March 21, 2017

What It's Really Like Working From Home

 

                                             Work

 

It's noon, and I'm still in my pajamas, trying desperately to finish my article and take a shower. I work from home and why it sounds awesome, it isn't always awesome. Sticking to a routine isn't always easy.  I never have to fight traffic, which is a huge benefit. But I also have to make an effort to keep to a routine and sometimes I have to fight the feeling of isolation. Today, my guest blogger weighs in with his thoughts on working from home and the surprising results of a new study on remote working.

Let me introduce you to Dan Schwabel.  Dan has tons of knowledge at his fingertips. He's a guru on personal branding and an expert on millennials in the workplace. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0, and the Research Director at Future Workplace.  I think you're going to enjoy his perspective:

 

 

Dan_schawbel_outside
Dan Schawbel enjoys working from home


 

After I graduated college back in 2006, I landed my first full-time corporate job at a Fortune 200 company. As an introvert who needs space in order to think creatively and be productive, I always wanted the flexibility to work remote but never received that benefit. In fact, after my third role at the company, as their first social media specialist, I was told that I would have to run the social media accounts from the office daily. I once asked my manager if I could work from home at least part-time and he said “we can’t allow for that because it will make your colleagues jealous”. After I quit my job to start my own company, I finally was in a position to work remote seven days a week.

I’ve now been working from home almost full-time for over six years. I’m not alone in my quest for a more flexible work life. After interviewing over 25,000 employees globally, in partnership with Polycom, our study found that about three in every four employees say their company offers flexible working and almost a third regularly work remote. The emergence of collaborative technologies has enabled the remote workforce, lowering commuting costs and empowering people with the freedom to manage their personal and professional life.  

The main finding from the study is that remote work is driving people to pick up the phone more and focus on personal relationships. I see this with my organization, as I feel the need to schedule more phone meetings in order to have a human connection despite being alone in my New York apartment. While working from home can be isolating, it can also be freeing but you have to manage your time wisely because no one else will hold you accountable but you.

In order to be successful working from home, I created my own daily habits that allow me to focus on the right work at the right time and take the necessary breaks so that I can incorporate my interests, friends and family into my life. For instance, every morning I wake up, cook breakfast while Amazon Alexa tells me the weather forecast, political news and HBR’s daily tip. Then, I focus on the most critical work first because I’m more productive earlier in the day. I’ll then take a coffee break, workout or go to lunch with one of my contacts. From there, I get right back to work before I make dinner or go to a local networking event. By creating, and committing to, a daily routine it can help you incorporate all aspects of your life that are important to you.

While I felt more isolated working independently over the years, now that I have a team, it has forced me to pick up the phone more, go to the office at least a few times each month and have some constant interactions each day. By feeling more connected to others, and having a support system, it’s had a positive impact on both my work and personal life.

Remote workers don’t have to struggle when it comes to maintaining balance and strong relationships. What they do have to do is put together a plan, establish daily habits and answer the most important question “what matters to me?” Once you decide what you care about, incorporate those activities and people into your daily life.

 

 

Here are some interesting quotes on the findings of the remote working survey:


Quotes

“There is a stigma that remote workers are disconnected from the rest of the team, yet this study proves that they are more sociable and proactively reach out to develop strong relationships. The new technology tools that enable communication and collaboration are actually motivating workers to pick up the phone, seek face time and create lasting bonds. This is the upside of remote work we rarely talk about.”

– Jeanne Meister, Partner, Future Workplace 

 “We predicted that 2016 would be the ‘year of video’, and it’s satisfying to know that people are starting to adopt this way of working. What it also tells us is that more businesses need to be able to offer collaboration tools - to enable that human contact that people crave - or risk losing out to those businesses who are able to offer flexibility and have access to talent and retain talent as a result.”

 – Mary McDowell, CEO, Polycom
 

 

 

March 13, 2017

Exhausted at work? How to survive the change to Daylight Savings Time

 

                                                                  Tired

 

This morning I woke up in the pitch dark. I looked outside wanted to go back to bed. My clock said it was time to wake up but my body did not agree. Ugh... Daylight Savings Time just robbed us of an hour of precious, glorious sleep.

