Distance From Work: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 7

Kathi and Katherine talk about distance from work on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

Does distance (from work) make the heart grow fonder or is it out of sight, out of mind?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

Do You Have Staff Who Are Afraid to Return to the Office?

In just a matter of days, the coronavirus pushed people inside their homes, accelerating a digital transformation around the world.

Getting workers out of their homes and back into offices is going to prove harder. According to a new survey by researchers at India-based workplace services firm Ionotrics and San Diego–based Global Workplace Analytics:

77 percent of the workforce wants to continue to work from home at least part of the time once the pandemic is over. That’s up from 60 percent one month ago. That’s a 132 percent increase from before the coronavirus crisis, according to the Work-from-Home Experience Survey in which more than 2,600 employees from around the world participated.

As the country is opening up, employees are faced with a decision – do they go back to the office or not? Many of my clients are telling me that members of their staff are fearful about returning. Compassion still reigns. You may have to consider each person, and the factors that they are grappling with. If you have a staff member who fits into any of the following categories, their return will most likely be delayed:

  • They have kids at home who need home schooling
  • They have underlying health concerns
  • They are over the age of 60
  • They live in a metro city and use public transportation

In some states, employees who fit into one of these categories may qualify for unemployment – if they must return to the office and are not able to. Other employees most likely need reassurance and to be listened to. It’s important to calm nerves and listen to staff concerns. Here are some guiding principles:

  • Ask your staff what they need in order to return to the office safely.
  • Plan and communicate how you are preparing the office for their return
    • Cleaning – Describe your ongoing plan for keeping the office clean from Covid 19
    • Spacing – Follow the CDC’s guidelines for distance in the office
    • Wearing facemasks and gloves – Will you be supplying them or do they need to bring their own?
    • Rotating schedules – 2 days in, 2 days at home. Think low capacity
      commuting before or after rush hours.
    • Change in dress code – I’m going to predict that the workplace is about to get really casual
  • Take it slow. 

Coming out of the cave after a long winter, a bear needs time to acclimate. You may want to start with visiting the office ahead of opening, and encouraging your staff to do the same. Then try two days the first week and see how it goes.

  • Offer emotional support if possible. 

Professional coaches, therapists and clergy can talk to your staff about their mental health. It will pay off in the long run.

  • Be transparent about possible layoffs, furloughs or job eliminations. No surprises please, let them prepare.
  • Have real communication about diversity.  

Create guidelines for behavior in these conversations, and have a moderator who keeps the conversation constructive. Offer books and movies as resources. Have conversations that allow staff to express their fear, pain, and anger. This kind of sharing can be extremely emotional, so make sure you to have professional support around it.

  • Practice People Over Profit  

Sure, we are working to earn money, and companies must be profitable to hire people, and I know that in some industries robots will replace people. Given this reality, how can you make the workplace a desirable and safe place so that people want to work for you? 

Please let us know how the transition back to the office works for you and your company.

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

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

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.

Remote Working Etiquette – During the Covid Pandemic

We are all being ordered to work remotely. For those who are accustomed to working this way, it’s likely you’ve developed best practices. At the same time, even seasoned remote workers may have kids at home or pets who suddenly expect your attention 24/7. While some families have come together to shelter in place against the virus, many people are living (and working) alone. Both situations have their challenges. We are now in a new reality that requires new rules for etiquette and protocol.

Here are 10 things to consider as organizations create internal systems for their remote working culture.

1 – Be mindful of workday hours and please take time zones into consideration. For some organizations, this may be a time of true emergency. During an emergency, it’s all hands-on deck. You may be required to respond to emails or texts from your manager or co-worker at all hours of the day/night. If your business does not fall into the emergency category, however, please reconsider working as if you are. Set realistic work hours and refrain from communicating outside of those times.

2 – Use video conferencing – to help with the isolation and communication. Using a camera will help you, your coworkers, and possibly your clients connect. Seeing your team will remind everyone that they are not alone. It’s also interesting to see each other’s homes (or at least the room used for work).

