A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “Time management”

Will Flexible Work Schedules Benefit Your Organization? 10 Factors to Consider

Flexibility - 2 pulling 1

Workplace flexibility.  All employees want it…most employers say they provide it…but few fully harness its benefits.  Whether you’re seeking work-life balance, trying to reduce employee burnout, or responding to new paradigms at how work is done, you need to consider 10 critical factors before introducing flexible work arrangements in the workplace.

10 Factors to Consider BEFORE Introducing Flexible Work Arrangements

  1. Do you want to be known as a “family friendly” workplace that is committed to work-life balance? According to a 2014 report by The Council of Economic Advisers, 33% of employees overall – and 50% of working parents – have declined a job offer due to potential conflicts with family responsibilities.  As a result, corporations may lose considerable workforce talent if flexible work arrangements are not offered.  
  2. Is it getting increasingly more difficult to find qualified job candidates? In today’ global marketplace, flexible work arrangements allow employers to hire the most qualified candidates regardless of their geographic location.  This can also expand a company’s market by hiring sales representatives in locations outside of the company’s primary headquarters.
  3. Is employee absenteeism or turnover a problem? Time-based work-life conflicts (such as trying to be in two places at the same time!) increase tardiness and absenteeism – which can ultimately contribute to increased levels of voluntary or involuntary turnover.  Flexible work arrangements provide a win-win in overcoming these staffing challenges.
  4. Are overtime payments decreasing corporate profits? Mandatory overtime is a precursor to poor productivity, decreased quality, and increased levels of burnout.  Through the use of flex-time or shift work, employers can extend their hours of operation without incurring costly overtime payments to nonexempt workers.
  5. Are fixed operational costs skyrocketing? Office space and supplies are expensive.  Through location-based flexible work arrangements, organizations no longer need to provide office space for every employee – which can result in a significant decrease in overhead expenses.
  6. Are you searching for ways to increase revenue and/or profitability? Studies have shown that flexibility enhances employees’ feelings of control because their work arrangement aligns with their hours of peak productivity (the early bird and the night owl).  This greater efficiency and effectiveness can directly influence revenue and profitability.
  7. Is worker productivity hampering efforts to meet market demand? Studies have repeatedly shown that employees who work in a flexible work arrangement tend to be more efficient and productive.  Because workers choose the time and/or location when they work on projects, they can take advantage of the hours in which they are most productive – rather than being constricted to work during standard onsite office hours. Additionally, flexibility changes the way in which employees are managed, from a “face time” to an outcome basis; as a result, workers proactively improve their work habits in order to meet deadlines.
  8. Are your health care costs escalating? Over 90% of patient visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related illnesses or disease.  Flexible work arrangements can mitigate the stressors of fighting rush hour traffic or scrambling to balance work and family obligations.  When stress is decreased, there can be a corresponding decrease in physical ailments (e.g., headaches, compromised immune systems, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems).
  9. Is compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) an issue? Telework can be a viable reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  NOTE:  Employers will be required to cover any work-related expenses that can result in the employee earning less than minimum wage (and overtime).
  10. Do you want to build employee commitment and loyalty? Even if an employee does not take advantage of a flexible work arrangement, the mere presence of this option has been correlated with higher levels of commitment and loyalty.  This may be due to the belief that the employer genuinely cares about the well-being of their workforce and trusts them to get the job done even if they’re not being “seen” doing their work.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 7 Flexible Work Arrangements

Once you’ve determined that flexible work arrangements can address challenges facing your organization, the next decision is to identify the type(s) of scheduling that will cost effectively achieve your objectives.

In general, workplace flexibility falls into two broad categories:  time-based and location-based.

Time-based flexibility focuses on choosing when you will be working.

  • For full-timers, flex-time gives employees flexibility in terms of their arrival and departure times – usually with a core period in which all employees must be on-site.
  • Compressed work weeks enable workers to complete a standard 40-hour work week in less than the standard 5 days.
  • For part-timers, reduced hour professionals can continue to grow in their careers but permanently reduce their weekly work hours – a distinct difference between temporary or seasonable work options.
  • A hybrid is job sharing, in which two employees divide the duties, responsibilities, and benefits of a single full-time position.

Location-based flexibility allows workers to choose where they will be working.

