Four ways to focus on personal growth while working remotely

Staircases with the words Straight Up on at the Virgin Media office in Reading
Image from Virgin Media
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 8 February 2021

The start of a new year is normally the time for looking ahead and setting goals in our personal and professional lives. This January felt very different. With so much uncertainty entering 2021, my only New Year’s Resolution was to be more present and try to live each day in the moment. However, as many of us continue to work in remote and unusual ways for the foreseeable future, it’s important to think about how we keep developing ourselves in this new working environment. 

Holly Branson remote working with her daughter Lola
Branson Family

I am passionate that our people feel they can be 100% themselves at work, 100% of the time, and that as valuable members of the Virgin Family they feel a real sense of belonging and kinship. As we approach another year of working remotely, it's so important as business leaders that we continue to put the wellbeing, and the personal and professional development of our wonderful people, at the very top of the agenda. After many long months of lockdown, it is sadly very easy to lose your sense of self and to grasp the value you bring to your team and colleagues. So much of our confidence and joy from work comes from interacting with our teammates both in and out of the office environment, Covid-19 has made that impossible.

At Virgin, we hosted a specialist session on this important topic, with Virgin people from all over the world invited to join in. Virgin Management’s Global Brand Director, Claire Hilton, hosted the session and was joined by Helen Tupper, co-founder of Amazing If and the Squiggly Careers podcast, and Virgin Money’s Group HR Director, Kate Guthrie. During the session, we explored challenges and opportunities that remote working creates for our personal development, and what we can do to better align our work and personal goals.

Kate spoke about strategy they took at Virgin Money, which involved going back to their purpose statement - 'making people happier about money' - and using it to guide their decisions and the way they would pivot. As everyone became more connected digitally, the team saw it as an opportunity to create peer-to-peer learning opportunities and closer collaboration within their workforce. As Kate mentioned, it's easy to get caught in an echo chamber in the digital world, so it's important to branch out and engage with lots of different people and opinions.

Image from. Kami White
Image from. Kami White

Sadly, as Helen noted, trends indicate that our current working conditions had led to an expectation of instant response, increased out of hours work, blurred work-life balance, and an increased number of hours spent in meetings. Within these challenges, Helen shared four personal development barriers many people are currently faced with, and some useful ways to overcome them.

Four ways to find personal growth:

  1. Lack of motivation. Motivation is known to increase with purpose, mastery and autonomy. To find more motivation, it’s worth reflecting on what gives you meaning at work? What would you like to get better at? How can you celebrate your progress? What aspects of your work can you gain more control over? It might simply be adjusting when, where and how you do your work to better fit your preferences.  

  2. Increased uncertainty. To cope in this uncertain environment, Helen recommends shifting your focus from knowing to growing. If you take back control and focus on learning, unlearning, relearning and upskilling, it will help you cope better with uncertainty, while staying motivated and boosting your personal development. brilliant free courses on everything from practical maths to computer science and coding. 

  3. Lack of confidence. Without normal office interactions and subtle but encouraging human signals in meetings, it’s easy to lose a bit of confidence. A great tip from Helen is to ask a few colleagues the following questions: When have you seen me work at my best? Where have I added the most value? Where do you think I make the most impact? This will help you find themes in your strengths and remind yourself just how capable you are. 

  4. Lack of connection. As the novelty of virtual meetings and team quizzes wears thin, it’s important to finding meaningful ways to stay connected. A more meaningful way of staying connected while also focusing on personal development is through shared learning. What skills do you have within your team and your organisation that you can you share? From legal skills to coding, Excel formulas, and even life skills like cooking or languages – peer learning is a powerful tool.  

People sitting at the Virgin Money Manchester store
Image from Virgin Money

Throughout the session, both Helen and Kate also reminded us that while it’s great to set goals and seek progress, it’s also a strange and difficult time so we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. Some days will feel more productive than others, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

Thank you so much to Helen, Kate, Claire and everyone from the Virgin Family who joined the discussion. I hope you all found the insights interesting!