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Managing the Covid-19 Crisis: Returning to the office

Recovery is coming, but it is likely to be moderate at first and will call for skillful management, according to the latest Eden McCallum survey of business sentiment in the Covid-19 era. Around 200 businesses in the UK, the Netherlands and around the world responded to this eighth Eden McCallum survey, and the findings reveal some guarded optimism as well as serious thinking about how to lead and manage organisations in the return to (something like) normality. 

There seems little doubt that business prospects are finally improving. Nearly half the businesses surveyed expect a rise in revenue in 2021 of at least 10% compared with last year, while only a fifth expects a decline of 10% or more. 31% think that revenue will stay pretty much the same. 

Since vaccination roll-outs were announced in November, most businesses have been estimating a return to “normal” by late 2021 or early 2022. This April, over half of businesses are still hoping to see “normality” return by the end of 2021, predicting that business will return to “normal” within less than 9 months. 

While the general mood in business is improving, the practical challenge of how to manage this return to more normal trading is very much front of mind. This is where fine judgment will be required. 

The vast majority of businesses are planning for employees to be in the office part-time post Covid-19A third say that their people will be onsite 2-4 days per week, with the flexibility to choose which days they are in; a fifth (19%) say that their people will be onsite for certain specific tasks, with flexibility for other matters and a further fifth (18%) say that staff will be onsite on specified days, with flexibility at other times.  Very few businesses are offering full flexibility (5%) or mandating full-time in the office (3%).  

The priorities for business leaders in managing this return to more normal operations with remote work policies are team productivity and staff morale.  Team productivity is seen as very important by 82% of businesseswhile 78% say that staff morale/mental health is very importantOther key factors being considered are fostering company culture/belonging, individual productivity, and creativity (58%, 54%, and 49% respectively saying this is very important). 

By way of contrast, cost considerations and the ability to monitor staff are seen as being much less important factors influencing remote working policies. The ability to monitor or manage staff is seen as very important by only 8% of businesses. And the possibility of reducing office space or rental costs is very important for only 4%. 

Businesses are focusing on balancing productivity and staff preferences with the needs of clients and concerns about how to make a split remote/onsite workforce effective. 

In the short term, city centres are expected to remain lightly occupied: around 75% of businesses expect less than half their employees will be onsite in the near future. Once the Covid-19 crisis is truly over around 60% expect more than half will be back onsite at any one time. 

Of course, the question of where to work confronts business leaders as well. Twothirds of business leaders expect to spend 2-3 days per week in the office once business returns to “normal”. Less than a quarter (23%) say they will be in 4 days per week or more. 

Thoughtful leaders appear to be planning to give staff a good deal of discretion about how and where they get their work done. Over 60% of businesses will allow staff to choose how to attend internal meetings post Covid-19 (whether physically present or dialing in via Zoom or similar), but a sizeable minority plans to require specifically “non-hybrid” models. Similarly, over 90% of businesses surveyed are not going to demand a vaccine for onsite work, but nearly a third will require regular Covid-19 testing. 

 

Sara Ghazi-TabatabaiAssociate Partner at Eden McCallum, says that the consideration being given to future working practices is encouraging. “It is a good sign that people have learned from the crisis and used this opportunity to rethink how we can all operate more effectively,” she says. “There is no need to go back to working patterns which may in truth have been inefficient. Flexibility combined with the ability to work face-to-face again should be good for everyone, employees, businesses and customers,” she adds. 

To view the full results, please click here and follow us to remain updated. 

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Lord Turner – Net Zero: Prospects for a Green Economic Recovery

One year ago, Lord Turner spoke at Eden McCallum’s inaugural event on the prospects for a world of “net zero” carbon emissions. Twelve months on, but this time via Zoom, he gave a detailed update on progress and the state of the energy debate internationally. He is ideally placed to do so as the Chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, a global coalition of major power and industrial companies, investors, environmental NGOs and experts working on pathways to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century. Here we share Lord Turner’s perspective on what has changed over the past year and the future outlook.

How likely do you think it is that we can meet net zero targets?

The goal, supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is for the world to achieve net zero emissions by the middle of the century, including very significant reductions in the coming decade of between 40% – 50%.

