Tag Archives: central London

Unexpected ‘Zoom Effects’ and Changes to Our Business Life.

work with zoom

If 2020 will be remembered for anything it will be for ‘Zoom’ and the way it moved our office lives online in one fell swoop.  For those of us who had been teetering on the edge of distance working and moving into a digital landscape, Zoom was the killer app that made it happen.  Our business life was reduced to being a thumbnail on a colleague’s laptop.  Suddenly everybody started panicking over their Zoom image.   Staff members were subjected to close facial inspection in a way that never happened in regular face to face office life.  People were ‘Zoom-shamed’ and the meme that circulated online was ‘Zoom, it’s YOU but ugly’.

This has, of course, led to a boost in enquiries for cosmetic adjustments, known as ‘Tweakments‘  which can allow you to present a more acceptable face to colleagues and, indeed, for online job interviews.

Yes, there’s a growing awareness that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing – well, at least, too many video calls. As a result, the number and length of video-based meetings will likely decline somewhat over time, but they aren’t going to disappear. They are starting to evolve, however, thanks to the immense competition among the different platforms and the critical factor that programmers who are creating these tools have to use them extensively as well. (That isn’t always the case with other applications.)

In addition to lots of new views of participants and content, we’ve started to see extremely practical benefits such as real-time audio transcription of the meeting – making it significantly easier and faster to confirm your notes, double-check what was said, or catch up on a meeting you may have missed.  The Zoom autosave and transcribe feature is extremely well crafted and you can download the transcript of your meeting minutes after the session closes.

zoom

As staff begin to return to work in dribs and drabs there will be the ‘shock of the new’ where your old workspace has changed quite dramatically into something quite unlike its pre-COVID form.  You will see plastic barriers, higher cube walls, rearranged environments and more.  Many will not want to return to embrace this ‘new normal’. Even more people may start to consider longer-term workplace alternatives – either permanent work-from-home arrangements (potentially even in other cities – as some have started to do) or a more nomadic type of work lifestyle, where people start working from a range of different locations including their homes, offices, coffee shops, and other places, just to bring a bit of variety to their everyday experience.  This is the world of the ‘virtual office’  with everything except key tasks being relocated away from the business HQ.   Your business phone line is answered in an office, your physical mail is received at an office, your courier can still be collected and delivered at a recognisable office suite but other workday functions can happen elsewhere at less cost and in more agreeable surroundings.

Software is developing quickly to meet these new challenges. Companies like Citrix are at the vanguard of change.  Their vice president Tim Minahan puts it every well when he said  “Work is no longer a place. It’s happening in kitchens and basements, in parks and on sidewalks and scaled back, socially distanced offices,”   Software such as Citrix Workspace™. The secure, intelligent, and high-performing digital workspace organizes, guides and automates everyday tasks to boost productivity and create a sense of personal accomplishment that fuels engagement and innovation – all while ensuring privacy and security.  If you combine this platform with a virtual office such as Hold Everything in central London you have a framework which is employee-friendly and future-proof.

 

 

Virtual Office News.  Paddington’s Journey Home from Peru to London.

 

My Marmalade Challenge..

If anyone read my last blog, it was quite the solitary adventure, but I really didn’t know what was in store for me over the next week. I’m happy to report that I am now safe and home with my family back in the UK. The last week abroad was one of the most mentally challenging times I have faced for several reasons, which I will explain.

My last blog explained how I ended up in lock-down in Cusco, Peru.  Now I will expand on the last week there and how I was repatriated home. As for most people in the world, the days were blurring into each other and life was continuing. I was still stuck in the hotel and continuing to try and find sanity through socialising with the other guests in the hotel and doing many laps around the courtyard to get those steps in.

Everything took a major turn when one day I was sitting in the courtyard discussing how bored I was. I thought I would do something about this and print off some cards to play. Whilst doing this a member of staff came up to me and the other guests saying that there was a suspected case of COVID-19. Due to this we would have to immediately go to our rooms and not leave. We would have food delivered and someone would come to update us later on.

By the time I went to collect my stuff everyone was gone. I went up to my room, not really sure what to make of this new situation. I wasn’t freaking out just yet as I didn’t know completely what was going on. I continued talking to some friends online when I looked out of my window, which had a view of the hotel’s courtyard, and saw four to six people in full hazmat suits disinfecting the courtyard. It honestly looked like the scene from Monsters Inc when one of the monsters gets a sock on it and all those disinfector monsters come out. Everything else I had experienced up until now did feel like I was watching some weird sci-fi movie, but this was the first time I really felt like I was living it and not just watching it.

Still unsure what to make of the whole new situation and with some very stressed parents at the end of the phone, some of the people in the hotel had made a WhatsApp group where we discussed what was going on. It wasn’t long from being stuck in my room that I heard the horrible news that the suspected COVID-19 patient from our hotel had passed away.

