When you take off on a flight, the attendant always says the same thing: “In case of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping the people around you.” This includes the ones you love!
As a road warrior I know this mantra better than anyone. I heard these words every Monday morning for 17 years! It was the theme song of my undoing and then the melody of my road back home.
This, my friend, is the single best piece of advice in my tool chest of tricks. We all know I have a treasure trove of good advice, cautionary tales, analogies and tricks up my sleeve. This one should not be ignored!
Recently, one of my favorite members of my Personal Board passed through town. At an impromptu mini board gathering over fish tacos and red wine, she reminded me of another important saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”
Wow, how powerful and freeing is that statement? How thought provoking.
“Save yourself first” so you can save the folks around you. Further, “If it is not your circus and not your monkeys” where do your responsibilities start and where do they end? What is yours and what is theirs? What is helping and what is enabling? What is teaching and what is providing answers? Listening and lecturing? Loving and smoothing?
As a parent of grown children, letting go is a tippy ship at best. Mission accomplished, although I type through tears, as my son officially graduates and moves the last box of clothing and mementos to Philadelphia next month to start his new career. Nevertheless, isn’t that the point? If you do it right they should leave the nest! My son put his oxygen mask on first! He found his own circus and his own monkeys! Painful as his parting is, I couldn’t be prouder. The coolest part is that we are going to meet every other week in the middle for a meal (once a foodie always a foodie). I will say that again. WE WILL MEET IN THE MIDDLE! (Hold that thought)
So if we are to put our “Oxygen mask on first,” and if it is “Their circus and their monkeys” how are we to continue to show up for our family, friends, colleagues, society and the world in a caring and meaningful way while still retaining our boundaries? After all, isn’t showing up fully truly the only way we can make an impact? How then will we still help the ones we love and be of service?
Here is my list of tips for putting on your oxygen mask first so you can show up for those around you while continuing to take care of yourself.
We are all a work in progress
Never stop growing, learning, evolving, exploring, asking, stretching, reading, expanding, scaring yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone! Repeat!
I am a life learner! I say that I am done getting certifications and degrees. We all know I am lying. I will never stop learning! I will never stop reading, taking courses and stepping out of my comfort zone. I will never stop reinventing myself! We live, we learn, we grow and should repeat this process again and again and again! Pay it forward by sharing your knowledge.
Be Your Personal Best
Whatever your aspiration, strive to be the best in class. How do you achieve this? Simple, roll up your sleeves and put in the work! Do the research. Do your homework. Network, Network, Network (even when you are exhausted). Stretch further than comfortable. Show up fully. Frankly, when you think you have done your best work possible, take one more pass through. In conjunction, have no expectations of others. You won’t need to, you will be too busy leading by example.
Take Care of Yourself
I never end a coaching session without inquiring about my clients’ self-care rituals. Why? Because at the heart of our work together, no matter what the topic, we can accomplish nothing if we are not taking care of ourselves.
It is the same reason that I watch everything I put in my mouth. Eat organic if possible (even when traveling). Try desperately to get a good night sleep each night, and exercise regularly. I have dragged my yoga mat with me on every trip I have taken for all 17 years of business travel (oh the places we have seen!). It took my limo driver until last year to figure out that I was not a heavy breather and I was meditating on the way to the airport!
Create a healthy routine and stick to it. A healthy life style will lead to productivity. You will become influential, productivity is sticky!
Listen More, Talk Less:
Don’t let the noise cancelling headphones, pile of work, the fact that I am typing, have my eyes closed, am facing the other way, or that I am actually sleeping dissuade you. If I am in your presence (whether I know you or not) you will talk to me and I will listen. You will tell me things you have never told anyone, and I WILL KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE. I will give you advice, I WILL NEVER JUDGE. Trust me I know things I could have gone my whole life without knowing, but rest assured when you utter the last word it is already forgotten.
When I go on vacation with my family I am instructed not to look up or make eye contact with anyone! (After all, it is their time). All kidding aside this is the best gift you can give someone, empathy and understanding. A safe place to unload, and then let them go on their contemplative way to figure it out.
Energy Zappers/Energy Fillers:
Get in touch with the people, places, and trying that are sapping your energy and GET RID OFF THEM! Okay, so this is not always practical. If it was, I for one would spend my days reading, doing yoga, cooking, gardening, hiking, mountain biking, eating at great restaurants and watching old movies.
We are all intimately in touch with what brings us stress; however, are you aware that there is a positive counter balance?
