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How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone

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Flex Work

The demand for flex schedules at work is on the rise. ‌ ‌Almost ‌80%‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌workers in the U.S. would prefer a job offering a flexible work schedule over one without. As a consequence, this results in employers starting to accommodate this request. ‌

So, why are so many people ‌‌‌expecting flex schedules? ‌Well,‌ ‌flexible‌ ‌work‌ ‌schedules‌ ‌are good for employees, because they can organize their lives around their jobs — not‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌way‌ ‌around.

However, it has plenty of benefits for employers too. ‌For example, employee retention, productivity, diversity, and engagement may all be boosted by flexible scheduling. ‌As‌ ‌such,‌ ‌it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular employee benefits.

What are the best ways to set up flex work hours‌ ‌that‌ ‌work‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌business‌ ‌and‌ ‌your employees? ‌Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Flexible Work Schedule Policy?

Before going further, let’s quickly explain a flexible work schedule policy.

Employees can modify arrival and departure times when employers offer flexible work schedules. Employees can also decide how long and where they work. ‌It’s an alternative way to work instead of the antiquated 9 to 5, 40-hour workweeks.

You should know that the Fair Labor Standards Act in the U.S. doesn’t ‌address flexible work hours. ‌Instead, it’s something‌ ‌between‌ ‌employer‌ ‌and‌ ‌employee.

With that in mind, employees should be clearly informed who is covered by the policy and when a flexible schedule is available. ‌In addition, you should consider a variety of flexible schedules to meet the needs of all your ‌employees.

  • Flextime work schedule. With Flextime, workers can choose their working hours. ‌It‌ ‌also allows employees to adjust their operating hours from week to week, depending on the needs of the business.
  • Remote working schedule. An employee who doesn’t come into the office regularly works remotely. ‌For example, working from home could be an arrangement in which the employee works exclusively 2-4 days per week from home or from home.
  • Compressed workweek schedule. This allows employees to work their 40 standard weekly hours. But, over a shorter period than five days or ten days during the usual week. ‌An example would be to work an extra hour Monday-Thursday and to take a half-day off on‌ ‌Friday.
  • Part-time work schedule. This is a conventional type of flexible schedule. ‌For example, when an employer does not wish to lose a skilled employee, they may agree to let that person work part-time. ‌However, the employee cannot dedicate their time to full-time work.

How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a flex schedule is, as well as its variations. Now you can focus on making a company flex schedule that works for everyone.

1. ‌Involve employees in planning.

When establishing flex plans, companies often make the mistake of not communicating well‌ ‌with‌ ‌workers. So, the easiest solution? ‌Develop a flexible work program based on the interests and needs of your employees.

Determine whether the new work arrangement is right for them. ‌For example, will ‌employees remain productive under the new arrangement? ‌An ideal agreement would satisfy the employees’ personal needs while addressing the company’s need to provide high-quality‌ ‌products‌ ‌and‌ ‌services.

How can you get your team involved? You could collect feedback through surveys, one-on-ones, or town halls.

You can ask your team for feedback in many ways, but know what works best‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌people. For example, in team meetings, some employees might feel more comfortable offering candid feedback. Others might prefer a confidential, anonymous‌ ‌survey.

2. Know your team.

“As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to know the people on your team,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Knowing who you work with allows you to be mindful of their tendencies and build more than just trust.”

It is also easier to delegate tasks to your workers if you know them well. ‌As a result, you’ll have more insight into the team, which will help when selecting a combination of personalities for a specific‌ ‌project‌ ‌or‌ ‌team. ‌Knowing you’ve already done the hard work, you can resist the urge to micromanage them.

Remote workers can be more challenging to get to know than their in-person counterparts. ‌Follow these steps to get to know them:

  • Prioritize facetime. “You might not be able to be physically together, but technology can be a bridge,” says Howie. “Eat lunch together once a week via videoconference.” ‌Plan to fly them in at least once a quarter for meetings.
  • Be generous. ‌To build trust, you need to take risks. ‌And — you should give people a chance. For example, “If they want noise-canceling headphones, could you surprise them with a pair?”
  • Ask questions. ‌Around 60-80% of our conversations revolve around ourselves. ‌Encouragement not only enables you to understand who they truly are. But it also strengthens your relationship with them.

Respected leaders motivate their workers to keep working through tough times. ‌If more needs to be done, they will speak up for it. ‌In short, make an effort to get to know them.

3. Instill a sense of purpose.

“It is time for a flexible work paradigm shift, with less focus on where or when we work, but rather on how value is generated,” Jason Grover, HR Vice President Polaris Industries Inc., told Forbes. “COVID has taught us that our productivity is contingent less on location, more on leadership instilling a sense of purpose.”

When we align employees with salient priorities and foster an environment where they can give their best effort, he says people are more likely to choose‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌productive‌ ‌path.

4‌. ‌Conduct‌ ‌a‌ ‌trial‌ ‌run.

If‌ ‌you’re apprehensive about starting a flex work plan or getting a lot of resistance, a trial run might help. ‌

Create a trial, flexible work program before launching a full-scale program. ‌The process can be carried out by a single department or a small group of employees from various departments. ‌Run the trial for at least a month to work out the kinks and collect‌ ‌data.

You may notice that not everyone is cut out for remote work. While others, however, thrive in a WFH environment.

5. Flexibility is all about being flexible.

How does a company like Vistaprint make flex schedules work?

“Some of us work best from our bedrooms,” the company states. “Some of us prefer an office environment.”

The company’s goal is to provide its team members the flexibility to choose the work environment that best suits them.

“Our offices have become collaboration centers with bookable hotdesks and a mix of spaces where team members can meet in person to work and socialize whenever needed,” they continue. “Any team members who choose to leverage these collaboration centers can do so as frequently or infrequently as they like, and they will continue to have the autonomy to create their own schedules.”

6. Establish a standard work window.

It can be challenging to bring people together if they have different schedules at work. ‌Thus, a typical window schedule helps manage flexible scheduling most effectively.

Regardless‌ ‌of‌ ‌the time of day your employees work, set core hours, for example, ‌between‌ ‌10‌ ‌a.m. and 3 p.m. That means everyone is expected to be available at those hours throughout the week. ‌You can use this time to delegate tasks, hold meetings, ‌or‌ ‌bond‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌team.

Employers have a “schedule center” if a typical work window is implemented, which they can use to plan their schedules. ‌However, it is the workers’ responsibility to manage their schedules efficiently.

7. Be consistent.

When informal policies aren’t applied consistently, it causes resentment, bad morale, employee loss, and even legal trouble. To prevent this, develop a detailed, clearly-stated, and non-discriminatory policy on the company’s flex work arrangements.

8. Redefine productivity.

“Flexible work demands a shift away from seeing productivity in terms of being present for fixed working hours,” says Jane Parry. “Indeed, the problem of presenteeism — where people feel compelled to show their face at work even if they are ill—only feeds into the productivity puzzle.”

Companies (and managers) need to establish better performance metrics. How? By asking questions like:

  • Was a project completed on time?
  • How well did the team work ‌together?
  • Was high-quality work delivered?

“These are much more effective yardsticks of success than whether staff clock in at 9 a.m. each morning,” adds Parry.

9. Don’t have a communication breakdown.

A flex work schedule may leave co-workers and supervisors without business and social contacts. However, including flex staff in staff meetings will prevent them from feeling overlooked or alienated from co-workers‌ ‌and‌ ‌managers.

You could also set dedicated Slack channels so everyone can communicate and collaborate. Or schedule regular Zoom check-ins.

Furthermore, contact with other employees shouldn’t be limited to e-mail. Make it a point to have additional contact points, such as phone numbers. At the same time, know when it’s appropriate to text or call your team members. For example, contacting them Friday evening should be avoided unless it’s an absolute emergency. Preferably, you should reach out during the agreed-upon core hours.

