Telecommuting Provides More Options for Getting Things Done At Work (Even When You’re Not In The Office)
We live in a mobile world. Technology has changed the definition of “workplace,” enabling us to be effective and productive wherever we are (home, airport, waiting rooms, etc.). Flexible workplaces are more popular than ever before and as the lines between business and personal life continue to blur, telecommuting offers a solution to help workers balance (and sometimes juggle) their work and personal lives. Virtual work arrangements can be a game-changer for us, empowering us to have both a successful professional career and a happy personal life.
Benefits of Telecommuting
Eighty percent of U.S. knowledge workers are employed by companies that have a telecommuting or virtual work arrangement program in place, according to a recent teleworking survey, commissioned by my company, PGi. Telecommuting is rapidly becoming one of the most attractive benefits a company can offer, and research indicates 80 percent of employees consider telecommuting to be a job perk.
As employers continue to realize the business value of teleworking and the importance of work-life balance, workers are gaining more control and flexibility over scheduling. Flexible hours enable busy professionals to work early in the morning or late at night, allowing more time to go to a doctor’s appointment or tend to children’s special events. For me, virtual work enables the flexibility to take care of my dogs, Jesse and Jasper, when a sitter isn’t available and maintain my multi-tasking excellence. I can take care of my mom in her home when needed, and still not miss a single meeting, even with our global HR team in their own time zones. And, cutting out the distractions of the office just one day per week helps me clear out email clutter, focus on completing tasks and take advantage of a change in scenery to spark strategic or creative thought processes.
The virtual workplace not only affords more balance, but also allows us to spend more time on ourselves. Workers report that telecommuting reduces stress levels and improves morale. Imagine having enough flexibility to have time to prepare a healthy meal or participate in fitness or recreational activities not easily accessible to the traditional 9-to-5 crowd!
Finding the Right Fit
Telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone’s situation is unique, and the key to building an efficient, productive workforce is to identify not only the unique needs of an employee, but also those of the team. For businesses, placing the wrong work style or preferences in a virtual workplace role can prove challenging for both the employee and the team. By understanding the personalities of your workforce, the employer and employees can enjoy many or all the benefits of telecommuting: improved productivity, better morale and reduced stress and cost.
Employers should consider several situations when starting or expanding virtual work arrangements. For example, does the worker have a back-up plan in case the Internet crashes at home? Are their mobile devices adequate for what is needed? As important as technologies, personality is another important factor to consider when making arrangements for virtual workers. At PGi, we have identified seven telecommuting personalities and the leadership tactics, tools and technologies for success in virtual roles. Whether you manage or work with the “24/7 worker,” the “multitasker,” or any of the other five personalities, there are many techniques you can use to help virtual teams collaborate and achieve success from anywhere.
Business today is conducted virtually anywhere at any time, opening new options for workers to successfully manage their work and personal lives. While navigating the waters of flexible work arrangements, remember the different personalities and needs of remote workers so you can help them experience the advantages of telecommuting. If time is the most valuable resource we have, we must find ways to use it as efficiently as possible to bring productivity and growth into our businesses.
About the author: Alison Sheehan leads PGi’s global human resources management, a team of HR professionals that provides support and services to over 2,100 PGi associates worldwide. With employees in 35 states in the U.S. and 25 countries around the globe, PGi’s HR strategies for talent acquisition, development, management, and rewards rely on virtual collaboration and workplaces for their success.
Achieving successful work-life balance can very often seem like mission impossible. Busy work schedules often dictate lives of most people so much so that your personal time gets affected and can become limited. For many of us we don’t even realise that we are not finding the time for ourselves and this can have an impact on us, mentally and within your overall health.
You are probably thinking that it is easier said than done, which is correct. We all have different lives, schedules and responsibilities – from the young professional working extra hours to secure the promotion, to becoming a senior manager who has mouths to feed and KPI’s to secure. Nevertheless we can all try and dedicate some valuable ‘me’ time for ourselves in order to see some great improvements when it comes to our work-life balance.
