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6 Ways to Help Your Employees Weather Uncertainty

6 Ways to Help Your Employees Weather Uncertainty

By Betsy Mikel

6 Ways to Help Your Employees Weather Uncertainty

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How to provide the emotional support that your team needs now more than ever.

The emotional labor of being a leader and manager is multiplying right now. Your entire team is navigating unprecedented waters. Working remotely is hard. Everything from grocery shopping to at-home schooling brings new stress that just keeps compounding.

Yet there’s still work to be done. As a leader, how do you support your team while still moving work forward? An extensive guide from First Round Capital offers practical tips leaders can try to practice emotional intelligence during this unprecedented time.

First Round tapped Liz Fosslien, illustrator and co-author of No Hard Feelings, a book about emotions in the workplace. She’s also the head of content at Humu, a startup that sends people science-backed nudges to improve their work habits. Fosslien gives leaders a few tips to help teams work through their emotions right now to develop resilience. In the long run, you’ll be a stronger team for it.

1. Make all virtual social gatherings optional.

Impromptu after-work drinks and hallway catch-up chats are no longer feasible. To bring the team together, you may plan a casual Zoom get-together. That’s a good idea, but make it optional. Members of your team may have a lot going on at home that makes it difficult for them to participate. Or they just might need a break from Zoom.

This is something I tried myself with an after-hours virtual happy hour invite I had recently created. I let everyone know that attending was optional. Though I did want to catch up with these people and check in, I shouldn’t assume everyone in the group had the headspace or time for another casual Zoom call.

2. Offer flexibility in the workday, and consider giving time off.

The abrupt shift to remote work and sheltering in place has disrupted day-to-day routines. We’re all still adjusting. Fosslien recommends offering employees time during the workweek to help ease this transition. She said her employer started giving half-day Fridays, to give everyone that time to figure out new routines, check in on family, or decompress by taking a few hours to do nothing. No one is permitted to schedule Friday afternoon meetings.

How you approach the time-off question will depend on your organization’s resources and policies. As a manager, you likely can’t issue a blanket policy for all your direct reports to take half a day off. But you can use your 1:1s with your directs to understand what’s going on in their day-to-day, and then try to make accommodations to help them manage. Even something as small as letting employees dip out of work midday to do a big essentials shopping trip will be appreciated.

3. Shave five to 10 minutes off meetings.

With calendars filling up with back-to-back meetings, try to effectively schedule in downtime. People need a mental and physical break in between. Shorten 30-minute meetings to 25 minutes. Hourlong meetings can be 50 minutes.

This tactic may be easier said than done. Many meetings tend to run over, so cutting down the time simply might not work. This could be a good time to get more efficient with how you run meetings. To start, cull down guest lists to only necessary attendees, set a clear agenda, and assign a designated note-taker to document takeaways and action items.

4. Encourage calendar blocking.

Another way to prevent meetings from taking over your day is to block out time for yourself. Encourage your direct reports to schedule pockets of time for deep work or unstructured time to catch up on emails. Fosslien advises to model good behavior by proactively putting chunks of time on your own calendar and encourage your direct reports to do the same.

This can work, as long as you’re blocking out reasonable amounts of time — an hour or two at most. Your colleagues likely still do need to schedule time to talk with you. If someone sees a six-hour block on your calendar every single day, they’re not likely to honor it.

5. Don’t overlook your own emotions.

Supporting your team’s emotions is emotionally draining in itself. Remember to take care of yourself. One way to work through this is to reach out to other managers and leaders. Fosslien has a group of friends who have similar roles, saying they “had a half-hour sync just to talk about how to work through shared challenges, and that felt really cathartic.”

If you have the luxury of extra time right now, consider dialing up self-care practices like exercise, meditation, and getting enough sleep. If time is limited, small bite-size strategies have also proved effective in improving your well-being. Keeping a gratitude journal takes just five minutes a day and can lead to improved sleep and positive behavioral change.

6. Get comfortable with communicating too much.

Lastly, Fosslien encourages leaders to over-communicate more than they feel comfortable with. Send more update emails, check in with your direct reports more frequently, create more (optional) Slack channels for people to connect. Humu has an #unfun channel, where people can share what’s going on with their families or what they’re dealing with emotionally. There’s no such thing as communicating too much during a crisis.

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Term: Zombie Title

What is Zombie Title?

A zombie title is a real estate title that remains with a homeowner who is under the impression that he or she has lost the property to foreclosure, and that the title has passed to the lender.  Zombie titles are the result of lenders initiating foreclosure proceedings by issuing a notice of foreclosure and then unexpectedly dismissing it.

If the homeowner is unaware of the foreclosure dismissal, he or she will be left holding a zombie title. A lender may decide to dismiss the foreclosure for a variety of reasons, including a surplus of inventory or unjustifiable costs.

A zombie title poses a significant financial risk to the homeowner who continues to be shown on the property title, since he or she is liable for property taxes and code violations.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A zombie title is a real estate title that remains with a homeowner, unbeknownst to him or her, because the property was in foreclosure and the homeowner believes the title has passed to the lender.
  • The lender may choose not to take title to the foreclosed property if the costs associated with selling the property (arising from unpaid taxes, liens and penalties) or potential liability are too high, and may walk away rather taking title.
  • Zombie titles arise because a financial institution is under no obligation to take legal title to a property in foreclosure, and may not (or may be unable to) contact the homeowner if it dismisses the foreclosure.

Understanding Zombie Title

Zombie titles are often the result of confusion on the part of homeowners regarding foreclosure rules. A homeowner who has defaulted on his or her mortgage may abandon the property and move out upon receiving a foreclosure notice from the lender. The lender will assess the property prior to the foreclosure sale. If the property is in disrepair and needs a substantial outlay for repairs and unpaid taxes before it can be sold, the lender may choose to not take title, based on the premise that there is no point in throwing good money after bad. If the lender cancels or dismisses the foreclosure process, the homeowner is left with a zombie title.

Zombie titles arise for two reasons. Firstly, a lender or financial institution is under no obligation to take legal title to a property in foreclosure, even if the homeowner has defaulted on the loan. If the costs of selling the property or potential liability associated with the property are too high, the lender may walk away rather than taking title to the property. Secondly, the lender is also not required to let the homeowner know if it has decided to dismiss the foreclosure; even if the lender does decide to inform the homeowner, it may have not have an address or contact information for the homeowner who is now living elsewhere.

A homeowner in this situation will unknowingly still hold title to the property, along with all of the associated costs and responsibilities of owning a home, without any of the attendant benefits. Ownership does not change until someone else’s name is on the title.

The 2007-2008 mortgage lending crisis resulted in millions of homeowners facing foreclosure. While the majority of those foreclosures were carried through, many were left dangling in the middle of the process or unexpectedly dismissed, resulting in tens of thousands of homeowners unknowingly holding zombie titles in the years after the financial crisis.

As the U.S. housing market gradually strengthened, the number of zombie foreclosures began declining. According to RealtyTraca,by the end of the second quarter of 2016, vacant zombie homes across the U.S. numbered just over 19,000, a 30% decrease from a year ago, and representing 4.7% of all residential properties in foreclosure.

According to property data provider ATTOM Data Solutions, of approximately 288,000 homes that were in the process of foreclosure during the fourth quarter of 2019, just over 8,500 or 2.96% were sitting empty as zombie foreclosures.

Financial Impact on Lenders and Homeowners

What are the financial implications for the lender? A Reuters report cites a 2010 Federal Reserve paper which states that by walking away from such mortgages, banks can at least reap the the insurance, tax and accounting benefits arising from such losses. A lender may also sell the unpaid debt to debt collectors to recoup all or part of the loan.

While the financial impact of zombie titles on deep-pocketed financial institutions may thus be limited, they can lead to significant, and often catastrophic, financial problems for homeowners who thought they had moved out and moved on. A zombie title represents a double-whammy for a homeowner who is already financially stressed due to bankruptcy, and may be faced with a hefty bill for back taxes and code violations just as he or she is getting back on their feet financially.

An unoccupied home, for example, can easily fall into disrepair. Not only does the homeowner remain liable for property taxes, but he or she can also be held liable by the local government for maintenance and repairs on the property. If the house is derelict and has to be demolished, these costs have to be borne by the zombie title homeowner.

The homeowner also has to contend with the host of problems that arise in connection with an abandoned property. These may range from public nuisance issues arising from the property developing pest infestations or being used for criminal activity, to complications arising from illegal squatters or adverse possession.

Abandoned properties also have a negative impact on the value of other houses in the neighborhood. Complaints from neighbors and area residents about abandoned and neglected houses often forces the local municipality to step in and perform basic maintenance such as trimming overgrown yards or trash removal, since neither the lender nor the absentee homeowner will take responsibility for the property’s upkeep.

The costs of such third-party maintenance, and the penalties levied for code violations can mount up over time. If those costs are left unpaid, the homeowner could incur penalties and fees, and even face legal action. In addition, holders of zombie titles may have their wages and tax refunds garnished and their credit destroyed, resulting in more financial trouble in the future. Many homeowners do not realize they hold zombie titles until they find themselves being pursued by mortgage servicers, debt collectors and local governments.

Buyers who unwittingly buy homes with zombie titles can also be left in legal limbo, as the previous homeowner may be unable to transfer title to the buyer due liens on the property arising from unpaid taxes and penalties. Caveat emptor should be the main guiding principle before buying a house, the biggest purchase decision for most people.

