How to stay focused

By Carli Uys

Industrial Psychologist (PS 0151149) Head of Design, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

The 4th Industrial Revolution brought about a digital world that provides us with an overload of information. On a daily basis we need to deal with the increase of information and the multiple forms of information. We often find ourselves lost in this digital world and feel like we cannot focus on the task at hand.

To be able to function better in this information overloaded world, it will assist if we understand the difference between concentration, traction, distraction and focus.

Concentration is your ability to focus your mind on one subject, object, or thought, and at the same time be able to exclude other unrelated thoughts, ideas, feelings and sensations from the mind. Concentration is about how you filter different sets of information and choosing to focus only on one thing at a time. It is your ability to process a task deeply.

Traction is any action that has the ability to pull you towards what you say you are going to do, things that pull you towards your values, and help you become the kind of person you want to become.

Distraction is any action that has the ability to pull you away from what you are intended to do, away from your values, away from becoming the kind of person you want to become.

Focus is your ability to concentrate on a single point or task. Focus is about discipline and willpower. It is about your ability to choose a single point to put your attention on rather than to succumb to the whims of exterior forces. When you understand how to focus well at work, you can channel your attention and energy into completing the work.

There are various factors that can inhibit a person to focus at work. Internal factors can be emotional (fear of failure, anxiety, depression), mental (overload of exposure to technology) and physical (inability to concentrate because of a lack of sleep, hygiene, good nutrition). External factors can be meeting overload, lack of commute time, and multitasking.

Any of these various factors can prohibit you from achieving your full potential. Maintaining your focus, you need to take care of your emotional, physical and mental well-being. When you eliminate distractions and invest your time and energy into maintaining your emotional, physical and mental well-being, you improve your productivity.

Throughout the day your brain is always on and busy trying to gather all the information you are exposed to and then to take in only the information that is important to you. This means that your brain is constantly sorting through the noise of the world and decides what is important that you need to focus on. This is defined as selective attention and consists of 2 types of selective attention:

  1. Bottom-up: It refers to you paying attention to distractions such as a notification on your phone, or a thought that is coming to mind. This means that you rather pay attention to what is going on around you, than to the things that deserve your attention.
  2. Top-down: It refers to your ability to be aware of things that distract you, and then decide to put them aside and focus on what needs your attention. You prioritise your goals over what is going on around you. You focus on the bigger picture and create a plan and process to achieve it. This is also known as voluntary focus.

The top-down approach allows you to focus on what is important and avoid all the rest. But unfortunately, it is not always possible. The more you get distracted, the harder it is to focus on what is important. Every time you get distracted, it takes you up to 15 minutes to refocus your brain. This means that you lose about 40% efficiency during the day. 

To be able to master where your attention is at, you need to balance your focus and concentration. In life you can focus on multiple areas but not have enough energy to concentrate on all of them. For example, you want to focus on your career, your health and your family, but to be able to do this, you will have to drop other priorities, like indulging in hobbies, having alone time to read a book, or on improving your personal growth. Focusing on one aspect does not eliminate fun from your life, but it does require time and energy.

Every day we face challenges as there are so many things that draws our attention away from what is important. Every notification, email, meeting, and quick discussion with someone draws our attention away from what is important. You might think that you only give them a few minutes of your time, but soon those few minutes fill up your day and you got nothing done that you wanted to focus on.

You need to create a focus haven for yourself where you plan to focus on what is important. Cut out noise and distractions that often get in the way. An area that is free from distractions can make a big difference in how much work you get done. Here are a few ways that you can create a focus haven:

  1. Turn off social media and emails: Social media is one of the biggest time wasters and it will not help you get anything done that you want to get done. Set a reminder for yourself to check your emails every hour or so, so that when you respond to an email you are focused on the email and not on the work you were doing, and vice versa.
  2. Turn off your phone: It is not always possible to turn off your phone as most of your work communication happens via your phone, but you can consciously decide to put your phone on silent so that you can remove constant distractions and focus on the work you are busy with. After you have completed your work, you can respond to missed calls or messages.
  3. Close the door: If you are not in an open office plan, or if you can go and sit in a meeting room, close the door so you can remove the noise and other commotion that goes on in the office. This will help you to concentrate on the work you are doing and will make people more reluctant to bother you while you are working. An open door is seen as an invite to come and ask a quick question or have a quick chat which will only set you back and cause more stress as your work is not getting done.
  4. Organise: Organise your office or workspace in such a way that it is easy to get to the documents or things you need to get your work done. It reduces a lot of wasted time when you know where to find the things you need to complete your work.  

Learning how to concentrate at work is vital for your career success. When you improve your concentration, you can accomplish more at work and have more time to focus on what is important. It is not just about accomplishing work tasks; it is about making time for fun and happiness so you can achieve a meaningful and satisfying life.