The good news is that the Energy Transmissions Commission is certain it is technologically and economically possible to get to net zero emissions by 2050. All developed countries should get to net zero by 2050, and all developing countries should get there by 2060, at the latest, and earlier if possible.

The science is pushing us all the time to be more ambitious.

What are the factors which make you believe this goal is attainable?

Developments in solar PV and wind, batteries, and hydrogen make a zero carbon economy possible and have accelerated in the past year. There has been a revolution in the cost of renewables in the last ten years.

For example, the cost of solar energy is now 10% of what it was in 2010. An auction to generate solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in Portugal in August last year was fixed at $13.2 per megawatt hour (MWh), that is 1.3c per KWh, or 1p per KWh. In the UK, customers pay around 15p per KWh for electricity (including the costs of transmission). The generation costs of solar power are now becoming a trivial amount and solar PV costs are going to keep coming down.

The cost of wind energy has come down between 60% – 70%. There have been dramatic falls in the cost of offshore wind energy in the last five years.

The storage of electricity is also getting cheaper as the cost of batteries has collapsed. Between 2010 and 2020 the cost per kilowatt hour storable of a lithium ion battery fell by 19% per year, from well over $1,000 to just over $137, a fall of almost 90% in total. There has been no slowdown in this fall in recent times. The expectation is that the cost of storage will fall to under $50 per KWh by 2035. At $100 per KWh an electric vehicle (EV) passenger car becomes cheaper to buy upfront than an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. This is in addition to the lower costs of ownership and running an EV.

A third important technological development is that the cost of electrolysis, to make hydrogen, is set to fall. A prediction is that the current cost of electrolysers of $850 per KW of capacity will come down to $200 by 2030 and $100 by 2050. Once you start developing something at large scale the opportunities for cost collapse are huge – green zero carbon hydrogen is within reach.

What are the implications of these technical and economic developments on progress towards the overall net zero goal?

The three technological trends outlined above have accelerated in the past year. They mean that, firstly, we can decarbonise electricity production at zero cost to the consumer – solar and wind are now cheaper than coal and gas, certainly on a new build basis. Secondly, batteries solve the day-to-night challenge of providing renewable electricity when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The challenge in providing heat in winter in north west Europe is different – hydrogen may have a role to play. Taken together, 85% of variable electricity supply can be generated with renewables at a competitive cost.

What are the implications going to be for the energy sector?

A zero carbon economy requires massively more electricity. Demand for electricity globally could rise almost four-fold by the middle of the century and there could be a ten-fold increase in the use of hydrogen by the same date.  Today about 20% of the energy we use is in the form of electricity, by 2060 it will grow to over 60%. At the Energy Transmissions Commission, we forecast the use of thermal coal falling by 95%, oil by 80% and gas by 50% by 2050.

What are the implications for sectors with high energy usage?

Surface transport will be completely electrified, either in a battery electric form or in a hydrogen fuel cell form. The sale of new internal combustion engine cars will be banned in the UK from 2030. Car companies – GM, Ford, JLR – are committing to help meet this target and Skandia trucks and Volvo are also heading in this direction.

Then there are the “hard to abate” sectors: aviation and shipping, cement, steel and petrochemicals. These are much harder to electrify, but technologically feasible routes are emerging to decarbonise these sectors. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) can help with cement, for example. You see companies in these sectors making net zero commitments: Maersk has committed to becoming a zero carbon shipping company by 2050; Arcelor Mittal and Baowu steel in Shanghai (the world’s largest steel maker) have both made net zero commitments, to be achieved by 2050; Shell and BP are aiming for net zero in their operations and also in how their customers use their products.

How much geopolitical will is there to achieve net zero targets?

More and more countries are making commitments to achieve net zero carbon targets and the last year has seen several moves. In September at the UN, President Xi committed China to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2060. Korea and Japan followed and committed to hitting a 2050 target. The election of President Biden changed US policy: they have now committed to reaching net zero by 2050. The COP 26 summit in Glasgow in November is providing further impetus to these developments and there should be more announcements over the course of the year.

70% of global emissions are now covered by net zero commitments from governments around the world, and that was not the case a year ago. Commitments made by political leaders create a ratchet effect. Business has some certainty about the policy framework and alters course accordingly.


What is the economic cost of reaching net zero?

