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Fear and Loathing in the Virtual Office (w/ Andrew Ziegler)

Posted by presspass on
Fear and Loathing in the Virtual Office (w/ Andrew Ziegler)

Join me Thursday, March 16/23 at 1pm EST on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel!

Virtual or remote working is here to stay, whether anyone likes it or not. In many cases management and employees are seeing the situation from differing perspective, and not really talking about it with each other in a constructive meaningful manner. I talk with recognized risk management and business continuity expert, Andrew Ziegler, as we talk about the fear, the loathing, and confusion over working in – and with – the virtual office.

Andrew touches on:

1. A LinkedIn poll he started that provided some surprising results,

2. Why leadership pushes to have people back in the office,

3. Why employees being hesitant and reluctant to head back to the office,

4. The misconceptions about productivity are wrong,

5. Addressing fear (real and perceived),

6, Empathy, and collaboration…and more.

Don’t miss this timely discussion with Andrew, as he provides some timely insights into the challenges of dealing with a virtual office – the new ‘normal’. Enjoy!


Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

Posted by rstapholz on
Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features the work of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, and Fara Palumbo, their Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer.  It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, titled How HR Drives New Beginnings which aired on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) mobilized quickly to transition our workforce to remote work, an open-ended solution with no fixed date on returning to “normal.” Now, we know that “normal” doesn’t necessarily refer to the way things were. We have a rare opportunity to define what normal is.

For Blue Cross NC, normal means giving our employees a chance to determine working arrangements that work best for them and their families. To that end, we’ve implemented new policies that are intended to achieve three important aims:

  • Overhaul the traditional working model to meet today’s needs
  • Continue to deliver excellent service to our customers
  • Draw and retain the most talented professionals

A New Model for Working 

For more than 80 years, most Blue Cross NC employees gathered daily at a central work location, working side-by-side with colleagues, then heading home to their family and personal responsibilities at the end of the workday. As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, that model was due for a refresh.

After our company’s shift to remote work in early 2020, Blue Cross NC leaders looked at how the change might be affecting productivity. We found very quickly that the shift to telework wasn’t having a negative effect on productivity at all. Our employees embraced working remotely with collaborative enthusiasm.

Together, we confirmed there is a vast difference between a workplace and a workforce. There is no magic that happens when employees gather on a campus or in a building, sitting in department groups, eating in a cafeteria. We found that many of the traditional trappings of office life are no longer relevant.

Blue Cross NC is implementing a hybrid model, with employees – those whose roles allow them to work from anywhere – given the power to choose where they will work. Rather than prescribe working arrangements for employees, we asked staff to decide where they want to work; over 73% have chosen to remain full-time remote, while the remainder wishes to either split their time between home and office or work full-time in the office when it’s safe to do so. It’s also not just about where we work, either. Giving employees more flexibility over when they work is an equally important component of our hybrid strategy, too. We believe our employees know what arrangement will allow them to be most productive.

Committed to Excellence

Working remotely isn’t a new concept for Blue Cross NC. For years, we’ve had employees working full-time from home, and our workforce has always had the flexibility to work at home on days when life requires that. Technology has allowed employees to access email, collaborate and share digital files remotely when necessary.

But when working remotely becomes routine, there is a potential impact on corporate culture and working relationships. Our Human Resources team devised some creative ways for all of us to stay connected virtually and maintain morale during what has been a stressful period for everyone.

Virtual meetings and lunches with leaders have allowed employees to talk directly with executives about what’s going on in their lives and ask questions about developments at the company. Our annual Spirit Week – a chance for employees to have some fun while sharing their pride in our collective work and celebrating our successes – was shifted to a virtual experience, complete with the company’s first-ever pep rally, themed dress-up days and an employee talent competition.

To pursue our mission with passion, our employees need to feel connected to each other and to the customers we serve. This means maintaining the culture that unites us in our work. Together, Blue Cross NC employees have shown themselves to be the model of resilience over the last 18 months.

Finding the Right People  

Pandemic or not, a company has goals to meet. Blue Cross NC is in the business of health; we can’t put the pursuit of our goals on hold for any reason.

