Marching Sheep, under the leadership of our Founder and Managing Partner – Sonica Aron, has emerged as a thought provoking, leading HR firm in the country and among the Top 10 HR Consulting Firms in Delhi/NCR. Specialists in the frame of Diversity and Inclusion, we have also carved our niche in HR Consulting practice for SME & MSME sector, and building emotional resilience and psychological safety in the workforce during COVID pandemic. Recently, Silicon India published an article on Marching Sheep, calling us trendsetters offering a wide range of holistic services – D&I Strategy and Implementation, Strategic HR Consulting, Leadership & Talent Development, Emotional Health and Wellness Portfolio. At Marching Sheep, we believe that we all have a role to play and do our bit towards the community and industry, and we continue to do so and we March forward with resilience and grit!
Let’s unite and tap into the potential of collective strength to triumph over the current turbulent times & emerge stronger & better as we move ahead.
“This Independence Day, let us free ourselves from all shackles. Let’s unite and tap into the potential of collective strength to triumph over the current turbulent times and emerge stronger and better as people, professionals and society.”
We will be celebrating Independence Day on 15th of August that marks the end of 190-year-long British rule in India. In 1947, India was declared as a free country on this day. In 2020, India will complete 73 years as an independent nation.
Independence Day is one of those significant days in Indian history that reminds us of the bravery of our freedom fighters. With buildings illuminated and tricolour proudly adorned on top of buildings and caps. People pay homage to our leaders and great fighters who fought and gave up their lives for India’s freedom “Our Freedom”.
This year again we seek freedom but not from foreign rulers, but from an unknown enemy that has caught us all in waves of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, stereotypes and biases.
It’s time to pause and reflect with a heart full of gratitude and remember the strife, struggles and the sacrifice of the countless brave hearts. It is because of them, we continue today to live with hope and optimism of a better tomorrow and a brighter future.
Today stands as an opportunity for us to unite and fight with renewed spirits. To break away from Active Inertia of our past patterns that have held us back from triumphing over the current turbulent times. Our shackles have marked the lives of people, society and economy with fear and conflict.
“So even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I have a dream…,” said Martin Luther King
Let us together take charge of our dream for a brighter tomorrow with freedom from…
1. Freedom from Fear
“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” –Mahatma Gandhi
It is natural to feel anxious and fearful when the journey ahead is unknown. We have long forgotten how to empower ourselves as well as people around us when hit by uncertainty. Presently we are gripped by the ‘virus of fear’ rather than the deadly virus itself, it has paralyzed the world. As we all brace and prepare ourselves for exiting the lockdown, the path towards healing and recovery journey will be more of a reflection, discovery and evolution. But this wouldn’t be possible without courage, clarity, patience and persistence.
2. Freedom from Bias (‘INCLUSION’ can make way for a united front)
Humanity is battling an invisible enemy that is COVID-19. We believe in order to combat the situation there is a need to recognize our inherent biases that can cripple our efforts. These are errors of judgement in thinking that affect our decisions and course of action. Some have advocated weeding out these biases that we succumb to unconsciously. Therefore, another aspect that needs to be considered is Inclusion. We have witnessed that the challenges presented by the pandemic need the united effort of the people towards the journey of healing and recovery as we move forward. As the impact of our decisions and course of action today will impact a collective than a selected few.
3. Freedom from Insecurity (Attitude & change behaviour to adapt and thrive)
The world has changed we have moved from VUCA to VUCA 2.0 today, yet the way we operate needs to evolve, there is a need to appreciate, communicate and have a strong network of individuals to end insecurity. Let’s not forget our attitudes and behaviour causes a ripple effect on people around us. It is important for us to take responsibility of ourselves and people around us as well.
4. Unshackle Yourself (Building a learning muscle is crucial to reinvent, adapt, progress and grow)
The ongoing pandemic is a global phenomenon which hasn’t left any aspect of life within its sphere untouched. Some view it as a challenge of a lifetime, while some look at it as an opportunity. It really depends on how one chooses to perceive and respond to the scenario – ‘you can either see the glass half empty or half full, or even better, look at it as space with scope to reorganise’. Innovation and reinvention can only be achieved with the attitude of learning, unlearning and relearning.
5. Building a Stronger and Resilient Society (A way to seek meaning and look at the bigger picture in times of crises)
Systemic action is a necessity for sustainable and resilient economic and social recovery. In order to achieve this, there is a need to invest in building not only the strong but also the vulnerable section of our society. Most important is nudging a long-term change in behaviours and attitudes of individuals by through empowerment, inspiration and modelling values that demonstrate resiliency and adaptability.
Let us not forget there are a few who have demonstrated the above. Some lost and some yet fighting, reminds us of the undying power of the human spirit, valour and courage.