10. Monitor, assess, and update.

An evolving process of improvements or developments may be required as a condition of flexible work arrangements. Therefore, take the time to review whether or not flex programs are meeting goals. If not, then adjust them as necessary.

Again, encourage employees to give feedback and keep the lines of communication open. ‌And as mentioned above, you can use a limited-time pilot program when launching a new plan. ‌If the plan is unsuccessful, you might have to return to the company’s prior traditional work arrangements.

One more thing. Stay abreast of any potential legal issues. ‌Employees must be carefully classified as exempt or non-exempt by their employers. For example, for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a given work week — non-exempt employees get overtime. ‌Therefore, those employees will have to document their work hours.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone was originally published on Calendar by .

5 Tips for Establishing Solid Business Processes From the Start

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5 Tips Establishing Solid Business Processes

Being an entrepreneur is fulfilling and empowering, but it can also be incredibly difficult. Only 20% of startups remain in operation after their first two years. That number only gets higher over time.

There are numerous reasons why businesses fail. Sometimes it’s due to changes in supply and demand or because you were in the right place but at the wrong time. One very common reason, however, is a lack of operational efficiency.

To avoid becoming another statistic, you should do everything in your power to establish solid business processes from the inception of your startup. Here are five ways to accomplish that.

1. Lean on Software

Since you’re starting from scratch, the best approach is to establish business processes that are supported by software programs. Get these programs into place before your doors open for the first time, and your new business will be in a very good place.

For example, if you have online appointment software set up in advance, you can start booking appointments before your business officially opens. You’ll have a good influx of customers right out of the gate and a system that already works well from day one.

Software can be used to improve business processes in bookkeeping and finance, customer relationship management, and team collaboration. Just be careful when adding new software to your organization. If there are solutions that don’t integrate, they will become difficult and complicated to manage.

2. Train to Get Ahead

The bulk of your training should occur before your business gets started. If you save most of the training for later, you’ll be playing catch-up. A well-trained workforce will be much more efficient and proficient, so much so that it’s worth pushing back your business opening to make sure training is done right.

Start with those software programs you have set up for your business. Make sure that every employee is comfortable with this software before they’re asked to put it to use. With proper training for each tool, there will be fewer problems and delays in the opening stages of your business.

3. Learn From Others

You can discover a lot by analyzing the failures and successes of other businesses. You can learn from the errors they committed and take note of how they did the things that turned out well. This will provide you with a list of dos and don’ts for running your business at full capacity right from the start.

Let’s say you’re opening up a bakery. Before you fire up the ovens on your first day, take a look at other local food establishments to see what you can learn from them. Do they all use the same point-of-sale system, and if so, what’s the reason for that? Do they use similar methods of staffing that appear to aid in productivity? Having this information up front can be incredibly valuable because it eliminates a lot of the trial and error new businesses experience.

Networking is also a valuable practice for new business owners. By speaking with experienced professionals, you can get tips on establishing solid business practices in the beginning. Not only that, but through networking, you can learn which suppliers are reliable and efficient and establish relationships with them.

4. Build Workflows and Workforces

Whether it’s creating a product or providing a service, there is a workflow that gets you and your customer from point A to point B. The more straightforward this workflow is, the more consistent and efficient the process will be as a whole. When building your preliminary workflows, try to keep them as linear as possible. More moving parts mean more room for error.

You should also be building your workforce and directing them toward efficiency. Every member of your team should have a defined role and title. This way they’ll always know what their responsibilities are and where they need to turn for help.

5. Track Data From the Start

While it’s good to be prepared, you can’t keep pushing off your grand opening until every aspect of your business model is flawless. What you can do instead is kick your business off and start tracking relevant metrics immediately.

Using real-time data, you can make small adjustments to your business as soon as you open. Examples of useful data metrics include website traffic, sales numbers, and social media engagement. The sooner you start tracking data, the quicker it can be put to use.

It’s important to take sample size into consideration as well. You should give your business at least a little bit of time to accumulate data on such things as daily customer traffic and sales. That way you can be working with averages rather than outliers. You’ll know the data you collect will represent accurate information that has been sustained over time.

The earliest stages of your business can be the most important ones. It’s important to get started on the right foot so you can hit the ground running. Implementing these tips can help your business enjoy a stellar opening and pave the way toward longevity and prosperity.

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels; Thank you!

4 Recommendations for Teams in 2022

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Recommendations Teams 2022

The mixed work model will likely be commonplace throughout 2022 and well into the future, so we may as well get used to it and learn to do it well. Consider these suggestions to help you create a great mixed-team work approach.

COVID brought on the full-hybrid work model, and as long as it continues to work well, it will likely be the work model forever. Teams will experience growing pains until hybrid work can work out the kinks and become the norm. While no one technique works for all individuals, positions, or projects — consider these suggestions. Creating a productivity schedule is crucial.

Develop the hybrid work model with your company.

There is no one-size-fits-all hybrid work paradigm; it must match your organization’s culture and personnel. The key to success is co-creating that model with your team and providing communication avenues and expectations.

Avoid making top-down judgments with your hybrid worker without consulting a few team members. All decisions, no matter how small, immediately affect your employees. Ask about employee preferences and attempt to fulfill them. Take time to listen to individual needs so that discontent and anger don’t erode your culture and morale.

1. Agree on the office’s role in the hybrid environment.

Consider which structures work best for your team. Take care of your workers, and they will care for your consumers. Popular hybrid work arrangements include remote-first with office days or office-first with remote days. Some firms only meet in person once a month — but your very individual business needs will have to dictate many of your decisions.

Agree on the office’s role in the hybrid environment. Is it to encourage cooperation or relationships? Collect everyone’s ideas and don’t simply go back to work because that’s what you used to do. Alternatives to your enormous, unoccupied workplace may also benefit your yearly budget.

2. Trust your staff

Let people work in ways that make them happy and productive.

Set goals and deadlines for your team instead of time monitoring. It’s challenging to be productive and present when working remotely. However, measures should not be considered a punishment but a tool to help personnel achieve their objectives.

Most employees don’t work the eight hours they’re at the office because they have spontaneous meetings and strong connections with coworkers. Consider: managers should ignore time as a productivity indicator and trust staff to accomplish their jobs well. Time as an indicator is a sign that the objectives are too simple and that the workers are distant since they don’t need to cooperate as much or “look busy.”

Otherwise, you risk the “watermelon effect” — excellent “green” performance, but a significant chunk of red underneath the surface, representing an awful employee experience. Employees may address issues with coworkers rather than management at the (virtual) water cooler.

3. Meetings: rethink

Don’t be a victim of your success.

We need to discover new working methods to not spend all our time in meetings and our weekends and nights on “serious work.” So we need more asynchronous work.

Adopt a facilitator’s approach to developing new working ways — concentrate on understanding human interactions and structuring work to fit them best.

Asking check-in and check-out questions helps to keep meetings sociable. Having off-topic talks and connecting with people is vital.

4. Foster connections and interactions

Consider alternatives like walk & talks, virtual coworking, music quizzes, open office hours, and buddy systems.

During their initial weeks or months at the organization, a “work buddy” meets with new workers one-on-one to facilitate a seamless transition.

This allows for knowledge exchange and learning even while working remotely. Younger workers who rely on senior staff for information appreciate this exchange.

Encourage your staff to plan walking meetings or catch-ups with one other. Walk & Talks help you exercise and interact with others. Plus, they help alleviate our collective Zoom fatigue.

Leaders and workers may add open (virtual) office hours to their calendars or status bars to encourage more spontaneous talks. During specific time windows, anybody may phone that individual to bounce ideas off, discuss a problem, or check in.