Incorporating any one of these seven tips listed below will bring you a step closer to achieving a healthy work life balance you so desire:
Introduce Skype meetings
Important business meetings can require a lot of travel, which could equate to multiple days away from home and the office. Today’s technology has made it possible for you to reach clients that are states and even countries away, all from the comfort of your home or office. Skype and conference calls are both ideal ways to communicating with clients, whilst saving you and your business time and hassle of travelling.
If a business trip is a must then using Skype would allow you keeping in touch with your colleagues back in the office and maintaining office relationships. Even more you will also find Skype reducing your business’s travel costs, meaning the money could then be invested elsewhere.
Treat yourself regularly
Treating yourself regularly is really important for your sanity and health. Choosing to do something you enjoy will make you feel more grounded and relaxed. Allow yourself a 30 minute window each day where you do something for yourself. Things you truly enjoy, such as read a book, have a bath or cook a nice meal.
If you are a busy city worker, go into the local salon and treat yourself to an express facial. Alternatively you could always have a girl’s night in a nice restaurant or have a date night with your partner. These easy things will definitely make you feel happier and more relaxed.
Work from home
If you have a lunchtime client meeting you must attend, consider traveling to the venue from your home, as commuting directly will be help you cut down on travel costs. Another benefit of the many innovative technologies we have today is the ability to share documents and other information online. This allows you the great opportunity of working from home, yet still be connected to your office. Therefore, by utilizing this tool, you can cut down on the days you have to go into the office. This will also help you out on days when you are not able to make it into the office due to weather or child care, and will become a perfect solution to being able to access all your documents.
Set realistic expectations
It is a good idea to set your expectations for your life reasonably. For example, it is a realistic goal to aim to climb the ladder at work, become a good cook and keep your home running efficiently. However, it is not realistic to be working 70 + hours a week, whilst becoming a gourmet chef and keeping your home spotless – it just won’t happen. Therefore, to avoid becoming discouraged, it is smart to set manageable goals and not expecting yourself accomplishing superhuman tasks.
Remember you are just a human and it is not a crime to ask for help!
Be willing to alter your definition of success
Different stages of life call for different definitions of success. For example, if you have young children, you can feel successful if you get your kids off to day-care, get yourself to work on time and get at least a portion of your duties accomplished on any given day. However, if you don’t have children, of course you can expect more from yourself in regards to your job and your personal goals. In other words, your definition of success will likely change throughout various stages of your life, and that is okay.
Exercise on lunch break
According to John Ratey, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, exercise is the best thing you could do for you brain in regards to learning, memory and mood. Since exercising also leads to a fit body, incorporating it into your working day just makes sense. If you are not lucky enough to have a gym in your office building then fear not. Most fitness suites offer express classes during lunch times that are high intensity workouts lasting 30 minutes. If you would rather prefer a low impact workout, then try going for a swim.
Getting up and moving, somewhere away from your computer, will give you some fresh air during a hectic day, allowing you to concentrate, which will lead to a more productive workday.
Make sure your career choice fits your strengths
For whatever reason, many people end up in a career that is completely wrong for them. A person who hates numbers ends up working at a bank, or a person who doesn’t care for children has a career as a teacher. This career choice just doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if you have ever felt like your career choice just doesn’t match your strengths or personality, do something about it and find a career that fits you better.
If it is impossible due to financial reasons, consider utilizing your personality and skills taking part in volunteering activities outside of work. Helping others will allow you utilizing your gifts and give you a sense of greater purpose as you will be giving back to others.
By following the seven tips listed above, you will be on your way to a healthier work-life balance. Be careful not to set your goals too high, just half an hour to an hour a day can really make a difference.
About the Author: As a young entrepreneur and business blogger, Lucinda Smith has developed a passion for helping small and medium sized businesses grow. She likes to particularly focus on using technology and software solutions to save businesses time and money. She also contributes to the DNS managed print services blog.
Most professional women I consult with feel guilty about taking time off work for a variety of reasons. Some of the ones I hear most often are:
“I have so many responsibilities in my job that if I take time off it just means that when I return I have to work a mass amount of hours to get caught up. It makes the time away seem like it’s not even worth it. I end up feeling punished for being away.”
“I don’t want time away from work to hurt my reputation, jeopardize my position or impair my promotional opportunities. I’ve worked too hard to be perceived as not entirely committed or reliable.”
