Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a two-part series about the importance of happiness in the workplace. You can read the first post here.
The conventional pursuit of happiness places a great deal of emphasis on success. Shawn Anchor, author of “The Happiness Advantage” and motivational speaker states that this philosophy is completely backwards.
Anchor’s lectures and seminars on positive psychology are the most popular classes at Harvard University and in recent years he’s established a name for himself as a world authority on happiness in the workplace. Anchor’states “when we are positive, our brains become more creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive at work.” These theories have led many businesses to implement their own happiness strategies to increase employee engagement.
If you’re struggling to keep your employees enthused about work, developing your own “happiness strategy” could give them that much needed motivational boost. Employees who aren’t happy usually won’t have the drive to do their job at peak performance. Even when money is tight there are always ways to implement a happiness strategy without hindering your company’s finances. These tips will help you get started.
Acknowledge good work
Always praise your employees when they perform well. Don’t have the “it’s what they get paid to do” attitude, even if it’s true. Spend a few minutes out of your day to recognize good work and dish out compliments. If you feel like you don’t have anything to rave about, rather than focus on the negatives remind your employees about a successful quarter or pleased client. Emphasizing the positives is much better than emphasizing the negatives. One company that ensures its employees are acknowledged is Google. Over the past few years they’re made several small changes that have increased the happiness of their staff.
Exercise doesn’t just have physical benefits; it will also stimulate the mind and increase productivity. Give your employees the option to take a walk or engage in 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day, outside of their normal breaks. It’s no secret that exercise makes people feel great and could be just what your employees need to start thinking more positively. In addition, consider running a company exercise program and encourage everyone to take part – set weight loss goals, create a diet plan and schedule weekly weigh-ins to keep everyone on their toes.
Open New Doors
The thought of being stuck in the same job position, with the same wage, the same holidays and the same prospects can be very demoralizing. Don’t be afraid to open doors and provide incentives to employees who perform well. Accountancy firm Mercer and Hole recognizes the importance of promotions and credit their incentive program for helping them achieve the rank of one of the top 50 accountancy firms in the UK.
Focus on Engagement
Encourage creativity and spend a little time each week asking your employees for their honest opinions. Getting everyone to feel like part of the team and not just another cog in the machine could drive your business towards success.
Make these positive changes as soon as possible. Incorporate your new “happiness strategy” into your business plan and follow it through. It could yield results that you never thought were possible.
About the Author: Jenna Evans works part-time as an Employee Relations Adviser at Tollers Solicitors. She enjoys eating far too many noodles and travelling. She is also in the early stages of researching for a book related to empowering women in business.
Healthy employees make for a healthy bottom line. The mental and physical health of your employees has a direct effect on your business’ performance. To emphasize this synergy, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at health-focused companies that won its Health Achievement Award and found they consistently outperformed the
Standard & Poor’s 500 index between 1999 and 2012. Companies that emphasize a healthy work culture are more valuable to investors and remarkably impact business performance.
Laughter: An Important Ingredient in a Healthy Workplace
Sure, businesses offer company-sponsored health programs, and the typical ambitious businessperson participates in them. Yet among yoga practice and running, laughter in the workplace can also improve health. Laughter has numerous health benefits—it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormone levels, improves cardiac health and releases endorphins, according to Gaiam Life. Laughter is a healthy high that creates a productive and more engaged working environment.
“Health, happiness and productivity are intrinsically linked,” Josh Stevens told FoxBusiness.com. As CEO of Keas, a workplace health and wellness program, Stevens believes poor health directly affects employee disengagement, lost productivity and low job satisfaction. Employers can use humor as a cost-effective tool that improves an employee’s mental and physical health for enhanced productivity. Humor can release tension and reduce boredom for tedious and repetitive work. A hearty laugh can lower anxiety and stress, which helps an employee concentrate and focus on high-pressure projects.
