How to Ask for a Raise

A Guide to Asking for and Getting the Raise You Deserve

Asking your manager for a raise can be nerve-wracking, so much so, that some people wait for months or even years before asking for a raise they deserve.

The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a raise that reflects the hard work that you do, but there are some approaches and best practices that will always get better results than others.

Even though your manager has data on the hard work you’ve been doing, you still need to present your case for why you deserve a raise and you need to be prepared to negotiate.

This guide will cover: preparing to ask for a raise, how/when to ask for and justify your raise, the right questions to ask, negotiating with your manager and recovering from an unsuccessful ask for a raise.  

How to Prepare

You should never ask for a raise without preparing for this conversation. No matter how good your relationship is with your manager, they will be expecting you to prove that you deserve the salary you’re asking for and won’t respond favorably if it seems like you did not prepare.

Before broaching the subject of a raise, always:

Build your Case: Look back to recent projects and periods of time where you went beyond what was expected and provided real value for your company. Always use specific performance data when possible.  

Know your Worth: Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth™ salary estimator gives you a clear idea of the raise you should be asking for, by giving you an objective figure to compare your current salary against.

Just enter your job title, location, years of experience, and a few other pieces of information to get a free, personalized estimate of what the market value of your skill set is. This way, you can both understand if you’re getting paid fairly and have a concrete number to bring to the table when it comes time to negotiate your salary.

When to Ask for a Raise

Picking the right time to ask for a raise is just as important for preparing for this discussion.

When picking a good time to ask for a raise, find out when your company’s fiscal budget planning takes place so you can be sure that you aren’t asking for the impossible.

A few great times to ask for a raise are:

Annual Performance Reviews: A natural time for this conversation may be at your annual performance review, when the topic of salary is not only timely, but often expected.

After Completing an Important Project: A great time to ask for a raise is after successfully completing an important project or showing excellent work.

When your Manager is Happy: Asking for a raise during of a stressful or hectic period will guarantee that your manager is short on time and patience. Wait to ask for a raise until the dust has settled and you have, once again, proven your worth.

What to Say to Get a Raise

After preparing your evidence for why you deserve a raise and choosing a good time to talk to your manager, it’s important to think about what you’re going to say during your raise conversation.

You don’t need to have a strict script, but you do need to be clear and specific in your delivery and it helps to have a few phrases up your sleeve to help guide the conversation.

Be clear

An easy way to begin a raise discussion is to say something like: “As I’m looking forward to working and growing with the company, I’d love to discuss my salary.” Or “I’m interested in discussing my salary, is now an appropriate time?”

Be specific

Mention your desired salary number and specifically outline how you came to this conclusion. Bring a copy of your Know Your Worth salary estimate.  Also, be clear about when you’d like your new desired salary to be effective, and any other details that are pertinent to your desired compensation.

How to Act

The way you act during a raise conversation is just as important as the tone of voice you use, so be sure that you balance confidence, graciousness and enthusiasm for the work you do.  

Be confident

How is an employer going to feel comfortable giving you a raise if you’re unsure yourself?

Express gratitude

Expressing gratitude and appreciation for what you currently have at the company is a gracious and professional preface to an ask for more money.

Express enthusiasm

Sharing excitement for your future goals, and for the future goals of the company, is a way to show you’re invested in doing your job well.

Source: Glassdoor

How to Survive Hot Weather with Style

It’s easy to look good in the fall – you have an unlimited options of clothes to throw and layer together.

But when it comes to style when the temps are up, it can be a huge challenge, especially if you have an office dress code.

When it comes to your clothes, your body gets hot in two ways:

  1. Air getting trapped – Fabrics like wool and cashmere are great in the winter because their fibers create little pockets that trap air. Those little air molecules are trapped, getting heated by your body to keep you warm.
  2. Direct exposure to the sun – This one is fairly simple. Sun hits directly onto your skin, your skin gets hot.

That means in the warmer months, we want the exact opposite of these two things to happen. We want to move air away from our body and get some shade our skin to keep it cool!

TIP #1: SWITCH OVER TO SPRING FABRICS

There’s a good chance you’ve stocked your closet with shirts in fabrics better suited for cold months, like wool. Even if you’re more of a cotton shirt guy, your fall/winter gear is generally going to be on the thicker side. They’re designed to trap in heat, which means you’ll be a swampy mess by the end of the day.

We want fabrics that let the air flow, not trap it.

Make the switch and get a set of shirts made in more spring/summer appropriate fabrics.

Linen is a hot weather staple, and you’ll find a lot of men’s clothing for the warmer seasons in linen. Linen can be naturally stiff, so you’ll also find it blended with fabrics like cotton or silk to soften it up.

Other options include: Lighter cotton, ramie and my personal favorite, cupro. Cupro is a silk-like fabric made from the throwaway parts of the cotton plant. It’s extremely breathable and stays relatively cool to the touch.

TIP #2: STOCK UP ON SUMMER APPROPRIATE STYLES

16oz raw denim in the middle of summer? It ain’t happening

When it comes to wardrobes, it makes sense to follow the concepts of an essential wardrobe, but adjust the pieces to suit hotter and humid weather.

This means getting clothes with the right details – whether that’s fabric weight, details like lining, even a little help from technology.

TIP #3: LOOSEN UP YOUR FIT A BIT

The tighter your clothes are, the hotter you’re going to get and feel. This goes back to airflow.

