Working From Home Part 2: Distractions, Expectations and Boundaries

The last article ended on concerns about your kids using up all the WiFi—unless you have unusually self-sufficient kids or older children who understand that you are at work even though you are at home keeping them occupied could be an issue.

Believe it or not most kids like having a schedule and find comfort in that familiarity—so make a schedule and stick to it. Books, puzzles and other quiet games are good. Also, some screen time is OK. Some television is fine. If you let your kids play video games those are OK as well.

If you have the right mix of ages among your children asking the older ones to help.

Now that you’ve got your family and technology sorted, what next?

Make sure you and your boss are on the same page about what the expectations are for your new work from home position. Do you need to be 100% available during business hours or can you work asynchronously to a degree? Will you be handling all the same work or has your position changed slightly since you are moving home?

If this transition is absolutely new to everyone (you, the company, your boss) keeping an open dialog and noting what is going well and not so well will be key.

You’ll also have to consider yourself—can you jump out of bed, sit down and get to it cup of coffee in hand? Are you easily distractible?

Many work from home guru’s have long made the suggestion that people maintain their typical morning routine. This includes the clothes you wear. For some, this will be necessary to switch their brain over to “work mode.”  This will take some trial and error.

Likewise, you need to establish clear boundaries with you job. Working from should not mean you are available day and night, weekdays and weekends. If you have web phone setting it to DND or unplugging it after work hours as well as shutting down your work computer complete is a signal to both your job and your brain that the work-day is done.

Working from Home Part 1: Technology

Working from home for the first time can be a challenge but here are some tips to get you going.

First, get your technology sorted. This means hardware and software. Your IT department may or may not have guides written to get you started. If you are working with any kind of sensitive information, especially the kind a company can be legally liable for, you’ll want to know for certain that information stays secure. If you aren’t provided with any specific IT instructions, guidelines or help make sure to inquire on your own.

Make sure you’ve got your home WiFi and work computer talking to each other and getting along before the first day of work. Make sure all your software functions as it should and that you can log into whatever you need to just as you do at work.

If you are going be relying heavily on video conferencing, make sure your internet connection has enough bandwidth to handle the calls. You’ll want to make some test calls, maybe with a peer from work, to check this.

If your connection is too slow, don’t immediately upgrade your service. There are several things to look into to open up some bandwidth on your current connection. If you don’t absolutely require video, making an audio only conference call takes far less bandwidth. Other users, like kids, may be using a ton of bandwidth if many of them are accessing the internet from different devices at once. You may need to set ground rules for when children can use the WiFi.tech

Leadership as a Process

Leadership is a process. A complex one. It is a relationship built between leader and follower. This group also has the element of a goal everyone desires.

There are five moving parts that interact to create the entity of relationship of exchanges—the leader, the followers, the situation, the process itself and the results. On a timeline each of these parts influences the others and the outcomes of these interactions set precedents for the future.

Leaders are typically viewed as one who orchestrates or guides. The set the tone for the group in the hopes of moving forward with a goal in mind. Followers are not to be viewed as passive, however. In fact, many now view the followers as the most critical aspect of the relationship. It is the follower who sees the situation and defines the needs of the group to accomplish the goal.

The personality of the follower is what determines what kind of leadership style will be most effective. Leadership is not one philosophy the leader foists onto any group of followers.

The situation surrounds the followers and the leader and helps define what the followers need from the leader. Will the groups current skill set be able to solve the problem of the situation or do they need new guidance from the leader? Are the goals of the group clear? What are the emotions of the group concerning the problem to solve or the goals? Excited? Frustrated? Defeated?

Finally, there is the process itself which is distinct from the leader (the orchestrator). This process is never finished and evolves even as the situation, the goals, the followers and even the orchestrator change or move on.

In a sense the leader must be the most malleable and open to adaptation and change. The situation is defined, the leader’s team is defined, the goal is defined, the process of leadership is an always moving target. The leader must see this picture and adapt to be successful.