  • Telework (or telecommuting) is the most common option, allowing employees to work offsite through the use of computers and telecommunications technology. Not only does this expand the candidate pool for certain jobs, but it also allows employees to spend additional hours on time-intensive projects.  NOTE:  There are many legal requirements related to compensation and expense reimbursement for teleworkers, most notably under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – so be sure to review your plan with an employment lawyer.
  • For road warriors, hoteling enables organizations to contract with vendors to provide locations in which their employees can meet with customers and/or conduct any other business function.
  • One of the newest location flexibility options is snowbirding. Given the harshness of many winters in the northern part of the U.S., some organizations (such as CVS Caremark) offer employees the option to temporarily relocate to a company location that is in a warmer region during the winter months.

For more information, download my free chart, FREE CHART: 7 Flexible Work Arrangements:  Advantages and Disadvantages — you’ll also receive access to my weekly eNewsletter, Success @ Work.  

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Why a Personal Mantra Might Be Better

January 1 on CalendarWhen January 1 rolls around, many people embark on achieving well intentioned resolutions.  As we near the end of the first month of 2015, how well are you doing in these worthwhile goals?

Or, based on past setbacks from prior resolutions, did you just scrap the whole idea of resolutions in the first place?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a resolution is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.”  As a result, resolutions require three things:

  1. Identifying the underlying problem (rather than the symptoms of that problem)
  2. Determining what you want instead of that problem (your goal or ideal state)
  3. Setting up a doable plan so that you can achieve that goal

Personally, I have always set new year’s resolutions – some of which I’ve even achieved.  Unfortunately, others I’ve carried over into the next year with the infamous refrain, “This year I’m going to actually achieve this!”

In 2014, I watched an interview in which the guest talked about using a word or phrase to guide your actions through the new year.  Instead of setting up resolutions that can easily go off track, this word or phrase would keep you focused on the overall effect of the goals that you want to achieve.

So I tried it.  My word/mantra for 2014 was “Forward!”

Many things happened in 2014, including the terminal illness of my father and administration of his estate.  While I didn’t eschew goals in 2014, I kept focusing on the act of moving “forward.”  At the end of the year, I looked back on what could only be described as a very difficult 12 months – and, yes, I had moved forward in ways that I had not anticipated.

As a result, I felt energized that I had achieved my over-arching goal.  The subgoals that I had created (I don’t advocate giving up goals and projects totally) may not have been achieved, but I could see that in each category I had indeed moved forward.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Finding Your Personal Mantra (a Guiding Word or Phrase)

The act of creating a personal mantra is very similar to creating a compelling vision.  It must speak to your heart and not just your head.  It needs to be noble and worthwhile.

It also needs to have “wiggle room” – not so specific that there is a win/fail or zero/sum result, but directional so that you can adjust and adapt as you navigate toward it.

You can use an ideal, value, attitude, state of mind or body, or even an adverb that describes how you will act.  But whatever word or short phrase that you choose, it needs to indicate the need for motion or activity in order to attain it.

But, perhaps most importantly, it must speak to you.  Brainstorm whatever words come into your head; write them down and observe how you feel when you say them.  The right word or phrase will create a visceral reaction inside you.  You’ll know it when you say it – and it doesn’t matter if no one else “gets it.”  This mantra is uniquely yours and provides a direction (rather than a specific destination) to constantly reference as you move through each day.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Working Wisdom: Every Minute Has the Power of Choice

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Stephen Covey

Life should not be a series of knee jerk reactions to the stuff that happens to us.  When things become chaotic, when we have too many responsibilities and deadlines, we can turn into robots that simply bounce around like bumper cars — with no direction, no balance, no satisfaction.  I’ve found that by focusing on that miraculous moment between an exhalation and an inhalation I can regain my ability to choose.  It’s a way of reconnecting with what really matters.  And when we consistently focus on what really matters, then we create for ourselves the opportunity for not only growth, but ultimately freedom.  We don’t have to bounce around aimlessly.  Within every breath, there’s the chance to choose our response to any given stimulus.  What a relief!

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

What to Do First When Everything Is Changing

The only constant in work today is that everything is going to change – usually significantly and usually in a way that will have a trickle down effect on just about everything else that we do.

So how do you manage so much change without burning out?  The only way that I’ve found is to follow Stephen Covey’s advice:  keep first things first.  In other words, I have to prioritize what’s important, what’s urgent and what isn’t.

You can’t control everything in your work or life.  Stuff happens, things change, people don’t do what they say that they will do.  But to avoid feeling like I’m reactively bouncing around inside a pinball machine, I keep my internal compass set on what is important.  I let my priorities guide my actions.

