Blog Archives

How facing off against the unknown led me to certainty

Standing at a sheer 1986 metres tall and casting a shadow over the Alpine National Park, Mt Bogong (the local Aboriginal name for the mountain roughly translates to The Big Fella) holds the rugged crown of the highest mountain in Victoria, Australia. Mt Bogong proved its status as a Grade 4 hike back in 1936 when it took the life of Cleve Cole, a pioneering skier who attempted the first winter crossing of the Bogong High Plains. Along with two others, Clove skied across the High Plans from Hotham to Bogong, and after reaching the summit ridge, fell into the trap of unforgiving weather conditions. Although Cole met a grave ending, his legacy lived on through his showcase of absolute grit, determination and a sense of freedom to achieve the impossible – in his mind, no mountain was too big.

What we’re dealing with right now is a ‘Bogong’ of catastrophes on an economic, financial and human scale. COVID-19, an invisible foe, is triggering headlines and push notifications that are sending our minds into overdrive while putting enormous pressure on governments, employers and health services to cope. We’re in the midst of a pretty scary time facing the unknown, made harder by not being able to see the mountain, but like those early explorers, we’re also keeping on keeping on.

Large organisations are pivoting, smaller businesses are finding innovative ways to operate and communities are rediscovering the locals at work in their own patch. People are staying active, families are still connecting, birthdays are celebrated (online). You name it – we’re trying it: How to videos on making your own face mask, bingo evenings in suburban streets, supermarkets opening early for the elderly, random acts of kindness and dance parties via Zoom. Everyone is doing their part to remain optimistic, comply with the State directives and #flattenthecurve. There’s a global sense of connectivity – We’re all in this together, which some of us have never felt before.

In Temporary & Contract recruitment we’ve definitely taken a hit, but I know I can speak on behalf of my team, the broader business and the industry that we have not lost faith. We’re continuing to help candidates find work, investing more time in professional development, focusing on staying connected and nourishing our client customer relationships. It’s been an opportunity for many to use isolation time in positive ways.

Back in February, which now seems such a long time ago, Slade Group announced a bushfire relief initiative that gave me the opportunity to visit one of the affected areas within Victoria, meet with members of the community and directly give back to small businesses through our spending (Slade absorbed our travel and accommodation costs). After some Google searching, I decided on Bright, a quaint town in Northern Victoria nestled near the base of the Alpine National Park. From a quick search I was sold; it’s picturesque Main Street, colourful flora and beautiful backdrop of the National Park really sparked an interest to experience this for myself. What I didn’t factor into the equation, was that my partner would somehow persuade me to take a 45 minute drive to the base of Mt Bogong and complete a gruelling 9 hour hike up the tallest mountain in Victoria!

Yes, it was tough. And I did look at my watch every 5 minutes, calling Harrison every obscene word under the sun. But after the first couple of hours I was so thankful to him for persuading me to go on this hike, and thankful to myself for having the sheer determination to achieve the goal and complete the climb. Looking back on this day and where I am now, it’s true, I was facing the unknown and struggling, but I didn’t back down and I eventually reached the summit.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Diggers. Shining a light on our current hardship.

My grandfather was a Digger – a Navigator for the RAAF in WW2 in New Guinea and the Coral Sea. He saw the best and worst in men, fighting on both sides. He rarely spoke of it, but when I was nine years old, he took our whole family on a trip, by boat, to deepen our understanding of, and honour, our history.

We started our journey of remembrance in Rabaul in PNG and finished, after layovers in Singapore and Hong Kong, at the Nagasaki Peace Park in Japan. My grandfather held no malice; he held no grudge; rather he believed that every man, on whichever side he was fighting, loved his country, was making sacrifices for his nation, and its future, and by the doctrine of that culture. 

No history class or book I’ve read since has left such a deep impression on my spirit.

As I reflect on the sacrifices our Anzacs made, I hope that we can take inspiration from their spirit as we navigate the challenge our society faces today. The sense of mateship, helping others and working together to achieve a common goal are values that continue to inspire us.

During this time of uncertainty in the face of COVID-19, we can take heart that the collective measures of our individual actions are making a significant difference to our mortality rates. It is a difficult time, and everyone is experiencing different levels of hardship; whether it be by loss of income, loneliness, family ructions, failed businesses, unimaginable financial hardship, increased anxiety or health challenges. This pandemic is taking a toll on societies around the world, and yet there are great examples of people being united like never before; unexpected acts of human kindness, people coming together to help where they can, and the arts, music and comedy lifting our spirits. This is no time for malice or resentment.

