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WorkTech Tools: Your Quick Guide to Productivity in the New Year

When the pandemic suddenly forced millions of people to work remotely, employers weren’t sure what to do next. Because the transition was nearly instantaneous, this shift wasn’t easy. But eventually, many people adapted to remote work and learned how to operate effectively in virtual team settings.

Indeed, only 9 months after the Covid lockdown began, Upwork estimated that 42% of U.S. employees were still working from home, and nearly 70% of managers said work was progressing much more smoothly.

What helped individuals and organizations move forward efficiently through tough times? In part, successful teams turned to best-of-breed productivity tools.

Great WorkTech Tools Make a Difference

Now, nearly 3 years later, great worktech tools matter more than ever, as employers strive to offer people continued flexibility in how they get work done.

Effective managers have learned that some applications are especially useful at helping individuals and teams prioritize tasks, manage their time, collaborate, and explain important work concepts with job aids.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 5 worktech tools to help optimize individual and team performance and productivity, going forward.

5 Applications Worth Considering:

 

1. Slack: Communication and Collaboration

What worktech tools can help your teams improve productivity in 2023? Learn about Slack and more in this article

Source: Slack

Slack facilitates communication and collaboration among teams by consolidating messages, file sharing and chat activity in a central digital workspace. This lets people organize conversations by topic so they can avoid repetition and confusion while simultaneously conveying information to other group members. It also supports direct conversations with individuals and subsets within a group.

Because these conversations happen asynchronously, everyone can check updates and move discussions forward when it’s convenient for them. And with all related communication available in one place, individuals can easily revisit and refresh their understanding of tasks and stay up-to-date with the latest status. This leads to better team results.

Some of Slack’s IRC-style features include:

  • Personalized chat rooms (channels), for topics, private groups and direct messaging
  • Searchable content, including conversations, people, files and more
  • Emoji buttons to add flair and personality

Also, this tool is compatible with most applications that enable file and document sharing, which makes project workflow management and version control highly efficient.

Slack’s free plan lets users view and search their most recent 10,000 messages. Graduated paid plans give users the opportunity to add more functionality as their reach and requirements grow. 

2. Hubstaff: Time Tracking

What worktech tools should you consider for workforce productivity in 2023? Learn about Hubstaff

Source: Hubstaff

Hubstaff has operated as a virtual team for nearly 20 years. The company uses its own experience to design and deliver a workforce management software suite that helps businesses spend less time tracking workgroup activity and more time focusing on company growth and success.

This platform bundles time-tracking and proof-of-work functionality with project management, automated payroll management and more – all designed to streamline remote work management.

With its time-tracking software, Hubstaff can help dozens of team members work remotely. Despite being in different locations, employees can collaborate and coordinate effectively by leveraging these features:

  • Online timesheets
  • Time reporting
  • Randomized screenshots 
  • Mouse movement tracking to supervise team activity and engagement

Hubstaff is highly effective at helping remote leaders analyze team efficiency and encourage accountability. If you want to try before you buy, a 14-day free trial is available with limited features.

3. Trello: Project Management

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about Trello and other applications

Source: Trello

Next on our list of top productivity tools is Trello. This online list-making application is built on the Japanese-inspired Kanban (visual signal) model. Developed by a subsidiary of Atlassian, Trello is a highly adaptable project management tool.

Trello helps track project progress across multiple stages. It is useful in multiple contexts, from lesson planning, school bulletin boards and gaming to web design, real estate management and law office case administration.

With Tello, users can:

  • Create customized task boards featuring columns with various task status options (such as To Do, In Progress, Pending Approval, Done)
  • Set deadlines for each task
  • Move tasks between columns as they progress
  • Add multiple people to cards and use the message feature to communicate with the group simultaneously

Trello offers three business plans – standard, premium, and enterprise – as well as a free plan for individuals and small teams.

4. Evernote: Note-Taking

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about Evernote and other applications

Source: Evernote

Evernote is a popular note-taking application that helps team members easily organize and share notes. It lets users create, save and archive ideas and resources in a variety of formats, including audio, video and saved web content and reference links. Notes are archived as virtual notebooks that users can label, annotate, search, edit and export.

