AS LOCKDOWN restrictions have eased across the UK, many offices have begun to reopen their doors.
However, this can be a daunting period of anxiety for many professionals, particularly those who have started a new role during lockdown and haven’t met their team in-person, or even those who have adjusted to communicating virtually and haven’t been in an office environment for well over a year.
The Women’s Portfolio of courses by RADA Business works with professionals at all levels, from those in the early stages of their careers to top level executives, and includes Executive Presence for Women, Impact and Influence for Women and Stepping up with Confidence for Women. Across the variety of people in different roles that RADA Business works with, tutors have noted a significant decrease in confidence amongst businesspeople of all professional backgrounds, with many reporting a sense of uncertainty managing teams in a hybrid working environment and acquiring the appropriate skills to do so. Furthermore, many have benefited from remote working, finding home a more comfortable environment to work from, and are concerned at how they will manage their state and regain a sense of confidence in an office environment.
To help women who are feeling anxious about returning to work in-person and those who need to rebuild their confidence after a challenging year, Sheelagh McNamara and Lisa Åkesson, expert performance tutors at RADA Business, have shared their key insights and techniques.
Breathing is essential for state management and to connect your mind and body. An easy way to focus on your breathing is to remember “LSD”: low, slow and deep breathing.
Breathe in and out through the nose to the count of 5; do this 6 or 7 times a minute to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms and controls you. If you develop this as a long-term habit and do this for 2 minutes a day, this will help change your state and mindfulness more generally.
When it comes to delivering a presentation or speaking to a member of your team, remember: “One thought, one breath”. This will help you land messages with clarity. Aim for approximately 8 words to 1 breath, so your audience can pause and digest what you are saying.
We have become used to focusing our eyes on the ‘green light’ next to our computer camera. When you are back in the office remember to open up your peripheral vision, connect and make eye contact with your audience. Your eyes should move around the audience like a bumble bee does when pollinating flowers.
We have also become used to only seeing 1 to 3 people on screen. People make an impression of you in a 10th of a second, so remember to use your whole self to take up space and embody credibility.
Learnings from Lockdown
We need to think about what we have learnt over the past 18 months and take it back to the office to create positive change. Lockdown has reminded leaders about the importance of empathy and kindness. When returning to work, try to embody ‘Empassertiveness’, or empathy coupled with assertiveness, when you communicate. Be credible and assertive as well as warm, empathetic and kind.
Addressing Virtual and In Person Audiences
When chairing a meeting which is a blend of face-to-face and virtual, be sure to ask every person on the virtual call for their thoughts or queries. Allow time for those thoughts to be heard and queries answered. Set expectations up front by letting everyone know you will be doing this to avoid putting people on the spot. It will keep engagement levels higher too!
When it comes to thinking of your well-being and work / life balance on a more holistic level, take into consideration the following three points:
Give yourself the necessary space to function as well as you can.
Only go to meetings where you see you are adding value.
Boundaries for self-care are critical: ensure you have a balanced diet, exercise, sleep, and interact with others to enable you to perform at your best.
Alison Sutherland, Client Director at RADA Business, comments: “It’s wonderful to be able to support women of all experience levels in their journey back to the office. In recent months we have observed that businesspeople across a wide range of industries have found the prospect of returning to working in-person daunting, after so many months of remote, virtual work. At RADA Business, we are proud to continue empowering women to be the best version of themselves, by equipping them with the skills to communicate confidently and build greater resilience in a face-to-face environment.”