This weekend we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on our Diggers and the sacrifices they made to contribute to Australia’s future. To those who fought for us, we will remember you.

I, along with many other Australians, will be proudly participating in Light up the Dawn on Saturday to remember all those who have served and sacrificed. It is also wonderful to see what other members of our community are doing to show their thanks during this time of isolation. Charles Cameron, the CEO of our industry association, the RCSA, is spending Saturday taking the Last Post to the people of Euroa; his unique way of celebrating the ANZAC spirit and remembering those who have served. 

#LightUpTheDawn #AnzacDay2020 #lestweforget #ANZACspirit

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

This will be a thing. Face masks in the workplace.

I had never understood face mask wearing in public. To me, face masks indicated a cultural misunderstanding, a weird convention I couldn’t grasp. Were the wearers suggesting our pollution levels were up there with Shanghai’s, were we particularly foul mouthed, or were they themselves escapees from some infectious sanatorium? 

I’ve now done a backflip on this thinking. The more facts I read about ‘Face Masks’ the more convinced I am that they will be key to us getting back to business as usual. Or at least close to BAU.

While a mask won’t necessarily save the wearer if exposed, it lessens the likelihood of infection. How it really helps is in protecting ‘the other’ from the ‘wearer’. That insight flipped my judgement of public mask wearing from ‘negative and weird’ to ‘positive and respectful’. 

Supporting evidence is mounting by the countries ‘beating’ COVID-19:

  • Taiwan – Masks are mandated in many public areas such as public transport
  • China – Any region or city where there is the slightest trace of the virus, the wearing of masks is mandated by law
  • South Korea – The Government has sent face masks to every house
  • Singapore and Hong Kong – Have urged all citizen to wear masks all the time, as a sign of respect to others and a small amount of self-protection
  • Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Bosnia Herzogovina, Israel – mandated public mask wearing

Results are showing improved reductions in new case rates when mask wearing is combined with various stages of lock downs.

A bandanna, an old school cotton handkerchief or a pharmacy bought face mask will help us all, and maybe get us back to work, and on with life, as we knew it.  If we all get on board, it will normalise the previously abnormal.

What do you think about face masks in your world @work?

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From little things… Easter, a time for renewal

It was while waiting to cross at the lights on Spring Street last week, standing (suitably) apart from a couple on my walk home, when I overheard one say, “Things will really get bad when Bunnings closes.”

I wanted to step closer and join that conversation. Unable to, I’m thinking aloud, privileged to share with you my own Bunnings – to Easter – to renewal – to growth story.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this Easter; overworked, underworked or out of work, my hope is that we can use these four days to pause, to see them as an opportunity to consider new beginnings.

In the Northern Hemisphere, from where many of our ancestors originated, Easter was a Spring celebration – a time for renewal and new life. They planted in Spring, partied hard after the back-breaking work, prayed for a good season of growth, welcomed spring rains and looked forward to a bountiful harvest in five to six months.

Which brings me back to my Spring Street eavesdropping moment. The things we work on now give us a sense of accomplishment, and hope for the future. How much would we miss Bunnings if its doors had to close at this time – painting, repairing, refreshing our homes, feeding our soil, new plantings for our pots or plots and gardens.

In the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in temperate and cool climate regions, we go into Autumn and look towards winter. We have more thinking and planning time, but also seek out the plants that will grow into a bountiful harvest as we come through into Spring. We can clean out and clean up our homes and nurture personal relationships. None of it need cost a cent, but we can look back and be proud to have turned ‘the worst of times’ into ‘the best of times’. We can indulge in personal passions (so long as they don’t involve travel), sharpen our skills and improve on every day…

The theme of ‘Renewal’ marked the Pagan’s Springtime celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere. Every faith has its festivities and I’m wishing you all a Northern Hemisphere-like Easter this year, a time for renewal.

I’d love to hear what you will plant, nurture and begin to grow this Easter.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Perspective on pandemic panic requires hope and resilience

Yes, we indeed live in unprecedented times – but haven’t there always been unprecedented times in human history?

There is no room for corona complacency during this current medical and economic crisis. Yet, in spite of cancelled travel, cancelled conferences and investment losses, I find myself safely at home, extremely concerned but relatively calm… possibly because of my work to help others be more resilient in times of change; and probably because I’m old enough – and lucky enough – to have survived previous stock market crashes, job losses, airline closures, toilet paper shortages, Ebola outbreaks and being stranded in third world hospitals, war zones and countries with border closures.