“I love being productive and informed. It feels like when I’m away from work for more than a day or two, I lose out on knowing what’s going on and it makes me feel out of the loop and out of control.”
“I need to save all of my time for the ‘in case of emergency’ or ‘sick parent/kid’ situations.” (Note: most of us need a cushion of time on the books for unforeseen emergencies, but saving all of your time isn’t healthy.)
The problem with this rationale is that we short change ourselves, our careers, and in the long run even our employer. If we neglect to balance our time at work by taking time off, we risk diminishing returns for ourselves and our organization. Here are a few things to consider:
- Stepping away from the day-to-day activities of the job gives your mind an opportunity to dream, create and innovate, providing fresh new ideas for how to tackle your responsibilities when you return.
- Women need to view their jobs from multiple perspectives. Vacation and relaxation is a vantage point that can give a person a whole new sense of self (both professionally and personally).
- Burnout occurs when there is too much of any one thing in a person’s life. All work and no real play contribute to an inability to see beyond the next task at hand. It creates an unhealthy cycle of reactionary behavior (too much work – not enough time – not enough energy – more backed up work, repeat).
- A temporary hiatus from the job is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential to take time away from work to give your brain and body a break:
-Research shows that being constantly under pressure floods the brain with stress hormones, wearing down the high performance brain function that needs to occur at work to maximize our jobs and performance.
- Recent studies have reaffirmed that leisure time, including vacations, contributed to higher positive emotional levels, better coping skills, less depression and lower blood pressure.
- Women who reported that they vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from significant episodes of stress than those who took vacations at least twice a year.
So what can a dedicated, hard-driving business woman do?
Simply put, start small. Work your way into taking your vacation time by:
- Try 2 hour vacation slots in the early morning, extended lunches or late afternoons.
- Take half days during lower volume times (e.g. Thursdays and Fridays).
- Build up to extended weekends (Mondays and Fridays).
- Use vacation around the holidays or slow work cycles, when others are out too and business processes slow down a bit.
- Take time off to volunteer with charitable organizations (you likely won’t back out of the commitment and you’ll feel good about yourself for having helped others out).
- If you’re afraid to go cold turkey, then limit yourself to staying connected to your email/phone for certain periods of time while you’re out. Check in every morning and afternoon if you need to, but give yourself the rest of the day to disconnect.
- When you get back in the office, pause long enough to acknowledge that even though there may be additional short term stress, the office survived and so did you.
Set your sights to build up to big:
- Reserve time on the books in advance. Do whatever you can to force yourself to take the time off – buy the plane/train ticket far in advance, book a non-refundable hotel stay, create commitments to friends and family so there is an expectation of follow through.
- If you can’t disconnect on your own, consider visiting a place that has limited technology reception so you are forced to really take the time away, to power off and enjoy. It will reinforce for your body and mind that time away is actually advantageous to your mental health.
- Invite friends and family to your home or city for visits in order to obligate yourself to spend time away from work with additional people you care about (yes, there are so many people at work that we care deeply about, the time off is often for the others that we unintentionally neglect spending quality time with).
- During your time off do activities that really make you happy and excited, or peaceful and rested. This will make the time away seem worth it.
- Anticipate the break from work and routine. Allow yourself to really look forward to the day(s) off. The anticipation will help your brain get accustomed to the idea that time away is fun and healthy.
- Understand that it comes down to this: what you mentally project about your work and time away is a strong component of what becomes your reality. Your personal perception of what you deserve is part of what you will project to your employer. Keep in mind that it’s appropriate to use the time that your employer gave to you as a benefit. Take the time and use it as an investment in your overall health and an investment in your professional self.
The final, and maybe most important piece, is to remember to put it all into perspective. At the end of our lives while many will be satisfied to have had a successful career, our most important reflections will most likely be on the big ticket items: the way we lived, the people we touched, the adventures we had, the friends and family we loved. Spending all of our time at a desk or wired up to others won’t afford us the experiences we need to minimize regret and to feel great about the lives we’ve led.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
I just returned from a short vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. Myrtle Beach is a place that I’ve visited many, many times over the years, both with family and friends. It’s one of the first family vacations I went on when I was a little girl, and it has continued to be a place that I’ve returned to over the years, through various stages of my life…as a kid, a teenager, a young adult on my first vacation on my own, and more recently with extended family, including my niece and nephews.
