My Crazy Office

My Crazy Office is a weekly workplace podcast dedicated to helping listeners navigate their careers. Executive coach Kathi Elster and career therapist Katherine Crowley combine their expertise to solve both serious and silly situations at work. Join Kathi, Katherine and producer Logan Medrano as they answer real workplace questions with solid advice and a side of humor. Do you have someone or something at work that’s driving your crazy? Send your questions to info@mycrazyoffice.co. (All submissions kept confidential.)

Are You Giving Yourself Credit?

As we move through week 10 of sheltering in place, it may be difficult to give yourself credit for much. You may have trouble focusing at work. You may be tired of making the best of a confined living situation. You may feel that you just aren’t getting things done. Instead of holding yourself to pre-COVID standards, why not look at your current circumstances through the lens of accomplishment? Here are some things for which you probably deserve credit:  

Managing work and home

These days work and home are so blended that it’s hard to “turn off” one to fully focus on the other. Yet somehow, you’ve managed to perform your work duties while juggling home responsibilities, whether they involve cleaning, cooking, child care, animal care, family care or home maintenance. You deserve a round of applause for that. 

Handling social isolation

Even if you’re an introvert who prefers being alone, this degree of social isolation is hard. Human beings are social beings at the core. The pandemic has deprived us of even casual social contact with people on the street or in public places. Whatever your situation, give yourself credit for enduring the isolation and taking actions to maintain safe contact with co-workers, family and friends.

Living alone

For those who live alone, sheltering in place can be particularly challenging. It takes courage to keep your spirits up, to stay out of catastrophic thinking, and to trust that this too shall pass. Your ability to be resilient, to take one day at a time and to find creative ways of staying connected to others deserves recognition. 

Living with others

It’s one thing to live with others during normal times. Each person is able to come and go, and shared space is only shared for short periods of time. Sheltering in Place has created a completely different dynamic. Now, it can be hard to have a quiet moment, find privacy, or feel relief. It may seem like everything you do is scrutinized, or that everything you do goes unappreciated. Whatever your experience has been, give yourself credit for keeping your cool most of the time, and for successfully sharing a home under extremely stressful conditions.

Being patient

Even if you don’t feel patient, you have been patient enough to weather the restrictions placed on you because of COVID-19, and to follow the guidelines of your local and state leaders. You’ve patiently waited for instructions about how to live your life, what kind of contact is permissible and when you may be able to resume certain activities. Patience during times of uncertainty is NOT easy. Give yourself credit.

Moving forward

Preparing to step out into the world, into your workplace, and into your community may be anxiety provoking, but it is part of returning to life. You are doing it. You will be doing it. And as you take the initial steps to return to certain locations and activities, you can give yourself credit for taking the necessary precautions and getting back into the game.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

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The Importance of Praise

This is a stressful time. As we continue to live with uncertainty, nerves can fray, hope can turn to fear, and disappointment can turn to deep sadness and depression. As the weeks of our pandemic quarantine pass, our initial response of being on our best behavior may be giving way to more normal reactions to work annoyances and unrealistic expectations. 

So, without sounding sappy – and those who know me know I’m not sappy – what if we all tried to be nicer to one another? I’m talking about kindness and respect. There may be certain days where remembering to be nice to your co-workers, clients, vendors or management could pose a challenge, but you can forgive yourself for those days and start again tomorrow.

What takes a few seconds to do could make someone’s day. You have no idea what people are dealing with in their personal lives so just be nice, it’s that simple.

Consider the following:

  • How about asking everyone you come in contact with – “How is your day going?” And wait for their answer.  Let’s go a little deeper than the usual, exchange of “How are you?” “Fine.” 
  • When on a Zoom call, why not say, “You look good today.” Then wait to see the other person smile.
  • Reach out to people via text, phone or email and say – “I was thinking about you” especially to those co-workers who live alone.
  • Take a moment to tell your coworkers, “Nice job on that project.” Of course, you do need to mean it.  Acknowledging the effort someone puts into their work can help them feel good – especially during these difficult days.
  • Practice saying, “Thank you,” even for the small things. Most of the time, we don’t need to thank others daily.  We’re usually working at a fast pace, moving from one thing to the next. Offering an unexpected “Thank you,” can create a much-needed positive moment in someone’s day.
  • When in a virtual or in-person meeting try saying, “I appreciate your input.” So often we don’t take the time to acknowledge the ideas that other people contribute. Whether we use that input or not, praising another person for their ideas helps them flourish and get better at offering ideas over time.

