July 16, 2014

How much is your time worth? Why you need to outsource

My cleaning lady is at my house today. If I didn't have her, I would spend several days cleaning and not writing. I would be miserable and I'd have less money in the bank. By doing the math, I figured out I come out ahead spending my time writing rather than cleaning. 

Outsourcing is all about doing the math. What are your spending time doing -- maybe even not doing well -- that you could farm out and come out ahead? I've discovered that busy working parents need to outsource something if they want work life balance. Do you agree?

Here's my Miami Herald article on outsourcing...

How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

TODD

(ABOVE: Todd Paton of Paton Marketing)

Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

 “You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it,” Paton says.

As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today’s business owners have more options for hiring out tasks that detract from generating income and having a balanced life. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.

An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn’t make sense for you to do personally. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. “Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth,” he says.

How much you can you expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you’re buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers, and pays about $30 a press release. Rather than spend half a day on the task, hiring it out is worth the expense.

Elance and oDesk (which merged in 2013) are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.

Lesley Pyle founded HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. She finds small-business owners increasingly coming to her site to hire skilled, work-at-home moms to build or design websites, create social media followings and manage email marketing campaigns. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Pyle finds.

“There are constantly new and better ways to do things online. Unless you enjoy that or have time for that, it’s an easy one to put on your delegation list,” Pyle says.

Mande White-Pearl, a South Florida marketing strategist for female entrepreneurs, says that even when a business owner outsources, she needs to understand the specific outcome she wants from whomever she hires. White says she has used more than 20 virtual workers to complete tasks like data entry, graphic design or project management while she concentrates on bringing in business and spending time with her new husband.

The first year she began using contractors to help carry her workload, White-Pearl says, she doubled her company's revenue.

White locates her freelancers on oDesk and has paid $5 to $50 an hour, depending on the task. She typically gives out small projects to new hires, testing them before doling out ongoing needs. “Over time, I have gotten much better about being clear on what exactly it is I need people to do. If I have had a bad experience, it has been because I had not properly communicated what I needed, wanted or expected.

To ensure quality from freelancers, sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com allow the hiring party to see how previous clients rated prospective vendors’ work, as well as detailed profiles of the vendors and what they charge. There is no charge for freelancers to post profiles on the sites and to apply to jobs.

The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount they paid the freelancer. Expect to pay U.S.-based contractors higher fees, but remember, with offshore providers there may be a language barrier. Fees are paid per hour or per project.

For more-creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fivver.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. While the site is now far from the original everything-for-$5 concept, the costs of specific jobs are straightforward. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $5 to $40 to get the job done.

With the increase in demand, a variety of models for online hiring are gaining popularity. Sites like OnForce and FieldNation have created networks of independent workers in the same specialty who can be hired per gig and dispatched to a job site as opposed to working remotely. In Spring 2013, OnForce introduced a mobile app to help pair the buyer with the freelancer who might already be out on a job nearby.

Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio in Coral Gables, runs a business that provides IT support to local companies. However, Michael says he recently became a vendor on OnForce, a network of independent IT professionals looking for gigs in their area. “We see it as a way to get our foot in the door.”

While on OnForce he’s the independent contractor, Michael says that as a business owner, he, too, has at times been the outsourcer. He has used hiring sites to tap professionals to create logo designs or marketing materials. “If you are a small business and trying to grow, adding headcount isn’t what you want,” he says. “It is much better to find someone with expertise who is affordable. Now you have more time in your day, and you’re still getting what you need done.”

 

 

Kevinvmichael_datacenter_shot

(Above: Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio, IT Support)

May 31, 2014

Surviving end-of-school-year madness

If I had to bet, I would say that by now, most working parents are exhausted. As we get down to the end-of-the-school year, celebrations and activities are coming fast and furious. Can you find time and energy to always be there...physically and mentally? Here's why you might feel swamped: Because of a rising interest in rituals, ceremonies have proliferated, marking nearly every life transition—from preschool to college graduation—and making each the focus of festivities. As a result, families face a long list of must-attends including class parties, award ceremonies, tournaments, recitals, picnics and banquets. They happen all in the few weeks leading up to summer, making this time of year the busiest season of all for many households. I just have to look at the Facebook posts to see how my friends are bouncing from one event to the next. Fortunately, I have some flexibility at my job to attend my kids end of school year activities because I work from home. Sadly, many parents do not have flexibility or understanding bosses. Many of us working parents beat ourselves up for not getting to all of these events. It’s especially awful when our kids really want us there, points out mommy blogger Wendy Sachs. Remember, this is the time to use your goodwill bank -- call in those favors you've done for other parents at work or at school to get some help with the driving. If you can't stay for the entire class party or recital, make sure you speak to your child about the portion you observed: something like, "I enjoyed watching because you were concentrating so well.'' If it's an event you absolutely don't want to miss, offer a solution to your boss or client -- something like "I will come in early tomorrow to tackle that project if I can leave for a few hours mid- day today? " How are you handling the end-of-year madness? Do you find your workplace gives you the flexibility to attend school activities? If not, are you resentful?

