Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

Do you know this feeling when you wake up in the morning, fully energized and ready to go to work?
And you think “Hmmm, I just had this nightmare about a global pandemic, where we would all stay at home…ALL THE TIME…” and you think…”I’m going to pretend that life is normal…”. 

You get up, have a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed in your work clothes, you put on make-up and you have your usual cup of coffee.

Then you realize “Bloody hell, I didn’t watch a movie. I didn’t dream of this nightmare. No. This is real…”.
You suddenly notice that church bells are ringing at 6 AM and a lot of different birds are chirping too. You notice that something is off. And you are not dreaming any longer. 

You are in the middle of a global pandemic. Not a movie. It’s the week of the passion of Jesus Christ and the world is in a state of global mindfulness. 

Sometimes, I wake up thinking that it was a bad joke. Thinking that somebody will say “APRIL, APRIL”. But April Fools Day was cancelled this year.

We changed our clocks to summer time and I didn’t notice because alarms are overrated when you work from home.

The Army has been called in to help the hospitals in Switzerland. A first since THE WAR.

Wimbledon will be POSTPONED for the first time since THE WAR. Even Queen Elizabeth II addressed the nation. We are in a real crisis.

People are losing lives, jobs and certain global politicians spread rumors and misinformation. 
One could despair.

I decided to take baby steps to help you and myself maintain sanity in this crisis. Last week, I shared 20 Quarantine Recommendations.

I want to share with you 20 more ideas to deal with the crisis. If you try out one recommendation a day we should get through to my birthday together. 

My Quarantine Tips for Holy Week AKA The Passion Games (“Passionsspiele”)

21) Structure Your Day Like A Monk. Follow our #Rockmeretreat structure with me from Tuesday onwards. Setting a routine adds discipline even if you have to work from home. This is officially now termed WFH, not WTF.

Here’s a also helpful book Daily Rituals: Women at Work and top tips on working effectively from home by @newinzurich.

22) Listen to Live Readings. Set aside some time in your routine for enjoying the arts – this crisis has given rise to narrations, podcasts and radio shows as people find new avenues for positive expression. A few interesting examples you can integrate into your daily life are the SRF Radio Play, author Thomas Meyer’s live reads and author Saša Stanišić’s “Literature in times of uncertainty” charity reads for women’s shelters over on Twitch. If Shakespeare is more to your taste, Sir Patrick Stewart is narrating the Sonnets on his personal Twitter.

23) Read Different News Channels. With certain global politicians causing chaos with rumours and bad information, it is essential that you verify any “facts” from various reputable sources. That is why I recommend reading or watching different news channels – not only will you stay updated on what is happening in various sectors of the world, but also remain aware of the facts about the unfolding pandemic. Stay up-to-date with the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland here. Republik magazine is also running a newsletter to keep everyone in Switzerland informed. Businesses and the financial sector have been hit hard by COVID-19 related shutdowns and quarantines, so CNNMoney Switzerland’s newsletter is a good way to stay on top of the news coming out of that sector. Whichever source you go for, it is generally a good idea now to double check from another trusted source – forwarded email chains are not a good example of that!

24) Go on Treasure Hunts. Who doesn’t enjoy the thrill of completing tasks and checking them off? That sounds like an average work day but it’s what you do on a treasure hunt! You can see that the principle is the same, so why not reward yourself by creating and completing hunts for yourself?

  • Take a Shopping bag and aim to either recycle glass, enter a supermarket, go to the post-office or pharmacy.
  • Reward yourself at home.
  • Look determined when you see police.
  • Wear a Face Mask. 😷

25) Practice a new language you wanted to learn or take an amazing online course. For people struggling to find productive ways to spend their time in quarantine, learning a new language is a great way to engage yourself in a meaningful activity. If you are an expat, perhaps you can even utilise some time to perfect your grasp of German! Other people can find value instead with studying towards new skills, online courses are an amazing option for them. You can sign up to this fantastic offering for Expat Coach training by Sundae Schneider-Bean.

26) Take A Virtual Museum Tour. As I mentioned earlier, CNNMoney Switzerland is a good new source. You can add “good tour guide” to that list as well, their recommendation for virtual museum tours is a lockdown-friendly way to get your fix of European art and history. You can even play art games on their websites! The message here, which I would like to amplify, is that engaging with the arts and doing things you would do normally (albeit in a different way!) is an important way to maintain your mental health in these dire times.

