Employers Are Providing Necessary Changes in Routine

Listening to employees’ needs

In talking with colleagues and scrolling through LinkedIn and other social media, I noticed a surprising number of companies that either shut down for a week this summer or instituted “quiet week”.  Quiet week is time dedicated to minimal meetings and is meant to be used to think strategically about work or catch up on projects that require focused or heads-down time.

In the past, many leaders looked at breaks from the rigorous day-to-day routine as a loss for the company.  Employees desperately needed a break from everyday schedules to re-energize and focus on their work or personal lives to feel successful at work and home.

Breaking from routine

Finally, there’s recognition that shifts in routine are benefiting both companies and employees.  What’s at play?  Employees are being heard when they say they are struggling in their personal and professional lives because there just isn’t enough quality time for either aspect of their lives to feel they’ve successfully met expectations.  The pace can be too hectic on a daily basis and leaves employees feeling inadequate in all aspects of their lives.

Employers are finding they see more engagement and better results when they have a culture that acknowledges the employees’ whole life.  This became obvious when employees proved they could work productively from home during the pandemic. Organizations realized that they get their best work and creative ideas from employees when employees are feeling a break is coming or have just refreshed after one.  In my corporate life working for a European company, I experienced the benefits of companywide breaks.

Many companies in Europe traditionally slow down for summer and winter holidays and employees are strongly encouraged to use their generously allotted personal time off to refuel.  While here in the US, vacation allotments tend to be more restricted and it’s difficult to take more than a week or two at a time. Many employees end up either carrying time over to the next year or forfeiting it altogether.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), after one year of service the average vacation time is 11-13 days per year and after 10 years of service, the average increases to about 18-19 days per year.

Making room to meet employees’ needs

The trend in the US to offer company shutdowns or quiet weeks helps bridge a gap in personal time off while allowing employers the flexibility of determining each year if their company can sustain the time off.

Ultimately, we’re talking about the culture of a company, what it values, and the flexibility to break from tradition to ensure employees’ needs are being met. Most importantly, these companies are listening because it’s important that their employees are healthy, productive, and feeling successful in all aspects of their lives.

One might argue that not all companies can shut down or have week-long heads-down time. Finding the balance between employees’ and the company’s needs is what’s important.

Comment below how you have benefited from a company-sanctioned shutdown or quiet time.

Susan O’Connor is an internal communications expert and executive coach with experience working in various global industries including pharmaceuticals, technology, consulting, specialty chemicals, and manufacturing. She currently leads Paradise Workplace Solutions where she helps businesses create or improve their communications to employees.

Improving Communication Strategies for Leaders in COVID and Beyond

Susan O’Connor joins Kristen Walker of Clearview Consulting to discuss common communication issues that have made it more difficult for companies to connect with their employees during the social isolation and what leaders can do to help their employees get the information they need.  Click on the link below.

Improving Communication Strategies For Leaders in COVID and Beyond



Take Care: Now’s The Time For A CMD (Crisis Management Dozen) Plan

I don’t know of a single event in my lifetime that has had the world gripped in fear and was not as a result of the actions of one country or person.

Countries, businesses, and families have been affected.

Some people will wallow in the constant changing events or numbers of lives lost.

Some people will heed advice of doomsayer’s and continue to stock up unnecessarily on toilet paper.

Some people will sit back and see what happens.

What about you? The business owner? The solopreneur? You are not helpless in this situation!

I have long professed the use of the “CMD” Plan; also known as the Crisis Management Dozen Plan. I have modified it slightly based on current events.

Let me explain……

It is all centered around “Taking Care”. Taking care of what’s most important:

1.      Care of Yourself and Your Family

2.      Care of Your Business

3.      Care of Your People

Each of these, has 4 components that each of us could, and should, focus on during any time of crisis.

1.      Care of Yourself and Family

Very easily put, you are no use to yourself or anyone else unless you start by focusing on yourself. You do this by starting with 4 very simple, yet important steps:

A.    Assure your safety and that of your family. Make sure that you and your family are healthy and safe and take the necessary precautions to assure that this continues. Keep yourself and family insulated (I prefer to use this word rather than isolate) from harm by assuring you have a safe place to call “home”. This includes assuring you have the necessary amount of food, supplies, medication, etc. to make it through the period of time that you may need to be sheltered and “insulated”.

