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Experts warn coronavirus remote working may impact employee wellbeing

 13th March 2020…With an increasing number of UK employers joining Google and Amazon in restricting travel and requesting remote working, British businesses need to get prepared or brace themselves for a potentially significant impact on employee wellbeing.

Remote working isn’t always as Instagram-worthy as it may seem. A global survey last year found that many remote workers struggle with unplugging from their work (22%), loneliness (19%) and communicating (17%)[1]. Another study in 2017 found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers.[2]

Business culture and remote working expert, Jane Sparrow, says “a little bit like when it snows, the first day or two of homeworking can feel quite fun – it’s different, you don’t have to get up as early, there’s no morning commute – but then the reality sets in and it can become a real challenge for people.

“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly. This new remote working environment can also affect focus, a sense of team and creativity. It’s not something that is often talked about but if we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy and ultimately productive, we have to recognise and manage the high stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”

Jane is founder and director at The Culture Builders who have been supporting China and Hong Kong based, global luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyle retailer, Lane Crawford, through the eye of the Coronavirus storm.

Andrew Keith, the company’s president, says “it’s hard to articulate the array of unprecedented challenges this situation has presented but at the heart of our response has been supporting people and keeping them connected – to each other and the organisation.

“We’ve been developing people managers on how to support their remote teams, providing daily top tips and inspiration to keep people motivated and working intensively with the top team on role modelling essential behaviours for effective virtual working. I started a VLOG a number of months ago to have an emotional and direct connection with every one of my people, during such a difficult time, which has had a huge positive impact.”

With millions of UK employees already working from home and millions more expected to follow, the challenge is on for businesses to keep their people positive, connected and productive. The Chancellor may have announced a £30bn package to “keep this country and our people healthy”, but the onus is just as much on employers to ensure their people are supported.

Jane Sparrow says, “There are so many benefits of remote working, for both people and business spanning wellbeing, productivity and the environment. A possible upside of this whole situation is that it may prove the case for more flexible working within companies who have  been slow to adopt it.

“However, many leaders, teams and companies come at remote working assuming that people will just do it well or adapt easily to it, if it’s new for them. The other thing we see a lot is businesses putting in a new or enhanced virtual working tool – and considering the job done.

“We need to remember that we’re all human – and so dropping people into a totally different way of working with just a new video communication platform – it doesn’t work. We have to think about how we keep people feeling connected, that they’re still part of a team and that there’s still a strong support network in place. On the topic of connection, we’ve been going to Lane Crawford’s virtual gin dens!”

JANE’S TOP TEN TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE REMOTE WORKING

  1. Don’t focus on tools alone

With video communication, webcasting, messaging platforms and more, the tech is there to make this work. But attitudes and behaviours are just as vital for a productive remote team.

  1. Create a third place

There’s the office, there’s home and then there’s the virtual third place. Agree as a team how you’ll behave there for virtual collaboration success e.g. it’s acceptable to send a quick message to say “I’ll call you back” if you’re deep in focus.

  1. Ensure social continuity

When we work remotely, our exchanges become more formal and task focused. Pick up the phone, or ping a message, just to see how someone else’s day is going. Virtual team check ins at the start and end of each day replicate the usual social greetings and create connection.

  1. Adapt working structures

What works in the office may not remotely. Instead of lengthy meetings, have short virtual huddles with a strong chair so people don’t get lost because they’re not physically visible. Apply this thinking to team resourcing, scheduling and action planning.

  1. How are we feeling?

Keeping in tune with how teams are feeling is even more critical when they’re remote – have five minutes on the start of every virtual meeting to say hello properly and see how people are.

  1. Help people to manage distraction

Distractions are the biggest reason why many people say homeworking wouldn’t work for them. Get your leaders to talk openly with people about how they’re managing theirs – specific break times are a good start!

  1. Say thank you more

We have a human need to feel valued and when we work remotely the opportunities for this diminish. Make sure your business is seeking out and actively sharing success and your managers are dialing up the appreciation.

  1. Energising – your way

What gives us energy is different for everyone but your people need to work it out fast for success. A tried and tested formula is breaks + movement + fresh air (every so often). Plus avoiding the lure of the biscuit cupboard with healthy snacks instead.

