Purpose: You'll understand the three biggest mindshifts our survey respondents discovered when learning how to better lead and work from home. And some powerful neuroscience hacks to help ease transition to the new normal in working.

Process: I'll share the top MindShift! results from our survey and highlight the most pertinent aspects of leading from home shifts and how virtual veterans are winning over the difficulties with some powerful hacks.

Payoff: You'll quickly realise that you are far from alone with the difficulties you face and learn some hacks about how to overcome the obstacles and get better results.

TL:DR – The Challenges We Had To Wrap Our Minds Around

Working and Leading from home was new to many people and few organisations were prepared for the transition. We had to face the challenges of virtual working with little support and colleagues who were equally clueless.

Those with kids at home found both the joy of more family time and the tremendous difficulties of more family time. We discovered that even with powerful technology at our fingertips it wasn’t equitably distributed, that there were no standards and juggling home-schooling with endless conference calls and the nerve-wrecking experience of being on camera on a cranky laptop was hardly the utopian ideal seen on the adverts.

We have to establish clear boundaries between what is work and what is home, often on the same table where we eat and the kids fight for laptop time.

We soon discovered that our schedules were back to back video calls on a never-ending deluge of new conference platforms, messengers and the emails kept piling in. It seemed that no-one realised just how stressed we were becoming.

What perhaps you didn't realise is that working virtually is genuinely exhausting for your brain. And empathy – that unconscious understanding of the other person's intent and how they are truly feeling – well, it's almost missing because our Mirror Neurons don't work at all well in the virtual space. Empathy has flatlined in the virtual world and we need to implement CPR immediately. All of our communications need Clarity, Purpose and Responsibility.

Then we discovered that it was down to ourselves to make this work. That no one was going to fix anything soon and “normal” — well “normal” had gone for good and in spite of feeling like someone had unplugged our motivation completely, we had to find it in ourselves to reach out, to be proactive, to get disciplined and determine for ourselves that we needed to take control. Even if it was just to turn the camera off every now and then and choose our priorities.

We learned that we had to be at cause for something and stop being at the effect of a virus no one understands and that actually, no one else knows what they are doing either.

We're learning that we're all in this same storm together, but we've realised that we're not all in the same boat. Some of us are in luxury yachts, many more are in old row boats and many are clinging onto a piece of driftwood.

Visit bit.ly/LFHResults2 for more and to ask me how to do CPR on your communications to revive your influence, sales and leadership.

MindShift! How to have work/life balance when work and life collide?

Here in Singapore, staff are being allowed to return to their office to work. Albeit with a pretty rigorous set of rules and practices in place. I've spoken to many who are intending to return to their office in the coming days, some with glee, others with resignation. The potential joys of socialising with colleagues is unlikely to manifest in quite the same way with social distancing and mask wearing a requirement. At least lunch at the local coffee shop or hawker centre might expose some juicy gossip.

Meantime, the UK and Europe prepare for a new round of lockdown measures and a return to working from home.

And for many, the new new normal is hybrid teams. With half the team in the office and the others at home for half the time and then swap over. But what if you;re the team leader, do you stick with one half or divide your time in the office between the two half teams, and do you run meetings for those in the office or those at home, or both? And what happens if your boss isn't coinciding with your office time, do you miss out on making your presence felt? And does this mean that your clients are ready to meet in their office or not? And what if that's a day you're meant to be working from home?

The future of working and leading is a moving feast and we are all learning how to rapidly wrap our minds to whatever change this week will bring.

Our survey revealed some very common mindshifts that working and leading from home has required. And the top 3 mindshifts registered almost exactly a third of each: Setting boundaries between work and home life (34%); dealing with the challenges of virtual communications (33%) and being self-determined (29%).

Hack: Drawing a (virtual) Line

The need to set clear boundaries between work and home is the #1 mindshift and the #2 tip and the biggest concern for respondents. Significantly, for those who like working from home over those who dislike it.

Whilst the survey did not explicitly ask about children in the home, many respondents with children mentioned the issues they had in finding ways around the problems of needing to home-school, entertain, feed and look after children whilst working and often keeping young children especially away from video conference calls.

Many had difficulties setting up their home working environment dues to a lack of suitable space, furniture and equipment. Several respondents have a partner, school and university age kids all trying to work at home and Wi-Fi and internet bandwidth became a serious problem.

Establishing boundaries and the new rules of work in each household caused great stress and very few companies appeared to have real empathy or consideration for the difficulties faced by their staff. Very few companies had a workable plan in place for the shift to working from home and HR policies had to play catch-up real fast.

Whilst some have said it in jest, wearing pants to work and changing can help your unconscious brain recognise that this is “work time”. Changing back into something casual tells your brain (and your kids), this is family time.

It's something you can learn with AdvantEdge Hack #8: The Secret Keys to getting (the right) Stuff Done.

MindShift!: Zzzzzooom Fatigue, Tired of Teams, Worn out on Webex!

“Zoom fatigue” as it became known is a common phenomenon mentioned by many and is a very real problem, mentioned by 27%, with back to back web video conference.