This is the point where I completely freaked out and didn’t know what to do. I remained calm whilst talking to my friend but completely lost it when speaking to my Dad over the phone, trying to get him to break the news slowly to my Mum, as I knew she wouldn’t be as calm on the phone. The next two days were genuinely some of the worst I experienced. Not in the sense of what I had to do whilst being stuck inside, but mentally, was completely draining.

On one side I was extremely sad about the guy in my hotel and really felt bad for that whole situation that the hotel was in, as everyone, including the staff were now quarantined in here together. On the other side, more selfishly I was extremely concerned for myself and my safety as suddenly the one place I had to be safe was now the most high-risk area in all of Cusco.

Mental exhaustion sets in..

After two days I was mentally exhausted but had calmed down and just focused on talking to family and friends and getting through this ordeal. I was being fed well and I had people come to the door who I gave my rubbish to and who gave me toiletries and clean towels.

I think considering the whole situation I was keeping vague sanity because at the end of the day I was not the only person going through a weird situation, most of the world was, which was weirdly comforting at a time like this. After what felt like many days, there were rumours circulating that there was going to be a plane to come and save us. There had been several tweets from the embassy hinting at potential repatriation and were all just waiting for that special email to come through to our inbox.

The WhatsApp chat with many people in the hotel had everyone discussing when or if they had any potential flights out. People were slowly leaving in drips and drabs but there had been some problems with getting people out due to the high-risk hotel I was in.

We had a group of doctors come to visit us whilst the hotel had a major disinfecting effort with more people in Monsters Inc suits. It was quite a mixed reaction from everyone, but we all listened to what they had to say and then had inspections of our temperatures and oxygen saturation levels. Amusingly one of the hotel guests spoke Spanish and English so became the translator mediator between the hotel guests and doctors, and hence had to sit in on all our individual evaluations, which made for amusing awkward conversations for him to translate. The day the doctors came we were all forced outside our rooms for most of the day whilst the hotel was disinfected.  It was nice to get sunlight and properly chat to everyone even though we were wearing masks.

The biggest hurdle to come at us next was to be able to leave the hotel if we got a repatriation flight home. Due to the hotel being high-risk, the road the building was located in was behind a police line and no one was able to just walk out. We needed the doctors to come and give us documentation to show to the police that we were ok to leave and make our way to the airport. A few guests did initially have issues leaving as the doctors wouldn’t give them permission. The next day they were able to leave with the right paperwork, but it was extremely disheartening to see them go to the door and be turned away from their potential flight.

The hotel told us that the moment we heard about a flight home we would have to tell them so they could ring the doctor and they could come immediately to give us the all clear. The issue was that the doctor would never pick up the call or would take a long time to. Problems arose when you get the email late in the evening telling you to meet at the airport very early the next morning, giving no opportunity for the doctors to come.

After what felt like a VERY LONG TIME I did get my email. I was ecstatic, along with some very relieved parents. I went to the front desk to ask for the doctor as I was leaving at 6am the next morning and it was already around 5:30pm. After quite a few hours of waiting no doctor turned up. I called the front desk who reported to me that the doctor will meet us at the meeting point and that the police should let us through. This had gone against everything they had told us at the time, but I wasn’t going to question it.

A moment of anxiety

I woke up after little sleep with great anxiety about the day ahead. I met the two other Brits who I had become quite friendly with after all this time. We were all feeling quite nervous. A staff member came to meet us and let us out of the building, but only after a good spray of disinfectant all over us. The police by the hotel didn’t bother us and we left the police line behind.

I definitely felt quite emotional leaving and walking outside. It was an odd sensation seeing Brits all walking the street early in the morning, like some kind of exodus. We walked to the meeting point and there must’ve been around 200-300 people all there in masks and most of us in gloves too. After being so long in isolation suddenly being in a big group felt very wrong. There was a big British flag indicating the meeting point and many coaches to take us to the airport to start to make the long journey home.

We reached the airport long before it opened to ensure everything ran smoothly. We queued outside the gates, all trying to keep to one floor-tile per person in a vague attempt at social distancing. As time passed more countries turned up and queued too. We saw other people from our hotel who had also left, which was great to see.

After around two hours it was finally time to pass the gates into the entrance of the airport. Everyone got their temperatures checked by an official in a hazmat suit. The only word I can describe the whole airport experience was rather apocalyptic. The mood wasn’t sad as everyone was pleased to be leaving but everyone was rather quiet on the whole. We formed lines that snaked outside for check-in and eventually reached the front desk where we were handed a ticket for a flight to Lima.