The costs keep coming down. Lord Stern’s report in 2005/6 said that to get to net zero by 2080 would cost 1.5% of global GDP, with 60% reductions possible by 2050. When I first chaired the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) in 2008, it was thought an 80% reduction by 2050 would cost 1.5% of GDP. When the CCC reported in December last year it said that getting to net zero in the UK would cost just 0.5% of GDP – the costs keep falling.

In the UK, costs will continue to fall in transport and generation. The big challenge is residential heating, where the cost of improved insulation for some of Britain’s poor quality housing is high, and decarbonising residential heating (replacing gas boilers with heat pumps) will be expensive. But overall, balanced out, the costs to the consumer of zero carbon electricity will not be great. For business, investment will lead to operating net cost savings by 2050.

Across the world there will need to be an additional investment of 1% – 1.5% of GDP from now to 2050 to build an electricity system which will give us green electricity on a close to zero marginal cost.

For the consumer, the increased costs borne by shipping or steel companies to decarbonise will not be felt as a big percentage in the purchase price of finished goods. At wholesale business to business level, the costs are more significant. Everyone has to decarbonise at the same time, otherwise costs will not be shared on a fair basis by all.

Do we need to reduce consumption or will technology enable us to continue living as we do and for the developing world to increase its living standards, while still achieving net zero?

I refer to this as the Greta vs Elon debate – and of course it is not a simple binary choice. Many sensible people rightly support a balanced mix of both approaches and philosophies.

Across many economic activities and forms of consumption, there are in the long term almost no relevant planetary boundaries – with no limit to how much green electricity we can sustainably produce and consume, and therefore no long term limits to how much we can heat or cool our homes , drive our electric cars or fly. This is the arena of physics and inorganic chemistry, and the use of photons, electrons and ions.

But conversely, there are severe and immediate planetary boundaries in other sectors of the economy, and in particular in relation to food and textile production, which may require dramatic behavioural change, and in particular diet change, if we are to avoid ecosystem disaster. Meat-related emissions are significant and so either reducing meat consumption or the greater consumption of meat substitutes may be necessary. This is the arena of organic chemistry and biology, of everything to do with life on earth, of photosynthesis and the production of complex hydrocarbon, carbohydrate and protein molecules, where we must recognise inherent planetary boundaries which we are already going far beyond.

To listen to the full event recording, click here and follow us to remain updated on further sustainability initiatives.

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International Women’s Day 2021

In honour of International Women’s Day we share our thoughts on founding Eden McCallum as a female-led firm and the role of women in consulting and business, in a short video.

We are proud to have so many senior women working with Eden McCallum and asked them to share their thoughts as part of IWD.


Thoughts from Eden McCallum’s female leaders and advisers on IWD

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The Remote Working Marathon – Morale, Flexibility and The Gender Divide

The great work-from-home experiment continues in Europe and North America, and it is clear that even with vaccinations and the easing of restrictions our workplace will not “return to normal” soon, if indeed it ever will.

Based on the findings from our seven Covid-19 surveys since April 2020, Dena McCallum, Sara Ghazi-Tabatabai and Julian Birkinshaw examine the impact of remote working and what it could mean for the future of work.

To read the full article in Forbes, please click here.

Image © Shutterstock

 

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Managing the Covid-19 crisis: The ongoing impact of remote working

For businesses the continuing effort to “keep the show on the road” is taking a toll, even if there are now signs that there will eventually be an end to the crisis. This is one key finding in the latest Eden McCallum survey of business sentiment during Covid, the seventh to be carried out since April last year.

While many firms have adapted their working practices and seen some benefits from that, as the new year gets underway optimism is in relatively limited supply.

This latest survey of almost 200 business leaders has confirmed how tough a year 2020 was. Around two-thirds (64%) of businesses reported a fall in revenue of over 10% due to Covid, roughly what had been expected in the November survey, but a slightly better performance than had been feared earlier in the year. However, the bad news is not over yet: 48% of businesses expect a similar fall in revenue of over 10% in the first half of 2021 and, one year on from the start of the pandemic, over a third of businesses (37%) think it will take at least another year for a return to “normal” trading conditions, while over half (57%) believe that this ‘normality’ is at least nine months away.