The beauty of returning to somewhere that you’ve visited many times, at various stages of your life, is that it remains a constant – relatively unchanged – no matter how much your life changes from one visit to the next. So I find these periodic visits to be the perfect opportunity to reflect on those life changes. As I walk the shores of the beach that I’ve walked so many times, I have the chance to think about just exactly what is different in my life since my last visit…for the better, for the worse, and for the, well, just different.
But it’s not just an opportunity to reflect on what has changed since the last visit, it’s also an opportunity to speculate about what could be different by the next time. Each time I’m there, before I leave, I take a moment to enjoy a view of the ocean and appreciate where I am at that moment, but also to wonder where exactly my life might be by the next time I return. And each time I do that, I’m often amazed at exactly how much IS different since the last time…the people who have come into or left my life, the losses I’ve experienced, the successes I’ve enjoyed, the opportunities I’ve had both personally and professionally, the direction my life has taken…many of these changes being things I never would have or could have expected. And though many times change is something we can’t necessarily anticipate, moments like these can also serve as a time to reflect on what we KNOW we want to change in the future.
What does this have to do with HR or business?
In the hectic rush of our days, weeks, and years, I wonder how many of us take those moments to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we want to go? To really appreciate exactly how much we’ve accomplished over a finite period of time, and exactly what more we’d like to do over that next finite period of time? Many of us talk about “three year plans” or “five year plans” but do we effectively take time in the midst of those plans to stop for a reality check? To re-calibrate the plan as needed? Or to just stop and appreciate the wonder of the unexpected places that fate sometimes takes us beyond what we had planned?
What about you? Do you stop to reflect? Do you have a constant place where you can go to appreciate where life has taken you and think about the future?
And as HR professionals, do we encourage our employees to do the same? Is reflection, planning, and re-calibration part of our career planning processes?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 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.
As of 2012, an estimated 13.4 million people were working from home. With fast internet connections, cloud technology, and free online phone services like Skype and Google Voice, it’s easier than ever for company employees and the self-employed to work from the comfort of wherever they want. If you’re running a business, there are plenty of reasons why you and your employees might be happier and more productive working from home. Here are six benefits.
No lengthy commute. According to US Census data, the average work commute time is 25.4 minutes. That might not sound so bad, but that’s close to an hour to get to and from the office, and many workers in large cities have an even longer commute. In fact, 600,000 US workers have a commute time of around 90 minutes. People who work from home are able to save time, gas money, and their sanity. Fewer commuters also means less of an environmental impact.
Fewer distractions. Co-workers on the phone, noisy printers, doors opening and closing… there are all kinds of distractions in a traditional workplace, especially if you work somewhere with an open office environment. Although home offices come with their own set of distractions, many people find that they’re more productive in the privacy of their house or apartment.
Fewer sick days. When you’re working with a large group of people in close quarters, colds and other viruses spread like wildfire. Allowing employees to work remotely, especially on days when they feel like they might be coming down with something, is better for everyone in the organization.
Less stressful environment. Although many businesses still operate under the belief that their employees need to be monitored, most people are actually more productive when they don’t have a manager breathing down their neck. As long as there’s a way to hold employees accountable for getting their work done, letting them work from home on their own schedule can go a long way to reduce stress.
Opportunity to personalize home office. Sure, you can decorate a cubicle, but you have more opportunities for personalization when you’re working out of your own home office. And, thanks to sites like Sheepbuy and Craigslist, telecommuters can furnish and decorate their home office without having to go outside of their budget.
More room for creativity. Creativity is largely subjective, so it’s hard to say whether working from home helps, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that it does. People who work from home have more freedom to pick up and move if they need inspiration, whether that means going to the coffee shop down the street or taking a trip to another country.
Better work-life balance. A survey presented by Microsoft found that the number one benefit cited by people who work from home is the opportunity for greater work-life balance. Working from home can be especially good for people with families, because with the greater flexibility of their schedule and an eliminated commute, they’re able to spend more time with their loved ones. And, of course, when people are more satisfied with their work-life balance, the quality of their work will be higher.
