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Respect in a flat world

The world of work seems a little flatter now than it did just a few years ago. Zoom meetings have created a phenomenon. And, I’m not talking about the fact that we’re using a new technology. It’s flattened our relationships.

It reminds me of the military. Whether you’re in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force, when in uniform, there are clear signals about who is who. You can tell which branch of the military someone is in. And, you can see what rank they hold. There is a system that is used to navigate the social work structure within the military. But, without a uniform, it is much harder to guess these details.

In a similar way, working from home has taken away many of the social cues that are normally present in the workplace. It is now difficult to see which designer shoes or clothes someone is wearing. And, in fact, the entire team may have switched to comfortable clothes for the day to day.

Working from home and Zoom also take away some of the hierarchy present at in person meetings. Executives are no longer trying to snag the most influential seat at the conference room table. Video meetings also create a structure where people are more easily able to speak up. And, forget status symbols such as cufflinks.

For remote workers, there are also no longer bigger offices for people with bigger job titles. In other words, everyone is a little more equal. We are all individual people who are working at our individual jobs.

There are many positives that come along with a flatter working world. But, with every positive, there are also challenges. For example, a flatter organization also means that people will interact with one another at all levels. The normal hierarchy is less clear.

You’ll likely engage with colleagues who are both at higher and lower levels than ever before. It may be unclear what age they are, or how senior their roles are. But one thing is for sure. Each and every person should be treated with respect. This is such a key to working well as a virtual team.

Have you ever noticed that people sometimes change their behavior online? For example, some people are more comfortable being rude to others on Facebook and Twitter. The same can be said for remote work. In addition to a flatter organization, relationships are shallower. When is the last time you had a deep conversation with a colleague? Do you know how many children your coworkers have? When is the last time you had lunch with anyone from your work?

The less that we know one another, and the more we’re interacting across the company, the more likely tension is to build. If you find yourself in this situation, try to remember this. We’re all part of one team. We should work together, rather than against one another – for common goals.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

The Argument for Return to Work

As you probably know by now, I’m a supporter of working from home. I believe that when it’s possible, it can provide an increased quality of life for the employee – and a cost savings for the employer. But, it’s starting to become more common for employers to require workers to come back anyway. And, the reasoning is surprising.

I recently learned that some employers are claiming that those who prefer work from home are hiding something. In particular, they are hiding mental health and addiction issues. In other words, the only reason you might want to work from home is if you have a problem you don’t want your boss to know about.

This news is disheartening at best. Through the pandemic, it has been proven that many office workers can work effectively at home. On top of being more efficient at work, many employees have seen their stress levels drop and their personal time increase.

There are many logical reasons leaders may want their people to be back in the physical office. For example, not every job can be performed in a work from home setting. And, if you’re leading an organization where only a portion of the jobs can be remote, you may want everyone to come back together. It may increase the feeling of community and equity across various parts of the organization.

There are also some workers who genuinely prefer working from the office. They appreciate the structure that it creates. They like the separation of home and work that going to the office provides. They enjoy the casual moments of community with coworkers.

There are many legitimate reasons an employer may prefer for their employees to come back in person to a centralized office location. But, to shift blame to employees is wrong. The vast majority of those who enjoy working from home enjoy it for reasons that are no secret. It’s not because there is something wrong with them. It’s not because they’re using substances during the workday, or are shielding the employer from their mental health struggles.

Don’t get me wrong. Many employees did in fact experience mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Truly, what did anyone expect from a pandemic? It’s a pandemic. It’s possible that working from home may have helped bridge the gap for some people during a tough patch. But, the idea that all work from home supporters are hiding something is just not true.

If you need your employees to go back to a physical office, be honest. Explain the real reasons that the company believes it makes sense. Then, listen to your employees. Hear their concerns. Work together to come up with a solution that works for both sides of the equation.

Don’t turn on your employees. Don’t pressure them to come back out of fear or shame. As a leader, your role is to inspire others to want to follow your vision.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

WFH Lessons

It’s been two years since we were sent home from work for two weeks. We were collectively wrong about the two weeks, but many workers have been relieved. We learned so much about work over the last two years.