I know that not all corporate cultures will find these practices comfortable, so pick and choose wisely.  But kindness and praise never hurt anyone, so give it a try.

Kathi Elster – Executive Coach and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

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The Importance of Being Patient with Yourself

As many of us move through week nine of sheltering in place, it becomes more and more difficult to simply “keep calm and carry on.” 

Some of us may have started the quarantine with high hopes of a brief but successful period of isolation. Some of us may have used this time to launch creative projects, institute family activities, or get busy with different forms of home improvement. And some of us may have been contending with the actual virus – either because we contracted the illness ourselves or because a family member contracted it. 

Whatever your experience has been during this time, I can guarantee that it hasn’t been easy. It’s likely that you’ve had days of great productivity, and days of no productivity. You’ve felt good at times, and lousy at other times. You’ve probably encountered moments of hope and clarity followed by moments of hopelessness and confusion. 

Why does this matter? It matters because as we continue to cope with COVID-19, it’s important to also practice patience with our own process. Being patient with your process means you make room for your feelings, forgive your mistakes, and allow yourself to start again. 

  • Don’t minimize your experience. It can be tempting to engage in comparisons regarding your suffering versus the suffering of others. You may feel that because you didn’t contract the virus or lose your job, you have no right to have bad days. This attitude minimizes your experience and squelches your emotions, which does not help you feel better. You can feel badly for others and still pay attention to your experience. 
  • Give yourself permission to have a range of feelings. It would be normal to cycle through a wide range of feelings at this time – anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, excitement, happiness, irritation, relief. All of these feelings are probably moving through you. Think of emotions as “energy in motion,” the more you acknowledge them, the faster they pass.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you slip into unhealthy habits. I’ve spoken with a number of people who find themselves over-eating, over-drinking, over-texting, obsessively playing video games or shopping online. If you have an unhealthy habit you’ve slipped back into, do your best not to beat yourself up. Instead, reach out for support and try to get healthy again.
  • Allow yourself to start again. If you have a bad day, perform poorly at work, or fail to meet your own expectations some way, allow yourself to start again. It can be tempting to mentally punish yourself for mistakes and missteps. This does not help. Be patient with yourself and simply promise to do better next time. 
  • Ask for support if you need it. You may want to seek the support of a close friend, an understanding family member, or a professional coach or counselor. Asking for support is an important step in giving yourself room to express what you are going through and feel understood. 

Being patient with yourself may seem anti-intuitive during a pandemic. You may think that you should to be alert and on-the-ball at all times. But practicing patience with yourself will actually help you feel better, perform better and be more patient with others during this incredibly stressful time.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

 

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Impress Your Boss While Working Remotely

If you are one of the lucky ones to have a good job it is your responsibility to make your work stand out to ensure that you are not on the short list if there are any future layoffs.

As an executive coach, I know my clients are concerned about being noticed by their managers. This is particularly important for those who tend to be more introverted, or those that might have been on the outs with their supervisor prior to the quarantine. Even if you are only part-time or a consultant, it’s time to step up your game.

Here are a few tips that will help:

1 – Arrive a few minutes early to all conference calls and videoconferences.

I have a strong opinion on this one. I feel that lateness shows disrespect and disorganization. Being early gives you the time to relax, prepare and say hi to everyone else. You will be noticed.  

2 – Maintain regular business hours.

We are working our way through an unusual time where many of us have responsibilities at home beyond our jobs.  Flexibility is key for many of us to be successful now. With that said, if you need to have a different schedule be sure that others know. But, try to have a consistent schedule. The last thing you want said about you is “I have no idea where so-in-so is.”

3 – Always answer your bosses phone calls.

Sounds simple, so why is it so hard? Keep your phone next to you at all times. Keep the ringer on if that helps. If you have to walk around, put your phone in your pocket. Being available and responsive will give your boss the idea that you are there for him/her.