Telecommuting isn’t the best model for all companies, but if most of your business’s work can be performed remotely, it may be a good way to improve employee productivity, job satisfaction, and retention.
About the Author: Juliana Weiss-Roessler is a work-at-home writer who frequently contributes on the topics of career and human resources. You can learn more about her blog writing and other internet marketing services at WeissRoessler.com.
Our cups, plates, and lives are spilling over! Every day I meet with individuals, at every level within an organization, from the CEO to individual contributors, and the one common denominator is their lamentation of being over-stimulated, over-saturated, over-spent, over-extended, and over-scheduled.
Most are over achievers and thus, more often than not they find themselves in this situation by their own doing. Contrary to their initial quest of becoming experts in their respective fields, better educated, and ‘armed with information’, they actually become bogged down with more data and information that they know what to do with. This leads to the tendency of analysis paralysis of their newly accumulated intelligence, continued over-extension to achieve the ‘next rung’ which leads to the next, and the next, and the next! They become overwhelmed and under fulfilled.
This always leads to the proverbial dilemma: For the sake of what am I on this emotional business hamster wheel – and how do I get off? Or in some cases, more appropriately the question becomes: how can I become more in touch with my situation so that I can change my frame on the realities and subsequently manage my responses to them?
The answers are often as simple as the space right in front of our faces…..and within us. The basic premise is this: creating pause in our lives can reconnect us with us. By simply taking brief pauses throughout the day, can and will have a profound impact on your life and work. When we pause – we breathe, we become more aware of ourselves, we become STILL. Breath brings our bodies oxygen, which makes us stronger, clears the cobwebs, and helps us become more cognitively effective. Yet, for some reason, we have a hard time SLOWING DOWN and taking a long, deep breath. Yet, when we do, we become undeniably more centered, aligned, and powerful.
What are a few things we can do to facilitate this state of PAUSE and reflection so that we may change our frame and create a state of alignment or ‘re-alignment’ in our busy lives?
1. In your car, put down the phone and turn off the radio!
We can create our own solitude and ‘spa’ time while we are barreling down the freeway. I am amazed at how we want to fill every last minute, even the coveted ‘dashboard time’ with calling someone or listening to NPR. I am as guilty as the next person! Yet, if we take that time to simply breathe, process the information we read before we left the office, ‘sit with’ the latest interaction we had with our spouse, our co-worker, or even a difficult client….we give ourselves time to regroup, revitalize, and reframe.
2. Take it one step further…..when in transition (physically or figuratively)….stay present and awake.
Transitions are the bridge periods in life. Whether these are the paces to/from the elevator, to/from the restroom, going through airport security, or as we pack up our offices at the end of the day. During these times, we often are talking on our headset or texting – to get every single ounce of energy out of that moment. My suggestion: STOP DOING THIS!!
Try simply being present. Look around. Engage. Breathe. Observe. BE. Listen to your own thoughts. Heed the callings within your heart and soul. Those are the ‘whispers’ which Oprah has coined as her phrase for your inner voice. By simply pausing and becoming present and awake, you tap into your power rather than spending it on time-wasting distractions.
3. Make time for Pause by creating white space on your calendar.
Despite your best intentions, ‘stuff’ will happen. Road construction, accidents, delayed flights, missed flights…..this is life. We have all been guilty of booking ourselves back to back with little time to even stretch our legs; this creates the perfect storm for chaotic stress. One small mishap, and the house of cards collapses. Yet, if we can build a little ‘white space’ into our calendars – on a daily basis – we enable ourselves the enviable ‘hall pass’ to life’s inevitable travails. This fudge room will become your most prized possession…and the trick is this: we own the power to create that white space. Do it!