Virtual coworking allows people to work together yet on their projects. A group video conference is great for collaborating on separate tasks. People feel more accountable and productive when cameras and microphones are on.

Having the appropriate tools helps to facilitate teamwork.

There will be an issue with your team when you introduce information or tools that:

a) team doesn’t grasp the purpose of and

b) tool doesn’t enhance the team workflows or productivity.

Also, the tools must easily integrate synchronous and asynchronous operations. Tools and admin for their own sake are harmful, so giving people the correct tools and listening to their comments goes a long way. If tools aren’t helpful after a long test period, destroy them. Don’t utilize them because it’s tradition.

Teams in hybrid mode

Balance is essential since individuals have varying amounts of energy while socializing. You don’t want your staff exhausted or lonely. Using these suggestions might assist your employees in shifting to the hybrid model in a manner that seems so natural you’ll soon be calling it work.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Catch Up on Work When You’re Behind

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How To Catch Up Work When Behind

Do you have an endless list of tasks at work that keeps growing before you can begin to cross things off? Hey. It happens to the best of us from time to time. However, add up having an endless list with all the fires you’re putting out, and suddenly you’re behind the eight ball.

It may not have been your intention, but that mountain of work can start to feel unattainable. And as a consequence, you may miss deadlines or milestones that you’ve set. Understandably, this can lead to an overwhelming and stressful feeling. Even worse? If you start to miss deadlines, it isn’t easy to regain your focus and get back on track.

Thankfully, all is not lost if you use these strategies to catch up on work, you’re behind. Here is a list of the best “get over it and get going” advice I could put together for you.

Recognize that you’re overwhelmed and need assistance.

“The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you have a problem.” — Jase Robertson

Yes. This is easier said than done. However, as Jase Robertson noted, this is without question the first step you have to take.

To make this process easier, you first need to acknowledge that not only have you fallen behind on your work, but you’re also overwhelmed. And, not that you’ve accepted this, you can explore ways to dig yourself out of this hole.

Here are some of the strategies that I’ve used in the past.

Prioritize my to-do list and shrink my workload.

I’m a big fan of the Eisenhower Matrix. This system divides tasks into four quadrants. From there, a set of columns and rows helps determine where tasks go. Tasks are then sorted into columns according to urgency and nonurgency, while the rows indicate essential and not so important tasks.

Together, you get the following quadrants:

  • First Quadrant: Do
  • Second Quadrant: Decide
  • Third Quadrant: Delegate
  • Fourth Quadrant: Disregard

Whatever items are in the first quadrant deserve your attention and energy before anything. Ideally, you want to limit these to only three priorities per day so that you can actually achieve them.

Anything in the second quadrant gets scheduled to when you have the availability. Then, you’ll delegate or outsource the items in the third quadrant. And whatever remains can be removed from your list.

It’s a simple and effective way to not only reduce your workload but also encourage you to focus on what’s most important.

Limit my distractions.

With your priorities identified, you want to add them to your calendar. You want to block out as many distractions as possible during these time blocks. For example, you can turn off your phone, close the office door, or put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

Take a deep breath and ask for help.

If you are still overwhelmed and feel like you’re underwater, then let others know. You shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for help. It’s also not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s actually a strength, as it provides an opportunity to explore unique perspectives and insights.

In addition, research has shown that doing so builds resilience relationships and is an indicator of high performance. In addition, it can help you enjoy a better mental state of mind. Moreover, sitting next to hard and motivated workers helps one’s work ethic.

Prioritize your backlog.

“If work is piling up, it’s time to prioritize your backlog as best as possible, suggests Mario Peshev, CEO of DevriX. “Compile all of those tasks in one place and categorize them by priority, urgency or complexity.”

“You can push through the most important tasks first and free up some time to sort out the rest of the backlog, or tackle the lowest hanging fruits by reducing the number of activities you have to complete,” he adds. In some cases, seeing a bigger picture in one place may prove to be helpful in delegating some tasks or even outsourcing to partners when needed.

“Having the opportunity to reflect may expose opportunities to hire for a new role.” Or, you may decide to get an assistant or take a break from activities that take up your time regularly without generating the ROI you need.

 Follow the 2-minute rule.

Do you have tasks that take two minutes or less? If so, do them now and remove them from your to-do list. As a result, your brain gets a nice little rush of reward chemicals like dopamine. And, it can help you build up momentum so that you can climb out that “I can’t seem to get anything done today” spiral.

What if it’s a slightly more complicated or time-consuming task? This task should be postponed until you have the time to attend to it properly.

Just say “no.”

I’ll be honest. I’m struggling with this. I don’t want to disappoint others or earn the reputation of being a “No Man.” However, when you’re playing catch-up, you have no other option.

But, how exactly can you master the art of saying “no?” Well, if you’ve added your priorities to your calendar, you have a perfectly valid reason for declining additional work or grabbing lunch with a friend. But, then, a simple, “I’m sorry, I’m booked this week, can we schedule this in two weeks?” should be just fine.

The most important takeaway is that you should be firm, while also being polite. An example response could be, “I appreciate you considering me for the assignment. Unfortunately, I’m not available right now, but I hope to keep you posted.” The great thing about this response is that it shows gratitude while also leaving the door open for future opportunities.

Ask the “Focusing Question.”

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” asks Gary Keller, co-author of “The One Thing. He says that you should ask this “over and over until you’re doing the most important thing – your ‘ONE Thing.’”

“Extraordinary results are rarely happenstance,” Keller adds. “They come from the choices we make and the actions we take.”

“The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success,” explains Keller. “It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters.” No matter if “you’re looking for answers big or small, asking the Focusing Question is the ultimate ‘success habit’ in your life.”

After you have answered the “Focusing Question,” jot it down. According to Dr. Gail Matthews, an associate professor of psychology at the Dominican University in California, writing down your goals and dreams regularly can make you 42% more likely to achieve them.

Whenever you’re stuck, switch gears.

If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, start something else. That may sound counterproductive. If you can knock out a simple task right now, that will help build momentum.

Compared to trying to push through when stuck, research shows that switching to another unrelated task improves performance. So, the next time you’re stuck, change tack by doing either of the following three things;

  • Take a short break of 5-15 minutes, then start a new block of time devoted to something else, preferably something sequential.
  • Whenever possible, take a 30- to 60-minute break to move your body before starting another task or attempting to return to the one you can’t figure out. If you don’t have that much time available, go for a short job or yoga session.
  • Calm your mind. Even if you’ve prioritized your list, your mind is probably still racing with everything that needs to get done. As a result, this can cause you to feel stressed and anxious. Find ways to manage these feelings through journaling, breathing exercises, or listening to soothing music.

End the procrastination cycle.

Did you know that procrastination is more closely related to emotion than time? Well, that’s according to scientists. It’s been found that people who procrastinate often do so to give themselves a temporary emotional release. However, by avoiding the dreaded task, they aren’t improving their emotional state due to guilt over procrastination.

Although procrastination occurs to all of us from time to time, chronic procrastinators can become trapped in this endless cycle of procrastination. So, if you find yourself in this loop, how can you break free?

Two methods have proven to be effective in interrupting this recurring cycle. One of those methods is an external deadline. When you have a deadline to meet, you often force yourself just to get started to complete it. Ideally, someone else should set this deadline, like a supervisor or client. However, if that’s not an option, you can create a self-imposed deadline even though it’s not as effective.

A second way to break the procrastination cycle is to consider your mood as a fixed state. Researchers found students did not procrastinate when they believed their moods were fixed. But, when they thought they could improve their mood, they procrastinated.

In short, you may find it challenging to start your work if you are feeling lousy. However, you will be more likely to buckle down and get the job done if you accept your lousy mood as part of life.

