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How to Recharge Your Workforce and Improve Productivity

Take a look around your office. How many employees are glued to their computer screens? Eating lunch at their desks? Is the breakroom empty? With so many people answering “yes” to those questions, it’s no surprise there’s a big trend sweeping across U.S. workplaces: employees are burned out and aren’t taking enough breaks to recharge.

In fact, a recent study by Staples Business Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, shows employees are working longer hours (70 percent spend more than 40 hours a week at work), but taking fewer breaks than in the past. This unfortunate trend can seriously hinder productivity, increase stress levels and negatively impact wellness, morale and happiness, ultimately impacting the overall health of a business.

What’s contributing to this “always on” mentality preventing employees from taking a break? Survey results also revealed that half of employees don’t feel they can leave their desk to take a break, with one in four respondents citing guilt as the reason they don’t step away from their workspaces, and nearly 70 percent say they have too much work to do, which means aspects of workplace culture need to change.

While you can’t force employees to take a break, you can build a break friendly culture by outfitting your office with a designated place to unwind, unplug and socialize with colleagues. Outfitting vibrant break spaces with furniture employees will want to sit in, as well as a wide variety of foods and beverages, will organically attract employees to spend time there. Having a “quiet space” in the office dedicated to relaxation and introspection gives employees the freedom to recharge and refocus their energy.

What steps do employers need to take to create an inviting breakroom that people actually want to use? It’s easier than you think. Consider the following when evaluating and revamping the current break space in your office:

  • Comfort and design is a must. With employees spending more time at work than ever before, comfort and design are critical components that must be incorporated in break spaces. Furniture and design are major considerations for the overall comfort and appeal of a breakroom. Decorating with appealing colors and well-designed furniture can transform a space into the most frequented area in the office. It’s important to provide tables, flexible seating and other items that encourage employees to unwind and socialize with colleagues.
  • Provide variety in your breakroom. No two employees will have the same taste, so it’s important to offer something for everyone. Keeping a variety of snack and beverage options means that each employee will have something that appeals to them. With an uptick in employees looking for healthy snack options (65 percent feel it’s important for their company to offer healthy snacks), the breakroom can help foster a healthy work environment and promote workplace wellness. 
  • Encourage a disconnect. In this digital, “always-on” world, technology affords us greater flexibility in how we communicate, as well as where and how we work. The problem is, being connected 24/7 also makes it difficult to maintain a proper work/life balance and can impact workplace engagement and productivity. Many employees make the mistake of not disconnecting from work-related technology when taking breaks, which can decrease the quality of break time and the ability to recharge. Encourage employees to leave the technology behind when taking a break to fully take their minds off work.

If the breakroom is not part of your workplace strategy then think again! By providing employees with a place to relax, they feel appreciated and more productive throughout the day. Creating and encouraging a break culture in the workplace leads to a happier, recharged and more productive workforce.

Photo Credit: Agent Mystery Case via Compfight cc

Which Countries Have The Most Efficient Workers?

Are you opening work emails when you’re at home? Getting business updates on your iPhone when you’re out with the kids? Technological advances mean that when you clock out of the workplace, a huge chunk of your work can follow you home even when you are off the clock, whether that’s on your laptop, iPad or phone.

In the UK, there has been a dramatic rise in working hours, with the average employee working 32 hours per week, or 1,669 hours per year. But is working longer hours really the secret to more smarter workers and a more productive workforce? The answer is no.

Which Countries Have the Most Productive Workers?

Germany and France are two of the most productive countries, but they are also two of the countries with the fewest working hours. In Germany, the average employee works 1388 hours per year (or 26.6 hours per week) and in France the figure is only slightly higher with working hours totaling 1,489 per year (28.6 hours per week).

In contrast, Mexicans work the most hours, averaging 41.5 hours per week, which is a whopping 2,200 hours annually. South Korea isn’t far behind, with 2,100 hours worked annually per person (41.5 hours per week). Despite longer working hours, both countries fall short in term of productivity when compared to their German and French counterparts.

Even without taking productivity into account, studies have found that people who have fewer working hours are more loyal and suffer less stress and illness. Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that when working long hours, 27 percent of workers feel depressed, 34 percent feel anxious and a huge 58 percent feel irritable. We all know that unhappy employees result in unhappy employers. Work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year.

What Can Employers Learn from This?

If you want smarter employees, be a smarter employer. Overworking your staff will only lead to burn-outs, rock-bottom company work culture and a drop in your profit margins. Aim to have your employees working smarter, instead of longer. How do you do that?

Prioritize and Organize

Prioritization and organization is essential for smarter working. Be ruthless about what tasks need to be completed immediately and which ones can wait until later in the week. Giving all tasks equal priority will lead to attempts at multi-tasking. Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert, has scientifically proven that the brain cannot efficiently switch between tasks. Consequently, tasks take longer, the quality of work is lower, and you’ll probably not retain much information, meaning subsequent tasks will also suffer. Smarter workers are the ones who focus on each task individually

Delegate Tasks and Train Staff

One of the most common mistakes made by employers and managers is trying to do everything by themselves. Work out which tasks don’t make it to the top of your priority list and train your staff to do them for you. Training your staff will pay off in the long run. Ensuring that staff can effectively carry out tasks to the standard that you desire will keep your company working like a well-oiled machine. Delegating “important” tasks to other members of the workforce also shows your trust in them, making it a great way to boost morale.

Work/Life Balance

The ultimate secret to having smarter workers is to make sure that they are finding a good balance between working and enjoying their free time. There are plenty of critics of work/life balance, but many of them also suggest allocating time for when you won’t log on to work emails or answer the phone.

Employees who don’t have romantic evenings with their other half and weekends at the park with their kids interrupted by phone calls from the office will be much more productive when they are working. Blurring the lines between work and life makes it difficult for employees to focus on their work, even when they’re in the office. As an employer, offering incentives and supporting employees in their passions and interests can be just the ticket to achieving that balance.

Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He is currently running the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical. Follow Ron on Twitter at @jobs4medical.

photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

Flexible Work And The Power of Choice #TChat Recap

Working “In The Zone”

Think for a moment about your ideal work scenario. Look beyond the substance of the work, itself. Instead, focus on structure, and flow, and surroundings. Think about the “how” and the “when” and the “where” that make it possible to perform well.

What does it feel like to operate in your most productive way? And how often do you actually achieve that level of focus and energy? Is something standing between you and your vision? If so, how could you or your employer close the gap?

Of course, each of us has a unique work/life narrative. And there are countless ways to create an effective fit between professional responsibilities and personal pursuits. But anything is possible, as long as we’re empowered to make choices that work for us and for those who need our talent.

Straight Ahead: No Boundaries

Did I just hear a chuckle from the cynical side of the house? Granted, I see blue sky in the forecast. But this week’s #TChat forums indicate that flexible options aren’t just an isolated phenomenon or a passing fancy. Instead, soon we should expect many more workers to find  flexibility within reach. Why? Consider these points:

1) The concept of work, itself, is being radically redefined — as Jason Fried, founder of the productivity application company, 37Signals, explained in this compelling TED Talk:

2) Employers are waking up and recognizing the business value of flexible work options. And, as many #TChat participants suggested, ROI can be measured in multiple ways. For example:

(For more thought-provoking tweets, see the #TChat highlights slideshow at the end of this post.)

3) Our expert guests are evidence that flexible options are gaining credibility and momentum. Both are leading the way in today’s work/life fit movement. They shared real-world perspectives about why these initiatives are gaining traction, along with tips to “make it work.”

Lisa Horn, Co-Leader of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative and a SHRM Senior Government Relations Advisor;
Susan Lovegren, SVP of HR at Plantronics, a leading-edge technology company that offers “Smarter Working” choices.

(Hear details in the #TChat Radio show listed in the week’s resource list, below.)

4) The backlash has begun. You know a business practice is becoming legitimate when  nay-sayers appear at the gates. Ironically, just this week HR Executive Online reported on “next wave” research: “Non-Remote Workers Jealous of Telecommuters.” Why leave anyone behind? As our #TChat Radio guests explained, even when telecommuting isn’t practical, flexibility can come in other forms.

5) Key takeaway — change is a two-way street. Whatever is ahead in the realm of flexible work, it’s clear that change is needed on both sides of the employment contract. As this nested tweet suggests:

Thanks to everyone in the TalentCulture community who contributed opinions and ideas at this week’s #TChat events! We invite you to review highlights in the slideshow below, along with other related resources — and we look forward to expanding this conversation, as work/life blend issues continue to shape today’s workplace!

#TChat Week-In-Review: The Flexible World Of Work

SUN 8/18:

Forbes.com Post: To kickstart the conversation, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro challenged business leaders to recognize the value of flexible work options. Read: “5 Reasons Why Workplace Flexibility Is a Smart Business Strategy.”

MON 8/19:

#TChat Preview: Our Community Manager, Tim McDonald, expanded on the week’s topic and events in his preview post: “Reworking The 9-to-5 Office Job.”

TUE 8/20:

Related Post: TalentCulture blog contributor, Heather Huhman, offered a snapshot of today’s flexible workforce trends with an infographic post: “5 Reasons To Hire Flexible Talent.”

WED 8/21:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen now to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio: In a highly informative warm-up to the Twitter conversation, Lisa and Susan joined our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman to discuss key issues and opportunities surrounding flexible work options, and how the concept translates into organizational life at Plantronics. Listen now to the radio show recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community gathered on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open discussion about work/life fit from many points of view. To see highlights, check out the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Workplace Flexibility As A Business Strategy

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-workplace-flexibility-as-a-busines.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Lisa Horn  and Susan Lovegren for generously sharing insights about flexibility initiatives and work/life blend issues. You’ve opened our eyes to new aspects of this critical business trend.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about flexible work arrangements or work/life fit issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. 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, our “summer restart” series concludes, as author Bob Burg joins us to  look at entrepreneurial endeavors within corporate environments. So plan to join us, and check for details this weekend on TalentCulture social channels.

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues everyday. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or on other social channels. And feel free to explore our redesigned website. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Disasters And Digital News: 5 Ways To Cope At Work

(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.)

(Origianl Editor’s Note: With the D.C. Navy shipyard shootings, and the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we’re reminded of the stressful effects that 24×7 news cycles can have on employee wellbeing. Here’s timeless advice from a stress management expert.)

This past spring brought a trifecta of tragic news to our nation — arguably throwing a painful monkey wrench of digital disruption into everyone’s work-life merge. Whether it was the Boston Marathon bombings, the devastating Midwest floods, or the fertilizer plant explosion that flattened the town of West, Texas, many of us were alerted to these events within minutes, and had to cope with the news while at work.

Chances are, no matter what headline appeared on your digital device or computer monitor, it had an impact on your emotional well-being — perhaps even eliciting a visceral response. This real-time digital disruption has now reared its head as the latest workplace stressor that both employees and employers must contend with. It’s one example of what I call “The Technology Paradox.”

What do I mean by paradox? It’s simple. The same technology that helps us keep in touch with family members, communicate with business colleagues, and stay on top of work projects also can deliver an instant punch to the gut in the form of disturbing news. It acts as an assault to the nervous system, creating tension that can diminish work performance.

Bad News And The Mind/Body Connection

Think back for a moment. How did you feel when you heard last spring’s harrowing headlines? Did you experience a mix of sadness, fear and concern? Perhaps your heart raced, your blood pressure spiked or you became short of breath. After-the-fact, putting a lot of energy into thinking about those events can also cause stress and anxiety that linger as ongoing tension.

Even a quick jolt of disturbing news can elicit an intense “fight-or-flight” response that releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. An unexpected breaking news event can rapidly trigger a stress response in the minds and emotions of people throughout an organization. Although humans are fairly resilient, and the stress response typically subsides within an hour, long-term consequences can develop. For example, studies show that elevated and chronic levels of cortisol can interfere with learning, memory, concentration, the immune system, digestion and metabolism.

