Sustaining Mental Health and a Supportive Organisational Culture in Times of Corona Virus and Climate Crisis
Organisations worldwide are rightfully alarmed about the threat that the Covid-19 outbreak poses to their own staff. Education and training courses are being cancelled and home office options are being introduced wherever possible. Trainings, conferences and large group events, not even to speak of comprehensive culture transformations, are postponed indefinitely.
But even before the outbreak of the global corona epidemic, many organisations were questioning how much mobility we can allow with a clear conscience. The message of the Fridays for Future movement and other climate activists is clear: Flying is bad and harms the climate — stay at home or take the train. But especially in large organisations, managers are still sent halfway around the world to attend a 3-day event. The environmental footprint of live workshops and training sessions is significant and, in view of the global situation, hardly justifiable.
At the same time, there is a growing awareness that traditional leadership development, which ultimately only ever reaches a handful of senior executives, has never been sustainable and therefore, worth its cost. In order to create a collective mind-set shift, to introduce ‘new work’ technologies or even to change the structure of an organisation, more employees instead of fewer must be taken along on the change journey.
It is time to reconsider how we are running our lives and our businesses, how we travel, how we work together, and how we interact and connect
In a recent Medium article that went viral (no pun intended), Tomas Pueyo makes a compelling case for why the current epidemic challenges us to act at an unprecedented speed and scale. Along the same note, global health expert Alanna Shaikh warns in her informative TEDtalk:
‘This is not the last major outbreak we are ever going to see. There is going to be more outbreaks and there is going to be more epidemics. That’s a given. And it is a result of the way we interact with the world.’
In the current climate of fear, companies have, now more than ever a, what Germans call a ‘Fürsorgepflicht’, a duty of care for all their employees. But how do you support an employees mental wellbeing and maintain a caring organisational culture when you can’t even be in the same space? It is time to reconsider how we are running our lives and our businesses, how we travel, how we work together, and how we interact and connect. Technology can and has to be part of the solution. Organisations need to not only provide solutions for working remotely but also create virtual spaces for people to meet and connect. Being isolated in one’s apartment likely contributes to feeling worried and fearful. Luckily, there are ways to collaborate, connect and learn without the need to meet face-to-face.
We must be open to (new) training solutions like blended learning
Organisations cannot demand digital competence from their employees and at the same time cling to old training/education formats. Today, learning in a digital environment no longer means that people disappear and hide behind a computer. Interactive learning is nowadays possible, and we must be open to (new) training solutions like blended learning, especially in the light of the current challenges.
The benefits of blended learning are by now well documented. Blended solutions are:
- flexible — content can be interacted with from any device at any time;
- cost-effective — programmes can be scaled across the entire system, thus creating a shared language throughout all levels of an organisation;
- suitable for different learning styles — different channels are incorporated;
- sustainable — blended learning has a positive effect on the transfer of learning compared to traditional classroom situations (Ceylan & Kesici, 2017 and Inal & Korkmaz, 2019);
- climate friendly — there is no travel involved.
At my company, Conscious U*, we specialise in blended learning solutions that balance cost-effectiveness, a culture of participation, digital literacy, a responsible climate policy, and the social engagement of employees in times of threats. We are part of the new wave of cultural change makers who deliver education and transformation by combining digital learning and (virtual) encounters between people. Our motto is: Cultural change requires inner work. Cultural change needs everyone. And cultural change takes time. Therefore, our online programme CU*i enables organisations to engage ALL employees simultaneously on a six-month development journey — without travel and reasonable cost per employee thus ensuring real transformation.
Here are three blended hacks that you can immediately implement within your team or your organisation:
- Videoconferencing and Online collaboration software: Videoconferencing software allows you to meet virtually as a team. We use Zoom because it allows us to create virtual break-out rooms for smaller group work. Free meeting options are available. Monday is our online collaboration tool that allows us to track projects and progress from anywhere at any time. Obviously, there are many different options to choose for both, videoconferencing and online collaboration, and many companies offer free versions. The issue is less which tool to chose but to chose one and make it work for you.
- Efficient team meeting process: In order to make your team meetings as productive as possible, you can use the rotating meeting process. This will keep your meetings on track and the team members engaged.
- Listening and sharing: We are social animals and we need to be in contact with others in order to manage our anxiety and counterbalance our isolation. Meet online with colleagues to share, to listen and be listened to. We introduce the Listening Circle to our clients as a simple way to deepen connections across the organisation.
Well thought through blended learning programmes like ours use a micro-learning approach and gamification to engage participants and various combinations of individual work, team work and large scale videoconferences to achieve individual and collective change simultaneously.
Blended learning solutions are important pieces in creating cooperation, resilience and wellbeing. There is no time like now to benefit from the upside of the digital age. What if you took this as a time of opportunity instead of a crisis only? I challenge you all to think about how blended learning can be used to leverage your impact, minimise your CO2 footprint and use this forced downtime productively while keeping youself and your co-workers safe.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a deeper conversation about blended learning solutions for employee development, team work and culture change.
If you liked this article, you might like my book “Conscious You — Become the Hero of Your Own Story”.