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Stressed woman at laptop

Prompted by the COVID pandemic, more and more people have realized they can do much of their work away from an office setting. Working from home (WFH) is becoming the new norm, and companies are beginning to realize that employees can be about as productive at home as in the office. With WFH sticking around for the long haul, it’s crucial to establish some personal ground rules.

Why set ground rules?

Because it’s easy to get trampled by unreasonable expectations if you’re not seeing your bosses and co-workers face-to-face. People may expect you to return emails at all hours of the day, jump into a last-minute Zoom meeting, or take on a mountain of new assignments.

Just as it’s important to set personal boundaries in an office setting, so too is it important to set firm WFH boundaries. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Take Charge of Emails

If you’re answering emails at 8:00 or 9:00 at night (or later!), you set the expectation that you are willing to work at all hours of the day. That should not be the case. Even if your work laptop is with you 24/7, it is important to separate your work time from your personal time. That means establishing a timeframe for answering emails and sticking to it.

If your co-workers and supervisor know you’ll generally respond to emails between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., that expectation will be set. If they know you’ll respond to emails at 11:00 at night, that expectation will be set. If, for some reason, it’s easier for you to respond to emails at night (maybe you have small children that need care during the day), schedule your emails to send the next morning. That way, you’re still holding firm to your email parameters.

2. Say No

Many of us get in the habit of saying yes to assignments, even when we are A) short on time or B) the assignment does NOT suit our talents. When their team is working from home, supervisors may not have a good sense of how busy people are and whether or not they are free to take on more work. Because of that, they might assign tasks to those who are already up to their ears in work.

If you find yourself panicking about a new assignment, pause and ask yourself, “Does this fit into my area of expertise? Do I, realistically, have time to take this on?” If you answer no to either question, push back (as respectfully as possible!). You might even reach out to others who are better suited for the assignment and see if they have the time and capacity to take it on (if you do this, remember to return the favor at a later date. Also, let your supervisor know you’re looking for someone else to take on the assignment!).

For more, read this post for tips on saying no.

3. Limit Zoom Meetings

Zoom meetings are tiring. It can be difficult to read social cues through a screen, you’re forced to sit up and stare at the same spot for an extended period of time, and it’s sometimes difficult to get everyone engaged. If you’re involved in back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings, you might find yourself completely wiped out at the end of the day.

To prevent video chat burnout, make an effort to limit your online meetings in a given day. If someone wants to schedule a meeting, ask yourself, “Do we really need to meet about this? Would a simple email suffice?” AND ask yourself, “Have I already reached my Zoom meeting limit for the day? Will scheduling another be productive or relatively useless?” Take charge of your schedule and limit your online video chats.

 

Just like working in an office, WFH should come with firm personal boundaries. If you do not take charge of your time and set healthy parameters, you’ll find that you’re in danger of burnout. Start saying no, setting email boundaries, and limiting video chats today!


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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Defeat the Workplace Jerk

Sometimes the office can feel like junior high. There can be cliques, hurt feelings, and even bullies. Unfortunately, some people never outgrow their habits of picking on others, over-asserting themselves, or acting just plain mean. Instead of trying to change a bully’s ways, focus on yourself and utilize a few strategies to make bullying behavior more bearable.

NOTE: If bullying is emotionally or physically damaging, that’s MORE than bullying. It’s harassment and should be reported.

1. Surround yourself with positive allies

Strength in numbers! I think (and hope!) you’ll find that the majority of people you encounter in the workplace are perfectly decent, respectful human beings. Find those people and befriend them. Life is too short to try to befriend and change the office bully. Surround yourself with positive influences and you’ll find your days at the office much more enjoyable.

2. Think “big picture”

Will the annoying behavior of an office jerk affect you tomorrow? Next week? Think in terms of the big picture and don’t let a few irritations get to you. You’re bigger and better than that.

3. Minimize the bully

Bob Sutton, author of The A**hole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, suggests thinking about workplace bullies like bugs in a jar—they are fascinating specimens that you can examine from a dispassionate distance! When you think about it, bullying really is clownish behavior. It’s someone trying to scrabble up to the top of the heap by being cruel or downright nasty. When you think about bullying behavior as something immature and ridiculous (what is that bug doing in its little jar?!), then the behavior seems less harmful and more laughable.

4. Build up your reservoir of confidence

Don’t let bullies diminish you. Build up your confidence before and after you meet with a bully by reciting positive affirmations, talking with others who are positive and affirming, or practicing your power pose. Know that you ARE a worthy person and a valuable contributor and no single person can change that.

5. Report it

If the bullying is so bad that it is inhibiting your ability to work and thrive, you need to report it. Sure, everyone has their moments, but if those moments are more like months, something needs to be done. If you feel comfortable talking with the bully, you may want to sit down with him/her first and let them know what’s on your mind. If you are afraid of a nasty backlash, go directly to the bully’s supervisor. No one should feel threatened or belittled at work. If you’ve tried the first four tactics and things are still not improving with your bully, it’s time to formally report their awful behavior.

 

Don’t take bullying lying down! Start with these five strategies and, if you find they’re not working, there’s absolutely no shame in taking action and reporting the toxic individual.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Lessons from fireworks

Yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S. and fireworks lit up the night sky. It’s a holiday that equalizes and unites us—we can all gather and enjoy the same display, side by side.

What is it about fireworks that excites us? That makes us want to shoot them across the sky year after year? There is something about the very nature of a firework that is inspirational. Here are five reasons you should aim to be more like a firework:

1. Fireworks illuminate

When the mood is dark, be the light-bearer. When your team is feeling exhausted or overwhelmingly negative, be the one to lift others up and energize the room.

Remember, a single firework has the power to light up the night sky. In the same way, you can make a difference with a single kind act, a sentence of truth, or a positive statement.

2. Fireworks are bold

Pop! Boom! Flash! Fireworks are anything but shy. Take a page from their book and practice being bold. Stand up for your ideas and values; be a strong leader; bounce back from rejection. Even if you project confidence when you’re not feeling it, you’ll eventually start to believe in yourself and your capabilities.

3. Fireworks aim high

Dream big. We each only get a limited amount of time, so why not make the most of it? Your goals are worth pursuing.

4. Fireworks are colorful

There is value in every personality type. Whether you tend to be analytical, bubbly, empathetic, or take-charge, you are uniquely equipped to contribute to the workplace. Let your authentic self shine and show your true colors! (Find out more about getting in touch with your deeper self).

5. Fireworks unite us

If you’re in a leadership position, aim to bring people together for a common purpose. Celebrate diverse personalities, talents, and perspectives, instead of demanding that everyone be the same. Strive for unity, but respect differences.

If you’re part of a work team, focus on ways to be inclusive and welcoming. Make an effort to stand up for others and make sure everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard. Reject gossip, and be a positive force on your team.

 

We can learn a surprising number of lessons from fireworks! How will you sparkle this year? How will you live boldly and be a positive force?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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