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

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.


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.


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.


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!


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 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.


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.


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?


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.”


20 Office Etiquette Rules Every Person Should Follow

A clean office is one thing. Making sure your desk is tidy, and no crumbs are left for little  critters to enjoy, can be great for the overall office morale. But, whether or not you are capable of getting along with your coworkers should matter just as much, if not more!

Some days it may feel like you spend more time at your desk than you do at home, but it’s important to remember that work isn’t a place to let loose and forget your manners. “As a general rule of thumb, I always advise people to be extra conscious in any workspace that requires you to share it,” says etiquette expert Myka Meier. “Having good etiquette at work mostly simply means to be considerate and respectful of everyone around you.”

With that in mind, here are Meier’s top 20 etiquette faux pas to avoid in the office.

1. If you have a door, close it if you take personal calls. If you don’t have a door or are in an open plan space, keep private calls short by saying you’ll call the person back on your next break, or walk to an area that is more conducive to personal calls like a lounge area or even outside. If you work in an open office space and professional phone calls distract you, remember that it’s probably not the person’s intention to bother you. Try to be understanding of the situation and keep a good pair of headphones nearby.

2. Keep your computer and phone muted or on silent, so that every time you get an email or message it does not alert everyone on your floor.

3. Do not use a conference room to take long personal calls or treat it as your personal office. Squatting is for the gym—not the workplace.

4. In addition to doing your part to keep the bathroom clean, do not use the restroom to socialize, whether you need to call your mom or catch up on the latest office news. It’s called water cooler chat for a reason.

6. Unless everyone is in on the joke, keep loud conversation to a minimum. There might be a distraction but you don’t want to become one.

7. While eating lunch away from our desks is a luxury these days, remember those sitting around you. Try to avoid foods that splatter or slurp or have a lingering smell in a shared office space. As much as you may love steamed fish, the rest of your team will probably won’t.

8. Remember that others need to use the communal kitchen too. If someone continues to prep their lunch in front of the communal microwave after heating up their food, it’s okay to politely bring attention to the fact that they’re taking up the space by saying something like, “Looks yummy! Do you mind if I pop my bowl in?”

9. If someone is nice enough to bring in food to share with the rest of the office, don’t leave the cleanup all to them. If you take the last slice of cake, wash the dish it came on and make sure it gets back to them.

10. If you’re sick and contagious, you shouldn’t be at work, otherwise you risk getting the entire office ill.

11. Think before you hit reply-all. Does everyone need to take the time out of their day to read your note?

12. Email tone is very hard to read, so be sure you’re using language that helps the recipient understand it. And despite what your middle school English teacher may have told you, exclamation points are almost required these days. A simple line like “Really appreciate your help! Thank you, Michael” is better than “Thanks. Michael”

13. Don’t block the elevator door. If the elevator’s full when someone tries to get out, and you’re in the way, simply exit the elevator altogether and then re-enter.

14. When it comes to opening doors, only go in front of someone who opened the door if they motion you through. Same rules apply to whoever swiped their card to access the door—wait until the first person has walked through before you follow.

15. Etiquette in general is becoming more gender neutral, so when it comes to opening doors and getting in and out of elevators, what matters more is showing respect to people who are more senior to you in your office. If you’re entering your floor or the elevator at the same time as your boss—or your boss’s boss—be sure to hold the door open for them and let them enter first.

16. While it’s impossible to always be on time, it’s important to let people know you’re running late. For every minute you think you’ll be late, give two minutes warning. So if you think you’ll be 10 minutes late for the call, email 20 minutes ahead so your colleague or client can adjust their schedule accordingly.

17. You might love your gardenia-bomb perfume, but the office is a place to keep scent subtle. If you choose to put on fragrance, remember it’s meant to go on pulse points only and not clothing—it can permeate the whole room.

18. When it comes to throwing out trash and recycling, be considerate of everyone’s space as much as possible. If you go to put your box or recycle in the designated area and see that it’s overflowing into someone’s work space, think of your colleague and hold off on piling more on. You never know where your next desk will be.

19. In the age of social media, remember that nothing is “private” anymore. Don’t complain about your colleagues or work on Facebook or Twitter. Even if your account is private, it could get back to them.

20. Even if you’re friendly with your colleagues, be aware of crossing boundaries. Over-sharing details of your personal life is unprofessional no matter how close you are with your team.