Today, I'm dragging myself around sleep deprived. The worst part is some experts say this groggy jet lacked feeling could last all week.

Yep, that's right...we might be exhausted ALL WEEK.

The worst part is that many people already were exhausted.  Losing an hour of sleep will mean an already tired workforce will be working on even less shut-eye, says Anna Kwok, vice president for Accountemps in Fort Lauderdale, an accounting staffing agency. A study from staffing firm Accountemps found 74% of professionals admitted to already being tired at work, with nearly one-third saying they’re short on sleep very often.

When we're tired at work, we're less focused, more grumpy and stand more of a chance of making stupid mistakes. In the Accountemps survey one really tired respondent admitted to deleting a project that took 1,000 hours to put together. Another admitted to falling asleep in front of the boss during a presentation. So embarrassing!

Some people are lucky enough to work at companies, like Ben & Jerry's, Google and Zappos, that  encourage napping on the job to promote psychological and professional benefits. I bet those nap rooms are going to be busy today!

The rest of us have to find some other way to fight that tired feeling. Here are some ideas:

  • Take occasional breaks. Get away from your desk and walk around the office.
  • Resist cravings for junk food. Instead, keep healthy snacks around to give you stamina
  • Stay hydrated. It is a key factor in staying awake. Try putting ice in your water bottle; the cold water will keep you lively and alert.
  • Work reasonable hours. This is not the week for launching new all-encompassing projects. Staying late while you get adjusted to the time change can lead to mistakes. 
  • Sit up. Slouching can lead to fatigue.
  • Use eyedrops. Splashing a couple drops in your eyes will make you feel more refreshed
  • Tug on your earlobes. Yes, this sounded crazy to me, too, when I heard it. But because of acupoints on your ears, this is a way to get the brain going. Worth a try.

(If you need them, there are more ideas at popsugar.com)

As you reach for another cup of coffee today, be patient with yourself. It may take a few days to get your body clock back on track. In the meantime, I'm going to go to bed earlier tonight and I'm going to try to follow Taylor Swift's advice  and  "shake It off."

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 10.02.14 AMC

 

 

Click here for full infographic...

February 21, 2017

Don't let it end with Valentine's Day! How to fit romance into your work life balance

 

 

Romance

 

As we look back at Valentine's Day through our rearview mirror,  I feel a little glum. The roses are now on sale. The chocolate filled hearts are half price. And the tips on how to add romance into my life are no longer flowing into my inbox.

Yet, I want romance all year long. That’s not an easy task when most American workers find their work and home lives are blending together and work life balance is harder than ever to achieve.  Even after putting in a full day of work, the typical chaos is underway at my home. I am scrambling to come up with an easy dinner, my husband’s cell phone is buzzing with work emergencies and our son needs to be shuttled to and from school for his team practices every night.

That doesn’t exactly set the tone for romance.

I look to Kathryn Sansone for inspiration. Kathryn, a mother of 10, wrote a book called Woman First, Family Always: Real-life Wisdom from a Mother of Ten.

Years ago, I met Kathryn in person and she told me: ``Jim and I always carve out time for just the two of us. It's not always easy, but we don't waste time trying to figure out if we deserve it.''  Kathryn told me she and her husband make coffee breaks their ''alone time.'' At least once a week, after the younger kids go to bed, they slip out for coffee and give each other their undivided attention.

Late night coffee breaks? That actually sounds kinds of romantic.

If Kathryn can make alone time with ten kids in her home, I can too. And, so can you.

Recently, my husband and I went to a Friday night happy hour. We hadn’t been to happy hour in a long time. We drank fruity cocktails, and laughed about all the silly things that happened that week. Spending time together in a fun setting without interruptions felt so wonderful.

Lately, my husband and I have been taking walks together after dinner for about 10 to 15 minutes. We leave our phones at home. Those 10 minutes have become my favorite time of the day. 

Years ago, a love coach told me that everyone should make five to 10 minutes a day to give their spouse or significant other their undivided attention. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but most of us don’t do it.