So, what does this mean for a workforce that is “always on” in an era of 24×7 global news access? In a today’s competitive, social workplace, where computers and personal devices are ubiquitous, responding to breaking news requires awareness and guidelines that are beneficial to the rank and file. Even as recently as a decade ago, things were different. News traveled fast, but not in the “real time” marketplace that now exists. It’s wise for business managers to take this new workplace stressor into consideration. What to do?

5 Ways To Reduce Stress In The Face Of Breaking News

1) Acknowledge the event: Ignoring traumatic news only keeps feelings bottled up — or forces discussion to go underground. Quick, open acknowledgement provides a foundation for others to express an appropriate level of human concern.

2) Talking about it is OK: Continuous online and offline “water-cooler” discussions will naturally occur in the wake of catastrophic events. That’s human nature. Sharing opinions or feelings can be helpful. However, it’s important not to allow yourself, your team or your colleagues to become consumed by conversations that relive the events.

3) Be sensitive to coworkers: You may not know if a coworker is personally affected by the tragedy. Be thoughtful about how you speak about the event, and with whom.

4) Limit information intake: You may be tempted to follow a story closely after the initial news breaks. However, constantly checking on the latest developments wastes time, and can keep you locked in a vicious cycle of needless stress. If your work decisions or immediate personal life aren’t affected by having access to continuous coverage, then limit your intake — and encourage others to do so, as well.

5) Take time to digest, rest and build resilience: When disaster first strikes, attention spans immediately plummet. Be easy on yourself and co-workers as you regain firm footing. For some, a few moments of breathing, contemplation or a brief walk can go a long way toward processing the event. After the initial shock subsides, engaging in ongoing resilience-building activities can help reduce external sensory stress. Regular meditation, exercise or just listening to calming music can flip your energy and mind to a more grounded view, and away from ongoing drama.

How do you and your organization respond to tragic news in today’s “always on” environment? What ideas do you suggest for others who want to stay aware of news support victims, while remaining focused and productive?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Your Digital Domain: Who’s The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

JudyMartin2JPG

Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. 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 at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, 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 gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Your Digital Domain: Who's The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

JudyMartin2JPG

Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. 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 at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, 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 gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Where’s The Love? Recognition DIY

Written By Ritika Trikha

Overworked. Undervalued. Now What?

You’re working your fingers to the bone – extra hours, extra projects, extra everything. And yet no extra appreciation is coming back your way. No one seems to notice your hard work. What to do?

No matter why or how you found yourself in this situation, you can turn it around. It’s time to take back control.

As Roxanne Peplow of Computer Systems Institute notes, “You cannot seek praise from others—it has to come from within.” Rather than waiting to be recognized and praised by others, choose to be proud of your accomplishments in their own right. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Shed light on your achievements when appropriate. And look for ways to acknowledge the efforts of others who contribute to your success — those on your team.

“If you feel that you are doing more than what is expected of you and it isn’t being recognized, you are making yourself a victim. When you victimize yourself, it’s impossible to be positive,” Peplow says.

Try these 5 steps to find the recognition you deserve:

1. Look Closer — Then Speak Up

If it seems like you’re swamped, first reexamine your workload. You may benefit from smarter ways to prioritize and minimize work. If that’s not enough, don’t be a hero. Talk with your boss.

“Many employees mistakenly believe their job is at stake if they say they can’t handle one more project. More projects equal less focus and lower quality,” says Steve Duffy, president of ListHere.com. Like many other managers, Duffy would rather have an employee deliver great results than take on too much and fall short.

Tell your manager. He wants to know. After all, his success depends on your ability to perform.

2. Do Something You Love — After Hours

Balance in other areas of life can make or break your workplace happiness. Fast Co.Create suggests that professionals develop a “passion project” outside of work.

Firstborn Creative Director Adam Rubin is also a children’s book author. He told Fast Co.Create that having a side project is not only personally gratifying, but also translates positively back to his work. For him, writing children’s books as a sideline “is an excellent exercise in simplicity and rhythm. It has helped me improve the brevity, clarity and pace of my writing.”

3. Stop Taking On Extra Work From Slackers

If you’re overworked because you’re picking up slack from one or more colleagues, enough is enough. Don’t wait until you’ve reached a boiling point, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times bestseller “Crucial Confrontations.”

Grenny led a study that suggests 93% of employees work with others who don’t pull their weight — yet only 1 in 10 of us actually confronts underperforming colleagues. If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to offenders, you have two alternatives: 1) Just say no to helping in the future, or 2) Discuss it with your boss (see suggestion #1).

4. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re overworked, sleep is probably the first thing to go. “Work can keep us up at night, worrying about what is next or staying up because work still needs to be accomplished,” says Chris Ohlendorf, Partner at Versique Search and Consulting.

Realize that the more sleep you lose, the closer you are to burnout. And burnout won’t advance your career.

5. If All Else Fails, Start Searching For The Next Job

If your boss is simply not budging, you have no time to balance your life, and you’re surrounded by slackers, it may be time to reward yourself by jumping ship. Just make sure you’re not job hunting on company time, warns Lida Citroen, personal branding and reputation management expert at LIDA360.

Her advice: “Networking — online and in person — and studying industries, companies and business leaders will help you become more proactive in your career.”

Chalk It Up to a Lesson Learned

ListHere.com’s Duffy also offers some final words of wisdom for those who have reached the point of no return – treat any company the way it is treating you. “Remember that a company only hires you because you can add value to their bottom line.”

If you’re no longer moving forward in your career, accept the lessons learned from this experience, and find a new employer. But avoid repeating past mistakes. In interviews, be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether or not that company will be a better fit:

  1. How would you describe your management style?
  2. How did this position become available?
  3. What kind of recognition system is utilized here?
  4. Can you tell me about the growth opportunities available to employees?

Take back control. Embrace and celebrate your achievements, while helping others see your value and respect your contributions. You have nothing to lose!

Ritika-Trikha(Author Profile: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Ritika’s not writing, she’s obsessing over social media (and listening to Jay Z!). Connect with Ritika on Twitter!)