I am also a bit of a math geek, and a strong believer in that “What gets measured gets done.” In fact if I was to get a tattoo (which I won’t kids, so you can’t) it would have that phrase. As a result, I have invented the “Balancing Act” equation. (AP to follow)
How does it work? Make a list of everything that brings you stress and give it a numerical value. Then, come up with a list of energy fillers and do the same until you reach equilibrium! I challenge you to balance your act! Leave others to do the same.
Speak Your Mind. Don’t over communicate:
No one likes a nag and overstating the same point over and over and over again does not make it so.
Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over again expecting different results. This came up two blogs in a row for a reason! Don’t hold back. Say it once. Hope you are heard. Move on.
Come As You Are
You cannot change anyone but yourself and you should not want to. It is your responsibility to continue to grow and evolve, and it everyone else’s responsibility to do the same. You should always strive to be your personal best and hope that the people around you continue to do the same. At the end of the day you must accept people for where they are regardless of the level. That is their choice. Do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. I repeat, do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. Lead by example.
Drop the Mad
This is one of my personal favorites; however, be cautioned it does not always work! Nothing was ever accomplished through screaming, yelling and or trying to solve the world’s problems in one sitting. Sometimes you just have to take a break from it all and have some fun. If you can put together some peaceful connected moments you can get back to figuring out the world’s problems through a clearer lens.
Step out of the drama! Get out of the ring! Take yourself out of the line of fire! Do it for an hour. Do for a day. Do it for a week. Do it for any amount of time necessary and practical so that you can clear your head and think. Take as much alone time and thinking time required to make the decisions and put the actions in place that are right for you. After all this is yours, not theirs.
Oh how I love a good project! I get that from my Grandma Fanny. She always took in strays, and I am very much the same. I have a 12 foot farm table and none of the chairs match. Neither do the people that often pass through for the home cooked meals on Sunday. My family and I often reminisce and say, “I wonder what ever happened to so and so. I hope it all turned out well”.
I bring this up as a cautionary tale. It is a gift to give, but it can also be trap. Always give and open yourself to others, but remember it is a two way street.
So, in conclusion, what is yours, theirs and ours anyway?
Another favorite saying of mine is really a question. What happens when you stop hitting your head against a wall? Answer, it stops hurting. What is yours and what is theirs anyway? Truth is, it is all yours and it is all theirs. It is our job to be our best, it is their job to strive to do the same. It is our job to take care of ourselves. It is definitely their job to do the same. It is always our job to show up fully. To be kind, caring, helpful (when asked), resourceful and always, always show empathy. It is their job to clean up their side of the street and do the same. Perhaps in time we agree to meet in the middle? Perhaps we don’t? In the end the universe will take care of the rest.
Why is it from the time we are children we are always striving to reach the next milestone. We can’t wait to lose our baby teeth, only to find we look silly and can’t successfully chew.
Reaching double digits comes next accompanied by gaining entry to a coveted seat at the grown up table. Where consequently we are introduced to chores and responsibilities and often where the conversation is quite boring!
Fast forward, we speed through our high school years. Our new focus becomes getting accepted into to the college of our dreams. We are warned by our family, teachers and trusted advisors that these are the best times of our lives. We do not heed their warnings and fail to truly savor the simplicity of the time.
We then become excited for college graduation. This is when real life will begin! We will build up our resumes, network and interview like a madman and woman. The next thing we know we are drones on the train station platform, ordering coffee on auto pilot, and entering the Monday morning rat race.
Finally comes grown up life. True independence; life on one’s own terms. In reality this means mortgages, bills, car payments and more. Often this is followed by cohabitation or marriage. “If only I was in a relationship and had kids then my life would really start,” might become the next goalpost or mantra. Like all other milestones, does anything truly prepare you for this? Who provides you with the warning labels and fine print?
So net net my dear reader is this; whether you are 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50, in Childhood, Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Marriage, Divorce, Parenthood or Old-Age, the one thing you can undoubtedly count on is that life will continue to raise the stakes.
What are you going to do when life throws you a curve ball? Are you going to lie down and take it or are you going to raise the bar?
One can never truly know what life has in store; nevertheless, you need to be prepared to face each challenge head on. Always bear in mind that adversity bares vast opportunity.
Here are my favorite tips for dealing with life’s ebbs, flows, curve balls and bombshells while continuing to raising the bar:
- Recognize the signs:
Get real, life does not usually fall apart overnight. There are signs. Do not ignore the red flashing lights from the runway.
