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F*ck Plan B: An Interview with Dominic Monkhouse

Today we’re talking to Dominic Monkhouse, founder and MD of business coaching firm Monkhouse and Company. Dom has many years’ experience working with a variety of firms, particularly in the tech industry, to help them understand their workplace culture and scale up their businesses to deliver considerable growth curve.

Dom is the author of a new book, ‘F**k Plan B – How to scale your technology business faster and achieve Plan A.’ The book outlines his highly profitable approach to scaling-up, and is a must-read for all tech CEOs who want to achieve consistently high levels of growth year-on-year.

Welcome to the PUSH blog, Dom. First, can hear a little about your background?

Sure. I did a degree in agriculture then joined the Marks and Spencer graduate trainee programme. Later I went into the pharmaceutical industry because I wanted to learn how to sell, and after a stint in IT and CRM development I took over the running of Rackspace. When I joined we had few staff and fewer customers but I took it to 150 people and £30 million turnover. A few more scale-ups followed and in 2014, following the birth of my daughter, I decided to work for myself. At first I called myself a business consultant because I thought the term ‘coaching’ was a bit ‘Kum-Ba-Yah’, if you know what I mean! Then I realised that coaching was what I was doing and I embraced the term. Now I’m most definitely a coach, and clients like me because I’ve sat where they’re now sitting. I’ve been there, and I couldn’t do what I do now if I hadn’t.

What particular skills do you bring to your coaching philosophy?

I like the approach outlined by Verne Harnish to scaling up, which is Strategy, Execution, People and Cash, and if I have pick two that I feel are ‘mine’, it would be Strategy and People. Right the way back to my days at M&S, my success has been around hiring and motivating people, and if you have the right strategy and the right people the execution and the cash will be taken care of. I honestly believe that.

Do you apply the same principles to every firm you work with?

One of my guiding principles is to look for clients whose CEO is humble enough to know that they don’t know everything and are curious enough to want to learn more. That’s my ideal client; the person who will feel consciously incompetent while we’re working through the change period but will be prepared to stick at it and put in the hard work because they are committed to change. This isn’t easy because many people don’t like to feel out of control but if you work at it the rewards will come.

At what stage do firms approach you for help?

It’s usually at the stage when a CEO has a problem and they’ve got to the point where they don’t believe they can solve it without help. They look for answers, and maybe find some of my content online and if that catches them and they see the potential of what I can do, they reach out for solutions to their problems.

What kind of problems are we talking about?

Quite a lot is around company culture. It also could be organisational structure and difficulties with scaling up.

What are the most common roadblocks in the way of achieving growth?

There’s often a roadblock around talent. If, for example, you have a start-up you often end up with a whole team of multi-disciplinary players and as the business grows the guy who had six jobs and could hold them all down is now not good enough at each one of them to be a main player. So that can cause tension. Or as the business was scaling the top salesperson because sales manager or development guy became head of development. So people are moving into management jobs because they are great at their functional skill, but not at management, and that can cause real difficulties. 

Let’s turn to your new book. Tell us more…

This book is about people and culture, and achieving ‘Plan A’ is about getting the right people. Jim Collins says it is about getting the right people on the bus and knowing where that bus is going. I think that’s true; for me, that is Plan A. I really believe that if you have the right people and you know where you’re going, you can sort out everything else along the way. And the best people don’t need a lot of management. That can be a shock for the management team to hear! Often I sit down with an executive team and I say, ‘Think of your best people and describe them in comparison to your average staff.’ And hear the words ‘proactive, self-starting, not needy’ etc. These people aren’t being paid higher salaries than anyone else, yet can be 2x, 5x, 10x more productive. So these are the people we need to look for, because if we have them we can then focus on finding customers and servicing them, rather than micro-managing the team. That’s what’s important, and often it can be a relief for the exec team to hear this.

In the  book you have five core principles for business success…..

Yes. The first is that the customer is king. If we don’t have customers we don’t have a business. Smaller firms have fewer problems with this but when they get big they often lose sight of who core customers are and what they want. It’s surprising how many firms pay lip service to the idea of customer as king and have built systems that their customers find difficult to negotiate. Then somehow, the customer becomes someone seen as hard to deal with or even as a kind of ‘thief’! So having clear definition of this is vital.

The next point is default transparency and honesty. For example, I often to say to firms, ‘Be honest, and share details of every person’s salary’. Some are OK with that, others are horrified and tell me that if they share details, their staff will know that the pay structure is unfair. So solve the unfairness situation! The fact that you know it isn’t fair and you haven’t resolved the problem and you think people haven’t worked out means you’re being disingenuous.  Sort it out.

[mkd_blockquote text=” I hired a guy who ended up being my head of networking – he hadn’t finished a computer science degree, was running a pub and no-one would touch him. ” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75%”]

Thirdly, there should be diversity in recruitment. Every single time I’ve gone out of my way to hire in a more diverse way we have ended up with different ideas and a better business. I think that principle of diversity for the sake of diversity is a good one. Some of the best people I’ve hired would’ve been off the radar of every other recruitment process. I hired a guy who ended up being my head of networking – he hadn’t finished computer science degree, was running a pub and no-one would touch him. I hired him because I loved his passion and energy, and I knew we could sort out the education certification later. And I’ve hired great people from Eastern Europe whose English hasn’t been perfect and no one would hire them for that reason. I hired a person who ended up running our internal IT security and his CV was handwritten on biro on pages torn from a  school notebook. Most people would’ve thrown that in the bin because he hadn’t typed it. I love looking for the talent that other people are knocking off the table. So you need to go the extra mile when you look for innate talent.

The fourth point is to think about small teams. A small team is a bit like a scout patrol; everyone knows what’s going on, what everyone else is doing, and everyone is accountable. When you’re talking about a team of 150 no-one seems to know what’s going on, there are passengers all over the place and we’re in silos. Customers find big teams hard to navigate and hate it when they’re passed from department to department. So you need to concentrate on building small teams to service small groups of customers. Customers and staff love it because there is transparency and accountability. You’re building a business out of blocks of customers and that has been incredibly successful for me. 