We found that working remotely is not only possible, it’s preferred. Workers are more productive, and overall, they’re happier. We can create customized work environments that work best for us. Commuting is no longer required. And, it’s cheaper for employers. One of the only good things to come from the pandemic has been the flexibility and work life balance introduced with work from home.

So, why are employers now trying to drag their employees back to the office?

Many companies say they need people to be in person in order to form better relationships. Some say it will make us more productive. Others say we need to be in “the building” in order to get real work done. But, what is really going on here? If a company is still in business after two years of work from home, it has been more than proven that work from home is possible.

Returning to the office appears to be driven from two places. Within the organization, older managers struggle with the remote transition more than anyone else. Outside of the organization, cities are struggling to keep their downtowns thriving without business commuters.

This is the problem with both. Neither takes into account the needs and wants of the individual worker. And, both deny the fact that it has now been proven that working from home is possible. Both companies and cities need to become more creative in their problem solving. Rather than chase the past, what exists in the future?

If a company feels that employees are disconnected, that company should look for new ways to connect folks. Perhaps they could schedule more teambuilding activities via video. Or, maybe they could bring everyone together once a month for an in person event.

For struggling downtown areas, what other options exist to revive the economy? Housing is certainly expensive. Perhaps empty office buildings could be repurposed as less expensive apartments. Maybe there are other ways to revitalize downtowns.

We can no longer live in the past. Fighting with employees who prefer to work from home only serves one purpose. It will be the reason those employees apply for jobs at other companies. There are too many options to settle for something that’s not what the employee prefers. And, it’s too late to convince anyone that we need to be together to be productive. That is just not true.

For many organizations, this will be a difficult learning process. They will force employees to come back to work. Those employees will leave. Then, the same organizations will struggle to find anyone who wants to sit in their seats at work.

Listen to your people and learn the lesson.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Is Zoom the Great Equalizer?

For my entire life, there’s been a topic that people talk to me about: my height. That’s right, I’m tall. Without shoes on, I’m five feet ten inches, but with the right shoes, I’m quickly over six feet tall. Whether I’m at work or at the grocery store, people love to cover this topic.

Once, my height even became the centerpiece of a job interview. The hiring manager seemed shocked, repeatedly saying that he had no idea I was so tall, and how could no one have told him. As you can imagine, it was a strange job interview.

But, it didn’t stop there. This company had recently built a new, beautiful campus. Five people interviewed me in addition to the hiring manager. They were incredibly impressive, with Ivy League degrees. Each person told me about an amazing basketball court that was part of the new campus. I thought, “This group of people really likes basketball!” It didn’t occur to me until later that they all assumed I played basketball and would want to see the court.

However, something has happened since March of 2020. No one has said a word about my height in job interviews or at work. This is because all of my meetings are now held via Zoom.

It’s interesting how differently things appear through a camera. I no longer know how tall or how short someone is. I know longer can see much about their physical build. I can’t see details like their shoes or their nail polish. I can’t as easily guess someone’s age.

Many of the visual cues that we use to read another person’s background are hidden. Clues like shoes can be an indicator of social class. It can let others know if the person grew up with money or is struggling to make their own way. And, sometimes, even when you are qualified to do a job, a company may not hire you if you don’t seem to fit in. You may not look the part.

The same goes for location. When we work in person, we’re more aware of whether or not someone lives in the hip part of town or the rich part of town or the undesirable part of town. When you’re working remotely, your teammates are very likely in different cities. They rarely have any idea what the neighborhood you live in looks like.

It’s also more likely that people with different cultural backgrounds, and political and religious views will work together today. Why? Because teams are now made up of people from different areas. And, people from different areas are more likely to have diverse viewpoints.

In a certain way, Zoom is leveling playing field. It takes away many of the pieces of irrelevant information that people often use to sort one another into buckets. In a way, it allows your work to speak for itself more now than ever before.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

The Cost of Remote Work

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the privilege of being both a full-time salaried employee, and a self-employed business owner.  There are pros and cons that come with each. For example, when you’re an employee, you typically have perks such as health insurance and vacation. When you’re self-employed, you can select your hours of operation and make decisions about which clients you will or won’t take on.