- Read between the lines:
Look for the hidden signs. They are there, you just might not be looking hard enough.
- Be realistic:
Face reality. Whatever the facts are deal with them head on.
- Get some rest:
Change is exhausting. Get some rest and by all means schedule in some fun!
- Save yourself first:
When you get on a plane they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first. This is good advice. If you are ok, you will have the strength to do what needs to be done. You can then help those around you get up to pace and follow your lead.
- Practice Self-Care:
This is no time to let yourself go! Make sure to continue or adopt self-care rituals that helps revive and rebuild your energy stores. Exercise, Eat Well, Walk with a friend, Spend time outdoors, get a massage, and fill in the blank:_______!
- Fake it till you make it:
My late Aunt Phyllis taught me that if I did not know how to play tennis to get a great tennis outfit, learn how to jump over the net and then get lessons. “You will catch on” she explained.
I do this with everything in life. I decide what I want to do or be next and then I the figure it out in the trenches. Consequently I always get there!
- Be Your Personal Best:
Learn, Explore, Read, Stay Relevant, Repeat …………
- Outsourcing and Lifelines:
If someone offers to help you thank them and say yes! You do not have to be a hero. I have not done a load of laundry or a stitch of housework in the two years that I went back to school to change my career. Relinquishing control is difficult, but necessary. Something has to give!
- Let go:
There are things that you will need to let go of along your journey. These may be people, places and things. You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot divide yourself too thin or you will lose focus and you may not succeed. Remember you are the one on the Journey and you are the one that is undergoing Transformation. Trust the process. Let others catch up.
- Contact & Thank your Supporters & Personal Board:
You put a Personal Board together for a reason – this is it! During times of transformation you need your closest supporters and accountability partners the most. They will keep you going, talk you off the ledge, cheer you on, and be your best sounding boards. All this, while keeping you honest and sane.
My grandfather taught me at a young age the importance of finding the people you admired the most in life and your career and bringing them into your inner circle. More importantly I learned on my own that in order to have a good friend you needed to be a good friend. I value my close relationships above all else in life, and give relationships my all. I treasure each and every one of you. You all know who you and I know you are reading this. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!
- Welcome New and Fabulous Fellow Travelers!
Wow, the people you will meet! Doctor Seuss might have said this first but boy was he right. I have met the greatest people during my transition into my new career. When I walked into NYU that first Sunday morning two years ago I did not realize the door I was truly opening. I have met the greatest people, some I believe to be lifelong friends. Through opening up to new networking opportunities I have again met fabulous people, joined a board and again made fantastic new friends. I have had lunches and coffee dates that have been like warm comfortable sweaters and long deep exhales. Yes, there are people out there that will truly get you, and get what you are going through. Be open to them and let them in. Your will expand and new opportunities will be endless.
- Steal and savor all and any Peaceful Connected Moment:
I coined the phrase Peaceful Connected Moment when I had small children. By definition a Peaceful Connected Moment, is a very small window of time when the wheels stop, the noise in your mind slows if only for a moment, and you can savor a moment of quiet peace and contemplation.
You will know when one arises. Learn to recognize it, and enjoy.
- Be willing to take a risk:
At the end of the day, when the preparation, contemplation, and analyzing is over, you must be willing to roll the dice. (I can’t take credit for this, it came from a board member)
You must trust the “Net Will Appear” -Zen Saying
“Learn to Swim or Build a Boat” me
- Let go of dead weight (kindly), but beware of the carnage:.
When you emerge from the rubble and dust yourself off, not everyone will be there to cheer you when you take your victory lap. This is ok. The ones that are supposed to be there will and the ones that aren’t won’t. That’s life.
You will survive.
My life has imploded and I have reinvented myself so many times, I can hardly recognize myself. This is a good thing; adversity has brought me great opportunity! I have been knocked down and have gotten up each time from my face down in the ring moments stronger, wiser and more resilient from the fight. I have faced adversity and won. I have raised the bar each time and clearly understand there is no finish line or end game in sight. There are only targets, goals and lots and lots of surprises. I am excited for every new challenge. Bring them on, I’m ready willing and able!
I challenge you to do the same.
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax, a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.
“Summer time and the living is easy”. That is the tune we all hope to sing in the summer, unfortunately this is not always the case. Balancing one’s personal life with professional responsibilities can become even more challenging when work loads and work pressures continue to turn on the heat!