“Extend your workday.”

“Usually, extending your workday isn’t recommended,” says Ryan Sundling on Robin Waite. “But when you are behind on work, it doesn’t hurt to stay for an extra 30 minutes each day.”

If you decide to stay, make the most of it. “Given that most people will have already gone home, your office will be quiet, and you can get more work done,” he adds. “With fewer people around, there should be far fewer interruptions. If you stay an extra hour each day for one week, you could potentially have enough time to catch up on your work.”

The key, however, is to limit yourself. After all, you shouldn’t burn yourself out. “You won’t do yourself any favors by turning into a zombie, even if you are catching up!” Sundling warns.

Are you really behind or do you just feel like you’re not doing so well?

It’s one thing to have missed a hard deadline. It’s another to feel like you’re behind because you’re comparing yourself to others. If it’s the latter, then try using the positive benefits of competition to your advantage.

“Track your triggers.”

When you become aware of what triggers self-comparison for you, you can transform them into opportunities for more effective responses to self-comparison, writes Nihar Chhaya in HBR.

Shift from reactive rumination to purposeful reframing. For example, after you identify the situations that provoke feelings behind, you may decide to stop all activities that cause feelings of insecurity.

This approach is not always practical. For example, you may not avoid what your peers are saying in the workplace. But, you can reduce comparisons on social media by limiting your time on these platforms or viewing your peer’s progress objectively.

“Exhibit a personal strength to regain validation and momentum.” 

“During an acute bout of insecurity, you may start to brood about how you can catch up to others,” states Chhaya. “At this time, recapture your sense of self-efficacy by taking small actions to achieve small wins.” Highlight your strengths, share them with the world, and apply the validation to boost your resilience.”

“Redefine your peer set and create a new field of play.”

Comparing yourself to a fixed set of peers is like playing a zero-sum game where you are either ahead or behind your peers. “But by expanding your view to include new and diverse peer groups, you create less of a binary evaluation of your success and enable new domains to dominate,” Chhaya adds.

“Shake free of internalized expectations.”

A promotion at work may seem like an actual competition, but it’s another thing to feel behind your peers. Insecurity is also caused by a mindset that leads to perpetual insecurity: the belief that you should aim to outperform your peers and want everything they strive for.

Having to abide by this “tyranny of the should” is like living in a never-ending race. Success depends on what others want, not what you want.

“Consider the possibility that everything you have chosen to do until now has always been the right path, regardless of what you think you were supposed to do,” Chhaya advises.

Image Credit: energepic.com ; Pexels; Thank you!

Getting Excited About Work After COVID

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After adjusting to working remotely for the past year, it’s about time to head back to work. In some cases, some people have already returned. In either case, it’s not going to be a smooth transition. Some people would prefer to continue working from home — while others may still be concerned about their safety. The good news, though, is that the following strategies can be used to get you excited about work after COVID.

Overcome your anxiety.

“So much has changed since March 2020,” says Kate Sweeny, professor of psychology and Teresa and Byron Pollitt Endowed Term Chair. “For many of us, one change has involved learning to work from home rather than going to an office every day.”

Initially, the pandemic may have been quite stressful. Still, thankfully, those who survived have been able to adjust and become comfortable staying at home most of the time – or at least relatively so, says Sweeny. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, many people are feeling anxious as they look ahead to a time when they have to return to the office, returning to once-comfortable but now unfamiliar routines.”

“My research on the psychology of stressful uncertainty reveals several ways of managing these anxieties.”

The first thing you should do is plan ahead so that you gain control over the future. Some suggestions would be going over your work wardrobe, dusting off your daily planner, or finding a new recipe to pack for lunch.

Secondly, you can see the good in returning to work to boost your hope and optimism and calm your fears. Have you missed any coworkers? Are there any old routines that will provide comfort? That could be anything from grabbing a latte at your favorite coffee shop to getting dressed to listening to a podcast during your commute.

“Finally, if all else fails, you can find challenging, engaging activities to absorb your attention,” suggests Sweeny. This is a process called “flow,“ and it can “help pass the time pleasantly while you wait for the ‘old normal’ to return.”

Remember the “why.”

“When people have to do something they feel anxious about, it can help to know there’s a good reason behind it,” writes Amy Gallo for HBR. “If the senior leaders at your company haven’t clearly articulated why it’s important people come back to the office, you may need to fill that gap.”

“Communicate the vision from upper management so employees see it as reasonable and can get out on board. If they don’t buy-in, it’s going to feel like coercion,” says Jacob Hirsh, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. “What’s the value proposition for going back in? What is in it for the employees? Will they strengthen their relationships with their coworkers? Will it lessen work-life conflicts if there are clearer boundaries? It can be perceived as a loss so reframe it as to what they will gain.”

You should also let your team know that this wasn’t a hasty decision. “They need to see that there’s a competent and well-thought-out plan,” Hirsh says. The plan should also take their needs into account. For example, you might say something like, “We understand that some of you have reservations, and those make sense. To address those, we’ve….” Again, you want people to feel heard and considered.

Find meaningful work.

What if you’re in a leadership position? What if it hasn’t been articulated that you will or won’t return to the workplace? You can find meaningful work by;

  • Identify the parts of your job that you enjoy and what you’re passionate about.
  • Use the alignment triangle. To align these three concepts, one must consider three elements: passion, values, and gifts (or what many refer to as talents and skills).
  • You can turn your current job into one you genuinely enjoy by implementing a job crafting strategy. How is that possible? You can do this by modifying your job description so that it is meaningful. The result will be greater happiness and engagement at work.
  • Seek autonomy, such as being able to work when you’re most productive.
  • Ask others, like ” What am I good at?” or “What’s the purpose of my work?”

Harness the power of hybrid work.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, which surveyed more than 30,000 people globally, found that 40% of those surveyed were considering leaving their employers this year. So it’s clear that employers are under tremendous pressure to adapt to changing expectations.

What matters is not whether or not flexible work is possible in the future, but whether and how employers support employees. For example, Nielsen’s Total Audience Report for August 2020 indicated that 80% of respondents would prefer to work for a firm that would let them choose where they would work.

Work-from-home (WFH) arrangements offer more flexibility, autonomy, and (theoretically) more time for personal responsibilities. But, on the flip side, WFH results in a decrease in trust within the workplace. And, people still value face-to-face meetings and interacting with colleagues.

The solution? A hybrid work model where you occasionally work on-site, while other times you would work from home — or wherever you want. Besides offering the best of both worlds, hybrid work increases productivity and can help everyone ease their way back into position.

Reunite with colleagues.

According to Gensler’s research, interacting with colleagues is what employees have missed the miss most. However, some extroverts will find this reason enough to get excited about returning to the office.

In a world where we see a decrease in office occupancy, relying on interactions during breaks and at coffee, stations are no longer sufficient to spur innovation. Due to the more flexible schedules and seating available in your workplace, you’ll need to find new, creative ways to facilitate team building.

Providing new amenities or forms of recreation at your office is one suggestion. Another is scheduling catered lunches or volunteering together at a local charity. You might even want to explore cross-functionality so that everyone has a chance to interact with people from various departments and backgrounds.

It’s important not to overlook the fun part, gatherings like office parties — when it’s safe, of course. But, even simple opportunities for reuniting and connecting will motivate employees to return to work. And, having people return and take part in in-person meetings will create a sense of FOMO.

However, just note that there might still be some awkwardness and conflict. Some of us may have to work on learning how to socialize again with others. This resocialization is much more authentic in such a polarizing time politically and socially.

Foster healthy competition.

A healthy competitive environment can also inject a whole lot of excitement and efficiency back into the workplace. Team members who have benchmarks for performance and are rewarded for exceptional performances motivate themselves to give their best. This also stimulates them to come up with new ideas. Exercises that help build team spirit and encourage competition are a great way to keep their spirits high.

