By Jen Neville
The utility industry, like the world, is rapidly changing. In fact, so much is changing so quickly that it can become overwhelming. WAPA's Organizational Change Management Community of Practice offered several virtual courses in early April to facilitate conversation with employees and help them develop their resilience.
Participants discussed the impacts of change, different tips they each use to adjust and the three phases of transition following change.
Those three phases are managing endings (letting go), navigating the neutral zone (getting comfortable with the uncomfortable) and building new beginnings (celebrating wins).
Let it go!
When it comes to managing endings, Change Management trainers provided a few strategies to help employees.
The first step to managing endings is identifying the loss—essentially, naming it. Common losses include status, power, influence, work relationships, personal identity, control of expertise, routine, structure, meaningful work and control of destiny. Naming the loss helps to process it.
The second step is developing strategies for letting go. This is a personal endeavor. As guidance, here are some strategies participants shared to address specific kinds of loss.
For work relationships:
- Intentionally develop your network.
- Set aside specific time to work with a new group or new boss.
- Create a fun way to team-build with others or get to know others.
- Set up virtual coffee breaks and talks over Lync.
- Go beyond email; pick up the phone.
- Put yourself in someone else's shoes; see a different perspective.
For routine and structure:
- Develop self-structure. What's within your control? Stay in your lane.
- Leverage your calendar and optimize your schedule.
- Experiment with new routines.
Healthy actions counteract change fatigue
When managing multiple changes at once, self-care is the most important way to amplify your resilience. Many individuals find it easier to take care of everyone else first, and then only take care of themselves if there is time left over.
Switch that thinking around and remember that by taking care of ourselves first we will be better able to help others and provide our best efforts at work and in our community.
A holistic approach to health and wellness includes four key aspects of our lives—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, the latter covering whatever gives your life meaning.
It is normal to have reactions to change in any of these aspects. Depending on the change and anything else going on in your life, there may be more reactions in one aspect than another. For that reason, it is best to have a balance of healthy actions available. A well-rounded set of healthy actions is optimal for successfully dealing with constant change.
Understand others, their experiences
Participants also reflected on gaining a different perspective, appreciating the changes and impacts faced by WAPA employees required to continue working from their duty stations during the pandemic.
Employees in roles such as Operations or Maintenance are facing challenges such as following new protocols to maximize social distancing and keeping their workstations and trucks sanitized.
Maintenance personnel are going directly to the substation or jobsite to avoid stopping at the office and to support social distancing. In order to reliably maintain WAPA's portion of the bulk electric system, employees have prepared and tested creative solutions to protect their coworkers and families by staying sequestered at work, including procuring RVs for lodging, iPads for entertainment and military “meals, ready to eat," or MREs, for food.
The tools and resources for resilience are applicable in these scenarios, as well.
Get off the computer!
Those teleworking also face unique difficulties. Some have found it difficult to draw boundaries with work now that their workspace is their home space, resulting in many people working longer days.
Here are some tips and tricks for managing this from webinar participants:
- Have a door, a physical way to separate work and home.
- Dedicate a space for work and then only go in there during your work hours.
- Change clothes.
- Get out and walk the dog.
- Set an alarm for the end of your workday. Also, create a “snooze rule" to get your last task wrapped up and items set for the next day.
- Set standard, normal work hours, just as you would in the office.
- Shut down your computer and put it in your workbag until the next day.
- Get in the car and drive around the block at the beginning and end of the day.
- Enjoy the unexpected, such as lunch breaks with other people in the same place as you.
- Use an app such as Squared – Time Management to say enough is enough for the day.
Note: Neville is a management analyst.