Facing challenges head on

By Carli Uys

Industrial Psychologist (PS 0151149) Head of Design, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Every year we are faced with new challenges, and most of the time we feel overwhelmed and have no idea how we are going to face them. We don’t realise that the challenge itself is not the real issue, but our relationship with the challenge is. This means that when we face a challenge our view of the challenge and our perception of our own abilities bring about difficulty and suffering when trying to overcome the challenge. For most of us, the first thing we do when we are faced with a challenge, is to complain about it or resist it. We do not see the challenge as something that can help us grow, that can be enjoyable or help us improve in how we face challenges.

Facing a challenge head on is all about your mindset. You either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. When you have a fixed mindset you tend to avoid challenges, you give up easily, and you become intimidated or threatened by the success of other people, especially when they overcome challenges. A fixed mindset can lead you to think in a negative way about the challenges and your abilities to overcome the challenge. You believe that your intelligence and talent is something you are born with, and that it is just who you are. You feel that if you avoid a challenge, you avoid failure.

If you have a growth mindset, you view intelligence, abilities and talents as something that can be learnt and that you are capable of improving over time. With a growth mindset you believe that you can gain the knowledge and the necessary skills to be able to overcome a challenge and succeed. This leads to you viewing every challenge as a learning opportunity.

With a growth mindset you can overcome the resistance to the challenge. You believe that your intelligence and talent can be improved through effort and actions which will lead to you overcoming the challenge. Even if you face setbacks, you view them as a necessary part of the learning process, and it can allow you to bounce back quicker and increase your motivation to overcome the challenge.

According to Jennifer Smith, with a growth mindset you are more likely to:

  • Embrace a mindset of lifelong learning
  • Believe that your intelligence can improve based on the challenges you are facing
  • You are more likely to put in the necessary effort to learn
  • You believe that putting in effort leads to mastery of the challenge
  • You believe that failing is merely a temporary setback
  • You view feedback from others as a source of information and an opportunity to learn
  • You are more willing to embrace challenges
  • You view other people’s success of overcoming a challenge as a source of inspiration

A few things to focus on when building growth mindset:

Be Mindful – To be aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Being mindful can help you be more aware of the challenge and how you are reacting to it, how you are experiencing it and how it is emotionally impacting you. By being aware of this, you are able to distinguish between what is truly a challenge for you and what is not. Mindfulness can help you determine why you see it as a challenge, why you might not view yourself as capable of successfully overcoming the challenge, and help you focus on succeeding rather than failing.

Become ResilientTo be able to withstand and recover from any difficulties you are facing. Being resilient does not mean that you won’t experience stress, emotional upheaval or doubt when faced with a challenge. It means that you are able to turn your bad stress into good stress which will push you forward rather than hold you back. It will help you to understand why you feel emotional when faced with a challenge and turn the negative emotions into positive emotions. Being resilient allows you to turn your doubts about your abilities into certainty.

Have GritTo have passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. Having grit will help you to persevere when faced with a challenge and drive you to achieve and succeed. If you do not have grit, your intelligence and talents will not get you far, as it is only with effort that your talents become a skill that can lead you to succeed.

Have Self-empowermentTo make a conscious decision to take charge of your life, you need to make positive choices, take action and be confident in your own abilities to make and execute your decisions. This can help you to overcome any challenge you face by understanding your strengths and development areas and by knowing this can motivate you to learn and achieve what you want to. You need to focus on your drive to want to overcome the challenge, to identify what you can control, and to keep an objective, and growth mindset.

Focus on Self-regulationthis is your ability to control your behaviour, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit to achieve goals or overcome challenges. It can help you to regulate your emotions by managing disruptive emotions and impulses – to think before you act. It also involves having the ability to rebound from disappointments and to act in a way that is in alignment with your values. When faced with a challenge, emotions can run high, and we can say and do things that we might regret. When you understand the root cause of your emotions toward a certain challenge, you can better understand how to control your emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. This can help you to see the challenge as only a challenge, and not as an issue in itself. Your relationship with the challenge will change, and you will have more control over the challenge, and not the challenge having control over you.

When you are faced with a challenge, move away from a fixed mindset and move towards a growth mindset and see how differently you approach the challenge and how the outcome changes into what you envisioned.

I hope that this blog will help you to overcome any challenge you face this year, and that it will yield only the best possible results for you.

Until the next blog, cheers.

How to be the best you

By Carli Uys

Industrial Psychologist (PS 0151149) Head of Design, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

After a good, but emotionally difficult year at thinking fusion AFRICA, a new year has arrived. We are setting our sights on achieving greater heights this year and to improve as a company. Every year we strive to be the best in our industry, and this requires a lot of focus, dedication, and motivation. This is not just true for us at thinking fusion AFRICA, but also for every organisation. Every year employees and organisations strive to be better than they were the year before. To be able to achieve this, a few tools can be used to make sure that you achieves success and that you are the best you this year.

The first and most important tool we urge people to use, is a learning journal. By putting thoughts down on paper, you set goals, realise your strengths and development areas, you become more creative, and you can reflect back on things that you wanted to improve on. You can record your experiences, thoughts and emotions. By putting your thoughts onto paper, you clear your mind so you can focus on what is important for your success, as well as what you need to accomplish to be the best you. Here are a few other benefits of keeping a journal.