Summer is one of the few times where it’s ok to loosen up a bit and relax about getting the “perfect” fit.

Go for roomier cuts, or even size up. Give your skin some room to breathe – get a looser t-shirt, dress shirt, pants and shorts.

Think about how men in hot Middle Eastern countries dress: It’s usually loose, flowing clothes and robes in breathable, light fabrics.

TIP #4: DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADD SOME COLOR AND PATTERN TO YOUR LOOK

Summer is one of the few times where you can get a pass for wearing bright colors and wild patterns, especially if you aren’t the type of guy that normally wears that stuff.

For the most day-to-day versatility, I still recommend sticking to neutral colors like navy, white, khaki, olive. These color combinations mix easily with one another.

Take this advice and adapt to it to a work environment. Wear lighter fabrics and looser fitting clothes in the office for a cooler stress free work day!

By swapping out just one item in your look – like your usual white button-up -for something like a floral print can give your look some much needed personality.

SOURCE: THE ESSENTIAL MAN

How to Start Working Remotely One Day a Week

Ready for a life of flexibility and potential? Baby steps. Here are all the tips you need to work remotely one day a week.

How to talk to your boss about working remotely

Be prepared: your manager’s going to have some questions. He or she is going to wonder where this conversation is coming from and if he or she can trust you with the flexibility and freedom that comes with working remotely. The best way to prove it to your manager is by coming to the meeting prepared and in excellent standing.

Be up front with your “why”

During this conversation, it’s important to be transparent with your employer about why you want to work remotely one day a week so that you can earn their trust or build upon an already great working relationship. That being said, make sure that you’re wording your ask in a way that positions the business’ interests first. Be clear about the fact that you’re interested in working remotely because you strongly believe it will lead to further success within your role.

Say this: Working remotely once a week will allow me to dive deeper into the projects that I’m working on, give full attention to my professional goals, and attain the flexibility to work during the hours in which I am most productive.

Not this: I want to work remotely one day a week because I’m too distracted by my coworkers. I can’t get anything done here and think that I’d be better off working in a different environment. I’ll work harder and be able to do so on my own terms.

Pitch it as a trial run

Many times, managers are concerned that by allowing you to work remotely he or she will be setting a precedent for your coworkers. During these initial conversations, come out ahead of that concern and make it clear that what you’re proposing is a trial or a pilot that comes with no commitment unless it works as well, or better, than your current situation.

Say this: I want to try working remotely one day a week and see if I can increase my productivity and expand my creativity. We can track my performance for a set period of time and see if I improve. If not, there’s no pressure to continue piloting this idea.

Not this: I want to work remotely one day a week starting next month. I know that I will be successful, so there is nothing to worry about. I’ve heard a few of the other team members are interested in a similar situation, so I could lead the way as soon as you give me the go-ahead.

Focus on remote work benefits and opportunities

After going into the background behind why you want to work remotely one day a week, get to the point of this conversation: how remote work will positively impact your work and the business’ bottom line. Be ready to talk through your individual performance, goals that you want to achieve related to productivity, and professional development and what you need from the company in order to be successful. As you walk through these points, provide a few ways that remote work will act as a solution in each situation.

Say this: Over the past three quarters, I have exceeded my sales goals by X%. I know that if I were able to work remotely one day a week I could increase that number to X because of the flexibility my remote schedule would create. Working remotely once a week would also give me the ability to attend a professional development class in the morning, and work in the evenings when I am more productive.

Not this: I’ll be happier when I can work remotely once a week. I’ll be doing the same tasks that I do everyday in the office, I just won’t be physically at my desk as I do them. You won’t even notice the difference.

How to work remotely effectively

You did it! You impressed your boss and have gotten the OK to work remotely one day a week.

First of all, we just want to say how proud we are of you. You rocked it.

Second, we’d like to offer some advice to make sure this goes as smoothly as possible.

Set goals and develop a strategy to reach them

Think of this opportunity as a once-a-week chance to prove to your boss that you can be trusted with more autonomy. During your initial conversation, set clear goals and KPIs that you can measure as you work remotely so that you can show professional progress.

Say this: My goal after three months of working remotely once a week is to bring in X number of new clients more than I did last quarter. To do so, I am going to implement x, y and z strategies that are now possible because I will be working remotely. Let’s check in once a month to see my progress on this goal and pivot if necessary.

Not this: Let’s try this out for a few months and see how it goes!

Check in and set expectations

As a remote employee (even a part-time one), the most important tool that you can lean on to ensure success is communication. While you’ll still be spending most of your time in the office, make it a point to stay connected to your teammates on the day that you are working remotely. Whether that is through Slack or over email, it’s important that everyone understands that, yes, you are actually working and that you can be relied upon throughout the day.

In addition to day-to-day communication, set up monthly meetings with your manager to check-in on how your remote work agreement is going. Has it been a success so far in their eyes and, if he or she feels like there are improvements to be made, what can you adjust to ensure that you’re doing your job to the best of your ability? These check-ins will not only alleviate any concerns that you may have about your performance, but also remind your employer that you are committed to a successful outcome.

SOURCE: REMOTE YEAR

YOUR OFFICE DESERVES A GOOD SPRING CLEANING

In keeping with the freshly rejuvenated feel that springtime brings, many people take advantage of this energy by doing some much-needed spring cleaning after the long winter months. Why shouldn’t the workplace join in the fun? In this blog, we’ll explain how a fresh and clean office can benefit your employees and your business as a whole – and just as importantly, how to go about tidying up properly.