Republished with permission from YouTern.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Where's The Love? Recognition DIY

Written By Ritika Trikha

Overworked. Undervalued. Now What?

You’re working your fingers to the bone – extra hours, extra projects, extra everything. And yet no extra appreciation is coming back your way. No one seems to notice your hard work. What to do?

No matter why or how you found yourself in this situation, you can turn it around. It’s time to take back control.

As Roxanne Peplow of Computer Systems Institute notes, “You cannot seek praise from others—it has to come from within.” Rather than waiting to be recognized and praised by others, choose to be proud of your accomplishments in their own right. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Shed light on your achievements when appropriate. And look for ways to acknowledge the efforts of others who contribute to your success — those on your team.

“If you feel that you are doing more than what is expected of you and it isn’t being recognized, you are making yourself a victim. When you victimize yourself, it’s impossible to be positive,” Peplow says.

Try these 5 steps to find the recognition you deserve:

1. Look Closer — Then Speak Up

If it seems like you’re swamped, first reexamine your workload. You may benefit from smarter ways to prioritize and minimize work. If that’s not enough, don’t be a hero. Talk with your boss.

“Many employees mistakenly believe their job is at stake if they say they can’t handle one more project. More projects equal less focus and lower quality,” says Steve Duffy, president of ListHere.com. Like many other managers, Duffy would rather have an employee deliver great results than take on too much and fall short.

Tell your manager. He wants to know. After all, his success depends on your ability to perform.

2. Do Something You Love — After Hours

Balance in other areas of life can make or break your workplace happiness. Fast Co.Create suggests that professionals develop a “passion project” outside of work.

Firstborn Creative Director Adam Rubin is also a children’s book author. He told Fast Co.Create that having a side project is not only personally gratifying, but also translates positively back to his work. For him, writing children’s books as a sideline “is an excellent exercise in simplicity and rhythm. It has helped me improve the brevity, clarity and pace of my writing.”

3. Stop Taking On Extra Work From Slackers

If you’re overworked because you’re picking up slack from one or more colleagues, enough is enough. Don’t wait until you’ve reached a boiling point, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times bestseller “Crucial Confrontations.”

Grenny led a study that suggests 93% of employees work with others who don’t pull their weight — yet only 1 in 10 of us actually confronts underperforming colleagues. If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to offenders, you have two alternatives: 1) Just say no to helping in the future, or 2) Discuss it with your boss (see suggestion #1).

4. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re overworked, sleep is probably the first thing to go. “Work can keep us up at night, worrying about what is next or staying up because work still needs to be accomplished,” says Chris Ohlendorf, Partner at Versique Search and Consulting.

Realize that the more sleep you lose, the closer you are to burnout. And burnout won’t advance your career.

5. If All Else Fails, Start Searching For The Next Job

If your boss is simply not budging, you have no time to balance your life, and you’re surrounded by slackers, it may be time to reward yourself by jumping ship. Just make sure you’re not job hunting on company time, warns Lida Citroen, personal branding and reputation management expert at LIDA360.

Her advice: “Networking — online and in person — and studying industries, companies and business leaders will help you become more proactive in your career.”

Chalk It Up to a Lesson Learned

ListHere.com’s Duffy also offers some final words of wisdom for those who have reached the point of no return – treat any company the way it is treating you. “Remember that a company only hires you because you can add value to their bottom line.”

If you’re no longer moving forward in your career, accept the lessons learned from this experience, and find a new employer. But avoid repeating past mistakes. In interviews, be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether or not that company will be a better fit:

  1. How would you describe your management style?
  2. How did this position become available?
  3. What kind of recognition system is utilized here?
  4. Can you tell me about the growth opportunities available to employees?

Take back control. Embrace and celebrate your achievements, while helping others see your value and respect your contributions. You have nothing to lose!

Ritika-Trikha(Author Profile: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Ritika’s not writing, she’s obsessing over social media (and listening to Jay Z!). Connect with Ritika on Twitter!)

Republished with permission from YouTern.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

If Work isn't Fun, You're Doing it Wrong: #TChat Recap

Also known by the less fun title of:  The Business Heresy of Uninterrupted Power Supplies….

Are we having fun yet?

On Tuesday of this week at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Our country has a choice — what kind of country are we going to be? Are we going to rise to the challenges, like our grandfathers and grandmothers did? Or are we going to be a follower? It’s sad that we’re having this debate [about investing in clean tech initiatives] — in the past America has always led.”

And then a day later, in the heart of innovation-leading Silicon Valley, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra shut its doors and laid off all 1,100 of its employees, without any severance packages. This isn’t a political post either way; fierce global competition continues to knock the wind out of manufacturing in this country, and losing money on every solar panel you sell isn’t the way to stay in business, regardless of how much investment you’ve received.

In the past America has always led…

There are times when it’s hard for me to listen to the passionate Zappos social media hippie lovefest of culture-centric companies that focus on the customer and strive to create an emotional connection between product/service and consumer.

[Chuckle] Hey, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Tell that to the millions of professionals out of work and scrambling to reinvent their relevancy in a world looking more and more like the surface of Mars.

However, there is life on Mars. According to the latest ADP jobs report, 91,000 new private sector jobs were created in August. It won’t move the unemployment needle, but there’s still a heartbeat out there. The ADP report said the majority of the job gains in August came from small business. Employers with under 50 workers added 58,000 jobs.

Thankfully many of us are reinventing our relevancy; sparks of innovation are flying all over the world like lighting bugs at dusk. The new lovefest of business leaders are helping to rebuild a world where culture and human connectivity are queen, and recombined business models of sustainability are being applied to industries new and old.

Of course not everyone’s going to make it. Businesses will fail and the lights will go out. Those that do keep the power on want self-powered and empowered employees who help drive the business from the top down, the bottom up and side to side like power lines stretched from here to…

Mars maybe. Or at least the UK, since Borri UPS Systems starting following me on Twitter today, manufacturer and distributor of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

We can use more of that business heresy.