With Evernote, people can also:

  • Sync notes across various devices so they’re available to multiple team members, simultaneously
  • Read digital media in a way that looks and feels just like physical documents
  • Integrate group note management with workflows in email and team productivity apps such as Slack, Salesforce and Microsoft Teams

Evernote offers free usage with limited monthly features, and paid plans with expanded storage capacity and enhanced features.

5. RescueTime: Reduce Work Distractions

What worktech tools can improve your productivity in 2023? Learn about RescueTime and other applications

Source: RescueTime

Last but not least is RescueTime, an application built by remote workers for remote workers. RescueTime is designed to help minimize distractions so people can focus on work and improve individual and team productivity. It does this by recording your digital device usage and time spent engaging with various applications and websites.

The company’s mission is to support better work-life balance by helping people:

  • Continuously track their time on websites and apps, so they’re more aware of how they use their time and can adjust their habits for greater efficiency
  • Minimize wasted time by encouraging successful productivity strategies

This app lets users manually modify its default settings to fit individual goals and preferences. A free 30-day trial is available, while the paid version helps users:

  • Set goals 
  • Activate “Focus Time” (block distracting alerts, applications and websites)
  • Record offline events

Which WorkTech Tools are Right for Your Team?

The number of productivity tools has exploded in recent years. Certainly, they can help team members work more effectively together. But too many tools – or the wrong ones – can be counterproductive. Pointless or unpopular tools can actually discourage people, disrupt workflows and decrease output.

So, before adding to your worktech stack, always research and test your selections. Start by asking your team for recommendations. They’re close to the action, so they’re likely to have good ideas. Plus, if you implement solutions recommended by team members, they’re more likely to adopt them and encourage others to do so.

Also, be sure to think about the best way to roll out new tools. Avoid overwhelming people with too many options all at once. Instead, prioritize and introduce tools over time, so everyone can learn about them and integrate them into their workflow. This also gives you time to determine the impact of each incremental step forward.

No matter what, keep driving toward improvement. Eventually, you’ll see more people working more collaboratively and effectively while meeting more deadlines. And ideally, wherever your people are located, they will feel more engaged, efficient and comfortable contributing to your organization’s success.

7 Employee Appreciation Ideas People Love

Content Impact Award - TalentCulture 2022

Employee appreciation is naturally top-of-mind for employers during the holiday season. But employees actually prefer recognition throughout the year. In fact, according to a HubSpot survey, 39% of employees don’t feel appreciated, and nearly 7 in 10 think better recognition would boost their performance.

So, what can you do to help your workforce feel more deeply appreciated?

Some organizations rely on standard, old-school methods like plaques. But a more personalized approach is far more effective. A thoughtful token of appreciation is worth much more than its monetary value, alone. It tells people they matter. And that kind of message lasts long after it is received.

Here are some meaningful ways to show your team members just how grateful you are for their contributions.

7 Ways to Elevate Employee Appreciation

1. Give Hard Workers a Break

When you recognize employees for an extraordinary effort on a project or success in achieving an important business goal, don’t just say thank you. Reward them with some well-deserved time off.

In going above and beyond, employees often put in extra hours working on weekends, at night, or in the wee hours of the morning. Along the way, they’re likely to lose precious sleep or family time. By letting them redeem some of that time you can help them relax and recharge after an intense work effort. Even one day away can make an impact.

Providing time off is easy. And if you toss in a bonus gift card or cash for these employees to spend on activities they enjoy, that break is likely to be especially memorable.

2. Spotlight Your Stars on Social Media

Want people on your team to feel like stars? Showcase top performers on social media for the world to see. Share photos or video clips of them on your organization’s accounts and express your gratitude for their unique contributions in an uplifting caption.

Invite your leaders and others to congratulate featured individuals in the comment section. Your “stars” will love the attention as it spreads across social media for others to see. These interactions also increase visibility for your business in all the right ways.

This kind of public recognition is personalized, community-minded, and compelling. Above all, it can boost an employee’s pride, confidence, and morale in ways that private recognition can’t touch. 