Finally, managers should think like business coaches. Often I ask people about the work they’re most proud of. When they’ve considered that, I ask them to put their hands up if they were managed by their boss to do this. And no hands ever go up! People do their best work without managers, therefore managers need to be coaches, knowing what a great day at work looks and feels like. No one has ever been to the Olympics without a coach, and professional sports teams have loads of them. The manager shouldn’t be telling you what to do and checking the homework. They should be there to help the employee doing a good job to do even better. 

Why is having a big idea – what Jim Collins describes as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – so important and is it possible to have this without a clearly defined purpose?

Yes and No! Jim Collins researched companies which did well and which didn’t, and what he was struck by was that companies that outperformed the benchmarks he was tracking had this 20/30 year vision of where they might be. They had a concept, they asked themselves, ‘What are we passionate about, what can we be the best in the world at and what do we make money from?’ And the BHAG is, ‘Where could that take us in 20 years’ time?’ So having clarity around these concepts is vital. Either think small, which is fine, or believe you can change the world, have a vision and show your staff where the company is going. If we want to get people on the bus we’ve already mentioned, we have to make sure the destination is attractive. No-one wants to go on holiday to Scunthorpe!

[mkd_blockquote text=”‘What are we passionate about, what can we be the best in the world at and what do we make money from?’ And the BHAG is, ‘Where could that take us in 20 years’ time?’ ” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75%”]

Finally, in the age of the pandemic and what is undoubtedly a challenging period for businesses of all shapes and sizes, are the principles you’ve outlined in your book applicable to the situation businesses are facing now?

Thinking about clients I work with who are thriving, not just surviving, I would say that the common factor is that they are all customer-centric. If you know your core customer and you’re serving them effectively, you are in a good position to be able to pivot. Your customer hasn’t changed but perhaps their thinking has, but if you’re aware of that you can pivot according to changing needs.  I think it’s also important that the CEO has a growth mindset. One of my clients is a digital agency and they furloughed a few people during lockdown, but not most, and they’ve worked hard to reposition the organisation, double down on sales and have had some amazing client successes. One of their clients was 100% offline before lockdown and they’ve got them to 90% online revenue during lockdown. In contrast, one of their competitors furloughed everyone for 16 weeks and is just coming out of hibernation now – so which of those businesses will be in better shape by Christmas? The growth mindset, even in tough times, is fundamental. You can only create value for your clients if you really understand them, and if you do that you can charge more and therefore run a more profitable business that allows you to be successful. People who are fearful are going to try to cut prices to attract customers, which will decimate their profitability and they’ll spiral to disaster.

At PUSH, we take pride in thinking outside the box for our clients and our shared mission to improve the wellbeing of their employees. If you’d like to speak with us about developing an initiative for your team, get in touch – we’d love to work with you.

Sharing our stories at work

Nancy is CEO at Duarte Inc, a 115 person design firm based in Mountain View California that works with some of the world’s biggest companies. And like most teams right now, Duartians – for that’s what they call themselves at Duarte – are working from home. On a chat recently Nancy told me, “You pop in late to a meeting and everyone is telling a story – of what happened that day or the week before. It makes you bond, it makes you strong. If we didn’t have that storytelling culture, I don’t know how we’d be so knit together like we are right now.”

Sharing stories at work is key to building cultures that support loyalty and growth. And a story-sharing culture starts with team members telling something of themselves during video calls like those at Duarte and, of course, in the thousands of other companies around the world now using online tools to get connected.  

It’s the person that matters.

Sceptics might question why it’s important to share personal stories with co-workers – what do they have to do with what goes on in the 9–5 of an organisation? But sharing personal stories is a fast-track to a better understanding of each other, and that reinforces a sense of trust as well as building respect. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”“The more open you can be with your team, the more that you’ll get that back”” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Sally Croft joined Ericsson during lockdown, so she’s had to get to know her team without having yet met a single one of them in person. Sally implemented her own story-sharing ritual by hosting a virtual ‘fika’ session, a Swedish ritual where teams get together for coffee and cake in order to get to know everybody. In these sessions, chat about business is strictly off-limits. “The more open you can be with your team, the more that you’ll get that back,” Sally told me recently. “Sharing our stories on what really matters has been a great way of onboarding – I’ve got to know my team members more quickly than I may have otherwise.” 

We’re sociable animals after all. Few of us will sit with friends sharing mathematical formulas. We share stories because they have the power to connect us. Scientist Paul J Zak has conducted research which shows that stories generate oxytocin, the chemical associated with empathy. Stories create an emotional engagement between us.

Over the last few months our work lives have undergone a seismic shift. Our personal and professional lives are more meshed together than ever. We all have a window into each other’s homes, glimpsing kitchens, dining rooms, pets, flatmates and children as we join in our company’s video calls. It’s more relevant than ever to start sharing those personal stories so our connections get a deeper insight into who we are. 

There is a thirst for hearing about what’s going on, and also what’s going well. We need stories to garner our shared experiences and connect emotionally with others.

Sharing something about yourself in a work context adds colour to your conversations and connections, brings your roles and responsibilities to life and builds engagement. It makes the world of work more human. When that personal side is absent, we’re missing a huge opportunity to engage on a deep level with others. 

There are no crystal balls to give us clarity about how our organisations will look in 2021. We don’t yet know the shape of the new world of work. But one thing is certain: storytelling is an important vehicle for leaders and their teams. If you’re looking to replicate the success of leaders like Sally and Nancy, cut a slice of their cake and start by establishing some rituals.

Ian Sanders is a storyteller and creative consultant. He has toured his Power of Story keynote to audiences ranging from The European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg to Amway’s European awayday in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. He’s run in-house storytelling sessions for clients including Black Sun plc, Equifax, Tektronix and Thomas Cook Money. For the BBC Ian designed and delivered a popular 18 month series of workshops for journalists from around the world.

Team Polarity. The burnt out and the furloughed – How the workforce experience has never been more polarised and what every HR leader needs to think about

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our working lives more than most people can compute. For example, take the word ‘Furlough’….hands up anyone who knew what this word meant prior to March 2020………no takers? Hardly a surprise, but isn’t it amazing how quickly the term passed into common usage in just a few short weeks?

