Watch the full Webinar to find out the biggest “Downside of Working 100% Remote” and how to deal with it from our conversation with Dr. Nima Moayedi, Clinical Psychologist at Psychology Works, Inc.; Nick Reddin, Vice President at American Technology Consulting, and Mike Van Buren, eLearning strategist at Go1.
Host: Zee Asghari (Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Auzmor Inc.)
Speaker: Nima Moayedi (Clinical Psychologist at Psychology Works, Inc.)
Guests: Nick Reddin (Vice President at American Technology Consulting)
and Mike Van Buren (eLearning strategist at Go1)
Zee: I want to start off by telling everybody thank you for taking the time on your Thursday afternoon to spend the day with us. I know that there are a lot of changes going on with the world that we’re in today and although it sounds repetitive, I do hope that everybody’s staying safe and continuing to stay healthy.
For today’s topic we’re going to be focusing on the downside of working 100% remote from a psychologist perspective. So, we do have Dr. Nima Moayedi here who’ll be speaking throughout on some of the topic areas that we also heard from our audience. We had a lot of people sending in messages on some key areas that you all were interested in hearing about so we’ll focus on a lot of that today.
But I do want to set the stage a little bit so we at Auzmor are not “anti-working remote”, we’re a hundred percent for working remote and we’ve had our teams working remote for quite some time.
So our goal with this webinar was to have it more educational because just from our experience at Auzmor when we did have a lot of people working remote prior to even Covid there were a lot of challenges that we ran into with just different things that you deal with when people are working remote and you’re not face to face. Our goal is really to make sure that some of the issues that we ran into, you guys don’t face those and if you do what are maybe some good practices that you guys could follow.
My name is Zee Asghari and I’ll be your host today. I’m the Director of Business Development and Partnership here at Auzmor.
And then we also have Dr Nima Moyaedi here today. He’s a Clinical Psychologist at Psychology Works Inc. and he’s a subject matter expert licensed by the California Board of Psychology. He does have over 11 years of experience so i think he’s a great person to be able to speak on a lot of these things today.
We also have Nick Reddin joining us today, Vice President of American Technology Consulting. He is an enthusiast technology writer and a speaker and we’re really glad to have Nick on board because I think he can definitely talk about some of his experiences with working remotely so I think we’re very glad to have him here. Nick does have more than 15 years of experience so I did want to mention that as well so there’s definitely something good to know and he’ll be great to chime in throughout these conversations.
We also have Mike Van Buren. Mike, I may have said your last name slightly wrong but he is an e-learning Strategist at Go1 and he helps organizations navigate through their digital learning goals. He’ll be great to talk more through the learning aspects and what are the shifts that we’ve seen through the training aspect through some of the Covid areas and he also has more than 10 years of experience so we’re very glad to have him on board today.
Zee: Quickly a little bit about Auzmor – so Auzmor is an HR SaaS software company. We have a couple of different focus areas that we primarily focus on. So we have our Auzmor Learn product which is our lms so that’s our bread and butter. That is basically our learning management system platform which helps centralize and report and track on all of your training.
We also have our Auzmor Hire product which is our applicant tracking system so that’s our recruitment platform and then we also have Kovalent which is our hr marketplace.
KEY DISCUSSION AREAS
Zee: A couple of key things that we’ll focus on today is, first and foremost, understanding the employee behaviors that may come with remote work so that’s the first big key area. How it’s going to be impacting leaders today and what to expect in the future, how much as employers and leaders should we be emphasizing on employee mental health and then if these issues are not acknowledged what are some things that we may see possibly from a productivity perspective or a churn perspective as well and like we were saying earlier what are some best practices that we can follow as well.
Zee: To kick off, I know we have Nick Reddin here so I kind of wanted to start with having Nick kind of chime in a little bit on this. Nick, I know atc has been working remote for quite some time. So what are some benefits that you guys have seen and what has been your strategy to making it successful?
Nick: yeah with a lot of the work that we do working remotely definitely has its benefits because a lot of people again when they’re coding when they’re writing a software depending on what they’re doing, everybody’s body, mind kind of functions in different ways at different times. Being able to work from home allows you to really kind of meet that throughput goal that you have and be able to meet it at the time that you want to. So, if you want to go to the gym from 10 to noon you can do that because you can make up your coding at other times when you’re really more on. For a lot of folks sometimes that’s at night sometimes from 10 to midnight if 10 to 2 some people, they’re just total night owls and other people are early morning. So it really allows you to work and as long as you’re meeting the goals of your team that they’ve discussed and getting your code in on time or whatever. It is that you’re standing up that day making sure that everything is done when it’s supposed to be done and you’re working ahead of those goals it gives you the complete flexibility to meet your work goals the way that you want to which is important for a lot of people. Obviously it drives retention, it drives engagement and those are all good things. And then of course the other things you have on the screen are great as well. A lot of people spend time with their kids whether it’s picking them up from school. Of course now with everything that’s going on and maybe helping them with school and allowing them to do other tasks as pertinent at night.
