Maintaining a healthy work life balance has always been important. In the past, finding balance was easier. It was obvious when you left your work world and entered your home. It was clear when you weren’t balancing your time well.
For the most part, I would argue that maintaining a healthy work life balance is as important now as it ever was. It might be more important now. Maintaining mental health is critical to making it through 2020. And, one thing that can erode it is a lack of division between work and personal.
The one exception is this. If working nonstop is providing a positive outlet, go for it! But, for the rest of us, we’ve got to find some space between the two worlds.
For most people, the pandemic is the first time we have worked from home for any length of time. Many people are working from their former dining rooms (now converted into makeshift offices). Most people are no longer changing into work attire during the day. We’re wearing hoodies and sweats to our meetings. Our children and pets are popping into Zoom meetings.
And, we’re not just taking our personal selves to work. We’re taking our work selves home. The time when work begins and ends has blurred. Our work supplies and computers are at home with us every day. We may get work calls and texts to our personal phones.
The line between what was our time and what was company time is unclear. And, it’s wearing many people down. If you find this is happening to you, look for ways to create worlds that are more separate.
For example, don’t do personal tasks during the day. Don’t respond to personal emails. Don’t make personal calls during work hours. Make work time just that – work time. Then, after a set time in the evening, switch off your work computer. Don’t respond to work email during personal time. Don’t take work calls. Separate the communications by both the hours in the day and the computer you are using.
Consider talking to your colleagues about this goal too. One of the problems in an office is that some folks will send email after work. They may be trying to make a point that they’re working, or they may not think about it. Either way, it puts social pressure on colleagues to do the same. Some folks will call into work meetings, even when they have taken a vacation day. It seems like no big deal. We’re all at home anyway, right? Wrong. This also puts unnecessary pressure on those around you to give up their personal time.
The gains from doing personal things during work hours – or doing work things during personal hours – are very small. But, the loss can be huge. Finding this balancing act will help you during the pandemic. Take it seriously and those around you will too.
This has been a crazy year. What we thought would be two weeks of working from home has turned into an entire year of Zoom meetings with no end in sight. Many companies are now rounding the corner to performance evaluations. If performance evaluations weren’t weird before, they will definitely be different now. Here are a few tips on how to make your work from home performance review a success.
First, your evaluation is important. Often, we think of it as an afterthought. We do all of our other work as if it’s the real priority, and we treat our review as something that’s optional. It’s not. Treat your performance evaluation the same way you would treat a project for the CEO of your company. In your world, you are the CEO of your career. And, your review is important for your future career.
Don’t wait for your boss to tell you what to do. Take initiative. Ask your boss about setting up your review. Then, prepare in advance. This will set a positive stage.
Ahead of your boss’ evaluation, do your own self-evaluation. Go through your performance goals and write up why you believe you deserve a specific score. If you’re using a computer system with limited flexibility, you may want to score yourself – and create a separate presentation that goes into more detail.
Inside of your self-evaluation, give general reasons you believe you deserve a certain score. Then, dive into specifics. If you have metrics, include them. If you can show a percentage increase in results, show it. If you finished your project ahead of schedule, say so. If you’re making a separate presentation, you may also want to include pictures of work you’ve done. For example, if you helped to redesign a website, you might include a screenshot of the new website. Share not just how you achieved your goals, but also how you went above and beyond in the pandemic environment.
The day of your evaluation, take note of how you look. If you’ve been working in sweats and a cap every day, it’s time to go back to business casual. Style your hair and generally create a look that you would have been comfortable presenting in during pre-COVID times.
Be on time for your review. In fact, you may want to log into Zoom a few minutes early to be sure your sound and video are working well. For the best look on camera, you may want to put your laptop on top of books to give it extra height. And, double check that your lighting looks good.
If your boss suggests areas for improvement or gives you a lower score than you’d like, try to take it in stride. We can always get better. And, once your review is completed, use it to update your resume. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that anything can happen.
Has your work changed as a result of the pandemic? If you have a corporate desk job, the answer may very well be no. While where you do your work has changed, the nature of your work has not. You are still focused on the same projects. You’re meeting with the same people. Work is moving ahead.
But, doesn’t that seem strange? Isn’t it odd that work is moving forward, despite the current situation? Many people haven’t seen their coworkers in person since mid-March.
With that in mind, what would change if we all went back to the office tomorrow? We’d pack a bag with our laptop. We would put on more formal clothing. We would spend a lot of time in traffic. Then, we would sit in our tiny offices on Zoom calls with our same colleagues.
