use this time as an opportunity for the development for your team. Engage with your team more, attend courses, engage them in developmental projects and crisis management, read or write articles and attend webinars. These practices will keep you and your team busy and also eventually promote growth and development.

Employee mental health is not only the responsibility of managers and leaders.Each individual needs to take care of themselves too. The coronavirus has unsettled the very fundamentals of our way of life and working, from CEO to intern, so we all need to keep ourselves calm and motivated. A shout out to organizations who have assured their employees of no job losses on adverse impact on employment and are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring business continuity plans and post Covid recovery plans. A word of caution to organizations that are still sending messages on profitability, cost cuts, using reduced ratings and low increments as mixed messaging. This is not the time to alienate your most important assets, your people. As I recently heard, your talent is the only asset that appreciates over time. Take care of them.

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Help build financial and emotional security in times of crisis

In a very significant move, the Prime Minister of India announced a 21 day national lockdown effective from 25th March 2020. This lockdown is to ensure effective social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the lockdown is undoubtedly essential to contain the pandemic,the impact on businesses and the economy can’t be ignored.

Amid the national lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order directing that employers should pay wages to their workers at their place of work without deduction during the period of lockdown.

The order states, “All the employees, be it in the Industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their work places, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown”

This order invokes power under section 10 (2)(l) of the Disaster Management Act 2005.

Let’s understand more about the provisions under this act:

1. In addition, Ministry of Labour& Employment, Government of India vide its letter dated 20.03.2020 has advised all the employers of Public / Private Establishments not to terminate their employees, particularly casual or contractual workers from job or reduce their wages.

2. If any worker takes leave, he should be deemed to be on duty without any consequential deduction in wages for this period.

3. Based on various advisories and orders issued by Central Government/ State Governments, the scope of payment of wages shall extend to regular, casual and contractual workers.

4. As per the MHA order, the wages are to be paid on the due date.

5. The employees can be encouraged to utilize their accrued annual / privilege. Availing leave is an employee’s prerogative and the employers cannot compel them to adjust accrued annualleave.

We all know that it is a difficult situation, but it is difficult for all. It is during times of crisis that we see true employers of choice emerging, Responsible corporate citizens who stand by their employees financially and emotionally.

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Transitioning to remote working during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has pushedall organizations to adopt ‘working from home’. What used to be a choice or discretionary, or a ‘once ina while option’, is now part of our daily life for some time to come.

It is new, it’s achange, and can be uncomfortable. For those who are not used to working from home, distractions, lack of normal ‘working space’, ‘professional environment’, lack of resources that one takes for granted in an office space, like IT support, printer etc, can disrupt one’s working rhythm and productivity.

We at Marching Sheep transitioned to ‘work from home’ nearly 10 days back. With some simple processes in place, we as a team have ensured that we continue our pace of work.

Here are somethings we have done-

1.     Aligning family and friends: As we are in our personal environment, and not in our usual professional environment,there will be several instances of disturbances like family or neighbors peeping in, children wanting to spend time with you, some domestic chore that needs attention, which eventually makes one lose train of thought. Creating a workspace and aligning people around you that your office timings are sacrosanct, and you cannot be disturbed during these hours can be a start.

2.     Create a workspace that works: Creating an effective and consistent workspace is essential if you want to stay on track and get things done. Make your space a stress-free zone of quiet and solitude where you can concentrate. Also, your work should not intrude into the lives of other household members. It’s almost impossible to work effectively at home if there are other people nearby. So, be sure to have a place to go where you can shut the door on potential distractions.

3.     Stay focused on daily and weekly deliverables– as a team, we have re-aligned our goals. While most of our clients are also on work from home, there are several developmental activities that we are focusing on. We are focusing on how we can help clients tide over this uncertain, ambiguous period. We take every day at a time and ensure we complete our tasks as scheduled.

4.     Regular Monitoring and evolving– while we have our daily and weekly deliverables, monitoring our progress and evolving our task lists to meet the needs of an evolving environment ensures we stay relevant.