At the time of writing the Government’s furlough scheme has been extended to October, but companies lucky enough to have survived this first stage of the pandemic are otherwise still in the grip of uncertainty. 

As CEOs reshape their teams into lean machines, the fortunate are furloughed, the less fortunate are untimely relieved of their roles and the survivors are working doubly hard, over-compensating for the lost input of their peers, whilst desperately holding onto their seats and coping with cuts to pay.

Organisations that have had to let some of their best people go, need support for those who have lost their jobs, a listening ear to those who are furloughed, and a helping hand to those who are trying to keep the plates spinning. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”There is a huge need to support organisations that are managing tensions between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Companies are essentially work families, as dysfunctional as their biological counterparts, but with similar needs for individual recognition, healthy competition, support and even love. When employees are made redundant, they have to be honoured, supported and communicated with. 

Likewise, those ‘left behind’ will want to reach out and make sure their friends are coping, and support them however they can. Furloughed staff returning to the office will need to be kept updated with company developments so they can hit the ground running on their return. Those working, need free channels of communication to senior management to alleviate their anxiety and avoid burnout.

 

In short, a pandemic recovery programme involves all levels of the organisation, including people who will never return to the workplace. The only way to allow the wounds to heal is to allow everyone in your company to have a voice. Here are five tips for enabling this process:

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  1. Clear communication. Uncertainty can lead to great stress and anxiety, especially with a recession looming. Check-in regularly with your staff – furloughed, non-furlough and those being made redundant – and ask about their concerns. Keep them up to date with the doings of the workplace.  If you have to deliver bad news, do it with clarity and empathy.
  2. Encourage participation. Furloughed staff may not be able to work, technically speaking, but they can still play a big part in the day-to-day life of the business. Making sure you include furloughed and homeworking staff in meetings, brainstorms and other get-togethers will alleviate stress, uncertainty and anxiety. Make them feel ‘a part’ rather than ‘apart’. Trust your teams to manage their work/life balance while working at home.
  3. Focus on staff development. Furlough can be an excellent time to discuss with ‘resting’ staff the ways they may be able to improve their own performance, and that of the business. They may be keen to offer fresh perspectives and be open to the learning of new skills. This time of taking stock can be a highly creative one, so utilise talent.
  4. Emphasise wellbeing. During a period of great uncertainty, this is vital. Understanding and engaging with the health and well-being of all employees, furloughed or not, is showing responsibility. The months and even years to come could see an epidemic of burnout as employees are asked to do more with less, requiring greater resilience, up-to-date skills and energy. Offer professional support and training where necessary and encourage colleague-to-colleague chat groups or platforms which provide a safe space for conversations around good physical and mental health. Let people talk. They will need to express their anxiety, confusion and grief at losing peers.
  5. Keep up-to-date with Government advice. People on furlough will have a lot of questions, especially as this period comes to a closure. Make sure you’re 100 per cent on top of the latest position and are able to offer clear, informative and – above all – correct advice.

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Being on furlough or working from home is no picnic. We know that work-related stress can lead to burnout; also becoming clear is the fact the stress and burnout are still prevalent when the employee is NOT at work. Redundancy is a huge cause for stress and needs to be managed with the maximum of care and consideration. The dramatic effect of this pandemic will create versions of post-traumatic trauma that nobody could have predicted. Bearing all this in mind, it is now vital that companies act with kindness, understanding and empathy, seeking professional help if necessary to work through unprecedented times.

At PUSH, we take pride in thinking outside the box for our clients and our shared mission to improve the wellbeing of their employees. If you’d like to speak with us about developing an initiative to reduce the stress levels of your team, get in touch – we’d love to work with you.

How teams can be more resilient and effective post-Covid 19

If evidence were needed that the ‘new normal’ is here to stay, it has appeared in the last few weeks as the long, strange and often uneasy slide back to work has begun. 

For those returning to offices and other business premises, the physical signs of dramatic change are all too real. Facemasks on public transport, blocked-off streets, still-shuttered shops and – perhaps most tellingly – the socially-distanced requirements in workplaces, ending the easy informality and freedom of the pre-COVID years.

And that’s for those who still have a workplace to go to. For many of us, the spare room has become our new commute, with little signs of this situation changing for months, if ever. Some have adjusted quickly to the changed circumstances; others are still struggling to cope with the uncertainty, the new technology and loss of real-time camaraderie that once existed between teams.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The roads are quieter, the skies clearer. Remote working has many advantages, as the self-employed already know, and restrictions are easing, albeit slowly.

But for teams and managers, the challenges ahead are huge, and seemingly in a constant state of flux. What seems to be emerging is a re-emphasis on people, not corporate concerns, as the clearest way forward for companies large and small. As Hubert Joly says in the Harvard Business Review:

“Given the magnitude of the shock and the challenges that this crisis represents, companies must consider the full breadth of their employees’ needs as people. Safety is essential, of course, but it’s also important to address higher-level needs such as the want for truth, stability, authentic connections, self-esteem, growth, and meaning in the context of the crisis.”

At PUSH, we believe the future of an organisation’s DNA should focus on three key areas:

  • Purpose – hone and define your organisation’s key aims for this new reality
  • Potential – explore areas for growth and development that may not have been visible pre-pandemic
  • Perspective – don’t panic! If your organisation was strong before Covid-19, with imagination and effort it can be this way again.

We see two phases at work here: the re-opening phase (which is already beginning) and the post-COVID period. For the first to flow harmoniously into the second, we advise companies to consider five critical actions to bridge both periods. These are:

  • Reflect: Business leaders and managers to reflect on what has happened during lockdown, what has worked and what has been missed. Perspectives from all levels and areas of the business are vital.
  • Recommit: reinforcement of business-wide commitment to wellbeing and purpose, addressing physical, psychological, and financial concerns at the workplace and at homes.
  • Re-engage: Unique opportunities have now been created to redeploy workforces. Some may return to a worksite, others may work from home, or within a hybrid model. Leaders should provide clear direction on new assignments and priorities. 
  • Rethink: The rapid shift to remote work should be harnessed to engender a more resilient workforce, shifting away from rigid routine and structure. 
  • Reboot: HR and team managers should focus energy and creativity into nurturing key skills gaps, via training and workshop opportunities, to be ready for the post-COVID landscape.