Zee: Yes, I agree Nick. Those are great points. From talking to employees, Nick, have they given you any specific feedback or do you guys at ATC make it optional to whether they can work from home if they want and then are you guys doing it to whether people can come to the office or how are you guys going about that piece?
Nick: Honestly, it’s both. They can come to the office if they want to. If they don’t or right now because of things that may be going on with their school districts and all those things that we never thought we’d actually have to think about they can work from home as well. We try to do office check-ins when we can just to keep the engagement high and face to face, we do believe is important. In some instances though folks will work completely and that’s absolutely fine as well. But we do try to give the option because we do want to keep engagement high. We want to again meet people the way that they want to work and if they express “Hey, I really like being in the office” then obviously “Please come on in” and it’s where i’m at today so it works out well I think for everybody to give them that hybrid approach and flexibility that we do know of course. As a father of six, with three of my kids in the world of work that’s not feasible for every job or every company there’s a lot of professions that you have to come in no matter what, or that company can’t run. So we are in a position where we’re able to allow people to work hybrid but no that’s not feasible.
Zee: Yes, that’s a great point Nick. To your points there, Nick, we actually pulled some stats from a buffer survey and we had some pretty interesting numbers. So, nearly 48%, almost half of the employees had said that they’ll work remotely at least some of the time. 99% admitted to the fact that if they could they would work remotely for the rest of their careers. 95 percent would influence and encourage their friends or family members to work remote as well and 42 percent remote workers have stated that they intend to operate remotely more frequently in the future as well and 77 percent of remote workers claim to be more productive when they are working from their homes. What are your thoughts with some of these stats?
Nick: I think it’s very driven by the job that you do. If you have a fairly routine job to some sense I think that’s very doable like, we’re headquartered here in Des Moines, we’re surrounded by 250 insurance companies that are headquartered here. A lot of that work is very standardized work that those folks are doing. So doing it from home they’ll be very productive, very happy. If you’ve got sales folks it can be a little bit tougher depending on how motivated they are. Sometimes they need to be around a team atmosphere or need to have management close by just to either brainstorm, share ideas. It gets a little bit more challenging when you’re in a work-from-home environment you’ve got to take extra steps to be able to kind of make those connections and get that ideation going. So, I think some of it’s very role related in a lot of the roles probably don’t need a tremendous amount of creativity on the fly or ability to gel with other folks or have ideas going on where we’ve heard and what i’ve heard from a lot of the large enterprises that I deal with where they’re struggling from a technology employee standpoint is because they typically do a lot of in-person huddles that they call them or in-person stand-ups to talk about ideas talk about where things are at where the roadblocks are, where things need to be worked out and that’s that lack of that or lack of the way that it’s working through technology right now. For a lot of companies, they really want to get people back inside because that piece of it and again it’s kind of an ideation piece to some degree problem solving to some degree whiteboarding to a large degree is is kind of taking a hit and and a lot of companies are expressing that they’re really feeling that. So i think it really depends and really there’s a job relational aspect to it.
Zee: Yeah, I agree with you 100% on that Nick. And what would you say from what have been, of course, like you were saying earlier, different roles have different struggles with working remotely. So, what are some struggles that you guys have dealt with at ATC or possibly have had some challenges with?
Nick: Yeah i think it’s the list that you have here. What I ask people “Do you feel like you’re working from home or living at the office?” Because, there is a difference.
Nick: You definitely want people to work from home but it’s not necessarily feasible and I can use my oldest son as an example. Him and his wife are currently both working from home and they live in a small two-bedroom apartment. That’s not great,right? You pretty much feel like you’re living at the office more than you are anywhere else. They do have to take breaks and step outside. So it’s a little different it could be a struggle at a time to stay motivated. But these kinds of things happen so feeling like you can’t unplug can be challenging for them at least in the jobs that they do. They do have distractions because they’ve got three pets which are very active pets. They have two dogs and a cat. So I think it’s just a little bit different. I think there’s a lot of struggle, depending on your situation. For me it’s a lot different. When I work from home; in my house I do have my own office so for me it’s a lot easier and I can sit there and go “Hey, this should be great for everybody.” But the reality is, for a lot of folks it really depends on their situation at home; how big their house is, if they’re surrounded by kids all day, are they able to overcome those struggles and still maintain the structure that they want with all the challenges currently going on because of Covid.