There’s also another big difference between these two types of employment. When you’re self-employed, you pay for your own business expenses. If you have an office, that’s a business expense. If you purchase office furniture, that’s a business expense. Pens and paper are a business expense.

As a full-time employee, anything related to doing your job is typically paid for by your company. This could include anything from the office chair you sit in to electricity to the internet connection. It could include the paper you’re writing on and the pens you’re writing with.

But, has anyone noticed this trend shifting a bit? Part of the reason people are now working remotely is because there’s a big cost savings to companies. After all, companies were paying so much in rent for big office buildings, and all the related expenses that come along with them.

However, it seems unclear whether or not employees are benefitting financially in the same way as remote employees. I’ve heard from employees of people who have moved to a larger living space in order to now accommodate a home office. They’ve invested in home office furniture. They’ve upgraded their home internet package.

In this virtual world, it’s become very important that employees are self-sufficient. On top of having a great workspace, employees are now expected to use their personal phones for business. The lines between work and home have blurred more than ever before.

Most people aren’t talking about this issue, because who wants to go back to working in person? But, who is paying for all these home office upgrades? In many cases, it’s the employee. Occasionally, I have seen businesses that will mail out both office supplies and office furniture to employees, but it’s not the norm.

Most companies are sending employees a monthly stipend to cover their home expenses. Typically, the stipend is between $50 and $150 per month. For some people, this amount might cover the cost of their cell phone and internet. But rarely will it cover any of the other expenses employees are sinking into being a productive worker.

So, what is the real solution? This work from home revolution certainly wasn’t planned. It’s tough to blame employers for not being more prepared for it. That said, two years into work from home feels like a good time to reevaluate. We need to have conversations about the real cost of remote work. Otherwise, it begins to feel as if we’re all self-employed small business owners.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Letting go of control

Working from an office used to be normal. But, that time is so far in the past that it would be naive to think we will ever go back to our former state. Honestly, many of us are wondering why working from the office Monday through Friday ever made sense in the first place. The time wasted commuting, along with the cost of rent is unbelievable.

Looking back, many people have started to wonder if going to work every day in person was more about control than productivity. It gave managers a bird’s eye view of what employees were doing all day. And, it kept employees working with fewer outside distractions.

But, was it really the right way to approach work? I don’t believe so. I’ve been the most productive when I’ve had the most autonomy. And, when I’ve been under someone’s thumb, my productivity and creativity have dropped.

The interesting twist to working from home is that some employers are looking for new ways to feel that they still have control over employees. I first heard about this when friends discussed their managers calling them on video at random times during the workday. The purpose appeared to be monitoring the employee, rather than anything helpful.

But, the real shocker comes from employee monitoring software. Last week, The Washington Post released a shocking article documenting digital monitoring of employees in the remote work environment. Employees shared stories about keystroke tracking, screenshots, and facial recognition.

One employee, who chose to remain anonymous, shared a story of trying to find something on their computer. He was clicking around, trying to find the spot where he needed to be. Suddenly, his boss started to speak to him through his headset, instructing him on where to go.

Another employee described her company using facial recognition software. In order to get paid, she would have to look toward her screen while working. If she looked around for too long, she’d have to log in all over again. Not only was her photo being taken, but the tiny light coming from the camera was on while she was working.

The thing about remote work is that it has the potential to be more productive. But, the relationship between employee and employer is built on trust. And, if someone is going slack off, they will be able to do this whether they’re being monitored or not. Beyond that, people are not machines. They may have days that are less productive, and they may have other days that are very productive.

The bottom line is, employers should consider decreasing monitoring, and increasing trust. You can do this by setting realistic goals and holding your employees to them. Measure results, not keystrokes. And, if someone isn’t trustworthy, replace them with someone who is. Create a culture based on mutual respect, and you’ll increase productivity, and save a little money on rent at the same time.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach