Posts

I’m with you on this, but approaching your boss about continuing to work from home can be a tricky conversation to navigate! Let’s put our heads together and see if we can come up with a way to pitch our idea to the boss!

Many people are probably excited about the prospect of getting back to the office. Maybe they have little ones at home that make it hard to get work done during the quarantine. Maybe being put into the teacher-parent-employee role has been a struggle. Some people just like the office and the camaraderie or the hard distinction between work and home. COVID-19 and quarantine have been extra hard for them.

Then there are people like us. We’ve got our routines down. Our “maximum productivity zones” don’t necessarily match up with a 9-5 schedule. We’ve seen the benefits of integrating work life and family life, being able to take a walk around the block to think through a work assignment, and still be around the house and available to connect with family, too. We’re comfortable working with the team and having meetings via Zoom or the phone. And let’s be real—we are probably working more than eight hours a day and/or definitely getting more than eight hours of work done. Continuing to work from home seems like a Win/Win for everybody!

How To Have This Conversation With Your Boss

  • Remember that your boss is the boss. Have a humble demeanor. See my blog post here.
  • After seeing working remotely in action, your boss might be more open to you working from home, but there are times the boss might want the team to be in the same room. Acknowledge that and show that you are flexible.
  • Emphasize the specific ways that working from home has helped you be more productive, focused and creative, BUT…
  • Don’t be afraid to express how this has also benefited your family and your overall health and happiness. (Your boss knows that family problems and things like stress, anxiety and depression affect your work performance.)
  • Try suggesting a “trial period” so your boss can gauge how it is working out.
  • Understand and be prepared for the possibility that the answer might be, “No.”

How To Prepare For The Transition Back To The Office

  • Don’t wait to start mentally preparing and thinking through the practical things that will be affected by this transition. It was a significant shift to working from home and it will be a significant shift back to the office. 
  • If you were doing a lot of your work late at night or early in the morning, consider shifting your work routine now. Get your mind and body ready for 9 to 5.
  • Think through how this transition will affect your family. Have a family meeting to talk through how family schedules and routines will change. Your kids have also adapted to you being home during the day. They will need time and help to adjust. 
  • Be creative and intentional to find new ways to keep the things going that have helped your family grow stronger and be more connected. 9 to 5 doesn’t have to make your family less connected.

Best of luck to you, fellow worker who prefers to work from home!

Image from Pexels.com

TO: Management

FROM: John Daum

RE: Going back to work at the office

Dear Management, 

What the heck? I just got used to working from home! Do you realize the adjustment that was? Do you think I can just switch everything up now and go back to the office? This disrupts all my family routines and we just got into a rhythm. Who knows if it’s even safe? Last time I checked, you aren’t the CDC. Plus, I can do the same thing at home that I do there. All I’d be missing is bad coffee. You guys seriously need to rethink this. This is so…

[Record Needle Scratch] 

TO: Management

FROM: John Daum

RE: Going back to work at the office

Dear Management,

I want to thank you for how you lead our company through a global pandemic. My family and I are grateful for the adjustments you made that allowed me to stay employed during such a chaotic time. I realize others were not so fortunate. Thank you for your flexibility and considering your people while other companies were only worried about profits.

I would like to say that working from home has been a great experience for me and my family. Additionally, I’d like to suggest that it has benefited the company as well. After the initial adjustment, I believe that my productivity and contribution to the company actually increased significantly. If it is at all possible, I would like to explore the possibility of continuing to work from home and coming in on certain days to touch base with the team.

Regardless of what you decide, I have already begun preparing myself and my family for how the transition back to working at the office will change some of our routines. I believe that some foresight and good communication is essential to make the transition as smooth as possible for my family and me. We’ve met as a family to discuss different scenarios and how we will navigate them—working from the office full-time or working from home on certain days and the office on others.

I’ve honestly wondered how I have been able to work so well from home and actually be more productive. It definitely seems counter-intuitive. There are some obvious reasons—my “creative zone” seems to be later at night after my kids have gone to bed. Also, I’m able to focus on work without distraction from early morning until lunchtime and have about five hours of solid work done before noon.

Beyond those obvious reasons, there have been a few that have come as a surprise to me. Integrating my work life and my family life has greatly reduced my stress about both. 

For instance, instead of the morning being a hectic time so I can beat the traffic into the office, I’ve been able to have a cup of coffee with my wife. Instead of a “working lunch” at my desk, I’ve been able to sit down and connect with my kids and talk about their day. Also, instead of worrying about my elderly mother-in-law who lives with us, I’ve been able to keep tabs on her and build my relationship with her. Instead of fighting traffic to get home, I’ve been able to have dinner ready for when my wife gets home and we eat more meals together as a family.