Here are my favorite tips for staying cool, calm and collected in the summer months:
- Clean up your sleep hygiene– Even the scariest case load becomes easier to face after a good night’s sleep. Cool down the room, lower the shades, cut down on your caffeine consumption and cut off e-mail checks an hour before bed. (Drops of lavender oil on your pillow can help.)
- Take a breath– We all over react from time to time. Add heat, stress and a touch of overwhelmed to the pot and it becomes a real pressure cooker! Instead of blowing the lid off the top why not STOP and take a deep breath or two or count to ten. When challenges threaten your composure this will help get your emotions back in check.
- Embrace the Light– Let’s face it, we all work too late. The good news is that in the summer we can stay at our desks until 7:00 or 7:30 PM and still have an hour of sunlight! Think of all the great things you can do with this extra hour? Take a run. Meet a friend or loved one for a drink or dinner at an outside restaurant. Take a walk on the beach. Garden or simply sit outside to finish up your phone calls and work, (if you must!).
- Stay hydrated– Soda, iced coffee, and iced tea might quench your thirst but they will dehydrate you in the long run. If you are like me, drinking gallons and gallons of water is a drag! Throwing in fresh berries, lemon, or even mint can help water go down easier.
- Keep it light– Nothing slows down productivity more than a heavy, greasy breakfast or lunch. Keep fruit, nuts and raw vegetables handy to keep temptation down.
- Turn it up– Nothing lightens the mood better than upbeat music. In the summer months why not turn on Reggae, the Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet to lighten the mood in the office or at your desk.
- Take it outside– Instead of eating lunch at your desk why not grab a colleague and eat outside? If you need to work through lunch bring your work outside and handle a task that is less stressful. Just being out in the fresh air and sunlight will help elevate your mood.
- Reconnect– Who have you been neglecting during the long cold months of winter? Summer is a great time to reconnect. Everyone is anxious to get out and enjoy the summer months. Block time in your schedule for friends. Summer months go by quickly. Blocking the time guarantees you don’t miss out.
- Disconnect– OK, you’re saying, now you have gone too far! This is the hardest suggestion but totally necessary to regroup and unwind. Take a dedicated e-mail and cell phone break. It does not matter if it is for an hour, during one meal, one morning, and one day or even just at the gym, detaching will do you well.
- Escape! Summer is a great time for a mini excursion. Take a day trip to the wineries, the Hamptons, the zoo, the city, or upstate. It doesn’t matter if you check into a local hotel and sit at the pool, getting away for a couple of hours or a day will help you rewind the clock. If you can’t get away at least grab a good book and escape right on your couch or lounge chair.
- Pamper yourself. Self Care always elevates your mood, decreases stress and increases confidence. Get a message, pedicure, manicure, facial, or try a cool new haircut.
- Layer it- Stress is bad enough, being overheated and stressful is even worse. The challenge of dressing comfortably in the summer is that every office, conference room or restaurant you visit is a different temperature. You can be hot one minute and freezing the next! Dressing in layers and carrying a sweater or scarf in your briefcase can help guarantee your comfort at all times.
Whether you adopt one or two of these suggestions or all twelve even the simplest shift in behaviors can bring about positive change. Why not find a “Stress Buster” accountability partner in your office or professional network? They can help keep you on track and support you in turning these suggestions into habits. Make it a great summer, enjoy, and make the most of the months ahead! Remember dessert spelled backward is Stressed, always “Eat dessert first”!
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specialing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.
We are at the mid-point of the year – which for me means a time to reassess and figure out where I am. Am I where I want to be? Am I heading in the right direction? Are we meeting our corporate goals? Am I meeting my personal goals?
As long as I can remember, my father has shared and sent my sister and me newspaper articles, quotations, and otherwise bits of information. This started when we were children; and now, at age 86 (my father) and 53 (me), he still selflessly and conscientiously teaches, shares, and helps me become the best person I can be. So, this month, in honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing one of the most recent gifts my father sent us. It may appear simple and basic; yet, the hard stuff is almost always the ‘simple stuff’.
The source of this list was our church bulletin, and was written by a woman named Lauren English. These are wonderful tips for us to print out – post on our bulletin boards, fridge, or screen savers. I am a believer that by seeing them and reading them – early and often – they seep into our consciousness whether we realize it or not. This particular list is divided into 4 focus areas; the tips that resonated with my stage in life right now, I have highlighted in bold.
My dad (and my mom for that matter) truly do live these suggestions. Sure, they are human and make mistakes like everyone…yet, I can honestly say that they do their best to abide by these suggestions which I believe is why at 86 and 85, they are healthy, happy, in love, successful by all metrics, and truly ‘aligned’ in life and to their Higher Power.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.