  1. Walk the virtual walk

There’s a critical role for leaders and managers to connect, support, coach and role model. Task your managers with choosing two different people to call each day for a 10 minute check in.

  1. Be realistic and honest

If schools and nurseries close, the impact on how we are able to work will be even greater. Businesses will need to respond quickly and empathetically – leaders being open and honest about their own working patterns (and limitations) can really set the tone.

For more thinking and top tips on effective remote working subscribe to The Culture Builders podcast.

About Jane Sparrow

Jane is an organisational culture expert, published author, expert facilitator, performance coach, impactful speaker and global commentator. She has worked with businesses across the world, including Centrica, UKTV, Sony, Lane Crawford, Dyson, HSBC, Rugby Premiership and Sky, to create and sustain high performance cultures.

About The Culture Builders

The Culture Builders is a UK-based consultancy that works globally and specialises in building high performance teams and workplaces. Their client list includes global corporates, UK NGO & Government organisations, NHS trusts, charities and SME including Sony, NTT Security, Dyson, The Government Office, BBC and Arqiva. The Culture Builders is a carbon-neutral company.

For further information visit theculturebuilders.com[1] 2019, Global Survey, Buffer –  https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019

[2] 2017 United Nations report – http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_544138.pdf

Photo caption – Remote workers can quickly feel isolated, distracted and lonely” says business culture and remote working expert, Jane Sparrow.

Photo credit – remote working stress by Anton Korobkov, Shutterstock

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10CFDs experts believe that due to weakening dollar rates, the price of goods will soar


The relationship between dollar rates and commodity prices
The connection between the value of the USD and the prices of commodities is usually an inverse relationship. The costs of commodities tend to decline when the USD strengthens against other major currencies, and vice versa.

According to 10CFDs experts, though the correlation isn’t perfect, this is the rule in general. The value of the USD influences the costs of commodities since it is the benchmark pricing mechanism for most commodities.

10CFDs experts further explain that though the dollar tends to be the most stable foreign exchange instrument, commodities are global assets. These assets are traded all over the world. Foreign buyers purchase the U.S. made commodities with Dollars. And when the value of the dollar drops, buyers have more “purchasing power.”

10CFDs experts state that the mechanism goes like this- when the dollar strengthens, it means that commodities become more expensive in other, non-dollar currencies. While this tends to have a negative influence on demand, as one would expect, when the dollar weakens, commodity prices in other currencies drop lower, something which increases demand.

Which commodities are expected to gain worth in 2020?
According to 10CFDs experts, if we’ll focus on the 3rd quarter of 2019, we’ll note that almost all major commodity price indexes fell, led by the energy sector fall, which declined by more than 8%.

Agriculture and metals prices were down 2% each, while trade tensions, combined with weakness in global goods trade, were weighing on commodity demand. On the other hand, precious metal prices gained nearly 12%, which is also a sign of heightened uncertainty.

In line with subdued global growth prospects, most price forecasts have been revised down for 2019, especially energy (-15%). And according to experts at 10CFDs, energy and metals prices are expected to continue to fall in 2020, while agricultural commodity prices should stabilize.

After oil prices dropped by 8%, as worries about slowing global demand outweighed temporary production disruptions is Saudi Arabia, oil prices were expected to average $60/bbl in 2019 and $58/bbl in 2020, going down from $68/bbl in 2018, with concerns about the weak global growth outlook and robust oil production weighing on the market.

On the other hand, 10CFDs states that natural gas consumption continued to grow strongly in late 2019, supporting stable prices into 2020, while coal prices are expected to continue to fall. In contrast to other commodities, precious metals prices rose 13 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2019.

Easing of monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve, heightened global uncertainty, and robust physical demand all supported precious metals prices, pushing the gold-to-copper ratio (a barometer of the health of the global economy) to a 3-year high.

Though as the prices of precious metals are anticipated to continue their upward trend and increase nearly 6 percent in 2020, following an expected gain of 8 percent in 2019, a stronger-than-expected U.S. dollar could still push prices lower.

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