I know that this is a lot of family talk and not a lot of work talk, but it has become clear that having more family stability and connectedness has made me a happier person. That happiness translates into more energy and focus for work, more creativity, and less distracting stress and anxiety. I have the ability to work from my deck and be outside in an environment that keeps my mind clear. I have the ability to go for a walk around the block and think through a work assignment. Plus, I have the ability to work while I’m in “the zone” regardless of a time-clock. 

This kind of flexibility and efficiency has given me more margin to take care of myself and my family. A healthier, happier worker is a more productive worker.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. Regardless of how my work situation plays out, my goal is to creatively and consistently keep these lessons learned as a regular part of my family life. I believe that if I do so, the company will benefit—no matter where I work from.

Image from Pexels.com

Your boss said you would work from home now due to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s business as usual.

Of course, your children are home. Your spouse is still going into work because they are an essential employee. At this moment, the baby is crying and won’t settle. Your first grader is asking for help with a math problem and the dog needs to go out. You have a Zoom call in 15 minutes and you still need a shower. The pangs of exhaustion creep over you as you sit at the kitchen table wondering, “How will I survive this quarantine?”

Welcome to week four of social distancing and working remotely that seems like anything but business as usual.

If it’s any comfort at all, you are for sure not alone. As employers track employees’ computer time and productivity, some people are carrying the additional anxiety of worrying about losing their job while they try to juggle so much during a very unique and complicated time. 

Truth be told, I don’t have children at home at this moment in time. Yet, sometimes I find it difficult to concentrate due to the level of intensity of this crisis and all the thoughts rolling around in my head. I can easily remember the times I needed to work from home because our daughter was sick and the pressure I felt being out for just one day. This situation is that on steroids. So, what can you do?

First, consider all that you currently feel like you have on your plate as things that have to be done. Obviously, you need to feed your children which means groceries have to find their way into your home. Laundry is waiting. You need to wash hands and surfaces to keep people safe. And, you need to complete your work so you don’t lose your job. Beyond that, what else is on your list?

Is there anything you are pressuring yourself to do that you can let go of? 

Can you have a conversation with your supervisor to explore options for doing your work, just not necessarily from 8-5? Is it possible to work early in the morning or later in the evening so you can give your children more undivided attention during the day? Would taking some paid time off be an option to help alleviate some of the stress? 

Talking with your boss about how you really are trying to accomplish your work from home and asking if they are willing to flex some with you conveys that you want to do the right thing for the company and for your family. Even if you think they won’t be willing to flex, you don’t know until you ask.

  • Is it possible for you to get up earlier or stay up later and work?
  • Can someone grocery shop for you or pick up your online order? 
  • Would you be willing to ask others to help out by making meals for you?
  • Is your spouse or child able to help with household chores?
  • Is it possible to make your workspace flexible? If so, you can easily move to accommodate whatever is happening in the moment in your home.
  • If your spouse is also working from home, can you agree on the needs of each of your schedules in the morning? Or maybe tag team with the children throughout the day?

The bottom line is, there is no cookie-cutter approach that will work for everyone. People are having to be super creative so if things are crazy at the moment, show yourself some grace and remind yourself you haven’t figured out what works yet, but you will. 

If you happen to be the boss, it’s helpful to know about and empathize with what your employees have going on. I’ve spoken to a lot of conscientious employees who are extremely stressed out and anxious, feeling like they are a bad employee because they can’t seem to figure their schedule out.

Let’s be honest, there is absolutely nothing normal about what all of us are experiencing. Having no support system to call on with children at home who either need help with school work or need your attention is exhausting all by itself, never mind the weight of knowing you have work that needs to be done. If one spouse is still working outside the home, it can make things even more difficult.

Instead of waiting for your team members to contact you, call them and check in. It is helpful for you as their leader to acknowledge that you know this is difficult. If you’re willing to try and work with them, your employee knows you appreciate them and you value their family. That makes a huge difference.

Image from Unsplash.com

“If only I had a better job.” 

“If I could just find Mr./Mrs. Right.” 

“If I just had a higher-paying job.” 

While happiness and contentment may seem to be elusive sometimes, many people believe it will come to them through some external means like finding the right job, the right spouse or making a certain amount of money, research indicates this is not true.

Sonja Lyubomirsky and her team at the University of California-Riverside reviewed 225 studies involving 275,000 people, and they found that people aren’t happy because they are successful. Instead:

  • They are successful because they are happy.
  • Happy people are easier to work with, more highly motivated and more willing to tackle a difficult project. As a result, they are more likely to be successful.
  • Happy people appear to be more successful than their less-happy peers in three primary areas of life – work, relationships, and health.

