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Help! I’m in a Funk

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Winter blues. The February Funk. It’s all real. The holidays are over, maybe you’re chugging through a new years resolution (or abandoned one…), are over the weather, or are just over it. Whatever the reason there is weird energy in your life and it is bleeding into your work.

The doldrums of winter and the mood changes they bring isn’t something to scoff at. These feelings can get worse when the energy is bred around a company. And they can get even worse when you are alone and you’re in your home office and own head without human contact for hours, sometimes days on end.

Getting through these feelings can be tricky in general but how do you navigate “I’m so over this” attitudes that can get dialed up in Q1 when you’re remote??

Here are 5 things you can do when you’re in the funk and spring/summer feels just oh so far away:

1. Take stock of your mood.

First things first, do a quick self-assessment of your mood. Are you annoyed about a project being paused? Did your end of year review not go as well as you hoped? Was your Valentine’s Day lacking? Are you simply over the cold weather? Or are there some deeper issues at play here? There’s no right or wrong answer but understanding the crux of where your mood (and sometimes your ‘tude) is coming from is important.

2. Take action: find ways to be productive.

In a funk productivity can be one of the first things to dwindle. Finding small tasks to check off your to-do list can re-set your mind and remind you that you can be productive. The bigger the funk you’re in (as assessed by #1) the smaller you may want to start. Maybe it’s sending the emails that have been stuck in draft limbo for days or starting your Wednesday morning with a good sweep of the kitchen floor. We get a sense of accomplishment completing even the smallest of tasks and momentum can build from here.

*Note: If you think you’re battling depression, seasonal or otherwise, this action may be to contact a professional.

3. Take PTO.

I have a hard and fast rule with myself that I take PTO and make extra time for myself in Q1 every year. This helps me (a) have something to look forward to during the funkiest of days and (b) gives me time away, be it physical or mental.

It’s easy to save up your PTO for the warmer months and all those obligations you have but I say no! Your PTO is yours so ditch any feelings of needing to store it for all those summer weddings or the family vacation you’re expected to go on. A few days in March or January can literally change your outlook on the whole year.

4. Connect.

One the reasons for doldrums and monotony when you work remotely is because you often can’t escape. Ironically enough one of my tricks to get around this is to make more of a point to connect. What do I mean? Reach out to a coworker and ask to just catch up. I’ve gotten into the habit of having “coffee” with a coworker I’m close with every few weeks. We talk about our teams and projects but we also simply catch up, the way we would if we were at actual coffee one random February morning in the same office.

5. Own it.

When in doubt own it. Tell people–friends, family, a coworker, someone you happen to make idle chatter with at Starbucks–that you’re in a funk. Saying something out loud can do more good than we realize and can offer some sense of relief.


What do you do when you have the winter blues? Share in the comments below.

How to Have a Hard Conversation When You’re Remote

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Hopefully you have a job (remote or not!) that you enjoy most of the time, find fulfillment in, and interact with engaging and supportive colleagues. But even the most satisfied professionals have bad days and are faced with difficult situations.

But what happens when a bad day or difficult situation goes beyond a one time occurrence? Maybe a colleague continually undercuts your ideas or intentionally leaves you out of conversations, your management team is not providing the support and runway you need to grow, or perhaps a direct report is challenging you in inappropriate ways.

While it can be intimidating, when a problem arises in the working world you must face it head on. But factor in the distance of working remotely or from a different office and it can be even more difficult.

So how do you handle this? Here are 6 tips to have a difficult conversation when you’re not in the office.

1. Have a live conversation

Intonation and inflection matter so avoid email or IM. Give the person and the situation the courtesy it deserves and have a conversation. One challenge of not being in the office is not being able to simply pop by someone’s desk or office. If you need to connect with someone who has a challenging schedule send a short email indicating you’d like to discuss a specific topic, succinctly say what that topic is, and grab time on that person’s calendar.

2. Come prepared

Clear, concise thoughts are much more powerful than spouting out grievances. Spend time detailing what the situation and problem at hand is; have short examples that you can cite if pressed. Then spend time thinking about what you believe the remedy should be. Especially if you’re going to an executive with an issue one of the first questions she is likely to you is how it can be fixed. You don’t have to have the full solution but you don’t want to fumble over your words here.

