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Work Life

How to Set Manageable Work-Life Boundaries

July 17, 2019

Here are a few tips to help you find the middle ground and be successful both at work and at home.

Let go of the work-life balance myth

You’ve probably heard that the idea of having a perfect work-life balance is a myth. This idea that you can be 100 percent present at work and 100 percent present at home – regardless of what’s happening in either place – is nearly impossible to achieve. Studies have found that striving for it can actually be detrimental to mental health and happiness. After all, we only have so much attention and awareness to give, right? 

That doesn’t mean that finding what the Buddhists call “the middle way,” or a place of balance between two opposites, isn’t worth working toward. In fact, seeking a balance between your work and your home life is healthy and can significantly improve both your professional success and your private life. You just need to have some realistic expectations.

 A 2016 study discovered that employees with firm boundaries, both physical and mental, between work and home, experience more stress and depletion in both realms than those who have a more fluid set of rules around home and work. This is a result of what is known as cognitive role transitions. This is essentially when your mind wanders to something outside of the current situation you are in, you think about something unrelated. Say, for example, you’re sitting in a late-night meeting at the office, and your mind starts to wander to what your kids are watching on television at home. Or you’re getting dressed for work, and you start thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store. 

The first step in finding work-life integration is to know who you are and your strengths. Never …

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How Paternity Leave Can Narrow the Gender Pay Gap

July 16, 2019

Before he became one of the four founding partners of Culhane Meadows, Grant Walsh had to fight his firm to get a single day off for the birth of his second child. This led him and his colleagues to create their own “cloud-based” firm – one centered on flexibility and work-life balance. Now that the tables have turned, Walsh is the one urging employees to take parental leave. 

“Men generally have a very hard time taking vacation or family time off because of the competitive pressures they feel at work,” Walsh said. “Requiring them to take time off from work when they welcome a new baby into the family may be the only way to really break this cultural stigma.”

For Walsh, company-mandated paternity leave is a win-win scenario for the firm and the new father – good work-life balance makes a satisfied employee, and a satisfied employee is a productive employee. There’s also a third party that benefits from mandated paternity leave: working mothers.

“When fathers have access to parental leave benefits, women are more likely to return to work sooner and achieve greater leadership roles,” said Mari Hegyi, people team manager at Limeade, which offers eight weeks of parental leave to both mothers and fathers.

In a global survey of 21,980 firms, the amount of paternity leave given was strongly correlated with the percentage of women on company boards, Hegyi added.

In effect, the more that men share the burden – and privilege – of child care, the more level the playing field. That’s not to forget the one benefit that transcends climbing the corporate ladder: “[Paternity leave] is also positively associated with development of children,” said Hegyi.  

The gender pay gap

Key to understanding what paternity leave can do for working women is understanding the …

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6 Ways to Master the Art of Difficult Conversations

July 5, 2019

You can improve the outcomes of your difficult conversations by:

  • Reinforcing trust and transparency

  • Offering your undivided attention and a listening ear

  • Helping your counterpart feel heard and respected

  • Apologizing or taking a break when called for

Here are six ways to artfully navigate even the toughest discussions. 

1. Make meetings a safe place

Long before it’s time to have a difficult conversation, you should cultivate a culture of respect, inclusivity, and transparency. Create an environment in which each team member feels valued, encouraged to participate, and rewarded for candor. 

To start building this foundation, offer opportunities for collaboration and idea sharing. Invite team members to share ideas and seek feedback. Be sure to ask open-ended questions, which prompt deeper participation than yes-or-no questions. It’s also a good idea to schedule group lunches or other non-work activities that give everyone an opportunity to socialize and find common interests outside their job descriptions. 

Fostering these dynamics builds trust and camaraderie, which lay the groundwork for a more constructive outcome, no matter how difficult the conversation. Feedback is received better when we believe it’s being offered out of concern rather than judgment. 

It’s also helpful for both parties to remember that you’re ultimately on the same team. Executive coach and management professor Monique Valcour recommends sitting next to — rather than across from — your counterpart. This placement reinforces the idea that you’re allies rather than opponents, setting the stage for a more cooperative conversation. 

2. Put your phone away 

Better yet, don’t bring your phone to the meeting. Leave it elsewhere. Having your smartphone nearby impairs cognitive capacity, including short-term working memory. 

A small Virginia Tech study also found that the mere presence of a cell phone was enough to undermine participants’ perceptions of their conversations. Even when the …

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3 Ways to Manage Stress When Self-Care Stops Working

July 1, 2019

According to a survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers reported that their jobs were very or extremely stressful. Stress in the workplace has become an epidemic, and we’re all looking for ways to feel more peaceful and focused at work. Many of these solutions are self-care tactics like meditation and taking a walk around the block during our lunch hour. But what happens when those practices aren’t strong enough? Here are three practices to that can help you eliminate stress when self-care isn’t cutting it. 