For security the line was again formed from outside and snaked its way in. Once through security it was directly onto the plane. Nothing was open, unsurprisingly, to have a browse. When getting on the flight it was a sit-anywhere situation. We waited a while for everyone to get on the flight and then it was time to leave. I was quite emotional looking at the window during the flight, thinking about the past few days and leaving behind what I thought was going to be a long time travelling. I think I was also experiencing a lot of relief on that first flight and knowing I would at least be home to deal with this unworldly situation.

It was a strange site flying over Lima, you could just see very empty roads, excluding some lorries and trucks. Maybe it was because I was looking for the weirdness, but I really felt like you could tell how quiet it was from up there. When landing I could see two British Airways flights waiting on the tarmac for us. It felt very patriotic seeing the BA planes, kind of amusingly so. We had to wait a while on the smaller plane before being escorted on a bus towards the big plane for the long flight home. We never went inside Lima airport, simply taken from one flight to the next. All of our luggage was laid out on the floor and after getting off the bus we had to indicate to staff which was ours before getting on the larger plane.

It was a sit anywhere situation again, although they tried to get us to fill up from the back. The staff were all very helpful and friendly with the pilot walking through to chat and even the UK ambassador popping in on the speaker to say a few words. As with most of the day we had to wait a few hours before leaving as we had to wait for other groups of people to make it on this larger plane from around the country, and we were one of the first groups to arrive.

Whilst waiting on this plane I did see the other one take-off towards home which was exciting to see. After quite a few hours of being close together people had let down their guards a bit and started to remove masks and gloves as considering you are going to be on a 12-hour flight together it’s not going to make a huge difference. The flight itself was rather normal, maybe with less staff and not the normal hot food. Other than that the entertainment worked and we were given mini-meals, which is all I could ask for.

Up, up and away..

The flight went quick and when we landed, we did give a little cheer. I’m not usually one for clapping when the plane lands, but for this experience I was all for it. We landed in Terminal 5, Heathrow which was a much more normal experience compared to Cusco and Lima Airport. Much less masks and hazmat suits. Heathrow was oddly quiet, with us as the only flight at the baggage hall but it wasn’t the weirdest of experiences compared to the last few days.

I met my dad at the airport which was one of the best sights to see. It felt nice to be home, and not too strange. The roads were quiet, but nothing completely crazy. It was heart-warming to see the NHS signs. The best thing of all though was to see my dog’s amazing reaction to be being home. My dog’s reaction was definitely worth and much better than my family as my mum wasn’t sure whether to touch me or not, which was quite amusing. After a half-hearted hug she immediately sent me to the shower, which I guess was fair enough.

I’ve now been back for 2 weeks. The first week I really felt out of my own body and didn’t feel like I was home. I’ve now started to come into my self this week, actually leaving the house for dog walks and attempting some form of exercise when I can bring myself to. I feel much more myself this week, which is great. Being home is definitely the best thing in this weird time, spending lots of time with family and pets isn’t so bad compared to a confined room in a foreign country.

I completely understand I didn’t have it bad compared to others, I know there are still people stuck abroad who are hopefully on their way out soon. I’m also aware that I’m lucky that I made it home quite simply in the end, even if it did take a while. Just thought it would be interesting to share this completely crazy situation, as I don’t think I will ever experience anything quite like it again.

Hope everyone is keeping safe and doing well.

How to Create a Powerful Business Strategy for 2020

business strategy

business strategist in virtual office

Evaluating Your Business Strategy

A new year, a new business quarter. This is a great time to look forward and develop your business strategy for the months ahead.  Management thinking suggests that you start by examining your key strengths.  Obviously, these are basic factors that have got you safely through to 2020 so spend a moment examine them critically.   Perhaps you are great at customer relationships and that you outgun your competitors in responding to customer queries and complaints.  Perhaps your key strength is market awareness or keen prices.  A successful key strategy is something that is reliant on you and your resources and not on something that you depend on elsewhere.  This is often the case in internet marketing where your strength depends on your affiliate relationship to another company entirely.  It might make you money but the key strength does not ultimately lie in your hands.

Grab Your Opportunities

Second, the best strategies seize one of your biggest opportunities and play into it.  Seizing a key opportunity is the attack strategy that lets you score points and win the game.  This may be investing heavily into a specific product or a market niche.  This is the idea of feeding your winners and starving your lowers. The secret is that any winning strategy must help you seize a key opportunity that has genuine potential to yield significant results and help you scale up..   For example, if you are exporting to a region like Italy, perhaps you should look at the opportunity to set up your own distribution on the ground in that marketplace rather than us an agent.  It night cost money in the short term but if a realistic opportunity arises then maybe you should grab it and run with it.