Central to this is the overriding need for empathy, understanding and clear communication. Empathy for those individuals whose needs are myriad and perhaps complex, understanding that not everyone operates at the same capability when it comes to rapid adaptation and clear communication that establishes trust in an honest, open and truthful way.

Finally, every one of us has had a unique experience of this crisis and there is a need to share those experiences and stories, not only as individuals but in terms of our working lives and how Covid-19 has shaped them, possibly forever. This should include the ability to talk to professionals about how individuals are feeling – some of us may have found the resilience we need during this period; others may have post-lockdown symptoms akin to PTSD. But by hearing these stories and acknowledging their truths, we as businesses can begin to build for a new world that may seem unfamiliar and scary, but is also packed full of possibilities. Will we look back on 2020 as a year of disaster, or of opportunity? Understanding what we’ve all been through and how we can harness this creatively is a huge challenge for businesses and employees, but it is one that cannot be ignored as we step tentatively into post-COVID 19.

PUSH State of The Nation: A View on Personal Development

A global crisis such as Covid-19 can be very unsettling to people at a core level, rocking the confidence they have in themselves, their communities, and the government. The pandemic has shaken the normally stable ground that we stand on, taking our world from the safe and secure place we know to a constantly changing, unfamiliar and unpredictable one.

This loss of safety can cause a huge range of emotions to come up, such as worry, fear, and frustration, testing people’s resilience and pushing many to re-evaluate their life choices. 

We know from our conversations that many people are looking at the last few months and wishing they had done things differently. Kicking themselves for not picking up a new job, routine or money-saving scheme before lockdown started. And, since it started, so many people have had good intentions of learning a new skill or picking up a hobby during lockdown. However, the reality it seems, has been a bit different. When restrictions and lockdowns were first put in place, countries shut down quickly and our worlds changed overnight. Now, as the weeks progress and we’ve gotten used to this ‘new normal’, it’s becoming more difficult for people to stay motivated and productive.

But very rarely do we have the opportunity to properly reset, or take time to really consider what we want to be like now and in the future. As hard as lockdown has been, it has given us the unique opportunity to take a breath and think, without the noise and distractions of daily life. Taking that time to do a self audit is extremely valuable for growth and development. Helping pinpoint what matters most to you (your values) and where you want to go in your life (your purpose), in order to thrive.

PUSH Coach Shereen Hoban, personal development coach and facilitator, spoke about the importance of goal setting if we’re keen to create change in our lives.

“When goal setting, it’s helpful to think about your plans in a tangible way. What are you working for? What result is going to make you feel happy, fulfilled or exhilarated? Once you’ve identified your goal – one that’s personal to you, team it with some serious visualisation. Imagine yourself achieving this thing. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”Three in five (58%) people said they are finding it harder to stay positive about the future, and 56% are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day. ” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

This exercise, widely used by sports-people, can have a truly powerful effect on your mindset, enabling you to work in a more focused way so you can go forward to succeed. Knowing what you want and what you’re working towards means you’re one massive step closer to getting it. If your goal is to simply rest, regroup and spend quality time with your family right now, then just be intentional with it. Enjoy this time and don’t feel guilty for doing what’s right for you.”

Our mindset has a huge impact on our motivation and is key in the success or failure of a task, project or goal. Research suggests that having a growth mindset can help us overcome challenges, due to the belief that skills and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. However, as the lockdown continues, it’s becoming harder to stay positive about the future for many. In the UK, three in five (58%) people said they are finding it harder to stay positive about the future, and 56% are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

American Psychologist Carol Dweck is an expert on growth mindset. In her book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Mindset’, she spoke on different mindsets, commenting “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.” In challenging times it is especially important to try and have a growth mindset, which will help foster creativity and build resilience.

But let’s be honest, most people aren’t going to get up every morning at 5am to do a home workout, before cooking a healthy breakfast and starting work at 9am – and that’s without kids in the mix. And it’s ok to spend time watching TV or scrolling on your phone, allowing yourself to just do nothing. However, it is also important to use this time to try new activities and self-care strategies. 

Starting to build a habit or process around these new activities is almost as important, if not more so, than the actual outcome of the activity. Focusing on small things that we can control, while building healthy habits, can have a transformative effect on mental health. This learning gives individuals something that is fully in their control, unlike the current socio-economic climate. 

Brad Stulberg, author of the book ‘Peak Performance’  and expert on personal and professional development, has developed an equation for achieving growth in any area of your life. Over his years of working as a consultant and business coach, he realised that the key drivers for growth are Stress and Rest. 

We know that stress is most commonly talked about in a negative light. However, Professor Kelly McGonigal explained in her book ‘The Upside of Stress’, that stress can actually be good for us to a certain extent. It is only when that stress becomes too much for too long, that it starts to have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. 

As humans, we need to feel a certain amount of stress in order to challenge ourselves to do better or learn new things. But we also need to take the time to rest our bodies or minds to allow ourselves to recharge. Brad’s equation for growth is simple, highlighting the importance of both being challenged and resting in order to do our best. 

So, maybe now is the time to use this ‘stress’ as the opportunity to grow, allowing ourselves the time and space to try new things, or focus on areas you may have neglected. This could also be a time to create new routines and structures around your work, school or personal life. To figure out the best way of working for you, and how to top up that resilience bank so you don’t end up overstretched or burnt out. 

Most of all though, it’s important to not become your own worst critic. Beating yourself up over not learning a new language, or doing that workout isn’t helpful and can even be detrimental to your mental health. During this time we should be celebrating even the small wins we have, building that positive growth mindset bit by bit. Because, afterall, the most important outcome is our individual happiness and that should be the focus of every single one of us.

 

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PUSH State of the Nation: A View on Financial Health

With widespread lockdowns still in place, the economy is getting hit hard around the world. We know that money can be a huge point of worry on a good day for many people. But with the rising uncertainty around jobs and money, more and more people are finding themselves anxious about the future of their finances. 