The news on the jobs front is slightly better. Just over half (54%) of businesses have or expect to make redundancies once government support ends, a much lower figure than the 70% making or planning redundancies as recently as September.

Perhaps most striking in the latest survey is the sense in which “the novelty has worn off” as far as remote working is concerned.

Sentiment about WFH has noticeably worsened since November, with perceptions about motivation and morale both sharply more negative over the past three months.  Both men and women – roughly 50% of respondents – say they are having to do more work professionally and also at home or with the family. But while 52% of women feel that they are picking up a larger share of those domestic tasks, only 7% of men feel that way.

Several data points in the survey reveal the growing problems in businesses where colleagues work from home, separate from each other. Communication was always likely to suffer in this crisis, and the evidence for this is mounting:  “Casual and informal exchanges” and “hearing a broader set of views from colleagues” are both suffering – with 92% and 70% of business leaders saying these are harder with remote working.

The Covid crisis has at least freed up one usually pressurised aspect of working life: “getting time in the diary” to talk to colleagues is now much more doable (a net positive score of 19 points).

The view on the impact of WFH on decision making is mixed (the net score, above, is –1).  The factors contributing to decision making that have suffered the most are “building consensus amongst stakeholders” (-46 net score) and “open discussions where all views are heard” (-48 net score).

One gender split in the responses was particularly revealing. As far as the running of meetings is concerned women seem to be finding less downside in the new working conditions than their male colleagues:

“Getting points across effectively in meetings” registered a -17 net score for women but -28 for men. “Ensuring all team members can contribute to meetings” saw a -19 net score for women against -43 for men, and “chairing of meetings to facilitate decision-making” had a 0 net score for women against -15 for men. The new online etiquette of Zoom and Teams meetings may be restricting the “mansplainers” a little and giving more people a chance to speak!

Dena McCallum, founding partner of Eden McCallum, says that the long months of crisis are clearly beginning to undermine morale. “While business performance has perhaps held up better in general than was expected earlier in the crisis, the human cost – in terms of motivation and morale – is now being felt. The leadership challenge in the next few months will involve keeping colleagues engaged and excited about their work, and helping them to cope with the pressures of managing more professional and domestic hours.  Mental health is becoming a serious issue in the virtual workplace.”

To view the full results, please click here and follow us to remain updated.

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Neuroscience of the Covid-19 Crisis

Human adaptability and resilience have been tested more severely in 2020 than for many decades. The shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all, whether we realise it or not. Work has continued, and those who have been lucky enough to avoid falling ill have been able to carry on, if not quite normally then in an apparently sustainable manner. But, after nine months of it all, people are understandably getting tired.

Eden McCallum’s research into the business response to the pandemic has shown that while some people have enjoyed more flexibility and work/life balance in the great working from home experiment, many have also now had enough of the disruption. Liann Eden, co-founder of Eden McCallum, comments “from our regular surveys of business leaders, we see a stark deterioration in perceptions about remote working between May and November. People are particularly negative about the impact on well-being/mental health, morale, motivation, and collaboration. Also striking are the findings that men are much more negative about remote working than women.”

So what impact has the Covid-19 phenomenon had on us all, and in particular on our brains and emotional state? The firm recently hosted a conversation with Cristina Escallon to explore this. Escallon is an expert in leadership development and transformation. She lectures on neuroscience and leadership at London Business School, is a senior adviser to Ashoka, and a senior affiliate with Aberkyn and Eden McCallum.

The session started with an ‘emotional check-in’, an idea which has its origins in the aviation industry. (It was found to be an effective safety measure to ask pilots to discuss their mood candidly before they undertook another flight.) The overall picture, which Escallon has seen repeatedly this year, was very mixed; while many people were feeling gratitude and connection, there were also many feeling stress, tiredness, worry, frustration – and everything else in between.

Participants also said they were experiencing a range of physical and mental issues after all these months of the pandemic: exhaustion, a ‘foggy brain’, irregular sleep patterns, and burnout, amongst others.

Many people are in fact moving through a classic curve of a reaction to a trauma or disaster of some kind, Escallon said. There can be a kind of honeymoon recovery in mood initially, followed by a realisation that things will never be the same; and with it, disillusionment, further affected by negative trigger events. The announcement of the creation of a successful vaccine could be one of those recovery moments which could in turn be followed by further disappointment if the roll-out is not the ‘magic bullet’ many are hoping for, and the situation drags out further than we would all want.