December 26, 2013

Rearview Mirror: Work life balance and workplace challenges of 2013

When I look at the year in review, I see a continued struggle for work-life balance exemplified by a question I raised in a recent Miami Herald column: What is an average work week?

For those of us with anything beyond the most basic level of responsibility, most agree that a 9-to-5 work day no longer is a reality. Many of us feel like we’re “always on.” The technology that brings our home life into our workplace and our jobs into our homes presents opportunities and challenges. I have tackled some of them in this column in 2013.

One area of challenge arises from where we do our work. Can people be as productive at home as they are in the office? And, aren’t most of us working from places outside the traditional workspace at least some of the time? Earlier this year, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called remote employees back to the office and set off a firestorm of debate.

In my March 6 column, I asked: Can anyone really argue that Mayer is wrong to feel that there is value in the conversations that arise when people are physically together in a room? There’s a reason that Google has configured its offices with a lunch room extraordinaire. It’s to keep people on campus and working together, I noted.

After a multitude of conversations with experts and employees, I’ve come to believe that the best workplaces strike a happy medium — allowing workers to come to the office some of the time but also manage their own schedules.” Corporate futurist Christian Crews, principal of AndSpace Consulting in Fairfield, Ct., said companies with the greatest competitive advantage are “managing the tension between getting engagement from employees who can make their own hours with the tension of getting critical mass in a building to create innovative new approaches to business.” To me, companies that get that right will be around much longer than those that don’t.

Another challenge involves the technology we use to do our work. In my July 3 column, I noted that with continuous new technology, many employees want the latest smartphones, tablets or laptops to balance their work and home lives on their devices. We are more satisfied when we use our own preferred devices on the job. Allowing us to do so saves our employers money buying and maintaining equipment.

But as more employers embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, questions abound over whether we are ready for the heated issues cropping up such as our expectation of privacy and what happens if there’s a security breach. Should an employer have the right to search our personal device or wipe out the memory remotely should it suspect a concern?

Niza Motola, special counsel with the Miami law firm of Littler Mendelson, says the BYOD trend has made it evident that with the rapid advance of technology, the laws and workplaces haven’t caught up. “The lines are blurred on what’s personal and what’s professional at work and that’s only going to get more obvious.”

Some see opportunity in blurred boundaries between work and personal life. My July 24 column addressed the trend toward working vacations. It seemed the economic worries that led American workers to limit themselves to drive-by vacations for the past several summers had lifted. The two-week vacation made a comeback, mostly because people have figured out ways to integrate work and travel to make for a better return. The new guilt-free vacation centers on knowing when to check in and field calls and when to disconnect.

Cristy Leon-Rivero, chief marketing and merchandising officer with Navarro Discount Pharmacy, discovered that working on vacation meant she could take a full week off, but she and her husband tag-teamed to ensure their children wouldn’t feel shortchanged when their parents connected to their offices.

“I might say, ‘Watch the kids for a minute; I’m going to get on a call,’ or he might do the same, but we keep our family activities time-protected.” Leon-Rivero found that when she took a full week to let go of stress and relax, she was more productive when she returned. “The best ideas happen outside the office.”

Throughout the year, I dug deeper into the mindset of millennials, our youngest employees who are changing how all of us think and act on the job. In my Sept. 11 column, I wrote that millennials want an entrepreneurial culture in their workplaces where their ideas can help shape the business. But research shows managers often feel millennials want too much too soon and don’t know how to keep them on a career path that keeps them engaged. Frustrated, young innovators often take a “move up or move on” attitude.

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, feels the best strategy for managers is tell younger workers specifically what to do to become a manager in a set number of years. “Those expectations are so important, and nobody is setting them, which is why turnover (and frustration) is so high,” he said.

While most of us have tried to separate our work and home lives, millennials want their personal and work lives intertwined. In my Sept. 18 column, I wrote about new research showing that this generation wants workplaces to be like second homes, their co-workers to be their friends and their bosses to be their workplace parents or mentors. While the big push in creating social workplaces has centered on ice cream-making contests and costume competitions, experts say the future is going to require a more strategic approach. Employers will need to build a “fun” culture that encourages camaraderie, collaboration and dedication. Employers who get it and create that culture will find this innovative generation has a lot to contribute.

Of course, it’s not just businesses that can win from working well with millennials. In my Oct. 2 column, I wrote about a trend called reverse mentoring: Companies are pairing grizzled veterans with young up-and-comers. The arrangement works to retain eager young workers and keep older executives technologically and socially relevant. In some instances, it’s a formal arrangement; in others, it’s casual — much like traditional mentoring. But those of us seasoned workers who allow the younger generation to teach us how to use better use technology to communicate and connect will find ourselves more efficient. Our work-life balance is sure to benefit.