Embrace a laid-back, relaxing (and productive) work environment where employees can naturally be themselves and make jokes. In an Australian study of 2,500 employees, 81 percent of the surveyed employees believe a fun working environment correlates to more productivity, and 93 percent said on-the-job laughing lowers work-related stress, according to the essay “Humor in the Workplace: Anecdotal Evidence Suggests Connection to Employee Performance.” A Robert Half International survey supports the humor and productivity relationship—84 percent of surveyed execs believe people who have a good sense of humor do better on the job.
Humor connects employees and boosts employee team-building, which creates an open, expressive and trusting work environment. If employees can bond over a silly joke and share a laugh, then those same employees are likely to positively collaborate on ideas and work well together on a project to achieve a common goal.
Get Merrier This Holiday Season
Welcome humor into the workplace by creating a non-hierarchical, innovative office culture that encourages employees to comfortably be who they are (within common-sense, professional limitations, of course). As the end of 2013 approaches, here are some fun holiday-themed events you can use to keep up employee momentum and motivation:
- Invite co-workers to happy hour
- Host a funny family photo contest. Invite employees to submit their silliest Christmas card photos and then create a presentation for the company. Ask employees to vote for their favorite and award first, second and third place winners with a PTO day or gift card.
- Throw an office party and welcome employees’ partners and kids—you can even have Santa on hand.
Use the holidays as an easy transition into a more laid-back workplace that encourages employee humor (and higher performance) for 2014.
About the Author: Henry Griffith is a life coach for personal and professional needs. He works closely with several health and wellness organizations to promote healthy living in the workplace and at home. He has given multiple motivational speeches to public and private organizations. Now that he has small children of his own, he is taking time to write, travel with his kids and work on a book about healthy family living.
The Wikipedia describes a Trailing Spouse as “a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment.”
It goes further to explain that the life of The Trailing Spouse is fraught with many challenges that may impact on their personal and professional lives. Challenges such as:
Barriers to mobility
Loss of identity
These are all very real and pertinent issues that Trailing Spouses face as their new reality and I can identify to some degree with some of them. However, I have often wondered at the adjective “Trailing”. I feel a certain degree of discomfort referring to an individual or a spouse as “Trailing.”
Synonyms for trailing include: rambling, lagging, tailing, dragging….all less than savory adjectives for the word spouse. In my mind’s eye, “trailing” paints a picture of forced followership, reluctant relocation.
It reminds me of little people on a leash, compelled to follow their care givers whether they would like to or not.
It signifies to me a lack of choice or say in the matter and I do not think it adequately describes or does justice to the spouses who have boldly taken up the challenge to leave the comfort and security of the familiar and move to a new location, experience new cultures, and thrive in their new environment, all the while supporting their spouses and oftentimes children in order to make for a smooth transition to their new way of life. That to me looks a lot more like Trail Blazing and not just “Trailing”.
Moving to a new location with no security of a ready source of income can be a stressful time, and a time of uncertainty… but it can also be an exciting time, an opportunity to use this block of time and do that which you might otherwise not have done. The possibilities are endless.
This is a call for spouses who have chosen to accompany their partners to pursue their careers abroad to have greater expectations for their expatriate experience. As you plan your upcoming move, there are 4 tips that might help make the transition a little bit easier. Please feel free to add more in the comments below.
Plan: It’s advisable to have a plan before you leave your home country of what personal goals that you would like to achieve during your time in your new location. You are not on exile so you are allowed to have fun with the whole expatriation process. It could be to learn a new language, look for a job within your field of expertise (or even in another field of expertise), further your education, write a book or start a blog, or even take a leave of absence to spend more time with your family. As I mentioned earlier,The possibilities are endless.
Position yourself: If you would like to work in your new location, start your job search as early as you can. Look for opportunities within your network, take a class, learn the local language, do some research, and get informed. Do whatever is necessary to get you one step closer to your goal.
Persist: maintain a positive outlook, don’t give up easily…even when things seem to be happening not as fast as you envisaged. Also stay open to change and be flexible to opportunities that at first glance may not seem to align with your core competencies.