3 – Be transparent with communication. Without the office water cooler for conversation/gossip, it easy to fall out of the office communication loop. Use all forms of telecommunication (texting, Face Time, Slack etc.) that can enable you and your colleagues to ask questions and get all the news you once were able to obtain by being in the same space. If you need to run an errand or help your kid, let others know.

4 – Do not base work performance solely on hours. Each organization will want to use an online tracking system for productivity.  Examples are Basecamp, Slack, Trello, Wrike, Zoho projects and Google Drive. As home responsibilities for many have increased, some people will not have the same uninterrupted time to put into their work day, but still may be able to be as productive. Establish an honor system (set expectations and deadlines) then try to be respectful of each person’s situation.

5 – Train your workers on using video conferencing and online tools. Don’t assume anything. Have your office tech run a few tutorials to be sure that no one feels incompetent, embarrassed or ashamed.

6 – Watch your communication style while on camera. Eye rolling and looking uninterested will show. Get dressed – casual is fine – but wear bottoms just in case you have to get up to get something.

7 – Be sensitive to cultural and age differences. Keep communication professional. Using short cuts to speak may work for your peers, but be aware that others may not get your humor or contemporary slang.

8 – When on a teleconference don’t all talk at once. Without visual cues, it can be easy to talk over one another during a conference call. It might be best to have a moderator who can track each participant and determine who wants to speak next. Establish order.

9 – Be flexible about kids and pets in the background. Children and pets are a reality in today’s world of remote working. You and your coworkers should do your best to have a space at home where you can have privacy but many people do not have that luxury. 

10 – Avoid eating during videoconference and teleconference calls. Others can hear you crunching and slurping. Sipping water while on a call or meeting may be fine – we all need to stay hydrated. Save your snacks and beverages, however, for Virtual Happy Hour, which happens at the end of the workday, right?

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

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

15 Proven Techniques for Working at Home

If you’re new to working remotely or have experience but still find yourself getting distracted, here are our tips for staying focused and productive:

1 – Set up a designated office space (not the dinning room table if you have to move everything for your family dinner). It should be a real space where you can have a proper chair, good lighting and a place for what you need.
2 – Be sure that you have good Wi-Fi connection, and enough plugs to keep your technology going.
3 – Create an attractive video backdrop for when you are on a video call. Include items like flowers or a beautiful painting – not a messy closet, or a cluttered living room. The more professional you look, the better your outcome will be.
4 – Wake up at your usual workday time every day. Keep your schedule.
5 – Try to get in a workout. Use YouTube or any other form of support.
6 – Dress for work. You never know when you might have to jump onto Zoom, Skype or a video conference call. Casual attire is fine, but get dressed, comb your hair, apply light makeup, and do whatever makes you feel good about yourself.
7 – Prepare your breakfast (and maybe lunch) as you would for work. Try to avoid the kitchen and refrigerator while you work. They can be a big distraction during the day.
8 – Log in to work at the usual time. It may be good to start your workday with a company or department go-to-meeting so that you feel connected.
9 – Go for a walk midday – if allowed in your community (keeping 6 ft. from others).
10 – Stay on purpose and stay in touch – over communicating is necessary at this time.
11 – Check on your co-workers. Think of creative ways to reach out to your clients. Giving without expectation may go a long way at this time.
12 – Pets and Kids – if you have a door to your office you are in luck but, if not, try to minimize interruptions. Depending on who you are talking to it might be OK if your puppy barks or your 3 year old wants to sit on your lap. But in certain circumstances either get support from someone else in the house or take that meeting in a more secure space with a door.
13 – Close your office at the same time each day. Try to maintain healthy boundaries between work and homelife. Check for evening emails the same way you always do.
14 – To avoid the isolation, turn on the news in the background.

15 – Remind yourself that this is not permanent.

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

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