Shock disruption also happened with the tragedy of 9/11. On that fateful day, I happened to be the keynote speaker at the World Airline Conference in Brisbane. The topic: ‘Change is inevitable – Learning from change is optional’. You can imagine the mood among the 1600 delegates from around the world…

That same week, Ansett Airlines collapsed which made headlines, but many suppliers and event businesses also went under with horrendous fallout, including unreported suicides. Conferences were cancelled and the gaping hole in my busy schedule (and cash flow) prompted me to write a book, Hope Happens! – words of encouragement for tough times. As the title suggests, it’s the opposite of S%#T happens.

Fear is the thief of time, kindness and courage. There is no vaccine for the trauma of life; whether a bushfire, pandemic or loss of a loved one by tragic or natural causes. Yet knowledge and perspective may sometimes serve as a mild antidote to anxiety. 

And although admittedly not feeling particularly ‘motivated’ as a ‘motivational’ speaker, I learned a long time ago to focus on what I can do as an individual; and not waste excessive energy on what I am unable to change. So, although somewhat lengthy, here are some thoughts and lessons learned on my own journey that might help keep your spirits up, as the dollar and share market go down.

Read the full article

Until next time, I encourage you to stockpile… on resilience, optimism and kindness!

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Posted in The world @work

A playlist just for us, right now!

It’s 11.30am and you’ve checked your news feed one too many times this morning already. We feel your pain, away from work, under financial duress, trying to work out HR and OHS logistics around #WFH (working from home), realising perhaps there is a limit to how much family time we really want…

This week we’ve had some lighter moments pulling together our Isolationist’s Playlist. The titles alone will give you a smile. ‘All by Myself’ by Celine Dion, ‘School’s Out’ by Alice Cooper, ‘Dancing with Myself’ by Generation X, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash… Sure, not every song will be your preferred genre, but from an amazing list of 100 titles, you’re sure to find a few that will have you limbo-ing under the kitchen broom, singing into your mouse, or just sighing nostalgically as you recall your life last month.

So, without further spluttering, presenting our Spotify playlist Just for Us, Right Now.

And the good news it’s a public playlist so feel free to add your own bright ideas – just keep it clean and not to morbid please!

Keep singing and keep well.

The team at Slade Group and the Interchange Bench.

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Posted in Interchange Bench

WFH!? How to beat the bogeys on working from home…

For those of us who haven’t been regularly working from home (WFH) until now, the prospect can be a bit daunting. Whilst the nature of my job means I’m fortunate to be able to work effectively in a digital environment, I also like a bit of separation between my living room and the office. I’ve found WFH perfect for intense periods of concentration – planning, creating, writing pitches, proposals and reports. Collaborating on projects, getting feedback on drafts and quick decision-making? It’s often a lot easier in person.

As we move towards WFH in the longer term, I thought I’d share a few tips from my personal experience on how to beat some of the bogeys you encounter when working from home.

  1. Prepare first – Decide which tasks you will be working on and take home any hard copy files you cannot access electronically or material that is easier to work from in print. Test your internet connection and remote access via the company’s Citrix or VPN.
  2. Map out a schedule – Your WFH schedule may not be the same as your office hours. Give yourself a start and finish time, allowing for breaks. This helps manage the temptation to procrastinate or work until you drop.
  3. Present yourself – If you’re not face-timing customers or colleagues, it might be tempting to spend all day in your pyjamas. You will feel more motivated and it’s easier to slot into work zone, if you get up out of bed, have a shower and get dressed – business casual or not.
  4. Go to work in your home office – Whether it’s the kitchen table, a separate room or a study nook, clear a space, follow the WFS OHS protocols and go there to work. Leave it too, when you’re taking a break.
  5. Let others know you’re at work – Partners, flatmates, kids and pets… we love them, but they can be pests at times! Forewarn your household and try to work around their schedules to minimise the impact on each other as far as you can.
  6. Remove other distractions – Pausing your personal social media and other apps while you’re working is good professional practice whether WFH or in the office.
  7. Multitasking is a myth – It’s ok to put on a load of washing, but don’t get distracted by deep cleaning the house. A few chores while taking a break can help return your focus on work.
  8. Reward yourself – Go for a walk at lunchtime, get a proper coffee or food from a café. There are lots of activities you can fit into 30 minutes to an hour when your close to home.
  9. Check-in – Maintain your usual contact with colleagues via phone, email and other messaging or collaborating apps, and check-in with your team leader or manager on your progress through or at the end of day.

What works for you when you’re working from home?

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Posted in The world @work