Why Your Office Needs to Be Kept Clean
Regardless of the industry you operate in, chances are that your business relies on technology solutions in order to function properly. From this conclusion, it can be inferred that if your solutions were to go on the fritz or even break down entirely, you would find yourself experiencing downtime and the associated lack of productivity.

Keeping your solutions and the environment they are stored in clean and organized is key to maintaining their functionality. Without the proper care and maintenance, your technology doesn’t stand a chance for very long, which can (and will) cause no small harm to your business.

To combat these effects, there are plenty of solutions you can deploy to assist you, along with some traditional cleaning methods and basic organizational strategies.

Digital Methods
There are plenty of ways to improve your organizational functionality, starting with your document organization solution. What is the current state of your retained files? Are they well-organized into a hierarchy, such that everyone in the business who needs access can gain it by following the system? Are they fully digitized and backed up, or are they squirreled away in metal boxes that take up valuable real estate? Going paperless is an environmentally conscious and admirable strategy, not to mention a good way to save some capital.

Organizing and Optimizing Your Computer
While you’re occupied with dealing with your file storage and organization, it also doesn’t hurt to take a look at some of your other technology solutions to ensure that everything is as it should be where they are involved. Take, for example, your email solution and its inbox.

It’s no secret that email messages have a tendency to pile up and become unmanageable if left unorganized for too long. By auditing the messages you receive and setting up filters to automate their organization, you can make your inbox largely independent.

As for your desktop and the files found on it, treat the files there as you would the files in your document organization system. Are there any being stored on your individual device that should actually be stored in the company’s shared files? A hierarchy of folders can help you organize any files that are left after those that can be moved to shared resources have been migrated.

Keeping Things Tidy
Of course, what’s a good office cleaning without taking a few workstations and getting rid of any accumulated dust and grime? Have a trusted IT resource open up the devices and give them a thorough cleaning with some canned air, and clean out some of the exterior in the same way. You should also give your network infrastructure the same treatment. Once your computers and servers are cleaned out, it never hurts to rethink your cable management to minimize dust collection and reduce the very real tripping hazard these cables can create.

Finally, you should also participate in some more traditional spring cleaning. Clean your floors and bathrooms, and get rid of any “science experiments” left in the break room refrigerator. This will all make your office environment more comfortable, healthier, and thereby more productive.

Source: PCS

How to Work from Home on Snow Days

When meteorologists warn of blizzard conditions, chaos ensues.With proper planning, productivity doesn’t have to fall like the snow.

Schools announce closings. Storm warnings leap into in effect. Milk, bread and eggs disappear from supermarket shelves.  And, in major metros, offices close, meetings are rescheduled and professionals hunker down to work from home.

But snow days don’t have to bury business operations. With proper planning, your organization’s productivity can weather the storm as employees work from home.

Here are a few tips for how employees, working parents and managers can make working from home work for them.

For Working Parents

You love ‘em dearly, but your kids can be a major distraction when you’re working from home – especially if they’re running around singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” in their best Anna voice all day. Here are a few tips for getting work done on a snow day.

1. Make a Schedule 
If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to set office hours and give the kids projects or screen time while you get work done. You can even make a game of it, where they’re “working” while you’re working. Whatever you do, make sure your family understands they must respect your “office hours” so when the door is shut, you’re off-limits.

2. Carve Out a Dedicated Office Space
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to dedicate a home office when you’re working from home while the kids are home (and potentially stuck indoors). Make sure you’re office space is clean (no toys allowed!), with a desk, Internet access and anything else you’ll need to complete your work tasks for the day. “Even though you’re at home, you have to find a way to pretend that you’re going to a space where the kids are not there,” recommends Robi Ludwig, PSY.D, a contributor for Care.com.

3. Get Over the Guilt
It’s natural to feel guilty when you’re focusing on work instead of your children, but the reality is that you have a job to do and your team is counting on you to get it done. Remember that guilt too shall pass – and there’ll be time later for sledding and cocoa. “Your child will survive if you’re attending to something other than them for a couple of hours throughout the day,” says Ludwig.

For Managers

From an operational standpoint, a the unpredictability of a snow day makes it a bit more disruptive than typical telecommuting, but strategies for managing remote employees should be built to scale. Utilize those same strategies when your team is going to be working from home on a snow day, so that when the snow falls, your productivity won’t.

1. Set Clear Expectations
When employees are telecommuting, it’s super important that they have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them in terms of deadlines, goals, hours and reachability. According to the Society for Human Resources’ 2014 report on workplace flexibility, only 43 percent of respondents reported managers established specific goals or parameters with telecommuting employees.

2. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate
Out of the office doesn’t mean on an island. Regular contact via email, instant message, phone or even video conferencing is crucial for employee engagement. In the case of a snow day, use your “The Office is Closing” announcement to communicate how and when you want your team to stay in touch while working from home.

3. Provide Context
Snow days are different than typical telecommuting. They’re unpredictable – not only in terms of when they occur, but also what other obstacles they’ll throw at your workforce. For example, a power outage could knock out Internet access for your entire team. In the case of working from home during an extreme weather event, let your team know that this is a temporary arrangement; that you understand the difficulties of the situation and value whatever work they can accomplish.

Sending the clear message that you appreciate your team’s flexibility in spending a snow day working from home can boost morale and establish a measure of employee engagement among your temporary remote workforce.