  1. It can help you to achieve your goals. This can help you to keep better track of what you want to achieve and how best to achieve it. It then keeps you accountable and serves as a reminder of what you still need to accomplish and by when you want to accomplish it. Only you can keep yourself accountable for the goals you set, and only you will know if you have not achieved them or not. The only person you will disappoint is yourself.
  2. You can track your progress based on your goals you have set, emotional challenges you may have faced and how you are overcoming them, and the way you think about various things, such as in a negative or a positive way and how you are going to overcome thinking negatively about certain situations.
  3. It can help you to gain more self-confidence about who you are, what you are capable of achieving and the progress you have made in your life.
  4. It can also help you to find inspiration and become more creative when you write ideas down and elaborate on them until you can present these ideas to someone.

These are only a few reasons for keeping a journal, but they are the foundation of why you should start using a journal.

Using a journal can also help improve your relationship with your loved ones, your colleagues and your leader.

The second tool you can use is to have regular meetings with your leader. Having regular meetings with your leader can help improve your relationship as you get to know one another better, can discuss your strengths and development areas, develop a plan on how to improve on your development areas and how best to use your strength.  Your leader can help you achieve your goals in a proficient manner as they know the ropes of the company. The meeting can occur every 2 weeks, for about 30 minutes or so. Do not just discuss work in these meetings, try to have a few discussions about personal matters, such as family life, hobbies, and more  to create a more relaxed and open environment.

During Covid-19 many of us struggled to be honest with ourselves about if we are truly coping or not, and our need to connect with other people. The best way for you to be able to achieve success in your personal and professional life is to be honest about your mental health, your ability to cope with your workload and if you are happy in the environment you are currently in. Good mental health gives you a sense of purpose in life and at work, helps strengthen relationships and feel more connected with others, to cope better with stress and to enjoy your life more. When you tell yourself that you are fine, but know that you are exhausted and are struggling to cope, you can burn yourself out. This can lead to a sense of reduced accomplishments and a loss of personal identity.

The fourth tool is to show gratitude. Indicate in your journal the highs and lows of the previous year and what it is that you want to change and achieve this year. By indicating what you are grateful for will help remind you of what you have and what you have already achieved. Discuss with your team members and colleagues what you found challenging in the previous year and find out what advice they can possibly give you on how to overcome these challenges. Also focus on the good and discuss this with your team members and colleagues and determine how you all can create the good again this year.

The fifth tool is to focus only on a few priorities and not over exert yourself with overly ambitious goals you mentally, emotionally, and physically cannot achieve. Setting only a few priorities for the biggening of the year can help you focus on the now and how best to achieve these goals with your current abilities. As the year progresses, set new goals and achieve them. Communicate constantly with other people to get their inputs on how they recommend you achieve your current goals and maybe ask for possible new goals you can set within your professional life.

The last tool is to become more agile. According to Michael Sullivan, personal agility “is the ability of an individual to quickly and efficiently adapt to a dynamic environment by making incremental changes, continually assessing the effectiveness of those changes, and modifying the approach as needed to achieve a desired outcome.” Becoming more agile will help you deal with all internal and external challenges you face at work and in your personal life. Becoming more agile will also help you to think quickly and clearly about the work you need to do and the challenges that come along with it. Michael Sullivan indicates various characteristics of personal agility, these are:

  • Being able to gain self-awareness through personal reflection (journaling)
  • You find your purpose and what you need to do to live your purpose in life
  • A bias for action
  • You find an appreciation for change, its purpose and what can bring about and not just to tolerate the change
  • You find a deeper value to want to grow and improve in your personal and professional life
  • You also develop a way to better prioritise your goals and your tasks.

When you combine the above six tools, you will be able to cope, overcome and growth in the year ahead. It will help you to set a different mindset for the year ahead and how best to achieve everything you wish to achieve this year.

All of the best for the year ahead and may we all have a brilliant year.

Be the absolute best version of yourself this year.


Mental well-being

By Carli Uys

Industrial Psychologist (PS 0151149) Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

The traumatic events of the past 20 months (due to Covid-19) have had a negative impact on employees’ mental health. It has caused higher levels of stress and traumatic experiences that employees face at work as well as in their personal lives. When an employee experiences stress various approaches can be taken to help them manage their stress levels. However, when an employee experiences traumatic events they require a heightened level of care and support from the organisation. People dealing with trauma can often feel helpless, and employers need to make sure that they support these employees by providing mental health resources to proactively support these employees. An organisation that focuses on helping employees improve their mental well-being, has various processes in place that facilitates the healing process for the employee as well as helping them become more resilient as they navigate through the crisis and recovery.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness. Mental health isn’t simply the absence of mental illness and living with a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t have good mental health. Having good mental health does not mean that you will feel great all the time, you might experience stress, a difficult life event, or even burnout. Everyone an experience the ebbs and flow of well-being.

Good mental health includes:

  1. A sense of purpose
  2. Strong relationships
  3. Feeling connected to others
  4. Having a good sense of self
  5. Coping with stress
  6. Enjoying life

According to the World Health organization, mental health is:

  • More than the absence of mental disorders.
  • An integral part of health; there is no health without mental health.
  • Determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors.