For more information on Meier visit or follow her tips on Instagram.


How to Stay Cool at Work

It’s hot out there and, even with these random showers, it doesn’t seem to be getting cooler. Plus, it’s hard to get work done when you’re sweating bullets.

So we’ve gathered some simple tips to help you stay cool:

Wear light clothes

In the summer, both lightweight and light-coloured clothes are best for surviving the heat. Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk are best because they absorb sweat, and its evaporation will help you stay cool. Artificial fabrics such as polyester and rayon tend to be heavier and aren’t so absorbent.

While dark colours absorb light and heat, lighter colours reflect it. If you must wear a suit, try one that’s white or light grey instead of black or navy blue. The same goes for shirts and blouses.

Cover up

It may sound counter-intuitive, but wearing more clothing can actually help keep you cool. Many people living in the hottest regions of the world will cover themselves from head to toe as it keeps their skin shaded and protects them from the sun. Make sure you wear loose clothes to allow air to circulate.

Close the window

While a breeze is always nice, all you’re doing by opening the window is letting in hot air, unless it’s significantly cooler outside. Even worse, if you’re in an air-conditioned office then you’re letting the cool air out. Drawing the blind to keep the sun out can also help to lower temperatures indoors.

Stay hydrated

When it’s hot outside, you sweat more and lose fluids. Drinking water will keep you healthy and cool.

There are other ways that water can ease the heat. A few cool drops on your wrists and the back of your neck can help lower your body temperature. Alternatively, keep a spray bottle on hand and give yourself a nice mist every hour.

Follow the sun

If you’re going to be on site, or you know you have to do something physically strenuous, try to schedule it for first thing in the morning while it’s still a bit cooler. The longer the sun is up the hotter it gets, and so it becomes more likely you’ll overheat. If you can, avoid going out between 10am and 3pm, when it’s hottest. And if you’re outside, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Stay down

Heat rises, so the lower you go the cooler it gets. If your building has a basement, grab a laptop and work down there. Even going one floor down can make a big difference.

Eat small meals

That nice warm feeling that comes after a big meal isn’t just in your head. When you eat a large meal, your body must work harder to digest it, pushing your metabolism into overdrive. Try to have small snacks throughout the day instead of larger meals and you’ll feel much cooler.

Avoid caffeine

While many simply can’t function without their daily fix, forgoing your morning tea or coffee can help you stay cool. Caffeine increases your heart rate and blood flow and speeds up your metabolism, all of which raises your body temperature. The same goes for beverages with a high sugar content, which can have similar effects.

Frozen treats

So what snacks are best for keeping you cool? Ice cream and ice lollies certainly work, but frozen fruit is a much healthier choice. Pop some watermelon or pineapple slices or some grapes into the freezer and a few hours later you’ll have a sweet, cold and healthy treat. Frozen lemon and lime slices are also great for keeping your drinks cool and refreshing.

Avoid hot devices

Phones, tablets, laptops and other devices are all made of metal, which absorbs heat. Worse than that, portable devices all have batteries that can overheat, especially in the summer. Try to keep your devices in bags, away from your skin and out of your pockets. If you work on a laptop, try using an external keyboard. Otherwise, the components most likely to overheat will be right under your fingertips.


15 Ways to Enjoy the Summer When You’re Trapped in an Office

As you’ve probably noticed, the good weather has arrived! And we’re sure you’ve also noticed that your office is still operating as if it’s not beautiful outside. You’re stuck inside, staring at a stock image of a beach as your desktop background while your social media feeds get filled with photos of tropical getaways, Summer Friday activities, and tan lines.

While you can definitely continue daydreaming of your next escape, you can also take matters into your own hands and learn to enjoy the season from indoors. While my tips and tricks won’t land you that summer glow, they’ll definitely help you scroll through Instagram without feeling (quite so) jealous.

1. Make Fruit-Infused Water
One of the best parts of it being sunny out is having the excuse to down fun drinks without feeling silly. And we’re not just talking poolside cocktails!

To make a summery (SFW drink), all you need to do is check out these DIY recipes that you can make at home and leave in the office fridge.