5.     Manage your time: Effective time management is essential if you want to continue hitting your deadlines when you’re working from home. Organize and prioritize key tasks with a To-Do List . This will help you to avoid procrastinating , or losing focus by ‘switch-tasking’ and add an extra layer of structure to your day.

6.     Managing Break times– Use the lunch break, tea/ coffee time to connect with those at home. They too are going through the change and spending that time with you will both comfort and pacify them.

7.     Leverage your social media: Social media is of utmost importance for any business. And now in this condition of outbreak, it has become a necessity. One should always try to be active on your professional social media like Linkedin so that visibility and relevance is maintained. At the same time, be cautious of fake posts and those that create and spread panic. All steps are being taken to deal with the situation. We all need to be responsible and take our own precautions.

8.     Motivate your team: There is possibility of employees getting demotivated or losing interest at this crucial time.As an organization it’s your responsibility to help them manage this situation and eventually overcoming it. Stay connected with your team as much as possible. We at Marching Sheep, do this by a having a con call with team every evening to discuss updates and also how we all are coping with this situation. It’s not always about work but building the comfort and psychological safety that we are together in this as a team.

9.     Embrace technology– Zoom meetings, skype, conference calls, google hangouts are great tools to leverage at this time and plan to run effective meetings using these tools. Plan your agenda, share with the participants in advance, share clear expectations so that meetings do not over run, but are productive and meaningful.

What is important to note for employers at this stage that this is not a work from home in normal times. Families with both spouses/ partners working, and a lockdown impacting the availability of domestic help, schools being shut, is adding the burden of domestic chores and childcare. Allowing for flexibility, allowing for time off to help your employees take care of their familial and domestic responsibilities will emotionally and psychologically support the employees. It will make them happier, focused and more productive when they are working.

Working from home can be challenging but if handled effectively and mindfully, it can be fruitful and productive.Without the proper checks and balances in place, it can just as easily lead to feelings of isolation and lack of motivation.Keep the lines of communication open between team members to manage working in a virtual team. Nothing stays forever, this too shall pass. So, let’s learn a thing or two from this phase of life, and emerge the better for it!

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Bespoke Learning at Workplaces- An Evolving Concept!

In the current constantly evolving economic scenario, with multi-generational workforce, changing workforce requirements, changing organisational priorities and strategy, it is imperative that learning and development keep pace with the changes to be able to ensure an optimally skilled, motivated and aligned workforce. There are two kinds of learning programmes that can be chosen from:

  • Off-the-shelf courses (generic): Off-the-shelf courses are ready to use.
  • Bespoke (also known as custom) courses: Bespoke or custom courses, as the name suggests, are specifically designed or tailor-made to meet the specific learning needs of an organization/department.

Off-the-shelf courses can be deployed quickly, whereas bespoke courses will need longer time to develop and deploy. It is important to understand that today’s workforce no longer responds to traditional training methods and if they do not find the interventions relevant, it is a wasted cost.While bespoke courses, curated and contextualised to organisational and participant needs, might seem more time consuming and expensive, are custom made to meet the needs of the participant group and can truly help move the needle.

How Does Bespoke Learning Fare Against Off-the-shelf Courses? 

Off-the-shelf courses are quicker to deploy, but have certain inherent shortcomings. Often a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to learning doesn’t work, and something more authentic is needed to get better results. Bespoke learning provides an opportunity for L&D leaders to really innovate and inspire learners by offering a more personalised learning solution. They let you tell stories through the eyes of your people, use your work environments, and test competence through engaging, real-life scenarios. The advantages accrued out of bespoke approach are listed as below:

  1. The courses are developed as per your needs. They feature your scenarios, problems and imagery and this helps learners relate and connect better to the learning piece.
  2. The content is specific to you and your learners. It is presented in a form that will engage them and ensures the required learning mandate is met.
  3. The learning experience is customized to your culture and factors for your learners’ preferences, and is tailor-made to meet your learning and business mandates.
  4. The Assessment strategy is customized and aligns effectively to your learning and business mandates.
  5. You can also decide on supplementing your primary learning with Performance Support interventions that can lead to better application of the learning on the job. This will have a significant impact on the ROI of the learning.