5 steps to mental well-being

Step 1: Connect with other people

Building good relationships with other people can help you build a sense of belonging and self-worth, give you opportunities to share positive experiences and provide you with emotional support and allow you to support others.

Step 2: Be physically active

Being physically active Is great for your physical health and fitness, as well as to improve your mental well-being. Being physically active can raise your self-esteem, help you set and achieve goals or challenges, and cause chemical changes in your brain which can help change your mood in a positive way.

Step 3: Learn new skills

Learning new skills can improve your mental well-being by boosting your self-confidence and raising your self-esteem, help you to build a sense of purpose, and help you to connect with other people.

Step 4: Give to others

Acts of giving and be kind to others can help improve your mental well-being by creating positive feelings and a sense of reward, giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth, and help you connect with other people.

Step 5: Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

Paying more attention to your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you at the present moment can improve your mental well-being. Being mindful can help you to enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can also positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

Work-related risk factors for mental health

According to WHO there are many risk factors related to mental health in the work environment, such as:

  • Interactions between type of work
  • The organisation and managerial environment
  • Skills and competencies of employees
  • Support available for employees to carry out their work
  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Poor communication and management practices
  • Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work
  • Low levels of support for employees
  • Inflexible working hours
  • Unclear tasks or organisational objectives
  • Job content
  • Unsuitable tasks for individual’s competencies
  • High and unrelenting workload

Some jobs may carry high personal risk that can cause symptoms of mental disorders or lead to harmful use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. The risk may increase in situations where there is a lack of team cohesion or social support.

Organisations should focus on creating a strong workplace environment which is vital in increasing employee morale, productivity, and well-being. It is important for an organisation to establish the contributing factors that help to create a healthy workplace environment, such as the culture of the office, the physical environment, employee wellness and support.

The following are four aspects to look into when creating a healthy workplace environment:

Workplace culture: When an organisation creates a positive workplace culture that is being practiced by everyone in the organisation, then the environment in the workplace tends to be healthier as everyone would have nothing to be upset or unhappy about.

Physical environment and occupational health & safety: Organisations should look at reducing the worry of employees by looking into the safety of the workplace. Organisations should make sure that the environment the employees are working in is safe, and secure of any danger that might cause them physical or emotional harm.

Health and lifestyle practice: Employees will go above and beyond for the organisation if they know that they are being looked after by the organisation. Employees are the best assets of any organisation, and by putting effort into employees’ well-being can encourage better teamwork, increased productivity and reduce sick leave and workplace accidents.

Supportive workplace environment: Support employees with any personal problems they are facing by trying to find the core of the problem and be a supportive employer by showing concern. As an employer, show compassion to your employees and support them through their difficult time. Do not just focus on the progress of the organisation, but also care about the well-being of all the employees. A supportive workplace culture is the foundation of a healthy workplace environment.

40% of employees have reported that their jobs are highly stressful, while other employees have indicated that their jobs are the top stressors in their lives. Since job stress is a stronger predictor of health complaints than personal, financial or family problems, job stress is affecting the well-being of employees and can cause elevated healthcare costs, lost productivity and unwanted employee turnover. The following are ways in which employers can improve mental well-being in the workplace.

Help employees de-stress other employees: Organisations should help employees talk openly about mental health as it will contribute to employees’ mental well-being. Organisations should find ways to identify the issues employees are facing and indicate that acknowledging work-related stress is an acceptable topic of conversation. Employers should encourage employees to take regular breaks during the day, and spend a few relaxing minutes with co-workers. These types of informal relationships are an important foundation when employees work together on projects and tasks. It also helps to boost the morale of all the employees.

Encourage physical and emotional activity: Leaders should focus on encouraging healthy physical and emotional practices, as it will positively influence the entire workforce. When leaders introduce, and are involved in workplace health challenges, incentive programs and overall wellness programs not only does employee health improve but also reduces healthcare costs, and increases productivity and morale.

Provide mental wellness resources: Introduce various mental well-being programs into the workplace. These programmes can help employees build their resilience, life satisfaction, and lasting emotional health.

Provide an employee assistance program: Offer counselling and support services as it will improve corporate well-being.

Create a healthy work environment: The work environment has a significant impact on employee mental wellness, productivity, job turnover and overall profits. Leaders can influence a healthy workplace environment by having an open-door policy, keeping employees informed of developments, departmental changes, business goals and policies. These help to provide direction, build trust, and reduce employee stress.

Show you care: Caring is seen as an integral component of an organisation when individuals and groups of like-minded people understand and care for the values and situations of other individuals or groups. Care is demonstrated by expressing and accepting care in our personal and professional relationships. Organisations can show care through offering community service days, family activities, recognising excellent employer-employee cooperation, and promoting the voices of employees and management in community meetings and activities.

