In the first of a series of interviews with business leaders Bianca Shead, Senior Director of Global Marketing and Communications at The Nature Conservancy tells us what she and her team have learned by working to improve their digital wellbeing…
Before the Shine Offline programme, my team had spent a lot of time thinking about our digital behaviour. What we thought about was how we operate, and less about how it affects us. We are a very geographically dispersed team, and so we were online all the time and really good at thinking about things like meeting norms and time zones. What we were less good at thinking about was us as individuals and how all of this online working was impacting on our productivity and wellbeing.
I was always very ON. Consciously on, but always on. My colleagues are all over the world, and therefore I believed that being on as much as I could be was the right thing to do.
One of the most important takeaways for me from digital wellbeing training was that more does not equal better. It sounds like common sense, but I am not always going to be doing my best work just because I’m present and online. Working with Shine Offline reminded me of the importance of taking time away, to think, to plan and also to model the right kind of behaviour for other people.
A change that I have made is having offline time to work and to think. I had forgotten how much I enjoy working, actually spending time on a task with no distractions. It has improved the quality of my work but also my enjoyment of it.
Amongst the team we have encouraged a lot of specific behaviour changes.
The first thing that we all came away with was the idea that as individuals and team member we are empowered to make the decisions that are right for you. Then what we’ve been able to do is really encourage offline working time, to encourage delayed delivery of emails and encourage people to use their out of office a lot more.
We use the Out of Office as a communications device – it’s not a blocker its actually an enabler of better working practises.
People were hungry for change. I was surprised at just how open people were to change, not just me and my team but our peers and our leadership. Everybody was excited about the potential to work better, to work more efficiently to be more happy in our work.
We have a few challenges because we are a geographically dispersed team and we’ve always worked remotely. Two things have been implemented that help us manage the multiple time zones and make sure that people are not working ridiculous hours. The first is the email signature that says we work across time zones but there is no expectation of reply. That is part one, But that is just the beginning, part two is modelling that through other behaviours like email scheduling, letting people know that you don’t want a response and also letting people when you are simply not working! The role of the leader is to model the behaviour first.
In order for teams to feel empowered to make changes they need to feel that you trust them, and in order to build that trust you have to be a bit vulnerable.
A leader needs to say ‘I’m switching off my computer this weekend don’t expect to hear from me’. By modelling the right behaviour and being a bit vulnerable you can show your team you trust them to make the right decisions.
In order to build that trust and openness and culture of transparency I choose to make my calendar accessible to everyone in our organisation. I want people to know that if I go for walk at lunchtime I choose to make that available and I would encourage others to do the same. I know that people around me trust me to get my work done and I really want to spread that throughout the team.
Trust comes from showing people you are also human and not a machine.
In the future I really hope that organisations get a handle on their platforms. We are currently working across four maybe five different digital platforms and I know that if we were able to consolidate those that would also improve things.
I’m really encouraged by the younger generation. I see amongst the younger members of our team and the younger people I work with they are already much better at carving out time for themselves and setting boundaries between work and home. Those of us of a certain age who have a different journey to this digital workplace can learn from the younger people who have never known a different world, in carving out work time and my time and feeling empowered to make that distinction.