3. Create Customized Rewards

Are you thinking of giving top performers a framed certificate, a trophy, or maybe a cash reward? Instead, why not appeal to their particular interests? How do they spend their free time? What hobbies or passion projects matter most to them?

For example, do you have fitness freaks on your team? Reward them with a gym membership, a network pass, or a subsidy.

Maybe some of your people are into group activities. Why not share experiential rewards with them? For instance, you could arrange an outing at a local bowling, bocce, or Topgolf venue.

Or for those who love outdoor adventures like hiking, fly fishing, or river rafting, you could go all out and book a fun vacation package like this: White Water Rafting Montana.

Imagine how thrilled people will be with rewards that fit their interests. Whatever your budget, this is a highly effective way to keep employees motivated and reinforce your relationship with them.

4. Treat Your Team to a Tasty Meal

Everyone loves to eat. And there are endless ways to show employee appreciation with the gift of free food. You could send each employee a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Or to celebrate as a team, why not organize a surprise lunch out?

If your people work remotely, you can arrange to have a meal delivered to everyone’s door at the same time on the same day. Contact a restaurant each employee loves and order their favorite menu item. Or send a gift card to everyone in advance. This is an easy, cost-effective way to bring people together for a casual meetup. And don’t forget to send a heartfelt thank you note to each recipient, as icing on the cake.

5. Celebrate Everyday Efforts

To build and sustain a thriving workforce, look for ways to celebrate individuals and teams on a frequent basis. Ask for your workforce to be your eyes and ears to nominate people who deserve recognition for everyday accomplishments, little wins, and hard work, as well as big achievements. And encourage everyone in your organization to celebrate others, as well.

Genuine, ongoing praise is a powerful employee feedback tactic that drives engagement and job satisfaction. It also models the kind of spirit you want to see at the core of your culture.

Also, don’t forget opportunities to celebrate birthdays and other personal milestones. Let your employees know these aren’t just “checklist” items, but heartfelt gestures. You’ll see them smiling more often and sharing appreciation with peers.

6. Highlight Employee Excellence in Internal Newsletters

Internal newsletters and intranets are great for informational updates, but they’re just as powerful for employee appreciation. It pays to think creatively about how you can acknowledge your best performers through these channels.

You could dedicate a regular column in one of these vehicles to highlight stories about the hard work and accomplishments of top performers. These stories are an excellent way to boost morale and inspire top talent to remain engaged and keep aiming high.

7. Make The Most of Anniversaries

Some organizations treat anniversaries as just another day. But wouldn’t it be great to work for a company that celebrates every year of your employment as an important milestone?

The average employee turnover rate remains 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels. In this tough talent market, why would any employer let an anniversary go to waste?

Each year matters in the life of an employee. Whether they’re new to your organization or they’ve been on board for a long time, every member of your team deserves a celebration dedicated to their service. This kind of recognition can take many forms. But whatever you do, be sure to sincerely acknowledge people for their loyalty and their role in helping your organization advance its mission.

Final Thoughts

Great companies embrace employee appreciation as a crucial way to boost motivation, minimize turnover, and set their organization apart from competitors. Appreciating employees doesn’t need to be difficult, but it should be timely, sincere, and relevant.

Even if your budget is limited, there are endless ways to acknowledge people while reinforcing your organization’s goals, values, and culture. Why not think outside the box and show your appreciation in a truly unique way? All it takes is your commitment, consistency, and some thoughtful planning.

Fostering Friendships In the New Remote Workplace

Friendships are an essential aspect of work life. But friendships among remote employees aren’t the same as relationships among people who spend time together in an office.

In office environments, extroverts usually do the heavy lifting needed to encourage social bonding. But now, team members often work from different locations. Getting remote team members to feel comfortable just talking with one another is hard enough—let alone convincing them to interact socially the way friends do. Nevertheless, the effort can pay off in multiple ways.

What can employers do? One of the best ways to strengthen relationships in the new hybrid work environment is to plan regular opportunities for informal interaction during the business day. Any company can benefit from encouraging stronger relationships among employees, whether people are located onsite, offsite, or both.

