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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work in myriad ways. Many people are still working from home (WFH) either part-time or full-time, and some have decided that this is the method they prefer. Many of our meetings have moved online, through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Instead of flying across the country for business trips, people are opting for virtual chats instead (often saving time and saving the company hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars). And there’s another change that has become quite popular:

Working from a location other than your home or office.

Last year, many people opted to work out-of-state or out of the country for weeks, or even months, at a time. They reasoned, “If I can do all my work from home, why can’t I do the same work from an oceanside cottage in Florida? Or near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? Or from an eco-tourism lodge in Costa Rica?”

And, why not? If you’ve proven that you can complete all your work from a home office, why couldn’t you pack up and work somewhere else for a while? Working from a new location can be energizing and give you a much-needed productivity boost. It’s healthy to have a change of scenery every once in a while (especially if you’re stuck inside during a long winter, like we often are in Minnesota!). I usually bring my work to my home state of Delaware and work remotely there; and my assistant spent six weeks last winter working in Florida and Alabama.

However, if you decide to work remotely in a location that isn’t your home, you do face several unknowns. To help make your remote working experience run smoothly, here are a few tips:

Scope Out Office Essentials

When you’re considering renting a house, apartment, or hotel for an extended stay, it is crucial to investigate the essential components that make your work possible. Does the rental have enough space to comfortably accommodate you and whoever you’re traveling with? Is there enough desk or table space for you (and any travel mates) to do your work? Is there Wi-Fi, and how fast and reliable is it? Lastly: Is it quiet?

You can glean much of this information from either the renter (sites like AirBnB and VRBO allow you to have direct communication with the renter) or from reviews of the rental property. If, for instance, several people indicate that there is a lot of street noise, that’s definitely a red flag! You should also consider whether you’ll be sharing a wall with another renter, or if you’ll be part of an apartment complex or duplex. It’s difficult to predict how noisy or respectful your neighbors will be.

Rent Long-Term

Many rental listings offer deep discounts for month-long rentals. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good idea to opt for a long-term rental.

Have a Food Plan

How often will you be eating out or ordering takeout? How often will you be staying in and cooking? If you’re staying somewhere long-term, you’ll likely need access to a well-stocked kitchen. If the items in your rental’s kitchen are not listed, it’s a good idea to ask the leaser about specific items.

Furthermore, it’s smart to scope out nearby restaurants and grocery stores before putting money down on a rental. Having easy access to quality food could turn your work vacation from good to great!

Drive Instead of Flying

Even though flying is quicker, driving allows for greater flexibility. You can bring important items from home (an external monitor, for example, or favorite board games). You can even bring the family dog, provided the rental unit is pet-friendly!

Not only that, but you’ll save yourself the hassle (and money!) of having to rent a vehicle once you arrive at your destination. Even if you’re hoping to opt for public transit and ride share programs, having a car on hand is a good idea anyway, in case of emergencies.

There are some limitations to this tip, of course, such as if you’re planning to travel internationally. In which case…

If Traveling Abroad, Do Your Homework

Before working in a foreign country, it pays to do a little research to familiarize yourself with the currency, language (even learning a few phrases is helpful and shows respect!), and customs. You’ll also want to pick a rental unit that is easily accessible and is relatively close to a grocery store, pharmacy, and clinic/hospital. And don’t forget to bring your power adapter/voltage converter! The last thing you want is to blow out your work laptop by plugging it into an outlet that uses a different voltage.

Remember: You can always buy some necessities once you arrive at your destination. To lighten your travel load, consider leaving behind extra toiletries (sunscreen, lotion, etc.), unnecessary articles of clothing, or towels (which your rental probably has anyway).

If you usually use an external monitor for your work, it may be difficult to go without one for a long stretch of time. Consider purchasing a portable monitor, or buying a (new or used) external monitor once you arrive at your destination.

Lastly, make sure your phone will function abroad! Many carriers do offer coverage in foreign countries. Talk to you carrier about how to do this. In some cases, you’ll have to buy a special SIM card upon arrival.

Working from a location that isn’t your home takes a little extra planning, but it is usually worth it! The change of scenery is great for energizing and motivating you, and can help you get out of the WFH rut. Pick a few top choices, do some research, and start planning your remote work getaway!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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You’re feeling exhausted or lethargic. Work, and life in general, holds little interest for you. You dread checking your email in the morning. You’d rather stay in bed than get up to face the day. Perhaps you’ve picked up unhealthy habits to cope with stress, irritation, or low productivity.

These are all signs of burnout.

Though burnout has always been an issue in the workplace, its presence has dramatically increased over the past couple of years. In an international survey, 90% of participants believed that their work lives were getting worse, and 60% were experiencing frequent burnout. Those figures are troubling, to say the least!

Burnout can feel heavy or stressful. It can dim your usual joy. How can you cope with such a troubling emotion? Try these 6 approaches*…

*If you’re coping with something more than burnout, please seek consultation from a licensed therapist or other mental health professional.

1. Pinpoint the source

It’s difficult to deal with burnout if you don’t fully understand the cause. “Work” might be too general to blame on burnout (maybe you love or enjoy certain aspects of your job). Whenever you’re starting to feel anxious, stressed, or exhausted, think about why that is. Do you feel this way whenever you need to check in with a certain co-worker or superior? Does a certain task make you feel drained? Pinpointing the source of your burnout can help you figure out solutions.

2. Know your limits

For many people, burnout occurs when we take on too much work or when we agree to do things that are well outside our abilities or scope of interest. When you’re overloaded or you’re asked to do something outlandish, say no. It is possible to decline with grace (more HERE), and offer other potential solutions for the task at hand.