The venerable leaders of newly Independent India charted a path that did not perceive independence only in terms of transfer of political power, but rather considered it a stepping stone in the long term and the larger process of nation-building. Their objective was to improve the quality of life of each individual and the wellbeing of society as a whole. Even today, this intention still holds its relevance.
As we celebrate our 73rd year as an independent nation, we are indeed at a crucial juncture. A juncture that heralds the era of the implementation of resilient efforts towards social and economic recovery with sustainable development; a plan which reflects the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of our people and which sets out the strategic objectives required to address some of the major emerging challenges of current times.
Perhaps the most important among these cross-cutting issues that will touch every citizen alike are – health care, education, and infrastructure, crimes against our humanity and unemployment or underemployment. Although we may share different political and religious beliefs and value systems, these areas touch the very core of who we are as a people and therefore, if our underlying goal is the progress of this nation, we will share a collective outlook.
May this year be a year of breakthrough for all us!
This pandemic might have impacted the society globally, but this crisis has been disproportionately harder on women than men. Whether it is economically, physically or mentally, women have been the most vulnerable to its impact.
Women are on the front lines of the fight against the virus, making up 70% of global healthcare workers and as much as 95% of long-term care workers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). They are not only putting their lives at risk, but also make up majority of employees that have been exposed to the risk of losing jobs due to lockdowns across countries.
Worst hit industries have high women representation
The economic dip caused by the virus is not like the past recessions we have witnessed, The worst hit sectors this time are hospitality, retail, travel and leisure where women make up a large share of the workforce with high female employment rates. Also, the type of roles women hold in these industries are more customer centric and a major reason for the disproportionate rate at which women are losing jobs compared to men. As per a new Citigroup report more than 220 million women globally are in these vulnerable sectors. They expect 31 million to lose their jobs, as opposed to 13 million men. Another report by Business Insider suggests , 60% of the Americans laid off in the past two months have been women. Most of the jobs were in the travel and hospitality industries, as restaurants, hotels and airlines were largely shut. On the other hand, Technical jobs, where male workers are higher in proportion, were easily moved to work-from-home positions, and job losses have been less extensive there.
Work from Home is not the same for Men and Women
Since women are considered primary caregivers and domestic workers not coming, they have been relegated to unending household chores because everyone is at home all the time. Women are managing childcare with children out-of-school and care needs of older persons with overwhelmed health services even though both are working from home. The latest report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) points out how women are taking on a far bigger share than men of housework, caring for elderly relatives or children, and even home schooling. And that is over and above a full-time job in most of the cases. This has been adversely impacting women in terms of:
- Employability – the current situation is impacting their availability to pick up extra assignments/projects at work, reducing their flexibility when employers are trying to find reasons for asking employees to leave, might need to cut their working hours or take frequent leaves. All these factors would be detrimental to their current employment and even future employment prospects.
- Mental Well being –Women already shouldered the household responsibilities before the pandemic, Now, physical, and emotional demands of family members are soaring post the pandemic and so is depression and anxiety amongst women. Boundaries are blurring between home and office post the pandemic which has disproportionately affected women’s well being. A major study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found young women are faring worst as compared to men – with the overall mental health of women aged between 16 and 24 found to be 11 per cent worse than before the crisis.
Increase in Domestic Violence
Due to forced proximity, lack of mobility and no access to public spaces during lockdown across countries, domestic violence has increased worldwide. During the first months of the COVID-19-related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years. In response to the alarming incidence of gender-based violence during the pandemic, the UN is encouraging governments to treat legal, medical and related responses to domestic violence as emergency services.
Unpaid Work during Pandemic
This calamity has made the fact evident that maintenance of daily lives across economies is built on the invisible and unpaid labour of women. With school closures, increased hygiene requirements at home, elderly care and household chores, unpaid work by women has intensified exponentially over the last 4-5 months. But it still remains unaccounted for, in the global economic response. Unpaid care work has long been identified as a major reason for gender inequality and with the crisis at hand, it has exacerbated the already existing gaps in income, education opportunities, and their impact on health of women.
Clearly, this pandemic is having serious impact on the economic prospects of women. Talking about India, 94% of the women who are counted as being in the workforce remain concentrated in the informal sector. In sectors apart from agriculture, women are usually working as domestic workers, construction laborers, garment factory workers, beauty, salon and spa services providers etc. With the lockdown everything came to an abrupt halt and as it is being eased, the overall slowdown in economic activity is not a positive for women employment. In fact, some leading economist are calling the current crisis as “she-cession” instead of recession leading to reinforcement of many already existing gender inequalities in the society.