1. Delegate tasks

Many of us are leaders both at work and home; the demands never stop, and we can feel pulled in all directions by the never-ending list of chores, deadlines and tasks. The key to finding more balance and less stress is to delegate the tasks you don’t like and aren’t good at, and then use your time only for the things you like and are good at, or love and are great at. I use a practice called Delegate and Elevate, developed by entrepreneur and author Gino Wickman, to categorize my tasks both at work and home. Simply categorize all of your tasks into these four quadrants:

  • Love and are great at
  • Like and are good at
  • Don’t like but happen to be good at
  • Don’t like and are not good at

Once you have a clear visual of where your tasks fall, focus on delegating all of the things you don’t like or aren’t good at. 

It can sometimes be difficult to delegate at first, but you’ll often find that there is someone else who enjoys the tasks that you don’t like. One of my employees loves to research and create spreadsheets. These are some of the last things I would ever want to do, but …

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Talking Shop: Why Professional Growth Is Critical to a Successful Career

June 26, 2019

Whether you’re an employee or a manager, personal and professional growth may be the key to your long-term success. Even if you feel like you are in a good spot in your career, if you aren’t seeking opportunities for growth, you could be hurting your chances for future success.

Bill Eckstrom

Bill Eckstrom is the president and founder of the EcSell Institute, which helps managers, executives, and organizations grow by providing research, data, and clarity into how their teams are performing. Eckstrom believes that when you aren’t growing, you’re stuck in a cycle that eventually leads to stagnation. It’s searching out development opportunities, whether they be on the job or off, that can break the cycle and get you moving forward again.

In addition to individuals benefiting from seeking out opportunities for growth, Eckstrom says, organizations as a whole reap similar benefits.

We recently had the chance to speak with Eckstrom about professional growth, how it relates to professional development and the steps you should take if you feel you aren’t growing.

What is professional growth?

Q: How do you define professional growth? Does it have to take place in the classroom? Can it take place on the job?  

A: The way I view professional growth is the development or better use of talents and skills that lead to improved outcomes. This development can take place in many differing places – on the job or [in] off-the-job environments. 

On the job can be the result of experiential learning, coaching relationships, classroom, etc. However, too often people view professional growth as something that is only on the job, but it is not. For example, one of our executive leaders became a certified yoga instructor, and we have all benefited from her growth. She is more calm under fire, she has …

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Going Remote: How a Small Business Can Make the Transition

June 20, 2019

Research shows that the number of remote employees has jumped 115 percent since 2005. While allowing remote work can be a bit more tricky for larger organizations, it can be a smooth transition for many small businesses. With smaller team sizes, it is easier to create, implement, and manage this transformation. The key to making this type of transition is to create a strategic plan of action.

The benefits of going remote

Before making the move to having a remote team, it is important to understand the benefits that come from it. One of the biggest reasons for making the transition is a financial one. With all employees working from home, small business owners can lower operating costs associated with rent, an on-site IT team, and utility expenses. Office-related spending, including office supplies, furnishing, and food and beverage costs, will also be eliminated. In fact, full-time remote workers can help entrepreneurs save an average of $10,000 per employee per year. Consequently, these lowered overhead costs can help boost profitability.

Going remote also has numerous positive effects on employee satisfaction. In 2017, American companies that allowed their employees to work from home experienced a 25 percent decrease in employee turnover. In addition, going remote gives employers access to a broader pool of talent. Businesses won’t be restricted by proximity to the office when searching for qualified and skilled candidates. And, offering this work arrangement may attract more job seekers. Almost 70 percent of millennials agreed that the option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in a job offer.

Transitioning to a remote team

This transformation won’t happen overnight. A thorough plan of action has to be created to streamline the process. Here are three steps that will help build your game plan.

  • Step 1: Make a company-wide assessment.
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Destination Cybersecurity: How to Travel Safely

June 18, 2019

A cyberattack is the last thing you want to deal with while you’re trying to take some time off, so it’s important to take a few additional precautions. Whether you’re working from the beach or going unplugged, here are three ways to keep yourself and your company secure while you’re traveling.

1. Skip the auto-reply

For many employees, turning on automatic replies from your email is a standard step before you lock your door and hit the road. But an automatic reply is just that – automatic – and you can’t control who it’s sent to – or what is done with the information. Automatic replies often contain information that could be valuable fodder for a phishing or other social engineering attack.

Consider this example:

“I am out of the country on vacation July 1 – 5. Please contact Jane Doe at [email protected] with all finance requests. If this is urgent, you can reach my cell phone at 555-555-8745.”

