What time is it in this global village?

advantage of hiring virtual assistanceRemote support was pretty much non-existent 25 years ago. Facebook didn’t exist 20 years ago. Times, they are a’changing…

Remote work has grown in popularity over the last 5-10 years and more so with the pandemic we’ve been dealing with the past 2+ years, it’s become a necessity. The Internet and evolving technology drive the ability for remote support workers to be just that: “remote”.  That can mean being remote locally or remote internationally; it can mean telecommuting for employees or freelancing as a contractor from anywhere on the planet for clients anywhere on the planet. The world has become larger and smaller at the same time: larger because remote working can easily tap into new markets around the world and increase competition (which can be a good thing); smaller because it takes less time and cost to do so.

It wasn’t too long ago that the average person didn’t know too much about video meetings or needed an international calling plan. Today, companies are expanding their enterprises globally without ever leaving their hometown; hiring remote employees who are local to new markets gives enterprise an edge. While this can be a very cost-effective way to conduct business, it takes more than just hiring people to work for you; it takes a thorough review of all factors that come into play for all stakeholders. It’s important to know the legal and accounting aspects of these relationships as well as being mindful of language barriers of both employees and clients.

Even in spite of the pandemic, the world is open for new opportunities.  With ever-evolving technology and lower costs to connect, open your mind to the endless possibilities that are happening around the world and around the clock.

Masters As Teachers

Many organizations start with a great idea that will change the world and, through time and effort, they will evolve to be the best in their field. Though you might not think of it these terms, but what they’re doing, what they’re actually reaching for, is “mastery”.

You know this, because you have steered your non-profit through adversity and success, put in the hours of work, training, research, and sweat to make a difference. I don’t have to tell you that becoming the ‘master of business’ requires hard work. Malcom Gladwell would tell you that it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to master a skill.

Imagine watching the best Formula One driver, or the most incredible ballerina. They make their chosen trade look so easy and accessible. It is only when you attempt to duplicate the complex beauty of the Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy (reported to be one of the most difficult roles to dance) or harness 1000 horsepower around a turn pulling 3 G’s in a Formula-1 car, you realize that just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is.

And that may be true for something like ballet or the violin where the skill is quantifiable. Becoming a master of your non-profit or association is much more than “time in” on any endeavour.

As I look around there are any number of organizations providing services to their members, value to their donors, exposure to their sponsors in any number of ways. What separates the successful from those who have become a master at their industry is a gritty combination of discipline, hard work, humility and generosity. Most of us would agree with the first three, but generosity?

There’s an old adage, “if you want to learn something well, teach it to someone else”. In order to teach well, it requires that you face your presuppositions about things, unearth those ideas that you didn’t even realize you believe. Being the master of any subject (even one that you invented) requires you to be able to objectively look at whatever you’re doing and seeing ways it can be improved. To teach someone else what you know requires a certain generosity. After so many years of ‘doing you’, that can be difficult, but that generosity has the reward of unearthing flaws in your system in order to improve them, and you cannot master what you think is perfect.

Now expanding on the generosity of teaching and of talent development, you gain the opportunity to:

  1. Invest: You are investing time leading to growth as an organization and investing in another person. How great is that?! Can you imagine if Bill Gates just did it all himself without bringing in a team? Bringing in others to be a part of your team grows your organization and its mandate.
    2. Discover Improvements: By letting others in on your system of doing things and teaching them how to do what you do they may discover and share new ideas and improvements you had not initially thought of. (another ‘set of eyes’ is always a good thing)
    3. Trust and Grow: By trusting your team to deliver, instead of always just yourself, you free up time to do more and expand.

So while you’re changing the world, be generous, develop your talent base and grow!

 

The Good, the Not that Bad and the Manageable Side of Remote Work

If you’re one of those lucky workers out there who has found a place that suits you, whether it be in-office, remote or a hybrid of the two, congratulations! Having a place that you feel productive, content and comfortable can allow your talents to flourish and let you be your best is not always easy to accomplish.

I’ve operated my remote support agency for nearly 18 years.  It took me a while to get used to working from an office set up in my personal space.  I did eventually get used to a concept called ‘boundaries’ and now I wouldn’t work anywhere else.  I’m the most productive in a quiet environment with no distractions.  But that’s me; you will likely have a much different set of working environment needs than I do.  And that is totally okay.