Pay it forward: Help someone else succeed. Offer the support you wish you got. Share your experiences and your new knowledge with others who need your expertise.
The key is to exploit the situation that you find yourself in and use it to enrich your life’s story. Moving to a new country with all the excitement is a great time to reinvent yourself because no one has any preconceived notions about you. This means you have a chance to start afresh and try to be that which you always wished.
Who knows what you would have achieved at the end of your expatriation in terms of self development, new knowledge of different cultures, and new relationships built that you would otherwise not have been exposed to.
Besides, why be a trailing spouse when you could be a Blazing Spouse or better yet a Trail Blazer?
About the Author: Tamkara currently lives in The Hague and is currently taking time off from her day job in Procurement and Sourcing to pursue an MBA. She will be spending the next few months studying, blogging and learning Dutch. You can connect with her on twitter @tamkara or find out what she’s up to at www.naijaexpatinholland.com.
I was engaged once. It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question. I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”. In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”. After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.
During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. You drive your friends and family crazy. Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.
I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.
Do we need engagement? Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?
I think it is the latter.
I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement. There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details. There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day. It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook. We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.
I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me. They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business. Ok, fair enough. That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement). Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.
So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people? Try these strategies:
- Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning. So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture. The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
- Love your organization. Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums. Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64. The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre. This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
- Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions. They’re happy when the details are set. If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.
If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. so we’re taking the day off.
To our U.S. readers, enjoy your day with family and friends, turkey dinners, and football…..or however you choose to celebrate.
To our readers elsewhere, have a great day and great weekend ahead.
Where ever you are, whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not, take a moment today to give thanks for all of the good things in your life.
We’ll be back with new content next week.
The month of November and Thanksgiving holiday are a natural time to reflect on those things for which we are thankful. Not that thanks and appreciation should be limited to just one month per year, but it’s when it becomes front and center for many. Amongst being thankful for friends, family, security, and a roof over my head, there are many things from a professional perspective for which I’m grateful as well. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the parts of our jobs that irritate or annoy us, so I thought I’d take a moment to focus on the career-related things for which I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for parents who raised me to have an appreciation for the satisfaction of working towards something, rather than waiting for things to be handed to me. That’s a value I’ve carried with me into my adult life, a value which set the stage for me to pursue an education and a career, ultimately allowing me to make a contribution to something beyond myself and support the life I love. I’m proud that I’m a woman who has the ability and ambition to provide for myself. I’m grateful that I like to work and enjoy being busy, and that I’ve been taught that there’s a difference between laziness and well-deserved downtime. I’ve learned to recognize when downtime and recharging is necessary and justified, but that true laziness isn’t productive or an acceptable way to live my life.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work for a company filled with employees who understand the value of an honest day’s work. They’ve taught me what it means to hustle and have pride in a job well done, no matter how simple or menial the task may seem to someone else. You don’t always need to be changing the world to be proud of what you do; sometimes the smallest gesture can make a difference.
I’m grateful to work for a leadership team whose actions embody the meaning of commitment. Commitment to the business, to the communities in which we operate, and to the people who make the company what it is. They inspire me, every day.
I’m grateful to have worked for people who’ve invested in me, and allowed me to grow and develop in my career, and for those who saw something in me early on and encouraged me down the path I’ve taken. I can’t imagine not having taken the path I did or how different my life would be if I had taken another. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, for those that didn’t pan out that ultimately kept me on my path, and thankful for where I am right here, right now.
I’m grateful for the phenomenal network of colleagues and connections that make up my professional network, for those in my network who have also become friends, and for everyone who generously shares their knowledge and experiences and makes me a better HR professional, and better person, every day.
I’m grateful for a career that allows me to have an impact on people. I’ll never forget when years ago, a few weeks after one particular training class I facilitated, having a participant approach to tell me how something I said in the class changed his entire outlook on life. As HR pros, we have the opportunity to have this kind of impact every day, sometimes with just the simplest of actions or a few right words at the right time.