A very special thank you to 12 Most for being our special guests last night, including Ted Coine, Chris Westfall, Sean McGinnis, Steve Woodruff, Anthony Iannarino and Daniel Newman. 12 Most is a business and social media blogger collective of amazing credentials and savvy. And thank you to our very own Matt Charney for rounding out the special guest list as well.

You can catch the #TChat precap here as well as relive last night’s 2nd #TChat Radio show, The Realities of Business Heresy.

The #TChat Twitter chat and #TChat Radio are created and hosted by @MeghanMBiro @KevinWGrossman and powered by our friends and partners @TalentCulture @Monster_WORKS @MonsterCareers and of course @Focus.

7 Personal Tune-Ups for Tough Times

We had lunch last weekend with friends we had not seen for quite some time. My former co-worker’s spouse looked at me, as I was now more than 20 months away from the corporate world in which she’s still immersed, and said, “You look so calm.”

Her comment was both a surprise (since I do not necessarily feel calm), and exactly what I try to work on all the time.

With lingering economic issues and recent wild stock market swings occupying news daily, it is clear challenging times are not going to be over any time soon. While the economy obviously creates lingering financial concerns for those who find themselves out of work, taking pay cuts, or having their retirement nest eggs gutted, the impact on individual mental outlooks can extend even to those who have not been touched financially, such as my friend.

This makes it imperative for individuals to take care of themselves mentally as they try to take care of their career and financial prospects in tough times.

Having planned and started my personal career transition during the tough times of the past five years, here are 7 personal tune-ups that have been tremendously beneficial to me in helping me stay as “calm” as I have.

1. Understand your Distinctive Talents

Think through your talents, identifying those at which you are best and improve all the time, the ones that that bring you the most energy and that benefit others. After identifying your “distinctive talents,” use them in as many work and personal situations as possible to maximize your positive impact.

2. Tune Out Negative News

I used to wake up to talk radio and listen to it until arriving at work. That was until seeing Ed Foreman, who asked why anyone would fill themselves with downbeat news to start the day. I now awake to upbeat music, avoid the newspaper in favor of uplifting reading, do quick creative tasks, go to Church, and listen to energizing music or helpful presentations in the car. The result is a more positive attitude when arriving at work.

3. Give Yourself a Break

Tough times lead to greater pressure to achieve goals. Compensate by figuring out what mind-taxing tasks you can eliminate to give yourself a break. Get up earlier and start the day so you are not running behind. Stop reading a redundant industry magazine. Set a slightly earlier time to leave work. Consciously live below your means. These and other ideas can help reduce self-induced mental pressure.

4. Stop Thinking so Much about Yourself

Go out of your way to serve others – at work and in personal life. Instead of turning inward, increasingly reach out to others. Apply your talents to help others be more successful as they face their own challenges. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I would rather be known for contributing to many of other peoples’ successes than simply focusing on my own.

5. Be a Joy to Be Around

Smile, laugh, cheer people up. As tempting as going into a cocoon when everything seems crappy may be, don’t do it. Be a source of calm and enjoyment, bringing comfort and lighthearted moments to others. Find whatever works with your personality. For me that’s wearing orange socks (that have become my trademark), even when I don’t feel like bright colors and seeking out humor and fun to share with others.

6. Be Visible

Use your talents to be visible outside your company. If your talent is speaking, develop content and present to local organizations and universities. If it’s writing, submit articles to publications looking for content or start a blog on your expertise. If you’re good at building, cooking, or other essential skills, volunteer in your community. Make sure you’re using talents to help others and expand your network.

7. Work Out

Exercise and I were never good friends until my wife signed us up at a nearby health club and arranged for me to work with a trainer. I’d done cardio before, lost a little weight, but it never had a major impact. Working with a trainer brought new focus, helped relieve stress through exercise, and resulted in losing 25 pounds. All that, plus knowing I can go get away and exercise is both a tremendous motivator and a sure-fire antidote to a bad day of work.

Get Started Now

You don’t have to do all these things, but pick at least one or two as a way to tune-up your attitude and mental perspective if you’re feeling like the economic news or career challenges are dragging you down. It’s always a good time to start taking better care of yourself. Best wishes for successfully incorporating these ideas into your daily routine to stay calm!

IMAGE VIA lululemon athletica

Channel Your Inner Madonna to Trigger a Career Shift

(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.)

Emboldened with new courage to brave the unknown and strive for greatness, I cut the neck and sleeves of my Madonna t-shirt last night. This was no small task. It’s been sitting in my dresser drawer for 6 years. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Every time I opened that draw to grab my yoga clothing, it’s been staring me in the face. That is until tonight.

I took the plunge and cut the darn thing so I could finally wear it (I should have gotten a large) and it was the most liberating action I’ve taken in years. The cutting of the shirt was a great metaphor I came to realize, for breaking a barrier that was literally keeping me from making some important career and creative business decisions.

Sometimes we have to just do something radically different in our daily lives, even if it means getting out of our comfort zone. Madonna in general is the icon of re-invention, she has taken many risks. She has known success and failure. But she constantly refuels, renews and reinvents her life and career. So channeling YOUR inner Madonna might also be a tactic to try something outrageously new and different. What shift are you avoiding, and if you made the plunge what would you learn? I asked myself that question.

Cutting the Madonna T-Shirt and the Lessons Learned

Cutting the shirt brought up all kinds of inner stuff about taking risks in my career, doing something off the beaten path in my work life trajectory, and forced me to move forward even in the face of certain trial and error. I did succeed (in cutting the shirt and other goals as you will discover at the end of this post), but I had to deconstruct and contemplate first. (If you’re a Madonna freakazoid like I have been most of my life, you’ll better understand what appears to be a ridiculous act.)