27) Buy Paper Books in the Neighborhood. Paperback sales have shot up by 35% due to the imposition of isolation/quarantine rules as readers finally get to reading everything on their bucket lists. The Hirslanden Bookshop has been closed due to the pandemic, however you can still order books from them via phone or email and they will deliver to your home or by post. I think this is an opportune moment for escapism into those books you have been meaning to read for years, what about you?

28) Check Your Immigration Status by Host Country. Update permits and passports. As an expat, you will be facing a time of unprecedented uncertainty and stress because of the whole Covid-19 situation, you may even find yourself forgetting some important appointments! Therefore it would be a good time to check up on whether your permits, visas and passports are all updated and not nearing expiry.  Become Local is the name of Sonia’s company but she helps with ALL immigration into CH…not only local hires.

29) Claim Daily Indemnity Insurance Compensation. Check if you are entitled to daily indemnity and report your doctor ordered corona quarantine as an “accident”. An example from AXA-Winterthur would be here.

30) Clean Up Your “Command Bridge” every night. On a spaceship you also need to make sure that nothing flies around. I also shut down my 3 computers on Friday night. I find decluttering very helpful at all times but I noticed it helped me cope with insomnia too. Now you have no excuse to avoid that clutter you have been meaning to clean for ages, remember that this might boost your productivity and your feeling of accomplishment.

Decluttering also allows you to disinfect the most used areas of your house: your bathroom and kitchen. We must do as much as we can to prevent the virus from spreading, both outside and inside the home. Click through to read up on and motivate yourself to clean! One post is using Feng Shui as a basis for decluttering.

31) Through Family Dinner Follow the Space Mission Expert Advice. You have only been in isolation for a few weeks and already you feel like things are getting out of hand for you – imagine those people who live quarantined from the rest of the world for months and years! I am of course talking about astronauts in space – SRF Forward has a great video with tips taken from information about how astronauts handle isolation and how we can use that advice for ourselves.

32) Pretend You Are A “Star Wars” Character. Ensure you build a cleaning station for missions to Earth 🌍. If you don’t know what “Star Wars” is, now is the perfect time to find out by watching the original trilogy.

33) Hire a Deep Cleaning Expert. With so many spaceships and space stations leaving their planets to explore the far reaches of the galaxy, they surely must have a very efficient cleaning regimen to prevent filth and disease. This is definitely the right time to learn to be experts in cleaning. Maybe afterwards we will gain new appreciation for the cleaning crews on the Death Star who kept it so clean!

34) Build Your Own Face Mask. An unfortunate reality of the pandemic and medical crisis is that there is a severe lack of PPE and face masks in both the general public and the medical community. We can play our part in easy the load off production and allowing healthcare workers and doctors and nurses access to medical-grade masks. All you have to do is build your own! The instructions in this video are not that difficult, I am sure you have basic skills with a needle. Not only are you protecting yourself with this action but protecting countless others – an important role in flattening the curve.

35) Blow out Eggs and Create Easter Decorations. This is a tradition from my childhood known well in German speaking countries. Usually it’s done during the catholic fasting period and we’re a bit late for that but maybe your kids are bored after such long periods of homeschooling and they need a project for “Good Friday”. Check out Eier ausblasen – Ostern Lifehack – Anleitung and Color unicorn easter eggs with shaving cream 😍 

36) Paint Anything with Water Colors, Crayons and Paper. Who is ready to learn a new creative hobby? It is inevitable that during this period where everyone is supposed to be home, that you will become agitated, bored or even depressed. Hobbies are a great way to stay active and positive and what better way than with art? Follow these simple tutorials with watercolors and you can be on your way to painting self-portraits, still life or even the landscapes you can see out of your window!

37) Engage The Wildlife. Birds of various kinds have been spotted in Zürich over the last week. It’s fun for kids (and adults) to feed and name them. I’m feeding a black raven and named him “Franzerl”. I’m standing at the window shouting “Franzerl, Franzerl”. Obviously his lady raven will be named “Sisi” if she ever shows up at my feeding station. Watch those videos of how the animals are secretly taking over the world.
Coronavirus Lock down effects on animals (Part-1)
Dolphins and fish: nature moves into spaces left empty by Italian coronavirus quarantine

38) Buy Vouchers to support our Hairdressers. If we are able to ride out the lockdown period at home in comfort and financial security, spare a thought for those whose livelihood depends on things being open – hairdressers for instance cannot work from home! Let us be part of a supportive community and bolster each other. Annette Ramme is someone who could use that support in keeping her business running. Mention @angieweinberger for a 20% discount if you buy before 19 April 2020.