 

 

Basic Tips For Beating Winter Blues

 

Many of us go through periods of low energy or periods of feeling “blue” when the days dark, short and cold. This energy very easily comes with us to our work. Whether a leader or a team member this wintertime energy drop can make it very tough for us to be our best. However, there are some easy things you can try at the office to help energize people.  

It is well established that the lack of sunlight during winter months affects people’s moods and health. An easy way to combat this is a light therapy box, many of which fit neatly on an average desk. Specifically, the correct kind of light helps the body release the “feel good” chemical in our brains Serotonin. These light boxes need to emit at least 2,500 lux to be effective. It is recommended, typically, that people use these in the morning—many find it helps them wake up. Additionally, some people will use the light boxes during their mid-day slump to energize them instead of more coffee or caffeine.  

Introducing real plants into the office can help everyone. Researchers have found the benefits range from increased productivity, stress reduction and they can even affect positively the amount of sick days taken by employees. They also help increase or oxygen intake. Living walls are now popular, however average house plants in regular planters will work as well if not as fashionable.  

Many offices are aesthetically dull, especially in the color department. While a total make-over might be out of the question adding some bright yellow, pink, red or blue to your surroundings can help us feel alert and more cheerful. Add some colorful pieces of décor to your desk or spruce up the office with some new artwork—combine this with the previous suggestion, get some plants with colorful pots.  

You may want to consider taking extra time to keep things tidy in our workspace as this will unclutter your mind. Also, people get quite dried out in the winter, pay close attention to your hydration levels.  

 

Afraid to Speak at Meetings? Here Are Some Tips.

Speaking in a group conversation can be intimidating and depending on the organization you work in or the expectations of your job there maybe nothing wrong with being quiet, it may be a liability to your career. It can even matter in social situations that come up at work. Generally, speaking there is nothing wrong with being quiet, but if you want to assert yourself more in conversations here are some ideas.

First, give yourself permission to be silent. Otherwise it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you never speak because of the feedback loop of pressure and anxiety you create for yourself.

You can try talking more often than it feels like you should. Even if this is a simple affirmation of what someone else has said. If you speak more often than you feel is necessary as a quiet person you are probably chiming in about the average amount. If you don’t force yourself to participate every so often you almost certainly will default to your normal amount of speaking.

While this may seem in opposition to the first point it important not deride yourself but at the same time encourage yourself. Don’t stress yourself out. Do your best to find a happy medium.

If it is work meetings you are concerned about make sure to be prepared, have some talking points written down ahead of time. If the conversation takes a unanticipated turn towards an unscheduled topic do your best to improvise.

Remember also that if the goal is to be heard and make yourself more present small contributions are better than nothing. Try accenting other people’s larger ideas with small thoughts. If someone is making an argument for or against a certain action or direction the organization might take fill in the gaps with little thoughts.

If you aren’t speaking remember to at least be honestly engaged in the conversation. Look the current speaker in the eye. Don’t appear too relaxed, sit up with a good posture. Take notes by hand even if you don’t need them. Be the person in the room who isn’t distracted by their cell phone.

The Importance of a Personal Touch in a Digital World

 

Much of digital technology seems tailor made to enhance productivity and increase communication in the realm of business. Email, instant messaging, text messaging, social media—all of these are great for communicating data, media and information. But do any of these media platforms successfully transmit our humanity? Our identity? 

In her 2012 TED Talk, “Connected, but alone?” Sherry Turkle, psychologist and author, tells us that all these “snippets” of conversation we have with each other over digital media do not sum to a real conversation.  

She tells us that when using digital media to communicate we experience what she calls “The Goldie Locks Effect.” When it comes to digital communication, we can control how much of our selves we reveal—not too little, not too much, just right. We can edit ourselves and thus show only a polished and safe version of ourselves. While this is sometimes a boon in a professional setting, being too cold, too polished can also be off-putting. 

Adding a personal touch when interacting with people inside or outside of our organizations can send a signal loud enough to be heard over all the digital disruption about who we are, what we do, why we do it and what we care about. The naysayers of digital technology worry that we will lose our humanity—this is a way to keep that as a part of your business model. Things like signage and mission statements, body language, handwritten messages and cards. Think tangible. Think personal.