Making time for intimacy requires turning off the TV or putting down your iPad, facing your partner and saying, "What would you like to talk about?" or “Tell me something good about your day.” Giving your partner your 100 percent attention will make him or her feel loved and important to you. That usually is how romance starts -- and how it lasts.

September 08, 2016

Patrick Dempsey On How to Set Marriage As a Priority

One of the most difficult things in a romantic partnership is staying on the same page throughout life, particularly as we navigate work life balance. Sometimes as you go through phases of life, your priorities are different from your significant other's, they just are. And that's when keeping the relationship strong gets tricky.

I loved the interview with Patrick Dempsey in People Magazine that addressed his struggling marriage and how he has worked on keeping it, rather than giving up. 

Patrick-dempsey-435x580

Here are a few quotes from the interview that spoke volumes about setting priorities:

 "It's always destabilizing when you're potentially breaking up a family or you have a big section of your life that's ending. Everybody has their own path," says Dempsey, 50. "Jill and I decided it was time to work on our issues and improve. We wanted to be role models for our kids like, okay, if you have differences, you can work them out."

People explained that Dempsey, who left Grey's Anatomy in April 2015, also began to pull back from his passion for car racing, in order to devote more time to his family.

"You can only do one thing at a time and do it well," he says. "I [learned] to prioritize. Our union has to be the priority. I wasn't prepared to give up on her and she wasn't either. We both wanted to fight for it." "

Now, Dempsey refers to his marriage as a "new beginning," and says he's learned what it takes to keep his relationship strong.

"You've got to keep at it," he says. "You've got to communicate, and stay open and not get lazy. And not give up. And lots of sex!"

By the way, Dempsey is in Bridget Jones's Baby, out Sept. 16. 

See full interview here

 

 

 

 

September 02, 2016

How to find work life balance during Labor Day Weekend

                                               Chair

 

Here it is, the weekend we've been waiting for...three days of fun with friends, family or a romantic interest. 

Now, it's time for your confession....will you spend time this weekend looking at email, thinking about work or fretting about what awaits you on Tuesday morning?

Don't do it! 

Now, that's a lot easier for me to say than it is for you to do. Still, here are my 5 tips to find work life balance during the holiday weekend:

 

1. Stay present in the moment: If you respond to emails and texts while doing an activity with a friend, family member or boyfriend, you’re not really with them. Your divided attention works against you and forces you to be two places at once. Do one thing at a time, and stay mindful about that one thing. You will enjoy your weekend so much more!

2. Prioritize fun. Something you will try to tackle this weekend is probably not a real priority. Ask yourself which mundane tasks can wait so you can get to those that are more enjoyable.

3. Block off time for something special. What is something you've been putting off all year because you just were too busy? If that's a book you want to read, start it this weekend. If it's a movie you've wanted to watch, do it. If it's a television you want to binge, no harm in pulling an all nighter like you did when you were a kid. There's no better time than a long weekend to get to the task that will bring you joy.

4. Work toward a goal. If you have something big you want to accomplish, use the holiday weekend to take a small step to move forward. You don't have to run an entire marathon, but if that's your goal, run a mile and end the holiday weekend with a sense of accomplishment.

5. Be positive and worry free. Put your worries and negativity into a shoebox for the weekend. Agree with all those you come in contact with to be in vacation mode and think only positive thoughts. If you're used to working all the time, it can feel stressful to let go for a few days. Tell yourself everything will be okay and everyone else is powering down, too. 

For many of us, this weekend really is the end of summer. Enjoy all that it represents and don't feel guilty! Happy Labor Day!

 

Timetorelax
 

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2016

How to survive back-to-school as a working parent

Sommer davis
(Sommer Davis and her family/ Photo by Shannon Kaestle)

 

For years, I've heard people say it takes a village to raise a child. Most working parents will agree with that statement. But I haven't read much on how to build your village. So this week in my Miami Herald column, I set out to help working parents build a support team for a better work life balance.

If you're a mother or father trying to adapt to a new school routine, here is where you should look to build your support team:

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

When the boss is not understanding, try to find co-workers who you can rely on in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.