39) Have a Virtual Beauty-Day with the Girls. Drink Champagne and put on a FACEMASK (of the other kind). Self-care comes in many forms. It can be in the form of hobbies, learning or even sleeping. Sometimes, though, self-care comes in the form of a facemask. Maybe this weekend you can round up the girls, your go-to group of friends (on video conferencing of course!) and relax with some soothing and nourishing face masks. Maybe ask if your partner is interested in it as well, their skin will definitely need some hydrating!

40) Apply a Handmask. practice “Hand Discovery” with a Partner or a child. My hands are very dry from washing them about 30 times so I made a hand mask and then applied the discovery method to my own hands. This is a method we learn at the RockMeRetreat. For now, you can just massage your hands, apply a fatty cream, put on plastic gloves and soak while you are watching ….(enter your favorite Netflix show here).

I liked this image on how to move from Fear Zone to Growth Zone with #COVID19. Let me know in which zone you see yourself via the Rockmeapp. Credit to unknown author
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My skiing vacation in St. Anton, Austria came to an abrupt end when we were asked around 2.30 pm while casually chatting on a chairlift to leave the town as soon as possible. By the time we returned to our apartment and while throwing everything into our luggage I told myself to keep calm. I wasn’t calm really but I functioned. My friend and I were too late. The train station was closed already, nobody was allowed to enter. Policemen with masks tried to be nice to us but we were concerned. People standing there in bulks waiting for buses, taxi drivers signaling “no” and the sudden realization that I couldn’t just call a friend or relative and ask for a pick-up. 

Because there is a chance that I contracted coronavirus. The next step was to try to get a ride to the next train station, but our landlord wasn’t allowed to leave the city. Walking was not an option either. Asking other people to take us on, probably a little late in the game. Through a friend, we got a ride to Zurich on a bus and I was very happy when my friend and I arrived at my home. It’s more than 24 hours ago and the shock seems over. I’m suddenly in a 2-week quarantine. 

This pandemic has disrupted life worldwide, resulting in (to-date) over 150,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths. You can see the live updates here

People are rightfully worried due to the unfolding scenarios: food and essential item shortages due to hoarding, misinformation and hysteria. Due to my role(s) I have been following the topic on all media for a while now. During the last week, I had a lot of good conversations with my friends. What I can share now are a few tips although I’m really in the middle of this experience myself right now.

Prepare for Self-Isolation

First and foremost, self-isolation requires letting the people around you know of it – the isolation is as much for their benefit as it is for yours. If you suspect that you do have symptoms of the coronavirus, you must also do the following:

  • Stay at home and separate yourself from all other people. If you can’t use a separate bathroom, disinfect all areas all the time.
  • Wash dishes in the washing machine.
  • Cut down your visits outside to the absolute essential medical visits. Call the doctor before you go there.
  • Store your waste securely, as it will contain used tissues and other potentially-infected litter that must remain with you until you are cleared of infection.
  • If your symptoms worsen, seek professional medical help immediately.
  • Don’t use communal washrooms. Hand wash your clothes and towels in your apartment.

For details on how to effectively quarantine yourself from others and best practices involved, please read this article detailing what to do in such a scenario. A list of what you should and should not do is also available here.

It is mandatory for those with travel history to stay in isolation, so please make sure you follow medical protocol.

Buy groceries and stock up on food

If you’re like me you might not eat at home a lot. I’m the opposite of a hamster buyer so I really needed my friend to go out grocery shopping yesterday. I will look into online orders when I run out of essentials. 

Remember that we are not at war

This is a crisis and a pandemic and maybe worse than anything we have experienced in our generation but do you remember Chernobyl in 1984? I felt similar then. We were not allowed to go out even though we couldn’t really see the “danger”. Still, we’re not at war. Shops are still operating and we have access to clean drinking water from the tab here.

The images you are seeing online of empty shelves in grocery stores, barren city centers and overflowing hospitals (especially in Italy) can make you panic. You must ensure that you don’t so that you can follow the common sense but critical advice from the government and medical professionals. For me, the best way to avoid panic is by working and prioritizing.