These are all points to ponder on. We cannot heal and recover unless we heal as a whole. Excessive negative impact on any part of the society, will take years to undo. This is an opportunity to rethink gender norms, start afresh and root out gender biases from the society and workplaces. Policy makers and corporate leaders need to recognize these inequalities, address them by building a robust gender inclusive policy and economic response and help women navigate through this pandemic. This is the time for organizations to strengthen their Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Ensure equity while making hiring or lay off decisions, offering inclusive policies and benefits with focus on offsetting the repercussions this pandemic has had on women.
These are unprecedented times and all of us have found ourselves in a situation that invokes fear- fear of personal health, fear of job loss, pay cuts, fear of long term career growth and so on. We hear about spread of COVID-19 from all over the world every day, through television, social media, newspapers, family, friends and other sources.
Covid-19 pandemic has not had just a physical impact, but a larger socio-economic impact,and it exacts a psychological toll as well; one that requires tending to. The most common emotion faced by everyone today is “Fear”. As we approach our 73rd independence day, we at Marching Sheep are talking about “Freedom from fear”. Feeling fearful is normal, but living with fear is not.
The scale of the issue
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 7.5 percent of Indians suffers from some form of mental health problem. However, the prevalence rate is said to be much more since many cases do not surface due to fear of social shame.
Further, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) — an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare — has indicated in its report that nearly 150 million individuals need active psychological intervention.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau of 2015, India’s suicide rate is as high as 10.6 per 100,000 people. While issues like dowry harassment, abuse, broken marriages, and poverty were a few reasons for such deaths, it also pointed out that a large share (one-sixth) of it was attributed to mental health ailments.
Fear and anxiety are some of common root problems behind current emotional and mental turmoil. If not attended to, the negative emotional impact is going to be far greater than the physical impact of the pandemic.
Understanding the fears
The current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, and of course, physical and mental health.
There are certain triggers to stress in this crisis like Job uncertainty, Disruption in daily routine, Salary cuts, Lack of control over the situation, Family members stranded at different location, Conflicts in family due to finances and routines.
1. Fear of getting the infection – This fear is on top of everybody’s mind nowadays. Even if you and your family are safe and home, nobody is stepping outside still this fear of getting infected with the virus is there. Many of us fear becoming ill with the virus or passing infection on to loved ones, as the risk increases when people interact. Also the fear of social distancing is leading to anxiety related to separation from loved ones.
2. Fear of Uncertainty and the unknown– There is uncertainty all around us. Nobody knows when all of this is going to end which has created an uncertain environment which is draining everybody emotionally and trapping in a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.
3. Fear of the Job loss/Employment: We all are well aware of the statistics of the employees who have been laid off or lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Worries about job losses are the highest in the country as 86 per cent being worried about losing their jobs and livelihood post-COVID-19 lockdowns. This in turn has led fear related to survival and sustenance for many.
4. Financial Fears / Financial Anxiety: With the people losing jobs and facing severe salary cuts has led to change in their way of spending money. A nationwide survey by IndiaLends, a digital lending platform threw up no surprises: 94 per cent said they would have to be extra careful about how they spend their money in the next few months; 84 per cent said they were cutting back on spending; and 90 per cent expressed concern about their savings and financial future.
Overcoming the fears
For many people, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. But there are many things one can do even in the face of this unique crisis to manage our fears.
1. Stay informed but don’t get overwhelmed– It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, to follow advised safety precautions and do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensational coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch. If it gets too much, switch off or do digital detox for a few days.
2. Control what can be controlled: There are a lot of things we can’t control and that causes fear and anxiety, but there are some things that can be managed or planed for. Having an action plan for managing things you might find difficult can help. Don’t miss on the safety precautions like washing hands regularly, staying home as much as possible, avoid gatherings and most importantly having a healthy balance between personal and professional priorities etc. Making prudent financial investments, saving the money one would have otherwise spent on holidays, commuting, weekend at the malls or movies, eating out.
3. Stay connected even when physically isolated: Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired for connection and need human connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives. Call up old friends from school and college, reconnect with ex-colleagues, reach out to all cousins, have online games and parties.
4. Occupy your mind with relaxing hobbies: Whether you play the piano, read a book, garden, paint, play a board game or meditate, all of these activities can help calm your mind and prevent you from reaching for your phone or computer and falling into a downward spiral of despair. Adopt a pet, feed a stray or whatever gives you happiness.
5. Lastly- Speak up– face your fears and articulate them. Share them with people you trust. Sharing makes the fears seem less threatening, and collective wisdom can help you overcome them remember- none of us are alone in this situation, we are together in this situation.
As an organization
1. Employee’s mental health should be your first priority in current times. Building Psychological safety in teams and emotional resilience would be instrumental in healing as a society and as an economy.
2. Foster a company culture that acknowledges employees need breaks, rest and healthy relationships to succeed in the workplace. It is ok if an employee signs off in the evening on time. It is ok if some one wants leave. Work from home is no longer a perk or a cake walk, or relaxed working from home.
