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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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Two women having coffee

Mentoring might seem like a one-sided deal on the surface. You put your heart and soul into training a new hire, you meet with them and provide resources, you answer questions. It all seems very time-consuming and, perhaps, a little annoying, BUT what if I told you mentoring is not a one-sided deal? What if I told you both parties—you and your mentee—benefit from your relationship?

Note: Ultimately, mentoring is about building up confidence and skills in another person. It’s not a selfish act. As a mentor, you’ll put in a few extra hours and some extra effort. A good mentor truly cares about nurturing and guiding their mentee.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few benefits for you! If you’re on the fence about mentoring, these 3 unlikely benefits might push you toward doing it:

1. It’s a chance to set a precedence

If you think the office is in need of some changes, you can set a new precedence with your mentee. If you think there’s too much gossip, a poor work ethic standard, or too many people handing in their assignments after they’re due, NOW is the time to start changing that. Helping instill good habits in your mentee not only helps them in the long run, but improves the office overall.

2. It can reveal knowledge gaps

One of the best ways to prove you know your stuff is to explain what you do to others. If you find you can’t answer all your mentees’ questions or cannot fully explain a certain aspect of your job, that might mean you need to brush up on that particular area.

By the way, if your mentee stumps you with a question, don’t fudge an answer. That’s doing both of you a disservice. Instead, use this as an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and learn something new.

3. It builds your reputation

If you volunteer to be a mentor, you’re demonstrating that you’re willing to go the extra mile to help the company. You also position yourself as a leader—someone who knows their stuff well enough to tutor others. Building this kind of reputation is not only good for your standing in the office, but also makes you more promotion-worthy.

Aside from the benefits I listed, mentoring can be a rewarding endeavor in itself. Helping someone learn and grow within your company is the kind of valuable work that can’t be assigned a price. Mentoring might give you a few personal benefits, but ultimately, it’s about building the competencies and instilling confidence in a new co-worker.

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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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