In teams where employees return after a long absence, it’s imperative to foster competition while maintaining team unity. By appreciating their abilities and besting their past performances, you can promote fair competition.

Perks

A tried and true strategy in keeping people happy and engaged is through workplace perks. In fact, an employee survey found 48% would consider company benefits, including snacks, when choosing a new job.

Besides refreshments, consider the following perks;

  • Recognition programs
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Vacation or paid time off
  • Health and wellness programs, like gym memberships or access to apps like Calm
  • Employee discounts and rewards
  • 401 (k) plan, pension, or other retirement plans
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Stock options
  • Childcare assistance

Development opportunities.

One of the significant drawbacks of remote work reported over the past year has been a lack of professional development opportunities. You can use this to your advantage and have your office become a business networking and seminar center. For instance, a regular company-wide training program at your company headquarters makes everyone feel more connected.

The opportunity to learn and grow is significant for Millennials and Gen Z. In fact, a Gallup survey showed 59% of Millennials value learning opportunities and growth when applying for jobs.

Furthermore, a survey conducted by CNBC showed that 9 out of 10 employees who have a mentor say they are happier with their jobs. You can also provide mentorship programs in your office so that your employees can find mentors, whether they are formal or informal.

Spruce up the workspace.

You don’t have to completely redo the workplace, like painting the walls or adding more windows. Instead, you could simply invest in a standing desk or just adding more plants. Plants have been shown to have many benefits, including increasing productivity, improving health, and creating a more inviting workspace.

Image credit: Ylanite Koppens; pexels; Thanks!

Getting Excited About Work After COVID was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

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Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

While it was certainly an adjustment, overall, I felt like I came out of COVID-19 unscathed. I’m certainly not trying to brag. I was, and still am, fortunate to work from home when I need or want to — and most of our employees are able to do the same. I was really grateful for the quality time with my family, finally getting around to projects that I’d been putting off, and it even enhanced my business savvy.

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

With so many other people suffering and trying to get back to work — and the economy is struggling — I don’t take it for granted that I’m grateful every morning when I wake-up. I do, however, long for the good-ole-days.

I’m certainly not the only one. Anecdotally, when I catch up with friends, family, and colleagues — some still want to meet virtually — I can hardly tolerant virtual meetings anymore. And now, the numbers have started going up in many areas of the country because of non-vaxxers.

In short, we all started to miss what we considered “normal.” According to David Kessler, author and grieving expert, that’s because we started feeling different types of grief.

Why we’re grieving — All of these things happened in Covid — and some still feel it.

“We feel the world has changed, and it has,” Kessler told HBR. “We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different.”

“The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection,” he adds. All of these are “hitting us, and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Additionally, we’re also dealing with anticipatory grief — like when the numbers started going up about a week ago — what if we have to do this all over again? We will go through anticipatory grief when we’re uncertain about the future. “Usually, it centers on death,” he says. “We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday.”

“Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures,” he says. “There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people.”

The reason for this is because our primitive minds realize that “something bad is happening. However since you can’t see it, “our sense of safety” is broken, he adds. “We’re feeling that loss of safety.”

“I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this,” Kessler says. “Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

If there’s any silver lining, though, it’s that there are simple and effective ways to cope. For starters, Kessler recommends understanding the stages of grief and learning calming techniques. But, you should also try these nine other strategies to help you accept and manage your feelings.

1. Don’t get stuck.

“I see a lot of jokes on social media about drinking at 10 a.m. and sharing ‘quarantinis’ over video chats, almost to the point of normalizing these self-medicating behaviors,” writes Megan Seidman, a primary therapist at Caron Renaissance. “People are cut off from their usual methods of coping, and many are turning to unhealthy ways of immediate gratification to numb their discomfort.”

It should go without saying that not only is that dangerous in the short term, but it could have long-term implications. Besides putting your health and wellness in jeopardy, being funny about the consequences of much sadness may give people ideas who are on a different level of pain — and could lead to substance abuse.

Some people never allowed themselves to grieve, and now they think we might be back in the same problems that happened a year ago. They “haven’t allowed themselves to feel the loss, fear, and grief they have,” they may experience “complicated grief and post-event trauma.”

“Complicated grief becomes all-encompassing, making it difficult for people to think about anything else,” explains Seidman. “They cannot accept the reality of the losses they’ve experienced and therefore fail to adjust to the new reality.”

What’s more, it’s going to be more challenging for these individuals to get “back into their former routines.” Seidman warns that we could “see issues in ongoing relationships, divorces, rumination over losses, and difficulty sleeping. Once the social distancing is alleviated, if people haven’t worked through this process, they’re going to have a harder time reconnecting with others.”

2. Add predictability.

You may have never thought about this until your routine was broken due to the pandemic. But they’re incredibly important. First, Northwestern Medicine notes, “offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.”

Now we’ve headed back to the office — but maybe you haven’t committed to going into the office every day as before. Maybe you don’t have a routine yet — this can make you suffer from stress, unhealthy eating, and insomnia.

If you gained a few (or a lot) of the Covid-pounds — you may have gotten yourself in poor physical condition. And, you may be ineffectively using your time and feeling non-productive.

To counter the above, add some predictability to your life. Personally, I’ve started a new routine. It took some trial and error. But I set a routine of when I will be in the office and when I will work from home. I also had all of the employees commit to a determined schedule. It helps all of us to know what is going on and when.

If you’re struggling with this, here are some pointers to get you on your way:

  • Build your resistance. Don’t waste your energy fighting against change. Instead, accept it, practice some self-care, and focus on your current priorities.
  • Follow your usual patterns. If you wake up at 5 am, start work at 9 am, and eat dinner at 6 pm, try to keep that schedule. You may need to be flexible, but sticking to your previous schedule as close as possible gives you a sense of normalcy.
  • Schedule your habits in your calendar — schedule healthy habits like exercise or writing so that you’ll follow through. Physical activity is a proven way to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Create an optimal environment. If you’re working from home, create a dedicated space reserved only for work. Don’t forget to keep it cleaned and organized as well.
  • Ask for help if you’re struggling — reach out to your support systems like a mentor or friend.
  • Take a reset day. Sometimes you need to take the day off and get things in order. But don’t squander this opportunity. Instead, use it to clean your house, review your goals, or tie up any loose ends.
  • Be the tortoise. A new routine won’t happen overnight. So be patient and work your way back into a routine.

3. Connect with others.

Last year — all the stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and social distancing took a toll on your mental health. Why? According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Social Connections and Health Research Laboratory at Brigham Young University, it’s because “being socially connected in meaningful ways is actually key to human health and survival.”

While this was a concern before the pandemic, it does highlight the importance of connecting with others. So if you are still in some kind of a funk since Covid — make it a point to connect more completely with your loved ones. Just do it — pick up the phone — you are free to meet with people for now. Take advantage of that.

4. Practice gratitude.

Realize that the glass is not still empty — practice gratitude to put things into perspective.

Furthermore, gratitude can make you happier and improve your relationships. It may even help reduce physical ailments. These include headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.

And, when it comes to being grateful — there are several ways to go about it. The most obvious would be writing in a daily gratitude journal. But, you could also send someone a ‘thank you,’ paying compliments to others and viewing each day as a new opportunity. Going for a walk outside and reflect for a moment at the end of the day and write down your wins.

5. Make time to play.

Your “play” doesn’t have to be like when you were a kid in school literally. But, scheduling time to play can give you that much-needed mental boost since it reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins. Additionally, it can make you more creative by encouraging problem-solving.