3. Remember your EQ

Along with being prepared for the conversation, your thoughts on how something can improve, and setting up the best environment possible for the discussion, don’t forget to bring your EQ or emotional intelligence. EQ is most certainly one of the professional buzzwords of the day but it’s for good reason: it matters. There are loads of different definitions out there, but one way I like to think about it particularly in terms of a difficult conversation is being a full person. When you have to face conflict, especially if there’s an added barrier like different offices or a remote worker, keep in mind that we’re all people. This person who has been seemingly actively keeping you out of a project might have some very real fears about his job security, heightened by the new baby he just had. You certainly don’t want to look past issues, but it’s important to aim to see the full picture, especially when you’re not experiencing the “full picture” of the office each day.

4. Get clear on your expectations

Before any big conversation (work meeting, personal chat, you name it!) you should have an idea of what you’re looking for as a result. You can’t control what the answer or other person’s point of view will be, but you can have an idea of what you will discuss and come to resolution on. Additionally you can have an idea of what you would like in your ideal situation. It’s important to have an understanding and idea of this going into a challenging conversation, especially one you’re driving.

5. Ask for feedback

You’re not perfect. Having a difficult situation to should remind you of the fact that no one is perfect. Talking about something unideal is a great time to learn more about how you can grow and improve as a professional. Plus asking for feedback will demonstrate to your counterpart that you’re

6. If it’s a really sensitive matter and you can, travel.

Some things–when possible–are best done in person. If you’re dealing with a highly sensitive subject, or need to involve upper management, or simply need to be able to look someone in the eye during a conversation do it in person if you can. Trust your gut and if you feel it’s necessary–and it’s possible with your work setup–make the trip.


How have you handled a difficult situation when not being in the office?

10 Not So Obvious Work From Home Tips

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If you work remotely regularly, you likely know the mainstays to be effective: that it’s critical to have a dedicated workspace and to avoid distractions like Netflix (if you don’t know that already, jot those down…) But what are some other not so obvious things you should do to set yourself up to be successful and effective while working remotely? How can you organize your day and mind to perform at your best from your home?

Here are 10 tips:

1. Structure your day

The flexibility of working from home can actually work against you if you’re not careful. It’s important to keep some form of schedule so that your days don’t bleed into each other. This goes beyond your Monday – Friday meeting schedule to include when you start and stop your day, when and where you take lunch, and whether you have regular physical activity scheduled. These are all things that come more naturally when you go to and from an office daily so try to find and maintain the right structure for you.

2. Watch out for snacking

Here’s the thing: if you work remotely full-time or any regular amount you will run the risk of upping your caloric intake by constant grazing. It’s also an easy way to procrastinate on any projects you’re dreading. Either way, close proximity to your refrigerator is an unspoken downside of working remotely. Meal planning can do wonders for those who work at home. No need to get obsessive but a rough idea of what your lunches and snacks (plural!) will be is key. And speaking of that:

3. But Take lunch

When you’re in a zone, jammed with meetings and deadlines, and so close to your kitchen where you can just zap leftovers in your microwave, it’s easy to opt to work through lunch rather than take a meaningful break. But just like it’s critical to take a lunch break at an office, it’s extremely important to force yourself away from your work at home set-up. Try eating lunch out on your front steps (or at least on your kitchen table). And meeting friends for lunch once or twice a week is a great reset if your budget can handle it.

4. Accomplish three things everyday

It’s hard to know where to start and stop, so make a list of three big to-dos you want to get off your plate each day. Just three. When you finish them, you’ll have concrete proof of your progress. This is something anyone can do whether you work from home or an office, but when you’re remote, you often have to fuel your own motivation even more so. Having a clear focus for your day is very powerful.

5. Have a morning routine

Do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Repeat: do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Sure you can literally roll out of bed and log onto your computer (you can technically pop open your computer from your bed!) but this will catch up with you. Plus you never know if someone added an earlier meeting to your schedule!

6. Invest in a good headset and/or headphones

OK, this one may be a tad obvious to WFH vets but a good headset is worth its weight in gold if you’re on the phone all day and don’t want to be relegated to your desk. Your company may even cover this for you so find out your options! For those of you not on the phone (like writers), noise canceling headphones are a huge plus for those days when the lawn maintenance crew hits your yard at 9AM or when you have to work out of a crowded coffee shop.