Some real estate professionals advise that the homeowner’s only recourse is to continue staying in the home through the foreclosure process, in order to keep it secure and well-maintained. In any case, homeowners can protect themselves against zombie titles by seeing the foreclosure process through to completion, as well as making sure that the title to their home legally transfers to another party.

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In Times of Anxiety, Lead With ‘We’ and ‘Us’

In Times of Anxiety, Lead With ‘We’ and ‘Us’

By Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio

Pervading nearly every facet of our personal and professional lives, the impact of COVID-19 is made worse by the fact that there is no playbook for companies and their leaders to follow, including leaders who have successfully navigated quick and crashing waters in the past. Seemingly overnight, employers had to direct their workforces to work remotely as governments imposed widespread lockdowns.

People’s confidence in the decisions you make as a business leader has never been more important: The recent 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that employees in 10 countries see their employers as more trusted, reliable, and credible channels of information during the COVID-19 crisis than traditional media or government sources. This invaluable trust could easily be squandered through uninformed decision-making. Therefore, it’s crucial that employers continue to disseminate information with clarity and consistency to their workforces, clients, and shareholders.

Many Fortune 500 companies and professional services firms that I work with are well versed in the tremendous impact of making decisions that are informed by big data and behavioral insights. Decision makers must now act swiftly and pragmatically, using data to help navigate financial, operational, and personnel challenges that lack clear resolutions. Leaders are being forced to make unprecedented decisions in the short term, knowing that these actions will lead to adjustments to their businesses, operations, people strategies, and plans in both the medium and long terms.

One of my clients, a tenured CEO, invited me and my team of researchers on the journey to navigate COVID-19 by harnessing behavioral insights to support and manage workers through what is, one hopes, a temporary — albeit highly stressful — situation. Our work began with delving deeply into the analytics of the organization’s workforce, and we paired this analysis with quick surveys to get an immediate pulse on how the company’s employees were responding to the crisis. This approach allowed us to identify and drive new, data-informed priorities for the organization.

Several important insights emerged that confirmed that both managers and employees within the organization were facing difficulties. The pandemic was affecting their well-being and their anxiety levels, which runs counter to operating a highly functional organization, or what my colleague Amy Edmondson has termed a fearless organization.

First, the company’s employees wanted to know that their leadership had a clear action plan for the company. They were eager to receive communication from their CEO, leadership team, and managers about what was going on within the organization, their business units, and their teams. In other words, they wanted information about where the business was going, why it was headed there, and how leaders planned to get there together.

Second, the employees wanted to feel a sense of safety and security about the future of their jobs. This connected directly to a need for belonging and inclusivity within their organization and teams.

Third, the employees wanted to be provided with the right information in a helpful way by the right person. Clarity, specificity, and context are important here. Employees wanted to know about changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic and what the company was doing to help — both through work policies and for communities at large. Setting clear expectations around priorities and boundaries is also important, given that people are working from home with competing responsibilities.

Finally, employees indicated that they wanted to feel that their organization cared about their well-being and that the company’s expectations around productivity and billing would not be the same during this time. It’s already a challenge to stay productive while balancing home, work, and the fear and anxiety of the changing environment. Added to that is the growing number of internal team meetings and videoconferences that have replaced canceled in-person meetings. Employees wanted their employer to understand that remote working, with no immediate end in sight, is testing their well-being and productivity in new and complicated ways.

Armed with the knowledge of employees’ pain points, we designed several interventions, or what I call inclusive vision nudges. Inclusive vision refers to making employees and their contributions a cornerstone of the organization’s future. One major component in conveying an inclusive vision is how leadership teams speak with their employees — including the format, language, and frequency of communication.

We divided the employees into groups to first test format and language. One group received an email, while another received a short video from the CEO and other members of the leadership team. Both groups were further randomly divided, and for these smaller groups, we modified the language used by the CEO and leadership. In one instance, the language used was more personal (using “I” and “me”), whereas the other used collective pronouns (“we” and “us”). Finally, we further randomly divided the groups by modifying the frequency of communication, the third focus area of our nudge. Groups received the leadership messages once a week (Monday morning) or every other day (three times a week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

The result was astonishing. Employees who received video messages were 1.2 times more likely to trust company leaders, 2.5 times more likely to feel supported by leaders, and nearly one-third more likely to feel that they had been provided with helpful information by the right person(s).

Furthermore, both in the video and email messages, when the CEO and leadership team used collective pronouns and language such as “we,” “us,” and “together” to communicate, employees were 3.5 times more likely to feel a sense of safety. They were 1.1 times more likely to feel more relaxed about their futures, and 5.0 times more likely to provide moral support to coworkers compared with those who received messages emphasizing the personal pronouns “I” and “me.”

Finally, the group that received communication once a week (Monday morning) via video as opposed to three times a week was 1.4 times more likely to define work urgency appropriately and 1.2 times more likely to feel that they had received the right amount of information. This suggests that more frequent communication is not always better in this changing and uncertain environment.

These findings are applicable to organizations of different shapes and sizes across industries. Here are four steps that CEOs and senior leaders can take right now.

1. Take the pulse of workforce well-being regularly.

Conducting quick and repeated surveys and polls can help employers understand where the stressors are for workers — such as work-life balance and mental health issues — and they can respond promptly to those challenges. Survey tools available for employers include Culture Amp, and Qualtrics, among others. Aim to keep these data-gathering requests as short and convenient as possible — for example, by limiting pulse surveys to a one-minute time commitment and polls to two questions at the beginning of a conference call. The data gathering should be overseen by someone who is trained on the ethics of data collection and assessing responses.

2. Send regular messages to employees that emphasize “we” and “us.”

Employees pay more attention to certain messengers than others. In this crisis, hearing from the CEO on Monday morning via a short video message can be particularly impactful. Setting the direction and priorities of the organization, including how it is adapting to the new operating environment, what measures it is taking to support workers, and occasional updates on official health guidance, can all contribute to a more fearless workforce. In addition, by using collective pronouns and language, leaders can help reinforce a sense of safety and moral support among workers.

3. Managers should help their staffs understand where to focus their time and energy.

One approach is having managers send calendar reminders of the week’s priorities to their teams. Managers who support their staffs in understanding how to prioritize their responsibilities and not feel overwhelmed reap increased overall productivity. Reminding staff members of their individual development objectives, as well as the team milestones and goals, is one way to do this. These calendar reminders can also further encourage people to block off time for lunch and breaks or for informal catch-up meetings with colleagues. The objective is for employees to use the calendar as a preferred way to assess what needs to be done on a daily basis, as opposed to relying on reading emails received in an inbox as a starting point. This simple-to-implement technique will ensure that employees start their days in a proactive rather than reactive mode and don’t lose sight of what matters.

These priority reminders should be supportive, clear, and concise and align with the mission and goals of the organization. The aim should be making desired behaviors as easy to carry out as possible, and the reminders make it more likely that people will pursue them.

4. Encourage social interaction and highlight positivity.

Leaders should support and facilitate social interaction to help combat isolation for remote teams. For example, all business units and teams could hold optional regular virtual meetups during lunch or during a happy hour, where instead of discussing work, people could share personal updates or watch a positive video together. In our research, sharing happy, uplifting content, such as the Some Good News series hosted by actor John Krasinski on YouTube, had positive effects on teams. The aim is to replace some of the small, informal ways people easily connected at the office before the crisis and steer the conversation toward positivity and optimism.

In just a short time, we’ve all borne witness to the impact of this insidious virus on our communities and way of life, and the pandemic will likely continue to dominate our attention for the foreseeable future. With most of us at home, separated from friends, colleagues, and sometimes family, companies have never been more compelled to lead and bolster their people with strong communication. By using behavioral insights from employees and communicating a clear, inclusive vision and plan, leaders can help their workforces navigate these uncertain times and feel supported in the days ahead.

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Fear of Returning to Work: When You’re Ready, but Your Employees Are Not

Fear of Returning to Work: When You’re Ready, but Your Employees Are Not

By Lindsay Blakely

Fear of Returning to Work: When You're Ready but Your Employees Are Not

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You may be ready to reopen, but chances are some of your employees are still dealing with fear and anxiety.

For business owners grappling with how and when to reopen their companies, one thing is apparent: Despite what local and national leaders may say, governments don’t open economies–economies reopen when citizens feel safe enough to resume their usual activities. And it’s possible many of your employees aren’t there yet.

Covid cases and deaths are still on the rise in some areas even as states begin to loosen their social distancing restrictions. So it’s not entirely surprising that in a recent survey conducted by global human resources consulting firm Mercer of 735 U.S. employers, more than 45 percent said they are already struggling with workers who are reluctant to return to their workplaces because of fear of getting sick.

Thus, the pandemic has created a monumental dilemma no leaders have faced before–reopening means asking your team to run the risk they may be exposed to the virus; staying closed any longer means you may never have the means to open again.

It’s a dilemma Peter Newell is thinking a lot about. As a former Army colonel, he spent many years on the frontlines in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, forced to tackle ill-defined challenges in high-risk situations, often without the resources he needed. When he retired in 2013, he redeployed that expertise into his company, BMNT, a problem-solving and innovation shop that primarily serves large businesses and government agencies. BMNT is a two-time honoree on Inc.‘s list of the fastest-growing companies, pulling in $8 million in revenue in 2019. As the world began shutting down in response to the coronavirus, the pace at his 50-person company only increased: Clients wanted help figuring out how to adapt to and work in a post-Covid environment.