Humans have evolved to be highly sensitive to threats – indeed, we are all the descendants of people who, in the main, successfully avoided threats. Fear of harm is a stronger response than the movement towards something attractive or rewarding.

Escallon referred to the SCARF model developed by the Neuro Leadership Institute which describes what people are seeking: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

Our brains are under threat within every single one of these headings in 2020, considering the pandemic as well as other events, Escallon noted.  No wonder many people are finding it hard to cope.

The brain is a remarkable organ which responds rapidly to stimuli. As Escallon explained, at the centre is the thalamus, which operates like a kind of switchboard. Messages are sent to the amygdala, which is the primitive emotional centre. In stressful situations we can experience an “amygdala hijack”, when we may over-react to threats and bypass the rational, executive function of the brain’s pre-fontal cortex (PFC).

During an amygdala hijack, energy is diverted from the PFC, and we cannot think straight. Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) are released and remain in the system for several hours. We may react with a fight, flight or freeze response.

And this is where the ‘foggy brain’ sensation has its origins also. The hippocampus – the brain’s ‘librarian’ as Escallon put it – tries to find meaning and reference points in what we are going through.

But we are confused: wearing a mask might seem like a good idea rationally, yet most of us are not used to seeing so many masked faces in front of us. The brain goes into a fog, which can ultimately prove exhausting. The brain just doesn’t know what to make of all this.

So how might we try to build greater emotional resilience and flexibility? George Bonnano at Columbia University has described resilience as meaning “the ability to function relatively well in adversity”. Escallon calls it “staying grounded inside, flexibly integrating what is happening outside”.

Escallon highlighted the importance of acknowledging, particularly at this time of the year, all that we have achieved.  She quoted the thoughts of Lucy Hone from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand: “This has been the year where the globe demonstrated its capacity for resilience. Look what we have managed to do.”

If we can pause, label our emotions and fears and reframe them, we can prevent the amygdala hijack and allow the PFC to function. So it is not weak to acknowledge our emotions and our fears; it is smart: it helps to deactivate the overly emotional part of the brain and bring the PFC back ‘online’. It also allows us to recognise that we are not alone in doing so, we are connecting at a human level and achieving relatedness (the letter R in the SCARF model).

And if we can manage our (mental) energy better in this way, it will become a good, healthy, repeatable practice.

Escallon said that part of managing our mental energy is creating space; we should block out time in our diaries where we have at least one hour a week to do nothing – to stop and stare, walk in nature…this is when new ideas often spring up.

In addition to creating space for ‘nothingness’, Escallon discussed other key levers for conserving our energy: staying connected with each other; finding our own life purpose, in order to find meaning in what we do and how we do it; developing a healthy daily routine; managing our sleep, amongst many more. Fundamentally, leaders need to conserve their energy for the long haul.

Leaders also need not just a Plan A, but also a B and C – to ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’ The post trauma curve will manifest itself and we need to be ready for setbacks. We need to be prepared, as individuals and organisations, to manage whatever comes.

As we emerge from the pandemic it will be essential to maintain that emotional health and connection, to have that “check in” before meetings when people can discuss openly how they are feeling.

She does not believe we will go back to the status quo ante. Healthier working environments will be more human; and places where all feel seen, heard and valued.

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Neuroscience of the Covid-19 Crisis

Human adaptability and resilience have been tested more severely in 2020 than for many decades. The shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all, whether we realise it or not. Work has continued, and those who have been lucky enough to avoid falling ill have been able to carry on, if not quite normally then in an apparently sustainable manner. But, after nine months of it all, people are understandably getting tired.

Eden McCallum’s research into the business response to the pandemic has shown that while some people have enjoyed more flexibility and work/life balance in the great working from home experiment, many have also now had enough of the disruption. Liann Eden, co-founder of Eden McCallum, comments “from our regular surveys of business leaders, we see a stark deterioration in perceptions about remote working between May and November. People are particularly negative about the impact on well-being/mental health, morale, motivation, and collaboration. Also striking are the findings that men are much more negative about remote working than women.”