 

Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, suggests take time now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the workforce, you and your spouse need to work as a well-functioning team. Today more fathers are helping to make dinner, pick up kids from school, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. For others, family members such as grandparents or aunts are critical to their support team. Don't feel bad asking a family member for help, often they enjoy the time with their young family members.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. "I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: You might want to make your child's teacher part of your team, too.  On back-to-school night, put teachers’ contact information into your phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who you can call for help. Some teachers will allow a helpful child (or teen) to stay in their classrooms after school for a short while.

As this school year kicks off, start now to assemble your team. You may need it sooner than you  think.

 

 

 

 

 

August 04, 2016

Do we work as much as we think we do?

Keyboard

(Photo by Jay LaPrete AP)

 
 

 

If you're like me, you feel like you're working A LOT. But are you as overworked as you think you are?

According to the American Time Use Survey, full time workers only put in about 40 hours a week, and only five minutes more a week than a decade ago.

What it doesn't account for, though, is how we work.

In this hyper-connected age, working hours might still be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours to do work can stretch from midnight to midnight, with emails zipping through the ether at the convenience of the sender, but not necessarily the recipient, as noted by Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan

I don't know about you, I tend to interval work, which means I switch from task to task at home and the office, taking care of personal responsibilities and work responsibilities as needed. If your workday is anything like mine, you might sit down in front of your computer screen to start a project and become distracted by a new email. Then, you might work for an hour, and take a quick break to check Facebook.

The switching between personal and business tasks at the workplace has become so habitual that some researchers believe Americans spend as much as two hours of an eight-hour workday doing non-work tasks, whether or not we realize it. Two hours is a lot isn't it? Of course, no one can work 8 hours straight without going crazy. We all need breaks!

I think what makes me feel like I'm working so much is that even when I am at home and not actually working, I still feel the tug of work on my brain. It's that always on feeling that researchers say creates chronic stress and emotional exhaustion.

In our desire for work/life balance, it's just as difficult to know how much time we spend on leisure activities as work tasks, in part because of the increase in smartphone use. The American Time Use Survey shows Americans spend about five hours a day doing leisure activity, with television watching accounting for more than half of that time. However, many people watch television with their mobile devices in hand and sporadically check work email.

When employers ask workers to manually track their work time, productivity improves, according to Fred Krieger, CEO of Scoro, a San Francisco productivity/project management software firm. If you really tracked the hours you work, how much do you think it would add up to? Do you consider multi-tasking -- watching television and checking email to be work or leisure time? It's kind of tricky, isn't it? But if we can improve our productivity by tracking our time, it might be worth doing.

What do you think your time diary would reveal?

 

 

 

July 06, 2016

Read for some fun? How to fit a hobby into your work life balance

 

With my kids getting older, I'd love to become a better cook or learn to paddleboard. At times, I'm envious of my teenagers who don't hesitate to pursue their hobbies along with their studies. Most of us are just trying to get by, living our life in the day to day struggle of balancing everything already on our plates. Today, my guest blogger is Marty Pomphrey, co-founder of Aulta, a direct to consumer, water-resistant watch company. Marty balances his hobbies and running a business and says doing so has improved his work life. Here is his perspective:

 

Marty

 

 

Growing up we had a small lake next to our house that held endless fascination for me. Every day I would speed through my homework so that I could go fishing or explore the creeks that rushed through the forest when the heavy rains came. I would stay out for hours until darkness or dinner finally forced me to come in. But somewhere along the way I grew up, went to college, started working, and life became unequivocally drier.

It wasn’t until I left a secure job ten years ago to start my first business that I even gave the loss a second thought. Lifestyle is an interesting word. By definition, it encompasses the daily manner in which a person lives but is often used in the context of a guilty pleasure, the weekend, or life after retirement. At my last job I was terrible at making time for myself during the week. Work was always the first priority. So when I struck out on my own, I vowed to do better. What I didn’t know then was that my lifestyle choices would actually create a new business. I just needed to get wet again.