7. Get out of the house

I once heard about a freelancer who during one especially cold winter didn’t leave her apartment for 2 weeks. While that may have been an exaggeration, I can see how it happens. It’s really easy to get caught up in a fury of work, look up, and realize it’s nearly 4 pm and you haven’t left your home. Make it a point to leave your home every day during the workday.

8. Take breaks

While you’re at it, take an actual morning and/or afternoon break. When you go into an office every day, breaks are part of your routine and it’s important to keep this up even when you’re remote. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you’re at home you need to constantly prove to your manager and everyone else you work with that you are in fact at your computer, doing work. Here’s the thing: they’re going to know whether you’re working or not and unless you prove them wrong they’re going to assume you’re getting your work done. And since they’re reasonable enough to be open to your flexible work arrangement they will understand that even with a remote work set-up you need to pause for a moment every once and a while.

9. Have plans at night

It’s easy to get tired during the week and make excuses to not see friends and family or go on that date, but when you work remotely and don’t see people all day it’s even more important to get out during the week. A dinner, walk, happy hour, or a gym class with friends also becomes more meaningful when it’s the main social interaction you have all day.

10. Co-work with a friend

One of the benefits of working from home is that you are able to avoid common distractions of an office including say, chatty coworkers. But sometimes people are nice. And working around someone can be a nice break and can be a boost of motivation when you see your friend killing her day from across the room.

Working from home is one of the biggest benefits of a hyper-connected society and workforce. But making it work for—not against—you is the key to your success in doing it!

* * *

Work from home? What are your best tips?

This post originally appeared on Career Contessa. Book a career mentor session with Jane Scudder directly through Career Contessa’s Hire A Mentor service.

How to Build Strong Relationships With Colleagues When Remote

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When you work remotely a big challenge can be building strong relationships with your colleagues. This can be hard even when you do go into an office every day! But without sharing a work space you don’t have the opportunity to grow a friendship over the coffee machine, lunches, or after hours drinks.

We’re social creatures by nature but beyond the instinct for human connection, not having a strong relationship with the people you work with can work hurt you. We’ve all heard about the positive impacts having a “work best friend” brings with it. On top of this being friendly with a coworker may make it more likely for information to be shared with you or that you are top of mind when a new project comes up. It’s often not to be deceitful, it’s simply that people gravitate towards interacting with those who they enjoy.

This holds true not just for my fellow remote workers. Anyone who works at a company with multiple offices or who works with external vendors and spends a lot of time on the phone or emailing them can relate to the challenge, but very real need, to forge a relationship virtually.

So how do you do it? Here are my 6 go-to ways to begin to grow a strong working relationship when you don’t share a work-space with someone:

  1. Try. In my experience the number one way you can build a strong relationship with coworkers while remote is to put in the effort. Really try: ask questions. Remember answers and ask follow ups. Find common ground.
  2. Be friendly, in a way genuine to you. Going hand-in-hand with trying is to be friendly. It amazes me how quickly people in the workplace forget what a long way kindness goes. I’m friendly, open, and genuinely interested in people. I understand that not everyone is me so maybe being a gregarious version of yourself isn’t right for you. That’s okay, you don’t need to become overnight obsessed with your coworkers (in fact, don’t…) but you do need make an effort to be a person who others want to engage with.
  3. Walk around and talk with your hands. Maybe you’re thinking, “I get it. I need to work on this, but how exactly might I actually change this behavior?” One of my secrets is to actually pretend I’m engaging with someone in person. I walk around, I talk with my hands, I let me body talk the way it would if I were in fact face-to-face with someone.
  4. Capitalize on face-time. If you travel at all with coworkers or to different offices make the most of this time. Plan in advance: share your travel plans with those you work with, schedule time with colleagues, set up lunches and dinners. It will make your work trip more exhausting but think of all the energy you save while not working in an office regularly!
  5. Make real talk. I hate small talk. I especially hate small talk for the first 5 minutes of a 30 minute call when I have a busy day. What don’t I hate? Real talk for the first few minutes of a call even when I have a busy day. Why? Because I believe that being part of a social society, a team, a company, a working relationship requires asking questions and getting to know someone over time. Don’t spend 20 minutes talking about your weekends but do put in effort to slowly get to know those you work with, over time this will build up to a relationship.
  6. Suck it up. Maybe this concept is exhausting to you. Maybe you actually do not care about your coworkers. My response to that is simple: suck it up. You’re on a team–or at least engage with others daily,  you’re a member of a social society, you need to care about this stuff, and if you just don’t care you need to suck it up a few times a day or week.