For example: “This assignment is well outside my skillset. Have you considered approaching Beth about it?”

Or: “I have a full plate right now and adding one more thing is simply not feasible. Can we push this back to next month or shuffle around some of my other assignments?”

3. Create healthy boundaries

With so many people working out of a home office, it can be easy to blur the lines between work and home. Commit to only working or answering emails within a certain time frame. Stick to a routine and do your best to separate your professional world from your private one. You might even get dressed for work in the morning and go on a walk as a kind of “commute.” Whatever it takes to get in the work zone!

4. Take a meaningful break

At times, we simply need to step away from work for a while and take a break. See if you can get away for at least a couple of weeks to rest up and rejuvenate. Make the break a meaningful one. Don’t answer calls or check work emails. If finances are a constraint, take a “staycation” and practice your version of self-care (reading, catching up on sleep, painting, mountain biking…).

5. Unwind with a hobby

One way to combat burnout is to pick up an after-work hobby. You might choose to do something calm and relaxing (yoga, cooking classes, photography) or something energizing and invigorating (spin classes, training your dog in agility). Your meaningful hobby can be a kind of oasis—a getaway that you can regularly look forward to.

6. Simplify

Ask yourself: Is there any part of my life that I can simplify? Is there any task I can cut out or assign to someone else?

At work, look for ways to make your day more efficient. Could information be conveyed through a simple phone call, rather than a back-and-forth email chain? Are you reporting the same information to different people, when you could loop everyone in with a single Zoom meeting? Is there anything that makes sense to delegate to someone else?

In your personal life, is there anything you can hire out to someone else (lawn work, cleaning, car repair, meal prep)? Is there anything you can cut out?

Burnout is an epidemic, and it’s time we all dealt with it. There are certain steps you can take on your own (the above list is only the tip of the iceberg), but burnout is also something that should be considered at an organizational level. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk with superiors about ways to prevent employee burnout. If you’d like ideas on how to frame such a conversation, send me a note.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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As your workplace begins to reopen its doors, you’ll probably be met with a variety of emotions and perspectives. Some people (the extroverted, yellow-energy-leading folks) may be thrilled at the prospect of working with others face-to-face. Others may dread returning to the office and are able to be much more productive at home. Still others fall somewhere in between—they enjoy the flexibility of having a choice to work from home or come into the office, and they want to maintain control over their schedule.

With such a wide range of opinions and points of view, it might seem like an impossible feat to make everyone happy. You can, however, take steps to achieve the best possible setup for the majority of your team members.

Start with these 7 tips:

1. Get Employee Feedback

Involve as many people as you can in the planning process. That doesn’t mean putting together a 100-person Zoom meeting where everyone shouts their opinions! What it DOES mean is surveying or talking with people on a one-on-one basis and gathering information. Ask open-ended questions and encourage candid responses. Some questions might include:

  • What would be an ideal work setup for you?
  • What excites you about returning to the office? What are you dreading?
  • What steps can we take in the office to make sure you feel safe?
  • How can we support you and the rest of the team to make this transition as smooth as possible?

2. Review Your Communication Tools

This past year, we’ve had to get creative and adapt to new forms of communication. As we begin to return to the office, some people may continue to embrace these new communication methods, while others will be eager to return to the old methods. It’s a good idea to see if people are burnt out on virtual chats, or if they don’t mind them. For some, virtual communication is more welcoming and accessible (some services provide captioning options, for instance), while others might be better able to read body language and mood in a face-to-face setting. It’s possible that your communication methods will be somewhat of a hybrid, with occasional virtual meetings interspersed between in-person ones.

3. Maintain Team-Building Efforts

Many teams have gotten creative over quarantine time with virtual happy hours, check-ins, or online team games. It would be a shame to lose those team-building activities once you’ve all returned to the office. Make an effort to stay connected as a team, and keep engagement high, even as we return to the physical workplace.

4. Stock up on Patience and Flexibility

Protocols and practices may change over time. New information and changing conditions will require additional shifts and plenty of patience. It’s important that you practice flexibility and be a role model for others. Convey that things are bound to continuing changing and evolving. This doesn’t reflect incompetence, but a willingness to learn and improve as circumstances change or new developments are brought to light.

5. Be a Source of Joy

One of the best ways to make the transition smoother is by finding ways to make it better for others.  Create a sense of lightheartedness—the unexpected delights of working from home, the mishaps that took place that cracked you up. Show sensitivity to those still working from home and do whatever you can to help them feel included. When you make an effort to be cheerful and buoyant, others will follow suit. Even when things are tough, this type of attitude will help get you into problem-solving mode instead of “woe is me” mode.

6. Stay Focused on the Bigger Story

There will be bumps in the road. There will be difficult stretches of days (or weeks!). That’s inevitable. Instead of getting hung up on small setbacks or difficult events, it pays to focus on the big picture. How can you move forward? What can you do to best serve your team and keep them safe? What are the main goals for this year? By taking a step back and examining the bigger story, you can gain a better perspective when it comes to dealing with everyday annoyances or snags.

7. Manage Expectations

Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t know what lies ahead. Make sure you convey to your team that you’ll all need to be flexible and roll with the punches for the foreseeable future. Procedures and operations may change (possibly multiple times), and it will take a good amount of teamwork and positive attitudes to move forward. Even though we can’t always manage situations, we CAN manage our response to them.

The transition back to the workplace will inevitably be laden with bumps and obstacles…but it will also present possibilities. This is an opportunity to reinvent the workplace so it is better and more inclusive than before. Keep that in mind as you go forward, and remember to be as open and honest with your team as possible. You’ve got this!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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