We at Marching Sheep believe and specialize in conceptualizing, creating and delivering Bespoke Learning Interventions which are well aligned with the overall mandate, culture and goals of an organization, leading to a holistic & effective learning experience for the employees and enhanced performance & growth for the organization.

It’s all about putting the right things at the right place; the results will happen!

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We are in unprecedented time with no rule book to refer to. Here are some top of mind thoughts that can help businesses tide over this period.

We are all in an unprecedented situation with no rule book to refer to. The corona virus has hit us all, globally, with far reaching impact on individuals, small scale and large organizations alike, the economy at large. The current quasi lock down, with ban on social gatherings, schools, malls, cinema halls being shut down in different states, offices being shut down, work from home being advocated, individuals and families self-isolating to prevent spread of infection, are all good measures to prevent the situation from taking pandemic proportions in India.

At the same time, it is posing problems for businesses. How do we maintain business and work continuity in such situations? How do we manage, motivate and drive remote teams? How do we conduct events, that we normally do at the beginning or end of the year? How do we conduct performance appraisals and difficult conversations over a call? How do we complete selection processes? How do we ensure that employees continue to feel engaged with the organization?

These are all very valid questions and need to be addressed NOW. So that when things get back to normal, your workforce comes back stronger, charged to take on those stretch targets and assignments, which will come because the industry would have lost a month/ month and half of business. All companies will have to catchup, and now is the time to help build that engagement and resilience in the teams.

So, what do we do?

1.     Business processes that need to be tweaked to ensure remote working succeeds. Review your way of working, process flows etc and ensure people are enabled to do their job.

2.     Build managerial capability to keep employees engaged through this period. Instill simple processes, daily/ weekly reviews, skip level calls to ensure employees and their families are well.

3.     Stretch your leave/ medical policy to extend support to those who need it. Ensure Insurance companies and TPAs are engaged and spoken to respond quickly in times of emergency.

4.     Engage employees in new learning projects. Develop something new, new ideas, new processes.

5.     Continue bite sized learnings through online programs/ zoom sessions and webinars. At this time webinars on how to work remotely, manage self and others, psychological safety, managing stress and crisis will make sense and signal to your workforce that you care.

6.     Ongoing communication from Leaders- over zoom call/ emailers to keep employees engaged with what’s happening in the organization at a business and employee health and well-being level.

7.     Build Empathy- This is new to all of us and each individual, whether a leader, manager or an individual contributor would be dealing with some issue or the other. Build empathy is your conversations. Listen to what the other is saying and be there to help.

Let’s all remember, this too shall pass. And we shall emerge stronger, braver and more resilient. We just need to work together on building a strong, engaged and resilient workforce.

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Workplace Burnout, the new occupational hazard and how to cope with it

Ankita has been a star employee in her organisation but from the last few months, there has been a shift in her behaviour.She is late for work on a regular basis. Her enthusiasm has waned, and productivity has dropped. She is shying away from responsibilities and has frequent arguments with co-workers. Her manager is both concerned about her loss of productivity, as well as impact on overall team morale and ethos.

Such cases are not uncommon in organizations. The instances where otherwise high performing employees suddenly demonstrate a dip in their productivity, and commitment should be warning bells for managers and organizations.

Is this a problem with the employee(s)? Or there are other factors influencing their behavior? Are they feeling overwhelmed or underappreciated? Are they seeing value in the work they do? Do they feel supported? Are they going through some emotional or mental trauma, or fatigue, that need to be addressed.

Some Data & Facts

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized burnout as a mental condition stemming from chronic workforce stress.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.

year-long study conducted by the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management found that Fortune 500 workers who were offered flexible scheduling felt more in control of their lives, more supported by their bosses, and more content with the amount of time they spent with their families. They also reported greater job satisfaction, less burnout, and a decrease in psychological distress.2019 State of Remote Work Report found that remote workers were 40 percent more likely to have been promoted in the past year than their in-office peers, and 27 percent more likely to feel they had growth opportunities.

Understanding Workplace Burnout

Burnout is an individual’s response to ongoing and chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors around them.