All relationships require effort. Just because you share a cube wall with someone doesn’t mean you’ll be best friends and just because you work 1,000 miles away from someone doesn’t mean you can’t be close. Each requires effort.

What ways have you found to help form relationships while working from home? Share in the comments below.

5 tips to make working from a coffee shop more productive

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When you work from home you’re bound to get stir-crazy every now and then. You’re in the same space, all day, every day. You’re there before, during, and after you login and logout; Monday – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You sleep, eat, and relax there. You get the point. Yes, while it’s certainly nice to be in your own space, when you’re there all the time it can take a toll.

The good news is if you’re a remote employee you likely have the option to take your work on the go and get out of the house at times. Shared workspaces are popping up more and more which are a great option but if you’re not keen on paying for a place to work (or don’t want to be in an office) there’s nothing like a bustling coffee shop for a change of pace and to get your creative juices flowing. But since coffee shops are not your own space and because they’re all a little different, there are a few things you should take into consideration before planning to tackle a whole, or part of an, 8 hour workday at one.

Here are 5 tips to have the most productive day possible when you work from your local caffeine watering hole:

  1. Don’t do it when you have a ton of calls. Coffee shops are great. They have freshly brewed specialty drinks and make drip better than you probably do at home, you can get your sugar fix with a tasty pastry (if you’re lucky maybe they have good Quiche), plus they’re loaded with personality and energy, and have people watching–great, great people watching. They also have the noises and chaos of coffee beans being ground, lattes and smoothies being made, and people in the middle of conversations. If you have a long block of phone calls it might be best to find a more suitable, quiet location; the participants on the call you’re leading will thank you.
  2. Scope it out, and specifically test out the wifi. Again, coffee shops are great. They have all of the above plus free wifi. But not all wifi is created equal. And for the remote employee who relies on a strong internet connection, connectivity problems can ruin an otherwise productive day. Whenever possible test out the wifi with your work device(s) before you plan to camp out somewhere. Pro-tip: go even further and test out logging into your VPN if you have it. You want to be sure that you don’t have any issues connecting to a specific network, especially if it’s non-secured. If you have any problems inquire with your IT department; spare your baristas from your complaints and request to reset the router, it’s likely not the coffee shop but rather your machine/restrictions and can often be solved with a few tweaks to your VPN login settings (I couldn’t tell you what exactly since I contacted my IT team 🙂 )
  3. Be sure the space will suit you. When you’re checking out the wifi and Quiche situation also spend a moment taking in the general lay of the land. What’s the atmosphere like? Specifically what are the workspaces like that you’ll have access to? Will you be able to have your own counter or does the shop have a shared space culture so even if you arrive first and score the big table in the back there’s a chance college students will come join you and have a study group a foot away? Does this even matter to you? Only you know what you need to work/function best. Consider this before you change your work environment even just for a morning.
  4. Come prepared….with snacks. Paying for a few cups of Joe a day can add up. Not to mention that specialty drink, a bottle of water, the banana that was perfectly ripe, a single pack of cashews during your mid-afternoon slump, and the artisan avocado toast you had to have after seeing the guy next to you devour his. Just like you might plan to bring snacks and a lunch to an office plan for meals while working from a coffee shop. It’s poor form to bring your own coffee but bringing a sandwich and some light fare is completely acceptable and will keep you (and your wallet) fueled and full.
  5. Don’t forget your juice. Along with a spotty internet connection one thing that can really put a damper in your attempt to work away from your desk is when you’re in a groove on a project only to get an alert that your battery is low. No problem, right? Simply dig into your bag to grab your charger but, boom! Not there. Do yourself a favor and always double check that you have all your power cords. Don’t think that you’re going to be out of the house long enough to need to re-charge? Bring it anyway. Yes, bring your phone charger too.