Building Remote Social Ties: My Story

As the Founder and CEO of a high-growth company, I’ve experienced the benefits of making space for social events, first-hand. During the pandemic, I started hosting virtual office hours as a forum for anyone to drop by and ask questions about business goals or discuss ideas. Initially, most of the folks who participated were managers with whom I worked directly.

Then I hosted a team escape room game and a margarita mixology class. That changed everything. I saw an increase in the number of new employees who felt comfortable attending. As particiption surged, I could tell this was a good move. Now, people from all over the organization join our group conversations and bring valuable insights to my attention. 

But of course, all relationship-building opportunities are not equal. Some simple guidelines help. For example, at Elevent, we’ve found that participation is highest when a social event has a specific start and end time during the work day. This means employees aren’t forced to sacrifice family time so they can bond with co-workers.

Also, you’ll want to identify these events clearly as social. Don’t just vaguely schedule a “hang-out” session or a happy hour. Instead, plan a specific activity. Invite people to build a desktop garden or sample some unique ice cream flavors. Create interest with a focal point that brings people together around a shared common experience.

Why Work Relationships Matter

Gallup research says work friendships are a key employee engagement indicator. But this metric is sometimes overlooked when measuring productivity because it is often accompanied by hard-to-quantify levels of employee happiness and work satisfaction.

Stronger friendships can also lead to better communication, which improves business effectiveness and innovation. This helps organizations identify and resolve issues that could otherwise erode employee trust and retention.

Surveys continue to indicate that positive social environments help anchor individuals during times of internal or external stress. Friendships help provide paths for ongoing growth, even during difficult challenges. They also offer the support people need to come forward when they experience problems, so they can resolve issues and learn to perform more efficiently and effectively.

Friendship as a Productivity Metric

After an extensive multi-factor analysis, Gallup has developed a tool that diagnoses workplace health based on employee responses to 12 simple statements. Statement 10 is: “I have a best friend at work.” That’s because strong friendships are associated with a deeper work effort. So, how does Gallup interpret these results?

Specifically, when 20% or more of an organization’s employees agree with this statement, workplace engagement is considered “good.” That’s the current level of U.S. engagement. But Gallup estimates that when employers move this ratio to 60%, they can significantly improve results across several business parameters:

  • 36% fewer safety incidents
  • 7% more engaged customers
  • 12% higher profit

Furthermore, when friendships are strong, employees are less likely to seek other job opportunities and more likely to feel comfortable taking innovative risks.

So essentially, friendships help people enjoy working, which means they dedicate more creative time and energy to their work. They also mention problems when they happen so employers can resolve issues quickly, rather than waiting to react to unwanted resignations.

Bottom line: an open-door policy makes sense. You’ll find plenty of advice telling leaders to seek input from employees and reward people who speak up. But communication won’t improve if your policy isn’t backed by a culture of trust.

On the other hand, if you encourage stronger social connections across your teams, you can create the kind of “speaking up and speaking out” environment that is likely to make a real business impact.

Real-World Views: Workplace Social Bonds

With scheduled meetings centered almost entirely on work, organic interactions usually suffer. And with online meetings, screen fatigue is always a factor. So it’s important to treat employee attention as a finite resource. Start by assuring employees that both are important, and provide a framework for people to engage in both. Here’s how several companies view this need:

Ally Financial

One notable example is Ally Financial. Shortly after COVID-19 changed the way many of us work, Ally changed its employee support model to a remote-first approach. This meant Ally had to consider multiple employee needs that didn’t exist before March 2020.

The company made a commitment to demonstrate care for employees holistically. To increase wellbeing and social connection, Ally launched new services, experiential modules and group challenges geared toward physical, mental and financial fitness.

Virtual fitness and meditation classes can easily become group activities that prioritize social fun. This means simple events like comedy shows, group trivia games, and “Family Feud”-style team battles can become useful tools to improve workforce friendships and happiness.

Deloitte

Another well-known company focused on the communal aspects of the employee experience is Deloitte.

The company’s analysts looked deeply at how the pandemic tested the limits of employer-employee relationships, concluding that the future of work is likely to feel more like a team than a family. However, Deloitte cautions that if organizations move dramatically toward impersonal work models, employees may feel replaceable. If they sense this kind of threat, they could react by competing with colleagues, rather than working together toward common goals.