So what impact has the Covid-19 phenomenon had on us all, and in particular on our brains and emotional state? The firm recently hosted a conversation with Cristina Escallon to explore this. Escallon is an expert in leadership development and transformation. She lectures on neuroscience and leadership at London Business School, is a senior adviser to Ashoka, and a senior affiliate with Aberkyn and Eden McCallum.

The session started with an ‘emotional check-in’, an idea which has its origins in the aviation industry. (It was found to be an effective safety measure to ask pilots to discuss their mood candidly before they undertook another flight.) The overall picture, which Escallon has seen repeatedly this year, was very mixed; while many people were feeling gratitude and connection, there were also many feeling stress, tiredness, worry, frustration – and everything else in between.

Participants also said they were experiencing a range of physical and mental issues after all these months of the pandemic: exhaustion, a ‘foggy brain’, irregular sleep patterns, and burnout, amongst others.

Many people are in fact moving through a classic curve of a reaction to a trauma or disaster of some kind, Escallon said. There can be a kind of honeymoon recovery in mood initially, followed by a realisation that things will never be the same; and with it, disillusionment, further affected by negative trigger events. The announcement of the creation of a successful vaccine could be one of those recovery moments which could in turn be followed by further disappointment if the roll-out is not the ‘magic bullet’ many are hoping for, and the situation drags out further than we would all want.

Humans have evolved to be highly sensitive to threats – indeed, we are all the descendants of people who, in the main, successfully avoided threats. Fear of harm is a stronger response than the movement towards something attractive or rewarding.

Escallon referred to the SCARF model developed by the Neuro Leadership Institute which describes what people are seeking: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

Our brains are under threat within every single one of these headings in 2020, considering the pandemic as well as other events, Escallon noted.  No wonder many people are finding it hard to cope.

The brain is a remarkable organ which responds rapidly to stimuli. As Escallon explained, at the centre is the thalamus, which operates like a kind of switchboard. Messages are sent to the amygdala, which is the primitive emotional centre. In stressful situations we can experience an “amygdala hijack”, when we may over-react to threats and bypass the rational, executive function of the brain’s pre-fontal cortex (PFC).

During an amygdala hijack, energy is diverted from the PFC, and we cannot think straight. Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) are released and remain in the system for several hours. We may react with a fight, flight or freeze response.

And this is where the ‘foggy brain’ sensation has its origins also. The hippocampus – the brain’s ‘librarian’ as Escallon put it – tries to find meaning and reference points in what we are going through.

But we are confused: wearing a mask might seem like a good idea rationally, yet most of us are not used to seeing so many masked faces in front of us. The brain goes into a fog, which can ultimately prove exhausting. The brain just doesn’t know what to make of all this.

So how might we try to build greater emotional resilience and flexibility? George Bonnano at Columbia University has described resilience as meaning “the ability to function relatively well in adversity”. Escallon calls it “staying grounded inside, flexibly integrating what is happening outside”.

Escallon highlighted the importance of acknowledging, particularly at this time of the year, all that we have achieved.  She quoted the thoughts of Lucy Hone from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand: “This has been the year where the globe demonstrated its capacity for resilience. Look what we have managed to do.”

If we can pause, label our emotions and fears and reframe them, we can prevent the amygdala hijack and allow the PFC to function. So it is not weak to acknowledge our emotions and our fears; it is smart: it helps to deactivate the overly emotional part of the brain and bring the PFC back ‘online’. It also allows us to recognise that we are not alone in doing so, we are connecting at a human level and achieving relatedness (the letter R in the SCARF model).

And if we can manage our (mental) energy better in this way, it will become a good, healthy, repeatable practice.

Escallon said that part of managing our mental energy is creating space; we should block out time in our diaries where we have at least one hour a week to do nothing – to stop and stare, walk in nature…this is when new ideas often spring up.

In addition to creating space for ‘nothingness’, Escallon discussed other key levers for conserving our energy: staying connected with each other; finding our own life purpose, in order to find meaning in what we do and how we do it; developing a healthy daily routine; managing our sleep, amongst many more. Fundamentally, leaders need to conserve their energy for the long haul.

Leaders also need not just a Plan A, but also a B and C – to ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’ The post trauma curve will manifest itself and we need to be ready for setbacks. We need to be prepared, as individuals and organisations, to manage whatever comes.

