Coronavirus means that we are rapidly creating novel solutions rather than simply relying on and adapting old ones. This represents a unique opportunity to stop and reflect before shifting and developing new, more effective behaviours.
When we truly understand our purpose, we are able to create new ways of working. Traditional behaviours need to be challenged, for example, it is accepted that commuting 2 hours to work is perfectly normal. In reality, if you sit back and take stock this is madness. 4 hours of your day spent travelling to work, adding a further 50% to the working day which you are getting no benefit from.
When we come through this it will be second nature to hold virtual meetings and work from home. Sadly, it has taken a global pandemic to make people sit up and question why we behave as we do.
How will this behavioural shift impact the way we work?
Business coaching and business consultancy along with many other professional services has traditionally been run face to face; it was assumed that we needed that interaction to achieve successful outcomes.
This was built around the premise that 93% of communication is non-verbal and therefore, we must be physically in front of each other to communicate effectively. This very belief is incorrect, it stems from a misquoted piece of research by Albert Mehrabian that only 7% of communication is verbal (https://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=2043156). It has been repeated so many times we believe it.
In actuality, 7% of what we say is verbal. It is critical to recognise that this 7% is the very essence of what we want to communicate; everything else helps us convey the message. Therefore, we can communicate our message effectively over any medium if we know how. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was only 272 words long and yet still carries a potent message despite no-one knowing the energy and style with which it was delivered.
Our physical environment is forcing us to adapt and challenge everything we hold true.
Natural selection ensures that only the strong or well adapted survive; when external factors force a new way of operating nature adapts. Coronavirus means that we can no longer operate together in groups; in business this requires a total shift in behaviour. If a business relies on having multiple people in a room together how can that business change to provide its services?
Simple, we adapt. For business coaches that means recognising that shorter, more regular sessions benefit business owners looking for coaching. As with any developments through testing the concept the process is developed. For example. By running interactive webinars, I found that I was able to leverage the technology available to deliver engaging sessions that exceeded the expectations of those taking part. For everyone involved this represented a momentous shift in beliefs; a deep held belief we had that these interactions don’t work was in fact wrong.
In this example clients are seeing many benefits to running online business coaching sessions; flexibility being chief amongst them. Through working in this manner, I can coach individuals and groups more frequently because we are not required to travel. We are also not constrained by working hours or the availability of suitable venues. Core to coaching is creating safe environments and this is readily achieved if you are logged on at home in a private space – you are not conscious of being overheard and you open up more readily than in person.
We need to recognise the opportunities that new ways of working present, when we move away insisting staff all work in the same office something great will happen.
Businesses were reluctant to let staff work from home because there was a belief, they would be less productive. In the last decade we have seen more software released that enables businesses to connect whilst working remotely; Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs, Zoom etc. Interestingly the early adaptors of the technology have been start-up businesses who question the rationale of traditional behaviours.
During the Coronavirus pandemic these businesses did not have to invest in remote infrastructure to enable staff to work from home; they were already set up to do it. Having already challenged traditional beliefs and behaviours they are agile and better prepared than most.
In practice there are a number of steps we can take to work more effectively in the future.
Question whether staff all need to work in the same building, through reducing the size of space required there are significant savings to be made on overheads.
We should not be travelling 50 miles to work, it is destroying our environment and damaging our mental health. Can we create more flexible working hours to reduce the impact of rush hour or move to split working weeks by doing 2 days at home?
50% of people had not used Zoom before Coronavirus, now most of the population can use it. Research what platforms are available and then explore within your business how it could benefit the way you work.
Can be shifted to virtual settings. Whilst there is likely to always be a place for a face to face meeting, the convenience of running an online meeting cannot be denied.
is it necessary to travel 2 hours for a meeting or could it be conducted remotely?
In the longer term I do not advocate that we do everything online, to the contrary I will still be out there running some sessions and meetings in person. However, the reality is that a behavioural shift is required to save us and our natural environment.
Your beliefs and values impact your business behaviours more than you have ever realised
What I have found surprising about moving business online, is that there really was no reason why we couldn’t have done it before. There have been no immediate advances in technology, it is simply the forced shift in what we see as normal that has enabled us to embrace it. Reflecting over the last 3 months what has become clear to me is that the majority of new products and services exist simply to solve problems that our behaviours have created.
Take the electric car; the development of the electric car has been forced by government legislation and environmental pressure.
Because there are too many cars on the road and they are bad for the environment.
Force manufacturers to make electric cars to reduce the environmental impact.
Question why there are so many cars on the roads, what are all these journeys being made for? If we stop and consider this, we could make a far bigger impact by simply shifting our behaviours and not normalise a 30 mile drive to work.
We cannot simply insist that people work within a 5 mile radius of their homes, however, Covid19 has shown that when we are forced to stay away from the office we adapt.