Follow the guidelines of your local authority

In Switzerland, this is the BAG. https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home.html

I find their updates very helpful. If you live in another country follow the guidelines set by your local authorities, both administrative and healthcare. 

That means, avoid unnecessary contact with others or your face, wash your hands frequently and definitely self-quarantine if you have returned from another country or a known “hotspot”.

I was asked to inform the authority about my quarantine and I contacted the cantonal office for Zurich. They shared these links with me.

https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov.html

https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/selbst-isolierung-und-selbst-quarantaene.html

Get Medical Advice from Your Doctor or Trusted Sources

I read a lot online and most medical information is not backed by evidence and if you’re not sure you can trust the source you can always get a second opinion from your doctor by email or phone consultation. For example, I read twice now that you should only take Paracetamol against the symptoms.

https://twitter.com/CHUVLausanne/status/1239144803847360512?s=20

Coronavirus Infoline for CH +41 58 463 00 00, 24/7.

Plan how you will deal with a lockdown

Most European countries have shut down schools, educational institutes, theatres, libraries, and public gatherings. So far, public transportation in Switzerland still seems to run on the clock as usual. However, there will be delays and changes due to border controls. Also, currently, it looks like I won’t be able to go home to my family for a while. I assume we will need medical clearance before crossing a border again.

Stop your business travel to other countries

If you haven’t yet got stuck anywhere, there is a high chance that you will get stuck next week. Unless you are an MD who saves lives I’m not sure if your business trip is really needed right now. I suggest you cancel your trips until Easter. Then you can reassess the situation.

Replace “Essentials” with Home-Made Products

Due to the unfortunate shortages created by people stockpiling items, you may be seeing empty shelves in supermarkets and grocery stores. Most shops now have implemented limits to how many of each item people can buy, ensuring that everyone will be able to get essential items such as hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and basic food. However, where this is not the case, think about ways to replace “essentials” with home-made products and buy the ingredients now. For example: Could you use the old newspaper to make your own toilet paper? Or how about creating your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Innovate

Most of Europe is in some degree of shut down at the moment, which means that both people’s daily personal lives and their work routines are affected. Businesses both large and small have been impacted by the disruptions, facing varying levels of financial hardships. Startups, in particular, will be hit hardest, particularly those which require mobility from employees.

That said, however, innovation is essential for any startup’s success and this incident should be treated as yet another opportunity to innovate. Thanks to high-speed internet and laptops, most professionals are able to work remotely from home for this period. However, this increased load on cloud services such as Slack, Zoom, and Hangouts has resulted in those services experiencing slowdowns and issues in the face of such unprecedented load. 

Upgrades to those services don’t have hard timelines because of the restrictions in place, so organizations have been clever about it. I know of a few companies who have implemented a sort of time-share for work hours. 

They have divided people’s working hours into slots to balance the load on remote/cloud services and ensure better productivity than everyone clamoring to log in remotely. A few other businesses are alternating workdays for teams – while slower, this works better for more project-oriented work.

Take stock of the remote working conditions of your teams and order laptops and mobile phones if you have not done so yet.

It’s also vital that you review deadlines and stop pestering your teams with less critical topics right now. Prioritize!

Establish emergency contact groups with your team either via Whatsapp or Slack.

Take Small Steps

Constant media coverage reinforcing the difficulties faced ahead and the issues happening currently, worry about loved ones and humanity, in general, all take their toll. Therefore, I would advise you all to steel your hearts and persevere – now is the time for us to show our resilience. If you are struggling, the following steps may help:

  1. Take things one day at a time. What are you working on today? What are you eating today? How are you relaxing today? 
  2. Set yourself small, achievable goals for the day. They can be work-related or personal. 
  3. Put aside some time for your favorite hobby. This is a stressful and anxiety-filled time for a lot of people, even if they are not consciously aware of their worry levels. Engaging in a relaxing hobby will help you regain a sense of calm.
  4. Check-in with loved ones at least once a day.

Resilience would be required a lot more for expatriates, who may find themselves in a tougher mental challenge than most. They could find themselves not being able to be reunited with their families or to care for elderly family members. Being away from family is tough on the best of days, but in this time of global worry, it is all the harder. I wish there was some instant solution I could provide or some concrete tip that could help out, but unfortunately, the reality is that as an expat you will have to bear this situation. 