Organisations should recognise the intersection of race, ethnicity, and mental health. Organisations should focus on the fact that all their employees belong to different racial and ethnic groups, some even minority ethnic groups, and that these employees face significant disparities in both mental health challenges and access to mental health care. Organisations should take the necessary steps to build leaders’ cultural competencies that focuses on diversity in the organisation and creating inclusion initiatives that creates authentic change. Leaders should also focus on embracing the discomfort that arises from attending to negative feedback from their employees in racial and ethnic minorities. This feedback is extremely critical as it will help leaders establish enduring change in the workplace that values diversity and inclusion.

Mental well-being of employees should matter to all organisations. It can affect the lives of all the employees as well as their families, communities, productivity, organisation profit and overall success of the organisation.

Burnout caused by hybrid work

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Most of us have heard about burnout and know someone who has had burn out. We believe that it only happens to others. Then one day you realise that you are getting unnaturally tired, despite not doing that much. Your brain becomes foggy, and you do not know why. You try to sleep more, drink more coffee, take energy supplements, but nothing works. Then it hits you, you are on burn out. You realise that the combination of your work life and personal life is causing you more stress than usual particularly now that you are working from home more often. You stress that you are not performing well enough and that your leader might not give you the performance review that you feel you deserve. You stress about the fact that you work longer hours and not spending enough time with your family.

Excessive stress leads to burnout, but there is a difference between stress and burnout. Stress involves situations where everything feels too much, such as too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. When you are stressed, you can still see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel that everything will be under control soon. However, when a person has burnout, they have a feeling of emptiness and feel mentally exhausted, have a lack of motivation and just don’t feel like they care anymore. People with burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their current situation. Excessive stress makes you feel like you are drowning in responsibilities, where burnout is a sense of being all dried up.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As your stress continues, you begin to lose interest in the things you loved doing and you lose motivation that pushed you to take on a certain role. Job burnout is defined as a special type of work-related stress. This is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishments and loss of personal identity.

Job burnout symptoms:

Ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Organisations should focus on decreasing burnout in their employees as they are working longer hours and having less time for their personal lives. Research has indicated that 40% of hybrid employees report an increase in the length of their workdays in the past 12 months. It is crucial for organisations who want to retain their employees in a complex job market to focus on reducing burnout as the complex job market will only grow more competitive in the coming months.

Hybrid work models can be one-way organisations can reduce employee burnout if these models are implemented correctly. Employees appear to favour flexible remote work options as many employees are taking advantage of the deep work and focus they can achieve at home as well as the social connection and in-person collaboration at the office. However, Gartner research revealed that 96% of HR leaders are increasingly concerned about employee well-being in a hybrid work model. 93% of the HR leaders are especially concerned about employee burnout. Gartner research also found that hybrid employees who spend more time in one-on-one meetings with their peers are 1.37 times more likely to feel emotionally drained from their work.

5 stages of burnout:

Several features that are native to the hybrid work environment are driving employee fatigue and putting employee well-being at risk. Employees are facing three key factors while working in a hybrid environment:

  1. Digital distractions: Employees who work in a hybrid work environment are 2.54 times more likely to experience digital distractions than employees who work from the office. Digital distractions stem from a natural increase in being online all the time when working remotely. This puts employees’ ability to do deep focus work in jeopardy.
  2. Virtual overload: Employees who work in a hybrid work environment are 1.12 times more like to feel as if they are working too hard at their jobs than employees who work from the office. Too many virtual interactions can also cause fatigue. Organisations feel the need to compensate for their workforce working remotely by encouraging an increase in their virtual interactions. Virtual interactions have shown to present their own set of difficulties for employees. During virtual interactions, individuals find it harder to read body language and visual cues and turning off the camera can make it easier for people to disconnect from the current moment.
  3. Always-on: Employees who work in a hybrid work environment are 1.27 times more likely to struggle to disconnect from work than employees who work in the office. Employees find it difficult to set clear boundaries between their work and personal life when working remotely. This is due to the absence of signals that tell them when to start and stop working, like the traditional commute to the office or a formal dress code. Employees are struggling to find a balance between when and how to switch off at the end of each workday.

Digital burnout is a specific type of burnout that is triggered by prolonged and excessive use of digital devices. Working from home is having a massive impact on employee burnout and digital burnout as well.

Best ways to deal with digital burnout caused by hybrid work:

Ways to avoid burnout caused by hybrid work:

Always focus on your well-being. Find healthy ways that work for you to be able to be productive from home and remember to talk about your feelings to others so they understand what you are going through and how to help you cope.

What psychological safety looks like in a hybrid work environment

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

As the world keeps changing due to the pandemic, a lot of focus has been placed on reduced trust and power dynamics within an organisation. This can impact the effectiveness of the hybrid workplace as managers are required to rethink and expand one of the strongest proven predictors of team effectiveness: psychological safety.

Psychological safety is described as the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up when you have ideas, questions, concerns or make mistakes.

There are known to be 4 stages of psychological safety at work:

Stage 1 – Inclusion safety: This refers to safety that satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. This stage allows you to feel safe, to be yourself and feel accepted for who you are.

Stage 2 – Learner safety: This refers to feeling safe to learn and grow. You feel safe in this stage to exchange in the learning process, asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting and making mistakes.