Lastly, I must point out that the Family Medical Leave Act celebrated its 20th year in existence in 2013. In our struggle to balance our family lives and our work lives, it is the one law that has made a giant difference for 35 million American workers. It’s been a godsend for those of us who want time to bond with our newborn, care for an aging parent or deal with a health emergency without the fear of losing our jobs. But as I wrote in my Feb. 6 column, FMLA does not guarantee time off with pay, and some of those who need it can’t afford to use it. Those involved in the passage of FMLA say they are pushing forward on the next step — federal legislation that would expand eligibility to more of the workforce and introduce a nationwide paid family leave. I hope the men and women of this country understand how vital this is for all workers and push for change.

Going forward, I believe the big work-life debate will be whether constant connectivity will lead to additional productivity and profitability, or whether just the opposite is true. Time will tell. In my experience, those who manage to disconnect, at least for a while, will find more of the balance that makes life fulfilling.

 

 

October 30, 2013

10 Workplace Trends that Affect the Way We Work

 

Eric Holland designs office space for ADD, Inc. at One Biscayne tower in Miami, but his own office reflects the new design of a more collaborative space where workers can move themselves to other desks around them to work in teams. CW Griffin / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

As we wind down the year, I’ve identified major workplace trends affecting the way we work.

From an individual perspective, understanding these trends will give you an advantage. From an employer perspective, it will help make more informed business decisions. Here are my top 10 that I believe will define 2013 and reshape the way we work in 2014.

1. Flexibility rises in importance. Ask employees what benefit they most value: Flexibility is at the top of their wish lists. Most say it is a key factor they consider when looking for a new job or deciding between offers — and they’re often willing to sacrifice salary to get it.

 What might surprise you is that most working parents (80 percent) say they have “at least a little” flexibility in their current job. That number rises a little each year, according to Moms Corp., a professional staffing franchise that has a focus on flexible placements.

2. Job stress gets attention. More than eight in 10 employed Americans are stressed out by at least one thing about their jobs — mostly poor pay and increasing workloads, according to a 2013 Work Stress Survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College.

The stress has permeated all levels within organizations. Lindsey Pollak, Gen Y career expert and spokeperson for The Hartford Insurance Group’s My Tomorrow campaign, says stress and anxiety are the top reasons millennials use disability insurance. Over the past three years, Ceridian, a provider of employee assistance and wellness programs, reports a 30 percent increase in calls related to stress. Mary Jane Konstantin of Ceridian said employers are addressing this growing concern through stress reduction workshops, on-site chair massages and wellness programs: “It’s within a company’s best interest to think through how it can support activities to help employees better handle stress.”

3. Freelancers rise in numbers. Right now, mid-size and large businesses are hiring freelancers in record numbers to help deal with the rapid pace of change and innovation in the global economy and control costs. New data show one-third of American workers are freelancers. Next year, there will be millions more freelancers, replacing full-time workers, reports NBC News.

A study by Accenture, a management-consulting firm, shows that “even top-level managers and executive teams are being replaced by temporary CEOs, CFOs, COOs and other highly skilled troubleshooters.” Accenture found that the top fields for freelance work include sales and marketing, IT and programming, design and multimedia, engineering and manufacturing, and writing and translation

4. Overtime pay heats up. Employers continue to be besieged by wage-and-hour lawsuits. The wave of class actions started with claims that employers were misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and overtime. Settlements of wage-and-hour cases totaled about $2.7 billion from 2007 to 2012, with $467 million coming from last year, according to a new U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform trends report. “Certainly, the trend in wage-and-hour class actions is they are growing and they are here to stay,” said Paul Ranis at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Fort Lauderdale.

5. Collaboration gains importance. Companies want their staff working in teams, sharing ideas and solving problems. The concept has sparked changes in staffing, office design and the way work is done. It has even triggered some companies, such as Yahoo, to bring remote workers back to the office. Eric Holland, a senior associate principal at ADD Inc., an architecture and design firm in Miami, said clients from accounting firms to call centers have hired him to redesign their workplaces to decrease worker isolation. Many clients want more open layouts with shared spaces and more break rooms, he said. He also said that some clients also want less hierarchy: They want workers at all levels to occupy the same size offices or workstations so they can move and work together more easily.

6. Generational shifts take hold. The shift in workplace demographics is happening in a workplace near you. Boomers are starting to retire, freeing up positions for Gen X and Gen Y managers to move into.

“There will be shift in leadership and the way companies are run,” said Lisa Bonner, senior vice president at Roberts Golden Consulting, Inc. “If there is no pipeline, we’re going to see some gaps. That’s going to be a challenge.”

7. Work-life boundaries erode and get reset. Technology enables many workers to take their jobs home with them and their personal lives to the office. “We’re not hemmed in anymore by walls or clocks,” notes Konstantin.

