The "new normal" is a phrase we are hearing quite a lot at the moment, as we grapple with this new reality which has been foisted upon us.
Whilst the current period is no doubt extremely challenging on both a personal and professional level, it seems inevitable that it will shape the future of working practices in financial and professional services, in particular the normalisation of remote working, which many will see as a positive.
18 months ago, the Mindful Business Charter was introduced to create a new normal in the way that lawyers and their clients interacted with one another. It was acknowledged that workplace stress was a growing problem and that lawyers were particularly susceptible to mental health problems. The aim of the Charter was to reduce poor and inefficient working practices which had become common place and created unnecessary stress. It was about re-humanising our work and bringing back a sense of being part of a Profession; one where there we have a duty of care towards others, including those on the other side of a deal or who we are paying to provide us with a service. Upon launch, it quickly became apparent that this new way of working would not only benefit our sector, it had far wider potential. Since then 54 organisations, including banks and corporates, have signed up, with more to follow.
Fast forward 18 months and we find ourselves in a place where none of us expected to be – grappling with new challenges and in many cases an increase in our stress levels. Whether that's because we are now doing three jobs (parenting, teaching and our paid job), because we are looking after isolated parents or neighbours, because we are working at home under sub-optimal circumstances, because we are getting to grips with new technology, because we are missing interaction with friends and colleagues – the list could go on. In this new normal, the Charter is now more relevant than ever. As well as improving working practices to reduce stress, it was intended to re-establish some of the boundaries between work and home, which have become increasingly blurred since technology enabled us to be available 24/7. Currently these boundaries are as blurred as they have ever been, with many of us working from home full time and the kitchen table doubling as a desk.
The Charter is divided into four key headings: openness and respect; smart meetings and emails; respecting rest periods; mindful delegation. At its heart is the principle of being more mindful of our impact on others. It comprises a series of simple, practical recommendations to make all of our working lives easier. Some of the commitments which are particularly pertinent at the moment include:
- Being respectful of other people's time by planning meetings properly
- Avoiding overuse of email – thinking about who we are cc'ing
- Avoiding sending unnecessary emails late at night or at weekends or, if we do, being clear in the subject line whether it is urgent or can wait
- Routinely including working hours / availability as part of our signatures so people are aware of our working patterns, which may well be different at the moment
- Respecting colleagues' right to take time off without the expectation of them checking their emails / always being on call
All sensible stuff, possibly things you do already, but our research showed that many do not.
If you are reading this as a manager or leader, be in no doubt that people will take their lead from what you do over this period, not what you say – more than ever, your working practices, your discipline around taking time off and creating boundaries, will be under scrutiny. If you or your organisation would like to find out more about the Charter and how it can support your business at this time, please contact Mary Peterson or visit www.mindfulbusinesscharter.com.