3. Acknowledge WFH burnout- It’s real, It’s here. Provide a support system for employees where they can anonymously reach out and seek counselling.
4. Foster a work environment that provides all employees with support from co-workers and supervisors. Build empathetic managerial capability and communication platforms that foster trust, openness and supportive environment. All conversations cannot and should not be work related and transactional. Get to know your team members better.
5. Recognize that every employee is different and make an effort to understand employees’ preference relating to their work and work environments, way of working, way of communicating, way of maintaining personal and professional boundaries and respect choices.
6. Corporate leaders can also create clear and confidential guidelines for reporting and responding to Covid-19 cases among employees, so that employees feel safe reporting if they become sick and secure that they will have a job when they have recovered.
As a society
1. Try to help others; it will make you feel better: As a quote says “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”Those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community and even to the wider world at this time, it can also support your own mental health and well-being. There are various ways in which you can help and give back like:
a) Reach out to others in need: If you know people in your community who are isolated—particularly the elderly or disabled—you can still offer support. Perhaps an older neighbor needs help with groceries or fulfilling a prescription? You can always leave packages on their doorstep to avoid direct contact.
b) Donate: Donate to food banks, donate to an organization that’s making a difference during the pandemic. Some possibilities include hospitals and health centers or national and local charities that provide housing, financial assistance, or food. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.
c) Be a support for someone: If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumors, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these anxious times can help you feel better about your own situation too.
Just remember that we all are in this together. The uncertainty and the fears are not permanent. There will be good days and bad days, so stay optimistic. Try to look at the bright side of this situation.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Look at the opportunities you have, you can have more time if planned well; you can reflect on your strengths and areas where you need to develop further, opportunity to reconnect with near and dear ones be it virtually, and yes not to forget the cleaner environment. And like every phase in life, this too shall pass.
When you type CEO, CFO or CTO in your textbox on your iPhone, notice what comes up. It is an emoji of a man in a suit. Even seemingly innocuous things as an emoji can reinforce these gendered stereotypes and biases and demonstrate the structural sexism inherent in our society. However, most of us won’t even notice these subtle stereotypes in these emojis unless we are looking for one that represents us.
Bias is an illogical preference or prejudice. It is a tendency, inclination or prejudice toward or against something or someone. Some biases are positive and helpful – like choosing to only eat foods that are considered healthy or staying away from someone who has knowingly caused harm. But biases are often based on stereotypes, rather than actual knowledge of an individual or circumstance.
Stereotypes are characteristics imposed upon people or group of people because of their race, nationality, age, sexual orientation or any other way in which we bucketize people. These stereotypes are so well known, that in the United States of America, an average American wouldn’t hesitate if asked to identify which racial group in their country has a reputation of excelling in basketball. And, different stereotypes may also be present within the larger groups, resulting in things like gender-based stereotypes within the same race. For instance, the women of a racial group may be viewed as attractive and the men in the same racial group may be viewed as the exact opposite.
India is a diverse country with a huge population. We have a diverse cultural mix of Age, Race/Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Religious/ Spiritual Beliefs, Language, Regions and Gender. Every state, and every district within the state, and every village in that district shows a diverse side of India. While all this diversity adds a different colour to our country, it also brings a different type of Social Conditioning and stereotyping. For instance, North Indians are said to be loud and Jugadu people, who live life king-size. On the other hand, people from down south are considered to be simple and homely. And again, Mumbaikars are said to be street smart and career oriented. Are all people in North India or South India or Mumbai actually like this? Or are these some stereotypes which have been built over a period of time because of our experience with a few people of these regions? When a child is born, the child does not know whether he/she is a boy or girl and a Brahmin or Khatri. But as parents, we choose a pink coloured room and accessories for a girl child and blue coloured room and accessories for a boy child. And as we grow, we often get to hear that Girls have to be pretty, soft and quiet and Boys have to smart, confident and outspoken. Girls are the homemaker and should know the household chores while Boys are the breadwinners and have good knowledge about technology, politics and sports. These thoughts, over a period of time, lead to us talking to Girls mostly about shopping, if at all while Boys talk about the world. This is how social conditioning turns into stereotypes which in turn leads to a certain biased behaviour.
Biases are dependent not just upon the situation and backgrounds but also upon the upbringing and social conditioning. We are not born with these biases and instead develop them as we grow up. And over a period of time, this social conditioning turns into our beliefs leading to the development of biases. How we’ve been brought up, where we’ve been brought up, how we’ve been socialised, our socialisation experiences, our exposure to other social identities and social groups, who our friends are/were, as well as media influences, all affect how we think and feel about certain types of people. Most biases and stereotypes, do not come from a place of bad intent. It’s just a deep seated, unconscious belief that’s been formed in our brains through years of different influences we often had no control over.