“This is going to play out in a couple of different ways. Some [business owners] get it and will take personal responsibility for what happens at their companies,” Newell says. “Others are going to look to the government to tell them what to do, and it might be appropriate, but you’re putting your fate in the hands of someone who may or may not understand your business’s circumstances.”

“No decision is a decision,” he adds. “You don’t get to escape this one.”

Newell’s experience leading troops into combat offers valuable perspective for any leader facing the reopening quandary. Below, he offers tips on how compassionate leaders inspire trust and take responsibility for their teams.

You can’t manage people’s fears–but you can support them.

Fear manifests itself differently in different people. Consider that some of your employees may be worried about their aging parents they’re unable to see face-to-face; others are both afraid of losing their children and at wit’s end because they’re juggling child care and work; and then there’s fear about economic security or contracting the virus.

“You don’t go onto the frontlines thinking, ‘I’ll be the guy that dies today.’ It’s always a shock when someone is killed, no matter how many times it happens. It’s not radically different in assuming I’ll always be healthy but then suddenly I [or someone I know] test positive for Covid,” Newell says.

You can’t eliminate those fears, but you can and should encourage your people to be honest about what they’re feeling. And in return? Listen. Then, give them clear, transparent communication about what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re doing as a business to lower the risks for staff.

Newell says there’s a reason why small military units are so powerful: A tightly connected unit acts as a support network for everyone inside it. “If I’m afraid of something but I’m surrounded by a group of people I trust, I’m willing to put aside my fears and do something,” he says.

Go deep on what returning to work looks like–and all of its ramifications.

Elon Musk recently made headlines for insisting that California let him reopen Tesla’s Fremont factory, and threatening to leave the state if unable to do so. Alameda County gave into Musk Thursday, telling the billionaire entrepreneur that the company must maintain “minimum” operations.Musk may have won the battle, but he’s also creating new dilemmas for his employees, Newell says.

“People have to work, but many of those folks have kids who aren’t in school. So now who’s minding the kids?” he says. “And if someone says no to coming back, do they lose their job?”

A lot of what Newell and his team are thinking about both internally and with clients is mapping out exactly what going back to work will look like for employees. For instance, if you have teams in big cities where employees take public transportation, it doesn’t matter how rock-solid your safety measures are in the office–taking a crowded subway renders them useless. And how will you handle resuming face-to-face meetings with third parties? Responding to employees’ fears means thinking through these scenarios and coming up with alternatives. Perhaps those who previously commuted continue to work remotely or work schedules that involve commuting during off-hours.

As for resuming face-to-face meetings with clients, Newell has banned team travel until the end of June on the basis of conversations with clients. Even if clients begin to open up, however, he says BMNT will do its own threat assessments for each and every scenario based on the distance required to travel, the means of getting there, and where the meetings will take place.

Directly address the stress your employees are going through.

Newell and his team have been working 18 to 20 hours a day because they have clients across multiple time zones. Add on top of that the stress of being on lockdown, and he’s acutely aware that his people aren’t getting many opportunities to take breaks. He’s already mandated no email and no Slack messages on the weekends. Beyond that, he’s having frank conversations with everyone about finding ways to return to work refreshed.

“Nobody is taking vacations this summer,” Newell says. “So I’m asking folks when all this ends, tell me how you’re taking time off to get away. No one has the answer right now, but one of the things that needs to be addressed is making sure people’s brains are refreshed and they’ll be eager to return.”

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Term: Business-to-Business (B2B)

What Is Business-to-Business (B2B)?

Business-to-business (B2B), also called B-to-B, is a form of transaction between businesses, such as one involving a manufacturer and wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. Business-to-business refers to business that is conducted between companies, rather than between a company and individual consumer. Business-to-business stands in contrast to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-government (B2G) transactions.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Business-to-business (B2B) is a transaction or business conducted between one business and another, such as a wholesaler and retailer.
  • B2B transactions tend to happen in the supply chain, where one company will purchase raw materials from another to be used in the manufacturing process.
  • B2B transactions are also commonplace for auto industry companies, as well as property management, housekeeping, and industrial cleanup companies.
  • Meanwhile, business-to-consumer transactions (B2C) are those made between a company and individual consumers.

Business-to-business transactions are common in a typical supply chain, as companies purchase components and products such as other raw materials for use in the manufacturing processes. Finished products can then be sold to individuals via business-to-consumer transactions.

In the context of communication, business-to-business refers to methods by which employees from different companies can connect with one another, such as through social media. This type of communication between the employees of two or more companies is called B2B communication.

B2B E-Commerce

Late in 2018, Forrester said the B2B e-commerce market topped $1.134 trillion—above the $954 billion it had projected for 2018 in a forecast released in 2017. That’s roughly 12% of the total $9 trillion in total US B2B sales for the year. They expect this percentage to climb to 17% by 2023. The internet provides a robust environment in which businesses can find out about products and services and lay the groundwork for future business-to-business transactions.

Company websites allow interested parties to learn about a business’s products and services and initiate contact. Online product and supply exchange websites allow businesses to search for products and services and initiate procurement through e-procurement interfaces. Specialized online directories providing information about particular industries, companies and the products and services they provide also facilitate B2B transactions.

Special Considerations

Business-to-business transactions require planning to be successful. Such transactions rely on a company’s account management personnel to establish business client relationships. Business-to-business relationships must also be nurtured, typically through professional interactions prior to sales, for successful transactions to take place.

Traditional marketing practices also help businesses connect with business clients. Trade publications aid in this effort, offering businesses opportunities to advertise in print and online. A business’s presence at conferences and trade shows also builds awareness of the products and services it provides to other businesses.

Example of Business-to-Business (B2B)

Business-to-business transactions and large corporate accounts are commonplace for firms in manufacturing. Samsung, for example, is one of Apple’s largest suppliers in the production of the iPhone. Apple also holds B2B relationships with firms like Intel, Panasonic and semiconductor producer Micron Technology.

B2B transactions are also the backbone of the automobile industry. Many vehicle components are manufactured independently, and auto manufacturers purchase these parts to assemble automobiles. Tires, batteries, electronics, hoses and door locks, for example, are usually manufactured by various companies and sold directly to automobile manufacturers.

Service providers also engage in B2B transactions. Companies specializing in property management, housekeeping, and industrial cleanup, for example, often sell these services exclusively to other businesses, rather than individual consumers.

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Use this easy 7-step plan to give you more time each day

Use this easy 7-step plan to give you more time each day

By Jory Mackay

The actions and choices you make today have a compounding impact on how much time you have in the future. Here’s how to be smart about the way you spend your day.

“I never feel like I have enough time. It’s the end of the day and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything I set out to. I feel like there’s too much to do that I can’t focus on anything!”

If you’ve ever felt something similar to these sentiments, then you’re most likely drowning in what’s called time debt.

Every task on your to-do list, unread email, meeting request, project update, and goal requires time to complete.

But more than just that initial expense, the actions and choices you make today have a compounding impact on how much time you have in the future.

The more time debt you take on from over-committing yourself, inefficient processes, and wasting time, the less time you’ll have in the future. Eventually, you take on so much time debt that every hour of your day is poken for before you even start!

But you don’t have to go into debt with your time. With a few tweaks to how you approach your daily work, you can start building “time assets” that free your future up.

So how do you make sure you’re building more time assets than debts?

Before we dive in, did you know that 92% of people regularly work in the evenings and on weekends?

Your bank account has a finite amount of money in it. However, if you have a credit card, you can access more money with the understanding that you’ll have to pay it back (with interest) in the future. In other words: You’re making a choice to get something now knowing you’ll pay more for it in the future.

But debt doesn’t just relate to dollars and cents. In software development, there’s a term called “technical debt.” Technical debt is accrued when you quickly build features to keep up with demand even though you know it will need to be reworked later. Again, you’re making a choice to build something now knowing you’ll pay more (in time and resources) later.

The problem is that debt in any form is easy to take on but hard to pay back.

Continue to rack up credit card expenses and you’ll end up with a bill that would make Warren Buffett blush. Or keep cranking out patchwork feature updates and you’ll end up with a codebase so convoluted that it could bring your entire company crashing down.

The same goes for your time.

We all know that our daily time is finite. Yet few of us treat it that way. When we analyzed 185 million hours of data, we found that workers average just two hours and 48 minutes of productive time a day.

Instead of prioritizing, delegating, saying no, and being smart with our time, we obsessively say yes, over-commit on our daily tasks, and work longer hours to catch up. When we interviewed 800+ knowledge workers, only 5% of people said they complete their tasks every day. Instead, those unfinished tasks get pushed to tomorrow’s list and the next day until suddenly your day is fully booked before you can even take on your most important work.

As freelance writer Sierra Black explains, “Pretty soon, I needed to start repaying some of that borrowed time. . . . I ran into the same problems I’m familiar with from money-based debt: I owed more than I could pay.”

TIME DEBT COMES WITH ITS OWN FORM OF INTEREST (AND IT’S HARDER TO PAY BACK)

Just like you have to repay money you borrow from a bank (with interest), there comes a time when you have to pay back the time debt you’ve accrued. Unfortunately, just like monetary debt, time debt also comes with interest that makes it harder to pay back.