For Everyone

Working from home can be a challenge if you’re not used to it. But, as long as you have Internet, a phone, a computer and a plan, there’s no reason you can’t have a productive workday when the weather outside is frightful.  Here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Stick to a Regular Schedule
As much as possible, it’s important to stick to your normal workday routine when you’re working from home. Every day worked from home should “mirror” the schedule you’d keep in your regular office environment. This will make it easier for you to bucket tasks and stay on the same page as your team.  It may even help you get a jump on the day, since the commute isn’t going to be a factor.

2. Over-Communicate
Email, Skype and text messages will be your best friends when you’re working from home. If you want to have a productive workday, respond to emails promptly and make sure to keep your team in the loop about what you’re working on. And if you have to run out to shovel the walkway, make sure to tell your team that, too.

3. Prioritize Work and Home Tasks Separately 
Harsh winter weather adds snow removal to your already endless list of household tasks. It’s hard not to be distracted by dishes, laundry, child care and the like when you’re working from home. Avoid work and home tasks bleeding into one another by making separate to-do lists: one for home and one for work. If you think of personal tasks while you’re working, add them to the list – after all, the driveway isn’t going to snowblow itself.

SOURCE: CARE.COM

Create A More Stable & Healthy Work Environment

As a leader, it’s your job to make sure your employees are happy, healthy and enjoy working at your business. Turnover is expensive, and too much of it will create a very difficult environment to work and exist each day.

However, there are a few particular ways you can create a more stable atmosphere in the workplace that will help your employees keep their mental and physical wellbeing in check. The worst decision you can make is to look the other way and take no action at all for improving the conditions at your office. Hoping the situation will get better on its own isn’t a wise approach, so it’s worth your energy to figure out how you can help.

Know the Employment Laws & have Rules, Policies & Guidelines in Place

If you fail to educate yourself on state employment laws and regulations, you may find yourselves in deep water with the law. It’s beneficial to educate yourself and your fellow employees on workplace rights and policies. Seek help from an experienced employment attorney to help answer any questions you may have regarding your workplace rights. Also, proactively share company rules, policies, and guidelines with your employees, which will make your expectations at the office clear.

Offer training to your employees in both data protection and health and safety. If you’re unsure on how to improve your environment, bring in a consultant who can teach your employees how to create a strong password, to spot dodgy emails and how to store sensitive data. You should also only allow those who need access to sensitive data to have the login details; anyone else should not be permitted access.

Promote Work-Life Balance

Another way you can create a more stable and healthy work environment for your employees is to promote work-life balance. A few ideas include offering a work from home policy, a discounted gym membership and flexible hours. You could also bring in a coffee machine so that your workers can enjoy coffee that isn’t instant, and if the budget permits, you can bring in fresh fruit and some yogurt in for your employees to enjoy a healthy breakfast at their desks.

Your staff members have a life outside of company walls and the more you can help them to balance all of their obligations and responsibilities, the more productive and useful they’ll be at work.

Encourage Open Communication

Politics and side conversations can quickly turn a peaceful environment you once had at your workplace sour, so you should have a rule that although does not repress the opinions of others, states you need to be mindful of other people’s beliefs. Encourage open and honest communication to avoid sticky situations and people going behind each other’s backs.

Make sure whoever needs to be in the loop about a particular matter is and send emails and hold companywide meetings to fill your employees in on the status of how your operation is doing overall. As a boss, you may need to be a mediator every once in a while, or if you’re not comfortable in being one, hire a professional in this sector so that employee disputes are sorted out way before they can get out of control. You want to encourage conversation, but keep anything that may cause discomfort out of the office.

Assign Individual Coaches or Mentors

What’s going to help you hold your workers more accountable for doing their jobs well and give them a healthy outlet for sharing grievances is to assign each person a coach or mentor.

This way people will feel like their voice is always being heard and performance will be closely monitored throughout the year. You’ll create a more stable and healthy work environment when your staff feels like they’re being valued and have someone they can turn to in a time of need or if they have questions.

Conclusion

Keeping your employees happy and healthy should be a top priority at your workplace. It’s what’s going to help you reach your goals and get ahead of your competition. Use these suggestions for creating a more stable and healthy work environment that everyone can get behind and appreciate.

SOURCE: HAPPY

New Year’s Resolutions at Work

New Year’s resolutions get a lot of flack, much of it deserved. After all, what’s more “breakable” than a New Year’s resolution? People set resolutions never expecting they’ll follow through. In fact, 25% of people who make a New Year’s resolution give up by January 7. But what if there was a better way to make resolutions work?

Research shows that 46% of people do keep resolutions for at least six months, and 8% keep them for the entire year. That 8% might seem small, but people who choose to make a New Year’s resolution are 10 times as likely to keep them over those who pursue improvement in another way.

In a conversation with Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Tim Ferriss (Four Hour Workweek), Tim shares, “To choose what actions to take on a daily basis, I had to have some type of context.” In this case, the context is what he wants to do. That’s what guides his journey.

It’s clear that we need to reframe how we think about resolutions. Instead of setting a vague or unattainable goal, think about what you want to do and integrate that into your life in a more process-based way.

New Year’s resolutions can work. So why shouldn’t we try?

How are New Year’s resolutions different from goals?

