As many of us are still working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are faced with this being our new normal indefinitely. Helene Vermaak, Business Director at corporate cultural experts The Human Edge says that after almost six-months since we had our lives turned upside down, many employees are struggling with feelings of being unengaged and unproductive.

Vermaak says that employees should not feel despondent, she sites results from a recent survey conducted by The Human Edge’s US partner VitalSmarts that revealed the five biggest challenges people have encountered at home to be:

  1. Feeling disconnected from colleagues (47%)
  2. Limited or outdated technology (36%)
  3. Too many distractions (32%)
  4. Lack of focus (29%)
  5. Feeling disorganised (27%)

When life changes, whether this be through circumstances, goals, expectations, or values, we too, must change. Vermaak says by developing habits we can increase our agility and effectiveness.

Habits are created by design and not by default and it is critical when facing change that we become masters of our habits. In order to achieve the results we want, we need to be able to align our behaviour with our intentions and to do this we need to become confident in establishing habits.

In his award-winning book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg advises that the science of habit formation informs us that a habit has three parts:

  • First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
  • Then there is the routine, which is what we typically think of as the habit.
  • Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

The above three parts is called The Habit Loop. If you have a look at your habits, you’ll find that cues and rewards bookend your routines. Mastering our habits involves will and skill and understanding how they work, make them easier to control. Once you break a habit into its components, you can fiddle with the gears.

Vermaak says knowing how to apply the science of habits to our “new normal” and implement better working-from-home habits is possible, she provides the below three points:

  • Spot the lag by identifying where you’re not getting the results you want and identify the habits that are holding you back, as well as the habits that will produce the results you want. If you are not able to see where you’re lagging or getting stuck, ask your mentor or manager where you could improve or find other opportunities to identify the skills needed to improve.
  • Make it a ritual by creating a routine around the new habit by engineering your environment – time of day, place, people, objects, and the like – so that it’s conducive to doing the habit.  Set up reminders, or cues, and arrange your world so that doing the behaviour comes easier.
  • Reward yourself every time you complete your new routine.  Maybe you indulge in a special treat or an activity. This becomes your incentive rather than the results you hope for. The results will follow and become their own reward in time but reward yourself immediately to fire up your motivation in the beginning.

Vermaak says that Duhigg sums up the importance of habits and results in his quote, “There are no organisations or individuals without habits; there are only those who deliberately design them and those who do not”.

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