If you’re finding yourself anxious or worried right now, know that you’re not alone. According to the Money and Pensions Service, an estimated 11.5 million people in the UK have less than £100 in cash savings. That is a huge number of people in the same situation, scrambling to arrange their budgets to prepare for what the future might hold. However, those hit the hardest financially are those who are self-employed or can’t work due to illness, industries that are reducing hours and laying off staff, and those who are close to retirement. Individuals in these areas will continue to feel the pinch as we continue to social distance, and may face even more challenges as the weeks/months progress. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”In the UK one in five—21%—of people have been furloughed.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Research company Ipsos Mori have been polling people around the world since early March, allowing us a longitudinal look at our changing financial behaviours throughout quarantine. They found that in the UK one in five (21%) of people have been furloughed, and 17% have had their take-home pay reduced. In an effort to keep costs low and save for the future, almost two-thirds of Britons have been spending less money overall, and 46% have already accessed their savings. Leaving many of those who have had pay reductions or have been furloughed finding themselves increasingly more worried that their jobs will not be there after all this is over.

Research shows that money can often be a real trigger for people, with financial struggles especially having a huge impact on mental health. When someone is struggling with poor mental health it can make it even harder to manage money, causing worry and having a knock-on effect on their mental health. It’s a vicious cycle that can be incredibly difficult to get out of. However, understanding your patterns around money can be incredibly beneficial in helping you manage your finances, and any anxieties around it better.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found in 2019 that people with money problems have slower recovery rates for common mental health conditions. Those suffering from depression and financial problems are 4.2 times more likely to still have depression 18 months later, compared with those without financial issues. On top of that, people with financial challenges were 3 times more likely to think about suicide over the past year. Even during regular economic times, more than 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while financially struggling. 

Many employees who have not been directly impacted by furloughs or pay cuts are also questioning whether their income is safe and if the company is going to survive.  So it is up to our managers to take these worries seriously, carving out time to discuss financial wellbeing with their teams. Managers and leaders should initiate honest conversations with their employees, giving them the time and space to bring up any concerns or challenges they may be facing. 

These conversations allow for an open conversation, where management can answer any questions that are coming up and provide clear accurate information. However, it is important to be clear beforehand on what is and isn’t open to share. This is also an opportunity to direct team members to further information or resources they can use if they are worried about financial protection, budgeting options, or just want some peace of mind and security during an incredibly uncertain time.

Lorraine McFall, our PUSH money expert shared some insights with us around money mindsets and financial worry. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”Culturally as a nation we have not been good at talking about money.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

“Culturally as a nation we have not been good at talking about money.  Hopefully, one of the positives to come out of this dreadful situation is that so many of us have had the financial rug pulled from under our feet, by something which is completely outside our control, we won’t have the same feelings of shame or fear of judgement about reaching out for help or talking about our money worries. That has got to be a good thing for employers and employees as before COVID-19, 77% of employees admitted that money worries have affected their performance at work leading to sickness, absence and poor performance.

Despite so many people worrying about money or, at the very least, being aware that they need to do something, very few actually take action.  As long as the bills are being paid and the bailiffs are not at the door, it’s often easier to leave things as they are and accept the disempowering notion that money is something that happens to us, rather than be the driver of our financial choices. “

In the PUSH Money Matters workshops, Lorraine encourages participants to work not only on their day to day management skills but also on setting their financial goals and becoming aware of their money mindset.  If people can consistently take action in all 3 of these areas then they will achieve financial wellbeing which essentially means “Giving people a greater sense of confidence and control over their money through good times and bad.”

She also shared three immediate steps you can do today to start you on that process of taking ownership of your financial future are:

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  1. Open up a new bank account and keep all direct debits and regular payments coming from one account and transfer your spending money into a separate account.  Use the new bank account for all your day to day spending and you will have visibility over how much money you actually have that is available for spending.  Consequently you will be able to avoid that  constant mental calculation of “is there enough”, every time you hand your card over and avoid those feelings of scarcity.  Yes, there might not be as much as you would like in your account each month but the fear can often be worse than the reality and actually knowing your numbers and taking away the fear will give you the confidence to take the next step on your financial journey.
  2. Write down 2 or 3 immediate short term financial goals and a very specific plan about all the steps you need to take to achieve the goals.  This will be the first step of your financial plan.  The very act of implementing this will help you see the benefit of setting specific goals and give you the confidence to think bigger and for the longer term.
  3. Watch the language that you use about money.  If every time you think about your finances, you constantly think “I’m rubbish with money”, you are setting yourself up for failure. The first time things get tough, you already have your get out of jail card ready, “Well I knew that happened, ’cause I’m rubbish with money…..”.  The first step to working on your money mindset is becoming aware of the language you use and stop using it.  If it’s hard to break the habit then put the expression in the past tense, “ I USED to be rubbish with money, I am now learning to take control.”

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During this time, it is incredibly important to pay attention to the financial wellbeing of our friends, family and colleagues. We know things are going to be tough for a while, and money can be such a personal subject for many people. But in a time when your typical reaction would be to pull back, we need to be brave. We need to be open to having these conversations, and provide a non-judgemental and safe space to share how we’re feeling. 

 

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

PUSH State of The Nation: A View on Leadership

For many people, with each passing day, the future is becoming more and more uncertain. And as the world wide lockdown continues, companies are dealing with unimaginable challenges which could impact their future success (or failure).

The impact of Covid-19 will be felt far and wide, from the senior executives at Fortune 500 companies, new grads just starting their careers, to health care and essential workers – everyone will be affected in some way, big or small.

Now more than ever, leaders need to step up. Not just for themselves and the future of their business, but for their teams and the individuals within them. We know that many leaders are woefully unequipped to deal with even normal work challenges.

[mkd_blockquote text=”77% of organisations felt that they are currently experiencing a gap in leadership skills.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”70″]

In 2019, the Human Resource Professionals Association reported that 63% of millennials felt their leadership skills are not being developed, and 77% of organisations felt that they are currently experiencing a gap in leadership skills. Within our corporate audits we have seen a similar theme, with the majority of managers and leaders we spoke to commenting that they have received little to no training on how to best manage their teams. 