It may be semantic, but it’s useful to separate the two. How we sometimes set goals is unhelpful. How many times have you set a deadline and had to push it back at the last minute? And how many times has that happened more than once? Predicting the future isn’t just hard: it’s impossible.

In the same conversation, Leo Babauta explains, “We have this fantasy of what it’s going to look like when we get there, and almost never live up to that fantasy.”

People who choose to make a New Year’s resolution are 10 times as likely to keep them over people who pursue improvement in another way.

Goals have their place at work. They keep everyone aligned and aiming for the same target. But a resolution, especially in the workplace, can play a different and interesting role.

Resolutions should be more qualitative than quantitative. I think of a resolution as more of a concept, rather than a concrete date or number I want to hit. Then I break it down into achievable steps. It ends up as a process to improve my life, rather than an intimidating goal that weighs on me.

Using resolutions in the workplace

We tend to think of resolutions as something personal, like “lose weight” or “exercise more.” While setting personal goals is commendable, it’s not the only way we can improve our lives. Why not use them in the workplace as well?

Resolutions in the workplace are a way to unite your team and create a more cohesive vision of what is important. They can help you prioritize or provide a framework within which to think about your role, your work culture, or your next big project.

You can implement resolutions in many ways: at a personal level (but still within the context of work), at a team level, or company-wide. Whichever one you choose will depend on the size of your organization and your specific circumstances.

What does a workplace resolution look like?

Goals and resolutions are not the same thing. Goals are things like, “increase sales revenue 30%” in the next year, or “hire 25 more people” by the end of the quarter.

But a resolution is something different. Here are a few examples:

  • Improve communication with our suppliers
  • Support work/life balance for the team
  • Take time to celebrate team successes

These are more qualitative than quantitative—and feel more personal than a goal or OKR. Once you have a resolution to pursue, you must ensure you go about it in a way that will actually work.

How to frame a resolution for success

In a single year, entrepreneur and writer, James Clear, wrote over 100,000 words on his blog. Given that the average book tends to be around 50,000 words, he effectively wrote the equivalent of two books. But that’s not the way he looks at it:

“Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.”

He’s so spot on—even just reading that sentence stresses me out.

For him, creating a system works much better than any goal: “Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.”

A solid resolution is about process. For James, his resolution might have been something like, “develop a consistent writing habit.” From there, he extracts a feasible system: publish a post every Monday and Thursday. Simple, achievable, and measurable.

Making sure you stay on track

So, you’ve set yourself up for success. How do you make sure you actually get there? There are a few easy ways to help you along the process. The first is to develop a habit.

If your team’s resolution is “improve communication,” ask teammates to send a quick note about their accomplishments at defined intervals. You want to keep the ask lightweight, but periodic, so it becomes a habit. The easier the process, the more likely it will become second nature.

Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.

Another tactic is using rewards. What if, every month after your check-in, your team goes out to happy hour? Or you recognize a team member’s contributions with a positive ritual? Sometimes simple incentives can help keep the momentum going.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant. In elementary school, we had benchmarks for how many books we could read as a class. If we hit a certain mark, we’d have a pizza party. It was pretty effective. Throwing a pizza party might seem silly, but a bit of lighthearted fun can go a long way for teams.

One of the best things about resolutions is that they don’t have to be intimidating. Remember, it’s not some far off thing you’re shooting for. You’re simply resolving to change something, right now. It’s a type of progress that’s right here, in this moment. In a way, that makes it easy. Don’t worry about the future. Just focus on the progress you can make right now.

Source: Wavelength

Party Planning Tips for a Safe and Successful Celebration Season

Throughout the year you have been creating management strategies for your business that enhance employee engagement. You’ve focused on building an amazing workplace where employees feel valued and connected to the company and their co-workers. While employers use many different ways to thank employees for their contributions during the year—things that meet their employees’ needs, the company budget, and the cultural “fit” of the business—one of the most popular events is the holiday workplace party.

You do, however, have other options.

Let’s party!

Here are a few reasons for having your party this year:

It’s a company tradition. Some team members may be disappointed if you change your practices. In a survey last year by services company TriNet, when asked how employees felt about the tradition of holiday parties, 28% said they were very excited while 37% said they were somewhat excited.

They build and reinforce your company culture and employment brand. There are tremendous advantages to the year-end holiday party. It’s a great opportunity to network with your employees in a non-work environment, get to know their spouses or significant others, and reconnect with employees you don’t get to see often. The holiday get-together has big benefits for telecommuting and remote workers too, serving to increase their connections to their co-workers and company. The party serves as a reminder to employees that they are part of a team and can have fun together outside of their work routines.

Your competitors are likely having one. The trend for holding company holiday parties tracks with optimism in the economy, and all indicators point to continuing holiday parties this year. With the highly competitive market for quality talent, doing all you can to show your employees you appreciate their contributions may help keep the competitors away.

Party planning tips

Pull together a party planning team to generate ideas for making the party fun and relevant for your employees. Take a few precautions to make your events safer and possibly lessen the potential “hidden costs.” There are certain things to remember or address:

It’s employer-sponsored.  Always remember that the party is an employer-sponsored event and follow your stated employee policies. Keep in mind that you as the employer may be held responsible for whatever happens at the party and sometimes for events that occur after it.

The alcohol question. Determine up front how you will handle the alcohol question, especially as it relates to where and when you will be holding the party.