Zee: Yeah, I agree Nick. Those are great points, for sure.
REMOTE WORK AND OFFICE DYNAMICS
Zee: Dr. Moayedi, I wanted to bring you in on this piece a little bit. So, what are some key changes? For you, how do you think the office dynamics have changed with some of the changes that organizations are facing today?
Dr. Moayedi: Good question, yeah so office dynamics have changed. You have people who are more introverted. They’re going to have a more difficult time expressing opinions participating in discussions so as managers we need to make sure that extroverts aren’t dominating the conversation. This is especially true when you compare audio only to audio and video communication. So those who are introverts tend to struggle more on video because they have increased levels of anxiety related to the feeling that they need to perform on camera. So managers are encouraged to kind of mediate the discussions and allow everyone to have a voice. People need to feel that their voice, their opinion, their perspective carries weight and it adds value to the business.
IMPACT ON PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
Zee: Yeah, no that’s a great point Dr Moayedi. I know for us, we try to make it optional. For certain people or just for employees in general if someone has it on versus off. But no, that’s really a good point.
With the different personalities with some of the changes that organizations are facing with this piece, how do you think that this is impacting employees’ psychological well-being?
Since I guess, as humans we naturally tend to want to be around people and the human interaction is so important and something that we’re so used to so suddenly all that’s taken away from us how could this impact overall employee well-being?
Dr. Moayedi: So, employees who are forced to rapidly shift to remote work they’re gonna be more vulnerable to feelings of uncertainty and feeling overwhelmed. So the problems that arise from being in a less structured environment and having disruptions and routine work activities. Nick was actually talking a little bit about some stressors at home. So once we have a loss of routine and reduced social interactions with others this has shown to cause boredom, frustration and feelings of isolation. Employees are likely to feel less supported, have increased perception of being left out, have less reliance on a team resulting in increased anxiety, which also leads to procrastination.
EVALUATING PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
Zee: Got it. Okay and how much emphasis should employers be putting on employee mental health and making sure that they’re educating employees and what are some things that they should be looking for?
Dr. Moayedi: That’s a great question. So, the more healthy the workforce the greater the return on investment for the company. Education and access to care are going to be essential for the well-being of the individual, in turn for the company as a whole. So some of the things that we want to look at, for employees, “Are you having a more difficult time disconnecting from work at the end of the day?”
I mean, Nick said it very well “Are you working from home or are you living at work?” “Are you having difficulties with sleep?” Sleep is a huge indicator. Any kind of disruptions with sleep either sleeping too much (hypersomnia), problems falling asleep (insomnia) or even disrupted sleep. We’re just waking up throughout the night. Those things are going to affect our day-to-day activities, our mood, our energy levels. “Are we less productive?” and with productivity “Are we working longer hours trying to get the same amount of work done?” These are all some things that have come up with remote work when people are struggling.
Zee: Talking to clients, Dr Moayedi, I think that’s definitely some things that we’ve heard about quite a bit.
(PRE-COVID VS POST-COVID)
Zee: Mike, have you, I guess from a training perspective, have you seen any specific increases in these key areas that Dr. Moayedi is talking about or what have you noticed?
Mike: Yeah, I think the expectation when Covid happened is that we can do, this working from home is going to be very similar and as long as they have the tools and resources to do it, they can be successful and yet what we’ve seen as we looked at our training stack and across Go1’’s customer base as far as what type of training content was being consumed, you can see mental health training was very low on on the radar. It was more general business development, leadership management skills and so forth. That’s changed over time since that’s taken place to where now after shifting. There’s really been two phases. It’s been shifting to what the new normal is and now the second phase kind of July to November-December is finding that better normal and we’re seeing a massive increase in the amount of IT skills that are being taught and trained. We’re seeing a massive increase in the amount of communication and leadership working from home, resilience type training as well as a lot of mental health and awareness training . So, in mental health awareness training, it is probably more up in that 25 percent range right now across customers.
Zee: That was my next question for you, Mike. I was just actually about to ask you is, I know previously just even talking to mutual clients it was not something that, as employers, we put very much emphasis to or just talking to clients we didn’t see very much attraction to but over i would say the past maybe even six months or so i think there has been like a huge shift and that’s an area that a lot of employers are really I think trying to as much as they can put emphasis on. So I was just gonna actually ask you what are the percentage increases that you’ve noticed?