So how can we expect leaders to step up when they don’t have the necessary skills or behaviors in place? It is critical for business leaders to be there for their teams, helping them stay informed, giving them the space to be heard, and keeping them motivated and engaged.

During this time especially, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we need to be upskilling managers and leaders, or it could have much larger implications on the overall business and team motivation. Afterall, their role is not to own their teams, leading with fear and aggression, but to guide their teams in the right direction using trust and clear communication to show them the way. 

Arjen Boin, a Political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands and co-author of ‘The Politics of Crisis Management’, has spent many years studying how leaders responded to previous emergencies. He found that one of the most important determinants of followers’ trust, was down to the leader’s messaging around the crisis. 

He writes: “Effective crisis leadership cannot be brought about by simply doing the ‘right thing’ on the ground, Instead, the leaders need to craft a good narrative that helps clarify the problem and unite the population if they are to attain the “permissive consensus” that is essential to be able to make decisions and formulate policies”

Over the past few weeks, Gallup has been running weekly comparative surveys to gauge how people’s feelings and beliefs are changing as Covid-19 runs its course. They found that Organisations are becoming more clear in their internal communications, with 52% for respondents saying their employer has communicated a clear plan of action, up 15% from mid march.  The percentage of full-time employees who strongly agree that their manager is keeping them informed on internal matters has also increased from 47% to 54%.

This shows that many company leaders are realising that if they want to survive they need to improve communication. However many organisations are lagging behind, with roughly half of respondents saying that their company hasn’t communicated a clear plan or kept them informed, so there is still work to be done.

Managers and supervisors need to be setting clear expectations, adjusting goals, helping everyone feel connected, creating accountability, and recognising those who are doing great work. In a time of uncertainty, it is imperative that leaders keep their teams anchored to the company’s purpose and values. This is the time to come back to those values to inspire your employees and show them what the future can still look like.

Gallup’s most recent leadership research found that there are 4 key things individuals need from their leaders – trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Leaders must build trust with their teams and show compassion, focussing on protecting their employees wellbeing and leading with purpose throughout this period and beyond. 

A great example of leadership during a crisis can be found within one of the largest hotel chains in the world. In March, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson sent a video to the entire Marriott team that was genuine, emotional, and honest – demonstrating to his team how much the company cares about their wellbeing and peace of mind. Sorenson shared a clear, concise message that showed the optimism they have for the future, while also informing them on what is being done to face any and all challenges that arise. 

PUSH Leadership Coach Tamson Amara spoke about the struggles leaders are facing, on our regular webinar, Conversations with Cate; 

[mkd_blockquote text=”A skillful leader is able to be honest about their own experience and communicate this to the team.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”70″]

“Even leaders have disappointments, setbacks and frustrations to process.  A skillful leader is able to be honest about their own experience and communicate this to the team. For instance, asking the team to bear with them if they are feeling overwhelmed and need space to assess and respond with clarity and direction.  A concept that supports this process – especially in times of uncertainty – is ‘holding’.  

‘Holding’ focuses teams on what is controllable NOW! It directs focus and effort.  Communicating this position may involve re-purposing. For instance, if the purpose of a sales team is to generate revenue, in times of uncertainty holding could mean switching focus from pushing new campaigns to building up the quality of relationships with clients.  Simple, clear messages to support this process go a long way in settling the team and allowing leaders space to respond with longer term strategy,”

So the question is, how can you support your team better throughout this time? How do you lead with trust, compassion, stability and hope?

John Quelch, the Leonard M. Miller University Chair Professor and Vice Provost for Executive Education and Dean of the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami, shared leadership principles to help managers survive this time. 

  1. Stay Calm – everyone will be looking to you as a leader to project a sense of calm amongst the uncertainty.
  2. Be Confident – you need to project the confidence that you will be able to see this through successfully. 
  3. Communicate – in this ‘fake news’ world, it is imperative that you communicate relentlessly to avoid rumors from developing. However a sense of order is also needed to allow for rapid, clear communication as decisions are made.
  4. Collaborate – you aren’t going to know all the answers, and it’s important to call on all of your resources. Engaging employees in this way will also discourage a rumour mill. 
  5. Create a Community – it is more important than ever to create a friendly and helpful environment where the team feels supported and cared for.
  6. Be Compassionate – in a time of crisis this is vital for leaders, be understanding about how it is affecting your team individually, especially when everyone has their own anxieties and stressors coming up.

Crucially, now is the time to upskill your leaders to help them be more conscious, supportive and human. PUSH’s inaugural e-learning programme does exactly that. It has been designed to help leaders and even more junior team members develop better behaviours. This will get everyone working at their best. We call the programme ‘Becoming Superhuman’ as it considers all of the core skills and behaviours needed as a great leader, both of self and others. 

If this situation has taught us one thing, it’s that success and peak performance go beyond just sheer hard work. Sometimes it’s the softer skills which make the greatest difference to hard measures. So, now is the time to do something different. Now is the time to step up. To be a great and truly conscious leader, and start operating in new and innovative ways so that our businesses and people not only survive but thrive.

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

PUSH State of The Nation: A View On Mental Health

As we approach our sixth week in lockdown, we wanted to take the opportunity to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on our industry and the minds of our people. 

The pandemic is clearly having a major social and psychological impact on the whole population. We’re seeing Increasing unemployment, families separated and various other changes in the way that we live and work. All of these changes are major psychological risk factors for anxiety, depression and self-harm, with even the most enlightened of fellows hard-pressed to have the full armoury of tools to deal with these current circumstances. 

Social distancing is impacting how we connect, pushing us instead to come together via zoom, facetime and other digital platforms. But the internet is becoming noisy, and the pressure to show up and connect can cause further stress and anxiety for some people. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”Half of people surveyed said that they felt more anxious or depressed than usual as a result of the virus.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”60″]

King’s College and Ipsos Mori surveyed 2,250 people in the UK between 18-75 to see how life in lockdown is affecting individuals. Half of people surveyed said that they felt more anxious or depressed than usual as a result of the virus. They also found that 15% of people are already finding it extremely difficult to cope, and another 14% expect that it will be even more difficult over the next four weeks. 