What have we all been doing? In some cases, people have in person meetings. But it is increasingly common to communicate via video meetings, phone, and email.
Think back to your pre-pandemic work life. If you were to group your day into categories, how much was truly spent in person with your coworkers? For many people, it was very little.
Are we driving to work to sit by ourselves and to send email to each other? Are we sitting in a cubicle so that we can video chat with our colleagues from across the building?
Don’t get me wrong. There are advantages to in person work. For example, you may have a tiny apartment. Or, you might have children at home. In cases like these, an office can be very helpful.
But, office buildings are very expensive. They’re expensive to build, and to maintain. Does your office building have one of those ping pong rooms? They’re created to get us talking to each other. I’ve seen many of those rooms, but I’ve never seen anyone actually play ping pong at work.
This pandemic is truly the worst. It’s painful on many levels every day. But, it is making us question why we’ve been doing things the way we are.
Why commute thirty minutes or an hour each way just to sit at a desk to email the person in the next office? We can all do that from anywhere.
Getting back to work would offer many perks on the mental health front. But, would those perks be as important if everyday activities were open? For example, if you could do your normal personal social activities, would it matter whether or not you went to an office?
If we let go of the office, what else would happen? Would our quality of life change? Would we spend less time commuting? What if we could move out of the crowded city to a home that was more suited for us? What if we had a little more time each day for our loved ones?
Should we commute for Zoom meetings?
Years ago, I interviewed for a job in Pittsburgh. I flew in late at night, with the interview scheduled first thing the next morning. As I unpacked, I realized I had forgotten the pants to my suit. My mind was racing as I went through the options of what to do.
Could I wear the pants I’d flown there in? No, they were sweatpants. Could I call a cab to take me to a mall? No, it was late and everything was closed. Could I have a pair of pants shipped to me from home? No, all the shippers were closed for the day.
This brainstorming went on for an hour. I wracked my brain as I tried to think of a creative solution to this big problem.
It turned out, packages could be dropped off directly at the airport until around midnight for FedEx, and could be delivered by six the next morning. The only catch was getting the pants to the airport.
My apartment manager was the only one with a key to my apartment, but I didn’t have her phone number. So, I called a neighbor who was friends with another neighbor who had a dog that the building manager walked every day. I knew he would have the building manager’s phone, and I knew my other neighbor had the dog owner’s phone number.
After a few calls, I found the building manager’s phone number. I called and asked her to give my key to a friend who was willing to drive the pants to the airport. My friend entered my apartment and called to locate the correct pair of pants. Then, he drove them to FedEx, and mailed them.
Afterward, I alerted the hotel desk to contact me the moment the pants arrived—which they did. The interview went smoothly and nobody noticed anything unusual.
One of the questions they asked was, “Tell us about a time you encountered a problem and were able to find a creative way to solve it.” It was the perfect opportunity to share my story. The interviewers were both surprised and impressed. What started as a nightmare turned out to be a big win!
I don’t remember if I got that job, but I do remember that the interview went well.
The lesson: When it comes to job interviews, don’t expect everything to go perfectly. There’s often something that will go wrong. If you can plan on that thing, it’s much easier to roll with the punches and have a positive experience.
Interviewing is not about answering every question correctly. The hiring manager is more likely to remember how they felt about you than how you answered each question. It’s like going to a live comedy show. You don’t remember each joke, but you remember whether you had a good time.
If you’re a manager, you will sometimes be in the market to hire someone new. Have you ever found yourself in this situation, but there are just no good candidates? Everyone you’re interviewing is a dud. Does that sound familiar? If so, it may be time to look in the mirror.
If you’re relying on recruiters to find the best candidates (and you’re having trouble), there may be something you don’t know. Don’t get me wrong. Many recruiters are amazing. They can sift through stacks of resumes and find just the perfect candidates.
Then there are the other recruiters. They are doing you and your company a disservice. But, you’d never know it. Why not? Well, because as a candidate, if you complain, you’ll be eliminated. Nobody wants to hire a complainer. And, if you (the candidate) complain after you’ve been eliminated, then you’re just the sore loser.
So, what could go wrong that it might impact hiring? The biggest issue is that some recruiters are unwilling to take the candidate into consideration. Their opinion is that if the candidate wants the job, they’ll make themselves available. A recruiter may contact the candidate with only an hour or so of notice to request an interview. Or, they may call with no notice at all.
They believe the company and the hiring manager are very busy people. The candidate should cater to them. In many ways, this is true. But, a great candidate is not available all day, waiting for interviews. Successful folks have things to do. And, they have commitments to their existing company that they need to keep.
