Understanding our core relationship with adaptability will allow us to think differently about how workplaces can move into solutions and outcomes – and therefore reach maximum agility – post-COVID, an international award-winning behavioural scientist reveals.

At a recent PageGroup webinar on “The Neuroscience of Adaptability”, Milo-Arne Wilkinson, a Leadership Behaviours and Peak Performance Coach shared that our bodies are able to respond to what we visualise in our brains. Therefore, if businesses want a safe and positive return for their workforce when lockdowns are lifted, it’s imperative to visualise it as a fact.

“What are you setting up in a post-COVID, post-isolation world? The planning must take place now,” Wilkinson told the webinar.

“My advice for maximum agility is that you need to set the intention of the organization well before you announce that you're going back to work. That means the strategy for a return to work state: what is that going to look like, what might the safety plan and flexible work arrangements be, and the staged returns?

“We need to work through as much detail as possible for at least 14 days before the return to work state so that the brain can cement it as fact and land on certainty, rather than fear.”

She added that if the workforce are to be comfortable and emotionally prepared for change, they have to know what it looks like in great detail to minimise anxiety.

“They need to be visualising that first day back in order to feel excited, and even safe, to do it,” she said.

During the webinar, Wilkinson also provided five important tips to enable organisations to thrive and be in a much more agile and adaptable position faster than the 18 months predicted it will take for businesses to get back up on their feet.

“We have to acknowledge all human emotions in order for us to move into a more agile climate. If we fail to do that, we risk personal safety, personal thinking, personal planning, anxiety, mental wellbeing and everything in between,” she warned.

Five key tips to adaptability before our return to work

  • Acknowledge how the world looks and be honest about it.
  • There is a tendency to sugar-coat the situation. Be open about the evolving state of the organisztion and the way people may be feeling, instead of avoiding it. Acknowledge the uncertainty and the situation, and that we may need to make a long-term effort to overcome the problem.
  • In terms of leadership, many leaders still don't appreciate how important messaging can be. Leadership, from this point forward, will be defined on what you do say, not what you hold back.
  • Be prepared to show and feel vulnerability – it will only improve your honesty and increase your credibility to your people and industry. People are longing for positive messages but we will not believe positive messages if leaders are not transparent about the negative ones as well.
  • Be ready to paint the picture of the workforce in a post-COVID world. Be clear in your communications, change your management strategy and start embedding them into the neural pathways and psychology of your workforce today.

“We're pleased to deliver this fascinating and important topic to our valued clients, candidates and business partners, as an opportunity to help them respond in this period of unprecedented change in the world,” Matt Gribble, Regional Managing Director at PageGroup Australia and New Zealand said.

“Milo provided actionable insights that we all need to consider well ahead of the return to work state. Of particular note was building up to a return to work with a very detailed communication program that paints a picture of all that's being done to ensure safe operations in this environment, so that your people's anxiety levels are lowered and allows a build-up of confidence in that plan over time.

“She also made a great point around feeling like we've lost control due to COVID-19 – in reality, we can actually control how we perceive the world in a positive light and acknowledge that our post-COVID plan and true emotional stability and agility can be quite seamless from an organizational ability.”

Like other businesses, PageGroup is experiencing many of the same challenges in the current climate.

“But we're open for business and here to help our clients, candidates and partners – whether it's feedback on the market, career advice, temporary or permanent recruitment, outplacement, compensation and benefit reviews or bespoke projects,” Gribble said.

“Reach out and let us know how we can support you.”

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