What are your go-to ways to make working from a coffee shop work for you? Am I the only one who takes all of this into consideration before deciding to work from somewhere other than my home office for the day? Share tips, tricks, and thoughts in the comments below!

Managing the urge to do housework while working remotely

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When you work from home it’s common to want to tackle a few chores around the house. And it’s easy to see why: When you’re working down the hall from the laundry room why not throw in a load in between calls or vacuum the living room during your lunch break rather than on Sunday afternoon? You do one small chore here and there, which seems harmless enough but overtime your lunch break to-do list might comprise things that could take an entire Saturday! This can leave you feeling strapped for time, stressed, and if you share a living space with a partner, family, or friends even a bit resentful. Oh and on top of this your work may suffer!

So how do you find the right balance between your work and housework, while working from home? What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by the large list of chores you’ve put made for yourself as a WFH employee? Here are a few tips:

  1. Remember that before you were remote you got all (or most!) of your housework done. When you were heading into the office or worked in a more “traditional” I’m assuming you found time to wash the sheets. You found time outside of your workday then and can do so now.
  2. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you should be focused on the home. Sure it can seem really appealing to get some housework or errands done so you have more free time to yourself on the weekend but there’s something to be said about not cramming 10 different tasks into your already packed workday. On top of this it’s really important to remember that you’re still working. A real-life job. That pays you. So, that work needs to get done.
  3. Remember that real breaks are important. Your body needs time in between meetings and large blocks of work. Popping outside to mow the lawn doesn’t count. If you’re constantly finding things to do during breaks it’s not really a break since your mind isn’t being given the spare to clear. Allow yourself 15 minutes for a coffee without wiping down the kitchen counters. Trust me.
  4. Cut yourself some slack and make sure others do as well. I live alone so if the sink is full of dirty dishes at 6 pm because I had a day full of meetings and I’m tired after work I’m okay with it. Give yourself this wiggle room and if you share a living space be sure your partner, family, or roommates do as well. Have a conversation about expectations with those you share a space with; it always surprises me that even the most well-intentioned and empathetic of people can forget that you’re working a job and can’t just do all the housework during your 9-5.
  5. When you get overwhelmed just stop. You may have noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus these past few weeks. During July and early August I had a lot going on in my full-time job, my career coaching side business, oh and I relocated from Atlanta to Chicago (more on the move as a remote employee another time!) I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. I had to prioritize and I decided to pull back in blogging for a bit while I got through the move. When you sense yourself getting overwhelmed and taking on too much hit pause, regroup, and prioritize. Don’t let your flexibility make you become inflexible.

Does this ring true for anyone else? Do you find yourself taking on housework here and there while teleworking? Is this a problem for you or does it work? Share in the comments below!

5 Reasons Why You Must Take Time Off As A Remote Worker

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One of the biggest perks of working from home is that by being able to work from anywhere you can work, well, anywhere, including while traveling. While this is a great feature of being remote (that I clearly take advantage of) it doesn’t mean that the work from home employee does not need a true vacation.

I just got back from an 18-day trip out west. You may be thinking “18 days!!???!!” That’s right, 18 days. For a good part of it I worked from coffee shops and homes of my friends in the northwest US, but for an equally big part of it I was on PTO.

Some remote workers may see it as a waste of PTO since they don’t have to take time to get away. I support working through travel (read more here) but sometimes you need a true break. A friend of mine who also works remotely recently told me he hasn’t taken PTO in over a year. A year without vacation. He seemed proud of this but in my opinion, unless you are a small business owner whose company will literally stop and crumble to the ground in your absence (which is a different problem), not taking time off is doing it wrong. Here are 5 reasons why you MUST take vacation time, even when your time away is time away from a home office:

1. Your vacation days = your $$. We hear a lot about unused vacation days. (Side-note: one of my favorite ads is the MasterCard ad “One More Day” in which kids are shocked that their parents not using all their vacation days.) On top of the fact that vacation is earned, the full picture is that vacation days are part of your compensation if you are a salaried employee. Think about vacation as money: breakdown your salary into what it would be on an hourly basis. For each hour (or 8 hours, for one workday) you don’t use that is money you are throwing away. When you work without taking your paid time off you are lessening your paycheck.