I’d like to share some of my ideas on how to prioritize when everything is changing.  The link below will open the first of my podcasts on this site — so feel free to listen to and share!

The Power of Priorities During Organizational Change (podcast running time is approximately 6 minutes)

What to Do When Someone Else’s Disorganization Creates Your Chaos

I’m a planner; it’s the only way that I can accomplish all my goals without burning out or going a little crazy.  So what do you do when an authority figure gives you wrong information – but then YOU have to change your entire schedule in order to deal with the resulting chaos?  It changes all your priorities by turning important things into important AND urgent crises (thanks, Stephen Covey for these insights).

Well, that’s what happened to me in the past two weeks.  I’m teaching a class that I was told had a standardized curriculum – but there were no quizzes, tests or reports assigned.  Being a planner, I was pulling together my teacher’s guide for the class 3 weeks before it started and noticed these omissions.  I notified the person in charge and was told that everything would be posted a few days before the class start.  Guess what?  They weren’t.

So I was now in a situation where class had started and neither the 25 adult learners nor I knew what the assignments and due dates would be for the course.  Oh, and by the way, there was no repository of questions or assignments from which I could quickly pull the new curriculum.  Needless to say, everything else went on the back burner and I had to focus exclusively on developing the entire course curriculum from scratch as quickly as possible.

So much for managing my schedule to avoid burnout.

Do these types of things happen in business?  Sure, they do.  Are they fair to the person who must scramble to complete a project as the result of someone else’s disorganization?  No, they aren’t.  My question is:  what can be done about it?  Here’s my checklist to prevent these crises from happening in the future.

#1:  Keep your priorities.  Instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, I looked at which projects were most critical and had the closest due dates.  The other things were rescheduled.  I didn’t want one crisis to snowball into a week full of crises (luckily, it didn’t).

#2:  Check with at least 2 authority figures if something is missing or feels wrong.  Don’t rely on just one answer.  Of course, this can make the original person whom you ask somewhat miffed, but you don’t want to be in a situation that causes additional stress to either you or the people who are depending on you.

#3:  Be a pest.  This follows the previous point – keep asking if your instincts tell you that the answer is wrong.

#4:  Be honest with the people who are depending on you.  I notified my students immediately about the confusion and asked for their patience.  Of course, I also gave them additional time to complete the assignments.  The result was very positive and had somewhat of a bonding effect on a new class.

#5:  Be honest with the people who will be the victims of the trickle down effect resulting from the drain on your time.  Since I’m teaching more than one class, I notified my other students that I would be running behind on correcting their assignments.  Again, the result was positive.  Silence can be deadly.

#6:  Use more than one way to contact the people who are depending on you.  Not only did I post announcements, but I also emailed the entire class to keep them apprised of the progress.  (It took 2 solid weeks to pull together the curriculum.)

#7:  Give at least a portion of the total project to the people who are depending on you – then work diligently to finish the balance as soon as possible.  In this way, my students were able to work on the first few weeks’ assignments and I had a little breathing room to develop the rest of them.

#8:  Take a break.  While I put in a lot of extra, unplanned hours to complete the curriculum, I didn’t kill myself by attempting an all-nighter.  (I can’t do them anymore because I’m a zombie for a few days after and can’t accomplish anything!)  Continuing to push when you’re exhausted creates a shoddy result – which, if you genuinely care about what you do, means you’re going to spend more time re-doing it.

#9:  Don’t get angry.  Concentrate on the light at the end of the tunnel – then celebrate when you’re done.  Being angry just causes more stress and anxiety and is counterproductive.

#10:  Learn the lesson.  Some organizations are notoriously disorganized, while some may have just suffered a temporary glitch.  Figure out which one applies – then keep this in mind for future projects.

Meetings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

OK, I admit it — I hate attending most meetings.

Why?  Because in over 30 years of meetings, I’ve found that there is rarely a set agenda, attendees tend to come minimally prepared and there doesn’t seem to be a defined reason or objective to hold the meeting in the first place.  And most people feel that the meeting takes them away from what they’re supposed to be doing.

Meetings shouldn’t be a necessary evil.  Meetings (either face-to-face or via teleconference or webcasts) can be a great way to brainstorm, keep everybody apprised of what’s going on and monitor progress toward goals.  Just like I believe that we need to find a new way to work, I also believe that we need to find a new way to meet.  So I’ve created my Top 5 list of what I believe makes a great meeting.