The current economy is very much a job seekers’ market. Employees of all experience and skill levels have plenty of options. For Blue Cross NC, that means we need to keep the outstanding employees who are already part of our team and attract talented candidates who are looking for new opportunities.

For current employees, we’ve redesigned our career framework with the goal of creating a more streamlined, transparent structure to promote internal talent mobility while strengthening our company’s competitiveness in the job market. An important part of this redesign is to provide employees greater visibility into career opportunities within our company, offering more chances for internal mobility.

To truly reinforce a culture of professional development, we’ve launched a new process that asks employees to formally declare their interest in internal mobility. This expressed interest, when paired with the increased visibility of an employee’s skills and abilities, will open the door to greater collaboration between our Talent Management team and those employees seeking to take on new opportunities.

With flexible work options and opportunities to explore different roles within our company, we hope to not only retain our great team members but also to attract talented applicants for our positions – collaborative team members who want to invest their time in a career, not just a job.

The new business landscape is different. In my mind, it’s better. It’s a working world of flexibility, fairness, transparency, mobility, and professional growth. This is an exciting time and I’m proud to be part of a company that is giving employees the power to take greater control of their work lives.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 About the Author

Fara Palumbo is Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services, and information to 3.8 million members. Throughout her career, she has focused on transforming the talent and culture of teams through a focus on innovation, diversity, and change leadership. During her tenure at Blue Cross NC, Fara has led the transformation of the company’s talent strategy, delivering a compelling and credible employment value proposition and leading cultural change in order to enable and sustain long-term business growth. Under her leadership, the company has achieved and maintained its certification as a Great Place to Work© and has earned numerous recognitions as an employer of choice, including the Working Mother Top 100, Best Companies in Healthcare & Biopharma, Forbes Best Mid-sized Companies for Diversity, and NAFE Top Company for Women Executives. Previously, Fara held Human Resources leadership positions at Citibank in both the retail and investment banks. During her tenure, she led teams engaged in a variety of transformational efforts impacting the workforce. Her last assignment, prior to leaving, was head of HR for the Global Securities Division.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

5 Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture in the Workplace

Posted by rstapholz on
5 Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture in the Workplace

Gone are the days when employees were considered work machines and strict work culture was in practice. Today, modern-day firms treat employees as their biggest asset.

Employee expectations have rapidly grown in the past few years. Instead of just monetary gains, employees now expect their employers to consider their entire lifestyle. Thus, they look forward to more flexibility, comfort, and openness.

Furthermore, smart employers are now aware of the secrets to their productivity; one of them is employee satisfaction. To enhance employee satisfaction, firms should enhance the overall perks of working with them.

Besides, competition in the corporate arena is growing at a high rate. So, to attract the best talent and boost productivity, creating employee wellness programs is essential.

Fostering a wellness culture also requires deep knowledge about employee expectations, smart strategies, and optimum resources. Let me share some useful tips for developing such a culture in your firm. So, here you go:

1.     Well-Organized Workplaces

Working in a well-maintained and organized workplace is way better than a place that is full of clutter. Neat workstations have a positive impact on the employee’s mental health. Consequently, employees perform better.

Similarly, sitting in messy surroundings is enough to distract an employee’s mind. For instance, you are in a rush and need to find out an unissued gas safety certificate in Hertfordshire, which was returned by the gas engineer. You will find it hard to look for it in a messy cabinet. It will take more time, require more effort, and ultimately frustrate you.

But, all these things happen in organizations that have no norms. Therefore, setting some rules and regulations regarding cubicle management is important. For this purpose, you can arrange training workshops for teaching employees how to stay organized and well-maintained while working.

After this, a weekly check is important to ensure proper implementation of the rule. Here are some ways that can help your employees to stay organized and well-managed:

–         Sort

Every employee should keep only the required stuff on the desk. There should not be any unnecessary clutter on it. Also, keep a covered dustbin under each desk.

–         Standardize

Set standards for everything. In this way, employees will know how to conduct any activity inside a workplace. For instance, teach them the protocols of conducting meetings. There should not be any papers, extra stationery, and files left in the meeting room.

2.     Encourage Employees to Stay Healthy

Since employees are the biggest asset, firms can never ignore their health. It becomes especially important when employees are working hard. For instance, late sittings, extra work, and business trips can boost productivity.