In part this is caused by a continuous state of low stress induced by video conferencing. Your brain continuously monitors your body position space and the positions of everything else (it's call proprioception). Your face on my screen is normally within 1 metre, but your head size makes you look further away – as my brain cannot reconcile this with the real world, it induces a state of low stress continuously as our unconscious critter brain is being forcibly overridden by our executive brain.

Your “Critter brain” (Limbic and Brain stem) is inducing a state of freeze, flight or fight, whilst your executive brain (neo-cortex) is continuously reminding yourself that this is a video conference and your boss is not a nearby giant monster with a tiny head.

We can help our watching colleagues calibrate by “dressing the set” (as tv and movie directors do) to make the human in a setting fit with the size of the person as seen in the environment. For example, pictures on the wall behind you. Or sitting on a sofa (as in Friends) with the sofa in the frame. Few companies had any suitable training or coaching for staff to better work in virtual environments and, surprisingly, many still do not and seem to be assuming that there will be a return to “normal” soon.

Some veterans of working remotely have established clear rules for their participation in video conferences and how they participate. Deliberately blocking schedules for “my work time” to prevent others automatically assuming that if your schedule says you are “free” then they can fill it with another meeting.

Veteran virtual leaders establish ground rules for all communications and ensure that team members are properly trained and coached in best practices. Such as AdvantEdge Hack #16: Leading with Presence

Hack: Empathy has flatlined! We need to give it CPR

Zoom fatigue is just one (very real) phenomenon of the challenges of virtual working environments. Now that people have shifted minds to use video conferencing and learned how to schedule better, the biggest missing piece is empathy.

Empathy relies on the mirror neurons in our brain. That is we unconsciously sense that someone is distressed, our mirror neurons reflect the signals, and we “feel” their distress — this enables us to consciously choose how to act to show the other person empathy.

In virtual environments, our mirror neurons are severely hampered. The signs that your unconscious mind feeds on are almost entirely absent. The subtle facial clues, and the hands — where are the hands???? What weapon are they holding? In the days of live presentation skills training we would remind you that “pockets murder rapport” — now it is our lack of camera presence that is killing rapport.

And if we do see the hands, they flicker and flash because the camera is adjusting the focus or the virtual background pixelates and the amoeba glow disrupts, and we miss the signs.

“The office is a very effective place to solve ambiguities because you have more social cues – It's easier to talk with someone else … the people who are stressed out by ambiguity will struggle a lot in this new normal,” said Dr Marco Minervini, an expert on organisational design from INSEAD Singapore.

We need to learn to make up for our inability to respond unconsciously to the usual social cues and become much better at communicating, now we need to remember AdvantEdge Hack #15: Give Your Audience CPR — that every interaction to be crystal clear, a stated purpose and who is responsible to achieve the stated intent by when.

That is, in EVERY virtual interaction:

The virtual world is emotionally less satisfying — it's the emotional equivalent of Pringles — you have to keep delving into the tin to get more, because a few don't satisfy. You have to become crystal clear in your mind what you intend, what you expect, why you expect it, from whom and what you require by when. You can empower them with the “HOW”.

MindShift! Self-determination

For many a significant 29% of respondents, their biggest mindshift was having to be self-determined about their work and life.

Several new to remote working, mentioned that their schedule, priorities etc were previously driven and determined by others — their boss, assistants, teams, clients and so on. At the beginning of the WFH initiative worldwide, many suddenly found that they had to assume control for themselves and have sufficient discipline to focus on work and not the many (more interesting?) distractions of home.

This is one aspect of their lives that they felt they could control and this increased their general locus of control sufficiently to cope with the unprecedented situation. This can be especially important for those with younger children and many who had to home-school during the various lockdowns had to be even more disciplined. Several mentioned that night shift work was particularly gruelling with the lure of a comfortable bed and easy access to a hundred TV channels competing for attention.

Veterans of working from home learn this lesson early but stress that it doesn't get easier just because you know to do it, everyone in the team needs to be on the same page – their mindshift was that many were not at all self-disciplined — and many worry that productivity is low because team members are not as motivated to be disciplined. These are the bosses who require your constant presence in a video “meeting” so they can “pop by” your desk with instructions or guidance. These are the bosses who insist that you have to work in the office even if you would be more productive at home.

Hack: Choose to be at Cause rather than Effect

It's what you can learn with AdvantEdge Hack #3: Choosing to be At Cause for Your Life, not at Effect. If this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the world leaders are stumbling around in the dark just as much as you and I. The leaders who are emerging stronger have chosen to address the obstacles, to experiment and experiment again until they achieve their desired results. They will be amongst those who celebrate and become creative in their vision rather than disappointed and holding on for survival.

Get the Hackers Guide to Being at Cause or Effect:

Are you at Cause or Effect Template.pdf

Same Storm, Different Boat

We're learning that we're all in this same storm together, but we've realised that we're not all in the same boat. Some of us are in luxury yachts, many more are in old row boats and many are clinging onto a piece of driftwood.

Purposefully reach out to someone today and ask them how they're doing and how you can help them. You just might be lifting them out of the water and giving them a chance to choose a better response. Why not share this with them?

PDF version of this:

by Dr John Kenworthy Neuroscience of Expert Leadership Coaching — developing you (and your brain) with the skills and confidence your need to thrive and be a better leader. Book Your Discovery Call Now