Yet for all the benefits, workers are feeling exhausted by being “always on.” Konstantin says companies are realizing it — yet many have set up the expectation that their workers are on call 24/7. Now, the conversations are around what’s the middle ground and how to create boundaries, she said.

8. Women outpace men in workplaces. One billion women will enter the workplace in the next decade. Research shows that they are more educated than men and are starting to take leadership positions. Already, four in 10 American households with children younger than age 18 include a mother who is the sole or primary earner for her family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Jennifer Van Buskirk, president of Aio Wireless, plays that role in her family. “It’s empowering,” she said. “You establish your values, priorities and what you want to accomplish.” However, at home, the new dynamic does require marital negotiation: “In my family, we discuss how team Van Buskirk is going to approach life, and we divvy up responsibilities. It all works.”

9. Employees take to social media. Companies are struggling with policy around use of social media at the office. Some will start to leverage their talent and use employees as social-media advocates to recruit staff and market to customers online. Of course, employers will continue to need to remind workers to use common sense on the Internet.

10. Companies embrace employee retention. Employees have lost their enthusiasm. According to the latest State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of U.S. workers don’t like their job. In 2013, companies began realizing that they should be concerned about this because it’s costing them money. Disengaged workers can impact everything from customer service to sales and other business areas. The best companies will take the time to understand what drives their workforce and customize a plan to motivate their employees.

If you see other workplace trends, what are they? Which ones on my list do you think are long-term trends?

 

August 06, 2013

Turning part-time work into full-time work

Getting hired

A friend of mine wanted a part time job during the day while her kids were in school. But when her husband had surgery, and it became apparent he would be out of work for a while, she realized she needed full time work.

She went to her boss to talk it over. Because she had proved herself a good worker, she was able to convince her boss to give her more hours and a schedule that would be managable. It's amazing how workplaces are willing to accommodate someone who proves themself a good worker.

Still, it's not always as easy as asking. I saw this great article: 7 steps for turning part-time work into full-time jobs. I just had to share it with you. It was written by John Alston is a career advisor and coach at The Innis Company. Here's a quick summary of the steps.

1. Specialize: When applying for part-time or contract work, concentrate on fields where your skills and experience will distinguish you as valuable.

2. Differentiate: Whatever your field of expertise, find how you can impact either the top line or the bottom line.

3. Inquire: Ask up front if you can apply for full-time openings that arise during your part-time employment. If you are signing a contract for part-time work, request that it include the potential to be hired full-time. (This is key to getting hired full time!)

4. Commit: Act as if you already are a full-time employee and people might begin to see you as an important part of the team.

5. Out-perform: Aim to out-perform full-time employees who are doing the same or similar jobs as you. 

6. Fit in: Be positive and upbeat. Don't go around the workplace thinking of yourself as “only a contractor.”

7. Reach out: Meet as many key people in the organization as you can. Build an internal network that can help you solve problems and that gets you visibility with decision makers. 

 

 

April 22, 2013

Older men will make workplace flexibility and work life balance a reality

 


Thank you Sheryl Sandberg. Thank you Anne Marie Slaughter. You have brought the conversation of work life balance back into public discussion. But let's face it women, for all our years of talking about work life balance, flexibility and having it all, we really haven't made any huge progress.

I think that soon will change.

I think it will change because older men will make it happen. 

Just the other day, I was talking to Miami law partner in his late 60s who excitedly was telling me all about the summer home he was building in the mountains. I asked him whether he was going to take the summer off work. "Oh no," he said, "I'll just bring my laptop, my cell phone and I'll work from my cabin." This came just days after another senior partner told me he wasn't retiring but instead scaling back his schedule to work from home in the mornings.

Historically, men have been excluded overtly and subtly from the work life conversation. Tanvi Gautam,  managing partner at Global People Tree wrote this for Forbes.com: "The assumption remains that “real” men (single or married) don’t need/want work-life integration. They work long, hard hours and miss meals with family, skip social events, so they can rise to the top of the corporate ladder, if need be at the expense of all else."

For the last decade, women and Millennials have struggled to get organizations to realize that flexibility is needed. Yet, male boomers -- the ones who have resisted giving flexibility to others -- are going to be the ones who make it happen. For them, it's about to get personal.

They are law firm founders, senior executives and chairmen of the boards. But as they age, they still will want their name on the masthead and to share their expertise. They just won't want the 10 to 12 hour days anymore. They will seek the ability to work from home a few days a week or from a vacation home. They will want to pull back from the extreme schedules they worked in the past, and make a gradual transition into retirement, even managing to get organizations to lift or delay mandatory retirement age.

Currently, just 13 percent of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, 18 percent of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center projections. The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until 72, and the majority of Boomers report feeling more spry than their age would imply.