Mike: Yeah, we’ve seen a large increase there. Like I said with the mental health training we’ve seen HR compliance which was a significant portion that’s actually decreased quite a bit during this time as other topics have increased so forth. But as I look at the chat, we’ve got a chat here from Laura talking about vacation. Being able to take vacation and not feeling like they have the ability to to take a day off because they’re at home and what are you going to do anyways. You’re at home, you’re not really needing a day off. The reality is we need to be able to take a break from from what we’re doing and the better trained managers are the more aware employees are of the need to allow our brains to take a break, the better off we will be because we may be in phase two and finding a better normal and yet there’s going to be a phase three. When offices reopen and we can start going back to work and we may see a big shuffle of talent as people go and try to find organizations or roles that better fit with their desired setup and philosophy.
Zee: Absolutely, those are great points Mike. I’d love to hear from the audience. Everybody feel free to comment in the chat box if you have been emphasizing more on providing mental health training to your workforce and two if it’s something you haven’t but something that you are interested in possibly doing because we’re definitely noticing a big trend here.
IMPACT ON EMPLOYEE RETENTION
Zee: Dr. Moayedi, we pulled some of these stats from Telus International and it was pretty interesting, some of what Mike was saying there, how do you think that some of these are going to be impacting employee retention and what are some resources that employers could be providing to employees to be able to help them out?
And to that point Mike was also saying maybe something as simple as even maybe they should be taking a day or two off and although they’re home. People are getting a habit of working so much. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, so mental health matters in today’s remote workforce. So, based on this Telus International publication a majority of workers (80%) said that they would consider quitting their current position for a job that focuses more on employee mental health. So in this survey of a thousand americans, the research indicated that 75% of US workers have struggled at work due to anxiety which was caused by COVID-19. The survey also found that four out of five workers find it hard to shut off in the evenings. Half of respondents who were surveyed have taken a mental health day since they started working from home due to the pandemic. Half of the respondents cite that their sleep patterns were interrupted and 45% say that they feel less healthy mentally while working from home.
So there’s a couple of things that we are able to do and this kind of goes back to the question that was asked about vacation. We need to create flexible work schedules, we need to have clear expectations and policies. If we can set clear policies and expectations for people, they’re going to know what they’re going to need to do? What they’re expected of? When are they expected to show up for work? For how long and how often are they needing to communicate with managers? How does vacation time work? How does time off work? All of these questions are going to help with retention.
Zee: Yep, I know the stats sounded crazy Dr. Moayedi, when we were going through this so no that’s I think great to share with everybody.
FOCUSED, CONNECTED AND HAPPY EMPLOYEES
Zee: So, I know that every organization is probably trying to find what’s the best way to kind of deal with this. But despite best efforts some organizations of course may be still struggling. So what are the best ways to possibly make sure that employees are staying focused and connected with the organization and their team members?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, so early intervention is going to be paramount. It’s the key. So we need managers to be available to employees and corporations are encouraged to provide education or training and access to mental health professionals. We need to remember that people react to different stressors in different ways and there’s going to be people who are more resilient than others. We just need to provide education and support-those are huge.
Zee: Yep,I know Dr. Moayedi, I was talking to a client actually a couple days ago and I did look at the virtual social gathering and kind of what Nick was also saying a little bit earlier. One thing a client was telling me what they did is they would basically block two hours of everybody’s calendar. I think they did it once a month, if I remember correctly, and everybody would just chime in and just log in and everybody would turn on their cameras if they wanted to and some people would work, some people would just chat like they would normally at the office. I know for them that was like a really nice thing and something that a lot of employees really really liked. So that was something that they’d done that I thought was a pretty good practice for just having more of a social gathering as a group as well.
CREATING A GOOD REMOTE CULTURE
Zee: In your opinion, Dr. Moayedi, what are some things that leaders can do to make sure that their employees’ remote work culture continues to be good? I know you were talking a little bit about the resource piece but what could they do to make sure that employees are having the best experience they possibly could?
Dr. Moayedi: As managers, we need to ask ourselves what I am doing to encourage interactions outside of day-to-day meetings so that our staff don’t feel isolated. They are working remotely. So what i was saying earlier leaders need to ensure that the organization is providing support and training for those who are struggling and we need to remember early intervention is key. We need to again create clear policies and expectations. By setting clear policies and expectations around when people are going to be expected to work, the length of time they’re going to need to work and how often they need to communicate or check in with managers. These can help relieve some of the stressors associated with working remotely. If possible, we are encouraged to allow employers to give employees flexible work schedules.