If you are stuck in a situation where you are unable to be with your family, try to stay in frequent contact with them over messaging, voice and video calls. Both they and you will be feeling vulnerable right now, perhaps lost and reasonably worried, and talking to them could act as emotional support for everyone. You can also try to read up on the home country’s approved medical advice for the region and help your family understand and act upon it, to minimize their chances of contracting COVID-19.

If you want to repatriate, speak to your Global Mobility Manager now. Check if your company works with International SOS too.

Sleep is Important

Try to get Sleep

It is easy to say “resilience” and be done with it, but the fact of the matter is that these are difficult times. People are and will experience helplessness, loss, grief and more – it is perfectly alright to feel all those things. Worry is a natural response to what is happening around us all, and in a situation like this where global events are out of our control, it is fine to be worried. A good way to regain some measure of calm would be to control the little things still in our power – organizing your house, getting your washing done or perhaps cooking and enjoying a meal.

If you find your sleep disrupted by anxiety or worry, you can try some of our tips on improving sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect your emotions even more so trying to maintain a good sleep cycle can help you manage yourself better.

Be Mindful About Your Statements about Other People

We have all been joking around about Italian pasta and the Chinese rice. However, we have to be careful that we are not all turning into a bunch of stigmatizing, prejudiced racists. Having coronavirus is not an act of God. It’s not a consequence of shameful behavior. At this point, it’s just bad luck. Let’s be mindful of how we treat people in this situation.

Think about Your Resources

My mom just asked me if I didn’t have any extra sanitizer in a bag at my grandmother’s house. Funnily, this was leftover from the RockMeRetreat 2018 and “parked” there with other materials. She will now give it to my aunt who’s at risk and I’m so grateful that I could help with something so small from a distance.

Keep Calm and Make a Plan 

I sat down yesterday with a friend and we wrote a list of how we will deal with this. Writing about the experience of being quarantined was a part of the list. We also agreed to check in on each other daily. I can hardly handle a Sunday at home without going out so the part where I’m isolated from my partner and other people needs a lot of self-care. 

If you are feeling confused or anxious, I recommend you speak to a doctor. People react differently to crisis situations and often it helps to talk about your experience. I also want to mention that sharing a bit more love and being a bit more empathetic than usual goes a long way here.

Kind Regards,

Angie

 

More Resources:

https://foph-coronavirus.ch/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/AS2020.030.00773D.pdf

URGENT request to stay at home now! This is a Doctor from UZH, one of our best hospitals.

https://doktor-video.wetransfer.com/downloads/66c890900962a8c5a4c7e3735edb523120200315210045/d058bf

COVID19

Dear Clients,

It’s Easter Monday and I hope you are safe. I will tell you about my journey with #covid19 shortly. In case you are wondering if we are working…Yes, we do work. However, I’m on sick leave for a few more days recovering from #Covid19.

My Covid-19 Update No. 3 ~ 13 April 2020

 

– Our RockMe! Executive Coaching sessions are offered only on G-Hangout until at least 30 April 2020.

Our Terms and Conditions: We don’t charge any cancellation fees for short-notice cancellations during this state of emergency. We understand if your children are crying in the background and need your attention. As of 1 May 2020 T&C will apply again.

– #GlobalMobilityAcademy Workshops will be postponed to a later point in time, probably not starting before 1 July 2020. There will be homework to be completed before the courses start. You will be informed by email.

#TransitionCoaching: You can book coaching sessions in case you wish to get through any type of transitions. Sessions are limited to 90 Minutes.

#RockMeApp: Online support is available 24/7 via our #RockMeApp. Everyone who signs up by 17 April 2020 gets free access to our RockMe! online program. I wish to help you through this. Hence, this is a gift!

#HireMeExpress: If you are looking for a job right now check out our #HireMeExpress program. Sign up by 17 April 2020.

#GlobalPeopleClubSandwich: We will continue to blog here. ~> Sign up to get our updates “The Global People Club Sandwich”.

~> Guest Bloggers: We accept guest bloggers if you meet our guidelines.