These senior male leaders will push for flexibility for their own personal use and they will get it because they have the clout and connections that women and younger workers lacked. And when the policies change to accommodate them, the women and Millennials will benefit, too. And that's how and when the workplace and policies will evolve.

For now, the rest of us just need to do our best to make our work and life fit together, and then "lean in" and wait for change to happen. It will happen. I see it on the horizon.

March 06, 2013

Do collaboration and flexibility go together?

Think about the last Pixar film you watched. Pretty creative, wasn't it?

Such creativity usually comes from collaboration and that usually comes from face to face interaction.That's collaboration is kind of hard to do if you work from a home office.

At the same time, workers like me want work life balance and the ability to work remotely at least on ocassion. So the question is.... Can companies be innovative and still allow remote working? Is there a middle ground that gives employees flexibility in their schedules and work place but also gives employers the critical mass at the office that's needed for ongoing collaboration?

One business owner told me this is a major challenges he faces as a leader and motivator. Now that Best Buy has followed Yahoo's lead in banning telecommuting, the topic is sure to heat up. What are your thoughts on whether flexibility and collaboration are compatible?

 

WORK/LIFE BALANCING ACT

Face time vs. flexibility: Do employees need both?

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
 
This Feb. 20, 2013 file image released by NBC shows Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appearing on NBC News' "Today" show, in New York to introduce the website's redesign.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Peter Kramer / AP)

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

balancegal@gmail.com

Years ago, on the legal beat at The Miami Herald, I often collaborated with other reporters and editors in the newsroom who weighed in on my story ideas and worked side by side to move a project in a bigger, better direction. Now that I work at home, I miss the back-and-forth banter than can lead to ramped up creativity. and I can understand why companies are taking strong measures to step up collaboration.

Today, the buzz word in business is collaboration, the 21st century driver of innovation and the inspiration behind corporate decision making. The focus on collaboration has led Burger King to take down the walls between its cubicles. It triggered Yahoo’s announcement last week to bring remote workers back to the office. And in October, Apple even attributed executive management changes to a need to encourage more collaboration between the company’s hardware, software and services teams.

This intensified push for face-to-face interaction and information sharing comes at a time when workers are pushing for flexibility, begging the question: Can a collaborative culture be created without impeding work/life balance?

In a bold move last week, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer argued in a memo banning remote working that collaboration happens when people are working side-by-side. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together."

The backlash against Mayer’s banning of telecommuting work was swift and angry. Telecommuting and work/life advocates worried aloud that Mayer was attempting to reverse flexible workplace advances. Outspoken CEO Richard Branson called her decision “a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.”

But can anyone really argue that Mayer is wrong to feel that there is value in the conversations that arise when people are physically together in a room? There’s a reason that Google has configured its offices with a lunch room extraordinaire. It’s to keep people on campus and working together.

Most workplace experts believe the best practices in collaboration strike a happy medium — allowing workers to come to the office some of the time but also manage their own schedules.

Prerna Gupta, chief product officer at Smule, a music app developer, has come up with her ideal solution, which she recently explained in the New York Times. She believes employees should have the flexibility and proper tools to work when and where they want but that the office should remain a gathering place to communicate ideas. After Smule bought her company, Khush, she pushed for the same schedule she had previously instituted; employees come to the office three days a week for five hours, starting at noon, allowing for collaboration. The rest of the week they work from wherever they want.

Attorney Ronald Kammer, who manages the Miami office of law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, says employers have no choice but to find middle ground if they want to keep top talent. “Banning flexibility could lead to losing brain power.”

In law, Kammer has found firms have to be nimble to keep their talented attorneys and most allow myriad flexible arrangements — including working on occasion from vacation homes. Firms also must adopt the right technology to work with legal teams spread across the country. “Clients want the best legal minds working together,” he says. “They don’t care if they’re doing that from the same office or remotely.”

Most companies, though, are struggling to find a structure that satisfies the needs of employers and employees. Corporate futurist Christian Crews, principal of AndSpace Consulting in Fairfield, Ct., says companies with the greatest competitive advantage are “managing the tension between getting engagement from employees who can make their own hours with the tension of getting critical mass in a building to create innovative new approaches to business.”

Crews says requiring employees to work from the office isn’t enough; Collaboration takes management that is forward-thinking and open to embracing technology that facilities brainstorming, along with office configuration that encourages serendipitous run ins. “It’s about taking it beyond Post-it notes on a wall or huddling around a white board.“ Futurists, studying how to encourage and improve face to face collaboration, are looking at new tools for running meetings, he says.

At the same time, experts are studying how to get more from virtual collaboration. Citrix, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, has developed technologies that allow workers to hold virtual meetings, share documents and join together in online work rooms. Now, the company is creating platforms to enter virtual conference rooms where you can actually see who is in them before deciding to enter.

Brett Caine, senior vice president and general manager of the Online Services Division of Citrix, says he sees the benefit of face-to-face meetings, but the advanced technology to allow online collaboration has made the experience richer. “With HD video, it’s as if you are sitting around a conference table sharing content and looking at the emotional reactions.” However, he says, “you have to want to cooperate this way.”