#1:  Respect people’s time.  Start when you’re say you’ll start and end when you say you’ll finish.  It’s amazing how time limits help focus attention on the real reason why you’re meeting.

#2:  Do the preliminary work.  When I launched Tri-State SHRM (a local chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management), I had all the Board members submit a 1-page maximum summary of each of their committee’s goals and the progress that they made on those goals in the previous month – and they emailed it to all the members 2 days before the meeting.  One page of bullet points.  Not only was it easy to pull together, but it was also easy for Board members to read – which means that they actually reviewed it before the meeting.

#3:  Don’t rehash what everybody already knows.  Just like it’s bad practice to simply read a PowerPoint slide to an audience, it’s equally bad practice (and, quite frankly, rather insulting) to read your report verbatim in a meeting.  Focus on the highlights.  Consolidate similar activities into one statement; for example, if all the goals have been met on 2 projects, just say that.  Keep it simple.

#4:  Don’t confuse apples and oranges – make the reason for the meeting clear.  Some meetings are progress meetings that summarize what has been accomplished on key projects.  These are the quick status updates – so keep them short.  But before you can have the status updates that focus on efficiency, you have to have a brainstorming and idea building session that determines whether these projects are needed in the first place – in other words, you also have to focus on effectiveness.  Since ideas take time, these can be longer.  The trick is not to confuse these two very different types of meetings.  At Tri-State SHRM, we had a quarterly idea session that was face-to-face (usually over breakfast or lunch – which was great for teambuilding, by the way) that was supplemented with monthly status updates via teleconferences in-between.

#5:  Everybody doesn’t have to be at every meeting.  Only invite those people to the meeting who have something substantial to contribute or will be affected by the results.  I was once asked to drive 5 hours to attend an all-day meeting – where my “contribution” was a 10-minute PowerPoint.  I refused to attend and instead was conference called into the meeting.  Since all the attendees already had my PowerPoint handout, I simply needed to summarize and answer any questions that they might have.  Not only would it have been costly to the client to have me attend in person, but it was also a waste of time, effectiveness and efficiency.

It’s What You Do — Not What You Talk About — That Reflects Your Priorities

So much to do…but so little time!  Yet isn’t it amazing that we can always find the time to do something we want to do at that moment – yet we can’t seem to make a dent in our endless “to do” (or what I like to call “should’s”) lists?

I used to think that it was just procrastination, but now I realize that the procrastination is merely a symptom.  The real problem is that we are “should-ing” ourselves by agreeing to do things that are just not that meaningful to us – and we rebel by not doing them.

Actions speak louder than words.  Whether it’s scheduling time to meet an old friend for coffee or finishing up a lengthy research project or even letting go of a relationship that has gone sour, what we spent our time doing is a reflection of our true priorities.

We are living in an age of fantastic opportunities with dozens of ideas, requests and interests that compete for our attention.  Life is no longer a simple choice between “A” or “B.”

Combine that with our Western preference for linear thinking and Judeo-Christian guilt, a “simple” decision is burdened with a series of nagging questions:  Is this the best use of my time right now – or should I be doing something else?  Am I giving too much?  Is this a waste of my time?  And (my favorite) what will other people think of me if I do what I really want instead?

I see the stress of these endless choices in myself, my friends and my colleagues.  We’re taking on more responsibilities than any human can handle as we try to juggle work and career, family and friends, relationships and ourselves.  We may want to do it all, but our efforts are often half-hearted.  We keep taking on more because we’re being “should-ed” to death.

Now you’re probably arguing that there are many things that you want to do, but just don’t have time to do (unless, of course, you quit sleeping – which opens up a whole other can of psychological and physical problems).  But I believe that life is about choice.  If you say “yes” to one thing, then you are also saying “no” to something else.  You can’t do it all and you can’t have it all.  But you can have what you want based on your priorities.

When I decided to write this blog, it was after a difficult experience with a detached retina (lying on your side for 50 minutes on the hour for a month in order to help save your vision gives you a lot of time for reflection).  I started asking myself, “What’s really important to me?”

I’ve found that what I spend my time doing is a reflection (either conscious or unconscious) of what has real meaning for me.  My actions reflect my priorities.  Was I doing something because I wanted to – or was it because this is what a “good person” should do?  Doing something half-heartedly is worse than saying “no” in the first place.

We women tend to take care of everybody else, but forget about taking care of ourselves.  So I’ve started to say “no” to a lot of things.  And each day I wake up and say, “Today is a page in the new book of my life. How do I want to live it?”

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