 

 

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How have you been? I feel we haven’t heard from you in a while. The reason you haven’t heard from me was that I was tied up with managing a the fallout of the tornado and the Coronavirus and handling new client projects. And while I’m priding myself of being highly productive I have to admit that in the last few weeks, I experienced an unusual sense of high alert and I needed to take a weekend off and be offline for 48 hours. You probably didn’t notice as my friend Virginia Robot was still working in the background. I wanted to talk to you today about how it is to build and run a small business in Switzerland.

Starting a business is not for the weak-hearted

It requires a lot of discipline, physical and mental fitness and friends who won’t leave you if you haven’t been in touch for more than a week. You need a life partner and family who is fully behind your decision and you need to be prepared to work harder than ever. I’m saying this after almost 10 years of building and running a business that is offline and online, with freelancers in different locations and a mixed client base.

Two years ago I was drained of resources, my savings were all used up and I had invested in two additional courses. Not only was I ready to give up and get a full-time job, I even had said “yes” to a full-time job offer. But then “fate” kicked in. In a very relaxed moment after a few days of RockMeRetreat I knew I wasn’t ready to start a full-time job in a leadership role where I would spend all my energy on maneuvering politics, playing the game, coaching a team and sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day.

Yes, I was very disappointed when the company told me that they wanted to hire somebody else. I was down and scared but at the same time, I was relieved. And I knew this feeling. It was the smell of freedom.

When you know deep down inside that you will always fall back on your feet, and that you have all the skills and power within you to make a living. This is called real freedom.

This is not a pep talk on how we should leap out of our comfort zone and fight for survival daily, because this kind of adrenaline is not good in the long run. This kind of adrenaline you only need in a real emergency situation during a tornado or a Coronavirus but not every day in your life. This is why I am currently happy to have a part-time role that pays a good salary. Did you know that a university guest lecturer makes the same in an hour in Germany as a kitchen aid in Switzerland? So, despite the fact that I had a lot of work in Europe, I hardly made enough money to survive here.

Playing a safe game is not for entrepreneurs 

Security is nice to have, a paycheck is wonderful, being able to be sick and getting paid is sensational, free coffee and tea at work are amazing and then the luxury of a paid holiday. I mean, this is what you take for granted when you are employed. You think it is a given. You are giving your time to the company, but guess what? It’s not a given.

Switzerland is paradise on earth and it makes me sad when I see colleagues who do not appreciate what they get from work.

For me, it is working with a team of people, being accountable, yet not fully responsible and also having financial freedom. You probably wonder how you keep the energy drainers out of your work environment and for that my advice is a simple one: Focus on your own well-being first. Focus on that as long as you need, stop eating junk food, go for a regular walk, stop working after six hours and change your routine to fit your life. Most of the issues we have at work come from our fear of not being enough. We overcompensate.

I’ve been one of those people long enough. As an HR Professional, I have viewed our performance culture evolve over the last 20 years and I don’t think any “Management by Objectives”, any performance goal has ever brought as much motivation into my life as the work I’m doing pro-bono or (almost pro-bono) as a guest lecturer.

I’m motivated to work with clients in my business not only because I earn money but because I feel that I’m changing lives with my work. The money is a necessity. It is the perceived value of my time and it equates the risks and costs I’ve been putting into my business over the last 10 years.

However, money is not a reason for motivation. And this is one of the reasons why many companies produce zombies at work. People aren’t feeling connected to a cause, the company’s shareholder value is not motivating enough.

I’m in favor of abandoning performance management systems. I believe we should give our people the benefit of the doubt again and help them find their intrinsic motivation. We should help them work in projects where they can thrive, help them develop client relationships that they will find engaging and we should above all change lives.

Leading is not for the bean counters

And if you doubt now how you can help your team to get to that level, we should have a conversation. I would say that first of all: Everybody still has a ton to learn in this world. Understanding that is the first step to growth. For many people, especially women, you need to also help them find the confidence to move ahead. In Switzerland, many women grew up in a male-dominated environment where they learned to work more than their peers to be recognized, and when they tried to move up the ladder, they had to show their teeth.

Then they were told that they were too aggressive and too pushy. Then they started to have self-doubts and then they fell into a complacent state where moving up was no longer an option. I know many women who are excellent, but they neither sell themselves nor do they get enough credit for their work. They run departments silently in the background, while a male colleague gets the bonus and the honors. Yes, I know this is 2020 and I’m having enough of it.