Being insecure during current times is common and absolutely normal. But not just now, on several occasions in life don’t many of us perceive ourselves to be vulnerable in some way (could be socially, financial, professionally or personal), feel filled with self-doubt, feel short on confidence, have fear of failure, start believing that we don’t have enough to offer or are not smart enough as other people? Well, these are all forms of insecurities and it won’t be wrong to say that there isn’t a person amongst us who doesn’t have insecurities.
Is it normal to feel insecure? It is, because these are just our responses to the uncertainty of the VUCA times we are in or may be a manifestation of our beliefs we have lived with so far. But at the same time, what we need to be cognizant of is the fact that though it might be normal to feel insecure but what makes a difference is how we deal with it as it may have repercussions on our health, emotional well being and mayalso impact people around us.
What are the common insecurities we all go through?
For each one of us insecurities will be different. For some of us it may show up as social insecurity when we feel people around are always looking at us, talking about us and judging us or being excluded from a group of friends/events making it difficult to make new friends, network and socialize.
For some it could take the form of professional insecurity – fear of losing your job, denied roles and responsibilities, fear of failing to meet timelines etc. Since the lock down, many of us might be having insecurities around our work, given the state of our economy we are operating in.
Many times, professional insecurities give rise to economic insecurities. This revolves around our financial capability or even incapability. When we are financially insecure, we are afraid that we may not have a steady income or savings for our family or support a certain standard of living.
Understanding why we feel insecure will help us deal with it better
Insecurities makes us angry, anxious and negatively impacts our mental and emotional well being. Insecurities make us panic, procrastinate, keep us away from things we ought to do and has bearings on the people we live and interact with.
If we introspect, we realize that most of our insecurities are a culmination of our beliefs and thoughts which could be influenced by factors like:
· Certain life events
· Past Traumas
· Recent experiences of failure or rejection
· Having a critical people around or being a self-critic
· Comparing yourself to others
Also, there are some common cognitive errors impacting our thinking pattern and might be fueling our insecurities. Lets look at some of them:
Here, you see certain things in black or white categories. Something is either good or bad, right or wrong; there’s no room for middle ground. It makes us think of the extreme and can lead to low esteem and feeling of not being good enough. Eg: I answered one question wrong, so I’m a failure or I didn’t get a promotion so I might as well quit my job.
Overgeneralisation involves reaching a conclusion about an event and applying that conclusion across the board. It can cause you to feel hopeless and might stop you from trying to learn and grow. Eg: You may have cooked a dish badly and you conclude you are a terrible cook.
Another thought pattern which can lead to insecurities is the tendency to ignore positives and exclusively focus on negatives. Eg : If you receive feedback at work which says you’re a great team player, you have creative ideas and you could work on being more punctual, you might focus solely on the fact that you should be more punctual and ignore all the other positive feedback.
This is about taking things personally when they’re not connected to or caused by you at all. Eg: When you blame yourself for circumstances that aren’t your fault or are beyond your control.
Let us all take an inward view
There are many causes of insecurities in our lives, but what matters more is how we deal with them. We can take steps to deal with our insecurities, to push past our insecurities and dare to follow your dreams.
To deal with insecurities, we need to change our perspective, from an outward view which is based on fear where we feel everything is out to get us to an inward view which is full of possibilities, choices and purpose to emerge stronger and positive. There isn’t much we can do to fix the world we live in but changing our minds and seeing things positively is freedom from our insecurities and fears in true sense. In the moment(s) of insecurity, focusing on possibilities, forcing our mind to shift from problem to solution, brings hope and positivity. Taking action leads to positive consequences that can potentially help us reduce insecurities and boost confidence. And doing this regularly, can create a habit of fighting insecurities mindfully.
As we celebrated our Independence Day this month, I have pledged to free myself from my insecurities. And when I say “free” I mean, to deal with them positively, find my moments of joy, leverage my strengths and stay optimistic, always !
Marching Sheep recognized as one of the 25 fastest growing companies in India 2020 by Business Connect Magazine.
This is a proud moment for Team Marching Sheep. We are delighted to share that Marching Sheep has been recognized as one of the 25 fastest growing companies in India 2020 by Business Connect Magazine . We have been recognized for the admirable progress that we have made in a short span of time through our wide range of customized and high impact offerings to address the evolving needs of businesses across the nation.