While many people seek happiness through people, things, work, etc., the research suggests that happiness does not come from someplace or someone else. Those things or people might contribute to a person’s happiness, but true happiness comes from within.

“Happiness is a choice,” said Dr. Patrick Williams, clinical psychologist and master certified life coach. “In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl said that what kept him alive in the prison camp was knowing there was one freedom no one could take from him – his thoughts. He chose to make the best of a terrible circumstance.

As you think about the year ahead, perhaps you are considering some changes in order to be a happier person. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Love and accept yourself for who you are. This does not mean change isn’t necessary. Recognize that we all have our strengths and opportunities for growth. Beating yourself up over your weaknesses does not contribute to being happy. All of us are gifted at something. Treat yourself kindly and acknowledge that you are a work in progress.
  • Be accountable for your actions. Instead of blaming others for all that happens to you, accept responsibility for your choices. It has been said that you cannot change the past, but you can impact the future. Make an intentional decision to do things differently.
  • Stop trying to change others. The only person you can change is yourself.
  • Determine your priorities and live by them. Living out someone else’s dream for your life can be a major source of unhappiness. For example, a young man who had been swimming since he was small started having headaches every time he prepared to swim in a meet. He was an exceptionally good swimmer and there seemed to be no good explanation as to why he kept getting the horrible headaches. One day, his mom commented that she just didn’t understand these headaches because he loved to swim. He responded, “No mom. I don’t love swimming. I am good at it, but I don’t enjoy it at all.” Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Start with abundance in your life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, look at what you do have – a roof over your head, clothing, food, etc. Someone once said, instead of looking at whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, just be thankful you have a glass.
  • Define happiness. In his article, Why Happiness Isn’t a Feeling, J.P. Moreland says a classical understanding of happiness is virtue and character, a settled tone, depends on internal state, springs from within, is fixed and stable, empowering and liberating, integrated with one’s identity, colors the rest of life and creates true/fulfilled self. What is your definition of happiness?

“The reality is this, if you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back and a roof over your head you are richer than 75 percent of the world and if you have money in the bank, in your wallet and some spare change, you are in the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy,”  Williams said. “Happiness is a matter of perspective, it has nothing to do with the trappings.”

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 18, 2020.

Image from Unsplash.com

Multigenerational communication is hard. “You got an iPhone?” said the millennial to her grandmother. “Why did you get an iPhone? You don’t need a smartphone. Do you even know how to text? I think you should just stick with making phone calls.”

“Yes, I got an iPhone. And, I do too need an iPhone if I’m going to keep up with you and everybody else. I can learn to text,” said the grandmother in an exasperated tone.

“This ought to be interesting,” the millennial said under her breath as she rolled her eyes.

You have more than likely experienced a conversation with someone from a different generation about communication these days yourself. It may have been about tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, paper versus electronic means, or any number of things. 

While it seems that most generations may have a preferred method of communication, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t capable of adapting and adjusting in order to keep the lines of communication open.

Perhaps the place where communication differences seem to be magnified and often collide is in the workplace, where at least four generations typically work together. Some have five, which can definitely make for some interesting communication dynamics. This is especially true as communication methods have expanded in recent years.

Here’s a quick look at communication preferences by generation:

  • Baby boomers tend to appreciate face-to-face and personal interaction, which often drives millennials crazy. 
  • Gen Xers want direct and immediate communication. They are content with email, but get really excited if you allow them to express themselves with a whiteboard. 
  • When it comes to millennials, instant messages, texts and communicating through social media are the order of the day. And, if they do call you and you don’t answer, don’t look for them to leave you a message because that’s not typically in their DNA. 

Needless to say, there is plenty of room for miscommunication.

Here’s the kicker: not everyone fits “the mold” when it comes to the way they communicate to their peers and across the generations. This is why we need to guard against making assumptions about a co-worker or a grandmother just because they hail from a certain generation. Plenty of people have said, “I’m a millennial, but I communicate more like a Gen Xer.”

There are several keys to effective communication between the generations:

  • Remember that no one on the planet is a good mind reader. Get to know the people around you and their communication preferences. Be willing to flex and get out of your communication comfort zone. Ask, but don’t assume you know how a person wants to be communicated with.
  • Value the differences. Instead of looking down on one generation or the other for the way they prefer to communicate, seek to see things from their perspective. Their preferences make perfect sense to them. For example, no matter the age, most people appreciate receiving a card or handwritten letter in the mail. At the same time, a quick text saying, “I’m thinking about you and hope you have a great day,” typically will bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Neither one is wrong, just different.
  • Be willing to learn and engage with others’ communication preferences and teach them about yours. Making the effort shows that you care.

