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How to adjust to working from home whilst in the middle of this pandemic & is this the future of the way we do business?

Firstly, I would like to thank all of the Humdex team, our families, friends and colleagues, plus our newsletter and article readers for their ongoing support at this difficult time. We are all impacted by the current Coronavirus pandemic wherever we are. An impact that also has the potential to change the way we work forever.

A catalyst for change

The Financial Times writes:

“A sustained period of home working could raise questions both about the adaptability of managers and the practicality of encouraging more remote work.”

We know that this pandemic is different from previous experiences like the virus SARS. It is far more wide reaching but also the “the tech is better than it was in the last pandemic. People are more used to it,” says Gartner’s Mr Kropp. It is said those businesses that have the capacity to leverage a workforce and can operate remotely will see some benefit in maintaining the essence of these work practices. The virus has catalysed so much social change out of necessity, from concepts that were not considerations previously. We are seeing now that it is the easiest it have ever been to effectively coordinate, communicate and operate from a home base by using modern, accessible and inexpensive technology, companies will not want to turn all the way back.

“Once effective work-from-home policies are established, they are likely to stick,”

Karen Harris, Managing Director of consultancy Bain’s Macro Trends Group

Recommended reads

I would encourage you to read the remainder of our referenced article by the Financial Times, as it introduces some interesting thoughts on the impact of ex-pats returning, corporate health policies and their evolution post Covid-19. We would also like to recommend another read; a piece by Mary Sigmund at YPO and her interview with the CEO of Acceleration Partners, who have been reaping the benefits of remote work for over a decade. There are some stand out action points to be taken from this piece.

What do we know about working from home?

Humdex is a small team of capable individuals who are located in several locations across Europe. As such we have built up a solid foundation of experience when it comes to working remotely and, on an individual level, I have personally worked from home for long periods at a time. Below I have written some personal learning points that I have picked up over the years which you may find useful.

My personal tips for working from home:

1. Try and take regular breaks- Where possible take a break every 30 minutes, get up, take your eyes off the screen and walk into a different room. It is very easy when working from home to burn out, we are not presented with the sporadic social distractions we have when working in a public space. This also goes doubly so for taking a lunch break and making something sufficient for a meal. That break during the middle of the day is a great opportunity to compile the day so far and re-centre for the remaining half.

2. If possible work and play in different rooms- Try not to work in the same room that you normally relax in. Having a clear segregation between where you work and where you spend your free time will help you stay in work mode during hours and relax better when “off duty”. 3. Set daily goals- When you are your own master and motivator it can be incredibly useful to write down your major aims of the workday first thing in the morning. Work to these aims, tick them off as you achieve them, this way you stay to task and get an important success moment when you tick off each goal. 4. Use a monitor- Most of us will be working from home using our laptops. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a game changer I find using a monitor when working from home. For me, it not only prevents a bad back, as I am not hunched over a small laptop screen which is at the wrong height, but I find it reduces my chance of getting headaches while working. For me, a brighter back-lit screen and larger display means I relax my eyes more and squint less.

5. Don’t work in your PJ’s- A major error a lot of us can make when working from home. Whilst wearing comfy/bed clothes when working from home on rare occasions can be quite liberating, I find it has a poor psychological effect on me if I do this for extended periods. The process of getting changed and ready into clothes you would work in sets your mind to the day (things do not have to be seriously smart here). In your work clothes you are subconsciously aware that whilst in them you are there to do something productive, whilst the danger of wearing your inside casuals is that physical disconnect between you and your work. 6. Use video and phone calls to stay social and stay connected- I find using video conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype are an essential part of the remote working tool kit. Without hearing a human voice for so long, a lot of us (including me) can get stir crazy. In addition, as time goes on, we will feel more and more disconnected with a team or task. Talking with others will naturally help you tether yourself to the task at hand and know where you are in relation to the wider work/business. Moreover, some concepts and conversations are almost 100% better delivered in “person”, rather than sent over in email after email, which can often lose meaning in translation.

Stay safe & keep healthy

We are in a huge period of flux and change. I think the landscape in which we work is set to change forever. The adaptability of management and the ability to utilise available technologies to maintain productivity during this unprecedented period will be our biggest test yet.

Like all of you we are concentrating on our own health and that of our families, our friends, our work colleagues as well as those in the broader society. We will continue to produce content, that we hope may be useful and interesting to you at this time as long, as we are able.

Our thoughts are with all of you. We wish you well and healthy. The Humdex team

Here at Humdex we work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Scott Brent

Sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team here.