In the last 7 years since our inception in 2013, from being a completely bootstrapped company, we have grown into an established HR Advisory with a rich clientele encompassing major industry players across sectors. Our solution oriented approach, a strong, well-knit team, its #commitment and #
The ongoing pandemic is a global phenomenon which hasn’t left any aspect of life within its sphere untouched. Some view it as a challenge of a lifetime, while some look at it as an opportunity. It depends on how one chooses to perceive and respond to the scenario. Here, I refer to the aspect of building a learning muscle. The current phase of social, economic and business recovery has been relying heavily on innovation and reinvention, which can only be achieved with the attitude of learning, unlearning and relearning.
“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”
When I think of learning I am reminded of the above-mentioned quote an important lesson that has influenced my approach to life.
Having said this it may sound easy but in reality, it is a learning muscle that is needed to put this into practice.
Here is my story of learnings and growth through challenges during this COVID situation:
A phase which was not just about what I wanted to learn, it was also about what the situation wanted me to learn.
After successful completion of my master’s degree, I had an offer from a large organisation and they were not in a position to honour their offer. So was practically left with no offer in hand.
In March I had also interviewed with Marching Sheep, while they had liked me but because of lack of experience, they took another candidate who had more experience. But while speaking to the Managing Partner of Marching Sheep Ms Sonica Aron regarding the interview results, she assured me that towards June – July if I am still struggling to get a job then they would be happy to have me on their team.
When I reached out to them towards the end of June, I was pleasantly surprised that Marching Sheep was ready to immediately honour the offer they had made.
LEARNING 1: What I learnt at that moment was ‘HONOURING YOUR WORD’, how important it is to build Trust and Credibility. It is not how big the organisation is but how you maintain relationships, how you build trust, credibility and keep your word.
The second phase of learning was at the time when I had joined Marching Sheep. I was told during the induction meeting that the Marching Sheep team had carved out a very challenging assignment for me. True to their word I was thrown into the deep end of the pool in the very first week and I struggled! I was too scared to reach out for help while I was struggling with multiple things and wanted to prove myself in the process was also getting disappointed.
One day I got a call from my colleague Rupali and our Managing Partner Sonica, I was essentially told that they were in the deep end of the pool with me and if I need to them hold me to take a breather that was fine and if I needed help with something fine too. But swimming in the deep end was something I had to do even though the entire team was there to help me.
LEARNING 2: Irrespective of the situation I might be in even in COVID times, when we do something there will be times when we need help. But it is only when we reach out for help and say where we are struggling, it helps break down barriers with other people. I realised at this point people are willing to help and people realise how willing we are to contribute. But unless we call out for help barriers continue to exist.
LEARNING 3: Network – Reach Out to People, Connect and Forge Relationships.
“The worst networking mistake you can make is not trying at all”
It’s never too late to start networking. The best way to develop skills is by putting yourself out there and making meaningful connections. Some connections take you a long way.
Career development is a lifelong ongoing process, in which networking is one of the key components. Influenced by experiences, ability to exchange meaningful ideas that can change the course of careers and help build strong and a trustworthy support system.
Ideally, Organizations would place more emphasis on employee development in the workplace. However, the reality is that we live in an era of the workforce, where it is on you to take control of your career development. It is crucial to network with people at your company, in your industry, and even outside your field of interest, you’ll uncover opportunities to connect with different types of mentors and advisors, with senior management, which will help further develop your areas of expertise, and improve your soft skills.
I am sure these learnings will be essential not only for me but for fellow students & colleagues who have recently joined work/ new organisations during times of uncertainty and business recovery.
Thus, learning is multi-fold which requires a combination of all three:
Before we go ahead, we must understand the different types of learning -‘Loops of Learning.”
1. Single-Loop Learning (Following the Rules)
2. Double-Loop Learning (Changing the Rules)
3. Triple-Loop Learning (Learning About Learning)
While the above three loops have their relevance, meaning and importance in various contexts, what is more, crucial is to understand when and how to apply them. Life is about continual progression in different spheres. In the professional field also one needs to choose a path of continuous growth otherwise there are chances of stagnation.
On a personal level, continuous learning is about the constant expansion of skill-sets through learning and experiences that contribute to our knowledge base. As life changes the need to adapt both professionally and personally is as real as the changes themselves.
On a professional level, continuous learning is about further expanding our skill-set in response to a changing environment and new developments.
To innovate, reinvent, to try a new process, or to do something new all requires learning. People need to learn new knowledge or skills to see things in a new light and take that next leap.
With emerging times, employees need the ability to challenge themselves to obtain new knowledge, ideas, and skills. Learning needs to be on a flexible, on-demand and continual basis, to contribute towards a cutting-edge performance that is needed for sustenance and recovery in the new normal.
A diverse blend of skills is what one requires to stay ahead despite constant changes in the market. Careers today are not just defined by core skills but also through learning complementary skills and by building learning agility. Thus, building our competence and also competency widens options. “Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones ‘BREAK THE ACTIVE INERTIA’.