Lessen Your Business Threats

Third, the finest strategies reduce or make irrelevant  one’s  gravest business threats. For instance, if you sense a threat in that 65% of your turnover is with just one client, then by following the first 2 strategies I mention, it will help you grow other customer fulfilling relationships so that you have some safety net from the loss or diminishment of this giant customer. Certainly this is one of the hardest areas for many business owners to look at, since we don’t wish to acknowledge our flaws or shortcomings, but by identifying our achilles heels.  However, by doing this, we can then develop a path  to overcome them or lessen their impact on our future development .

So as you plan out the year ahead take a  look at your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and try sketch out a careful plan to achieve your goals and reach the next goal within your business plan. Remember our team of experts are here to help you grow your business.

 

Use Your Empathy to Help Lead a Successful Team

There is something very ominous about the word ‘boss’.  It evokes the concept of bullying and hassling staff.  When we say ‘he bosses you around’ you think of an executive who has poor man-management skills and relies on brute management force to move his team onwards.   A recent article I read by John Monarch on ‘Entrepreneur ‘ and a similar article by Brent Barnhart very clearly set out some interesting thoughts on the best way to manage a team thoughtfully.  I will mention some of their excellent ideas.

Avoid ‘hustling’ 24/7 and be more chilled. Constantly working long hours without a break, he says, isn’t a recipe for success. It’s a recipe for burnout. Motivational and Youtube videos constantly advise young entrepreneurs and executives to work 14 hours a day and “hustle” every minute of every hour. That’s probably the worst possible advice to give someone in a leadership position.

Treat the team as you would like to be treated.  this makes sense and has a biblical ring to it.  Basically the suggestion is by nice to your team ands they will respond in a positive way.  the reasoning being  that a tough job always presents its own issues for workers. Why would you compound those issues by spreading negativity and treating people poorly?

Choose your management wisely.  This makes good sense.  Just being in a job a certain amount of time doesn’t mean you should automatically be promoted. You might have already have reached your personal level of competence. The truth is, some people are really great at specific roles, but their ceiling is lower because they aren’t great leaders.

Keep your expectations realistic.  To be a good leader and manager, you also need to understand the work your team is doing. If you don’t think you have a solid grasp on what your employees do, then start learning. Part of being an effective leader is always looking for new subjects or concepts to learn about.

Open channels for cross-company communication. Whether it’s among one team or between groups, you have to provide people with channels for strong communication if you want your business to operate efficiently.Exercising empathy for coworkers means not only being a good listener but also asking the right questions to get to the root of your colleagues’ problems.When you ask thoughtful questions of your coworkers, you’re basically saying, “Okay, I hear you. What can I do to help? How are we going to take care of this?”Questions asked of your employees should be specific rather a blanket, one-size-fits-all response. Workers deserve to have their concerns heard and understood.That said, sometimes the wants of our workers aren’t always clear. In the case that someone sends you a vague or otherwise confusing query, here’s a quick script you can use to help get to the core of their problem ASAP

 Give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt before passing judgment on their behaviour in the office.Let’s say a new hire is having trouble adhering to a particular policy. You could assume that they’re being negligent or otherwise aloof, but chances are they’re simply adjusting to a new way of thinking. Both adopting and breaking away from workplace rituals takes time and you should respect that.This goes without saying, but don’t automatically assume the worst of people. Maybe that coworker who’s become increasingly needy is having a tough time at home.Workplace stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Practicing patience with your coworkers is key to demonstrating empathy in the workplace.

This is the essence of the empathy argument and  I think it open some interesting points for consideration.  If you are scaling a startup it is very important to engender some sort of corporate spirit and that is best done by treating staff wisely and communicating effectively.  This style of management is particularly important when you are dealing ‘at distance’ from your team and maybe working out from a virtual office environment. I any case the maxim ‘do unto others…’ makes sense in business as it does in life.

Can Mindfulness Be the Missing Ingredient in Your Business Plan?

We all feel stress at work and this can often be a good thing in pushing us forward, but constant stress can also drain your creative juices.  In this video we look at some tried and tested techniques for easing stress from your workplace and helping you boost your bottom line.   Practising meditation and mindfulness has never been easier with a large number of smartphone apps you can download and try out.  There are also many local groups of meditators that you could sign up with.

Enjoying time with family and friends is obviously a great way to shake off workplace anxieties and you should grab every opportunity to be with people who can nurture your life.  Nobody ends their life worrying about a sales target they didn’t reach or a product launch that was a few weeks late.  they are small problems in the greater picture.

One of the easiest ways to reduce your business stress is to ‘go virtual’ with a professionally run virtual office in one of London’s most prestigious areas – Regent Street, where all the big brands are like Apple corp who are our close neighbours.  We check and forward your business mail for you and answer and screen your business phone-calls so that wherever your business takes you you are always in touch with your clients.  So why not add our great business services into your stress reduction programme?