But, at the same time, it impacts badly on an employee’s health. Therefore, focusing on your employee’s health is imperative. To achieve this goal, you can promote healthy activities inside the firm – for example, exercise and training sessions can encourage employees to stay fit.

Some well-known firms have also built gyms inside their workplaces. In this way, employees can attend short gym sessions during break time. Apart from these activities, free fitness consultancy, aerobics, and yoga classes can also be helpful. When employees are healthy, the rate of absenteeism will decrease.

Firms can also arrange sports leagues and competitions, provide free vouchers for healthcare facilities, or even create a sports club. All such things will help in improving the overall employee’s health. This, in turn, will increase employee satisfaction, which is likely to boost productivity.

3.     Multi-Level Leadership

Directors and top-level management do not have sufficient time to indulge in wellness programs. Therefore, firms should adopt a culture of multi-level leadership. This ensures that all wellness activities are in complete control of the middle management.

Thus, the middle management implements such activities and shows the overall results to their top managers. Furthermore, when there is a multi-level leadership system, employees stay organized. It directly influences their behavior patterns. Apart from it, when managers are directly involved in creating wellness culture activities, employees feel valued and more satisfied.


The top-level management decides to create a wellness program for employees. They think that the program should have training sessions, fitness classes, and incentives based on free club memberships.

They give this idea to the middle management, who will conduct research and develop a practical plan of action to implement the program. The middle management will also keep a thorough check on each activity and will be present at every event. In the end, they will submit a report to the level management.

4.     Realistic Health Goals

Improving the employee’s health doesn’t mean forcing them to adopt healthy habits. Instead, firms can set small and realistic goals. In this way, employees will enjoy adopting these habits rather than feeling pressured. Therefore, try to keep your plans simple and actionable.

For instance, if you are starting a fitness class, be sure to include multiple categories of exercise. Some employees might be happy to do the plunges, while others might enjoy the squats and crunches.

Similarly, companies shouldn’t forget to hire healthcare or fitness professionals for consulting the new employees. In this way, employees won’t hesitate in starting any new exercise program.

5.     Consider Ergonomics

Though fitness programs are extremely helpful, they are not the right choice for every problem. For instance, sciatica pain is common among employees because it results due to long hours of sitting.

Now, to treat this issue, we use muscle relaxants, narcotics, and anti-inflammatory medicines. Exercise, on the other hand, can make the situation worse.

So, firms should use things that can help employees with such kinds of issues. These things include:

  • Exercise balls
  • Standing desks
  • Ergonomic counters, table, and keyboards
  • Revolving chairs

Wellness in the Workplace is Achievable

In short, encouraging a culture of employee wellness is mandatory for business success. Employees can only give the best productivity when they are in the best of their health. Therefore, creating and implanting wellness programs should be the prime objective of every firm.

Tips like keeping the workplace organized, maintaining multi-level leadership, and encouraging employees to stay healthy are helpful. Additionally, we should set realistic goals for improving health and never ignore ergonomics.

All these things can contribute to bringing a wellness culture to the workplace. It will enhance productivity, increase employee retention, and build a distinctive identity of the organization.shutterstock_741463573.jpg

Simple Gifts, An excerpt from Practical Enlightenment

Posted by Editor on
7th Wave
Simple Gifts, An excerpt from Practical Enlightenment