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director of Public Affairs at Ipsos Mori commented on the survey, saying “It’s becoming clear that people are beginning to suffer due to the restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak … Very worryingly, a fifth of people already have financial difficulties or think they are very likely to during the crisis, combined with the fact that half of people believe that it’s likely to be a year or more until life returns to normal.” However, we can see a silver lining running throughout the survey, with 60% of people saying that they have volunteered to help people in need during this time. 

So, the question is, what can be done to manage this? Or, can we just assume that as soon as we head ‘back to school’ after all of this is over, that everything will just return to normal and we’ll all be okay?

It became clear from our conversations with clients that they have different strategies when it came to planning for the future. For many, survival is paramount and the impact on individuals is a byproduct – to be left to resolve itself or reviewed at another time.

Others are putting their people and their performance front and centre; creating programmes of support either from the masses of free content available online or curating tailored activity to help manage their needs, circumstances and concerns. In particular, shaping different content for those who were still working versus those who were furloughed.

[mkd_blockquote text=”Whose responsibility is it to support employees?” title_tag=”h2″ width=”60″]

So, this does raise the question, whose responsibility is it to support employees – the companies or individuals themselves? However, the more pertinent question is do we want to have a bright future or one that is impacted by Covid-19 for months, if not years, to come?

How we feel radically impacts our performance and, our on-going conversations with clients and their teams, have already shown that the current context is leaving our people with huge knocks to their confidence. Along with fears that they are not good enough and, worryingly, that they won’t be able to do their jobs properly in the future. 

So, how can we support individuals to have a better armoury to deal with the circumstances being presented to them – supporting not only them but the world of business alike? Most crucially, with teams being systematically restructured and organisations radically reshaped, we need to ensure that the people left in our businesses have both the tools and capacity to not only sustain but grow our organisations.

We believe that self-awareness and self-development are at the heart of the solution. Understanding what is happening in our minds and then having the tools to manage them better. 

Putting a focus on positive wellbeing within your organisation to upskill managers and employees alike is more crucial than ever. Providing programmes of activity which can help your team communicate and collaborate better; become more creative and productive or for your managers to lead more effectively, will make a radical difference to your business in the coming months. 

We have to help our people sit more comfortably in discomfort. They will either have to make or be at the receiving end of tough decisions over the coming months. The way of managing this well is to know that, whilst you might not know what is coming, you will have the tools to deal with it, and survive it, either way. 

However, there is also a huge responsibility on our employees – in particular those who aren’t working and have been furloughed.

Whilst there is a huge temptation to reach for the remote control and spend the next three weeks, numbing, in a Netflix or Sauvignon-tinged vortex. Or, even worse, constantly comparing yourself to everyone else on Instagram and believing that you need to come out of this speaking fluent French or with a six-pack; please don’t. This will have a huge knock on effect on all of our mental health and will become cripplingly hard to return back from.

[mkd_blockquote text=”Let’s make sure that we all step up as humans – for ourselves and each other.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”60″]

Now is the time to develop our people’s resilience so that they can deal with whatever is thrown at them. Now is the time that we have to get really good at asking people how they are feeling and also being prepared to expect or provide an honest answer. Now is the time to dig deep and find our motivation and much maligned discipline and commit to deep personal development and self-care. This is all so that we can all not only get through this but come out of it stronger – understanding and managing ourselves that bit better.

What is happening to us all now is likely, and thankfully, one of the hardest challenges any of us will ever have to face in our lifetimes. Covid-19 has been a wake up call for us all to stop sleepwalking through life and to hit the reset button to ensure that we can propel our way out of this as expediently as possible. So, let’s make sure that we all step up as humans – for ourselves and each other. We need to be certain that we each have the energy, skills and ability to do what’s needed and ensure that we, as individuals, as well as our businesses, come out of this stronger and more powerful than ever before. 

Our survival, and that of our industry, is counting on it.

 

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

Conversations with Cate

Continuing our commitment to supporting everyone over these coming weeks, we have a brilliant session planned every Friday lunchtime that we’re calling ‘Conversations with Cate’—oh the power of simple alliteration!

Each week our founder Cate Murden will be in conversation with one of our brilliant team of coaches sharing valuable insights that will help us all get through this – whether you’re a leader considering how to support your team and ensure that you all still achieve what’s necessary or if you’re working remotely for the first time and need to think how to work differently but still perform at your best.

Join us at 12 noon every Friday to hear some awesome knowledge. Click HERE to catch up on all of our previous sessions! Or join the webinar here!

CHEVY ROUGH: Unlocking Your Energy, Focus, & Critical Thinking

Do you feel stuck in first gear, trying to up your game but for some reason not able reach fifth?

After turning his life around from depression, drink and drugs, Chevy found a skill set supporting others to find their career paths. His purpose is focused on human performance and mindfulness, and how to approach training mindfully, while making holistic changes to keep moving, including life and career goals.

For our first Conversations with Cate we sat down with Chevy, wellbeing specialist. With so many different aspects within wellness, Chevy focuses on harnessing and understanding your energy to maximise critical thinking and focus. 

In short, Chevy helps people and organisations develop mindset, behaviours and tools required to improve mental, physical, and social health. 

Top 5 Takeaways

  1. Time is not the metric to success, energy and focus are. Which is why understanding the relationship between stress and rest is vital. 
  2. Learning to switch off is a constant experiment. A/B test what works for you depending on how you feel that day
  3. Understand all the ‘stress cycles’ that you run throughout the day and improve closing them down so that you can rest and repair inbetween – and come back with more focus
  4. Listen to yourself. Build a relationship with your inside view, knowing yourself is key to understanding your energy spent.
  5. Get better at ‘doing what you said you would’ – if you don’t, you will waste energy thinking about all the stuff that you should be doing!

Find the whole episode on youtube now to see how you can better harness your energy and take yourself to fifth gear!

KIRSTY HULSE: How to be Confident & Resilient in Times of Uncertainty. 