Could being more connected than ever before negatively impact the soft skill of listening?

Social media and our ability to connect online instantly with each other, at any time or place, has been a huge part of our personal & professional lives for years. Embedded in our daily operations, this technology has enabled us to talk & link up with more people than ever before. However, a short piece I read recently by Mentimeter, suggests that over the last ten years the behaviour we exhibit on social media platforms could be described as the decade of shouting. I wondered if using this medium so habitually had further negative behavioural implications on the soft skill of listening and how we deploy it professionally.

Mentimeter observes that social media has had a subtle yet pervasive effect on how we listen as a general skill today. They say:

“Social media originated from the power to connect people and give everyone a voice but in fact, it had just made us talk more and listen less.”

It’s true that social media has huge power to connect us all, but it has also evolved, in part, into a source of misinformation (The perceived necessity to fact-check information seems not to be a requirement). Everyone can now stand on their own soap box, meaning we speak out more than ever before, yet we listen even less.

Hearing better with active listening

Soft skills, like listening, are so valuable to the agile workforces of today that it is very important that we recognise these trends and make conscious efforts to take the impact of it seriously. Listening, the construction of “meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages,” enhances not only your own mood but workplace productivity and relationships as well. Those businesses, large and small, who are reinforcing the value of this proficiency will pull ahead of the rest.

Surprisingly :

"The average person listens with only about 25% efficiency"

Source: ‘Active Listening’: the Key to Strong Workplace Relationships, Productivity, and Personal Empowerment

The good thing here is that there is massive potential if we are conscious about how we listen. “Active listening” can be our main way of improving our listening efficiency. Active listening is defined as giving your complete, intentional focus to what someone says, rather than what their words literally mean. We have been conditioned through years of interacting in the on-line environment which promotes “cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.” Our minds are now naturally trying to conduct multiple tasks all at once. For instance, how often do we have one eye on our desktops or phones when interacting at work. You may not be doing it consciously but in a corner of your mind you are thinking of that email you were waiting to come in, finishing off that graph for the report or what recipe might work for dinner tonight. As we are now dispelling the myth that an individual can multi-task competently, it is important that we address the impact this has on how we work together.

Not only are we distracted by factors external to the conversation but by the conversation itself and how we treat it. In discussion our natural pattern is to pick out key phrases and words from a conversation and concentrate on how we may form a response, usually ignoring much of what is inferred verbally and non-verbally as our distracted minds are focused inwards, on ourselves, and what we are going to respond with, not what is being said. We do this because, thanks to our on-line behaviours, we believe speed of the response is everything. We formulate a response way before we have finished listening to what is being said. When we think we are listening, we are usually too distracted or too focused on the answer to absorb information on anything but at its’ surface/superficial level. Active listening enables us to put aside our on-line conversational habits and reap the rewards from our interactions.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

- Dalai Lama

The Sound of silence

The next way to raise our listening proficiency is to master the art of silence. To quote Alfred Brendel: "The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'."

Of particular power in coaching, the timing and context of silence can be huge. Again we have been acclimatised by the speed in which we can, and are expected to, interact online to reduce our time spent on reflection and fill the void in conversation. Your ability to manage and implement silence in conversation is a good indicator of your ability to manage yourself. The British School of Coaching phrases this state of mind brilliantly:

“Are you more aligned to a Trappist monk approach (honouring the silence) or a Ski- Jumper (leaping in)?”

We naturally feel the need to avoid silence in conversation, particularly at work, but by opening up this time to reflect we can achieve greater impact in our key workplace interactions. For instance, silence can be a form of challenge, prompting others to reflect or evaluate what they have said. Moreover, if someone else is being silent we can combine this with our active listening skills and ask questions to explore what they are thinking. Finally, silence can be used at the close of an important conversation, allowing time to reflect, to digest what has been said and capture key highlights, resist the urge to return straight to other tasks. Silence and listening are essential skills in the always on-line world of today. Allowing those moments of silence to happen can be a formidable force of positive change in your business.

Social media is a fantastic tool and now a core component of our personal and professional lives. I wanted to write this short piece not as a sermon on the “evils of technology”, but how this culture altering technology has potentially diminished one of our most valuable soft skills, just when we need it most. We cannot deny that social technology has shaped the way we work and interact, and normally for the good, however we need to be aware of how the on-line environment has in some way reduced our humanity. By consciously implementing changes with active listening and unlocking the power in well-timed silences, we can have an impressive impact for the work environment, its output and our person to person interactions.

Here at Humdex we work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Scott Brent

Sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team here.


Sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team