4. Finally, get to know YOU…and be willing to let that be enough in this moment.
What brought you to where you are today? Are there patterns and trends from which you can learn? Give yourself freedom to be who you are – and watch, learn, and grow – in this moment. BE and let all things flow from there. Observe yourself – and be curious about what drives your behaviors. This can be such a revealing process. I have personally found my own leadership executive coach to be incredibly supportive, and in many ways indispensable, in holding the mirror for me. Also, consider keeping a journal. This may be a stretch for some – that is okay. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind’s eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others and again provide meaningful pause. It is like living it ‘over’ in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
The net point: Give yourself permission to PAUSE in life. This will provide time and space to ‘align’ with your core soul, which is your greatest source of power. Often, we must slow down to go fast…..so make that choice and then allow this new found energy to manifest into the world through your refreshed contributions.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Do not look at the woman in front of you as having been out of the workforce. Instead, see her as formerly employed in one of the hardest occupations possible: parenting. She can handle stress and odd hours, all with very little sleep. She can multitask and think days, weeks and even years in advance. As an HR professional, there are things you can do to help her return to the workplace and capitalize on her unique set of needs.
Understand the Compromise
In a study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, researchers found that compromise was a major theme in the decision of a parent to return to work. A parent returning to work has made a decision to balance her life between two huge priorities. Understand that she may be torn between being at home and being at work. She wants to do both, and well, but bilocation is still a fantasy. By keeping the job focus on achievement over time, a smart HR director can ease the pain of returning to work and increase employee retention.
Value the Employee
The same article states that one of the major factors for a parent to return to work is for a sense of value. It is important for any employee to feel valued, but may be more so for the returning parent. Awards, appreciation flowers or a heartfelt thank you note can bring out the best in a parent-turned-employee.
Remember that a mother coming back into the labor force post labor is not some lost soul who needs a place to be. She is an accomplished human being who can bring value to your company.
Go To Bat
Workplace flexibility is central to a parent’s decision and ability to return to the workforce, according to the Journal of Industrial Relations. Unfortunately, studies show there is often a dissonance between the policies of a company and the management’s actual practice. Having a work-at-home policy means nothing if that policy is never approved by management. Economies of time are central for success for both a business and a parent. A business manager needs enough man hours to complete a task but valued parent-workers needs time to pick up children from school and handle kid-related emergencies.
Sometimes it will be the HR director’s job to mediate this balance of time and responsibility. This may require conversations with managers, but it could also mean offering the parent-worker alternative job responsibilities. Researchers are finding that the stresses of being both a parent and a successful employee are opening up people returning to the workforce to the idea of changing career paths. Making this a possibility can be good for all parties involved.
About the Author: Ruth Harris has been a HR consultant in the Bay area for ten years. When she’s not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her kids and exploring the city of San Francisco.
My smart phone took the plunge yesterday. Though it was just milliseconds before I fished it from the sink, it was long enough evidently for it to drown and it is now awaiting resurrection in a bag of rice. Oh, and I’m over age 50 – that might be significant later in my saga. Or not….
I quickly retrieved my phone, wiped it down, and took it apart, wiping off all the significant parts I could find. I then had to jump in a car aimed for a full day seminar. No rice in sight until later in the day. Much later….
And as we plunged into this training session at precisely 9:00am, I thought, as a ‘mature’ (oh how I hate categorizing myself with that term) professional, I won’t even miss my smart phone. After all, I have been in the professional world since before the fax machine. Before the internet. Before everyone – age 10 to 100 – carried a cell phone. Heck, I’m of the generation who received resumes and cover letters through the U.S. Mail. We sent hard copy memos, letters, and correspondence. I would be just fine, laser focusing in on the seminar message and interacting with 20 awesome coworkers.
10:00. First break. I reached for my purse to grab the phone, putting it back together in the hopes of that lively Android light would blink back. Nope. My colleagues around me kept up with work emails, personal texts, and some even took notes on their smart devices. Not me. Pen to paper, I was. Deep breath.
12:00. Lunch time. Reached back again. “ Stop it, I don’t need that infernal thing,” I said to myself. But what if there were an “emergency” at work? At home? And whatever would I do having to get through the multiple emails that were, undoubtedly, filling up my inbox? Deep breath, I can do it. i can go on without that electronic device. I think, as a small headache began to come on….