Simple Gifts An excerpt from Practical Enlightenment by Ariel & Shya Kane Although we had been good friends a long time ago, we hadn’t seen Eric in more than 20 years. It was the first time he had attended one of our Say YES to Your Life! evenings in New York City. He had traveled from Boston to attend our special event, Employee of the Year, a seminar devoted to discovering how to bring excellence to the workplace. There were many others attending for the first time that night – most were cautiously optimistic about what was possible, curious about what they might learn. Eric came to the evening with a plan: Sit back and listen. He thought that would be the best way to approach the seminar since, to his way of thinking, he had nothing of value to offer. Thankfully, his plan failed. Here is what happened: As we looked out at the faces, we could tell that people were looking for many different things but we felt fairly certain that everyone had an interest in being more successful, productive and satisfied at work. We also knew that most people have internalized standards that they unknowingly compare themselves to and many fall short in their own estimation. So we posed a question: “What attributes do you think embody the Employee of the Year?” It was an exciting exploration. Many volunteered ideas – doing complete work with consistency, operating with passion, listening, being responsive to your colleagues and customers, as well as many other useful suggestions. Each attribute someone brought forward came to life as people passionately articulated how they felt and what they saw. Suddenly, a man in the front row stood up. “I’m not sure what my idea of Employee of the Year was before I came in here tonight,” he said, “but being passionate about your job just leapt to the top of my list.” The evening was heating up and, like popcorn, suddenly Eric blossomed and popped out of his chair to add his voice. “I live in Boston and New York City,” he told everyone, “and I take a really nice bus between the two that has an Internet connection. I had a plan this week to do research work via the Internet on the bus on the way down from Boston, but the bus broke down. First I was upset, but that didn’t make the bus move. Then I texted my complaints to my friends, but that didn’t make the bus move either.” People chuckled as they relaxed into the evening and Eric’s story. He went on to say that he had been listening to our podcasts and had our first book, Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work: The Three Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life, with him. In an instant, while “stuck” on a bus, he had a direct experience of the Second Principle of Instantaneous Transformation: He could only be exactly where he was. That this was his moment. Complaining wouldn’t change the fact that the bus had broken down. So he quit complaining and got engaged, chatting with people around him, looking out the window. Eric grinned as he told everyone that he made a couple of new friends that day. He had surprised himself by entertaining those around him. The evening continued and it was lively, informative and inspired as the diverse group of participants gave each other many gifts, simple stories such as Eric’s. At the end of the evening a young man named Bill who had been a silent observer over the course of the night approached us to say that he had been pleasantly surprised to discover that he wasn’t alone – that he’d been able to relate to all of the people who’d spoken. He let us know that he had been looking at improving the quality of his life for some time now but had felt like he was in possession of only fragmented ideas. Now it was as if those fragments unexpectedly and effortlessly fit together into a usable form. “It wasn’t all new,” Bill said. “But suddenly I felt OK in myself. The best part was when that man Eric spoke about his experience on the bus. I really understood it. I saw that I can only be where I am – but it is up to me what I do with it.” As we interacted with Bill, we couldn’t help but smile. Saying Yes to your life is so simple, yet the results are so profound. In a moment your life can transform and a whole new world, an entirely new possibility, is open and available. We are so happy that Eric failed in his plan to keep quiet. His failure was a win, not only for himself but also for everyone, including a rather shy young man named Bill. We know Eric came to the evening with the misconception that he had nothing of value to contribute. He had no idea that the spontaneous sharing of his experience would make such a difference. People absolutely underestimate what they have to offer. We pre-judge ourselves, thinking we are damaged or “works in progress” or that our “ordinary lives” are nothing special. We love that Eric and many of the folks there that evening gave themselves permission to be self-expressive even if they thought what they had to say was not of use or at best “ordinary.” Each person’s “ordinary” is another’s “extraordinary.” Being one’s self and sharing that with others is simply a gift. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, in the UK, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here radio show or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their four award-winning books. Their newest book, Practical Enlightenment, is now available on Amazon.com.


Self Realization at Work

Posted by Editor on
7th Wave
Self Realization at Work

ask2014-cropped-web-nobg-ariel-shya kane

8/12/15 – Self Realization at Work

Do you view the workplace as somewhere you look forward to leaving, even though you spend most of your week there? Join Ariel and Shya in Being Here and rediscover how to have work be a highly satisfying experience.

Listen Live this Wednesday, June 12th at 9am PST / 12pm EST on the VoiceAmerica 7th Wave Network.

After this Wednesday, you can stream or download this episode and over 400 episodes on a wide variety of topics from our archives HERE.

You can also subscribe to BEING HERE on iTunes!