Time debt takes its interest in focus and attention. The more time you’ve loaned out to other tasks, the more those tasks weigh on your mind and steal your attention. For example, it’s much harder to focus on an upcoming deadline when you have tons of overdue tasks hanging over you.

One study found that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

Not only does this splitting of your attention make you unhappy, but trying to multitask or context-switch like this eats at your productivity. In fact, every additional task you try to take on or even think about takes away 20% of your productive time.

On the other hand, time assets are tools, choices, and workflows that give you time in the future.

BALANCE YOUR TIME BUDGET WITH THIS 7-STEP PROCESS

Here’s the good news: Getting out of time debt isn’t difficult, but it does (ironically) take time. You get out of time debt by spending wisely and building better habits.

1. Start tracking where your time is going

If you want to save money, you track what you buy. If you want to get out of time debt, you need to track where your time currently goes.

Time debt accrues when you’re unaware that you’re committing more time than you have or you’re not using the time you have wisely. So it only makes sense that to turn that trend around you need a deep understanding of where your time is actually going.

RescueTime’s free time-tracking tool automatically observes how you spend your time on your devices so you can get a clear picture of where your days go.

If you want a more basic pen-and-paper approach, you can also track your day in 10- or 15-minute chunks on a spreadsheet. However, this requires constant attention and will bring in some level of observation bias.

This might seem like a lot of work, but the goal here is to dig yourself out of debt and start building assets that give you more time in the future. Once you build the habits that will get you out of time debt, you’ll most likely stay that way.

2. Declare time bankruptcy on your daily schedule

Coming back from time debt requires more than just building better habits. You need to be drastic and rebuild from the ground up.

Now that you have a system in place for tracking your time it’s time to declare time bankruptcy. In other words, audit your calendar and to-do list and clear out everything except for mission-critical tasks.

Now, see what happens. Are all those “priorities” really that important? Is anything broken?

If you need a precedent for making such a huge change, just look to Dropbox. Back in 2013, the company deleted all recurring meetings from their calendars and didn’t allow new ones to be booked for a two-week period. Two years later and with triple the team size, they still had fewer meetings on the books.

3. Create a time-blocked template for your days

If you have bad spending habits, the last thing you need is unlimited credit. Instead, you need to create guidelines that keep you on track.

For time management, the most powerful tool here is time blocking.

Time blocking is when you break up your entire day into a set of scheduled work “blocks.” These blocks aren’t for specific tasks but rather types of work:

  • Deep work such as coding, designing, writing, or whatever your “core” work task is
  • Shallow work such as daily tasks, maintenance, updates, etc.
  • Meetings and emails
  • Breaks throughout the day to keep your energy levels high
  • Buffers in between blocks to give you time to decompress and avoid attention residue

Thanks to something called The Planning Fallacy we’re overly optimistic about what we can get done in a day. This causes us to over-schedule and take on more time debt.

When you block your day, every task has to fit into a specific time, and you become much more aware of what can and can’t be done.

4. Prioritize what tasks, meetings, and to-dos you let back in

Now it’s time to slowly start filling in your schedule. This is where most people mess up, by opening the floodgate and letting all of those time-debt activities back in.

Instead, you need to be hyperaware of your priorities. Only you know what work is most important to you and should be included here. In our Guide on How to Prioritize Work, we highlight seven practical ways you can figure out what work should be included here.

The most time-tested method is still the Eisenhower Matrix—a simple box that asks you to score your work as urgent and important. While it isn’t a foolproof system, it will keep you thinking about what deserves your time. Score your tasks and obligations and then delegate or drop anything that’s in the bottom two squares.

5. Pay yourself first

Recovering from time debt isn’t just about tracking time and scheduling your day.

As we wrote in our Guide to the Fundamentals of Productivity, your ability to properly use your time depends on being healthy and happy. In other words, you need to pay yourself first. This means setting aside time to rest and recharge, disconnect from work, and pursue hobbies and work-life balance.

6. Remove energy drains and incomplete items

One of the big issues with time debt is that many of the things that contribute to it are productive.

Creative coach Tina Essmaker calls these Drains and Incompletions. Drains are things we have to do and can’t necessarily remove from our day. For example, long commute times, unnecessary meetings, phone calls, emails, putting out fires, etc. Incompletions are to-dos that take up space in your mind. For example, conversations to be had, deferred dreams, projects to wrap up, etc. Both drains and incompletions sap your energy, focus, and attention and make it harder to properly use your time. To remove them from your day, Tina suggests a 3-step plan:

  • Set aside five minutes to write down every single drain and incompletion you can think of
  • Cross off anything on your list that you can’t control
  • Create an action plan for the rest of your list

For incompletions, this might mean delegating tasks, not procrastinating, and just doing it, finding the resources you need. For drains, you might want to limit your time spent on them, set clear boundaries on your availability, or shift the way you use your time.

7. Practice saying no and turning down requests

/Finally, you’ll need to put some work into keeping your system in place. Practice saying no to your boss and coworkers when tasks and requests go beyond the time you have. Be open and transparent about your priorities and where your time is being spent.

For future meetings or obligations, use this simple trick: Ask if you would take it on if it was happening today. When a meeting, deadline, or call is way off in the future, it’s easy to say yes. Instead, ask if it deserves to be on your calendar at all. Would you say yes if it was for next week? What about tomorrow? Or this afternoon? Use this mental strategy to discover the true urgency of a request.

5 TOOLS AND STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING MORE TIME ASSETS INTO YOUR LIFE

Getting out of debt is one thing. But if you fill your day with time assets, you’ll actually be steadily giving yourself more time in the future. A time asset is some tool, behavior, or strategy that gives you more time in the future.

Here are a few examples you can start using:

  • Use time multipliers. These are simple tools or workflows that give you a compound return on your time invested. Some examples include properly prioritizing your to-do list, getting rapid feedback on habits and routines, and optimizing your work environment for focus.
  • Single-task. Focused hours can be 500% more productive than ones when your attention is split. Learning how to focus intensely on a single task at a time is a time-asset superpower.
  • Use the 30x rule for delegating tasks. Studies show that most knowledge workers spend 41% of their time on tasks they could easily pass off to others. The 30X rule explains that even if you budget 30X how long a task takes to train someone else, you’ll get a 733% return of free time.
  • Reduce communication debt with a “communication runbook.” Email, calls, and chat feel productive but can be huge sources of time debt. Instead, set boundaries and guidelines about when you’re available and what you respond to.
  • Block distractions when you need to focus. RescueTime’s FocusTime lets you set limits on apps and websites throughout the workday or manually block distractions for a set amount of time when you need to focus.

Don’t write checks your focus, attention, and energy can’t cash. We have such a limited amount of productive time each day that you can’t afford not to pay attention to how you’re spending it. Take the time to set up a time-tracking tool such as RescueTime and then follow the rest of these steps to remove time debts and build up assets. Your future self will thank you.

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It’s Time to Come Up with a Long Term Plan For Remote Work

It’s Time to Come Up with a Long Term Plan For Remote Work

By Jason Aten

It's Time to Come Up with a Long Term Plan For Remote Work

Getty Images

Don’t wait until you can get back to the office to start getting back to work.

I’ve heard it now more than once: Companies coming up with plans to “get back to work.” What they really mean, of course, is “get back to the office.” Which, if you think about it, is an interesting association between work and office. The office is where work happens, right? Except I think, if nothing else, the last eight weeks have shown us that that’s mostly not the case.

In fact, many of those companies have continued to work now that most of the world shut down, just in very different ways. Now, they’re coming up with plans to reopen their offices.

What if, however, your employees don’t want to get back to work, at least not if that means going back to the office?

What many businesses viewed mostly as a short-term experiment during a crisis is now becoming, for many of us, just the way we work. I wrote previously about how more than half of workers say they’d prefer the option to work remotely on a full-time basis.

It comes as a surprise then, that an almost equal number of companies have little to no plans to support permanent remote work after eight weeks of quarantine. That’s from the same IBM survey, which said that 47 percent of those employees say their employer isn’t providing any support for even the remote work they’re already doing. That’s right, instead of coming up with a better way to do what employees have been doing for the past few months, companies are mostly trying to figure out how to get everyone back in the office.

It makes sense, on one hand, that companies that have spent large amounts of money on building or renting offices would want to put them back to use. My colleague at Inc.com, Don Reisinger, wrote about how Salesforce’s CEO said he hopes his employees are only “weeks away” from returning to offices that the company has spent big on building across the globe.

What doesn’t make sense is that returning to the office isn’t necessarily the best way to keep your team engaged, productive, and safe.

Let’s acknowledge that there are many types of businesses that simply can’t operate remotely. Anything that requires actual physical interaction, like lawn care or installing a roof, can’t be done remotely. But those aren’t office jobs anyway. If nothing else, the last eight weeks have shown that there are few, if any, office jobs that can’t be done equally well from home.

If that’s true, it’s probably time for your business to have a plan. That plan should include asking yourself the following questions:

  • How will we best serve our customers?
  • What work needs to get done to do that, and how can we best make that happen?
  • How can we measure productivity differently?
  • How can I best support my team, keep them engaged, and help them be productive?

It’s okay if you don’t have answers to all of those questions just yet, but you can be transparent with your team about that fact. However, even with so much uncertainty, it’s absolutely time to recognize that this very well could be what normal looks like for the foreseeable future. There’s never going to be a better time to come up with a plan for your business.

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Term: Lambda

What is Lambda?


What is Lambda?