Having to live with a global pandemic these past almost two years has forced everyone to re-examine how and where work is completed.  We’ve had to go that extra step and actually ask employees (rather than presume) what environment would help them be the most productive in their job.  We’ve had to cross the line between a person’s personal needs and their work needs, and instead of saying in the interview ‘this is what you’re required to do, when and where’, we now ask in the interview, ‘what environment are you able to provide these deliverables?’ In this article, let’s look at the good, the not so bad and the manageable side of being a remote worker.

The Good

Forcing everyone to work remotely, especially last year, has helped us learn more about ourselves and what working environment we thrive in; doing so has also shown us what working environment we do not thrive in.  This in itself is a great learning point and also shifts the relationship between employer and employee; just by asking what would help their employee get through their workday and by putting a telework agreement in place, tells the employee that their employer trusts them to complete their work, without being monitored. This alone can be a much-needed motivation boost. The remote worker may feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work knowing that they are in control, leading to a boost in productivity. Productivity can also result from the ability to work at a flexible schedule, taking advantage of more productive periods of the day rather than being in an office from 9 to 5 and being ‘on’ all the time.  More ‘points’ scored there!

Some remote workers find they have a better sense of well-being with no commute to provide an extra source of stress, eating home-made lunches instead of office take-out and perhaps taking some of the old commute time and turning it into a work-out or walk.  Even more points! 

The Not So Bad

If working remotely suits you, as with any job, you need to be prepared. This includes making sure you have the proper tools to be a productive, content and comfortable worker.  Working in a traditional office comes with many things that the worker is not responsible for providing, so it is important to understand what you will provide.  For example, you may have a desk and chair at home somewhere, high speed Internet and some software.  You need to ask what your employer will provide at their cost or pay you for, e.g. they may now reimburse your monthly Internet bill.

The Manageable

For all of these wonderful benefits of being a remote worker, there are some pitfalls that are important to address. While technology issues and a shortage of physical supplies or equipment may prove challenging, the solution for these is a simple fix, purchase or pick up from the office. However, there are some challenges that take a little bit more work and a little more effort to start some good remote worker habits.

 Managing procrastination, distraction and time are key to get you in the best situation to be successful. Yes, it is true that these are also needed in the traditional office, but these things are even more important when you’re working remotely. Working in a traditional office when distracted or under the curse of procrastination can be managed easily as there are other people around you still working which can give you that little extra push to get back on track, but when you’re alone this is more of a challenge.

Either way, creating work habits that are conducive to getting the job done but leaving it when the work-day is over is incredibly important in being a successful remote worker. Consider having a closed office, letting family and friends know your work schedule (a.k.a. those ‘boundaries’), and having a good pair of headphones to cut down on noise will all help.

It’s likely that the time between work and home have now blended together, so leaving the home tasks for after work and leaving the work when it is time to take care of personal tasks can help (and stick to it!). For more ideas on dealing with distraction, flex-jobs has a quick list of solutions.

For further insights, purchase my new e-book ‘Humans Working Remotely: Guiding Success for the Current Future’. It’s available to purchase here: https://virtualworks.ca/product/humans-working-remotely/

The Power of Time

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” – Anthony Robbins

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

These two great quotes are making the same point while coming from different directions; the authors are saying that our lives are in our own hands and that we should look at all the parts of our lives honestly and make conscious choices confidently so that we may benefit.

We have the power to change our lives by using what we already have inside ourselves: Tony Robbins knows that lack of self-confidence often holds us back; Ralph Waldo Emerson shows us that it’s what’s inside of us that counts more than the past and the future.

Even though they haven’t written books called “Time Management”, these authors teach us a lot about successful time management and successful life management.

The past 19 months have taught us that time can stand still, expand to fill how long it takes a task to be done, stretch out endlessly before us or reduce itself so small that there simply isn’t enough of it.  Yet, we all still have 24 hours in a day.

Another great quote is from David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” and “Ready for Anything”. He gets right to the point when he says, “Time is just time, you can’t mismanage it. What that really means is that you mismanaged the agreement you had with yourself about what you should have accomplished.” He goes on to say that time management is really a complex issue of self-management where work needs to be captured, clarified, organized and reviewed in line with your purpose, values, vision, goals, and strategies. When these things are in line, you’ll feel good about how you’re managing time.