B.      Make prudent financial decisions. During times of crisis, financial instability abounds. It may not be the right time to buy that new car or book a vacation. Your source of income could be jeopardized and may need to put your “rainy-day fund” in play.

C.      Keep calm and poised. You cannot change the actions or behaviors of others; you can only control your own. If you have a family, you may be setting the tone for others’ actions. Be mindful of what you do and say.

D.      Keep growing. If you need to work remotely, or you happen to have a reduced workload or even lose your job. Never stop learning and growing. Use technology to your advantage. There are many FREE websites and sources for education and training. LinkedIn offers free training and development courses. Use this time to positively focus your energies on activities that move you forward.

2.      Care of Your Business:

Once you have assured the safety and health of you and your family, you can turn your attention to that of your business.

A.      Business Continuity. All businesses should have a business continuity plan. What happens if you experienced a blizzard? A hurricane? An earthquake? A system-wide computer virus? Will you continue to operate? If so, how and where? When world events like we are experiencing now, when we are being asked to assure social distancing, working in a normal business center may not be acceptable, but you need to continue operating your business. How do you do it? You can start now if you don’t already have a plan.

B.      Current Financial Review. Current world events of business environment conditions may warrant an in-depth look at your short-term financial stability. Has your business suffered revenue loss? Can you make payroll this month? Will you need to cut expenses and/or staff? If so, when and how much?

C.      Business Plan Review. When is the last time you looked at your business plan? I’m not talking about your annual plan or a review of your P&L statement, I’m talking about your strategic plan. If during times of crisis, your business is slowed, take the opportunity to brush the cobwebs off your (strategic) business plan. Are you where you wanted to be (under normal business conditions)? Do you need to adjust your plan or consider alternative strategies? Now is the time.

D.      People Strategy Review. Those that know me know I preach about the need for a people strategy. Now is the time to review that strategy as well. Start with a review of your succession plan. Depending upon the severity of the world events, and the possible turnover of employees, you need to assure you have the right people, in the right jobs, at the right time, for the right reasons.

3.      Care of Your People:

Once you have looked at the business, you need to look at your people; the heartbeat of your business.

A.      Assure the Safety of Your Employees. If your business has employees that are in a brick and mortar facility, you need to assure the safety of your employees, customers and visitors under any circumstances. Under current events, if your business is still operating and not shut down, this means you need to assure that you take the necessary precautions of social distancing, extraordinary cleanliness procedures and perhaps even providing masks and/or hand sanitizers.

B.      Use Virtual Offices or Work from Home Provisions. Whether your business has a formal telecommuting or work from home policy or not, you should consider the implementation of such programs to minimize the potential for spreading of any contagious conditions.

C.      Support the Needs of Your Employees and Their Families. Employees with school-age children may be faced with the reality that they need to be home with their children as a result of school closures. The employee themself, or their family member, may be sick or contagious. Support, where possible the work from home provision. If the employee is a production worker or someone that needs to be in the workplace, perhaps there are on-line training courses that this individual can benefit from while completing from home.

D.      Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. In times of chaos, people (employees) are begging for information. Over the past week or so, I have received no less than 3 dozen emails from CEO’s of banks, financial institutions, public services, etc. explaining what they are doing to assure the safety of their customers, their employees and of their families. While they may all have similar messages, they all felt the need and importance for communicating to their customers. As a business owner, you need to assure ongoing communication with employees; whether you are open or closed! Ongoing communications to keep your employees abreast of the business, as well as to reinforce calm and a showing of support for all your employees is not optional, but mandatory during these unsettling times.

As I indicated earlier, I have modified the CMD Plan based upon current events. However, the basis for the CMD Plan are important and critical during any emergency situation.

For more information on our CMD Plan or any component within this article, please contact Randy Lumia, President and People Strategy Lead at Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC. at Randy.Lumia@ParadiseWorkplaceSolutions.com

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Employees’ Understanding of Change

Did you ever think that leading a business would involve so much talking and explaining? You talk with your managers, employees, customers, peers, vendors, the mailman, the cleaning crew and on it goes. It’s no wonder, then, when an employee says he/she doesn’t understand a change you want to make that you question if anyone has heard you.

