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Adjusting to Today’s “New” Work Environment

With content excerpted from “The Ten Questions to Ask Yourself to Influence Your Future”, by Dr. Zachary Walker, Educator, Author, and International Speaker, University College London Institute of Education, Presented at the CLOC 2020 London.  He can be contacted on LinkedIn or through his website at www.drzacharywalker.com.

Working from home has become the new normal for many of us during this global pandemic. The current state of our environment is requiring many of us to adjust our lifestyle and routine and, hopefully, embrace the concept of working remotely, homeschooling our children and networking with friends and family via conference and video chats. We even need to find alternatives to exercise outside of the gym and engage with neighbors…at a safe distance. Work / life balance takes on a whole new dimension as lock-downs are implemented across states and cities.

In January 2020, the CLOC London Institute ended its educational conference with a session designed to help attendees take a fresh look at themselves and how their habits impact and influence their organizations. Dr. Zachary Walker led the attendees through an hour of self-reflection by asking them to consider a variety of tough questions about how their habits, priorities, biases, and emotional intelligence impact their desired future. Dr. Walker’s session was one of the highest rated sessions during the Institute and the information that he presented could also be a great help for those who are facing new challenges during quarantines and lock-downs.

During his session, Dr. Walker asked attendees to challenge themselves and honestly determine if their habits were undermining their success. 

  • Are you getting enough sleep? 
    • Sleep matters to performance. Research suggests that sleep plays a pivotal role in your brain’s ability to learn new information. If you don’t get enough sleep (recommended 7 to 8 hours for adults), the neurological changes that occur in your brains to optimize your performance during waking hours cannot happen, hindering your daily performance. 
    • For those of you who are quarantined, now that you’re spending less time on the road and making fewer trips to the store, why not take advantage of the few extra minutes within your day to create better sleeping habits?
  • Are you getting enough exercise? 
    • Like sleep, regular exercise also matters to performance. You know that regular exercise is good for the body. As it turns out, it’s also incredibly important for the brain. Exercise pumps oxygen to the brain and promotes brain cell growth and plasticity. Research shows that our performance is better right after we exercise!
    • Although access to parks, playgrounds, and other public facilities may be limited, take the opportunity to take a walk in the middle of the day (as your health and family obligations allow) or watch YouTube exercise videos to improve your mindfulness, productivity, and health.  
  • Are you eating healthy? 
    • Nutrition is an integral part of brain function and performance. Research shows that although the brain represents just 2% of a person’s body weight, it burns 20% of a person’s caloric intake. So, no skipping breakfast and eating energy bars for lunch going forward. Do your brain a favor and feed it.
    • Working from home gives you an opportunity to cook your favorite meals or even try recipes that you saved from Pinterest. Raid the pantry and try an experimental meal. Or, support your local restaurants and pick up a meal, or have it delivered. Many will deliver directly to your doorstep, or to your trunk.
  • Are you laughing enough and hearing laughter among your coworkers, family and friends?
    • Laughing matters to performance. Research shows that laughter is critical to learning.  Did you know that your “laughing” neuroreceptors are also your “learning” neuroreceptors? As Dr. Walker advised, “The ‘Ha-Ha’ leads to the ‘Ah-Ha.'” You should laugh more and welcome it when you hear it among your teams and those around you.
    • Laughter is especially important if your children are practicing distant learning or you are living with family members. Close quarters may be stressful. Laughter not only brings joy and reduces stress levels, it also helps keep the brain creative. Find a way to play indoors and interact with your family. This is the perfect time to be silly.
  • Are you reading enough? Research shows that reading increases plasticity and sensory stimulation in your brain. It also improves working memory, which enhances the retention of information. I know – you are reading continuously.  Maybe you should take a break from your usual reading fare to read something that’s not work-related and not “like you.”

Bottom line:  Your habits impact your performance both on the job and with your family and friends. Be intentional and enthusiastic in creating your new lifestyle.

Now more than ever, you will need every extra boost of energy to stay, and feel, safe and healthy.  By being intentional about creating healthy habits, you can work towards being your best self.

How are you engaging with others?

Even though you are working remotely, the workload for many within the legal industry has become busier. Engaging via video conferencing is more challenging than an in-person meeting in some ways. We are dependent on different technologies and skill sets and connectivity may plague calls and productivity. 

We’ve all seen the videos of children running into the room to ask Mom, or Dad a question. Be patient with everyone on the call during this challenging time. Understand that everyone is faced with multiple distractions and may not be set up with dedicated space for their office.

During his session, Dr. Walker asked: “What effect are you having on your work environment?” 

  • Is your attitude and demeanor inviting, optimistic, and positive or the opposite of those traits?  
  • Are you part of the problem within your work environment because of the approach you bring, the responses you give to your colleagues, or the body language you exhibit?  
  • Do you appear to be carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, or do you exude confidence that “You’ve got this”?
  • Do you lift others or bring them down?  
  • Do you energize or drain others? 

You need to be intentional about how your effect influences others and be who you want to see. This applies to your co-workers, friends and family. Make your interactions with everyone you meet positive ones.

It’s the little things that matter. Something you often don’t give much thought to but provides transparency into your priorities and authenticity may be critical to your success.

  • Are you what you want to see in others? 
  • Are you present when someone sticks their head in your doorway, interrupts you as you are walking down the hallway, or when others are talking on a conference call? 
  • Are you teachable?  Are you still curious, willing to change your mind?  These traits are critical to possess and model for others.
  • Do you recognize your power?  As Dr. Walker described, you have agency and power. You should acknowledge it and use it wisely.
  • Are you intentional about what you want to be and do each day, or do you simply respond to the next email or phone call? You must be vigilant in attending to who you want to be and how you want to lead.
  • Doing little things can have a BIG IMPACT.

In a few weeks, this crisis will pass and you’ll return to your “old” life. Take the time to think about what you’ve learned during this period of introspection. 

Reconnect with your colleagues, feel inspired, and think about the new you before getting back to day-to-day fire drills. Remember that moments like these impact everyone in different ways, but connection and compassion can go a long way.  

As legal professionals, we cannot afford to be short-sighted. We are game changers and innovators. We must look forward to what is next and invest part of our work time preparing for the future. The willingness to plan has never been more critical than it is today.

Dr. Walker’s presentation was critical to understanding our individual and organizational performance.  Our success in the future will rely upon our intentionality in caring for ourselves and others, developing relationships, and building a collaborative work environment.  This is not a matter of luck; it is a matter of pragmatic discipline. You can do this!