If your policies do not permit drinking either on your company’s premises or during work hours and you plan to have the party at the office as a part of the workday, don’t serve alcohol. If you decide that alcohol must be served and your party is off site and after hours, consider taking steps to restrict alcohol consumption.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Have a cash bar or a short period of time for drinking before the dinner
  • Give each employee a certain number of “drink tickets”
  • Have a good selection of soft and nonalcoholic drinks available
  • Close the bar well before the party ends.

If you don’t want to place any restrictions on drinking, make sure that your bartenders have the authority to “cut off” employees or managers who are intoxicated. Also make sure that your bartenders know that they should check IDs for anyone who looks to be under age 30.

Arrange for designated drivers. Some creative employers offer incentives to employees who volunteer to be designated drivers, or they arrange transportation for intoxicated employees directly by using a transportation service or arranging with local hotels near (or at) the party site to provide discounted rooms for those who are unable to drive home safely.

Consider the food you’re serving. Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods, which tend to make people thirsty. Serve plenty of foods rich in starch and protein, which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Employee handbooks. Back to the employee policy issue, because a holiday party is a company-sponsored event, all policies in your employee handbook should remain in force. The rules regarding sexual and racial harassment still apply. That means that racial or sexual jokes, gossiping about office relationships, as well as unwelcome touching of other’s body parts, are not permitted during the holiday party. Harassment at a holiday party is still harassment. Some people who are drinking and feel less inhibited might forget that caveat. And, of course, don’t hang any mistletoe!

Some concerned employers redistribute their company’s sexual harassment policy before the holiday party takes place, emphasizing that all guidelines will apply at the party even though it is off site and after work hours. We recommend the more common-sense approach of reminding your supervisors to set a good example, keep an eye out for employee behavior that needs managing, and not invite co-workers to any informal gathering after the employer’s party that keeps the alcohol flowing.

We also recommend setting a tone of moderation before holiday parties, which will remind employees to behave responsibly. Make sure you investigate all complaints. Failure to respond to a single complaint can lead to greater liability than the alleged misconduct. Don’t dismiss complaints associated with the party without conducting a thorough investigation.

Shea suggests, “Another good thing to do, if you can afford it, is to invite spouses and significant others to the party. They aren’t called ‘better halves’ for nothing—they will frequently be forces for moderation.”

Managing pay issues. Determining how to handle pay issues should be done in advance of the party. For parties held after hours where attendance is strictly voluntary, paying for attendance at the party is not required, unless nonexempt employees are actually working the party, such as helping to set up, work during the event, or staying after to clean up. In that case, the employee would be compensated for all time worked at regular wages, including any eligible overtime.

If the party is mandatory or consequences would result for those not in attendance, nonexempt employees should be paid for the entirety of the party. There is no requirement to pay exempt employees additional compensation for attendance or working at the party. If the party is held during normal work hours, all employees would receive regular compensation while attending.

Reviewing liability insurance. Consider reviewing your liability policies before the holiday party. Employers often ask us if a party-related injury might be considered compensable under workers compensation. The best answer for customers is “always consult with your insurance broker, who is a specialist in this area and also is your key partner in understanding your policy’s alcohol-related exclusions.”

Here are a few things you can do to make the holiday party look less “work-related”:

  • Don’t require employees to attend as a condition of employment
  • Schedule the party on a week night after normal working hours (employees are less likely to overindulge)
  • Don’t take attendance at the party
  • Hold the party at an off-site location
  • Make the party a family affair by including spouses, invited guests and children.

Let’s do something different

This may be the year to do something different. A trend that is becoming more popular is hosting an event at another time of the year that is less hectic for employees who are dealing with their own holiday and New Year celebrations. Here are some other ideas to convey your appreciation for your team:

  • Party for a different holiday. Pick another holiday to celebrate so that you are not competing for employee time and attention during the busy December holidays. How about a party around Valentine’s Day to “show the love”? Or pick a date that is special in the company’s history, such as the date the company was founded or launched its first product or sale.
  • New Year kick-off event. Another option is to plan the event in early January as a kick-off for the New Year with fun events surrounding business planning. If the budget allows, bring in your remote workers for the event so that they can physically participate.
  • Community giving day. Invite employees to take a day off to give back to others in your community. This could involve helping a local volunteer organization, such as a food bank, Habitat for Humanity, or homeless shelter, buying and packing supplies and gifts for military members overseas, etc. Once the work is finished, invite employees to an informal meal and let them have the rest of the day off. This can be a true bonding experience for your employees while they are helping others, and these kinds of activities can be done at any time of year. In fact, many volunteer organizations receive much help during the holidays and would appreciate getting help from the community at other times of the year.
  • Activities that don’t involve just eating and drinking. Plan an event that is appropriate for your company size and employee interests, such as participating in a performance or sporting event, organizing a scavenger hunt, or hosting your own event unique to your culture.
  • Celebrate without the traditional office party. Organize a company “fun committee” to plan events throughout the holidays. The sky is the limit, and a few suggestions include: holiday cookie tastings, potluck lunches, ugly holiday sweater day, holiday card exchange, contributions to favorite employee charities, secret gift (or re-gift) exchange, food and clothing drives, family lunch in the office, or decorated office workspace contests.
  • Don’t forget remote employees. Your remote workers want to be part of the fun, even if they participate virtually. The company may be providing food and drinks for employees to enjoy during the small in-office events. Send your remote workers eGift cards for a local food or drink vendor so they feel like they are part of the company fun.

Employee holiday gifts

If you have the holiday tradition in your workplace of giving gifts and/or you do a mystery gift exchange (either serious or gag gifts), here are a few words of common sense and caution:

  • Remind employees to keep the company’s anti-harassment policy in mind, avoid religious symbols, and keep the gifts in good taste (especially with gag gifting)
  • Remind employees to be aware of the company’s conflict of interest policies or code of ethics when accepting or giving gifts to vendors or customers
  • Consider the tax implications of gifts of cash, gift certificates or items of higher value
  • When giving gifts, treat employees consistently and without showing preference.

Have fun planning your company holiday celebrations or recognition events to let your employees know how much you value each and every one of them, not just during the December holidays but throughout the year!

SOURCE: THE ROUGH NOTES COMPANY, INC. 

How To Prepare For The Seasonal Changes At The Office

Doesn’t seem like there would be much crossover between fall and work, does there? Well, either that’s wrong, or we had to dig super hard to find some sort of correlation between the two (it’s clearly some combination of the two).

Regardless, it’s time we helped prepare you for what changes fall may bring to the workplace. Ready? Begin.

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS IN FACT WEATHER

The weather conditions during the summer aren’t brutal because of the seemingly-endless heat alone. No, the heat brutality is compounded because for many of us, the A/C in our places of work are cranked up to the max. The problem is, if you happen to spend eight hours in said workplace, you’re likely to cool off in the first 10 minutes and spend the next seven hours and 50 minutes trying to figure out how to warm up.

Sadly, fall doesn’t do much to change this, especially since the temps outside are cooling off and walking outside doesn’t immediately warm you up. However, fall does bring a respite, or two, of its own:

  • Your attire is more suited for cool temperatures: long sleeves, long pants (if shorts are an option for you), and maybe even a sweater. Having to wear a sweater when outside makes wearing one inside that much more palatable, and
  • You don’t feel like you’re going to contract a serious illness anytime you walk outside/inside and the temperature changes by a solid 20 degrees.

HERE COMES (GOES) THE SUN

As we migrate deeper and deeper into fall, one thing will stay consistently inconsistent: the amount of sunlight in a given day. Each day that passes will take with it an additional two minutes and ~40 seconds of sunlight (at least until that trend starts to slow in mid-October), meaning that your days of getting out of work and still having some sunlight to play with (or even beating the sunset) are numbered. Before you know it, the end of the work day will be marked by artificial light, and darkness. It sucks, a lot.

What to do? Take advantage of the time you have left with the sun. I know the angle of the sun is becoming more shallow, which means that for some (myself included) the afternoon sun tries very diligently to blind you, but blinding sun, and the requisite glares on your computer screen, are better than no sun.

If you have a window in your general area, keep the blinds up. The last thing you need to do is close out all remaining natural light.

If you don’t happen to have a window to call your own, take your breaks not by the water cooler, but by the street. Do everything you can to bathe in the remaining vestiges of late afternoon sunlight.

SEASONAL SADDIES

With the warmth disappearing and the sun going away, it’s only natural to feel a little down during the changing of the seasons, hell, there’s even a disorder for it. Harking back to earlier paragraphs, one of the best ways to combat this very real affliction is to grab as much sun as you can throughout the day.

I know it’s going to get colder as time goes on, but don’t let that scare you into staying inside and missing out on that sweet warmth. Again, maybe that means keeping your blinds up, or taking a walk, or eating lunch outside. Whatever will allow you to spend the most time with the sun, do it.

Other doldrum-relievers include staying active – which at work could mean getting a standing desk, or taking walks around the office every now and again – and keeping yourself productive. Budget your time so you’re pre-occupied with the task at hand and not with the longing we all feel for the warmth and sunlight of the summer months.

Until next time – at least fall is beautiful, right?

SOURCE: UNROLL.ME

14 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Work Day

The first few hours of the work day can have a significant effect on your level of productivity over the following eight—so it’s important you have a morning routine that sets you up for success.

“Having a good start to the day where you have greater control is critical in achieving better results, and ultimately greater career success,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “How you begin your morning often sets the tone and your attitude for the day. It can also derail or direct your focus. If you remain committed to good morning work habits, you won’t fall prey to feeling unproductive and distracted at the end of the day or week.”

Here is a list of 14 things all workers should do when they get to work each morning.

Arrive on time. This may be obvious to most people—but some don’t realize that showing up late can not only leave a bad impression, but also throw off your entire day. “Getting in on time or a little early helps your mindset for the day and helps promote a feeling of accomplishment,” Taylor says.

Take a deep breath. “Literally,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work. “And do something to focus in on the here and now.”  Many people come into work harried because they don’t leave enough time at home to deal with “home stuff,” he says, “and then they’ve barely survived another horrendously stressful commute, and then they dive into the madness.” Slowing down, taking a moment to pause, and creating a routine around centering yourself can work wonders, he adds.

Take five. After the deep breath, give yourself five minutes to get settled in, says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan. “This is a good way to set the tone of the day. Don’t allow yourself to be bum rushed by frantic co-workers lost in their own confusion.” It’s not unusual to wake up to a long backlog of e-mails just screaming for your attention, he adds. “The challenge is taking a moment for yourself before diving head first into your day.”

Start each day with a clean slate. You may have to attend to projects or discussions that rolled over from the previous afternoon—but try to treat each day as a fresh one, says David Shindler, an employability specialist and author of Learning to Leap. “Leave any crap from yesterday behind, tap into what’s happening at the outset of the day, get organized and ready or hit the ground running, if that’s what is needed,” he says.