Not only does the recipient know you work in finance and you’re out of the country, but they also know how long you’ll be gone, what your alternate contact number is, and who else on your team they can contact. It would be easy for a fraudster to email Jane posing as a vendor requesting a rush payment, citing details from your auto-reply to make their attack convincing.

If possible, consider setting a policy against using auto-reply in your business. Here’s how to handle vacation communication instead:

  • Reach out to contacts you frequently speak with preemptively to let them know you’ll be away.
  • Ask a manager or other coworker to monitor your inbox and voicemail to check for messages requiring immediate attention.
  • If the nature of your business or position requires an auto-reply, consider a short, vague message such as “I
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8 Traits You Need to Become a Successful Freelancer

June 17, 2019

In fact, freelancers are predicted to become the U.S. workforce majority within a decade, with nearly 50 percent of millennial workers already freelancing.

Freelancing attracts people who want more work-life balance, the ability to choose their own schedule, and the opportunity to take their income and futures into their own hands. It’s no wonder so many people are dreaming of leaving their 9 to 5 jobs to start working for themselves.

But freelancing isn’t as easy as it may seem. It takes a lot of work to run a successful freelance business. Of course, you need to be skilled in what you do but you also need to possess certain characteristics in order to make it. Here are the 8 traits you need to become a successful freelancer.

1. Self-discipline

Freelancers can’t afford to have days where they just slack off.  You can’t rely on a boss or a manager to keep you going on the days you don’t feel like working. Additionally, there’s no one else around to push you to work harder. It’s all on you to control and motivate yourself.

If something needs to get done, you need to possess self-discipline in order to make sure you stay on top of your important tasks. Without self-discipline, you won’t be able to make progress or accomplish the goals you’ve set.

2. Professionalism  

If you want a successful freelance career, you need to make a website that looks professional, get business cards made, create a LinkedIn profile, and so on in order to appear competent and experienced. But it’s not all about how your freelance business looks. You also need to handle clients with professionalism if you want to keep them around and get repeat business. Because, after all, businesses want to work with professionals.

For instance, while you …

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4 Ways to Motivate Your Employees in 2019

June 12, 2019

Unfortunately, according to Gallup research, just one-third of U.S. employees feel engaged at work.  

Clearly, the challenge is figuring out what motivates your people. And it’s not as simple as paying them more money either. Yes, compensation is absolutely important, but so too is something like recognition, which, according to a Salesforce study, is an important motivating factor, so much so that 70 percent of employees would work harder if they were recognized for their work

While motivational factors have changed over the years, research tells us that many workers today will agree on a number of things that drive satisfaction on the job.

1. Work-life balance

Work-life balance is a big deal to today’s employees. According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, work-life balance is one of the biggest predictors of happiness.

But work-life balance can mean any number of things to different people. For some, it means having a flexible work schedule, allowing them to work from home on some days or set their own days off. For others, it means having access to exercise facilities for free. Some people may even want childcare facilities in the workplace so they can bring their kids to work. 

It’s here where research comes in. You can read all day about how other companies managed to turn their workforce around and maximized their human capital, but basic HR will tell you that their experiences will not necessarily reflect how your employees will respond to the techniques you might pick up along the way and attempt to implement.

Before you start making grand plans to create motivated and passionately productive employees, you’ll want to take a step back and assess the psychographics of your workforce. One way to do this is to send out questionnaires asking employees about their idea …

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How Entrepreneurs Can Stop Burnout Syndrome

June 10, 2019

The World Health Organization recently updated the definition of burnout under ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. Burnout is now defined as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The characteristics surrounding burnout are not unfamiliar-sounding ones. Signs include feelings of exhaustion, feelings of negativity toward one’s job, an increased mental distancing from the position, and a lack of productivity and efficacy.

The World Health Organization notes that the phenomena of burnout applies specifically to the occupational context. Previously, burnout was defined as somewhere between not being able to do work while not being sick in a traditional sense. The updated definition is now recognized as a legitimate syndrome.

Countless individuals, from full-time employees to entrepreneurs, suffer from workplace-related stress — wait, hold on. What about entrepreneurs? These are the same individuals that exit jobs to pursue their passions and become their own bosses. While small business owners are reported to have a strong outlook for 2019, they have to be careful they do not suffer symptoms of burnout syndrome.

If an entrepreneur finds that he or she is suffering from burnout, what’s the best thing they can do to remedy the situation?

Slow down.

Entrepreneurs tend to maintain a go-go-go pace with their startups. This is particularly true of the early days in business. Every day is a make or break moment as the entrepreneur focuses on increasing revenue, building brand awareness and growing their customer base. They are pulling out every stop possible to sustain the business. Self-care gets shelved for later. The small business needs to be the top priority.

Being “on” for the unforeseeable future isn’t a long-term strategy. If anything, it paves a faster road to burnout — made all the more unfortunate because that means …

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