Stage 3 – Contributor safety: This stage satisfies your need to make a difference. You feel safe enough to use your skills and abilities to make a meaningful contribution.

Stage 4 – Challenger safety: This stage satisfies your need to make things better. You feel safe enough to speak up and challenge the status quo when you think there’s an opportunity to change and improve.

When employees feel psychologically safe at work, they will feel safe enough to take risks and to speak openly without worry or fear of retribution. This also means that employees will feel respected and valued for what they bring to the team, and they will feel that their well-being genuinely matters to their leaders and managers.

Hybrid work poses a risk to the idea of fairness in organisations as it might impact a certain degree if equity and equality between employees. The hybrid workplace leads to employees possibly working in two very different situations, which can cause varying levels of autonomy, opportunity to socialise, and access to management. This can then lead to a feeling of exclusivity and inequality, which can erode employee trust. This gives a clear indication of how important it is to treat all employees equally, regardless of their working situation. It has been found that during periods of change people often feel under threat, which suggest that psychological safety may not immediately be translated to this new world of work. This leads to the importance of leaders and managers to focus on developing and nurturing their teams to maintain high-performance.

How to create psychological safety in a hybrid work environment:

  1. Provide clarity and stability: Psychological safety is the key component to keep a team’s well-being in balance. If psychological safety is not the key component, then team members risk responding to threats or interferences by going into “protection” mode. The “protection” mode can manifest in two ways: (1) either people will appear submissive, passive, and disconnected, or (2) they will appear dominant, aggressive, and arrogant. Both responses are symptoms of your team lacking psychological safety, and it can negatively impact their well-being and performance in the long run.
  2. Rid failure of its taboo: For teams to be able to have honest conversations, they need to trust one another. If teams have a climate of psychological safety, then they can work with the belief that a team member will not be punished or embarrassed for voicing ideas, questions or mistakes. Hallmarks of these teams are respect and trust. This leads to each individual feeling valued and safe to contribute, take risks and lead when it seems fitting. This in turn leads to building the teams confidence and serves to improve the quality of their work.
  3. Create an environment of exploration: In a psychological safe environment people are entirely accepting of one another. This can be great when working collaboratively on projects as the team feels comfortable challenging each other and equally, they are open to being challenged back. This can result in the best projects being started, developed, and delivered.
  4. Role model ethical behaviour: Research has found that high levels of psychological safety can sometimes lead teams to push the boundaries of ethical behaviour, due to their trust in one another. The contagion of unethical behaviour amongst psychologically safe teams can be controlled if team leaders draw their team’s attention back to desirable behaviour.

Leaders play a very important role in shaping their team’s culture, but it is also up to each team member to contribute to a psychologically safe climate at work and in their teams. When leaders create psychological safety in a hybrid work environment they can expect to see high levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.  

Hybrid work

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

As organisations begin to return to office spaces, they must consider a new way of work and the best way for them to do so. Most of us have heard people talking about hybrid work and we ask ourselves “what is it and what makes it different from virtual work?”. Hybrid work refers to organisations allowing employees to work both in-office and remotely. Remote work refers to where all the employees of an organisation work remotely, or where some of the employees are either in another country, province, or time-zone. Hybrid work has various models organisations can choose from to decide how best to go forward in this new world of work.

Hybrid work models

  1. Remote-first

Remote-first means that organisations will be functioning fully remotely and still try to mirror their operations as if the employees were in the office. Most organisations will keep their office space for employees who do not have the means to work remotely. Some employees will not be able to have this flexibility, as their jobs require their physical presence.

2. Office-Occasional

Office-occasional refers to organisations who want their employees to go into the office a few times a week. This will allow employees who want to spend more time at the office to be able to do so, and for those who function better at working remotely, to only go to the office when indicated. This will allow teams to collaborate more effectively and help to sustain the personal connection between employees.

3. Office-first, remote allowed

This refers to organisations who designate the office space as the primary work environment and still allow for remote work. This model was very common during the height of Covid-19 as organisations had to only allow a small percentage of employees in the office who were necessary to be there. This model is very common when the entire leadership choses to work from the office. Employees are then likely to choose to work from the office to have the in-person experience and conversations with leaders, and to collaborate with others.

There are however a few challenges organisations and employees face with hybrid work. The following are a few major road bumps of hybrid work.

  1. Feeling isolated

Employees may experience a lack of social interaction and the connections and camaraderie established through day-to-day office collaborations might start to crumble.

Ways to overcome feeling isolated:

  • Establish transparent communication among employees
  • Regular communication reinforces a feeling of connectivity and fortifies shared experiences.
  • Outside of work, check in with colleagues on a regular basis.

2. Building trust

Trust is seen as the heart of a successful hybrid model. When leaders give their teams work to do, they must trust that those team members will do their work and that they will not constantly need to be checked on to make sure that they are doing their work. Leaders should communicate their availability and feedback they require to make sure that the team members understand what is expected from them and if they require any assistance from the leader.