At Citrix, 86 percent of employees work remotely at least some of the time during the week. Teams are spread across the globe and have webcams on their computers. It is an expectation that a colleagues are working from somewhere other than the office. And, it’s a model that works, which is why Citrix is continually improving technology around online collaboration, Caine says. “We believe that notion that being in office is rule right now, but increasingly in the future it will be the exception.”

For now, at least, group meetings are sometimes irreplaceable. A few weeks ago, Miami PR firm owner Tadd Schwartz called his staff together for an impromptu brainstorming session. About a dozen account executives sat in a circle on the floor and couch tossing out ideas for how to tie Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign into more business for its grocery chain client. One suggestion met with giggles, but within seconds a colleague came up with an alternative.

“That back-and-forth banter, that’s where collaboration comes into play,” Schwartz says.

Finding the right balance is one of his biggest challenges, Schwartz says. “Offering employees the option to work from home from time-to-time is something we do, but I know for a fact we work better and are more creative as a unit in the office where we are interacting.”

February 21, 2013

Turning remote workers into team players

When I was toiling away at my computer in the newsroom, working from home sounded sooo glamorous. It sounded like the answer to all my work life balance needs. No commute. No office politics. But what I didn't realize is that when you're part of a team or staff, being miles away from co-workers can be a HUGE challenge. Of course, a good manager can make your challenge easier and help remote workers feel like team members. 

I think the remote workforce is about to explode in numbers. Two savvy women -- Layne Mayer and Mari Anne Snow --  feel the same way and they are creating a website/social networking community for remote workers and the companies that employ them. It's in early stages now but it's called Sophaya.com. I checked it out and I think it has promise.

Here's my article from The Miami Herald that tackles the topic of managing a remote workforce.

 

 

Remote employees require care to feel like part of the team

By CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN
 
Ken Condren, VP of technology at C3/CustomerContactChannels, video conferences from his office with a co-worker to show how virtual employees keep in touch.
(Ken Condren, VP of technology at C3/CustomerContactChannels, video conferences from his office with a co-worker to show how virtual employees keep in touch.
Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff)

By CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

balancegal@gmail.com

Working from home, hundreds of miles away from your boss, may sound like a perk, but that’s not always the case.

Ken Condren remembers the moment when he experienced the frustration his remote employees face. He was working from home, participating in a conference call and heard a side conversation going on, but had no idea what was being said. “I felt so out of the loop,” Condren recalls.

Today, businesses want the talent they want – and are more willing to hire or retain someone to fill a job even if they live or move thousands of miles away. Yet even with a great number of employees working remotely, nobody wants to be that guy who doesn’t get the inside joke during a conference call.

When the success of a team depends on the people, and all the people are scattered, it’s the manager who must make sure relationships stay vital and productivity high. Getting the most out of remote workers takes a manager who knows how to motivate and communicate from a distance. “Virtual workers still need a personal connection,” says strategic business futurist Joyce Goia, president of The Herman Group. “They want camaraderie and to feel like they are part of a team.”

More managers are using technologies such as videoconferencing, instant messenger and other collaborative software to help make remote workers feel like they are “there” in the office. Not being able to speak face-to-face can quickly be solved with Skype, Face Time or simple VoIP systems.

Condren, vice president of technology at C3/CustomerContactChannels in Plantation, uses Microsoft Lync to connect virtually with a team spread across geographies and time zones. Employees see a green light on their screen when a colleague is available, signaling it’s a good time to video chat or instant message. Instead of meeting in physical conference rooms, team members get together in a virtual work room where they can hold side conversations during conference calls or meet in advance to prepare for the call. “You lose the visibility of waving hands during an in person meeting, but we can build that with virtual workspaces.”

Beyond that, Condren says he holds weekly video conference calls with his staff to help his remote workers become better team players. He also sets aside 45 minutes to an hour each week to check in with his remote workers. “It’s a little extra effort to make sure they are giving me the updates that happen casually in the office.”

Condren says adapting to a virtual workforce has allowed him to hire talent in any geographic market with the skill set he wants. And he has been able to hire them at competitive salaries.

In the current economy, such flexibility can be critical for a company looking to attract top talent. CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz says the recession has created a less transient workforce, making it difficult for workers to sell their homes and relocate. “Employers are turning to remote work opportunities to navigate the skills deficit.”

Even from a distance, managers say there are ways to hone in on remote workers who are having problems. Billie Williamson managed virtual teams as a partner for Ernst & Young and would focus on the tone of someone’s voice during a group conference call. She would even listen for silences. “Silence can mean consent, or it can mean the person you’re not hearing disagrees or is disengaged.” If she sensed a team member was lacking engagement, she would follow up immediately.