What counts as play? Anything. Board and video games, kicking a soccer ball around the backyard, puzzles, coloring, and singing are considered to play. If you can call someone to come over — do it. Our office has started to play pickleball every day at lunch and for an afternoon break. We invite other offices to join in our “tournaments.” It has been so refreshing. After such a long quarantine, sometimes we forget to get other people to come. If this is you — mark it on your Calendar or set an alarm.

6. Reduce screen time.

Now that the pandemic is over — determine to limit your screen time. Get outside and do stuff, especially since it’s summer and we can. Make a list and go do everything you dreamed about when you couldn’t get out. It is amazing how many great things are out there that are free or of little cost. But you can’t get out and do extra things if you are glued to the TV.

I’ve also established tech-free zones in the house. And, before listening to podcasts before bed — go back to reading books. You’ll be amazed at how well you sleep.

7. Focus on what you can control.

How to let go of control is no easy feat — especially for entrepreneurs. But, if there has been one key takeaway from the coronavirus, it’s that no matter how much you demand it — there are plenty of things in life that are out of your hands.

Right now, you can do things like getting on a plane, host a party and even go to a concert or sporting event. So go do each of those things. It is amazing how quickly you will perk up and be more productive.

If you are back at the office — go out and get some plants (all our office plants died). So we all went out and picked plants for the office together at a nursery — because we could. Also, get some new pillows for the office couch out front.

8. Stop worrying about being productive.

We live in a world where we obsess about being productive. And that can be problematic. Being “on” 24/7 and trying to maximize every minute of your day can make you anxious and exhausted. So to be productive and motivated — keep yourself fresh with new ideas and thoughts and do something fun.

If you feel up to getting things done, go for it, work fast and do it. On the other hand, if you are lagging in your new “back to the office” zone, give yourself a break — you’ve been through a lot.

9. Be aware of red flags.

Finally, pay attention to your grief if you have it. Don’t swallow! But pay attention to the red flags. Has your alcohol consumption increased? Are your sleeping or eating patterns different? Do you feel hopeless? If any of these things are still bugging you since the end of covid — look for a way to pull yourself out of it. It sounds cliché — but eat right, sing, dance and exercise. Ask around what others are doing, or if someone feels the same way you do.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then please seek help immediately. You can start by talking to your spouse, partner or best friend. But, you may need to reach out to a mental health professional. Please do this sooner than later so that you can move forward.

Should You Bring Work On Your Vacation?

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Should You Bring Work On Your Vacation?

Summertime is a popular time for vacation-goers. Sometimes when I’m headed on vacation with friends, it’s easier to get off work at other times during the year. But when you want to head out of town with the kids, summer is the best time because they are out of school for the next few months.

Parents still have to take time off work, which can be a bit of a logistical problem at times. For this reason, many working parents debate on whether or not they should take some work with them on vacation.

The obvious answer to some might be no, that ruins the point of a vacation. However, there is some merit to taking a little work with you on a trip if you play your cards right. This article will dissect both the pros and cons of such a decision for your upcoming family trip:

Why You Should Take Work on Vacation

There are some scenarios when bringing work on vacation with you can actually be a good idea. For those who really struggle with the stress of taking off work, bringing a few assignments along may provide an ideal balance:

Take More Time Off

When you take work on the road, you might be able to squeeze in some more time off. In addition, the ability to take on a few tasks and assignments even when you’re out of the office means that you’re not needed back as quickly, buying you some more vacation time.

Let’s say there’s a simple project that you need to get done by the end of the week. By picking up that task and taking it with you, you can fulfill an obligation with work without the need to show up at the office. In addition, with this project getting done, you can feel better about the time you’re spending away from the company.

Keep Up With Deadlines

What happens when you want to take a vacation, but you have some deadlines coming up? Trying to jam them all into your online calendar before your trip is extremely stressful and can really damage the quality of your work. On the other end of the spectrum, pushing all of your deadlines back until you get home from your trip can fill your entire vacation with dread.

Instead of trying to alter your schedule too much, just plan around your vacation to include a few deadlines throughout the duration of your trip. A deadline or two sprinkled into your online calendar won’t take up too much time and will help ease your concerns about missing work for an extended period.

Stay Fulfilled

There are a lot of people in the world that work hard every day. Sometimes people do extra work because they crave the sense of fulfillment they get from a job well done. Taking a week off to relax, however beneficial for them, can be a challenge when they’re not checking off boxes or turning in assignments.

If you’re one of these people that gets a little antsy without your work — taking a bit of work with you on vacation can provide the relief you want. Whether it’s the fulfillment you need, or something else, you don’t need to feel guilty about bringing along your diversion. You also don’t need to worry about kicking back.

This concept also applies to anyone trying to pursue some lofty goals this summer that are work-related. Completing some tasks even while on vacation helps ensure you stay on the right track toward completing the goals you set for yourself, like qualifying for a promotion or a pay raise.

Why You Shouldn’t Bring Your Work Along

While we applaud productivity here, oftentimes, a vacation needs to be just that. Trips are to explore the world, experience new things, and take a break from your daily stress and responsibilities. Bringing work along can end up being counterproductive in that sense. But you can slowly work toward the goal of working less and less on vacations until you hit your best compromise.

Lose Time With Family

When you’re on a family vacation, your highest priority should be spending quality time with your loved ones. Nothing should get in the way of that, especially not work. So what’s the point of even taking a trip with your family if you’re not going to be participating in the trip with them?

If you plan to bring work with you on a trip, use your online Calendar to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of quality time with family. Block off time, specifically very early morning or later at night when vacation activities aren’t scheduled, and people are in bed. In this way, you’re not missing out on the family fun. Correct scheduling is the way you can have the best of both worlds.

Builds Up Stress

Vacations are meant for relaxing. It’s a chance to forget about work and relish in a life free of worries. So why bring work into the mix when it can easily mess up that chemistry?

Of course, not bringing work with you might be the source of your stress. Stress can eat away at you, especially if you have just started your business or are a true entrepreneur.

Until things are set up in certain ways, maybe with a few more employees, it may only be you who can make the business running smoothly when while. You’re on vacation.

Whatever the case is for you — if you have a team, just make sure you set your team up right and only respond to emergencies as needed. Then, they’ll be able to do the heavy lifting while you take a much-needed break away from it all.

Increases Burnout

Taking a break from work is meant to reduce the risk of burnout. However, when burnout strikes, it strips you of motivation and drive, leading to a sharp decline in productivity and quality of work. This can be costly when it comes to staying in good standing with your current job.

If you truly feel like you need to take some time off to forget about work, make your number one priority. Let your company know that you need this time so you can return an invigorated and energized employee. If they start sending you calendar notifications for meetings and assignments, let it be known that you plan to decline every single one of them until you return.

In the end, it’s up to you whether or not you bring work with you on vacation. Consider what you hope to accomplish and let the pros and cons help you make the right decision.

Is WFH Making You Miserable?

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7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

For years those who were fortunate enough to work remotely praised its benefits from the rooftops. In fact, numerous research backed-up these claims. For example, Owl Labs found in its 2019 State of Remote Work Reportthe following:

  • 83% of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely would make them happier.
  • 82% of respondents agree with the statement that working remotely would make them feel more trusted at work.
  • 81% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them better able to manage work-life conflict.
  • 81% of survey respondents agreed that working remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to a friend.
  • 80% of all survey respondents agreed that the ability to work remotely would make them less stressed.
  • 80% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them feel like their employer cares.
  • 74% of survey respondents agree that working remotely would make them less likely to leave their employer.

In short, remorse workers are happier, productive, and loyal. Reasons include autonomy, flexibility, and fewer workplace distractions. In turn, this is beneficial for their careers and well-being, as well as the bottom line.

Then the global pandemic yet. Suddenly people who had always dreamed of working from home who thrust into this new way of life. Some thrived, others didn’t.