Ways to overcome the struggles of trusting employees:

  • Trust can be established by providing connections via regular or frequent information exchange.
  • Team leaders should craft their communication style and express their gratitude for accomplished tasks as well as faith towards the success of employees in their responsibilities.

3. Empathising with your staff

Time and empathy are important characteristics of effective leadership. Leaders should allow themselves to be vulnerable and acknowledge that there are numerous chances to improve. You cannot fake empathy in a hybrid working model. Organisations and especially its leaders must take a broad array of solutions.

How to overcome struggles with empathy at work:

  • Employees should go out of their comfort zones and start forging links through shared experiences.
  • Constant communication is integral for the hybrid work arrangement to be successful.
  • A leader should set the tone for an empathetic workplace landscape and guarantee everyone on the pipeline acts with empathy too.
  • Communication lines should be kept open to address similar issues and other mental health concerns that might arise when incorporating a hybrid work model.
  • This all can be done with frequent virtual forums focusing on problem-solving.

4. Unbiased leadership

Managing hybrid teams calls for leaders to adopt a sensible approach when collaborating with their teams. This means taking into consideration all the limitations each employee faces, such as having no access to reliable internet.

How to overcome these challenges:

  • Leaders should address unconscious biases and outcomes in their organisation’s processes.
  • Leaders should challenge their own notions and incorporate a learning orientation by attempting to understand other people’s experiences and how these influence the way in which they execute tasks in a hybrid work model.
  • Leaders should create a safe space in the hybrid work environment that is open to diverse viewpoints and foster participation.
  • In online meetings, leaders should encourage attendees to voice their opinions and credit employees who have shared effective ideas.
  • Leaders should celebrate diversity and be more sensitive to others’ needs by tailoring initiatives that meet those demands.

5. Upskilling and reskilling employees

Organisations should focus on improving their current skillset to match their office structure and the rapidly evolving needs of consumers.

How to upskill and reskill employees:

  • Identify the skills that are required by employees in the hybrid work model.
  • Existing training models should be reviewed and updated to cement the hybrid working arrangement for the future.
  • Leading hybrid teams are agile and flexible, so organisations should target skills that can help teams embody those traits.
  • Train employees to be well-equipped in areas such as data and analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

These are but a few of the challenges organisations and leaders will face due to hybrid work. Organisations should also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work and find ways to convert the disadvantages into advantages.

Advantages of a hybrid workplace

Disadvantages of a hybrid workplace

With all of this in mind, we have come to realise that the hybrid workplace is here to stay and that we are able to adapt to its new requirements and challenges. It is important for organisations to take to heart all the challenges that come with a hybrid workplace, but to also know that there are many advantages that come with it.

Virtual teams

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Due to the global pandemic we all have encountered some form of virtual teamwork. To define virtual teams will help us to understand more of what a virtual team does. A virtual team is seen as a group of people who participate in common projects by making collaborative efforts to achieve shared goals and objectives. These people perform tasks and jobs in a virtual work environment created and maintained through IT and software technologies.

There are two types of virtual teams:

There are various functions virtual teams fulfil and each team is determined by their objective, goals, roles of the members and the lifespan of the team.  

5 key elements of successful virtual teams:

Advantages and of virtual teams:

Disadvantages of virtual teams:

The follow are ways in which leaders can manage their virtual teams in an easy way.

Virtual teams form part of the workforce of the future. This makes it extremely important for each leader to understand the advantages and disadvantages of virtual teams and how best to manage these virtual teams.

The next blog will discuss hybrid teams and how virtual teams are intertwined in the new world of work.

How to be an effective communicator in the workplace

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Communication is seen as one of the major concerns in the workplace. Being able to create and maintain a positive work environment you need to focus on communicating effectively.

Effective communication consists of:

Communication is seen as a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Leaders need to master the skill of communication as it helps to build stronger relationships in organisations, communities and groups. Leaders who have good communication skills are able to clarify their thinking, express their ideas and share information with multitude of audiences. A leader must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organisation, and how best to communicate this information to customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.

Here are essential communication practices of an effective leader:

Effective leaders must be able to inspire, motivate and persuade their team members to achieve organisational goals and effectiveness. If a leader cannot communicate effectively with his/her team, it leads to costly failures to the organisation, causing wasted time and effort, low morale, reduced productivity and can cause loss of trust and credibility.

Important communication skills all leaders should have:

There are 5 communication styles that every leader should have in their ‘toolbox’:

The right communication style can help you to make a big impact on your team members. You need to remember to adapt and change your style as needed to match each situation.

The importance of communication in the workplace

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Communication plays an integral part in the success of an organisation. Employees receive, send and process large amounts of news and information on a daily basis. Communication in the workplace ensures that operations run smoothly, and the quality of communication can significantly affect the results of the work being done. Good communication is an essential tool in achieving productivity and maintaining strong working relationships at all levels of an organisation. Employees who take the time and who are willing to put in the energy to deliver clear lines of communication will rapidly build trust among employees, which can lead to increased productivity, output and morale in general.