Communication differences have always existed, and there have always been barriers, whether it was having to pay for a long-distance call or waiting on a long-anticipated letter.

Even though technology has made it faster, and in some cases easier to connect, it has also amplified our imperfections and heightened anxiety when it comes to communicating with others. Think being in the middle of a conversation and your watch starts vibrating because you have a call coming in. Resisting the urge to look creates anxiety and distracts you from the conversation at hand.

Good communication skills can be learned and fine-tuned, and we can all grow together in this area. If you want to be a better communicator, take the time to observe, listen and ask questions without assuming your way is the best or the only way. It can truly enrich your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 14, 2019.

Image from Unsplash.com

There’s nothing worse than getting into the same argument, again and again and again. Amirite? The sheer repetition is enough to drive one MAD. And sadly, that tends to happen quite a bit in marriage. When we get really upset, we can go from zero to 60 in two seconds flat. We don’t want to fight. We don’t want to be angry. But WE ARE LIVID. And ya know what? We have every right to be! But.

Read more

In late 2018 Geoffrey Owens, known to many as Elvin on “The Cosby Show,” was spotted bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. Social media blew up when a picture of Owens appeared, but instead of praising his willingness to work, people made disparaging comments about his job.

After discovering what was happening, the first person Owens contacted was his 19-year-old son, saying, “I’m really sorry if this embarrasses you.” His son sent a beautiful response that moved his father to tears.

An interviewer on “Good Morning America” asked Owens about the social media comments. He responded by saying, “This business of my being this Cosby guy who got shamed for working at Trader Joe’s, that’s going to pass… but I hope what doesn’t pass is this idea… this rethinking about what it means to work, you know, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work. And I hope that this period that we’re in now, where we have a heightened sensitivity about that and a re-evaluation of what it means to work, and a re-evaluation of the idea that some jobs are better than others because that’s actually not true… Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” 

What message are we sending to our children when society is willing to shame someone for an honest day’s work?

According to Fit for Work, both paid and unpaid work is good for our health and wellbeing. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and it rewards us financially.  

Additionally, working keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves. It can create a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement. Work enables us to socialize, build contacts and find support, and it provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests.

There are health benefits, too. Working people tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who do not work, and work has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

Perhaps a paradigm shift is in order where instead of teaching children that certain jobs are beneath them, we teach them about the importance of a work ethic and doing every job well.

Here are some ways we can all promote the value of hard work:

  • No matter what the job, encourage others to work to the best of their ability.

  • Model a strong work ethic.

  • Equip your kids with the skills they need to earn a living. Chores can help them get ready for work outside the home.

  • Avoid the temptation of giving your child everything. Allow them the opportunity to work for it.

  • Help them connect the dots to how the work they are doing (or not doing) impacts others.

If people weren’t willing to fulfill certain positions, imagine how it would impact your life. It’s definitely a great teaching moment for kids to think about as well. Every job is important. In fact, a ripple effect takes place when one person does not fulfill their responsibilities at home, in the workplace or in the community.

Tyler Perry once said, “Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.”  

Are there days when you feel like you never left the office or you just don’t have the energy to deal with the many demands of home life? Without even knowing it, many people are living life on the edge these days. They have this feeling that something isn’t exactly right, but they can’t quite put their finger on what would make it right. 

Commitments, deadlines, long work hours, endless carpooling, sports teams, being “driven,” corporate goals looming with emphasis on the bottom line, trying to be actively involved in the community and raising a family are all things people expect at work and at home. 

At a time when there is a lot of push for being more efficient and using less people-power to get the job done, people seem to be on the verge of becoming just another “machine” for meeting the bottom line. According to experts like Dr. Richard Swenson, author of “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives,” this way of thinking is putting a strain on us and on our society.

So many employees live for the weekend, but actually never get a break because they are tethered to technology. Not responding to emails over the weekend can make us feel guilty, and then Sunday rolls around and it feels like we never disconnected.

 One executive’s workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. In order to deal with family needs, she leaves her job around 5 to take care of the immediate family needs, grabs something to eat and heads to her home office for another couple of hours of work. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a super-organized person or not; plenty of people feel like they just can’t get ahead. There’s no rest for the weary and certainly no margin in so many people’s lives.

More and more workplaces are developing family-friendly policies, and that’s good for families. But if your company’s policies aren’t meeting your particular needs, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. If you are thinking about creating more margin in your life, ask yourself what changes you need to make. It may take a while to implement your plan, and you may even have to take a pay cut, but realize that those changes could lead to less stress and more overall happiness.