I bought this t-shirt at Madison Square Garden during Madonna’s 2004 Re-Invention Tour, but I never wore it because:

  • 1. It was too tight around the neck, and I was afraid to stretch it. Where can you stretch your life or career? Are you procrastinating, feel you’re not up to the task, or just not making the time to do it?
  • 2. I refused to cut it, because I didn’t want to ruin it, as it might shred. What are you afraid of? What will you ruin if you take a risk and try something new, like learning a new skill? Will extra work be involved and will follow-through require more of a commitment to personal or career growth?
  • 3. The wording on the back says, “Everyone is a star” So I thought people would judge me if I wore it. Do you really care what others will think if you decide to pick up ballet classes even though you’re a klutz? Are you concerned about going back to school for a new career in a recovering economy?
  • 4. I was saving it for a special occasion. Really? When’s your boat going to come in? Life is too short in this body anyway. I suggest taking the lead from  “Nike” – just do it!

Change Something, Reinvent Something, Remember Something Joyful

Even if you are not thrilled with your job, you can create some unusual aberration to change up the pace or the structure of your job, the way you spend your time, the way you organize your day, the way you relate to your co-workers, or even your boss. You can take a risk, learn a new skill, make a new creative suggestion. Maybe there’s something in your job or career from the past that has given you lots of joy. Igniting passion in your work calls for nothing less than the re-invention of your work or life perception, even in a job that you disdain. Even for just one day. You’ll be amazed at what you can discover. It might be the shift you need just to get through another day.

For example, at my personal blog, WorkLifeNation.com I decided to do something completely different than I had ever done before. I  just started Sanctum Sundays of Work Life Bliss. It’s a portal of information that can help you to just stop, contemplate your life, engage your belief system and also catch up on some inspirational work life news. I also decided to deepen my yoga practice by committing to a new training. The decision to take those leaps emerged as I was contemplating cutting the t-shirt. It was just time to cut the sh–.

For those of you who can just imagine what a better place the world would be if we just embraced our greatness. A taste of Madonna from her 2004 Reinvention Tour!

5 Activities to Strengthen Your Career Muscle

Planting words on my MacBook Pro stimulates me emotionally and intellectually as I sow client career stories from bud to blossom. This focused, brain-powered activity, though invigorating, is physically sedentary and potentially unsustainable if not combined with the appropriate amount of physical activity.

In Joe Lavelle’s recent post, “Exercise Like a CEO,” he underscores the importance of exercising your body. He asks, “What do you do routinely to exercise your body … to maintain mental acuity?” For many, the addition of a new or enhancement of an existing exercise routine will work wonders to add muscle to a soft career or even jump-start a stalled career.

A selection of other energy- and focus-boosting activities that will both propel your productivity and strengthen your career muscle follows:

1) Simplify Your Space

Simplifying your space may mean unwrapping yourself from a visual security blanket of ‘clutter.’ Doing so can free your mind and emotional energy to concentrate on individual projects and goals – the task at hand, if you will, versus the distractions all around you.

You may consider de-cluttering your primary work area into a clean, open, airy space that includes soothing paintings, memorabilia and perhaps even a desk-top water fountain to cultivate calm and inspiration. If you must express your clutter, identify a behind-closed-doors nook and, within these boundaries, go wild!

2) Big-Picture Your Schedule

Though your talent in creating calendars, check lists and project action steps shines, you also may find that you feel yourself drowning in a sea of details and deadlines, particularly as your career and business initiatives grow. If this describes you, consider big-picturing your schedule.

White-boarding your projects-in-progress as well as crafting a two- to three-month running whiteboard calendar of meetings and deadlines may quickly quell calendar chaos by creating a bird’s-eye view snapshot of your overarching initiatives.

Remember, project ‘detail-collecting’ within the associated project lists and files will provide the information you need to deep-dive into the specifics of your big-picture initiatives when needed. By maintaining this glimpse-able overview, you can better manage existing tasks and respond to new requests to which you commit your time and energy. With a quick glance at your calendar/project whiteboards, you can quickly accept or decline new projects.

3) Recognize That Little Choices Matter

Choosing a glass of water instead of sweet tea may be the linchpin to stay within you daily caloric intake parameters. As well, with business communications, that latest email, Tweet, Facebook message or LinkedIn invitation typically does not require your immediate absorption.  If you must, take a five-minute break every couple of hours to simply confirm receipt of new communications without fully partaking of a communications swap until a later, scheduled time.

And when faced with that emotionally-wrought virtual request for you to “drop everything and help me now,” remind yourself of the adage, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

4) Make Peace With Perfectionism

Though your next project for your boss or your customer may mean the difference between a promotion or a career-defining sales deal, most of the time this is not the case. When you single out and assess your initiatives, you likely will find that the results of your next deliverable, though important to the recipient, will not require you overextend and go that extra 10 miles to prove you are the #1 Sales Producer, Human Resources Leader, Marketing Manager or <fill-in-the-blank>.  Stop placing so much pressure and importance on yourself at every given moment of the work day.

Instead, allot yourself a reasonable number of minutes, hours or days to achieve the project goal, and then deliver!  You likely will be reminded of how sometimes the extra-mile projects fall flat while the, “I did my best and infused this project with my years of value and experience without over-analyzing” projects often net the most kudos and bottom-line results.

5) Align Yourself With Complementary Others

Finding colleagues, mentors, friends and cohorts who think a bit differently than you do may be a key to unlocking doors to new ways of thinking. Seeking to explore outside your comfort zone is an admirable trait and one we all must be reminded to tap into from time to time.

By connecting with individuals or groups of folks whose intellectual capital, like the arteries of a road map, shepherd you through unexplored and sometimes uncomfortable highways and byways, you may find new direction toward achieving the destination goal that you have been struggling to reach.

Image Credit: RightIndex

Improve Communication in a Time Crunched/Technology Based 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.)

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

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.

Poor communication creates frustration and on a practical front, makes for inefficient interactions and inevitably can lead to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda. 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.

Communication covers a 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 new world. So keep the following in mind whether in a meeting or when communicating with someone via the many modes of technology:

  • Technology can filter a message – don’t react from the gut.
  • Everyone has their individual story – but that story can change in an instant due to info-overload. So be adaptable to change in someone’s attitude.
  • Rapid fire communication via texting can quickly heat up a simple interaction.
  • 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.