 

 

December 08, 2012

How to strike work life balance as an entrepreneur

I consider myself somewhat of an entrepreneur but one day I hope to have a booming business with employees. For now, I'm on my own and I'm watching closely as others choose the entrepreneurial path. As glamouous as it sounds, I've seen that entrepreurship comes with challenges -- particularly strking a work life balance.

Today, Michael Castilla is my guest blogger and shares his work/life experiences as startup founder, student, specialist,and ultimately as an entrepreneur born and raised in Miami, FL by a
middle-class Cuban family. Connect with him @micr0bitz.

  Castilla

 

 

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/worklifebalancingact/#storylink=cpy

An entrepreneur, regardless of age, has to make very important and usually risky decisions. The earlier you realize who you are and are able to establish long-term goals, the earlier you are able to establish a path for yourself. I've made many important decisions over the past few years that have influenced my path, and I've narrowed down 4 key opportunities and experiences I'd like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Identifying myself as an entrepreneur

 

Identifying myself as an entrepreneur was a big deal. I've been involved with technology and business for the past five years, but only within the past two years have I been able to truly discover my inner entrepreneur. Where could he have been hiding? This wasn't my first hurdle, but it was crucial for every other step in my career to happen.

What is the definition of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.  -Howard Stevenson

Upon making this realization, I've been able to create more opportunities for myself. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle.

Now with this new word in my head, I've been able to search for entrepreneur-related terms, which has lead to me to explore new and exciting content I never knew existed, right at my finger tips. The Internet is a beautiful thing.

By the definition above, this pursuit of opportunity may sound risky. How can you pursue something you're not entirely sure about? You would be surprised that you can make a career out of taking risks and following your passions. The key idea to take from this definition is that entrepreneurship is an opportunity.

Lesson: Define who you are and never look back.

The path of an entrepreneur sure is bumpy, but it's most definitely satisfying. My only regret is that I didn't realize who I was at a younger age. I hope any aspiring students who read this will be motivated to identify themselves as early as possible.

When your teachers and parents tell you "be the best you can be", what they really mean is you have the opportunity to be whoever you want and to do something you really love and to not let anyone stop you, including them.

2. Pursuing a career following my passions

 

Next up, do you know someone unsatisfied with their job? It happens to majority of the American working population.

Upon my senior year or high school, I had collected enough resources and networking via the Internet to decide to pursue a career following my passions as, what I consider myself today, a Freelance Digital Craftsman. It's a semi-broad title, but it means I create digital stuff for different companies. I was fond of the idea of making money in your boxers from your laptop. I've recently decided to go full-time with this career, but just a year ago, I was an unmotivated college student who literally couldn't wait to graduate.

Ultimately, I've been taking my 20's seriously. I've decided to take the next 10 years (crap, that's a lot) to get good at this tech stuff. My visions for technology are great and I believe I can make a successful career from these passions.

Lesson: Believe in your passions and relevant opportunities will present themselves.

I'm fortunate to have had my sights set on technology and business since middle school and not a day goes by where I'm not involved with either. Because I'm passionate about these areas and I'm pursuing them as a career, I have the opportunity to not have to commit to a job that doesn't interest me.

3. Moving to a central location within Miami

I had the opportunity to temporarily live on South Beach this past summer and I jumped on it immediately. This opened up my eyes to local business opportunities and allowed me to realize the potential of the community I've been living in my entire life.

Since then I've moved into a house in Little Havana, where I've had much easier access to Brickell and Wynwood, two of the hottest districts in Miami right now.

I was previously living with my parents in Kendall. There were many benefits to running a home-based startup, especially since I had no commute, rent was free, high-speed Internet, and my parents were there to support me. What more could you ask for?

But asides from those great benefits, I was spending too much time at my desk behind my computer, away from all the real action. I yearned for more work experience and engagement with other like-minded people.

If you're eager for creating connections, you should interact with many people on a day to day basis both off and online.

Lesson: Conquer local, before global. Take advantage of the invaluable resources in your own city. Research products created by local startups and find out who's hiring. Not everything you can find locally can be found online.

4. Becoming a member of a co-working space

 

I'm proud to say that that Miami now offers a variety of co-working spaces. This leads me to the latest and most important decision I've made this year. I recently became a flex member of Pipeline Brickell, a professional co-working space on the 8th floor of South Tower. On the first day they opened, I showed up with a big smile, met the staff, and signed up! Up until my first visit, I had been following their social media presence but after a tour of the facilities, I was literally sold.

Since joining just last month, I've already become more connected within Miami than I've been my entire life living here. I attended their official launch party in early November, which was very successful and has already lead to new opportunities. Since making these moves, it's been very enjoyable to work so close to home. I can park my car in Mary Brickell Village and walk a few blocks over to Pipeline.

I'm also particularly excited about The LAB Miami's big expansion to their own warehouse. They're hosting HackDay at their new facilities in December, but they're officially opening January 2013. Once they're up and running, they will have the potential to really capture Miami's potential and put our talent to good work.