2. Without you taking it your PTO just sits there, or worse disappears! Yes, some PTO rolls over and some companies have a policy of paying you out for unused days when you leave (though check your terms on both of these items) but unless you are about to resign or are planning on rolling days for a big trip, your unused time literally sits, proverbially, “there” and oftentimes if you don’t use it, it will be taken away from you. Use it or lose it, literally.

3. Rest is essential. No one, not even my small business-owning, midnight oil burning, rock-star of a father, can go without rest and true time off. It’s not good for the mind, body, or soul; which all have direct impacts on your performance at work. Even if you are your own boss you still need rest.

4. Time off helps you re-center and re-prioritize. Down-time helps you clear your head and recharge within your personal life. Beyond its head-clearing effect, it can actually help you improve at work. There have been many times I’ve returned from a trips and seen a certain problem in an entirely new light. Taking the time to get out of your own headspace and day-to-day world, seeing fantastic new places, and experiencing the greatness in life resets you. Once seemingly unsolvable issues become easily fixed, or if not easily fixed then manageable.

5. Sometimes you just need to take the time off to enjoy a trip. Sure you can work from coffee shops from different places while traveling (again, I do this ALL the time) but sometimes you need the time to do things like drive from Idaho to Montana to Wyoming, back to Idaho, then back to Wyoming, then to Colorado in a week. Or hike and bike or camp or ski or surf and sail or hit the tiki bar. Sometimes you just want to not feel obligated to check your email. THIS IS ALL OKAY. YOU HAVE VACATION DAYS SO YOU CAN DO ALL THESE THINGS ON A RANDOM TUESDAY DURING ANY MONTH OF THE YEAR. BEING ABLE TO WORK REMOTELY DOES NOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM YOU.

Don’t believe me and my use of caps lock? Maybe some of the killer things I’ve been doing on my vacation in the pictures below and on my Instagram will help convince you:


Food trucks in Portland, OR


Multnomah Falls near Portland, OR


View of Puget Sound from the Cascades Train en route to Seattle


Obligatory picture of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park in Queen Anne


Obligatory picture of the Public Market


Obligatory picture of the Seattle skyline from the ferry to West Seattle (clearly did lots of obligatory Seattle things)

**Note: My PTO started after leaving Seattle


#selfiefail at Lava Lake a little south of Bozeman, MT


Antique sheepherder’s wagon in Belgrade, MT


Covered wagon again because it was just too cool


Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park


Scenic views of Yellowstone


The Grand Tetons


Tetons again


The Working Girl From Home–from the Grand Tetons–on vacation


View of the Tetons from my Idaho Airbnb


Sunset over Idaho farmland, taken in front of my Idaho Airbnb


Sitting next to a huge potato in Driggs, Idaho


Rented a bike at the Tetons


View of Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point


Panoramic of Jenny Lake as I hiked back down from Inspiration Point


The Working Girl From Home, on a bike in front of the Tetons


Bison spotting


New Denver bud

Feeling guilty for taking vacation is common for remote employees and traditional employees alike. What have you done to get over it? Have you gotten over it? Did something finally convince you to take your PTO? Share in the comments below!

How to Ask Your Boss to Work From Home

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You want to ask your boss to work from home. Maybe you have some recent changes in your family like the birth of a new baby or an aging parent has moved nearby. Maybe you’ve recently moved or your office has relocated and you’re now spending 3 hours in the car commuting. Maybe you’ve simply realized that being in the office all day, every day is simply not conducive to you doing your best work. Whatever the case, you’re interested in a little more flexibility and are ready to have the conversation. Easy right? Not always, this can be a daunting and intimidating topic. Here are 10 tips for this conversation:

  1. Frame it in a way your boss will understand and find value in. This is #1. Highlight how this new work set-up will benefit your company. Yes, companies want their workforce happy and healthy but what they most want is productivity and a good bottom line. Think about what your manager most values and show how some flexibility will help your team and company achieve this.
  2. Keep personal gains out of it. Yes you’ll have the opportunity to walk your dog more and will be able to throw in laundry in between meetings. This a personal benefit that your manager does not, I repeat, does not care about. Keep this out both because it doesn’t present any value add to your manager, in fact it might suggest that you will be spending more time with your pooch or keeping house than working.
  3. Consider what’s appropriate and realistic. All companies and teams are different; some are keen on flexibility some are not. You know your company and manager so spend some time thinking about what is a reasonable request. Maybe your firm will respond best to one day a week, or a month, or an afternoon after you have a doctor’s appointment. Spend some time thinking about what’s a reasonable amount of flexibility and pith that.
  4. Prepare for the conversation. Don’t wing it. If you have regular check-ins this is an appropriate time to bring this up; if you don’t (you should and that’s a different story..) ask for a check-in to talk about your role. Do it behind closed doors and come prepared with a specific plan (based on what you feel is appropriate and reasonable) for your boss to react to.
  5. Don’t demand an immediate answer. No one likes to be put on the spot and you never know what meeting or conversation a person just came from Don’t make your boss feel as if she has to make a decision right then and there; in fact if you make it clear that you want her to think about this and get back to you. She’ll likely appreciate the time to mull it over, especially if this would be new for your team or if she mat have to run it past her manager.
  6. Suggest a trial period. Particularily if this would be a new step for your company suggest starting with a short, trial period. Identify a window of time and schedule a check-in at the end of this period for you to discuss how the flexible set-up is working.
  7. Work hard. If you get the yes you’re looking for that’s great news, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to coast. In fact it’s the opposite; you need to prove to your company that you can handle this responsibility and your work won’t be compromised. Said differently: don’t slack off. Work hard, post results, show that flexibility doesn’t take away from your productivity but enhances it. You must be responsible and disciplined for your success here.
  8. Be flexible. Since you’re asking for flexibility you need to be flexible. In my experience this can mean coming even last minute even if I had planned to be at my home due to a last minute client meeting or a presentation. Especially if you’re in a trial period you need to ensure that your schedule is accommodating and flexible, since it won’t go over well if your new flexible schedule makes it harder for work to get done.
  9. Prepare for a no. Some companies, some teams, some managers simply don’t like remote work. No is an answer and if you ask for something you need to be prepared for it. If you get a negative response don’t wallow but keep on doing your thing. And while you do this…
  10. Think about how important flexibility is to you. If you’re reading this blog you likely have some interest in work flexibility (or you’re my mom–hi mom!!) If you bring it up to your boss you clearly have interest in it. If your manager shuts down the idea or you know your company simply won’t go for it, I’d encourage you to spend some time really thinking about whether this is something you want or need to be successful–and most importantly, happy–in your job and life. If it is then it may be time to consider a role that offers you the flexibility that you desire.

Workplace flexibility is a growing trend that can benefit a company and team in big ways. What else have you found to work (or not work) when asking for a flex-schedule?

Do I really need to have a dedicated work space??

OrganizationTelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

In a word, yes. If you spend a significant portion of your time working remotely having an office, a desk, or even a dedicated surface like a kitchen table or counter that is only your work-space is very important. But this can be hard, especially if you live in a smaller space or have a live-in partner, roommate, or children. So let’s talk about why it’s important to section off some space for your remote 9-5:

  1. You’ll take your work more seriously. Investing in the space or items will likely make you give your work the credit it deserves. Especially if you sometimes struggle with others taking your job seriously (and I believe this is all of us WFHers at one time or another, read more here) having a dedicated work-space, better yet a desk or an office, can help you feel more confident.
  2. Boundaries. When you don’t head into an office every day it can be challenging to separate your home life from your work life, especially after the day is done. A physical desk or work-space sets spatial boundaries and can allow you to walk away if only mentally. If you work from your couch, bed, or kitchen table that you also use to sleep, relax, or eat you’re blurring the lines of your work and personal life.
  3. You can set up and control an environment that is most conducive to you. For me I need a few drawers or shelves to organize files, desk space to keep pressing items top of mind, wall-space for a whiteboard, and generally a dumping ground for the 500 to-do lists and post-it notes I write to myself. Having a desk and dedicated area allows me to have all of these things nestled away from the rest of my home. Which brings me to…
  4. You can keep it as cluttered or as clean as you like. Some people are organized and clean at all times. Others are all chaos, all the time. I’m somewhere in between. When I need to be organized in my job I don’t like to have to deal with clutter that might be around my home since I still haven’t unpacked from a weekend trip. Or on the flip-side: if I have scribbled notes all over my desk to help me think through an upcoming strategy session I usually don’t want that mess bleeding into all aspects of my life and home. Having a dedicated space lets you leave not just your work at work but your mess as well (or avoid your messy home if you need cleanliness!)
  5. You’ll put some structure into your life. If you’re working from your couch (or worse, bed!) day, and day out you’re bound to think of your life as one big blur overtime: get up, bring coffee into your bed, log onto your computer, grab charger, decide it’s time for breakfast, move to couch, realize it’s time for lunch, take a meeting, realize you might want to put on pants. Sound familiar? This might work for the day after Thanksgiving when no one is around the office or for an hour before you head out of the country on vacation but this is not a sustainable work from home approach.
  6. You’ll like it more. A little secret of mine is that just 5 years ago I really disliked working remotely. That was partially because face-time was crucial to being effective in this role but it was also because I didn’t have a desk or even a table set up that I could work at in my kitchen. When I had to work remotely I would do so from my bed. I hated this. I felt like I was studying for exams in college. It didn’t feel like I was doing my job or being effective. But 5 years later and I’m a raving fan and pro-WFHer. I credit my desk and dedicated work-space a lot to this shift.