Indispensable, Irreplaceable You: 6 Tips to Creating Peerless Value at Work By DeEtta Jones

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Indispensable, Irreplaceable You: 6 Tips to Creating Peerless Value at Work By DeEtta Jones


Given the rapid pace of change in most organizations, it is likely that you have—at least on occasion—considered the value you add (and what you have invested in it). Value is the return on investment benefit that your company enjoys because of your unique contribution to clients, colleagues and work product. It also includes things like how you enhance the company brand, introduce innovative approaches or facilitate breakthrough solutions that impact the bottom-line. The degree of value you uniquely bring to your company is directly correlated with your irreplaceability.

There are an unfortunately low number of people who would describe themselves as irreplaceable. When a new boss comes onboard, or an existing employee is promoted to a managerial position, often their first step is to actively seek out people with ideas about “making things better around the office.” These individuals can be called the “linchpins,” and they are the ones who have lived and will continue to live in the organization long after the incoming boss is gone. They have more skin in the game—and perspective—so seeking them out will aid the manager in assessing the organization’s capacity—their ability to grow.

Here’s the other great thing about irreplaceable people—they can be incredibly influential. They might not be influential at first or all the time, but they are the people who, armed with belief in their ideas and their organization’s ability, build strategic alliances and create breakthrough experiences. They stick their necks out when others are in protecting their necks mode, like turtles tucked safely inside their shells. The expectation is not that you go into your next meeting like a bull in a China shop, pushing an idea that’s been percolating in your head for weeks. Influence is more than just having a great idea—it’s about understanding and being able to carefully navigate the environment and relationships needed to get the idea socialized and considered viable by others.

Tips for Making Yourself Irreplaceable:

  1. Believe you are irreplaceable. Confidence is HUGE. If you don’t see your contribution, or potential contribution, as valuable, how will others?
  1. Be political. Political savvy is one of the most difficult skills to teach, yet one of the most crucial, particularly for achieving C-Suite ambitions. Being political does not mean failing to listen or be influenced by other points of view. In fact, some of the most influential leaders are distinguished by their careful and authentic consideration of alternatives.
  1. Pull your head up, away from the fires and the tedious tasks, and look around. Irreplaceable people find opportunities to effect systems, not just cross off the ever-replenishing “to do” list items.
  1. Find, acknowledge, embrace and cultivate your creativity. Many of us spend much of the day using the left sides of our brains—the analytical, objective, “there is ONE right answer” side. Find ways to tap into the right side of your brain more regularly—the intuitive, thoughtful and subjective side. Take an art class, or take a walk through an art gallery during your lunch break. Though it is common to want to take objective approaches to leading, in reality, you live in subjective organizations where being able to read subtle cues, use intuition, and thoughtfully navigate your own emotion and those of others are invaluable characteristics.
  1. Access your whole self. We are more than just heads sitting propped up on hunched shoulders slouching over computers. Stand up. Take a walk. Stop thinking about work—several times per day. Incorporate walking meditation into each day: letting yourself be overwhelmed by the beauty of the trees changing color or feel the crisp air on your face while freeing your mind of negative thoughts. Then go back to your workplace feeling refreshed and open to new ideas for solving the problems that will inevitably still be just where you left them.
  1. Help others. Show yourself to be a team player and willing to step up and take on opportunities to be helpful to others without being asked or need of reward.

Helping others allows you to deepen your skillset (teaching someone is a wonderful way to learn), gather additional insight about a system that may need to be changed, and demonstrate your expertise.

One of the greatest inhibitors of people’s full potential is fear, waiting for the “person in charge” to give direction, even when the person in charge is paralyzed by fear himself. The leadership challenge is being able to get beyond fear of exposure or perceived weakness in times when others are in need of a new approach. Indispensable people are able to let go, at least temporarily, of the need for approval. Assume that coloring in the lines is for the boring and the brainwashed. Let go of the little voice in your head that so desperately wants an “A”. Know that you have inside the ability, and the courage, to create something—a relationship, a culture within your unit, a new product or system or offering—that others may not immediately approve of nor understand, but that adds value to truly make you peerless in your organization.

DeEtta Jones is a leadership strategist, social justice advocate and author. She has more than 20 years of experience working with individual leaders and teams in some of the world’s most prominent universities and corporations. Her multidimensional background and fresh perspective leaves clients feeling heard and empowered to take on some of the major organizational and workforce challenges of our times. For more information or to have DeEtta speak at your next event, please visit DeEtta Jones


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