You can’t fault them. A lot of folks just aren’t cut out for the WFH-life. Furthermore, there’s a dark side that’s making people downright miserable.

Why working from home is making people miserable?

“Working from home entails some degree of isolation,” explains business consultant Larry Alton. “If you live by yourself, you may go an entire day without seeing or talking to anybody.” But, even if this isn’t so, “you might customarily shut yourself away in a separate office.”

Why’s this such a big deal? Various research shows that social contact is paramount when it comes to our mental and physical health. Interacting with others can also calm and soothe us.

“Across multiple studies, controlling for factors like income, geographic regions, and even genetics, the single most important ingredient for long-term happiness appears to be how and how often we connect with other people,” adds Alton. “Loneliness, especially on a chronic basis, can subject you to depression, frustration, and career burnout.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s tempting to fall into unhealthy habits. For instance, during your routine, you might tell yourself that you’re only going to catch-up with the local news. Next thing you know, you’re playing along with The Price Is Right.

It may also be easier to sleep-in, make frequent trips to the fridge, and get less physical activity. If you have children, it’s a struggle trying to homeschool them while trying to get your work done. It’s more challenging to leave work at work — I mean, you are essentially living at work.

When you’re working by yourself, there isn’t an opportunity to take advantage of Equity Theory. According to Alton, “This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others. When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your own performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right.”

The good news? If working remotely has gotten you down, there are ways to turn that frown upside down. And you can start by trying out the following.

Overcome detachment.

In a pre-COVID world, this really wasn’t much of a problem. You could set-up a shop at your favorite cafe. You could join a shared workspace or actually go into work a couple of days per week.

Outside of work, you could socialize with friends or family. I’ve even taken breaks from work to chat with my neighbor. And you could attend local networking events.

While you might be able to do some of the above, it’s definitely more difficult living in a pandemic. If you’re uncomfortable being around others or can’t safely practice social distancing, you can still connect with others.

Obviously, the most popular way is via video calls using a platform like Zoom. Whether it’s meeting with your team or catching up with a friend, this has been a lifesaver. Just be cautious not to overdo it so that you miss a case of Zoom-fatigue.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with just picking up the phone and making a call. If you feel isolated, give your best friend or mentor a ring.

Set rituals, routines, and boundaries.

When you went to the office daily, you had a routine. That structure made it easier to schedule your time. More importantly, it helped you establish boundaries between work and home.

Does this mean you have to follow the exact same routine? Not exactly. The beauty of working from home is that you can set your schedule to fit your productivity peaks and personal obligations.

For example, if you’re a morning bird, you could wake-up before everyone else in your house. While it’s quiet and you have the energy, you can work on your most important task for the day. During your breaks, you could spend time with your family and get some exercise in.

Regardless of how you schedule your day, be consistent. And find ways to transition between your personal and professional lives. It could be something as simple as turning off your computer to changing your clothes.

Create a home “office” space.

I know it’s tempting to work from the comfort of your bed or couch. But, remember, you need separation between where you get things done and chillax. As such, you need a dedicated space that you associate with work.

Ideally, it should be somewhere quiet. A spare bedroom, basement, garage, or even closet would suffice. Additionally, it should also have the right tools and equipment — think desk, high-speed internet, and whatever else you need to work.

But, those are just the basics. Brighten your workspace with natural light, plants, and colors that match your work. For instance, if your job requires a ton of focus, surround yourself with the color blue.

And, go ahead and personalize your workspace by throwing in personal items like photos or memento from a past trip. Most importantly, keep this area clean and organized.

Use your breaks to get a dose of joy.

It’s no secret that frequent breaks throughout the day can boost productivity. The key is to use these breaks to rest and recharge and do something fun.

For me, that’s taking my dog for a walk after lunch — san phone. It’s been found multiple times that spending time outside can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. But, you could try anything that makes you happy, such as phoning a friend, drawing, or dancing.

Take advantage of working from home.

While there are disadvantages of remote work, look on the bright side. You don’t have to put up with a daily commute. As a result, you’re saving more time and money — which can be spent on something more fulfilling.

Also, you might be able to have your dog be by your side all day. Or, you get to spend more quality time with your kids. And, unless you have a video meeting, every day is casual Friday.

Accept your negative feelings.

Finally, embrace any negative feelings that you’re experiencing. It’s a proven way to help you work them. Besides, constantly seeking happiness can backfire.

“Any time you’re setting a standard for your mood when you don’t meet that standard, it’s painful,” said Brett Ford, a psychologist who studies emotions at the University of Toronto. “You’re basically adding pain on top of a lack of happiness.”

“We can’t be happy all the time, but we can be OK with whatever emotions we are having,” says Dr. Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist who studies behavioral change. “And in that sense, there’s a level of contentment that comes with that.”

“I’m content that I’m happy,” says Brewer. “I’m content that I’m not happy. Whatever emotion is here is here.”

Determine Whether Working With a Friend is a Good Idea

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What to Do if Appointments Keep Running Long

There’s no way to sugarcoat this; starting a business is no easy task. You wear multiple hats; you’re continually building clients, don’t forget networking. If you’ve built many businesses, as an entrepreneur — you understand the very real possibility of failure. But how do you determine whether working with a friend is a good idea?

Indeed, it’s a wonder that anyone would ever contemplate starting their own business. But, as Jimmy Dungan said in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

There are plenty of entrepreneurs who have decided to make this journey just a little bit easier — by teaming up with someone else. For example, Bill Gates had Paul Allen, and Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. The reason? Each partner brings something different to the table — whether that be different skill sets, lessening the workload, or having additional access to funding.

Maybe you want someone to gripe to, or someone to run your ideas past and have a second set of eyes on a project.

But, instead of approaching a stranger or acquaintance, why not just go ahead and start a business with a friend? After all, it worked for Gates and Allen and Jobs and Wozniak. There have been many famous entrepreneurial teams. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson — so why can’t it work for you and your friend?

Well, before you and your best friend get too far ahead of yourselves, you both should take a close look at the good and bad of working side-by-side with a friend.

Why You Should Start a Business With a Friend

You have a co-founder that you know and trust.

After spending years being acquainted with your friend, you know what their belief systems are, how they react to specific situations, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You also know how to get under each other’s skin, so hopefully, you’ll avoid triggering those emotions while in the workplace.

More importantly, they are someone you trust entirely — and know that they would never intentionally do you any harm. What more do you want of a co-founder or colleague?

As Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

You can speak freely and comfortably.

When you have a trusting and honest friendship, you can pretty much say whatever’s on your mind freely and comfortably. Sure. There will be times when they’ll say something that you don’t want to hear — or that you don’t agree with — but you know what they’re saying is genuine and sincere.

As a result, you can keep each other in-check since you’re calling each other on your BS and ultimately do what’s best for the business.

Creates a positive work environment.

Having friends at work can be extremely beneficial. 70 percent of employees believe having office friends is the “most crucial” aspect of obtaining a fulfilling work life. What’s more, office friendships lead to higher engagement and productivity and a stronger connection to the company.

You have someone to bear your burdens.

Starting a business on your own, as already mentioned above, it no easy task. It can also be incredibly lonely.

But, when you have a friend by your side, you eliminate this loneliness. More important, you have someone to share your burdens with your — whether that be financial or completing tasks on-time. And, because they’re going through everything you are, you can vent to each, celebrate accomplishments, and even throw a couple of drinks back after a particularly challenging week.

You share the same vision.

Friends tend to think alike — that’s likely why you became friends in the first place. You and your friend being able to think alike is actually a great asset for your business.

You likely have the same goals, values, and vision for your business. Thinking alike can come in useful when you’re pitching an idea or your business to a client, prospective customer, or interested investors. If you know what your partner-in-crime is going to say next, then you can set them up seamlessly.