I made a commitment this year to help more “outsiders” and I’m starting with women in developing countries, with more senior women who don’t have enough income for their old-age and also with women from minority backgrounds. Another group we have diligently excluded from certain privileges in the labor market are people with a refugee background who cannot produce the right papers, certificates for certain jobs and people with a mental health spectrum such as people with autism or clinical depression. These topics are still taboo in the labor market. We need to move from diversity to inclusion. It’s 2020!

Do something amazing today! Hug a co-worker.

 Angie
 

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#diversityandinclusion

“Human Touch” is Critical to the Future of Global Mobility.

We are robots. At least you could get this impression when you deal with us. Virginia Robot is an observer in our “Global Mobility Academy”. They* comment regularly on our work. For example, when we analyze the process landscape or helping expats with their immigration process Virginia butts in with a comment how AI could do all that faster, better and cheaper.

For the last three years we’ve been experimenting with digital global mobility coaching and transition support with you.

We are in a good position to criticize the digitalization buzz and AI hype. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of new and shiny tech tools and I get excited about apps, but somewhere down the line, they usually disappoint me. For example, on Saturday I tried to book a flight via my Swissair App while on a train. It seems I just entered another country when…the process failed. Now, I’m trying to find out if my booking was saved in an “interrupted” cart or something and haven’t had a response for 48 hours. When you are an entrepreneur time and health are your most critical assets and it frustrates me when I “waste” time.

In 1999, when I called our global tax provider I either received an answer right away or they would call back within 24 hours, because that was considered good client service. Now, when I call I often don’t get a chance to leave voicemail and when I email, I can be happy if I receive a response within seven days. In my book, that’s not good enough. Let alone, that contracts have typos all over and tax declarations need to be corrected. I’m not even a tax advisor but it seems that I smell errors.

My contracts aren’t perfect either. I blame that on the fact that I haven’t really learned basic administrative tasks as usually I would have an assistant supporting me. I can draft, comment and edit, but I don’t really have the energy to make it look perfect.

A few years back the “Executive Assistant”  had been replaced by HR Software and “manager self service”. BUT what if you are building a new team or function? Wouldn’t it help to have admin support or an outsourced virtual assistant sitting at a desk in a home office in Burkina Faso or Bangkok?

So yes, I am interested in exploring working with a colleague such as Virginia Robot as long as they don’t outsmart me in front of my clients. They will probably be better at cost projections while mine may  have formula errors and miss social security data. Virginia will also work 24/7. Maybe they have design skills and a knack for perfect templates.

And they won’t catch a coronavirus, or strain a leg in a skiing accident. At some point they could probably replace our assistant and maybe us as well.

Still, when I look at reality I’m not really worried.

Why we don’t jump on the AI Hype just yet


You may have noticed this yourself too, but in the past few years, Global Mobility has revolved around process segmentation, outsourcing and offshoring.

While this has resulted in tremendous optimization and cost saving, it has also  had the unintended but unfortunate effect of giving this perception and reputation of being “robotic” and “fragmented”.

Before we can teach AI we need to get our digitalization teething issues sorted out globally. On our wishlist is the “holy grail”, the site that rules them all. Disruptors  in this field such as INEOMobility, Topia, ReloTalent, VendiumGlobal, Benivo are racing for developing collaborative sites that speak to each other through API codes.

It is therefore up to us as Global Mobility professionals to bring back the “human touch” to our industry.

Our assumption is that through digitalization we will cut down on the middle person and establish more direct relationships between you and the vendors. We recommend to Global Mobility Professionals to have a personal meeting with you and your spouse before the move and one debriefing meeting after the return. Ideally, a personal catch-up during the home leave also helps.

Even if we cannot imagine a robot filing tax returns, sending social security applications and reviewing immigration documents, because of the complexity of the overall topics, we have to see that essentially we are dealing with data.

When I look at my current reality, I often feel thrown back to 1999 when I started in the field and we moved from net calculations on paper to excel. Due to IT security, GDPR and connectivity issues, I can use my hours on data distribution and entry essentially.

I prefer to sit down with clients in person and talk face-to-face, because then I feel productive. My team of researchers and I thought we should be open to innovation while also looking at risks especially through the intercultural, diversity and inclusion glasses.

Focus on Making Constructive Advances in AI

On the subject of improving Global Mobility, we would also like to discuss possible ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be integrated into Global Mobility in a positive and constructive manner.