 

Surfing is the common thread that connects me with my business partners at AULTA, a direct to customer watch brand that we launched in 2015.  Abe Allouche is a Miami native and founder of the surf apparel company Island Daze and Pancho Sullivan is a former pro surfer from Hawaii. I met Abe completely by accident seven years ago when I left work a couple hours early to wind down with nine holes of golf. It was Abe who taught me how to surf, and a year later I found myself flying with him to meet Pancho in Hawaii for my first surf trip at the tender age of 40. And it was sitting on our surfboards in the ocean during the trip that the idea for AULTA was born. An incredible chain reaction traced back to a two-hour lifestyle break.

Connecting back to my love of water through surfing had an immediate positive impact on me. I realized physical benefits for sure, but the mental and emotional changes were as important. When the waves come, I feel like a kid again and stay out in the water even after the sun sinks below the horizon.  What I didn’t expect was that fitting a hobby into my life and learning to surf in my forties would also teach me valuable business lessons. Here are my big three:

Get out of your comfort zone

I used to rely heavily on being the most prepared person in the room, but I wasn’t that great at improvising on the spot. Consequently, I didn’t step out of my comfort zone unless I had to, which meant that I wasn’t growing enough as a professional. There is no growth to be found in any endeavor worth pursuing without some measure of discomfort. Surfing made me confront this reality in a very physical way.  For any surfer, there are days when the waves are bigger than they are used to handling and this often results in being tossed around a bit, or even held down underwater. But this means you will have more confidence the next time out because of that experience. The hard days are always the best learning days.

 

Don’t panic. Assess and then react

My first surf trip to Hawaii was a massive learning experience. Winter on the North Shore of Oahu is the proving ground for the best surfers in the world in waves of consequence, and I was just a beginner. I asked Pancho what to do if a wave held me down, and he told me to just let my body go limp and the wave would eventually let me go. Struggling just uses up oxygen and everything goes downhill pretty quickly from there. Two days later I found myself being ragdolled underwater two hundred yards from shore and somehow remembered Pancho’s advice. And just like he said the wave let go when it was finished with me, not the other way around. Sometimes the best first course of action in life and in business is to do nothing.

 

When life slows down, amazing happens

AULTA simply wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met Abe that day on the golf course, and that meeting was the result of a deliberate choice on my part. Whenever I find the seesaw of work/life balance tipping in the wrong direction I try to stop and remind myself of this important fact. A well-rounded lifestyle, including taking up a hobby, is a personal choice, and we all need some level of counterbalance to a hard day’s work. Burnout becomes a reality if you don’t refuel somehow. I love what I do but work exacts a daily toll, and work/life balance is a challenge for anyone.  The ocean is simply that place I go to recharge my engines. Each person has his or her own charging station; the trick is to make time to go there.

How do you plan to create time for a hobby you've always dreamed of pursuing? 

 

April 07, 2016

Should You Hit "Send" at midnight? The unwritten rules of email

 

                                    Bed

 

It's close to midnight and I'm still awake. Not only that, but I've broken all my own rules about logging on late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I'm feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn't decaf like I thought it was.

I have just composed a response to an email I was trying to get to all day. But now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?  On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing it's off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I'm working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.

SendUgh....what to do? What are the rules, anyway?

Recently, I spoke on a panel to an audience of PR professionals (mostly women). The topic of late night email came up. Most of the audience admitted to getting back on their computers after dinner or after their kids are in bed -- at least a few nights a week. Some of them admitted, they too struggle with the etiquette of late night email.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let's add journalist and publicist to that list. Heck, let's add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professions.

However, there are people who don't believe in taking work home. Some get annoyed by late-night work email and look down on the sender. These people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don't appreciate others who break those boundaries. My husband believes sending late night emails creates an impression you're disorganized. 

I noticed working mothers tend to be okay with sending emails in the evening hours. They understand that "doing it all" might mean sending an email at 10, 11 or even midnight.

In a recent column, Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.

A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but waits until the morning to hit send. I think her approach may be the way to go. I see 11 p.m. as the cutoff time to hit send. After that time, I am going to take the banker's approach and wait until the morning.

To be clear, I don't think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m.  But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this "always on" attitude is the direction business is going.

What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there's a reason or hard stop time to hold back on hitting send? Are you put off when someone sends you a late night email?

 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!