Do you often enough stop to count your blessings? What are you grateful for today?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
In his latest article, Winning the War for Talent 2.0 in Malaysia1, Professor Sattar Bawany of the Centre for Executive Education in Singapore comments:
“Lower your prices and competitors will follow. Go after a lucrative market and someone is there right after you, careful to avoid making your initial mistakes. But replicating a high-quality, highly engaged workforce is nearly impossible. The ability to effectively hire, retain, deploy and engage talent—at all levels—is really the only true competitive advantage an organisation possesses.”
I would hazard a guess that most of you agree with this statement. However, it’s what you do about it that actually makes the critical difference in your life and in the lives of the people you lead.
And so, what do you know?
Whether you’re big business or not, you understand that the workforce of today is not the same as that of yesteryears and that you need to learn how to adapt to that reality and engage with talent in a way that they can appreciate. Therefore, while it is important for you to pay attention to your strategic direction, the globalisation of your services, the need to constantly refine and develop your product and the ever-changing bottom line, you also need to place enough emphasis on the people front. The people you choose to bring in – these are the people who choose to work with you and for you.
Some of you have more resources at your disposal than others, but there is a lot that you can do to ensure you attract and retain good talent that isn’t contingent on the money you choose to throw at them or the size of your company.
There’s this ongoing debate around how the Gen Y ought to be managed, how they profess loyalty not unto their employer but unto themselves. I feel that at times, some of the emotion behind such debate is a little off center.
Those who are brought up in a different era will undoubtedly look at things in a different vein. Ultimately however, it should not matter if Gen Y want more autonomy, more information flow or more assignments that truly stretch. What matters is that you can’t force others into a box and make them into little mini-me’s. You can’t judge them according to the standards you grew up in. These differences in the workforce are the result of change, change that you have to accept is part and parcel of development, innovation and advancement. Change resulting from being in a different time and place, of the face of the market and of the pervasive influx of technology in your lives and the consequent ripple effects. Your job, as leaders, is to find a way to make things work, to make your organisations relevant and inspiring and to align the goals of your organisation with that of the individuals you seek to bring to it.
So, how do you find, retain and grow good talent?
1.Networking is critical to ensuring you are able to find good talent
You open yourself up to a bigger source of good talent, and one that is not entirely reliant on your efforts alone. Others are on a search similar to you. They will have different experiences, they may get burnt, learn a lesson or two and be willing to share their story. They may have some good experiences and be willing to let you in. But there is a real skill involved in networking effectively. For one, you need to integrate your efforts online and offline. Spread your reach. Secondly, if you want to be noticed and if you want assistance, the best chance you have is when you decide to focus on giving before getting. See how you can be of benefit to your network. Thirdly, developing your network goes beyond simply introducing yourself via social media or asking people to recommend you or give references. It involves real connection, one that is established at a deeper level and which makes it clear to the other party that you are not taking a copy/paste approach to developing relationships. With practice and driven by the value you can create for others, you may be able to reap rewards by establishing and maintaining your network.
2. Employment references are an important part of this process
Yes, there are limitations to the use of references. You are only likely to provide a reference from someone who is willing to provide a glowing report. The chances are high that you can get a friend or colleague to provide such references. Given these factors, you would therefore want to put in place systems that can overcome some of the limitations of the employment reference. For example, you could do a reference check on the person providing the reference : Is he who he says he is? Bottom line, you don’t rely on references exclusively.
3. You need to develop the skills to find the talent who aren’t looking for you
Let’s face it – if they are good at what they do, chances are they are gainfully employed, very much engaged and they are not looking to move. That is not to say that you have no hope of getting them over. Locating these great talent will take time and may not be smooth sailing but anything’s possible. Be careful though : you need to ensure, before you start, that you are able to make a compelling case for them to reconsider their options.