4 – Answer emails ASAP

I know this can be challenging but remember “Out of sight, out of mind.” Since you are not visible to your boss and coworkers, answering emails is the second best way to be seen.

5 – Do your best work.

That’s right, put in a little more effort. Perhaps you can use technology that you have not used before; learn how to create charts or design more elaborate presentations. Show how you are learning and growing.

6 – Do not procrastinate on any assignments.

If you are someone who does procrastinate, it might be challenging for you to stop procrastinating during this difficult time. But now is better than never. If you are someone who does not procrastinate, you might not have the energy to be on top of your projects at this time. Trust me your boss will notice who he/she can count on.

7 – Be proactive. 

Now is the time to think out of the box. If you have an idea for your company, write a proposal. If you have a new way of solving a problem that your team has been working on, create a presentation and ask for a meeting. If you have strong tech skills, you may want to help others who are less inclined.

Speak up, show up, or run the risk of going unnoticed.

Kathi Elster – Executive Coach and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

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Managing Our Brain’s Response To Uncertainty

As our world, our country, our states, our towns, and our communities work hard to address the many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has another internal challenge that requires our constant attention – How do we manage living with so much uncertainty? 

It’s one thing to be unsure about tomorrow’s weather or the time of a flight arrival, but the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings is over the top. We don’t know when the economy will get going again, when or if we will return to our former workplaces, whether we will have a second wave of the virus, what will happen to cities that re-open prematurely, how schools will function. The list of unknowns is daunting.

In an article titled, Science Explains Why Uncertainty Is So Hard on Our Brain, writer Markham Heid explains why we human beings struggle with uncertainty. Apparently, fear of uncertainty (AKA fear of the unknown) is one of strongest fears that human beings have. It is at the root of many anxiety disorders, panic attacks and depressed states.

Uncertainty is a disruptor. It interrupts the brain’s routine and habitual thoughts, assumptions, and decision-making processes. Uncertainty makes planning difficult and creates a sense of danger or foreboding. Tasked with trying to figure out what will happen next, the brain kicks into high gear. It generates survival-oriented mental processes such as hyper-vigilance, emotional reactivity, catastrophic thinking and obsessive worry. 

What helps the brain manage uncertainty? Anything that takes it (and you) out of worry, obsession, emotional reactivity, and catastrophic thinking. Anything that puts it (and you) in the present moment.   

Plan for the day – not for the year. Jot down manageable goals of things that you can accomplish here and now (or over the next few days) that will make you feel a sense of accomplishment and control. Examples: clean one room, clear out one closet, reconcile your bank account, put away your clothes, fix something that’s broken, start one creative project, plan a Zoom get-together. 

Focus on the things you can influence, not the things you can’t. You can’t control which states open their businesses at what point in time. You can’t control whether your industry is going through a rough time. You can look for opportunities to reconfigure your work life in a way that makes more sense to you. Look for where your power lies, and focus there.

Slow down. This may sound silly. Why would you want to slow down when your brains tells you to hurry up? Because slowing down will help you manage uncertainty from a clearer, calmer place. Worry, anxiety and obsessive thinking do not help with uncertainty. Being present does. Slowing down may mean that you stop, breathe, and enjoy the breakfast you’re eating. It could involve watching the birds outside your window as they fly and perch. Slowing down may mean you take just a few minutes to practice meditation every morning, or it could entail a break from work where you breathe slowly and deeply three times. The idea is to slow your system down enough to reduce the chatter in your brain. 

Limit your intake of news. Afraid of what could lie ahead, the brain projects gloomy hypotheticals and worse case scenarios. It then looks for confirmation. News outlets often feed into that anxiety with their attempts at predicting future events. Studies show that too much information overwhelms the brain, leaving it confused and distressed. Try to put strict limits on the amount of news that you ingest. It will improve your ability to manage uncertainty.

Living with this degree of uncertainty is challenging for everyone. Appreciating that our brains have trouble with the unknown can inspire us to manage the anxiety and emotional reactivity that comes with the many unknown outcomes of the current pandemic.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

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