As a hiring manager, how would you feel if the recruiter expected you to interview someone with only an hour of notice? That would be a little strange, right? Now, imagine you weren’t just asking questions; you were answering them.
Very often, recruiters are also late to interviews or they miss them completely. They expect the candidate to understand that something came up. It’s also not uncommon for a recruiter to interview a candidate without ever having seen their resume.
Add to this list illegal questions. It’s not uncommon for a recruiter to ask the candidate about their marital status or whether or not they have kids. The candidate rarely objects to these questions, but I can assure you that they take note.
Candidate experience is real. More companies should give candidates a way to give feedback on their experience. Instead, candidates are never asked about how they felt. I do believe a candidate should be as flexible as they can. They’re selling themselves after all. But, if you expect the candidate to drop everything multiple times, you’re going to end up with the candidates who don’t have much going on professionally. You won’t be happy with the selection.
If you can’t seem to find good candidates, it may be time to look in the mirror.
If you’re working from home, you may be as productive as ever. You can focus without interruption. There are no long chats around the water cooler. There’s no wasted time commuting. You can wake up and get straight to work. There’s a good chance you may be skipping breaks and lunch. You’ve started to find your work from home groove.
But, one thing we’re definitely doing less of at work is small talk. When is the last time you asked about a colleague’s weekend? How are their children doing? How is the pandemic impacting them from day to day? When is the last time you had lunch with someone you work with? If you’re like millions of Americans, it’s been a while. It may have even been since early March.
On the surface, this is no big deal. You’re saving time. You’re more efficient. And, work is about work. Right? Sure, to some degree this is true. But, work is also about relationships. In fact, very often, your project may get done on time if you have a good relationship with your colleagues.
And, the thing is, relationships don’t form out of spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations alone. They are formed when we spend time together. They’re formed between meetings. They’re those small moments when we exchange pleasant words that are unrelated to work. Relationships form over sandwiches and coffee.
If you’re struggling at work more now than you were before COVID, it may be time to rethink your day to day interactions. The same social distancing that’s keeping us safe from disease is also dividing us. We’re more disconnected than we were in the past, especially when working from home is new.
What can you do? Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution. But, there are many ideas you can try. You may want to take the time to call colleagues when you don’t need something specific. Or, take a moment in the beginning of meetings to ask how folks are doing. Consider setting up virtual social occasions. You might organize a coffee or a virtual happy hour with a colleague. You could consider organizing a book club or a virtual exercise group. Although some of these things may sound silly, they’re also a way to create connection and build your relationships.
As you’re working to create this connection, there is something to keep in mind. First, everyone is having a tough time in some way, on some days. Every person is in a unique situation, so it’s hard to predict when they’re having a tough time. When your coworker is having a difficult day, it will be harder to tell than when you are in person. Try your best to be patient.
It’s all a little weird right now. But, we may be working from home for a while. It’s time to find new and different ways to make small talk and to build big relationships.
The letters WFH used to be mainly used by the tech industry. But, as work from home is becoming more common, so is the use of this important acronym. In the last six months, working from home has gone from an exception to a norm. But, if you’re like many employees, your company may be asking you to come back to work in person.
For many of the folks I have spoken to, returning to an in person work environment just doesn’t work right now. So, what can you do when your boss asks you to come back?
It’s tricky. Start by being honest. If you have a preexisting condition that makes you high risk for COVID complications, you may want to consider sharing it. Normally, I would never advise to share private health details with your boss. But, it may help them to understand why you need to continue to work from home.
The same applies for family situations. If you have aging parents who you help to care for, share your concerns. If you are being forced to home school your children, be up front about it. And, if your spouse has a high risk job where they work with the public, share your concerns about possibly infecting your office if you were to become infected.
These are all good reasons to keep working from home – especially if you’ve been doing it since March. Your boss’ biggest concern should be whether or not you’re getting your job done. When you approach them with this request, focus on your ability to do your work.
Outline the hours you plan to keep each day. Since your boss cannot see you, it may help to know you’re keep regular office hours from home. Set expectations around how you will communicate. If you plan to check email during certain hours, let them know. If you’ve available to video chat during meetings, share that. And, if you are available by text, say that too. The more your boss feels they can count on you, the more likely they will be to allow you to continue to work from home.
If you’re interviewing for a new job, this is something you’ll likely want to discuss at some point during the interview process. Given that this could be a point of negotiation for you, you may want to save it until you reach the offer stage of the job interview. You may be surprised though at just how many companies are willing to be flexible with work from home now. And, some companies that require you to move to their city are allowing you to delay the move until after COVID is finished.