Don’t be moody. You’ll want to pay attention to your mood and be aware of its effect on others. “First and last thing in the day is when emotional intelligence can have the greatest impact,” Shindler says. So if you’re not a “morning person,” try to suck it up and have a positive attitude when you arrive at the office. Grab a second or third cup of coffee, if that’s what it takes.

Kerr agrees. “Your first hour at work can set your ‘attitude barometer’ for the rest of the day, so from a purely emotional point of view, I think it’s an important part of the day,” he says. “One morning grump can infect an entire team and put everyone on the wrong footing.”

Organize your day. The first hour of the work day is the best time to assess priorities and to focus on what you absolutely need to accomplish, Kerr says. “Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail, when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with.” Make a to-do list, or update the one you made the previous day, and try to stick to it. However, if your boss has an urgent need, then it’s OK re-shuffle your priorities within reason, Taylor adds.

Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organization, says when you prepare your morning to-do list, determine what must be done today and what can be completed tomorrow, and prioritize accordingly. “Also determine your peak working time and plan your schedule accordingly,” she says. “Use your peak time each morning to do the most important tasks.”

Be present. Even if you’re not a morning person, you need to be awake when you get the office. Especially if you’re in a leadership position, it’s critical to be present, mentally and physically, and to communicate. “One of the biggest office pet peeves I hear from employees is about how their immediate supervisor just blows by them in the morning without so much as a smile,” Kerr says. “Taking the time to connect with your team members is essential, and doing the seemingly small things–making eye contact,  smiling, asking them about their night,  and checking in on what they may need help with–helps you as a leader take the pulse of the team, and helps set the tone for all the employees.”

Check in with your colleagues. “A quick 5 to 10 minute team huddle can also be an effective way for many people to start their day,” Kerr says. Make it a short meeting, with no chairs, have everyone share their top goal for the day, and share any critical information the rest of the team absolutely needs to know, he says. “Doing the huddles helps people focus and more importantly, connects everyone with the team. And by sharing your goals for the day publicly, the odds of achieving them rise substantially.”

Ensure that your workspace is organized. Clearing off the desk and creating a neat workspace sets a tone for the rest of the day, says Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.

It can also help avoid confusion. “While most communications are through e-mails and texts, if your boss or co-worker stopped by looking for you and left a sticky note about a last-minute meeting occurring in ten minutes, and it’s sitting on a mound of mail or papers, you’re already behind the eight ball,” Taylor says. “Also, for many, it’s difficult to think clearly, easy to forget important reminders, and just plain stressful if you feel you’re fighting the battle and the tornado of mail or paper is winning.” Ideally, you’d clear whatever you can out the night before so you can have a fresh start before you even turn on your computer in the morning. But if not, make sure clearing your desk takes precedence over things like checking e-mails and chatting with co-workers in the morning.

Don’t be distracted by your inbox. This one is difficult for most people—but the experts agree that you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. If you do, only read and respond to messages that are urgent. “Priority-scan your inbox,” Taylor says. “Not all e-mails were created equal. Hone your ability to quickly sift the wheat from the chaff and address what must be answered on an urgent basis.”

Attridge agrees. “Only respond immediately to the urgent messages so that you control your morning activities.” There will be time during the day to respond to the less urgent e-mails.

Why must you put off checking e-mails? “For far too many people, e-mail and the web can serve as huge time-wasters and distracters, particularly in the morning,” Kerr says. “Once you start checking e-mails, it’s a click away from watching the funny video someone forwarded you, which then sucks you into the abyss: checking the sports scores on line, the news headlines, the stocks, et cetera, and before you know it you’ve been watching a cat play the drums for twenty minutes and, like a poorly planned Oscars ceremony, your entire schedule is already thrown off before you’ve even begun your day.”

Listen to your voice mail. Most people jump on the computer and ignore their phone. “While office voice mail is indeed becoming antiquated as people rely more on personal cell phones, Blackberrys and e-mail, some people do leave voice messages, and if you ignore them, you could miss something important,” Levit says.

Place important calls and send urgent e-mails. If you know you need to get in touch with someone that day, place the call or send the e-mail first thing in the morning. If you wait until midday, there’s a greater chance you won’t hear back before you leave the office. “There’s nothing more frustrating that trying to complete something and not having access or answers from people you need because your day time hours were lost on other matters,” Taylor says. “If you have your questions ready and your e-mails fired off during early peak hours, by the end of the day you should have what you need.”

Take advantage of your cleared head. “Many people feel that their brains function best in the morning, and that morning is when they are most creative and productive,” Kerr says. “Consider whether you are making the best use of your brainpower and plan ‘high brain’ activities in the morning.”

Plan a mid-morning break. “This is the time to assess where you and take time to revitalize yourself so that you can keep your momentum going,” Attridge says.

If you’re stuck in a routine that doesn’t include these must-dos, it may be worthwhile to re-examine your habits and make some changes for enhanced career development, Taylor says.

“Habits are created out of having regular cues that prompt a routine, which then eventually become our habits,” Kerr adds. The morning is the perfect time to create some critical habits that will, over time, become routine and help you be more focused and productive.

“I know my morning routines are critically important. They help me focus and build momentum,” he says. “I’m a big believer in thinking about the start of your day the night before.”

SOURCE: FORBES