This is why Deloitte underscores the need for sustainable strategies. For example, one way to demonstrate this kind of commitment is to host ongoing virtual events. By dedicating time to a bi-weekly or monthly cadence, employers can ensure that employees have the time and support they need to cultivate stronger relationships.

Final Thoughts

Companies that treat virtual social events as an integral aspect of workforce engagement and retention are fostering essential social bonds—regardless of where employees are located. When people feel welcomed, comfortable and supported while spending time together in casual activities, they can develop friendships that ultimately improve individual productivity and happiness, as well as organizational profit.

Office Space: Work in Progress #TChat Recap

Every organization needs the right balance of caves and commons. What that precise balance is depends on what the organization’s particular goals and challenges are, and more granularly, what the immediate situation of a work team is.
Leigh Thompson, Harvard Business Review

This week, the TalentCulture community took on “The Office” as our primary topic. No, we didn’t talk about today’s finale of the long-running TV show. Instead, we focused on real-world workspace — what our physical environment means to us, how it influences our mood and behavior, and the role it plays in our creativity and productivity as individuals, teams and organizations. (For highlights from the #TChat Twitter event, see the Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Special Guests: Workspace Wizards

Perhaps no other company understands the concept of workspace better than Steelcase. That’s why we invited experts from that company to share their insights at this week’s #TChat events. If you think of Steelcase as a file cabinet manufacturer, think again. It’s now a global leader in design and furnishings for business, healthcare and education markets. I’m familiar with Steelcase from its work with schools. Just as office space shapes business behavior, classroom configuration has an impact on student learning.

This brief video of the Steelcase “Learning Lab” is a great way to see how Steelcase views workspace:

Key Takeaway: “Place” Matters

Yesterday’s #TChat Twitter conversation was the live-action conclusion to our deep dive into workspace issues and ideas. We seemed to agree on one key point:  These days, “workspace” is often determined by our location at any given moment. Many of us are in constant motion, and we take our work along for the ride — for better or worse. That means flexibility and choice are essential.

But all of us have a primary spot that we call “ours” — even if it’s in a bedroom corner. So, throughout the Twitter chat, many participants (including me) shared pictures of our workspace, or our vision of the ideal setting. Not surprisingly, those images are as diverse as the hundreds of #TChat participants who join us each week! One of my favorites is the Pons Huot Office, shared by Katja Matosevic. (Check out the #TChat Highlights Slideshow below for more, or look at this Forbes gallery of 10 Cool Office Spaces.)

Are you inspired yet? Read on!

#TChat Week-in-Review

SAT 5/11

Sneak Peek: Organizational Pyschologist and #TChat Ambassador, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, helped us frame the week’s theme in her TalentCulture blog post, “Your Workspace: How’s It Working For You?”

SUN 5/12

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro identified “5 Habits Of Leaders Who Create Workspace Culture” in her weekly Forbes column.

MON 5/13

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio recording now

#TChat Preview: Our community manager, Tim McDonald, posted a detailed the week’s theme and key questions in a preview post: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk.”

TUE 5/14

#TChat Radio: Chris Congdon, Director of Research Communications at Steelcase, offered fascinating perspectives about the human psychological and physical factors that influence workspace design. In particular, she focused on the importance of choice in satisfying diverse preferences and multiple work modes.

WED 5/15

Related Post: Sourcing specialist and #TChat Ambassador, Ashley Lauren Perez, offered another spin on workspace design — specifically its role in supporting talent acquisition and retention. Read her post, “Employer Brands: Big-Company Ideas for the Rest of Us.”

#TChat Twitter: The community conversation was so fast and furious that once again, we trended on Twitter! Did you get in on the action? If not (or if you want a refresh), see highlights in the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-if-these-workspace-walls-could-tal.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Chris Congdon and Steelcase for sharing your perspectives on workspace design and organizational culture. It feels like this discussion has only just begun!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workspace issues? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week — reward yourself! Join us for events focused on recognition and employee engagement, with special guests, Stan Phelps founder of 9 Inch Marketing, and S. Max Brown, Principal of Leadership Directives at Rideau Recognition Management Institute.