Quality communication in the workplace can eliminate unnecessary problems and promote better performance. To be able to increase overall productivity in an organisation, employees need to have the ability to communicate effectively. Good communication is also integral to sales, client relationships, team development, company culture, employee engagement and buy-in, and innovative thoughts.

According to Patrick Bosworth there are 4 powerful benefits of workplace communication:

  1. Good communication mitigates conflict. Conflict is typically caused by:

Misunderstanding/feeling misunderstood – Understanding each other’s communication patterns will help to avoid misunderstandings when communicating. Various communication tools can be used, such as identifying communication patterns and making small communication adjustments. When these communication tools are used, new information can be dispensed in a way that is easy and clear to understand, and the listener can better communicate their understanding.

Not understanding how others communicate – The speaker defaults to his/her own communication patterns instead of considering the communication pattern of the receiver.

Someone feeling that their emotional needs are not being met or being disregarded – This happens when an employee feels disrespected, taken advantage of, or disregarded, and it leads to tension or conflict.

  • Good communication increases employee engagement

Communication is about connecting with other people. Engaged employees is one of the most powerful benefits of better communication. When a culture of good communication is established in the workplace, employees are then more engaged in their work and can align with company objectives and goals.

Good communication can improve employee engagement in the following ways:

  • Good communication creates better client relationships

Client interactions are usually the difference between a satisfied customer and a disgruntled customer. When employees learn how to communicate more effectively and to connect with others they can better:

  • Good communication results in a more productive and talented workforce

Besides contributing to increased employee engagement, communication skills can also help foster a more productive and talented workforce in many other ways:

  • Understanding team talents and skills: When a leader masters the identification of communication patterns it empowers them to better understand the talents and skills of their team members.
  • Achieving more buy-in: A leader can influence buy-in from their team members with the right communication tools.
  • It allows for innovation: Employees who have the opportunity to express their ideas openly, are more likely to present their ideas without fear of ridicule or retaliation.
  • It allows for growth: Each growth project is based on solid communication and the fact that all internal and external stakeholders are on the same page.
  • It builds teams: Communication and mutual cooperation helps to build effective teams. Leaders will be effective in building effective teams when they implement effective strategies.
  • Giving a voice to everyone: Employees appear to be more satisfied at work when they feel that they have a voice and are listened to. Consolidated communication lines should enable everyone to communicate freely with their colleagues, peers and superiors at all levels. 

Poor communication in the work can inevitably lead to unmotivated employees that may begin to question their own confidence in their abilities an inevitably in the organisation.

There are various affects that poor communication has on the workplace. The following are examples of what poor communication can cause in the workplace:

  1. Stress in the workplace: High-stress levels in the workplace can be a sign that there are communication problems. Poor communication can contribute to the feeling that everything on your to-do list is urgent, causing you and your colleagues to rush, feel tense, feel overworked and have little-to-no sense of humour. Employees who are stressed take their stress home and feel worn out, and it has various impacts on their families. These employees might begin to feel guilty or even experience conflict at home because of their stress levels being too high. These stress levels don’t disappear overnight and will go to work with them making it hard, if not impossible, to get ahead of their workload.
  2. Unmet needs and expectations: If leaders communicate poorly what they expect from their team members, it then leads to unmet needs and expectations. Teams will then miss deadlines, miss appointments with their clients, and they might not know what their roles are when working on a project. When employees do not know what their true priorities are, they often choose the wrong thing and end up disappointing their leaders.
  3. Arguments and other relational breakdowns: When leaders send emails or communicate in a demanding and accusatory tone with their team members, the team members might experience a sense of frustration, anger, hurt, fear and helplessness. The previously positive relationship the leader had with their team members, might become strained due to the tone of the communication used. Team members might feel a sense of uncertainty about resolving the conflict and might feel that their job security is at stake. This can lead employees to feel a sense of insecurity and a lack of fulfilment in completing their daily tasks, and these emotions slow down productivity in the workplace.
  4. Low morale and high turnover: Emotional management becomes something employees spend most of their time on when they are dealing with intense emotions because of work situations. Their productivity goes down, and their morale is replaced by a sense of relief of making it through the day. Workplace survival mode should be viewed as a real problem amongst employees. When workplace relationships are wounded and cannot be repaired, trust goes out the window, making it difficult to work together.
  5. Physical and mental health issues: When you experience stress, face problems at home and at work, it is not unusual to experience consequences to mental and physical health. Chronic health problems and mental health concerns are more likely to develop during stressful times, especially when an employee has no outlet for their stress, does not have the energy for self-care, or lacks emotional management skills. When these problems occur, leaders should encourage proper professional care and use it as an opportunity to turn around the situation.
  6. Dissatisfied clients: If a client is dissatisfied, it can be a sign of poor communication. Clients also get frustrated when deadlines or appointments are not met. If you do not keep to your arrangements with your clients, then your client might lose money and disappoint their clients. Creating a written list of priorities to manage time, will allow you to directly address workplace concerns and allow you to brainstorm solutions and keep your clients satisfied.

The above indicates what poor communication can cause in the workplace, then just think about what good communication can cause in the workplace.