4. Can you identify good talent when you’re face to face with them?
This is both an art and a science. You need to know not just what to assess but how best to do so. As Carol Quinn argued, in The Truth in Interview Part I2,
“Applicants are learning more about getting a job than interviewers are learning about hiring”.
Skills in itself are not an accurate indicator of job performance. And at some stage, you might have come across the skilled applicant, who was able to outsmart the interviewer and present a picture of herself that, in the final analysis, did not match reality. The question therefore is whether, as an interviewer, you are able to ascertain what you need to look for and have the tools to do so.
5. Understand the importance of employer branding
You put all the things you need in place. You build up a picture of who, you as an organisation, are. You reach out on various platforms – website, social media, offline networks – to create and maintain this consistent image. You understand the value in doing this, you nurture this delicately and hope to build on your successes, layering on, significant ideas of who you are, as an organisation, hoping that it matches the impressions created in the marketplace.
6. You remember the team in place
You remember one thing : the talent you already have in place. These are your brand ambassadors and they too have their own network. You don’t lose sight of this fact as you work to ensure that the impressions you create about who you are, needs hold true internally, within the organisation as well. Failing which, disaster may strike.
7. Wherein lies your focus?
Finding good talent is impacted by your focus areas. Sometimes, it may be easy to forget that everyone brings something to the table. We may each have our weaknesses and no doubt, these should be addressed but the strength movement, is one based on sound principle. Marcus Buckingham, author of published bestsellers, ‘First, Break all the Rules‘ and ‘Now, Discover your Strengths’ is right in asserting that it’s far more about harnessing the best of what you bring to the organisation than addressing what is weak within the individual.
“Since the greatest room for each person’s growth is in the areas of his greatest strength, you should focus your training time and money on educating him about his strengths and figuring out ways to build on these strengths rather than on remedially trying to plug his ‘skill gaps.’ You will find that this one shift in emphasis will pay huge dividends. In one fell swoop you will sidestep three potential pitfalls to building a strengths-based organization: the ‘I don’t have the skills and knowledge I need’ problem, the ‘I don’t know what I’m best at’ problem, and the ‘my manager doesn’t know what I’m best at’ problem.”
― Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths
In the end, you take the best of what you have to offer and make that compelling to the talent you seek to bring in. None of this is rocket science. Talent management frameworks have their place and significance but this is about making real connections, about being human in how you treat people and in seeing the relationship for what it is.
If you can do that, if you can connect authentically with your talent, if you can make them see the vision you have for your organisation, if you can put this across well and see how you can align what you want to achieve, with the growth paths your people are on, that alignment will create a world of wonder, passion and engagement.
1 Appeared in the October 2013 issue of HR Matters Magazine
2 The Truth in Interview Part I
Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters Magazine, a quarterly print publication aimed at Human Resource professionals. She is also the co-founder and Programme Director at Flipside, a business services company with offices in Malaysia and Singapore, providing professional certification training. Here, she provides strategic direction as well as oversight on client training and corporate functional areas. Rowena blogs about developing habits, execution, growth and personal development. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband, two young kids and now, a newborn. Connect with Rowena at email@example.com.
Looking for a life-impacting role for HR? Explore the opportunity you can use to save lives and life styles. I am talking about the life skills and balancing of life decisions of both your employees and their spouses.
My mom’s cousin lost her husband in the last year. In her grief and lack of education, she ignored the opportunity to keep her insurance and other benefits going. She has now had a stroke and may need brain surgery. I don’t want to go into the healthcare debate; I want you to think about the people and the impact a little education and/or policy changes could make.
What if her insurance and benefits could have continued automatically, paid out of her survivor benefits? This could at least have happened for a reasonable “grief” period, when there are so many decisions to make.
Let’s go beyond insurance and jump to life skills discussion. Want to increase family engagement? What about addressing the often ignored factors of estate planning and organizational skills? 85% of households have one spouse solely responsible for bills and paperwork. How can you help employees and their spouses, regardless of which one is the household operator, understand the critical necessity of cross training or at least strong organization of these processes. It can be touchy, but in many cases, it would be very welcome to have tools and discussion facilitated.