Most of the research on the positive effects of remote work have to do with providing the employee the option to either work remotely or coming in. Certain personality types are going to prefer working remotely. If your organization is able, allow the employee to have autonomy over their schedules. Some people work better at night, some people work better during the day. If we do live in an area where there are stay-at-home orders and again they have family, if the kids are around, if the spouse is around it may not be conducive to a good working environment. So if we do have the ability to allow them to work to have autonomy over their schedules. That again is going to help with productivity, retention and just a healthier mental state.
Zee: Sure, so yeah those are great points I think kind of Nick was talking a little bit about that but I think the flexibility at the end if they’re getting their work done I think that’s the most important thing. So flexibility, I think, builds maybe a sense of trust for them as well ,so I think those are great points, Dr. Moayedi.
SENSE OF BELONGINGNESS
Zee: I know Dr. Moayedi, earlier you were talking a little bit about us as humans and for employees it’s important to feel a sense of belongingness. So, for people that may be struggling with this string of remote work what would you say they could do to help create that kind of a culture or experience for employees?
Dr. Moayedi: This is going to be done or is best done by just asking the employees. Allow those in your organization to have a voice and have them be heard. Have staff provide suggestions. You can create a survey tool that allows your staff to vote on ways that they think or they believe will increase their sense of belongingness.
Zee: Those are great points. Nick, have you guys at ATC done any sort of surveys or anything of that nature to get employees’ thoughts on things or things like that before or what are some best practices that you guys usually do?
Nick: Yeah, we haven’t done surveys but we have done group calls where we have asked people for ideas to be better engaged and we got a lot of ideas from the staff on things that they would like to do to be better engaged especially because as a lot of us know and in our company in particular, we’ve been hiring a fair amount of people over the last few months as well. When they start and they’re remote and they don’t meet anybody for quite a bit of time. It’s hard to feel engaged, it’s hard connected, it’s hard to to feel that you’re truly a part of a team that you don’t really know or meta outside of the screen and so we have asked them for ideas and and they’ve given a fair ideas of just ways to connect that are more low-key more just fun obviously so that they can get to know each other and when we’ve been introducing new employees on these calls. We now go to great lengths to introduce them and their hobbies, things that they care about, things that they’re comfortable sharing with other people of course. But we’re really trying to get more of a profile where before we would just introduce them into their new role, who they’ll be reporting to, where they’ll be working, out of things like that just to kind of help others to be able to cross-connect amongst themselves.
Zee: No that’s great, Nick. And then Mike, I just kind of want to hear from your end as well because I know you work quite closely with a lot of leaders and managers at various organizations and with various different industries, what are some things that you have heard clients doing or from a training perspective any key things that you have seen maybe an increase on that have been able to kind of help leaders? Because, I always say sometimes it’s like things that people sometimes don’t know what you don’t know. So have you noticed any increase for leaders trying to do these kinds of things to be able to help employees?
Mike: Yes, anytime you can hear your employees and they’re going to be the ones that have the best ideas as they’re on the front lines they’re the ones that are experiencing it. So if you can listen to them you’ll get it.
One such client, a large tech company, was listening to their employees and it came across ;didn’t come out directly but it was that transition time from “I’m home” to “I’m doing home activities” to “I’m work”. Typically when we’re working in the office that was when you were in your car or you were on the bus ,you were headed to work and it was your commute but not having a commute from your bedroom to your office or to the kitchen table or wherever you’re sitting didn’t give their employees time to wrap their minds around and kind of prepare their minds to to go to work and to start engaging in those type of activities. And the same thing with leaving work. Leaving work and coming home straight to the dinner table, dealing with homework, dealing with all those other things made it challenging. So what this company did is they institute a 15-minute virtual remote the beginning of the day and end of the day and then they provided resources to those employees so that they could go and listen to audiobook, they could go learn something, they could go do a session of yoga, anything like that to just help their mind transition from home and life to work and responsibilities, projects, and duties so forth and I found that really effective.
Zee: That’s great. Thank you, Mike.