- Eat more foods that grow on trees, and less food made in plants.
- Live with 3 E’s – Energy, Enthusiasm, and Energy.
- Make time to pray.
- Play more games.
- Read more books than you did in 2014.
- Sit in silence for 10 minutes (at least) a day.
- Sleep 7 hours a day.
- Take a 30 minute walk daily and SMILE while you are walking.
- Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
- Eliminate negative thoughts and things you cannot control. Stay present in the moment.
- Don’t over do. Know your limits.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously.
- Don’t waste your energy on gossip.
- Dream more while you are awake.
- Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
- Forget issues of the past.
- Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
- Make peace with your past so it will not spoil the present.
- Smile and laugh more.
- You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
- Call your family often.
- Each day do something good for someone else.
- Forgive everyone for everything.
- For a learning experience, spend time with someone over the age of 70 and under the age of 8.
- Try to make at least 3 people smile each day.
- What other people think of you is none of your business.
- Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Be a good friend.
- Do the right thing.
- Get rid of anything that is not useful, beautiful, or joyful.
- GOD heals everything.
- However good or bad a situation is – it will change.
- Not matter how you feel – get up, dress up, SHOW UP.
- The BEST is yet to come.
- When you awake alive in the morning – thank GOD for it!
- Be happy each and every day.
Last: Make it a great second half of 2015……we own it! Let’s make the next 6 months the BEST we can!!
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? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released 1/13/15. It has already been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, a sequel to ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ will follow later in 2015. Kristin is on Twitter as @kristinkaufman.
There is such a prevalence of negative messages in today’s world. The media is chock full of ‘if it bleeds it leads’ coverage…and in some ways we have become conditioned to not only expect the icky news, we feed on it. Yes, I get that it is important that we stay in tune with what is going on (the reality of world affairs) whether this be the Ebola virus, the school shootings, or the imminent threat of a terrorist attack. Yet, this morbid expectation and, at best, the placid tolerance of negativity has the potential to leak into every aspect of our lives.
Of late, there has been heightened attention around the study of increased ‘negative bias’. The New York Times and other notable institutions have published many articles on this phenomenon and how it can (and does) impact our personal and professional lives. These studies of our brain and how we deal with negativity are fascinating. Some of the epiphanies are frankly anything but new! For those of us who have followed the science of positivity as far back as Norman Vincent Peale and his Power of Positive Thinking will shake our heads knowingly in the true power that our thoughts have over our lives. Yet, we are only human and the realities of our world can bleed into our daily routines and lives.
So – what habits can we try to adopt to help keep the realities at bay and not impact what we ultimately create in our businesses, our lives, and in our world?
Three simple things to consider:
- Keep the good stuff front and center. I have been told for every negative thought or image we have, we need to combat it with 6 positive thoughts. The negative stuff is 6 times MORE powerful than the positive stuff – so we have to squash it out with zealous positivity. This takes a rewiring of our brains – no question about it. It takes a conscious effort. The good ole amygdala is there to protect us – and it is wired through years of learned behavior. So to rewire our thought processes, we have to consciously REPLACE those trained pathways with new pathways. It may sound Pollyanna; however, I know through my own experiences that when I meet someone who gets the power of positive thought and who is consciously feeding the positive energy – it shows AND it absolutely is manifesting in his/her lives. Period.
- Say thanks – for even the most simple things. You may have heard that the most powerful energy is the energy of gratitude. The gratitude journal concept took our culture by storm when Oprah endorsed it several years ago. It is super simple. It costs NO money, yet the ROI is amazing. By simply appreciating the simple things in life – whether this is the harvest moon over a lake, the sounds of a tree frog, or the smell of freshly ground coffee. It could be ANYTHING and by simply being grateful – consciously – we change the energy in the room and in our lives.
- Turn it off! Yes – I mean turn it ALL off. Radio, TV, iPhone, iPad, etc. When we turn off the noise of our world, we allow peace to fill that void. This is super hard for most of us – I know many who check their iPhones before they even get out of bed! Yet, what would happen if we just turned if ALL off even if only for a night or a day? You know what? The world WILL keep spinning and the icky stuff WILL still be there when we log back on. So – give some thought to just flipping the off switch and allowing our psyches to rest.
Please offer your tips to help keep the ‘half full’ mentality. Please share…we all need all the help and support we can get!!
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.
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.