If you work from home does having a dedicated desk or office help you? Share in the comments below!

Avoiding distractions when working from home

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: working from home is awesome. You can work in yoga pants on your patio, avoid a traumas of a long commute, avoid the distractions of your co-workers at the office, accept a mid-day delivery, and much, much more. But that’s not to say there are no distractions at home. In fact it can often be the very opposite. You can also be tempted to watch “just one episode” on Netflix, prepare everything on your “#EAAATS” Pinterest board, or talk yourself into a mid-afternoon nap.

So how do you strike the right balance between the freedom of remote work with the responsibility of being employed? Where does a break end and a distraction start? And what distractions are okay in moderation and what are simply inappropriate while on the job?

This one is hard and honestly, really varies based on what you do, who you work for (working full-time for a big company versus running your own business from your house are two very different things), and your personal work-style. Here’s my take on 5 specific distractions I’ve recently been asked about:

  1. TV. This is a don’t for me. I’ve written before about taking breaks and will say that watching a short program can be a part of my lunch sometimes. But I draw the line at having television on at any other point of the day. Maybe you’re one of those people who needs noise. I will never fully understand that 🙂 but I do understand that everyone works differently and some people may need light noise. Still, I say music is a much better option since TV is not only a proven distraction but call me old-fashioned, watching television simply doesn’t seem like something you should be doing while being paid to do your job. So whether you’re employed by a big company or have a couple clients in a business you run on your own, stay away from your flat screen while in work mode.
  2. Naps. This is another one I personally say not to do. Or at least spend some time really making a judgement call based on your situation. While some companies are beginning to encourage power naps during the day, to me sleeping at your own home is an activity that should reserved for when you’re not on the clock. With this said, everything is case-by-case; if you’re a salaried employee and tend to work 10 hour days starting at 5 am a mid-day nap might be just what you need. Again, use your judgment and gauge your personal situation.
  3. Social media. Ten years ago there’s no way you’d imagine checking Facebook or Twitter to be something that’s okay to do occasionally at work. But as these outlets evolve and increasingly become our news sources how we use them changes too. I would never advocate to have Facebook open all day (and will always say to use your own device versus your company computer!) but quickly checking to see what’s trending, reading an article tweeted about your industry, or even posting the occasional #tbt isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Using another personal device. In moderation I say this is fine. Checking the news via Twitter or on, sure but editing photos on your MacBook or playing games on your tablet not so much.
  5. Doing other work. No. No, no no no no. One more time: no. Maybe you run a side business or write a blog (both like me!), if so read carefully: your slated time to work is to work. If you run your own business there may be more blurred lines and you have the discretion to toggle from one project to another, but if you are employed by a firm and are expected to work from 9-5 or bill hours do not use this time to do anything else.

There are some boundaries clearer than others but generally speaking if you have a company modern enough to be employing you as a remote worker you likely have some freedom. It comes down to the fact that you need to be a responsible, working adult. So keep that in mind before engaging in a behavior.

Still unsure? Try this: if you’d have a difficult time explaining your behavior to your manager (or it feels wrong to you!) then don’t do it.

How do you balance the distractions of your home office? Have you created any “rules” for yourself that you find particularly important or helpful to follow? Share in the comments below!