If you believe you need to work from home for any reason, it’s your responsibility to advocate for yourself. It doesn’t mean your boss will agree. But, if you don’t ask, then you definitely won’t get it.
During this difficult season, finding a new job feels complicated and often nearly impossible. However, online there are a few options you should check out if you want to make a switch. As usual, you should check for job postings on sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor. But, you should also look for special events. In particular, Indeed has put together an hiring event that may help you if you’re looking for a new job.
Indeed.com has launched a Virtual Hiring Tour across the United States. Their goal is to help 20,000 people get hired for new jobs.
“With unemployment at record high levels, our mission of helping people get jobs has never felt more important. This Virtual Hiring Tour is designed to help people from all backgrounds – essential workers to licensed professionals – quickly find roles, in a way that is safe and effective,” said Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed.
The Indeed Virtual Hiring Tour is made up of online events that are broken out by region across the country. The events will use Indeed’s video technology to help with interviews.
Indeed is also partnering with Goodwill Industries International, to ensure that job seekers are aware of the hiring tour and are able to participate if they’re interested.
“Even before the pandemic, millions of people were stuck on the employment sidelines, struggling to find work. Today, they are even more anxious about their prospects, but we want to assure them that we are here to help,” said Hyams.
The Western United States event was held earlier in September. The event for the South is being held from September 29 to October 2. The Midwest is being held October 13 to October 16. The Northeast is being held October 20 to October 23.
Job seekers can register for free. Once on the site, you’ll also find interview tips and tricks, including what to wear to a virtual interview, how to prepare for your interview, and how to find out if the job you’re interviewing for is remote. There are both presentations and videos available on the site to walk you through the interview process.
In addition, if you click on the region of the country where you’re interested to work, you’ll find a list of jobs currently posted to the hiring tour. From there, you can RSVP for an interview. You’ll see how many interview spots are available for each job.
To learn more about the Indeed Virtual Hiring Tour, you should visit indeed.com/virtualhiringtour.
The pandemic is one of the hardest things we’ll ever face. Remember that you’re not in this by yourself. Often when we job search, we hope friends and family will help. But, it is more common for someone you don’t know to be the one to help. Don’t stop looking. Look for events like this one, and check with your university to see what additional events they may be organizing.
When you look down and find a giant to do list, you wonder how you will achieve any of it. But, when you break the tasks down one at a time, each item on the list is often manageable. There’s nothing you don’t know how to do.
During the pandemic, many people are finding themselves overwhelmed. They’re pushed to the edge with family responsibilities, health concerns, home schooling, and working from home. At times, there’s a good chance you are one of these people. I know I have been.
When you find yourself at this place, start by creating a list. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Jot down all of the things you need to take care of. Then, write down the amount of time you think each task will take. From there, take a look at your schedule to see when you may be able to achieve these goals.
You’ve probably done this before. But, it’s a good concept to remember when you’re feeling under water. I often use this exercise to sort out my goals for a particular day, week, or month.
But, very often, when I reach the point of feeling overwhelmed, I will set a goal that is one or two steps below what I think I can actually achieve. It’s not in an effort to achieve less. Backing the goal down gives me the breathing room that I need to both achieve the other items and my list, and to do them well.
It’s a great idea to push yourself. But, sometimes if you push yourself too hard, you will fail to meet the goal. Normally, that can be a good thing as it can drive you forward. But, if you’ve reached the point of being overwhelmed, feeling like you’re failing will only make it worse.
Remember, this is a crazy year. Frankly, every day feels more unbelievable than the last. Your job during this time is to keep things calm and on track.
When it comes to career, if you can, try to keep moving on your normal goals. There are many things you can do that don’t take much time. If you have extra time, you might want to update your LinkedIn profile. Or, you may want to revamp your resume. Or, you might want to attend a seminar virtually. It’s really interesting to see just how many conferences have moved online this year!
But, whatever you do, don’t do everything at once. And, if someone asks you what new hobbies you’ve learned or what new goals you’ve set, remember that it’s not a competition. A pandemic is not an opportunity to prove anything to anyone. It’s a time to stay physically healthy and mentally stable.
Episode 208 is live! This week, we talk with Madison Yen in Denver, Colorado.
Madison is a photographer and brand strategist, and the CEO of her company, Madison Yen Photography.
On today’s episode, Madison shares:
- What are some of the dos and don’ts of our LinkedIn profile photo?
- How much does it cost, generally, to hire a professional photographer?
- Are photographers shooting photos during the pandemic?
To learn more about Madison’s work, check out her website at madisonyen.com.
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