In options trading, Lamba is the Greek letter assigned to variable which tells the ratio of how much leverage an option is providing as the price of that option changes. This measure is also referred to as the leverage factor, or in some countries, effective gearing. Lambda tells what ratio of leverage the option will provide as the price of the underlying asset changes by one percent.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Lambda values identify the amount of leverage employed by an option.
  • It is considered one of the “Minor Greeks” in financial literature, this measure is usually found by working with Delta.
  • The measure is sensitive to changes in volatility but it is not calculated the same as Vega.

Understanding Lambda

Lambda is a measurement considered to be one of the “Minor Greeks,” and it isn’t widely used because most of what it identifies can be discovered by using a combination of other of the option Greeks. However the information it provides is useful for understanding how much leverage a trader is employing into an option trade. Where leverage is a key factor for a particular trade, Lambda becomes a useful measure.

The full equation of Lambda is as follows:


Lambda Full Equation

Lambda Full Equation.

The simplified Lambda calculation reduces to the value of Delta multiplied by the ratio of the stock price divided by the option price. Delta is one of the standard Greeks and represents the amount an option price is expected to change if the underlying asset changes by one dollar in price.

Lambda in Action

Assuming a share of stock trades at $100 and the at-the-money call option with a strike price of $100 trades for $2.10, and also assuming that the delta score is .58, then the Lambda value can be calculated with this equation: .58 x (100 / 2.10). This value equates to the option’s lambda which, in this case, is 27.61. This lambda value indicates the comparable leverage in the option compared to the stock. Therefore a one percent increase in the value of stock holdings would yield a 27 percent increase in the same dollar value being held in the option.

Consider what happens to a $1000 stake in this $100 stock. The trader holds 10 shares and if the stock in this example were to increase by one percent (from $100 to $101 per share), the trader’s stake increases in value by $10 to $1010. But if the trader held a similar $1050 stake in the option (5 contracts at $2.10), the resulting increase in value of that stake is much different. Because the value of the option would increase from $2.10 to $2.68 (based on the delta value) then the value of the $1050 held in those five option contracts would rise to $1340, a 27.61% increase.

Lambda and Volatility

Academic papers have, in some cases, equated Lambda and Vega. The confusion created by this would suggest that the calculations of their formulae are the same, but that is incorrect. However because the influence of implied volatility on option prices is measured by Vega, and because this influence is captured in changing delta values, Lambda and Vega often point to the same or similar outcomes in price changes.

For example, Lambda’s value is higher the further away an option’s expiration date is and falls as the expiration date approaches. This observation is also true for Vega. Lambda changes when there are large price movements, or increased volatility, in the underlying asset, because this value is captured in the price of the options. If the price of an option moves higher as volatility rises, then its lambda value will decrease because the greater expense of the options means a decreased amount of leverage.


In options trading, Lamba is the Greek letter assigned to variable which tells the ratio of how much leverage an option is providing as the price of that option changes. This measure is also referred to as the leverage factor, or in some countries, effective gearing. Lambda tells what ratio of leverage the option will provide as the price of the underlying asset changes by one percent.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Lambda values identify the amount of leverage employed by an option.
  • It is considered one of the “Minor Greeks” in financial literature, this measure is usually found by working with Delta.
  • The measure is sensitive to changes in volatility but it is not calculated the same as Vega.

Understanding Lambda

Lambda is a measurement considered to be one of the “Minor Greeks,” and it isn’t widely used because most of what it identifies can be discovered by using a combination of other of the option Greeks. However the information it provides is useful for understanding how much leverage a trader is employing into an option trade. Where leverage is a key factor for a particular trade, Lambda becomes a useful measure.

The full equation of Lambda is as follows:


Lambda Full Equation

Lambda Full Equation.

The simplified Lambda calculation reduces to the value of Delta multiplied by the ratio of the stock price divided by the option price. Delta is one of the standard Greeks and represents the amount an option price is expected to change if the underlying asset changes by one dollar in price.

Lambda in Action

Assuming a share of stock trades at $100 and the at-the-money call option with a strike price of $100 trades for $2.10, and also assuming that the delta score is .58, then the Lambda value can be calculated with this equation: .58 x (100 / 2.10). This value equates to the option’s lambda which, in this case, is 27.61. This lambda value indicates the comparable leverage in the option compared to the stock. Therefore a one percent increase in the value of stock holdings would yield a 27 percent increase in the same dollar value being held in the option.

Consider what happens to a $1000 stake in this $100 stock. The trader holds 10 shares and if the stock in this example were to increase by one percent (from $100 to $101 per share), the trader’s stake increases in value by $10 to $1010. But if the trader held a similar $1050 stake in the option (5 contracts at $2.10), the resulting increase in value of that stake is much different. Because the value of the option would increase from $2.10 to $2.68 (based on the delta value) then the value of the $1050 held in those five option contracts would rise to $1340, a 27.61% increase.

Lambda and Volatility

Academic papers have, in some cases, equated Lambda and Vega. The confusion created by this would suggest that the calculations of their formulae are the same, but that is incorrect. However because the influence of implied volatility??????? on option prices is measured by Vega, and because this influence is captured in changing delta values, Lambda and Vega often point to the same or similar outcomes in price changes.

For example, Lambda’s value is higher the further away an option’s expiration date is and falls as the expiration date approaches. This observation is also true for Vega. Lambda changes when there are large price movements, or increased volatility???????, in the underlying asset, because this value is captured in the price of the options. If the price of an option moves higher as volatility rises, then its lambda value will decrease because the greater expense of the options means a decreased amount of leverage.

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Quote: Janine di Giovanni

Quote: Janine di Giovanni

/

“Little changes can start to make a difference in the world.” – Janine di Giovanni

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We’re still working from home months later. These are the habits to keep in place

We’re still working from home months later. These are the habits to keep in place

By Melissa Gregg

To ensure that our health and sanity outlast the coronavirus pandemic, you can look to remain flexible but also settle into more defined boundaries.

During the last recession, I was in the middle of a three-year study of how people were working differently with the release of new mobile technology. At the time, working from home was being sold as the solution to all manner of ills: women’s participation in the workforce, increased work-life balance, improved well-being without the drain of commuting, and more. Although the majority of those working from home today aren’t doing so by choice, the takeaways from my research carry just as much relevance—if not more—for our present circumstances.

As many of us enter an indefinite and prolonged experience of working from home, the deeper, underlying factors shaping our fundamental relationship with jobs and devices are now coming into focus.

Technology advancements over the last two decades have created new expectations for productivity, leading to increased anxiety among the 9-to-5 workforce that they should always be “on.” Modern employees feel responsible to self-manage while they’re reminded that productivity is the default measure of accomplishment—and you can imagine how things might spiral when you add economic uncertainties to the mix.

Successfully navigating remote work for the long run requires a starkly different approach than the occasional work-from-home days of yesterday. Here are a few guidelines to help you get through it with your health and sanity.

FIGHT THE PRESSURE TO OVERCOMPENSATE

By now, the novelty of having to work from home is gone. The happy hours have been tried; the bandwidth may or may not have survived a growing appetite for data in the home. Over the course of the last few months, we grew to understand and adapt as much as we could, based on sometimes limited information.

However, there is much more to learn from peeling back the layers on what the traditional office setting offers us. The physical ritual of going into an office each day contributes to people’s sense of providing value and having job security. Its absence can create a subconscious concern of being “out of sight, out of mind” to your employer, leading to insecurities about how essential you are.

To compensate, it’s easy to unknowingly fall into a pattern of working longer hours—a fast track to burnout.

Career self-doubts are heightened during economic crises as job security is threatened. During the 2008 financial crisis, I was working in Australia as a research fellow at a university, focusing on the impact of mobile and smartphones in the workplace. Over the course of this study, a numbfer of remarkable social changes occurred at once, including the widespread introduction of Facebook and Twitter, as well as the increased presence of the email inbox.

The collision of social, technological, and economic factors amplified their individual impacts. I watched as heightened anxiety led workers to extreme lengths to demonstrate to demonstrate proactive performance and responsiveness in their jobs.

In the climate we find ourselves in today, it is critical to find a balance between meeting job expectations and caring for our loved ones and ourselves. Don’t carry guilt over personal priorities. It’s evident that working from home won’t be the short-term adjustment many anticipated. As a result, we have to recognize circumstances that are outside our control and forge a new relationship to our work, instead of letting misguided feelings of inadequacy drive us to overextend ourselves.

REMEMBER YOUR BODY

The introduction of the typewriter to the workplace in the late 19th century was quickly followed by a wave of litigation. Receptionists began experiencing the physical repercussions of a vastly new way of working—one that didn’t account for their bodies. This would become a defining argument for ergonomics in the workplace.

As America’s workforce was abruptly forced into telecommuting by the coronavirus pandemic, there was no time for consideration of physical well-being. Many workers likely went right into spending long, uninterrupted periods of time staring down at their laptops or phones. As a result, workers are now feeling the effects of these changes in their arms, wrists, shoulders, or neck. Moving forward, the best thing we can do in the absence of a proper ergonomic setup is pay attention to our bodies.

The traditional office offers a public setting that naturally breaks up our work. We move regularly between workstations, offices, meeting rooms, and more. Working from home, it’s critical to find substitutes for these elements, such as going for a midday walk, as well as allowing people boundaries. Don’t be that person who schedules a lunchtime meeting because it’s “the only time everyone can attend.”