“Many times these types of changes occur only after experiencing a trauma such as a death in the family or a serious illness,” states leadership development consultant, Dr. Zelma Lansford. “People get so caught up in what they are doing because they think what they are doing is important. Then something happens that causes them to ask, ‘Is what I am doing getting me what I want?’ Often the answer is no. 

“The key is getting people to ask the question, ‘Is what I am doing important and essential in my life based on everything I believe?’ before a traumatic experience comes along. People have to ask themselves, ‘If my life were going to end in the next two months, what would I be doing differently?’ We need to frequently revisit our priority list and focus on what really matters. What used to be so important can often become insignificant. An alignment of our values with work and activities can give meaning and satisfaction to our lives. A realignment moves us to a solid approach to life – which tends to create more margin.”

When it comes right down to it, most people will not look back on life and celebrate the time they spent at work. Instead, they will celebrate the relationships they have had and their positive impact on generations to come. Before taking on any additional commitments, consider asking yourself, “In two months, two years, or 10 years, will I be glad that I did this?” Often we don’t think one more thing is going to make that big of a difference, when in reality it may be the very thing that sends us over the edge.

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist with a lifelong fascination for how our minds react to and organize information. He is currently an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. 

One of the outcomes of his journey is the New York Times bestseller, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. The provocative read takes on the designs of our schools and work environments.

“Your brain is fully capable of taking little black squiggles on this piece of bleached wood and deriving meaning from them,” Medina says in an email. “To accomplish this miracle, your brain sends jolts of electricity crackling through hundreds of miles of wires composed of brain cells so small that thousands of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence. You accomplish all of this in less time than it takes you to blink. Indeed, you have just done it. What’s equally incredible, given our intimate association with it, is this: Most of us have no idea how our brain works.”

Consider this. We try to talk on our cellphones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. The layout of our schools requires most real learning to occur at home.

“This would be funny, if it weren’t so harmful,” says Medina. “Brain scientists rarely have conversations with teachers and business professionals, education majors and accountants, superintendents and CEOs. Unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you’re out of the loop. I wrote Brain Rules to help people become more productive by understanding what little we do know about how the brain operates.”

Medina asserts that, if you wanted to create an education environment directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that opposes what the brain is good at doing, you’d probably design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.

“My goal is to introduce people to the 12 things we know about how the brain works,” says Medina. “I call these brain rules. For each rule, I present the science. And then I offer ideas for investigating how the rule might apply to our daily lives, especially at work and school.

“Whether you are teachers, parents, business leaders or students, by using what we know about how the brain works — such as how it’s affected by stress, how it forms memories and what it takes to engage it — we can identify ways to better harness its power and improve performance.”

Admiral William McRaven, bestselling author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. He shared that after he graduated, he went straight to be commissioned in the Navy and on to SEAL training.

Although McRaven retired as a Navy SEAL after 37 years of service, his accomplishments were not easy. He recounted six months of grueling exercise, sleepless nights and harassment by professionally-trained warriors seeking to weed out those incapable of leading in an environment of constant stress, chaos and hardships.

McRaven challenged the graduates, reminding them of their school slogan: What starts here changes the world.

“According to Ask.com, the average person meets 10,000 people throughout their lifetime,” said McRaven. “If the 8,000 plus graduates here tonight changed the lives of 10 people, and those people changed the lives of 10 people and another 10, in five generations, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800,000,000 people in 125 years. If that kept going for another generation, you could change the entire population of the world.”

Additionally, McRaven highlighted 10 lessons from SEAL training he believes are relevant to changing the world:

  • Start off by making your bed. By doing this, you have accomplished the first task of the day.

  • Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t change the world alone. Getting to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide you.

  • Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. SEAL training is the great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.

  • Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or perform, you will still end up as a sugar cookie.

  • Don’t be afraid of the circuses. The circus was a form of SEAL punishment which consisted of two extra hours of calisthenics for those who failed to meet physical standards. Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. At times, it will test you to the very core.

  • Slide down the obstacle head first. One SEAL went head first during an exercise. It was risky, dangerous and seemed foolish, but he finished in record time.

  • Don’t back down from the sharks. There are sharks in the world. If you want to complete your swim, you will have to deal with them.

  • You must be your very best in the darkest moment. Every SEAL knows that the darkest moment of the mission is the time to be calm and composed, and when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

  • Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. During Hell Week, SEALS spent 15 hours up to their neck in bone-chilling, cold mud. One student started singing and they all joined in, which helped them survive. The power of one person can change the world by giving people hope.

  • Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. In other words, never ever give up.

These are powerful words for us all. Are you up to the challenge?