Zee: Dr. Moayedi, I just wanted to hear a little bit. I know in California and some other places as well I know you’re kind of dealing with it personally yourself but how do you deal with staying at home orders and staying connected with your team and other members?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, so a lack of social interaction it’s going to cause significant negative effects and this includes anxiety, depression which is going to result in disruptions in sleep, imperative executive functioning, accelerated cognitive decline and it can even lead to poor cardiovascular function. So we’re wired for connectedness. It’s why when you look at environments like maximum security prisons, where inmates are surrounded by violent criminals, the worst punishment for them is placing them in something we call ad-seg or administrative segregation. So the stressor with this is not working remotely; it’s isolation from others which is why it’s crucial for people to connect with others and that can even be virtually. So yeah, for us being in california we are currently on stay at home orders and then someone in the chat box had just mentioned that they live somewhere where it’s winter so it’s too cold to go outside. It is very isolating. It’s our perception of isolation. It’s not legitimate isolation. It’s our perception of feeling alone that causes these negative effects.
So we can mediate this by connecting to others either via zoom to have conversations with friends and family, co-workers. We could do remote happy hours. One of the things that we’ve done here is, the hospital that I work at, we’ve got oculus quest headsets where people go on VR and they interact in that sense, play games, participate in different types of social activities that you would do in person like little card games. It really doesn’t matter what. Another option is like the pelletron bicycle. That’s a way to exercise but you’re also connecting to a group of people. So everyone’s doing the same activity. We need to connect and if we can’t connect physically, virtually is just as good if our perception of that is that we are connected.
Zee: Those are great points Dr. Moayedi. Just curious in your opinion although you’re meeting through zoom or any of these like virtual platforms like we are doing today, you’re not able to see people face to face. So you don’t have that physical touch piece. Do you think that, since people don’t have that, would that still not fill in that emotional void or that void of loneliness or some of the things that people may be going through?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, again it’s all about their perception. So you can be surrounded by people physically and you can feel completely alone. You could be just by yourself and if you’re content and your perception is that you are connected or that you have everything that you need I mean that’s just you’re not going to struggle. Our perception is what’s what matters.
Zee: That’s great and last but not least I did want to tell everyone that I forgot to mention in the beginning, but we will leave some time for everybody to kind of ask some questions.
THE NEW NORMAL AND MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING
Zee: I did want to ask you, Dr. Moayedi, in your opinion, do you think that with the way that the crisis is going, how do you think organizations are going to cope with the new normal as a whole?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, so remote work is here and it’s likely to not go away. The negative effects of remote work as an area where there is it’s developing research. So as more data is gathered and analyzed more specific best practices for remote work are going to be available. I can speak personally about myself. I’ve been working remotely since the pandemic or majority of my work has gone remote and I love it. i’ve been doing very well with the remote work but again not everybody is going to be able to function as well. What we need to do again is pay attention to those who are struggling, offer resources and offer support.
Zee: All right. Mike, just curious, I know again for you with working with some companies, have you had an experience where maybe some clients for instance they’ve never been remote before and they’d transition full remote. What are some resources or things that they’re doing to provide to employees when it comes to trading or any other tools that they’re utilizing to be able to help employees out to kind of adjust to it?
Mike: Yeah, their mental health awareness training wasn’t on many people’s radars before 2020 until this pandemic hit and now that it’s there a lot of companies are scrambling to say how do we provide training to our leaders so that they’re aware and know how to engage and know what to be discussing and talking about with their employees and then how do we provide opportunities for our employees to disconnect right what are some activities that they can be doing whether it’s virtual learning whether it’s physical exercise or connection and they’re scrambling to do so and unfortunately it’s also during the midst of a pandemic when costs are being cut and expenses are tight and so that’s that’s a significant challenge but if if you can tap into what you already have available at your fingertips and ask and see if there’s training opportunities or see if there’s resources available from the providers that you’re currently working with it might surprise you what they’ve developed or created.
Zee: Nope that’s great, Mike and then Nick, for you guys training wise for for ATC specifically have you guys shifted to anything that I know for you guys you guys did already have some employees that were involved but were there any significant changes that you guys did to kind of help adjust employees that maybe had not worked remote before?
Nick: So, one of the things that we want to make sure and this is the same thing that we tell companies is for people to successfully work at home you gotta make it easy for them from a technology standpoint and so you need to make sure that the technology that you give them works that if it does go down they know immediately how to deal with it and how to get things back up because that’s really what it’s taking for people so a lot of the training that we’re giving is not only around our software and our technologies and the things that we go to market with and all of that but it’s also how to get in touch with the right person at the right time for issues so they don’t feel like they don’t know who to go to, who to reach out with. So want to make things as easy as possible for people working from home to connect and get the work done that they want we want to make sure that we’re providing all of that to them and then have training available for them and of course through Auzmor is what we’re using in order for them to be able to access it at any time in case they forgot how to do certain things because a lot of times what we forget when we’re in an office with folks is it’s not too hard to walk over to somebody’s desk and say hey could you show me how to do that again in salesforce or sap or whatever it is that you may be doing and now that you don’t have that person’s desk that you can walk over to but you still have all these processes all these things that need to get done you have new employees coming into the organization you need to have ways of being for them to be able to access that knowledge access that training and get that you’ll get those walk throughs if you would in those sops quickly and easily and that for us has been probably one of the bigger focuses.