Additionally, while many of us have taken to extensive videoconferencing in the last several weeks, it’s also time that we acknowledge the limits of using screen time to fulfill all of our needs. So many interactions that happened in-person previously now occur through screens. While we can appreciate what technology enables during isolated times, moderating screen time remains key to our physical health.

ESTABLISH NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

For those who took an ad hoc or loosely structured approach to working from home, the experience has likely included some friction and feelings of disorganization. By thoughtfully juxtaposing our office environment with our work-from-home environment, we can better identify ways to create needed order to work effectively in the months ahead. For example, before interrupting someone at the office, you may typically pause and assess your colleague’s willingness to listen. That same courtesy may be harder to apply at home: You may think, naturally, your partner wants to hear your thought as soon as it pops in your mind. But just because your partner is present, doesn’t mean he or she is available. We have to learn to moderate the expectations around the availability of our partners and housemates.

Setting up ground rules can help you avoid the pitfalls of undefined expectations. To the best of your ability, establish windows where you can focus on work without being disturbed. Create shifts with your living partners to manage responsibilities such as doing housework or walking the dog.

These new rules should extend beyond your physically present company, too. Signal your status to friends and family to ensure they exercise some digital boundaries during your work hours, such as logging off from chat platforms or informing them beforehand of a particularly busy day. Furthermore, make it clear to coworkers that you are taking breaks, to promote mutual care.

INTENTIONAL INTERACTIONS

Working from home fundamentally reframes our notion of collegial presence. At times, it can feel as though you are the only witness to your own lengthening hours and efforts. Muted audio mics and virtual invites abound. Feedback loops are missing due to the loss of basic pleasantries. Furthermore, isolation can breed self-doubt, spiraling into overwork and hyper-monitoring. It can also keep you from seeing the bright side of this historic situation.

Notably, the way we socialize and interact with each other has a chance to become much more authentic. A regular office allows for chance encounters with your colleagues, but it also provides a “stage” with shared “props.” Now, all of our communications are more varied and unpredictable. The distance between us offers the opportunity to learn more about each other and to appreciate the breadth of our lives outside work. The result may be finding the best synchrony between our professional and personal lives.

CONNECT IN A MINDFUL MANNER

The former 9-to-5 office structure provided set expectations for contact between workers and employers. As my research has shown over many years, this routine is fundamentally disrupted when connected devices bring the office, home. Now, our devices are the primary window to the outside world while we operate in isolation. Give yourself permission to disconnect as you would during a normal office-dwelling day.

In our personal lives, we must monitor our exposure to the news cycle along with communication channels, made only more accessible with high-speed internet and multiple devices. For instance, we don’t know yet what impact the “Zoom Boom” will have on us; many are already noting the sense of exhaustion that can come with back-to-back meetings. To work sustainably for the months to come, we must put a different set of expectations through out minds.

If we can be intentional in our interactions with our tools, professionally and personally, we can reduce the lasting impact this work-from-home experience has on our lives post-COVID-19.

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Three Ways to Maximize Your Team’s Productivity

Three Ways to Maximize Your Team’s Productivity

By Andrew Thomas

Here are tools, processes and mindset shifts that build sustainable productivity, no matter the conditions.

The new state of global circumstances have turned our world, and our plans, upside down. No one was ready for the first quarter of 2020 to throw the globe into a recession and force people to alter the way they work. Yet one truth remains: businesses and teams still need to be productive.

As companies are forced into remote work, you are being forced to find sustainable ways to maintain productivity despite coronavirus. As a leader in this remote environment, it’s more important than ever to design, communicate and adhere to the tools, processes and practices that support productivity, on a functional, mental and emotional level.

As you face a new era of challenges and opportunities, take time to consider these three key areas and how they can help you and your teams achieve the productivity you desire.

1. Find the right tools (software)

Software provides ample tools to support sustainable productivity, individually and with teams. When you consider a remote workforce, these tools become even more important.

Of course, Slack and Zoom are staples for remote work collaboration and video conferencing, respectively. When using these tools, find ways to keep the human element alive. We’ve started Zoom sessions with meditations (and received great feedback) and you can share gratitudes with co-workers over Slack.

On the productivity side, tools like monday.com, let users optimize workflow customization and automate simple tasks, which eliminates less important issues that take up time. Trello is another easy-to-use productivity tracker for solo or shared projects.

There’s likely a SAAS platform for your niche industry or specific needs, so do some research online. For example, 15Five is designed for team productivity and puts an extra focus on culture, which is harder to maintain during remote work. If you need programming collaboration, GitHub is a well-regarded platform for shared code. There are also SAAS apps for design teams that replace in-person collaboration with a shared cloud solution.

2. Review existing processes.

In addition to examining software tools to facilitate remote collaboration, communication and accountability, it’s also necessary to review your processes to examine if they are still relevant and effective. Afterall, a tool won’t help you if the outcomes won’t help you.

In our case, we needed to shift our communication cadence due to double-work and working based on assumptions during the start of the shelter-in-place directives. To remedy, we instituted a daily 30-minute zoom at the same time every morning for the executive team.

This is one example, yet the need is clear: review each of your processes and change whatever is necessary to meet today’s unique needs. Don’t forget to consider how your vendors or suppliers impact your processes and pay special attention to any inputs that might be hard to acquire during work stoppages.

3. Meet emotional needs.

My peers and social community continue to vocalize confusion over why they aren’t more productive despite having more time than ever and while working from home. They’ve gained the time usually committed to getting ready for work and commuting.

So why is it hard to be productive? The coronavirus has put a cloud of uncertainty and grief over all of us. You might feel like you’re being held back, or you might feel numbed or cognitively sluggish.

As a leader, consider the following ways to help address the emotional side of these circumstances so your team can reduce mental blockages and focus on their work:

  • Start meetings with 60-second personal check-ins. Ask each person to quickly share their state of being, without needing to go into too much detail. It’s as easy as saying, “I’m Andrew. Today I’m feeling unsettled, tired and anxious.” This helps everyone connect to each other and realize that they’re not alone in their feelings.
  • Lead from a place of truth and vulnerability. You don’t need to tell people it’s going to be okay or predict when the quarantine or virus will end. You need to be real, share from your heart and give people permission to be human.
  • Start your all-hands meetings with a 5 minute meditation. It helps ground everyone into the moment and can help calm everyone’s nervous system.
  • Focus on your mission. Remind folks that your mission still exists, and their work will impact customers in a positive way.
  • Make space for being human. This time requires that we are all more patient with kids at home, the surprising difficulty in keeping a daily schedule and rhythm, and the emotions that exist right now. If you can make room for that, your team can breathe and worry about fewer things.

You are living in a once-in-a-century moment in history. I mean, the price of a barrel of oil was actually negative this week. These moments require that we adjust everything in our lives, especially our processes and expectations. Consider each area on this list and see how they can help you implement new, or change existing, paths to productivity.

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Term: Uncovered Option

What is an Uncovered Option?

In option trading, the term “uncovered” refers to an option that does not have an offsetting position in the underlying asset. Uncovered option positions are always written options, or in other words options where the initiating action is a sell order. This is also known as selling a naked option.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Uncovered options are sold, or written, options where the seller does not have a position in the underlying security.
  • Selling this kind of option creates the risk that the seller may have to quickly acquire a position in the security when the option buyer wants to exercise the option.
  • The risk of an uncovered option is that the profit potential is limited, but the loss potential may generate a loss that is multiple times the greatest profit that can be made.

How an Uncovered Option works

Any trader who sells an option has a potential obligation. That obligation is met, or covered, by having a position in the security which underlies the option. If the trader sells the option but has no position in the underlying security, then the position is said to be uncovered, or naked.

Traders who buy a simple call or put option have no obligation to exercise that option. However those traders who sell those same options do have an obligation to provide a position in the underlying asset if the traders to whom they sold the options do actually exercise their options. This can be true for put or call options.

An uncovered or naked put strategy is inherently risky because of the limited upside profit potential, and at the same time holding a significant downside loss potential, theoretically. The risk exists because maximum profit is achievable if the underlying price closes at or above the strike price at expiration. Further increases in the cost of the underlying security will not result in any additional profit. The maximum loss is theoretically significant because the price of the underlying security can fall to zero. The higher the strike price, the higher the loss potential.

An uncovered or naked call strategy is also inherently risky, as there is limited upside profit potential and, theoretically, unlimited downside loss potential. Maximum profit will be achieved if the underlying price falls to zero. The maximum loss is theoretically unlimited because there is no cap on how high the price of the underlying security can rise.

An uncovered options strategy stands in direct contrast to a covered options strategy. When investors write a covered put, they will keep a short position in the underlying security for the put option. Also, the underlying security and the puts are sold or shorted, in equal quantities. A covered put works in virtually the same way as a covered call. The exception is that the underlying position is a short instead of a long position, and the option sold is a put rather than a call.

However, in more practical terms, the seller of uncovered puts, or calls, will likely repurchase them well before the price of the underlying security moves adversely too far away from the strike price, based on their risk tolerance and stop loss settings.

Using Uncovered Options

Uncovered options are suitable only for experienced, knowledgeable investors who understand the risks and can afford substantial losses. Margin requirements are often quite high for this strategy, due to the capacity for significant losses. Investors who firmly believe the price for the underlying security, usually a stock, will rise, in the case of uncovered puts, or fall, in the case of uncovered calls, or stay the same may write options to earn the premium.