This issue is gender and socio-economically diverse. Think about it. Think about your mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparent, spouse. Who is going to be impacted by a tragedy compounded by complexity of new skill requirements, or financial messes that have never been shared?
You can make a difference.
Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
While the thought of trading in the rat race of an office building or major corporation, and working from home, may sound highly appealing, the reality is, this transition is often more challenging than most people believe. When you’ve gotten used to the all-work structure of an office, coming home and working in the midst of your kids and home life can be like a splash of cold water. How do you manage your family life, without sacrificing work ethic or the deadlines that don’t slow down?
I know from personal experience that working from home is no walk in the park. Whether it’s kids pulling on my arm, ready for a snack, or my husband calling from his office, asking me to pick up the dry-cleaning, remaining task oriented has been something I’ve had to learn as I go. Although I know there are times when I need to remain flexible and allow for interruptions, for the most part, my work must remain a priority.
If you’re transitioning from office to home and are worried your work might suffer, the key is balance. Without it, you’ll feel as if you’re juggling ten glass plates all on your own. The following tips have proven helpful in my own work journey and I’m able to keep my family life in order while maintaining my profession.
Dedicate a space to work.
There is a reason why office buildings and cubicles exist – they are dedicated spaces where people complete work-related tasks. If one of the reasons you’re considering working from home is to escape the cubicle, trust me – I’ve been there. Although I’m not suggesting replicating a cubicle in your home, I am saying that a dedicated work space in your home is absolutely essential to success.
If you have a room you can turn into your office, do so. If not, dedicate a corner of a quiet space to your office. The kitchen table or the living room couch is probably not the best space to spread your stuff out. Papers are easily lost or spilled on and the distractions are numerous. For me, going out and buying a room partitioner when I first started saved me from hours of insanity and distraction.
Have all the essentials in place.
The great part of working at an office is that everything you need is right there. A printer? No problem. Fax machine? Your corporation probably has several. When you transition home, however, you may need to go out and buy these essentials. Do this right away, so there’s no scrambling at the last minute when an important deadline comes around.
I like having everything in my workspace. That means the printer is right where I can reach it, and my fax machine is just steps away. Even though other members of my family make use of these items every so often, they still remain in my office, regardless of who needs to use them. Whatever your tools are – keep them where you work.
If your office is a mess of supplies and papers, then set aside some time to get it in pristine condition. Purchase supplies and containers to keep your things attractively organized. Knowing where everything is helps me keep my cool and manage my work more effectively.
Organization is essential.
If you’re a naturally organized person, this tip is like second-nature for you already. However, I know that I need every other tool out there to keep myself on track. When you’re managing work deadlines at the same time as soccer practice and doctor appointments, a planner will become your go-to.
Purchase a large calendar and write out all your tasks for the month. Try to do this at the beginning of every month, for as far out as you can plan. When dates are nailed down far in advance, you know what’s coming up and therefore, what you can say yes, and no, to. I’ve found that a daily planner is helpful, as well. Being able to create and check-off items from a daily to-do list makes me feel more accomplished and in control of my day.
Set your hours.
Working from 9-5 certainly has its drawbacks, but truthfully, the structure of a workday is often what keeps people successful. The same applies when working from home. Not having a set work time really throws a wrench in your success, something I learned the hard way.
I find it’s best to plan your work day around your family, especially if you have kids. When your kids are off to school for the day, settle down in your office and get to work. If you work steadily through the school day, that’s a good chunk of time spent on work-related tasks. As important as it is to start when you say you will, it’s equally important to finish on time, too. My kids find it frustrating when I say I’ll be finished by four, and I’m still pounding on the keyboard come 5 o’clock. Stick to your hours. You’ll have a happier family because of it.
Make it clear you’re working.