Until then, as always, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

We’ll see you on the stream!

 Photo: Thanks to Tom Bolt for the Einstein inspiration

Developing Talent in a Social Business World

(Editorial Note: This is post 1 of 2)

Now more than ever, talent development is a life-long process, transcending education, career, technology and social media. It cuts to the core of why we’re here and what it means to be human.

We are here to become more — to maximize the development of our talent by improving performance in every aspect of living. And, we are here to guide and support others in doing the same.

Consider the countless number of hard and soft skills it takes to navigate a single day of living in the 21st century. We’re swimming in a contextual field of opportunities, challenges, goals and choices!

Social Business: What’s New?

Business has always been a social endeavor. Despite relentless change — including the recent arrival of revolutionary social media tools — many of the essential skills for business success have remained the same throughout history. No mystery there. Business is and will always be about creating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships.

So what’s changing at a revolutionary level? According to “Social Era” author, Nilofer Merchant, the most successful businesses are adapting and integrating traditional relationship-building skills and processes into the digital landscape.

Professional Life and the New Social Norm

Of course, the implications of social business don’t stop at an organizational level. Work and personal life are merging, as workloads increase, and mobile technology and social platforms grow more prevalent. The traditional boundaries and walls that separated life roles are being erased. Social and mobile channels are morphing work-life balance into a work-life blend.

Our diverse roles are becoming synthesized into a single life style. We work, we play, and we live — engaging anywhere, anytime, with anyone we choose. Many people now live in a blurry space between “real” life and digital life, professional and personal, internal and external.

Filtering the Social Clutter

IBM estimates that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. What does that mean for social learning? We have too much information, not enough transformation. Despite extensive learning, education, training and development, people think, feel and react in the same ways over and over. Think about the volume of content you absorb on a daily basis. What percentage of that information actually helps you create a positive impact in your life, or the lives of others?

Here’s a tool to help cut through the fog and chaos of today’s deafening social noise. I call it the “social business contextual field.” This filter helps brings clarity and precision to individual and organizational goals, strategies, learning, development, communication and transformation. It is based on six core components.

Social Business Contextual Field

These six concepts represent all the complex relationships within social business. We can draw endless connections between words. For example, we think about how we feel. How we feel impacts how we think. Our thoughts and emotions largely determine our reactions and choices. We think about people, spaces and technology. We’re emotionally connected to people, spaces and technology. We physically engage with people spaces and technology.

Social business success hinges on learning how to develop and continuously improve connections, communication and collaboration among all aspects of the contextual field. Specifically, when individuals and organizations align, integrate and transform both sides of the contextual field, success follows.

Engagement-Performance Transformation

As I explained in a recent TalentCulture video, engagement-performance transformation is an essential social learning skill. It’s a  solution to seizing opportunities, overcoming challenges, boosting productivity, realizing goals and amplifying social business success.

In our work, we mash the two words “engagement” and “performance” into a single word, “engagement-performance.”

  • Engagement: The moment we recognize and seize opportunities to improve parts of the social business contextual field.
  • Performance: Everything that happens intellectually, emotionally and physically from the moment we engage, and as we move thorough the experience.

Engagement-performance transformation is above and behind all skill development. Consciously or unconsciously, we are engaging and performing every moment. Social talent development centers on transforming our capacity to engage-perform-produce more, better, faster, now — no matter what’s happening in or around us.

Three Steps for Engagement-Performance-Transformation

A culture of social learning, backed by engagement-performance transformation, does not happen by accident or good intentions. We must do three things to create and sustain engagement-performance transformation:

  • Take personal responsibility for transforming intellectual, emotional and physical engagement-performance.
  • Learn, practice and apply real-time power tool strategies for engagement-performance transformation in the midst of intense situations, persistent challenges and diverse people.
  • Proactively embrace the process of engagement-performance transformation, in self and others, from moment-to-moment, day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year.

Editorial Note: This is Part 1 in a series by Michael Clark. Part 2 will be published soon. Sign-up for TalentCulture.com email updates or via RSS feed, to follow Michael’s posts.

Image credit: Stock.xchng

Conscious Communication in an Info-Overloaded World

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

The old adage goes, if you’re not going to say something nice than don’t say anything at all. Yes, silence speaks volumes, but so can efficient communication and it’s a stretch sometimes when having to tangle with work while keeping peace on the home front.

“Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.” ~Dalai Lama

Poor communication creates frustration and can make for inefficient interactions, inevitably leading to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda whether at work or at home.

We make up stories in our head as we anticipate what will happen during a conflict, instead of being open to the ever-changing moment that might lead to a productive conversation. Strive for the 3 C’s: Co-creation of a Conscious Conversation. There at least 2 people in the conversation. Don’t talk at people. Speak WITH them. And be fully present in the conversation – not multi-tasking with your Black Berry.

Communication covers broad territory. It comes in the form of meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchange, social media etc.  We tend to lose sight of some basic tenets of effective communication in our hi-tech global world. So keep the following in mind whether in a meeting or communication with someone via the many modes of technology:

  • Technology can filter a message and make it something it’s not. So don’t react from the gut.
  • Everyone has their individual story – but that story can change in an instant due to info-overload. Be adaptable to change in someone’s attitude.
  • Rapid fire communication via texting can quickly heat up a simple interaction.
  • Communicating with family and colleagues requires different sensibilities. Be aware of the blur and boundaries in the work-life merge. You’re probably going to speak to your mother in a different tone than a colleague.
  • Perception is everything. Be willing to be a witness to what’s happening if conflict arises. Remember that you are co-creating a conversation. 2 sides to every story.
  • When conversing, especially via technology, it’s smart to repeat – or mirror back to the person you’re communicating with – what YOU heard.
  • Be mindful of how you end conversations, and what the next step of communication or call-to-action, should be.

Being Conscious of  Your Communication

We tend to take communication for granted because there is such an ease of access to technology. The trick is to be more mindful of  your communication. Your time is valuable. The analogy of examining communication as a meal works well.  Remember that communication on any level is feeding your mind. So keep the following in mind:

Communication Guidelines

1. Don’t eat too late: Try to avoid interacting with people up to the moment you hit the sack. It’s stressful and could impact your sleep if the conversation or communication was upsetting or mind-consuming .

2. Don’t over-eat: Be sure to have an agenda for your communication and accomplish the task. Don’t keep gabbing on the phone to take up time.

3. Don’t stand while eating: Be mindful and present in your communications. If we allow ourselves to be distracted we dilute the conversation, make it longer than it has to be and risk not accomplishing the task.

In our rapidly changing business climate being mindful of how we are interacting at work and at home is increasingly important. How do you track your communications? Do you monitor and/or filter your communication at work or at home? If so, share your strategy!!

5 Steps: Staying Balanced When Career Calls on Your Off-Time

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

I had this sinking feeling of work life chaos while getting a facial this weekend. My phone was on “ring mode” instead of on “silent.” Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C rang once, twice and finally a third time. My hands slathered in lotion and nuzzled in heated mits, I had to wait a bit before checking my phone. When I did,  it was evident that the tv newsroom – where I spend a good portion of my week, was calling me on my day off.

But no matter the profession, many of us get those urgent  (or no so urgent calls) looking for an instant response. And when we respond, giving into “instant gratification”, we play into that idea of “perceived availability” which I wrote about in a recent post: Taking Work Life Balance by the Horns.

Whether Sleet, Snow, Day or Night

I used to answer these calls no matter the time of day or night out of concern that breaking news might require me to drop everything, and run into work. (Like the time when a Chinese tanker ran aground filled with refugees off the south coast of Long Island) But that’s changed.

After putting some personal guidelines into place and openly communicating with colleagues who might need to reach me in an emergency, I created a system to navigate those sudden calls and respond to them in a timely and appropriate manner. Having a plan or system is a life saver if you frequently get such calls.

Technological Inter-ruptus!

Technological interruptions on your off-time from work can really put a dent into your downtime. And according to a new survey published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior,  they could actually be bad for your health. University of Toronto researchers asked a group of American workers  “how often they were contacted outside the workplace by phone, e-mail, or text about work-related matters by clients, managers, and supervisors.”