Before we begin, it is important to realize that the technologies that we usually discuss under the label of AI are actually not examples of Artificial Intelligence, but a specific subfield called “machine learning”. Because the latter does not sound as exciting, the general term of AI continues to be used interchangeably, though they shouldn’t be.

We also found more real-life examples related to global recruiting where in the past “Application Tracking Systems” left a lot of broken shards and many applicants felt as if their applications went into a black hole.

One possible way to bring AI to Global Mobility, and something that is already being researched, is integrating recruitment with an algorithm. This algorithm would not be constrained by human biases of any sort – such as sexism or racism – and could focus solely on pertinent skills, qualifications and experience.

Unfortunately, as with all new technologies, we must tread carefully. AI is created by and trained on human values, experiences and examples and can take up our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Some issues reared their heads recently with Google’s AI misbehaving and an AI art project turning racist due to bad training being input to the algorithms. So much of modern technology is influenced, primarily through various funding channels, by the elite of the world and they exert their beliefs and biases on controlling the direction the development and usage takes. In fact, their economic, skin-colour and gender privileges are often visible in these creations.

When the original Kinect was released, it had difficulty recognizing people with darker skin. It was discovered that the early code measured the contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. So, without optimal lighting conditions, that algorithm was failing to detect people without white or light skin. Later iterations of the product fixed this issue, and worked in sub-optimal light as well.

Another example of AI-gone-wrong was revealed with Amazon scrapping its internal AI-based hiring tool after it was revealed that it was somehow biased against women. Again, because the current AI is actually just machine learning, the recruitment tool learned from the historical data given to it. The professional workplace, like most other aspects of life, was male-dominated and the AI learned to be biased against women’s resumes as a result. Not a good look for AI, and Amazon.

Careful nurturing of this new technology will definitely have benefits not just for Global Mobility, but all aspects of work as we know it.
AI-powered digital spaces are already enabling whole groups of professionals to interact more efficiently and effectively, every social platform utilizes algorithmic data feeds and machine learning of your usage habits to connect you to relevant professionals. That is how thriving communities of artists form on Instagram, writing groups on Twitter and digital marketers on LinkedIn.

This technology has also made its way, to some degree, into strategic workforce planning and even transforming workspaces. The flip side, again, is that businesses need to be wary of adopting these changes too fast, or without any feedback from the employees who will be impacted. In fact, a frequent pushback to such decisions is the employees desire to have a suitable workplace that promotes comfort and familiarity for them, such as break spaces, meeting rooms and workstations.

This brings me full circle to my initial point: the “human touch”. That will be the determining factor to the success or failure of AI adoption. It is critical to maintain the human touch while transitioning processes and systems to AI. So as we rethink our business core and competencies to align with AI and technology, we should do our best to remember that at the heart of our work in Global Mobility are people, with emotions, feelings, skills and abilities, who are diverse and unique and deserve to thrive in the best work conditions. At least for a few years, parts of our brain aren’t yet reproducible according to this neuropsychologist.

At this point, there are no easy solutions as most companies are treading new grounds in adoption and optimization. However, one thing organisations, businesses and Global Mobility Teams can do is to remember to make this shift in a way that aligns with business needs and the needs of the people.

“Think Global People” ran a detailed discussion on this subject which you can read here to increase your knowledge, as AI adoption will soon become the hot topic in Global Mobility.

What’s your experience and preference when dealing with Global Mobility Professionals? How would you feel if you received an automated but personalized email from your colleague in HR instead of a phone call? 

References and further reading:

*They is considered the new default neutral pronoun. We decided to use it for our non-human friends as well as we learned that ‘They’ was called the word of the year for 2019, for this reason that it was inclusive of all genderfluid, humanoid or otherwise beings.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/sep/17/merriam-webster-they-nonbinary-pronoun

https://mindmatters.ai/2020/01/ai-in-the-courtroom-will-a-robot-sentence-you/

https://www.nzz.ch/zuerich/mensch-oder-maschine-interview-mit-neuropsychologe-lutz-jaencke-ld.1502927

https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml

Any experience with these disruptors?

Topia

https://www.topia.com/

INEO

https://www.ineomobility.com/

Vendium Global

https://www.vendiumglobal.com/

Benivo 

https://www.benivo.com/global-mobility-teams

ReloTalent

https://www.relotalent.com/

VendiumGlobal

https://www.vendiumglobal.com/about

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