Zee: That’s great Nick. I know that’s something that I kind of been hearing a little bit about too is you know employee you know it’s not like you’re an extra colleague anymore where you could ask a question right you have to call or find a way to communicate so I think kind of having a way to maybe provide those resources to employees to kind of go to hey this is kind of where they could go to get everything you know and then if they weren’t able to find it then, of course, reach out to somebody but I’m just having any other way so then they’re not waiting on other people all the time so that’s great.
Q & A
Zee: Are there techniques we can share to help those change their perception of digital distance despite online interaction?
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, it’s just exposure the more we do something you know because if you look at the brain we are very habitual beings. We like our routine. When the routine changes it’s going to be difficult to adapt and some people are going to be less resilient or more resilient to that. If we can keep exposing them to that new norm and we’ll be able to address issues that come up and we just are supportive of them with time and what the research is showing is that 30 to 45 days is what it takes for us to get into a new habit or a new routine so if we can push through that initial 30 to 45 days it does become easier.
Zee: Is it a common practice for companies to mandate weekly of what employees are completing you know when employees are working remote?
Nick: Yeah I mean more and more so now again when the things that we’re doing have milestones and benchmarks that have to be hit and there’s certain dates attached to those and then we have kind of a red yellow green so we know where things are at you know on time because we have we’re delivering pretty large projects for companies and so that and also internally for ourselves so that becomes really important but i also notice even again we work around a lot of insurance companies here and so one of the things that i’ve noticed even before the pandemic was they were allocating a certain amount of work based on the position that people were in and while i didn’t work for everybody did work for some and so they would give them maybe we’ll just say a case load if you will and they had to process this amount of a case load within a given time frame of of a week and they didn’t care when they did it they could do it on the weekend if they could get it all done on the weekend but they did need to report in where they were at and what is going on and i think that’s normal if people want that structure the accountability kind of needs to be there and sometimes if people kind of fall into the into the distraction or procrastination piece knowing that they’re going to have a given accountability you know twice a week or something like that is part of that structure and motivation and walls if you will that i think helps keep people motivated and keep them on track.
Dr. Moayedi: Yeah, I really agree with what nick just said to add to that kind of like back to what I was saying earlier if we have clear expectations and the employees know what is expected and when it is expected that’s going to help out a lot and not just with a different assignments that are due but also with check-ins you know when we’re in the office we’re able to just to interact and see different staff members different supervisors but when we’re working remote what is the expectation there if that is clear that they need to check in a specific amount of times it gets rid of the ambiguity the less ambiguity, the less stress the less anxiety.
Zee: What steps can we set for ourselves to set the example?
Nick: It’s interesting and that’s a great question it’s a really good question because it’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit because I speak at a lot of hr conferences SHRM conferences about you know technology’s impact on life and people in general but this period of time in particular you know it used to be a work-life balance that everybody was searching for and you know I used to joke that you know well the first word is work so because without that everything else isn’t going to happen but now we’re moving more towards a work-life integration and I don’t know that that’s a good thing somebody had made a comment about you know kind of this mashed potato thing of everything kind of blending and it kind of reminded me of that that you know moving towards work-life integration is not necessarily a great thing and I remember reading a study I think it was from MIT Sloan about these companies that give unlimited vacation and I’ll go back because I remember this question was being asked and people that had unlimited vacation were also more hesitant to take a vacation because they didn’t feel like they earned it they didn’t feel like they deserved it because it was just given to them and it was unlimited and they were more likely to take a vacation when it was something that they had earned in it and that and that it was theirs you know that it was theirs to have so I think again we have to set an example as leaders by taking time off by not being accessible at certain times because these are the times where I’m with my family or these are the times that I’m off again we are so connected and we sometimes wear it as a badge of honor and valor to be totally accessible to be responding to email at midnight like look at me I’m responding at you at midnight I’m here for this right and I think I think we have to do a lot of intention about making sure our employees understand what our real tangible expectations are of them as it pertains to them being available to responding to us and knowing that it’s okay for them to you know take time off and to do things I’m at my last organization we had a few quite a few thousand numbers of employees and one of the things that I really wanted to make sure to all my VPS and managers that reported to me was don’t you know do not light up your employees on a Friday if you’ve got a problem with something that they’re doing or something that’s going on do not send them into the weekend or even into the evening with that kind of weight on them it’s just not fair to them and it’s nothing that cannot be fixed you know on a Monday or during regular hours so I think just really setting the tone and being intentional about it and reinforcing it with the employees I think is really important.