Decisions are easier to make.

As I just mentioned, friends tend to think alike and have a similar vision and belief system. That can make it easier to agree on business decisions — even if you have a different opinion personally.

Remember, spending too much time making a decision isn’t just time-consuming, it can also drain you mentally. You want to save that energy for more important decisions.

They accept your strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s say that public speaking isn’t your thing, but you’re one heck of a coder. But, your friend is charismatic and loves speaking. Instead of them asking you to pitch your business to an investor or at a conference, they would instead ask you to make a killer website to impress others. They also wouldn’t get upset or frustrated in areas that you’re weak — and vice versa.

Simply put, you accept each for you are. As a result, you can leverage each other’s strengths and improve on your weaknesses.

More friend time.

When you work with a friend, it sometimes doesn’t feel like work at all. You get to shoot the breeze, have fun, and create memories. As a result, going to work becomes more enjoyable and relieves stress.

Why You Should Not Work With a Friend

It can be hard to distinguish between work and play.

At the same time, chatting and hanging out all day isn’t always great for productivity. Instead of focusing on work, you’re busy talking about a movie you watched over the weekend. On the flip side, when you’re outside of the office, you may start talking shop instead of just enjoying each other’s company.

No matter how much you love your business, you both need to set boundaries and separate work from play.

Also, you may let workplace difference spill over into your personal lives. For example, if you and your friend are disagreeing on the direction of the business, and it becomes heated, that could make your social life a bit awkward.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

As friends, you probably know a lot about each other. But, knowing too much of others can erode respect.

For example, if you don’t agree with the lifestyle your friend is living, you may feel that they’re someone you shouldn’t work with. Even despite the fact they’ve shown up to work every day bringing their A-game.

Who’s the boss?

Even if you’ve agreed on established roles, it can still be tough to take orders from your friend — and they probably feel the same. As a result, there may be a power struggle.

You must compartmentalize relationship issues.

Friends fight. But, you can’t let those little personal squabbles interfere with the business. No matter how ticked you are at each other — you must remain professional and discuss any disagreements calmly and rationally.

In other words, you need to learn how to compartmentalize any relationship issues you have. Just because you’re at odds personally doesn’t mean that you’re currently at odds with your business partner.

Performance issues can be awkward to address.

When an employee isn’t delivering the results you expect, the conversation isn’t complicated. You have a conversation with them, determine what the problem is, and discuss the ways that they can be more productive.

That conversation isn’t so straightforward with your friend. You may be too empathetic, or they’ll take what you’re saying too personal. It may be an awkward conversation, but it’s necessary if you want your business to thrive.

Friendships don’t always translate to business compatibility.

Sure. You and your friend may share similar values and philosophies. But, you may have completely different approaches to completing various business tasks. That can lead to conflict and when trying to build your business model and company culture.

You know the same people.

Networking is critical when starting a business. But, how much networking can you do when you and your partner know the same people?

Networking may be a greater challenge, but knowing how to find and establish new connections may not be challenging.

A failed business can lead to a failed friendship.

If you fail in this business venture — it can be the absolute worst-case scenario.

Let’s say the business fails, and you blame each other for the failure. You didn’t just lose business; you also lost your friend.

If you’re still on the fence about working with a friend, here are some questions you should ask yourself. Determinations will become more apparent with questions.

  • Do you share the same business goals and values?
  • Do your work habits and schedules align?
  • Can you complement each other’s skills and talents?
  • What roles and responsibilities should each partner take-on?
  • How will you resolve conflicts?
  • Are your personal lives stable?
  • How long have you known each other?

Just make sure that you cover all of the topics to do with your business that you can think of. A first business venture is usually the one that friends get together in. You want the best from your first business venture. Take the time to set up all of the parameters so that you and your friend can remain great partners through thick and thin.

8 End-of-Summer Services to Schedule for Your Business

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7 Ways to Optimize Your 2021 Appointment Schedule

Work doesn’t stop in the summer, but fall still feels like a reset. As the hottest season of the year winds down, it’s time to prepare for what’s ahead.

Internally, this means brainstorming and strategizing for your business. But getting ready for the fall also involves accomplishing some back-burner tasks. These are items that we tend to put off until the last minute. 

Many of these items are more urgent than we might think. Accomplishing them can avert future crises and keep customers happy. Luckily, they also tend to be services that people outside your company can do. 

Why not get ahead this year? Before summer ends, set up appointments to handle these tasks:

1. Deep-cleaning the office

Especially as COVID-19 rages on, keeping the office clean is an ongoing task. But once in a while, it’s necessary to do a deeper clean than usual. 

Think about the spaces in your office that receive less attention. Grime can build up and attract pests over time. So before the fall, hire a company to clean every nook and cranny. 

Treat this as an office reset. Encourage everyone to take home old trinkets, snacks, and other possessions they don’t need to do their jobs. 

2. Repainting

Your walls might need a new coat of paint before the summer ends. Small marks and scrapes build up, especially if you regularly have kids in the office.

Repainting is an opportunity to rethink your office color palette. Choose wisely to make the space more relaxing for customers and employees. Earthy tones can help you cultivate an atmosphere that is both inviting and productive. 

3. Cleaning the gutters

It’s easy to forget, but getting your gutters cleaned is a critical part of protecting your office.You need to clear them at least once a year to protect your roof, your foundation, and your landscape from excessive rainwater. 

Make sure the professional you hire is insured. Accidents happen, especially when people are on a roof. 

4. Checking your heating system

As fall approaches, the weather is going to start cooling down. It’ll be a nice respite from the summer heat at first, but it won’t be long before the chill sets in.

Don’t wait until your heater fails to get it serviced. Before the mercury drops below freezing, make sure it’s ready to handle the colder months. Your customers won’t want to sit in the cold as they wait for their appointment. 

5. Scheduling a group counseling session

Unlike the prior suggestions, this service is not for your building. But it could transform the dynamics of your team members for the better. 

As people buckle down and vacation season ends, getting the team together for a heart to heart is a great idea. Scheduling a group counseling session can let people air grievances and bond in ways that an all-staff meeting simply can’t. 

Unless you’re trained, don’t try to facilitate this yourself. To make group counseling work for your team:

  • Explain how you think counseling would help the team.
  • Coordinate everyone’s schedule to find the right time.
  • Ask a licensed professional counselor to come to your office — or to chat with everyone on Zoom.
  • Prepare your employees for what to expect beforehand.
  • Conduct a retrospective by asking each attendee’s takeaways.

6. Prepping Q3 taxes

Tax day is coming on September 15, but don’t panic: There’s still time to sit down with your CPA. Still, you don’t want to find yourself scrambling to get all of your paperwork together at the last minute.

If you don’t have an in-house accountant, reach out to local accounting services. Determine who has capacity to squeeze you in. Before deciding on one, ask around: Have other entrepreneurs in your area had a good or bad experience with any of them?

7. Redesigning your website

Has it been a while since your company website got an update? Hopefully, it’s updated with your company’s information. But a full-scale redesign might also be in order

Redesigning your website is a good way to revitalize your brand and roll out something special this fall. You can also make navigation more user friendly so that customers can more easily book appointments and make purchases. 

Bring a web designer in, and brainstorm ideas that they can work with. The right person can take what you give them to another level.

8. Servicing company vehicles

If your company relies on vehicles, make sure that they’re running smoothly before the fall. Get an oil change, rotate the tires, check the battery, and make sure the antifreeze is in good condition. You don’t want a nasty surprise, such as a vehicle not starting, when a member of your team is heading out to an appointment. 

The sooner you get these back-burner tasks done, the better you’ll be able to focus on what your business does best. End the summer with these preparatory tasks, and you’ll set your business up for an even better fall. 

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