Keeping the lines of communication open at work and at home is probably the most important factor in creating a less stressful work-life merge. Your “merge” might change on a daily or weekly basis, so an assessment of your  S-O-C (state of communications) is crucial before you can set up your guidelines.

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. As bestselling author Tim Sanders (Love is the Killer App) says, be aware of the diet you’re feeding your mind.

A. Communication Guidelines

  • 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 .
  • 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.
  • 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.

B. Assess Your Communication Streams

  • Write a list of every type of communication stream that you plug into daily. For example,  e-mail, BBM’s, texting, social media and the old-fashioned phone.
  • Identify which forms of communication are you most comfortable using and at what times of the day.
  • Limit extraneous communication to certain times of the day.
  • Set time limits on phone calls and meetings. Have an agenda before you head into a conversation.
  • Identify Energizing and Depleting Relationships. Make a list of the most important personal and work relationships. Assess which unions foster your growth as an individual.

C. Design a Communication Formula

Ask yourself about the three W’s :

  • Who are the most important people you communicate with on a daily basis at home and at work.
  • What is the most efficient form or technology that you can use with this person.
  • When is the best time to communicate with this person.

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!

GenY: Challenge of "Doing It All" and Technology Overload

Today’s post is by Katrina Kibben — Social Media Manager at Care.com, an innovative and resourceful social media marketing professional who enjoys helping companies of all sizes use traditional and nontraditional tactics to increase profitability and product awareness. She is working with Care.com’s annual event, Care@Work, which develops smarter ways to work by using new tools, technologies and strategies to find the balance between life at work and at home.

This is not your father’s workplace anymore – literally. This year, the oldest Baby Boomers are turning 65 years old, including President Bill Clinton. This means that the 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of this country’s population will be retiring in the next few years.

Another generation will make an important milestone this year – Generation Y, the Millennials – are turning 30 years old. The 30’s are known as the decade of “middle management” and parenthood.  But Generation Y feels differently about the “ladder” of success.

As the country comes out of the recession, the Millennals are looking for a sense of mission. They want a sense of ownership over their lives, either in the place that they work or in the lives they create for themselves outside of it. A workplace is relative and all preconceptions about job security are shattered. Their lives and desires aren’t dramatically different from generations before them, but the confluence of circumstances are – and more and more, this generation believes that they too can “do it all” but their definition of how and what that means is dramatically different.

Between these two generations, there has been a revolution in the office that has increased the influence of women and transformed the paradigm of the workplace. At the same time technology has revolutionized the way we work and our understanding of how we can work differently.

While current working parents, particularly working moms, have been told that they can “do it all,” modern working parents have found that having a Blackberry doesn’t necessarily help them to be flexible so much as feeling tethered, perpetuating a generation of working parents that find a blurred line between work and life that has inspired a generation of workers who are in a constant state of distraction, leading to the social acceptance of the furtive glances down and the feverish tapping everywhere – from office meetings to family dinners.

But as we innovate are we working more efficiently or are we simply working more?

Care.com’s Focus Forward conference is about designing the future of work where companies work for people, and people work for companies in ways that are smarter, faster, higher impact—and more sustainable, too. At a time when there have never been more distractions–and more pressure to deliver results–the event will examine how great companies command attention from customers by, first, holding the attention of their employees.

IMAGE VIA eirikso

Add Productivity to Your Summer Vacation

Written by Kirsten Taggart

Ahhh, summer vacation – my favorite time of year. This summer, however, is a very significant summer as it is my last before I graduate from academia and start my life as a “real” person in May 2012.  Naturally I’ve been thinking about how I can spend my last summer of freedom in a productive, yet fun way.  After talking with my GenY friends about different summer goals, here is my list of how you can make the most out of your summer vacation.

1.  Apply for a Job or Internship

By this point in the year you’ve probably sent in your applications and have started to hear back from potential employers.  No matter what position you decide to take, don’t forget to prepare before your first day.  Map out how long it will take you to get to the office so you can arrive early.  Are you driving or taking public transportation? Check train and bus schedules just in case.  Did they ask you to bring certain items with you?  Gather everything you’ll need the night before so you won’t forget anything on your way out.  Being prepared will help to calm your nerves and stay confident on your big day.

2.  If You’ve Missed Application Deadlines…

…there’s no need to panic. Positions can open up at any time even after the summer rush.  Finding them can be tricky, so maximize your resources.  Who do you know that can help? Are your previous employers still hiring?  Have you checked Craigslist or other job boards? Shoot an email to your professors who might have connections in your field.  There are people willing to help you – you just have to ask!

3.  Learn a New Skill

It’s important to stay mentally active even if you are on vacation. Experts are finding we lose much of our mental agility during long breaks when we aren’t challenging our minds as we normally would at school (because isn’t that what a vacation is for?).  Luckily for us, it doesn’t take much to maintain your wit.  If you’re busy at your job or internship for the majority of your day, make it a point to pick up a newspaper before your morning commute or start that book you’ve been meaning to read (or if you despise reading for some reason, this will do just fine).  If you have more time to spare, why not take on a light summer class? I’m not suggesting you enroll in a hefty physics course by any means (unless you like that kind of stuff, in which case more power to you…) but look into classes that will knock some credits out of the way or are just plain fun.  Why not take that photography/dance/cooking/whatever class you’ve had your eye on? Now’s your chance!

4.  Travel

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is beautiful outside! Take advantage of the summer weather.  Plan a trip somewhere to escape your weekly routine even if it’s simply exploring a new area of your city or town.  Plan a trip with some friends for a long weekend or, if you’re especially adventurous, set aside a week to travel to a foreign city.  You only live once!

5.  Plan Ahead for Fall

Start thinking about your goals for the upcoming semester.  What do you want to achieve this year?  Send your applications for internships and jobs before the deadline so you’re not rushing at the last minute (there’s nothing more annoying than finding cover letter typos after you submitted it).  Review your class schedule – are there any changes that can be made to better suit your learning habits (i.e. early vs late classes, class on every day of the week or concentrated on only two or three, etc)?  What books do you need to buy?  If you are applying for a job or internship consider how it will fit into your academic calendar and discuss with your employer how you aim to balance both obligations.