It’s really that simple.

Coping With Unexpected Change

It’s inevitable. Change will happen whether you are expecting it, or not, in your personal lives, in society and in the workplace. Generally speaking, when we expect a change, it is more manageable to deal with and depending on what it is, it can be a good thing. Unexpected change is the one that takes a little more effort to get through as it may require a re-adaption to processes, environments and people around us.

So, what are some things we can do to manage unexpected change? We can’t plan for it. Forbes Magazine touches on a few methods to deal with change in the workplace, such as preparation calming fears, letting go of perfection, and so on.

  • Take a look at the situation objectively, removing thoughts that these changes are directed toward you.
  • Think of the potential that can grow from this change. Think positively about the “surprise”.
  • Keep up to date those things that have not changed by continuing to take care of yourself and maintaining your routines.

When change happens, it might be wise to take a look at the entire situation from an objective standpoint. Instead of focusing on how this is affecting you as an individual, take a look at the big picture. Was it perhaps necessary from an organization standpoint for your workplace to change in order to keep up with a changing industry? Are there redundancies your employer is trying to work with? At times, we may look at changes at work and think “What did I do to deserve this?”, but in fact it may not have been something you did or didn’t do, but something that just happens in the course of running an enterprise. No, it is not pretty and sometimes human beings have to make difficult decisions.

Consider that the changes at work are an open door to something new. Although change may be scary and it may not always be easy to flip around a negative impression already established, it may be needed to help you move forward. The opportunity to grow can found by moving past fears you may have about the change to come and making a decision that this change is going to be good. Maybe there is an opportunity to learn a new skill within your job as a result of this change, or maybe the new skills can be learned in leaving this job for another one. Either way this can be an opportunity to further develop your skillset and knowledge. If you are leaving to find a new opportunity, what you have learned in this job can help you determine the things you like or may not like in going to the next job.

During a time of work change it is very important to keep up with personal care and maintaining your regular routines. You might think “Well I’m not going into work so why should I bother getting up early?” Maintaining your schedule and using the time that would have been at work doing something productive can help stave off negative feelings and allow you to keep a sense of consistency during a time that may be anything but consistent. Regardless of the situation, stay strong and forge on to a better path carved out for you by change.

Say what?

Individuals with high EQ (emotional intelligence) are most likely to be strong, effective business #leaders. They realize that trusting relationships built on diplomacy and respect is the heart of both individual success and business #productivity.

Success in business is greatly impacted – for better or worse – by the way in which we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also greatly dependent on this very same skill. Becoming a good communicator takes practice. It requires consistent attention and effort on your part, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.

Dr. John Lund, a lead researcher in interpersonal #communication and an author in identification studies, conducted a significant part of research involved in identifying patterns of speech and differences in how men and women communicate.

There is no doubt that we can all benefit from Dr. Lund’s tips on how to better approach people when we begin a conversation, as well as his advice that we “don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.”

Take a genuine interest in others. Really tune in to what the other person is saying and don’t think up questions while they’re talking. Think about what they’ve said, ask thoughtful questions and provide considerate answers. Always make an effort to remember names, dates and important life events. If you’re not good at this skill, keep practicing!

Being “liked” or having a “wonderful personality” are highly prized attributes, especially in today’s electronic environs. Supreme communicators also have a keen ability to shift gears when the context calls for it; they respond accordingly to what current situations require.

Good judgment is a key people-skill that comes directly from learning, listening to others and observing the world around you. It allows you to wisely select friends and associates, determine reactions and responses and make sound decisions.

To create trust and respect in others, people need to know that their point of view and feedback will be considered and used. Being known as someone who keeps an open mind also makes you more approachable and easier to work with.

The saying “honesty is the best policy” is not only true, it’s essential in building trust among your peers and clientele. Once it’s lost, it’s almost impossible to regain.

Did you know that when someone else communicates with us, the way we interpret their message is based on three things:

  • 55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.
  • 37% is based on the tone of their voice.
  • 8% is based on the words they say.

Dr. Lund provides us with the above percentages which are the averages across both men and women together. If you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expressions and body language and even less on the words. This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use. A little test: next time you are on the phone look at yourself in the mirror to assess how your body language reacts to what you are actually saying. This will help you become more aware of how you are actually reacting to the conversation.