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.)

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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Returning to the Office – Will Not Be Business As Usual

In the post COVID world, a return to the way things were in our traditional workplace is most likely not possible. The new standards of how we work at an office are being set for at least the next one to two years, or is it forever?

Is having an office space necessary?

Will we return to the office at all? Between 2005-2007 we saw a 5% increase in remote workers and by 2019 43% of Americans said they worked remotely occasionally. Today most of us are experiencing firsthand working from home.  How many of you are realizing that not having to commute is a nice way to go? From my perch, I am hearing that many of you are disinterested in going back to the way things were.

We are also bound to hear that office hours are a thing of the past, as workers will be forced into staggered hours to allow for the safety of six feet of separation between people. The normalization of fewer workers in the office on any given day may mean that less space is required.

Are open floor plans over?

I never understood how anyone thought the open floor plan was a good work environment. Now it looks like a bad fad that has become downright dangerous. Like shag carpet, that trend is over and out, and I’m not sad about it. Originally the thought behind this design was that clustered seating would encourage collaboration.   Instead, it fostered conflict and disruption to the point of a distracted workforce. Bye, Bye.

Business Travel – when is it necessary?

Last year before the pandemic, 62% of American workers traveled to another state for work. That means that roughly 1.1 million people traveled for business each day. Now, this once normal version of work in which we travel distances for face-to-face meetings is not going to return for some time, if ever. Video conferencing is working for now; the cost and logistics around business travel may be prohibitive – not to mention the cost to our environment.

Companies Must Embrace Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility

If there is one lesson to take away from a worldwide pandemic, it’s the fact that we are all connected.  It’s time to understand that we have a moral and ethical obligation not only to ourselves and our workers, but also to humanity. Companies who have always addressed the broader concerns for humanity will be on-purpose while other organizations will have to figure out their place in this new normal. I believe this will matter. Think outside of your community and client base to how you can help make a difference.

Being Authentic at Work

Let’s stop pretending that work and life exist in separate spheres. I’m not talking about work-life balance I’m talking about being more authentic and free to be yourself at work. Now that we are all videoconferencing from home, we are seeing how our co-workers live. Perhaps you are seeing your colleagues’ pets and kids and extended family. Maybe you are learning more about your coworkers’ hobbies or taste in art. These are all things that you might not have been exposed to in the past. The opportunity here is to realize that people are not disembodied humans who come to work. We are whole people with whole lives. This is a moment where we could get to know one another differently.

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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Is Someone Getting on Your Last Nerve?

My husband was noticeably irritated with me last night. He said that I was “yawn talking.” Do you know what yawn talking is? It’s when you keep talking even as you yawn. Apparently, I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and it’s extremely annoying.

My initial reaction after being accused of “yawn talking,” was to strike back. If I do that, then he “burp talks.” But that isn’t really the point. The point is, we’ve been sheltering in place for too long, and we’re getting on each other’s nerves. Critical words, verbal tics, grating habits, and nonverbal gestures that we might normally have shrugged off are getting to us.

You may find yourself in a similar situation. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard numerous complaints from my clients about other people’s bad behavior. It could be a boss who is making more-than-usual unreasonable demands. A family member who is acting out. A coworker who is chronically late – even for Zoom meetings. Perhaps you have an upstairs neighbor who is playing loud music or moving furniture late at night.

None of these may be new behaviors, but they feel more irritating today. It’s the emotional by-product of extended captivity in the name of staying safe.

If your nerves are frayed, your temper is quick, and you feel overly reactive to the behavior of others, you are not alone. The question is, what can we do to calm our systems down?

Here are a few tips:

Shift your energy – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Confined living creates pent up energy which needs to be released one way or another. Run, jog, dance, squirm, have a pillow fight, take a bath, step outside, take ten deep breaths. Do something to shift the energy and relax your system. The more rigorous the movement, the better the release.

Ask yourself, “how important is it?” – If someone criticizes you, interrupts you, ignores you, makes a sarcastic remark, or offends you in some way, try to pause and ask yourself if it’s worth getting upset about. Is this a matter of life or death? Is your welfare truly threatened by this person/event/remark?

Let someone talk you off of the ledge – Sometimes you may know that you are over-reacting but you can’t help yourself. At these times, it’s smart to call a trusted friend or confidante, voice your complaint, and let them calm you down.

Try to find the humor – This isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. I am forever grateful to those people who can find the humor in difficult moments. Laughter relaxes the nervous system and puts small problems in their proper perspective. If you can find what’s funny in a tense exchange, both parties will benefit.

There is no miracle cure for our frayed nerves at this time. We don’t know exactly when we will be less confined, more mobile, less fearful. While we do our best to manage our lives during the pandemic, let’s all commit to doing what we can to soothe our over-worked nerves.

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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Moving Forward – Into the Unknown

This past Sunday (4/26/2020) Governor Cuomo of New York said, “We are not going back to the way things were, we are going forward.” I have to say I agree with the Governor.  Many of my clients are telling me that they see this as an opportunity to do things differently.

Some small business owners want to take their businesses smaller not bigger.  Other clients want to continue working from home and no longer want to commute. Several of my clients are saying they want to incorporate real work-life balance — not just pay lip service to it. And some clients are realizing that they need to find a better job/career.

Everyone is thinking about what “moving forward” means.  If you aren’t, it’s time to start.  We are in a reset.  Go inside and listen. Do not disregard your deepest thoughts and feelings; they are telling you something.  You are at a point of choice at this time. You can let go of the way you thought work had to be and decide on what is right for you.

What parts of your job/career do you want to move forward? What parts are you unwilling to continue?  Consider the following:

Commuting – Maybe you want to work closer to home, or work virtually.

Change industry – If your industry is on hold, you may want to investigate a completely different industry. Maybe you want to go back to school.

Micromanaging boss – This could be a good time to see if you can transfer to another department or find another job.

Doing the work of others – Perhaps you no longer want to compensate for others’ lack of initiative.

Compromising my private life – You may want to establish a hard start and stop time to your workday, creating boundaries around work that protect your private life.

Working with a mean girl/guy – Instead of working with awful people, you may be ready to look for a new position within or outside of your current company

Not getting paid fairly – It may be time to find a position that pays you what you deserve.

Getting rid of troubling employees – Downturns have always been a good time to lay off difficult staff. Perhaps you have some people who could go.

Needing less office space – Going to a more virtual workforce may mean you don’t need as much office space.

Going back to a standard schedule – Instead of returning to your previously regimented work schedule, you may want more flexibility.

Stop eating overpriced unhealthy food – Does your company serve unhealthy, overpriced food at meetings?  You may want to bring your own food to work more often.

 It’s time for me to not have a boss – You may be ready to start your own business.

 Doing work that has no meaning – You may feel that now is the time to make a difference.

Most of us fear change and the unknown.  We tend to stay in difficult situations longer then we should for fear of not knowing what better options are available to us.  Instead of being scared, embrace change and possibilities. (I know this is easier to say than it is to do.)

During this unusual time, I challenge each of you to examine and come to terms with what you really want to do professionally.  Consider your happiness, your purpose, your health, and your legacy.

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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