BARRIERS TO LEARNING
Situational barriers are deterrents that arise as adults attempt to balance multiple roles in their lives or deal with health conditions.
Institutional barriers are the result of educational or employment policies and practices which prevent participation.
Dispositional barriers occur when the learner lacks confidence in their skills and abilities, or when they are unaware of their career options.
Situational and institutional barriers are largely external to the learner, while dispositional types of barriers reside within the learner.
SWOC ANALYSIS OF LEARNING IN CURRENT TIMES:
Source: Shivangi Dhawan, June 20, 2020, Online Learning: A Panacea in the Time of COVID-19 Crisis.
QUESTION IS HOW CAN WE CONTINUE TO LEARN AND EVOLVE?
“Armed with knowledge with a world full of complexities, solutions should be approached in multiple ways. You may have learnt the hard way but what matters most is that you have learnt. As we continue to work on self-improvement and self-correction we’ll continue to learn and unlearn, succeed and fail, innovate and be disrupted. The cycle will continue and we will find ways to manoeuvre ourselves in the VUCA world where only those who are resilient and can learn to adapt can play to the tune of change.”
A majority of employers—particularly in traditional industries—do not allow work from home. Even as new-age startups are open to remote working, at larger companies, it’s an option that is often offered as a perk or for special needs. The coronavirus outbreak has, however, made remote working a necessity overnight. It was a drastic change for both, employers and employees, and while it brought down the fixed expenses like lease and rent for the employers, the employees did get over the happiness phase quite soon and started missing the much talked about “Our second home – Office”. They started feeling depressed, burntout, secluded and unimportant, had anxiety attacks and hit the rock bottom on self esteem, resulting in affected work.
While the entire world is talking about the nuances of working from home, a look at the other side of the coin shows a different and exciting angle to it. While you are distanced from your office bestie and chai time gossip, you do have the liberty of making yourself a nice whipped coffee or a kadak adrak wali chai, instead of the machine made.
Work from home would also mean that you have the chance to change your study room or bring in the new work furniture. And a little bit of change never did harm anybody! Swanky work desks, customised stationary, freedom to wear whatever you want (without bothering about what others will say), having lunch with family and the time saved in travel to and from office, are just some of the perks of working from home. And the best thing is, you get to bill all this to your employer! Yes, Majority of the employers are giving allowances in line with the New Normal. For instance, the Furniture and Hardware Fixture allowances lets the employees buy necessary equipment like ergonomic chairs, cushions and desks. There are also Technology allowances which looks after the employees’ need for Laptops, monitors, printers and reimbursement for mobile bills.
In India, Larsen and Toubro NxT, Mphasis, Infosys, HDFC Ergo, DCB Bank and similar organisations have provided all the necessary equipment, including laptops, internet connectivity and chairs to their employees to make WFH comfortable. At Google, employees were given $1000 to cover equipment costs. For those without a WFH allowance, such as Lennox India Technology Centre, employees were allowed to use their health and fitness allowance to purchase home-office supplies.
Work from Home is not as bad as it seems. And Change is inevitable. So when you have to change, why not embrace it with a dash of positivity and sunshine. And when it starts getting monotonous, take a break and find better relationships within the house. You never know how your younger brother or elder sister or even your spouse can be your new bestie.
“The grass is not always green on the other side of the pasture. It is greener where you water it.”
So working from home for two months got turned into four months and we still are not certain that how long it is going to be.
With the coronavirus pandemic causing millions to work from home for the first time, work from home (WFH) productivity is on everyone’s mind. But what really should be the concern in this unprecedented situation is a longer-term risk which is employee burnout.
The lines between work and non-work were already blurred before the current situation. But they’re almost non-existent when your office is your home now.
Some Data & Facts
Burnout can be brought on in a number of ways, but three of the biggest contributing factors are exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy inr your job. As it turns out, burnout is more common than you might think.
One of the studies conducted by TollFreeForwarding states that:
· Over a third (36 percent) of respondents said they suffer from burnout every week. This manifests in anxiety (40 percent), exhaustion (44 percent) and stress (56 percent)
· Over a third (34 percent) of employees take sick days at least every six months due to burnout
· Over half (55 percent) have considered leaving their job due to lack of support for burnout
“With the suddenness and degree of the shift to remote work, the loss of childcare, and all of the worries that accompany the pandemic and its economic fallout, all of the things that typically cause burnout are intensified, which means the risk of burnout is intensified,” said Vanessa K. Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University.
Signs of Burnout to watch out for-
1. You find yourself working around the clock. You never switch off. You are checking your mails late at night, or first thing when you wake up. Weekends are like any other day.
2. You procrastinate now more than ever. Putting off tasks, not raking decisions.
3. You feel like you have no one to whom you can turn when things go south. Inability to voice your concerns to your manager for fear of native repercussions. Inability to share at home for fear of inducing panic.