Zee: Are there surveys to identify employees who are resilient and then try to build resilience skills?
Mike: Yeah, so I can’t speak about the tools about identifying someone’s resilience but my understanding of the definition that I’ve seen that best resonates with me is a rubber band we’re all going to be hit with negative stuff right we’re going to experience garbage during the day but how quickly are we able to snap back to where we are and begin being productive and effective in our jobs versus struggling with the challenges as far as developing resilience skills there are lots of different training programs courses to help people new skills because being resilient working from home is different than helping develop resilience in the office place it’s just different and one of my favorite training programs comes from one of our training providers will interactive they’ve got a really good course that shows on a zoom meeting what an actual team meeting might look like in this new coved world and it walks them through the different skills that they can use to adapt to each individual person because each individual has their unique situation and a manager needs to be able to be deliberate be intentional and understand that employee from where they’re at and exhibit and demonstrate trust that one they can get their job done in this new way and that we’re willing to support them and give them the tools and resources that they need to be to be successful.
Nick: It’s really tough. Resilience is key and definitely needed but I don’t know that you can measure it. I think you could probably find some assessments out there from companies like Pearson that probably have some type of a quotient for that that they might be able to get to they give you maybe some insight but I don’t know that that’s something that’s you know really truly measurable from folks.
Zee: Are managers being offered training in terms of how to work with their employees when they can’t physically see them in the office how will they react when they think they are losing control by those who work from home?
Nick: For us again it’s a little bit different simply because I think it depends on the managers again you got to work with your managers because a lot of times if they depend on how that manager is trained it depends on the manager’s mindset on certain things on how they’re going to react when they feel like they’re out of control some people will go to micromanagement mode some people will go to managing through fear and innuendo of you know you’re going to lose your job if you don’t do this or you don’t do that because you know there’s a again if you’re if you feel like you’re in an island you feel like you’re not in control sometimes you’re going to lash out and it’s not going to be in the right way it’s going to be a negative way it’s not going to be in a positive way to try to get solutions results or even understanding of what may really be going on or try to get clarification and so i really think it just comes down again to training and making sure managers understand if they’re feeling that way what is the proper way to respond what’s the best way to work with your employees with your staff with your teams to make sure you feel like you know you’re either getting the most productivity and throughput out of them that you should be getting and that that’s realistic and that you don’t have unrealistic expectations and that you’re you know managing them correctly and not you know over managing under managing people to frustration so that they end up quitting because you know hopefully that’s that’s not what people are after.
Zee: As a job seeker how do you get companies to embrace remote workers?
Dr. Moayedi: Well if the company is forced to to is forced into a situation where they need to use remote workers prepare you to know the IT work no ask the right questions ask what the expectations are what the hours are going to be how often did you need to check in how quickly do you need to respond to emails you know by asking these types of questions during the interview process it oh it shows the employer that you know you you understand the positives and the negatives of remote work and these are things that you’re thinking about and contemplating and it just better prepares you for the interview.
Nick: I think it got beneficial over time initially at least for I know a few I could think of it was a struggle right away because again they were used to being able to get together on a moment’s notice and whiteboard an idea or a solution to a problem that they’ve run into while you’re creating some kind of technical solution for a company of some sort and not all the technology was readily available to be able to you know just digitally whiteboard and now that has come out so I think technology is becoming more of an enabler and a helper to some of those things but initially you know I it was a little bit of a struggle for some to say okay now we’re doing this and now we’re doing that and I think it’s it’s more important than ever that employees have lines of open communication if they don’t feel like they can discuss with their manager what is another line of communication that they can take without fear of repercussions if they decide to pull that lever for whatever reason, I think that’s going to become more critically important in order to keep employees engaged. And you know with a job my son’s getting ready to start in January, I mean he works in IT. He’s getting ready to start with the company he’ll be 100% remote, he won’t meet anybody, he’ll be remote as far as he knows the entire length of his job and I think that’s gonna be really difficult because you never really get to know people the way you do when you get to sit down with them over coffee or over lunch and chat with them look them in the eye and that piece is going to be missing so I think that’s going to be interesting as well but technology is helping but I think they do have to have lines of communication if things start to feel a little off and they don’t feel comfortable talking maybe to their direct supervisor.