Just because you are home doesn’t mean that you are free. Although one of the hardest things to learn about working from home, it is also one of the most essential. When I began working from home, friends felt free to call and talk for hours, and I often let myself get caught in this trap. However, your friends, and your family, need to understand that work must get done even though it’s getting done from home. Let your loved ones know that you have a job that needs to get done, and you’d love to socialize, but after work. Difficult? Yes. But necessary? Absolutely.
At this point, you may be wondering if working from home is really worth it. Let me tell you from personal experience – yes. While it does require a high amount of discipline and time to learn how to manage the balancing act, in the end, you’ll find much more joy in your work and in your family. Begin setting boundaries early, and working from home will become a breeze.
About the Author: Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. As a mom who works at home, she knows how challenging it is to keep a balance and distinction between family and work. These tips have been some of the most helpful when transitioning to working at home, and she enjoys helping other women find success in their work ventures.
Recently, my son transitioned to a different middle school than the one he had been attending since kindergarten and originally intended to graduate. This transition got me thinking when it came time for me to write for Women in HR. One can truly correlate the selection of a school to attend to accepting and starting a new job. Overall, it’s a personal choice and the final decision not only has to be the student or jobseeker, but it has to fit with their overall plan in life.
Now you may think “isn’t middle school a bit too young to be thinking about how a school decision fits into your overall plan?” Not really, I personally think kids are “groomed”, hopefully by their own choice and not their parents living their own goals through them, very early in life for things like sports, music, dance and more. Where I live, it seems like the high school all-stars start their journey before they can even tie their shoes. I’ve seen young baseball, soccer and football camps for kids who barely enter elementary school. They wear the gear but they are so tiny it looks like they are going to fall over. So if the focus on team sports can start so early then why can’t kids start making choices from an academic standpoint that affect their career? I have always heard that you can trace your career choice back to what you did on the playground. Me? I used to sing on the porch in front of my audience from the neighborhood. While my dreams of a singing career did not come true, I do have an audience now and again as a teacher, trainer, and speaker in the HR community. So I guess at least from my experience what I hear is true, to an extent, of course.
Now let’s get back to the school choice and its relationship to jobs. Once my son decided to change schools, which he had been contemplating for almost a year, we decided to set up a “shadow” day at two of the schools he had in mind. In addition to hanging out with a fellow student all day to observe, he had to meet with the principal of each school, for which I joined him to listen and ask my own questions. As a parent, I was very impressed at my son’s questions and his maturity while in these meetings. He asked questions I had not even thought of, like: 1) what type of math and English program the school uses to teach the students; and 2) what specific extra-curricular activities did they have related to his personal interests.
One of the things his former school had that neither of the new choices had was Robotics, which was very important to him since he plans at this point to have a career in engineering, technology, or both. However, he justified his decision to continue to pursue his move because the school he did finally decide on had an advanced math course and was willing to start a Robotics club as soon as possible. While starting the club would not allow him to immediately join a Robotics team, allowing him to compete like he did the previous year, it was not a game changer. He told me that since he would now be able to take high school math in 8th grade that would give him a jump start on his high school math credits. That decision will allow him to take college level math while still in high school. Did I mention he is 12 years old and he is telling me all of this? The reason it is so important to him is because he has plans to go to a specific college one day (MIT) that will help him get into the career of his dreams.
Employees (typically disgruntled or disengaged employees) are constantly looking for a new job or opportunity, especially when the job they are in doesn’t satisfy their needs or holds them back from moving closer to the dream job they would like to have. Recently, on Drive Thru HR I heard Jennifer Miller refer to people finding a job that deserves them. How fitting of a philosophy that jobs don’t find people, people find jobs. I remember getting out of the financial services field to move into manufacturing so I could round out my resume to experience the old white collar and blue collar workforce. Someone had told me that my HR advice probably didn’t work in the blue collar world because I had only worked with people in offices. I was not about to have that perception limit my future opportunities so I took care of it by getting the job I needed to work in the blue collar workplace.
Planning at any age, in school or in the world of work, can definitely help to shape your career.
Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @DonnaRogersHR. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.