4. You feel an overarching anxiety to do more
5. You’re allowing meetings to run well past their delineated time blocks. This eats into other priorities leaving you over whelmed.
6. You stop “adulting” altogether. Stopping to spend quality time with people around you, unwinding, having a house party just with family, listening to music, carving out time for yourself.
As Laura M. George writes in Harvard Business Review:
“Many employees who are working remotely for the first time are likely to struggle to preserve healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. To signal their loyalty, devotion, and productivity, they may feel they have to work all the time.”
Ways to protect yourself from WFH burnout
We need a new way to think about how to disconnect and avoid WFH burnout. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
1.Create a dedicated space for your work: While a lot of that has to do when and how much you work, it also has to do with where you work. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate room but you need to have a dedicated workspace that lets you walk away at the end of the day.
Also if you have kids at house this technique helps you to create boundaries with them. Set up a system to let them know when it’s ok to visit or when you need time to focus.
2. Start and end your day by specific rituals: Always start your day with some ritual like having a shower and getting dressed up or maybe having a cup of coffee and making your to-do list. Also try to end your day with another ritual like Close all browsers tabs and clean up your desktop and put your laptop away. These rituals will help you to move between the different “states” of your day and actually focus on what’s in front of you.
3. Prioritize Work—Busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. It’s essential to work on tasks that are important. While working from home, employees often feel compelled to project the appearance of productivity, but this can lead them to work on tasks that are more immediate instead of more important. By tackling the most urgent tasks first thing in the morning, you’ll feel more accomplished and less stressed throughout the rest of the day. This positive, productive mindset is the key to avoiding WFH burnout.
4. Keep the meetings brief: Longmeetings that “could have been an email” have long been a top complaint of workers. Bring mindfulness to the virtual meetings now, whether that means actually hosting a virtual stand-up meeting, or just coming in with a clear agenda and designated timekeeper.
5. Get dressed up for work: Working in your pyjamas isn’t the best idea. Although people believe such comfort and relaxation could boost productivity, this practice can actually do the opposite for some. Working in your pyjamas promotes lethargy and makes it difficult for your mind to differentiate between working hours and relaxing hours. Instead, try getting dressed for work and changing out of your work clothes once you’re done with your tasks for the day. We don’t mean a suit and tie — just proper clothing and maybe a good head of brushed hair!
6. Set realistic goals and track your progress: The more clearly you can see the positive progress you make each day, the less likely you’ll be to overwork and hit WFH burnout. Researchers have found that the most important factor for feeling accomplished and happy at the end of the day is seeing real progress on meaningful work.
7. Keep your days fresh & interesting: Staying at home for so long can put a general drag on your mood. Such unhappiness and boredom could definitely translate to WFH burnout. Keep your days fresh and exciting, by breaking up daily routines with interesting moments. Try cooking a new recipe or maybe or some family fun activity like movie night. Actually you may use this quarantine period as an opportunity to upgrade yourself and to achieve goals you’ve been putting off. Introduce a workout schedule for instance, or earmark some time to tend to your house plants or garden. Even adopting a stray cat. Lockdown has given us umpteen opportunities to try out different things and stay with what excites you.
8. Seek support: Hiding your concerns will only make them worse. If you’re feeling burned out, tell your boss and coworkers as early as possible. They can collaborate with you to redistribute your workload, update reporting rituals to provide more recognition and motivation, or provide sideline encouragement as you bust through blocks. Speak to your spouse, sibling, friend. Vent it out. If needed, seek professional help. Telemedicine is just a phone call away.
9. Give yourself a break: Give yourself the virtual time off, No matter how stellar your home office setup, everyone’s eyes need a break from all that screen time. Between meetings, get up and get out if possible. Taking breaks at regular intervals will help you to recharge before the next call appointment and allow for extra planning so the next interaction goes as effortlessly as the last one. An effective break should include moving around to get your blood flowing and introduce a change of scenery. Talk to your family members, quickly whip up a salad or just take a power nap. Take leave if needed. Work from home and being unable to go on vacations does not mean you cannot take a few days off. Stay at home. Binge watch, pick up the guitar or the canvas. Or just do some serious HIIT.If you find yourself similarly in need of some recharge time, avoid scheduling virtual hangouts for the weekend ahead. Give yourself that time to be totally unstructured about how you spend your day.
Work from home is here to stay for some time atleast. It’s time we accepted it and work towards making it normal and fun. We as human beings are extremely adaptable, should we put our minds to it. These small techniques shared in this article will surely help you to adapt positively towards the new normal, but you will need to make them your own. Each one of us is different and hence our coping mechanisms will be different too. Feel free to connect with us on email@example.com to know more!