Lesson: Like-minded people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

My Current Life/Work Balance

If the concept of a 9-5 position makes you cringe, this should make you smile. The freedom of an freelance entrepreneur's work schedule is highly attractive, leaving more time for family and friends, but there are still only 24 hours in a day. As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to be creative with your schedule, as long as you're still putting in the hours.

Daily exercise and a smart diet have also attributed to a healthy work/life balance. As a freelancer, you come to learn staying health is very important for business. In no way have I chosen the path of least resistance. I haven't necessarily chosen to create my own path, but I have chosen a path least followed. You don't always have to re-invent the wheel, sometimes just spinning it will do the trick.

Most importantly, I've realized no one is going to make these decisions or create these opportunities for me. The younger you get involved with problem solving, whether it be parking issues in the city or complex programming design patterns, the more prepared you will be to make important decisions down any path you decide to create or follow.

As an entrepreneur, you're the key player on your team, the ball is always in your court, you're a referee, and a goalie. There are very little rules in this game and no one tells you what to do or how to do it. Create your own opportunities!

If this article sparks any interest in you, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or comments. I would love to hear from you! michaelcastilla.com / @micr0bitz

 

November 07, 2012

Starting a business while holding a full time job

Tonya Seavers Evans, a South Florida entrepreneur, is on her way to building a success image consulting company. She started her business while working full time, experiencing all the growing pains while bringing home a paycheck. But Tonya, she really enjoyed helping professionals and businesses with image and style needs and she found if she really wanted to make a go of the business, she needed to concentrate on it full time. For the last year, she's been doing that, and so far, it's progressing nicely.

Entrepreneurs say it is possible to launch a start up while working a day job. But it's not easy. At some point, you will need to give the business your all if you want to take it to the next level. So, how do you know when you're at that point? See my Miami Herald column below...

Work/Life Balancing Act

Workers with side businesses dream of quitting their day jobs

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Launching a startup business while holding down a day job makes financial sense, but entrepreneurs dream of the day they will be ready to take the leap.

Eric and Chantale Trouillot own Peak Textiles, which makes hospital gowns. They pose with one of the gowns. 

Tonya Seavers Evans, founder of Style Strategist Inc.

 

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

balancegal@gmail.com

It’s one of the biggest decisions that startup entrepreneurs must make — when to quit their day jobs.

Chantale Trouillot has been debating that question for the last five years. She dreams of when she can permanently exchange her nurse uniform for a business suit. For now, she juggles caring for patients with selling decision makers on her innovative product, a more functional hospital gown.

The balancing act, she says, “hasn’t been easy,” but from a practical standpoint “we have to pay the bills.”

Although U.S. business startup activity has jumped above pre-recession levels during the last four years, entrepreneurs like Trouillot still are hesitant to take the full-time plunge. Making the decision requires a tricky calculation: weighing passion and persistence against financial stability and viability.

If you’re too poor or too unsure, you can start a company while employed — no investor will knock you for that, says Violette Sproul, founder of Femfessionals, which organizes events in U.S. cities to help businesswomen connect. But starting a company and holding down a day job takes time management and focus. “You quickly discover it is not as easy as you think it will be,” says Sproul, who started her business while working a full-time job before making the leap.

A few months after Trouillot secured a patent for her innovative hospital gown, her husband, Eric, left the souring real estate business to take over marketing and sales. Together, the two have taken Peak Textiles in Coral Springs to the next level — finding a financial partner to manufacture and warehouse the innovative, less revealing hospital gowns. Eric does the heavy lifting — cold-calling, attending trade shows, negotiating contracts, and meeting with prospects — while Chantale makes the high-level presentations to hospital decision-makers about the clinical benefits of the gowns. The Trouillots sold 100,000 hospital gowns in 2011, and they expect to double that this year. “It would have been impossible for us to get to this level without one of us devoting ourselves to it full-time,” Chantale says.

By becoming an agency rather than hospital staff nurse, Chantale says she has managed to get some flexibility in her schedule. In some ways, her work has been good for business. It allows her to further build relationships in the hospitals and speak authoritatively on need.

“Our goal is we want our gown to be the standard hospital gown,” Eric says. Chantale says it might take another five years before the business generates enough profit to make it her full-time job. Meanwhile, the key to balance, she says, has been keeping one day a week for herself. “We all need to unwind. For me, Sundays is my day with family.”

One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is the risk of burning out. Holding down a full-time job while running a part-time business can leave you with little, if any, leisure time. Heidi Elden has discovered balancing both takes intense organization. She works a full-time job in the evenings as a bar manager at a restaurant in Delray Beach. During the days, she focuses on her entrepreneurial venture, Lingerini, a fashionable hybrid between lingerie and swim wear. “It is tough trying to keep focused,” Elden says