Many important business decisions are well thought out and communicated with managers and employees. Yet, employees still don’t make the changes you need. This isn’t uncommon. How people adapt to change has been well studied in various situations from grief to business. There’s a process that people go through before they can truly act on implementing any change.1 Resistance is normal and should be expected when you begin to think about making a change. Still, how can you help employees through it?

Overcoming resistance to change
As a business owner, you spend a good deal of your time developing plans and finding solutions to problems. Your time is consumed by many different issues. Once you’ve solved one problem, another pops up to demand your attention. This is the point at which a change can begin to fail and you could be missing out on the most important factor in making your business successful—ensuring employees understand what you need from them. I’m not talking about knowing what the change is. I mean truly UNDERSTANDING and being a part of the company’s success.

Having spent most of my career in employee and leadership communications, I found that a company is always evolving to flourish. In stark contrast, many employees fear the very actions that will ensure the longevity of the company and their own future. Basically, they want their work experience to remain the same or want to make part of a change. How often have you heard team members say that they like the way the company was before more employees were hired or challenging market dynamics affected the business? Each employee has his/her own preference and degree of comfort with change.

Change is inevitable
Change IS happening more rapidly and businesses need to adapt or suffer. So, if companies are changing regularly and rapidly, shouldn’t we expect that employees would “get used to change”, adjust quicker and get on with the work that needs to get done? The number of experiences employees have with change doesn’t help them adjust. It’s the quality of how they have been included and understand the change that helps them adapt more quickly to what you need from them.2 Employees’ needs around the change must be met in order for them to be able to focus and get the job done.

As the owner of your business, you’re continually looking for ways to make improvements, increase your profits, become leaner, satisfy your workers and customers and reduce costs. You can’t do all that without occasional disruption. The question becomes how to continually improve your business while keeping your employees productive and satisfied working for you. The answer is to involve them in your business issues and improvements.

How to involve your employees

  1. Have conversations about your current business plans with your employees. Let them ask questions, probe your thoughts and rationale.  Include the naysayers.  Make sure your managers can articulate your plan and have conversations with their employees.  Do this as often as it feels comfortable.  Rotate the employees you’re having conversations with to get different perspectives.
  2. Set up environments that allow open, unstructured dialogue to occur. Coffee or lunch sessions with you or their manager.  Let employees know that they can ask you anything and you will answer to the best of your knowledge.  Most importantly, listen with no expectation other than to hear what they say.  Afterwards, take what you’ve gathered and think on it. Incorporate what you can and keep other ideas socked away until you see a pattern of similar issues or ideas.  Then act on those improvements.
  3. Ask your employees regularly how business or their work can be improved and what can be done differently. Employees are the experts on your business and know what your business needs.  Talk to employees who directly interact with customers.  What are your customers asking for that the business isn’t providing?  This is where your next new business development idea may originate.
  4. Write down what employees say and who made the recommendations. Follow up with one-on-one conversations or get a group of people with similar ideas together to discuss.  Engage them in coming up with ideas or changes.  Then have them help explain the change to others.
  5. Recognize employees for contributing. Give them credit when possible.  Use stories that include them when talking about new business ideas or changes that will make the business run better and more efficiently.

Here’s what you can do today

  • Talk to your leadership team about involving employees at all levels in discussions on business direction and improvements.
  • Set up a lunch meeting with 5 or 6 trusted employees to discuss how you want to get more worker input. Then set up another lunch meeting with 5 or 6 naysayers.  Ask them if your approach will work in your company’s culture.  Ask what would concern other employees about contributing more and owning the changes that will result.  Then begin implementing consistent, timely discussions with your workforce.

If you haven’t involved employees in solutions and business development previously explain what you’re doing and why, what you expect from workers and how you’d like this new approach to be part of your culture. The larger your business becomes, the more insights you will need from employees. It’s never too late to start including your employees in growing your business.

1 Managing resistance to change, www.prosci.com, August 5, 2019.
2 Joseph B. Fuller, Judith K. Wallenstein, Manjari Raman, Alice de Chalendar, Your Workforce is More Adaptable than you think, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, issue, p. 118-126.

Look for our upcoming blog on:
Enhancing your employees’ skills through training and development