With uncovered puts, if the stock persists above the strike price between the option’s writing and the expiration, then the writer will keep the entire premium, minus commissions. The writer of an uncovered call will keep the whole premium, minus commissions, if the stock persists below the strike price between writing the option and its expiration.

The breakeven point for an uncovered put option is the strike price minus the premium. Breakeven for the uncovered call is the strike price plus the premium. This small window of opportunity would give the option seller little leeway if they were incorrect.

Example of an Uncovered Put

When the price of the stock falls below the strike price before, or by, the expiration date, the buyer of the options product can demand the seller take delivery of shares of the underlying stock. The options seller must go to the open market to sell those shares at the market price loss, even though the option writer paid the strike price. For example, imagine the strike price is $60, and the open market price for the stock is $55 at the time the options contract is exercised. The options seller will incur a loss of $5 per share of stock.

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Quote: James Thurber

Quote: James Thurber

“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” – James Thurber

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Managing Stress and Emotions When Working Remotely

Managing Stress and Emotions When Working Remotely

By Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Eight practical tips for a new-for-many mode of work.

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, more and more of us are starting to make changes to the way we work. Google, Microsoft, Trader Joe’s, Gap, and United Airlines are among a growing number of U.S. companies that have already acted to address their workers’ most immediate employment concerns stemming from the pandemic, including recommending or requiring employees to work from home, offering more paid sick leave, or maintaining wages in spite of reduced hours.

We’ve spent the past four years studying the science of emotions and their intersection with our lives at work. In our research, we’ve spoken to thousands of remote workers around the world, and from these conversations — and our own personal remote work experiences — we can attest that feeling isolated is common when working from home. Living with uncertainty in the face of a pandemic makes the current situation even more stressful. Here, we’ve pulled together our top tips for both tackling the challenges of remote work and managing stress and difficult emotions.

1. Emotionally proofread your messages.

As we move away from face-to-face interactions with coworkers, it’s important to reread your messages for clarity and emotional tone before hitting send. Sending a direct message or email that says “Let’s talk” when you actually mean “These are good suggestions; let’s discuss how to work them into the draft” might bring up unnecessary anxiety for the recipient. If you’re worried about how your tone will come across, pick up the phone or offer to jump on a video chat. Your colleague (who is probably also working from home) might be glad for the chance to talk.

2. Be mindful of time zones.

To help people in all time zones feel included, strive to delay decision-making until you’ve heard from everyone who should be involved. This is an especially good time to hone your documentation skills so everyone stays in the loop, and to see if your team could cover some meeting content over email, Slack, or another messaging platform instead. After switching to remote work, Humu, where Liz works, set up a 15-minute companywide meeting every day at 11:45 a.m. PT (which allows for team members on the East Coast and in Europe to join as well), during which the team can fill one another in on important announcements. Everything discussed during the meeting is also sent out afterward in a companywide email.

3. Schedule time for serendipitous collaboration.

When we work remotely, we miss out on all the impromptu moments with our colleagues that lead to good ideas: chatting before and after meetings, catching up in the kitchen or hallway, and stopping by each other’s desks. When meeting via phone or videoconference, schedule time for informal conversation at the beginning and end of meetings.

4. Make room for minibreaks.

Stepping away from your desk for even five minutes helps you relax — and stay focused. Danish students who were given a short break before taking a test got significantly higher scores than their peers who didn’t get any time to relax. Mollie has been using the app Time Out (for Macs), which reminds her to take periodic breaks to stretch, walk around, or change position at her desk.

5. Set up an after-work ritual.

It’s easy to overwork when you don’t leave a physical office at a specific time each day, so it’s extra important to keep healthy boundaries. Your brain will benefit from a signal that tells it, “Work is over!” Some ideas: Meditate, listen to music, read a magazine, or lift weights. (Some studies show that weight training boosts your mood more than cardio.) Cal Newport, author ofDeep Work, ends each day by transcribing any loose notes into a master task list, shutting down his computer, and then saying the phrase, “Schedule shutdown, complete.” “Here’s my rule,” he writes. “After I’ve uttered the magic phrase, if a work-related worry pops to mind, I always answer it with the following thought process: I said the termination phrase.”

6. Put time on your calendar to exercise.

Commit to getting some physical activity by blocking off time to work out on your calendar. Need some working-out-from-home ideas? Try a variety of desk stretches that might (almost) replace going to the gym, or just put on your favorite song and dance it out. Even better, make it a virtual group activity: Jump on a video call with a friend, pick a YouTube fitness video, and get your sweat on together.

7. Check in on each other.

This can be done by setting up virtual lunches, teatimes, or what social media management platform company Buffer terms >pair calls. For pair calls, Buffer employees opt in to be randomly paired with someone else at the company once a week. Calls have no set agenda; coworkers get to know each other in pairs by talking about their families, hobbies, and favorite shows. If your organization uses Slack, one easy way to set this up is through Donut, a Slack bot that pairs people automatically.

8. Be thoughtful when you do head out.

Not all of us have the ability to do our jobs from home. For the sake of those who still have to be physically present on the job (think doctors, cashiers, and pharmacists), be sure to wash your hands regularly and carefully when you go out, practice social distancing, and thank those who can’t stay home.

In these uncertain times, many companies are striving for business continuity and supporting employees as best they can in a variety of ways. Flexible, virtual work arrangements help employees continue to do their jobs, but these unprecedented circumstances require adjustments that for many come with significant challenges. It’s important now more than ever to support one another as we navigate the days ahead.

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5 Ways to Fight Loneliness While Working From Home

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness While Working From Home

By Geoffrey James

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness While Working From Home

Getty Images

Unless you’re used to it (and even if you are), working from home can leave you missing your co-workers.

If you’re a business owner or a manager, chances are you’ve got some employees who are now forced to work from home. In normal times, working from home is a perk, but if there’s one sure way to turn a perk into a pain, it’s making it mandatory.

If you’re new to managing employees who are working from home (or if you’re new to working from home yourself), you’ll soon discover that a potential downside of working from home is loneliness. It’s likely to affect both you and everyone else on your team.

This loneliness is more than just a personal problem; it’s a productivity problem because it makes everyone feel less engaged and less connected to the team and its goals. It can also lead to depression, which is massively demotivating.

According to a trio of researchers at the Rotterdam School of Management, those suddenly thrust into a WFH situation become lonely because:

Face-to-face work interactions, the opportunities to give, support, and help our colleagues or clients can make our work more meaningful. By working remotely for a long period of time, we lose the vast majority of our spontaneous interactions with others. Also, nonverbal information from virtual work interactions is limited. For example, we can’t see a friendly smile or a worrying frown through email exchanges and instant messaging. These signals, however, provide strong socio-emotional values to keep us feeling connected.

How, then, to counteract that loneliness, both in yourself and those with whom you work? Here are five suggestions:

1. Share your emotions appropriately.

Obviously, you don’t want your team to see you in a full meltdown. However, expressing your feelings about the current situation helps build connections, especially if everyone on the team is going through the same experience. Note: Never complain about your own situation if you’re better off than others on the team. “My yacht feels like a prison” ain’t gonna fly.

2. Focus on how you are helping others.

A great truism of business is that you get more of whatever you focus on. Therefore, if you focus only on getting tasks done, your work life becomes nothing but tasks. A better approach is to keep in mind the positive effect your work will have on other people. Rather than think “I’ve got to get this done by dinnertime,” think “this will really help Joe out” or “our customers will love this.”

3. Provide extra support and advice.

Rather than simply focusing on your own tasks at hand, offer to help others at their job or provide advice if you sense they’re having problems. In a workplace, this informal mentoring takes place serendipitously. When everyone is working from home, you need to make it intentional.

4. Say thank you more often.

Recent neuroscience research has shown that your mind and body become healthier when you feel the emotion of gratitude. There are many reasons for this, but one is that expressing that gratitude creates a stronger social bond. This is true whether it’s expressed face-to-face, via email, or real-time online.

5. Reminisce about the good old days.

Surprisingly, simply remembering times when you weren’t lonely can make you less lonely. The Rotterdam researchers explain:

The next time you feel lonely working from home, try recalling a happy outing with your colleagues or eat something you might eat in the office canteen — our brains automatically associate comfort food with meaningful relationships. You may also share these “old” stories and pictures with your colleagues on socializing platforms — for the sake of nostalgia.

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Term: Naked Position

What is a Naked Position?

In securities trading in general, a naked position refers to a securities position, long or short, that is not hedged from market risk. Both the potential gain and the potential risk are greater when a position is naked instead of covered or hedged in some way. In options trading this phrase specifically refers to an option sold by a trader without an established position in the underlying security.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A naked stock position is a position that is not hedged.
  • This phrase is more often associated with short-selling stocks.
  • A naked position is also commonly used to referred to an option that is sold without a position in the underlying security as protection against the risk of option assignment.

Understanding a Naked Position

A naked stock position does not have the hedging associated with a call or put option or perhaps an opposite position in a related stock. For example, a long in Coke and a short in Pepsi.

A naked position is inherently risky because there is no protection against an adverse move. Most investors do not consider owning stocks to be excessively risky, especially because in most cases it is easy to sell the position back to the market. However, a declining market for an investor holding a long position in a stock still has the potential to deliver significant losses. In this case, holding a put option against the long stock position could, for a small price, cap losses to a manageable amount.

The investor’s profit potential, before commissions, would be reduced by the premium, or cost, of the option. Consider it to be an insurance policy the investor hopes never to use.