The power of positivity can feel a bit woo-woo, but the truth is it has a real and tangible effect on everything from mindset to confidence to planning. 

Kirsty Hulse is a confidence coach who understands that we all have the confidence to choose how we feel and what we focus on, it’s about learning how to unleash it that’s key. We had the chance to sit down with her and talk about what confidence means now, and how can we all create the best backdrop to make good plans, especially in times like these. 

Top Takeaways:

  1. Creating your state comes from a combination of physiology and mindset, consider how you are supporting your different energy sources – physical, mental, emotional and social. 
  2. In challenging times we must pivot and plan from a place of neutrality. Both negative and positive states would create delusional responses.
  3. Confidence is another way of saying trust—in your abilities, in your self— and comes from your personal experiences. Confidence is the key to building a more positive mindset.  
  4. By managing your expectations, you will have a huge impact on your perspective. Anxiety, disappointment and anger come from your expectations being too high. 
  5. It’s about radical acceptance of your actions, not looking at them with guilt. 
  6. Understanding your beliefs is key in getting in touch with your inner dialogue. Auditing your current beliefs can help you to make real changes, giving you insights into why you make certain decisions and reevaluate. 
  7. Planning from positivity technique: 
    1. Picture yourself in the future when this is a memory; where are you? What are you doing? Wearing? Feeling? 
    2. How did you get to this place? What milestones were necessary to reach this point?

Find the whole episode on youtube here to see how you can change your mindset and start planning from a place of positivity. 

COVID-19 The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment

Last week, everything seemed to step up a gear surrounding Covid-19 in the UK. Whether it was down to Boris finally stepping off Cloud 9 post his baby news or if a number of additional recorded cases suddenly put us all into fear mode and increased panic-buying of flageolet beans and extra quilted toilet rolls. Everywhere you turned, everyone (and I do mean everyone) was talking about coronavirus. 

I have to be honest; I am seriously worried about the hysteria around this bloody virus and its impact on our economy, psychology, relationships and business than I am the illness itself.

Of course I appreciate the real risk to the elderly, those with compromised immunity or the disenfranchised who stand to suffer most from this. However, what is also terrifying me is the unmitigated frenzy the media has whipped us all up into that has sent us into a spellbinding spiral of panic!

At PUSH, we were really keen to understand why this action has happened as well as hopefully, what learnings we can take from it – to not only get through it but hopefully, gain, from this current situation.

Creating New Habits – an Opportunity for Innovation and Change.

We are bring presented with an opportunity to create a new habit – including everything from washing your hands more frequently to getting brilliant at working remotely.

There are a few key ingredients in creating new habits:

  1. Leverage context or be clear on the reason why the change is happening – the Corona hysteria has quickly short-cut this for most of us!
  2. The basic components must be readily available – everything from soap and water or suitable tech and environment
  3. Make sure the new behaviour is easy to perform – or have the energy and resilience to overcome challenges until the behaviour becomes easier
  4. Encourage practice – until it becomes the new norm
  5. Recognise and reward effort – so our brain develops neural pathways that associate the new behaviour with positive feelings

We face a risk from our brains as well as our bodies

In addition to the virus itself, we are also at threat from the human perception that is biased and influenced by the many mental shortcuts that we all make. Perception is reality and reality is perception and, right now, put simply, our limbic system is being hijacked!

Human assessment of risks and threats is far from perfect. The abundance of news referring to fatalities caused by the coronavirus increases an individual’s perception of personal risk to the disease. This is called the availability heuristic. The more people hear about the risk, the more the risk gets overestimated, even in countries not affected by the virus!

Another bias — herding or bandwagon effect — makes people wear face masks even though it is not actually an effective prevention measure! The same bias is responsible for ‘pandemic shopping’ with everyone I speak to mentioning that the entire country has run out of toilet roll. Frankly, if that’s not a reason to go to the pub, in order to use their facilities, then I don’t know what is.

New threats are also perceived by us as more dangerous (novelty bias) though new strains pop up of common viruses all the time. So yes, this is a new “novelty” strain, but it is nothing we haven’t weathered before.

More than anything, we know that this virus is causing everyone stress and it is this stress that I am even more fearful of. And, here’s the irony, the higher your stress levels, the more compromised your immunity is!

Overcoming all these biases might be hard. We may read and understand all the available data and try not to blindly follow the others. But we can also use the knowledge about human behaviour to see what is happening now as an opportunity for change!

COVID-19 has won The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment award! 

With nothing short of incredible aplomb, this virus has legitimised and provided bona fide booster rockets to the remote working phenomenon that’s been underway for the past several years. A shift that previously has been done either occasionally, but only if it’s been approved by everyone from the HRD to Gladdis who makes the sandwiches, or where a policy has been changed but actually everyone secretly hates it because it means that you actually have to trust people.

It really is incredible what this crisis has expedited. 

By most accounts, the remote work experiment is going well: not without its hiccups and limitations, of course, but by and large, organisations and teams are figuring out how to make do. We’re hearing mutterings from many of our clients along the lines of ‘I never realised how many unnecessary meetings we had’ or ‘I’m just so much more productive working from home!’

However, we realise that Corona could be kicking around for quite some time and we are super conscious that many people have not worked remotely for sustained periods. I have to be honest, this is one of the things that I am most worried about. As humans we need connectivity and I fear that enforced isolation may have a huge impact on many individual’s mental and psychological health.  That’s why, at PUSH, we have focussed on two things over the last week:

  1. We have worked hard with all of our coaches to ensure that all of our sessions can work remotely – using a combination of digital learning and webinars
  2.  We have created some short videos tips about how to make the most of remote working and make it work for all of your teams – no matter how much they have to do it

So, in summary, I think the take-out is that if we can use what is happening now as an opportunity to come together with compassion, patience and kindness we might get through this challenge having learnt something about ourselves as well as developing new and improved ways of working. As ever, we’d love to hear what you think and, if there is any way that we can help support your people through a time that might be more slightly more challenging than normal then, you know where we are.

If you have any concerns regarding Coronavirus please head over to the NHS—or Public Health England—to find the most up to date news & precautions. And remember, dispelling this panic is as easy as washing your hands.

 

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