As we emerge from the pandemic it will be essential to maintain that emotional health and connection, to have that “check in” before meetings when people can discuss openly how they are feeling.

She does not believe we will go back to the status quo ante. Healthier working environments will be more human; and places where all feel seen, heard and valued.

· Written by · No comments

Managing the Covid-19 crisis: The ongoing impact

Businesses are beginning to see a way out of the Covid-19 crisis, according to the results of the latest Eden McCallum Covid-19 survey of business sentiment. This survey, which launched as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna made their vaccine announcements, is the sixth in a series that began in April and it shows that business leaders have a guardedly optimistic view of their future prospects. But they are also keenly aware of the difficulties that disrupted working patterns have caused.

Over 200 UK and international business leaders responded to a series of questions in the first half of November. The survey reveals that:

Optimism about a recovery in performance has picked up quite sharply. While 62% of respondents in September thought that a return to “normal” trading was still over a year away, that has now dropped to 40%. Similarly, while in September 48% of businesses expected a fall in 2020 revenue of over 20%, now only 37% hold that view.

60% of businesses expect that recent announcements about forthcoming vaccines will have a positive impact on performance in 2021, while almost 40% do not expect any significant change.

Prospects for redundancies have also improved: 56% of respondents have already or plan to make staff redundant, a decrease since September, when the equivalent figure was 70%.

But while business leaders seem to be more hopeful about the next few months, they have had to recognise that remote working has had a big impact on their colleagues.

The majority of business leaders report that remote working has had a negative impact on their colleagues’ well-being/mental health, morale, motivation, and collaboration. Only on the questions of work-life balance and productivity do respondents find a positive impact of widespread working from home. Interestingly, bosses are more positive about the impact of remote working on themselves personally, but believe the new conditions have been tougher for their colleagues.

The deterioration in perceptions about remote working from May to November is stark.  According to respondents, the impact on communication and collaboration has moved from a net positive figure in May (24% and 12%, respectively) to net negative in November (-11% and -35%, respectively). What is more, the impact on motivation and morale has become significantly more negative between May (-5% and   -16%, respectively) and November (-39% and -53%, respectively). The one consistent benefit over this period has been the impact on work-life balance (virtually unchanged at 35% and 37% net positive).

There is also a significant gender split in the findings. Women are much more positive about the impact of remote working than men, with some of the biggest differences being displayed in areas such as decision making and communication.

Travel to work times reveal a divide as well. Those who previously had a long commute (over 60 minutes) have enjoyed the benefits of having more control over their time, and are more positive on every dimension, particularly productivity.

Lastly, respondents living with young children have reported a much more positive impact on productivity and work-life balance since May, as schools have reopened.

Sara Ghazi-Tabatabai, an Associate Partner at Eden McCallum, says: “It is encouraging to see some light appearing at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. Some of the most negative trends – such as expectations about redundancies, revenue decline and time to return to ‘normal’ – are improving after months of decline.”

Dena McCallum, co-founder of Eden McCallum added “what is really striking though is the deterioration in views about remote working over the past six months, which will lead business leaders to revisit the role of the office before they tear up their leases.  Also striking are the findings that women are much more positive about remote working on all dimensions than men, but particularly in terms of decision making and communication. These findings should raise fundamental questions about the workplace and its impact on gender equality.”

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Welcoming nine new analysts across our London and Amsterdam offices

We are delighted to have our nine new analysts join us across our London and Amsterdam offices. Following a busy past month of inductions, we look forward to welcoming them onto our upcoming projects. Eden McCallum Analysts, Associate Consultants and Consultants are a key part of our project teams and work alongside our experienced consultants and our in-house team to tackle important business issues with our clients. For more details on the full team, see here.

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CB Insights recognises Eden McCallum as an innovative disruptor of management consulting

CB Insights, a leading industry research platform, recently issued an interesting report on the disruption of management consulting. We are pleased to be recognised as an innovative disruptor in this space.

The report disaggregates consulting into four components: information, expertise, insight and execution. Eden McCallum is positioned as a player in execution, creating high calibre teams of independent consultants with strategy and operating experience. As those who have worked with us know, we also have also disrupted access to expertise and insight, creating a more flexible and lower cost way to deliver lasting impact.