The afternoon was much the same, and I won’t continue to bore you with my internal thoughts and struggles. It is now the first FULL day without my smart phone. I am in withdrawal. Hello, my name is Dorothy and I am addicted to my smart phone. I’ve had to email colleagues, friends, and family and let them know that in order to get in touch with me – they would have to pick up the telephone, or send an email. How old-fashioned, right?
I actually got up out of my seat to go talk to colleagues and employees. How thought-provoking! Maybe this is my path this week – to remember that in my role as a Human Resources professional, I need to remember that I am dealing with HUMANS. I am HUMAN. Face-to-face is not always bad, nor does it have to be. It was not painful to get up and walk around the office and our buildings. Human interaction wasn’t bad. A few people looked up as I walked by and even said hello.
We all get wrapped up in this electronic world, and a smart phone is really convenient to keep up with work email, & stay in touch with family, friends, colleagues. It is easy to flip through Flipboard for news and Facebook for photos of those cute great nieces. Maybe though, just maybe, we could be better role models in the HR profession if we were out talking to people more. In person. When it’s not bad news.
Hmmm. Perhaps one of my future “stretch” assignments for my HR team will be for them to put down their phones, get up from behind their desks, and go talk to employees. Just because….I’m old.
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
The long winter months can inspire you to peruse deals online or phone your travel agent for a vacation away from home – somewhere relaxing and fun (or perhaps warmer) where you can forget the bustle of everyday life and stretch out in your finest resort attire for a few days.
Don’t feel guilty or hesitant about taking a little vacation this winter. Even if you’re a business owner, a little time away from the regular office environment and the daily tasks of running your business and managing your staff can refresh you for the new year and make you see things in a new light. A vacation can even help you brainstorm ideas to make 2014 the best year your business has ever had.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your winter vacation so that you come back to the office mentally refreshed and inspired.
Disregard smaller tasks for the bigger picture
First of all, don’t forget the fact that you are on vacation once you lock your office door, pack the car or carry-on bag, and bid farewell for a week. This means giving yourself permission to enjoy the time off – not spending it doing the frustrating grunt work that you associate with each weekday.
Instead, take a few minutes every so often while you are on vacation to brainstorm about the bigger picture and feel creative. The point of brainstorming while on vacation is to invite new ideas, not labor over mundane tasks.
Enjoy a different schedule
If you do things in the same order each day – have coffee, shower, brush your teeth – we are hereby giving you permission to ditch your usual routine during a vacation. You may be pleasantly surprised at how mixing it up a little can affect a creative spark.
Get some fresh air
Fresh air is one of the keys to creative success. If you’re the kind of person who sits inside your fancy hotel room and watches the cable channels – or sits by the fire at the ski lodge the entire time – try to get outside into nature a little more and breathe deeply. You don’t have to necessarily think about work while you do it; just clear your head to let new ideas in!
Take something to write with
If you’re out and about during your vacation and you come up with a fantastic idea, it would be a shame to let it escape. Avoid this by keeping a small notebook and pen with you. Why not just use your smart phone to keep track? Studies have shown that your own handwriting is better than a touch screen for stimulating your mind.
Talk to locals
Particularly if you are going somewhere out of the ordinary, it may benefit you to engage in conversations with the locals or with others on vacation. Don’t be afraid to get their input on new ideas as well as products and techniques your business has used in the past. The perspective of someone who isn’t involved with your company – or even part of your demographic – can be valuable.
Do some reflecting
Reflection during the quieter moments of vacation can be beneficial for helping you return to the office feeling refreshed. What do you want to accomplish this year? In addition to thinking about your own business’ highs and lows in the last 12 months (or whatever time period you choose), you may also want to reflect on other businesses. What are they doing right that inspires you? Keep a list of what springs to your mind.
Share your ideas when you return to work
Once vacation is over and you’re back at the office, share any new insight with your team members and ask for input. Explain why you came up with the ideas, and don’t forget to talk about how the new ideas can be used within your business.
Remember, a vacation is not only essential to your own well-being, it’s also great for your business. Even if you never considered taking a vacation as good for your career, brainstorming for 2014 is sometimes easier outside of the daily grind.
About the Author: Allison Rice, Director of Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has extensive experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom pens and other promotional items such as personalized USB drives, Allison is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses. She regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.
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.