Investors selling stocks short without hedges face even greater risk since the upside potential for a stock is theoretically unlimited. In this case, owning a call on the underlying stock would limit that risk.

Naked Options

In the options market, uncovered or naked calls and puts also have risk. In this case, it is the options seller, or writer, that has no hedge against being assigned. Options buyers only risk the amount paid to buy the options, which is normally significantly less than the amount needed to purchase actual shares of stock or another underlying asset.

Options sellers, on the other hand, can have unlimited risk if not hedged. For example, an investor sells a call option on a stock and that stock soars higher in price before expiration. The options buyer could likely exercise the option, forcing the seller to go out into the open market to buy the stock at the higher price in order to deliver it to the options buyer. If the options seller owned an offsetting position in the underlying stock, his or her risk would be limited.

Put sellers would have nearly unlimited risk should the underlying security fall towards zero. A corresponding short position in the underlying stock would limit that risk.

However, in more practical terms, the seller of uncovered puts or calls will likely repurchase them well before the price of the underlying security moves adversely too far away from the strike price, based on their risk tolerance and stop loss settings.

More advanced options traders can hedge risk with multiple positions of puts and calls, called combinations.

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Quote: Elbert Hubbard

Quote: Elbert Hubbard

“A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in the experience.” – Elbert Hubbard

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Keep Your People Learning When You Go Virtual

By Annie Peshkam and Gianpiero Petriglieri


Paul Taylor/Getty Images

We’ve made our coronavirus coverage free for all readers. To get all of HBR’s content delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Alert newsletter.

Over the past five years, we have been taking our work online deliberately and at a steady pace. At INSEAD, the business school where we work, we’ve been expanding virtual meetings, ramping up virtual classes and coaching, and introducing digital tools to enhance face-to-face work. Then, in the past few weeks, everything else moved online, too. As in many organizations, the transition happened almost overnight in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis that has disrupted everyone’s private as well as working lives.

In such conditions, organizations and leaders might be forgiven for going into survival mode and putting learning aside. Companies do that all the time: They pause major learning initiatives, such as training courses, and minor ones, such as process checks after team meetings. They slash learning budgets and cancel mentoring sessions in a downturn. In times of upheaval, anxiety runs high and the instinct to preserve the world as we know it takes over. Leaders put aside their intent to include and develop, and revert to command and control. “Forget learning!” the thinking goes. We can’t afford it when we need to secure operations and get the basics done.”

This is dangerous. Like all major crises, and perhaps more than most, the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to leave behind lasting changes in the way work and business take place. Learning will be the foundation of our survival, then, for both organizations and the individuals who make them up. As the world shifts to online work and businesses struggle to reinvent themselves, organizations need to learn what kinds of new products and services will appeal to their consumers and learn how to create them. Leaders must learn how to keep a distributed workforce focused, energized, and attuned to customers’ changing needs.

Whether you are a CEO, senior manager, or junior professional, if you neglect learning, you stop adapting and forego leading.

What makes prioritizing learning difficult now is a challenge facing both business leaders or business teachers: learning online is a lot more complicated than setting up a Zoom account and continuing business as usual. We’ve observed two instinctive reactions that can hold both groups back during this transition: first, becoming fixated on the mechanics rather than on the purpose of learning, and second, focusing on content alone when — even more importantly — we all need to learn how to be with, and relate to, each other in this new world.

For us and for the teachers we work with daily, the swift transition to virtual work has made it difficult to focus on learning — our own, our colleagues’, and our students’ — as the novelty of online platforms and the concern with sustaining performance take over. On top of that, we’re seeing business leaders hastily set up virtual platforms and then treat them as another tool to keep the old work going, rather than as a space to learn about new ways of working.

Now, more than ever, leaders and teachers alike should think critically about what each learning initiative aims to do. Peter Hope, a vice president and head of the Leadership Academy at Schneider Electric, a global energy company, has been practicing social distancing in Hong Kong since January while leading a global team remotely. He says that in transitioning to such a context, leaders tend to obsess about the ideas they want to communicate and which platforms can best accomplish that, confusing communication for empowerment. That is ultimately what learning is meant to accomplish, and he is adamant that it can be done on line. “We can use digital spaces to learn together,” he urges, “not just to tell each other what to do. This is the time to focus on learning, because everything is in flux.” If leaders can’t figure out how to do it, he says, “their business will suffer for it.”

Well over a half of the learning initiatives that Hope oversees are moving forward as planned, online. But that wouldn’t be easy, he admits, if the shift had not already been well under way at his company. “[Companies] that have not been preparing for digital learning, will find it harder in a crisis.” Here’s one reason: Working to build a bridge between the promise and practice of digital learning, we have observed that a move to virtual work provokes anxiety, and, as a reaction, the temptation for all involved is to embrace a simple, narrow view of learning as just the efficient transmission of knowledge through digital tools. That’s all the more true in a time of crisis, when anxiety is much stronger.

P>But learning is seldom just a transaction between an expert and a novice. It is a relationship that frees up thinking and fosters growth. In the midst of turmoil, leaders — and teachers — must discern what kind of learning is most valuable in order to work through and get past that crisis, and integrate different kinds of learning to lead the business and its people through it.

To do this effectively, leaders and teachers have to understand how learning actually works. A vast body of research has pointed out that there are two broad ways in which we learn, both at work and everywhere else. The first is cognitive. We absorb, processes, and use information to complete our tasks. Cognitive learning has us focusing on information and skills. We might get that factual information from a class, an article we read, or a colleague teaching us a new procedure. We might impart it by conscientiously preparing a slide deck and presenting it. Too often, when people think about learning remotely, they’re only thinking about how to facilitate cognitive learning.

The second way we learn is socio-emotional. We learn how we — and others — feel and think about the new situation we are in, and how to manage those thoughts and feelings. This type of learning has us focusing on people and requires that we inquire about our own and others’ experiences. Just as cognitive learning teaches us how to manage the natural world, socio-emotional learning helps us manage the social world. “Trying to sell fridges to Eskimos” is a classic metaphor of how moot your sales tools can be if you don’t learn about people first.

While we’re focused on getting the cognitive learning right, it’s easy to forget about the socio-emotional learning — and that’s where really need to be focusing now as we adapt to radically different circumstances. We might foster socio-emotional learning, for example, by asking each member of our remote team to share their current experience when opening a call, and then facilitating a conversation about what people need from each other to reach shifting goals in novel ways.

Our colleagues who moved their classes online a few weeks ago have had to walk a tightrope between addressing everyone’s disorientation and getting on with their curriculum. Putting socio-emotional learning before the cognitive work helped them acknowledge reality and set the frame for learning. One colleague opened the class with a short meditation. Another invited students to share what it felt like connecting remotely in a document that everyone could see like a live whiteboard. Both told us that those moments made them — and their students — renew their commitment to each other and move on with lively classes. Surveyed afterwards (as it is easy to do with digital tools), their students said that those were the most useful moments of the daily class. This kind of learning isn’t prepared and imparted — a leader facilitates it, but it’s built together.

The combination of these two types of learning makes us competent and keeps us human. Their separation makes us clueless, paranoid, or both. Take the manager who fails to implement a sound plan because they worked through the logistics but did not stop to learn about how people felt about it, or the team that clings to cherished beliefs and ignores new information as a result. These neglects of socio-emotional learning are particularly dangerous in a crisis. Socio-emotional distress, like loneliness or anxiety, can erode our cognitive capacity. That is why leaders and teachers must put first the concerns that — in our career development, and in our session plans — too often still come last.

Most teachers start their career focusing on cognitive learning, getting the content under control. Then they slowly expand their capacity to facilitate socio-emotional learning, hosting spaces where people are freed up to think rather than get filled up with facts. Once they get there, they find themselves more attuned to what their students actually need. Most business leaders are much the same. Executive positions are often filled by those who are lauded for having technical knowledge first; only then are they invited to expand their people management skills. That trajectory often leads both teachers and leaders to fall back (hard) on knowledge and expertise in a crisis, precisely when their ability to focus on people and emotions is what is needed most.

As we noted earlier, we have observed a widespread assumption — a prejudice if you like — that only cognitive learning is possible online. The quicker we counter that prejudice and keep our focus on socio-emotional learning online — in classrooms and in professional settings — the better. Otherwise learning and leading will be diminished and dehumanized just when we need both competence and humanity more than ever. Even crises that appear to require the mastery of new information and implementation of new technology usually require that we hold on to our wits and to each other in order to do that work.

In a crisis, providing reassurance and sustaining performance tend to be leaders’ priorities — and teachers’ too. In those urgent moments, we assume that we must “keep it together” when everything is falling apart. We want to project expertise and avoid incompetence. We do all that, often, because we care. We want to help by keeping things under control. When, really, we are novices like everyone else because no one has been through this crisis before.

A focus on socio-emotional learning allows us to move away from the burden of delivering a product — or not letting students down or keeping a process on track — to the practice of a shared and holistic learning process. That is the kind of learning that lets us process crises and bring about change. It keeps work human and continues the learning we care most about when we are in each other’s physical presence: transforming our businesses and ourselves.

Cultivating a learning culture is not just a catch phrase or a luxury in these times. It is a way to protect your organization and its people. Courage matters as much as competence when, as we are all doing now, we have to take work virtual and we need to keep it human.

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Covid-19 – Johns Hopkins University

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