It doesn’t simply result from working too many hours in a high-demand environment. Rather, it is a multidimensional response with many complex causes.

There are three dimensions to the Burnout:

1. Exhaustion: Exhaustion results from the depletion of emotional resources to cope with the ongoing work and personal demands. This is the stressed out, overwhelmed employee.

2. Cynicism: Cynicism is an individual’s distant attitude toward the job. This is the disgruntled employee.

3. Inefficacy: Inefficacy is a reduction in personal accomplishment. This is the stressed out employee who has developed a cynical attitude and has given up trying.

Common causes of Burnout:

1. Extensive Job or personal demands that the individual might find overwhelming

2. Role Conflict& Ambiguity

3. Lack of Appropriate Resources to deal with demands

4. Lack of Social, organisational or family Support

5. Lack of Feedback/Rewards

6. Little Participation in Decision Making

Signs of Burnout in the Workplace

Burnout not only affects the employee’s performance, but impacts the performance of the team and work environment. Below are some effects of burnout in the workplace:

·        Unexplained absences from work

·        Showing up to work late/leaving early

·        Decrease in productivity

·        Apparent frustration

·        Decline in physical health

·        Lack of enthusiasm

·        Isolation

·        Frequent interpersonal conflict

How Manager / Organisations can prevent or deal with workplace burnout

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for helping your employees deal with burnout. Sending them off on vacation will not make the problem go away upon their return. A real change needs to be made to their work, their work environment, and their emotional state.

Below are some tips to manage workplace burnout:

1. Offer remote work opportunities: One of the most effective and widely-studied ways to improve employee well-being is to offer remote flexibility. It’s not hard to understand why remote options are such a coveted benefit, commuting has been shown to negatively impact mental health and overall life satisfaction.

Working from home eliminates this stress and gives employees complete control over their work environment, such as location, clothing choice, and potential distractions. Working from home also saves money, time, and other valuable resources, often providing employees the freedom to pursue endeavors that promote overall well-being.

2. Encourage real weekends and holidays: Burnout happens when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest, focus on other aspects of life and recharge. This is why it’s so important for leaders to create an environment where taking time off is not only allowed but championed.

3.Flexible scheduling options: In a flexible environment, your team may still need to come into the office, but schedules are more customizable. While flexible scheduling doesn’t have the same allure as telecommuting, it can still dramatically reduce burnout and job-related stress.

4.Recognize, Reward & Promote: Recognizing employees’ hard work and contribution goes a long way in making them feel valued.Each employee’s contribution to the company should be acknowledged. Reward excellent performances with recognition and awards.

5. Clarify Expectations and Job Requirements: Another common reason that employees experience workplace burnout is because it is unclear what they should be doing. Perhaps their tasks are vague, or perhaps they get instructions and feedback from multiple superiors. Regardless, it is the manager’s job to make sure they know their precise role. Otherwise, money and time are wasted, and frustrations will continue to grow.

6.Encourage Stress Relievers: In addition to directly motivating your employees, encourage them to rejuvenate by allowing stress relievers: Let them listen to music while they work, flex their work hours, create a friendly work environment where people can speak up and engage. This will help your employees enjoy their time at work, while also demonstrating that you care about their well-being.

7.  Encourage Socializing: A moderate amount of socialization is optimal for team bonding to occur. Encourage employees to freely socialize on breaks, at lunch, or after work.

8.Educate Employees on Burnout: Provide information about burnout and how employees can prevent it. It should not be a “Taboo” topic to be pushed under the carpet. Instead, it should be addressed openly, and employees to be made aware that the organization is there to support them should they start to feel early signs. Hold awareness sessions where employees can be made aware of early symptoms, causes and manifestation, where they can ask relevant questions and get answers.

Burnout is a common phenomenon that no one is immune to.In today’s VUCA environment, it is even more of a threat to organizational morale, satisfaction scores and productivity than ever. Keeping Employee Health and Wellness as a priority will go a long way for organizations to build a strong, resilient and dependable work force, which will be the ultimate competitive edge an organization can have.

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