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.