IMAGE VIA Giorgio Montersino

Work-Life Balance? It's Just "Life" #TChat Recap

 Sometimes we find zen. A moment of harmonic convergence in our lives when all things family, friends, co-workers, employers, work and life become one.

Sometimes. Work-life balance. [sigh] Wait, who are we kidding, right?

We don’t time zone travel with a head cold on a flurry of work trips for balance. We don’t wake up every 1-2 hours for to soothe the savage 8-month-old baby “beast” for balance.

That’s me and my family at any rate this past few weeks. But, we wouldn’t give it up for all the zen in China because the intrinsic rewards outweigh the work-life imbalance — enjoying what we do and loving our family. In fact, it’s not even really about balance or imbalance — it’s the highly integrated work-life world that we ride for joy (and that runs us down in fear).

And if I’m your employer, I’m going to do everything I can to foster the emotional connectivity and encourage the internal motivational drive, as well as moving the motivation needle externally with “rewards” when appropriate. But I want you to work hard, I want results, I’m going to focus on pay-for-performance and if your position allows, I’m going to let you do it as you see fit (when, where and how). I will be empathic and trust you, but I will not be a pushover.

And if I’m your employee, I’m going to demand flexibility in exchange for regular, quality output whenever, wherever and however I’m doing it. I want to take time off when I need it, regardless of the reason, and I don’t want to be questioned. I want your empathy and your trust and I will reciprocate. I want to to be pushed and pulled and challenged to learn as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing in the context of what you’re doing.

And as China Gorman suggested and I concurred: “It’s just life.”

Cali Williams Yost and Leanne Chase, two of our insightful #TChat-ers, have some innovative ideas about work-life flexibility: Find a way to like what you do and keep doing it, over and over again. The mindful workplace presence of frenetic zen will take care of the rest.

If you missed Monster Thinking’s pre-cap, you can read it here: Desperately Seeking Balance: Reconciling Work and Life. And here were the questions from last night:

  1. Who’s ultimately responsible for managing work-life balance: the employer or the employee?
  2. What are the benefits/drawbacks of being salaried/exempt vs. hourly/non-exempt? Which would you prefer?
  3. How does company culture effect work-life balance?
  4. What role does technology and social media play in the work-life mix? Is connectivity a blessing or a curse?
  5. What are some things employers and managers can do to improve work-life balance?
  6. How important is work life balance to top talent when assessing new opportunities?
  7. What are some of the most effective or creative “perks” your company offers for work-life balance? Which do you wish they’d offer?

Also last night, we gave away two tickets to the Care.com Care@Work event, Focus Forward to @DrJanice and @leanneclc – Congratulations!

With a dash of worklife flexibility luck @MeghanMBiro may even make an appearance in New York City!

See you next week. We are already looking forward to it. Thanks very much for joining us.

Balance: Reconciling Work and Life: #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Matt Charneyone of #TChat’s moderators, on Monster Thinking Blog

It’s interesting that the genesis of work-life balance really started, with, well, Genesis: somewhere, between creating the heaven, the earth and all things in between, even God needed a day off to rest.

We’ll leave interpretations up to the theologians, but there’s a pretty firm, historical precedent that’s been followed for millennia: everyone deserves a break now and then.

In our increasingly interconnected age, however, omniscience and omnipresence aren’t Biblical constructs, but the burden of having a Blackberry.

The real price of real business in real time is that real time is rarely one’s own. The movie 9-5 (“It’s a way to make a livin“) seems a historical anachronism for more than its polyester pant-suits. In a blink of an eye, the 8 hour day that the title (and oh so catchy theme song) suggest seem to have all but disappeared.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Increasingly, employers are realizing that the key to attracting and retaining top talent, and getting the most out of employees, requires creating a work-life balance that’s actually balanced. And workers are starting to realize meaningful work, and by extension, a meaningful career, aren’t mutually exclusive from having a life outside the office.

Tonight’s #TChat will explore work-life balance and it’s far ranging implications on the world of work (and life). Join the conversation at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT as we look at ways that work and life can coexist, and even thrive, in today’s business environment.

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading (5.10.11)

Here are tonight’s #TChat questions as well as some recommended reading designed to inform, and inspire, tonight’s conversation about work-life balance:

1. Who’s ultimately responsible for managing work-life balance: the employer or the employee?

Read: The Case for Work/Life Programs by Freek Vernermeulen.

2. What are the benefits/drawbacks of being salaried/exempt vs. hourly/non-exempt? Which would you prefer?

Read: Family Friendly Employee Benefits: Create A Win-Win For Hourly Workers by Donna Fenn.

3. How does company culture effect work-life balance?

Read: 5 Great Ways To Create A Winning Company Culture by Carmine Gallo.

4. What role does technology and social media play in the work-life mix? Is connectivity a blessing or a curse?

Read: Technology at Work: The Creation of the Anywhere Worker by Connie Blaszczyk.

5. What are some things employers and managers can do to improve work-life balance?

Read: 5 Keys to Staying Civil When Work Calls On Your Off Time by Judy Martin.

6. How important is work life balance to top talent when assessing new opportunities?

Read: It’s All About Engagement by Jayson Saba.

7. What are some of the most effective or creative “perks” your company offers for work-life balance? Which do you wish they’d offer?

Read: Do You Have Work Life Balance? by Thad Peterson.

NOTE: We’ll be extending this conversation at Care.com’s Care@Work event series, Focus Forward at the Times Center in New York City on June 1st and we want you to join us. Tonight after #TChat, we’ll be giving away one ticket to this invitation and innovation only event focused on shaping the future of work. We will randomly select someone from tonight’s #TChat to attend.

Tune in tonight to find out how and learn more about the Care@Work event at http://www.icareatwork.com/

Our Monster social media team supports the effort behind #TChat and its mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate – the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation live every Tuesday night as co-hosts with Kevin Grossman and Meghan M. Biro from 8-9 PM E.T. via @monster_works and @MonsterWW. Hope to see you tonight at 8 PM ET for #TChat!