The study found that women, more so than men, reported higher levels of psychological distress from work-related contact outside of normal working hours. Apparently women were more distressed because they would feel guilty about dealing with work issues at home. Seems that men and women have different expectations when it comes to setting boundaries around their work and family lives.

No matter your gender, there are many variables to consider when handling those at-home interruptions from the office. The type of job you have, will determine whether those sudden interruptions are warranted. And if they are, the best way to handle them.

5 keys to staying balanced when that calls comes in from work

  1. Assess your job and responsibilities: If you’re a manager, your responsibilities might differ vastly from the workers in your company. Does your position require you be available on your off-time? If so, only you know what is within reason as far as being contacted. Decide what is appropriate for you while adhering to your job guidelines.
  2. Determine the “crisis mode” level: Things go wrong sometimes. The trick is to diffuse the situation in an optimal amount of time with the least amount of collateral damage. That’s why you should set up a “rising scale of tension.” When plans go awry a lot of finger pointing goes on. What is the tipping point where your assistance is needed? Determine what events warrant communication or a phone call on off-time hours.
  3. Communicate with your employees or employer: If you determine that you need to be available during off-hours, let your co-workers or employees know when it’s ok to reach out on a weekend. You might be ok with being contacted on Saturdays 9-5 but not on Sundays for example. Ultimately it’s up to you to gently inform those with whom you work or do business with, what your boundaries are.
  4. Set your answering boundaries: Instead of answering every call that comes in, along with every e-mail, decide what works for you. You might prefer to pickup right away if you know it’s a client. In my case of being a news reporter – if I know the newsroom is calling – I will be sure to listen to the message immediately. The nature of the message determines my response.
  5. Checks and balances system: There are certain people at work who know how to get a hold of me in the case of an emergency. I also have a list of people who can fill-in for me at the last minute if need be. Determine which people will be able to pitch hit for you if you cannot respond to work in the appropriate manner or time frame.

What are your tips for dealing with the technological interruptions at home – from the workplace?

Falling Asleep at Work Increases Productivity

(Editor’s Note: This guest post is by our talented colleague, and friend Cathy Taylor. Cathy is a social media expert who helps businesses develop comprehensive communications strategies to achieve business goals and objectives. More of Cathy’s insightful articles can be found on her blog.)

Imagine going to work and finding the boss has roped off a section in the back of the office for the new sleep pods set to arrive next week.

Sleep pods? Are you serious?

A few minutes later you wander past the HR director’s office and she confirms an order was placed for ten new sleep pods. She adds that a new policy will go into effect next quarter. All employees who need a nap during the day will be encouraged to use the sleep pods for twenty minutes after lunch. As you walk back to your cubicle scratching your head you are reminded of that day last month when you locked yourself in the bathroom stall to catch some Z’s. It couldn’t be helped. It was either take a nap or startle your coworkers with a thud sound as your head hit the desk.

This sounds like a far-fetched idea but more companies are beginning to embrace the idea of sanctioned naps during day. Companies like British Airways, Google, Nike, Pizza Hut and Procter & Gamble have implemented policies that allow employees some downtime in the office.

The concept of workplace napping is attributed to former Harvard researcher Sara C. Mednick. She advanced the idea in her book, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life!” Feedback from employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work say it’s so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar.

However, there is no denying workplace napping is counterintuitive in the United States. It begs the question: How long before company leadership begins to view napping as a competitive advantage?

Here are some compelling arguments for workplace naps from Dr. Mednick’s research:

1) It results in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Dr. Mednick cites epidemiological studies that show decreases in heart disease and stress.
Workplace naps restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills… and can produce improvements previously observed only after a full night of sleep.
3) 51% of the workforce report that sleepiness on the job interferes with the volume of work they can do.

At the moment, workplace napping is still a long way from becoming prevalent in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only five percent of employers allow their workers to take a nap during the day.

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. And as more employers look for ways to fill job vacancies, enhance employee engagement and retain the best workers taking a nap might not be such a bad idea. Nap time at work may no longer be just for slackers!

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