2. Switch Up Your Playlist
’Tis the season to make a new playlist with all your favorite summer hits. Maybe it’s a classic like “Summer” by Calvin Harris, or perhaps it’s a song that no one else relates to summer but reminds you of your family’s annual beach trip. Or, maybe it’s just a compilation of every “song of the summer” from the past 20 years from Spotify.

Get everyone (else stuck) in the office involved by asking for suggestions. If you’re still feeling stumped, start with these recommendations.

3. Brighten Your Desk
It’s no secret that colors affect our mood, environment, and work ethic. So, why not incorporate the colors of the beach into your workspace?

4. Plan a Frozen Treat Happy Hour
If your office doesn’t participate in Summer Fridays, suggest starting an (alcohol-free) happy hour on Fridays to enjoy some ice cream sundaes (or slightly less-messy ice cream sandwiches).

The only thing that doesn’t work for this? Bringing your guilt! Taking an hour away from work will actually make you more productive. So, put down your computer, and pick up a scoop.

5. Lighten Up
Whether you bring a new lamp to your desk or purchase a “happy light,” brightening up your workspace is a simple trick to feeling more like you’re outdoors. Especially when you’re trapped in a cubicle craving some sunshine.

6. Play With Your Wardrobe
Nothing notes a season change more than switching out your closet. If your most beloved part of summer is a sundress or bright shorts, find ways to incorporate your summer pieces into your wardrobe.

Obviously, keep your company’s dress code in mind, and be sure that all attire is work-appropriate. But, there’s no reason you should still be wearing what you wore when it was snowing out.

7. Switch Up Your Lunch
BBQs are great for the summer, so leave the boring old sandwiches at home and grab a hot dog or burger for lunch. If that sounds ridiculous to you, take it down a notch and just bring in a few sides—like cole slaw, beans, or potato saad.

8. Get Outside Every Day
A little fresh air can do your mind and body wonders, so step outside for some breaks during the day. It’s a simple trick that’ll score you some Vitamin D and improve your efficiency. Can you say win-win?

9. Bring Popsicles for Your Office
Stock your office freezer full of popsicles and snack on one when you’re craving a treat—or, better yet, make some friends by offering them up to your co-workers.

Have a few extra minutes? Grab one and go sit outside while you eat it.

10. Buy a Plant
Bring the outdoors (and some fresh O2) to your cubicle with some small plants. Even if you can’t physically be outside, you’ll feel a little better if you can actually see some green. Personally, I love this one—and not just because it’s called a Donkey’s Tail.

11. Make Your Schedule More Summer-Friendly
If possible, start coming in an hour earlier so you can actually head out at a reasonable hour and enjoy the late night sunshine. (Because it wasn’t so long ago that it was dark at 4 PM.)

Or, put the bulk of your work or meetings on your schedule earlier in the week to allow you to duck out on Friday afternoons without missing anything important.

12. Use Your Lunch Breaks Differently
Eat outside instead of at your desk, bring your lunch so that you can use your break to get a quick mani-pedi, or spend those 30 minutes reading a book (outside if you can).

Feeling more ambitious? Go for a walk—even a short one—science says it’ll only make you better at your job.

13. Make Summer Friday Friends
Also known as all of those other people who have to work on Fridays, too. Try to make a routine to grab lunch together at your favorite outdoor restaurant. Or, at the very least, know who will be around to chat when the rest of the world goes quiet at 2 PM.

14. Change Up Your Commute
If you usually drive to work or take the train, give yourself extra time in the mornings to walk or bike to work. If that’s not an option, try to take a different route. Switching up your daily routine (especially if it’s been daily for years) will feel more exciting than you even realize.

15. Get Sporty
Bring summer sports to your office! While I don’t recommend throwing a frisbee around computers, there’s no reason you can’t take 10 minutes to toss one around with your co-worker outside in the parking lot.

Or, if your office has the spare room (and your co-workers understand the difference between tossing a beanbag and torpedo-ing it), you can easily play a quick game of cornhole.


10 Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day in the Workplace

Last month we talked about how to celebrate Moms in the workplace. This month, let’s take care of the dads!

When your employee shows up to work, you expect them to leave everything at the door, focus on work, and make the most of their time on-the-clock. What you probably don’t often see or discuss is the sacrifices they make by being a working father. Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to recognize and thank the hard-working dads for putting in an honest day’s effort regardless of circumstances, sleep-deprived and all.

Here are ten great ways to celebrate the fathers in your workplace: 

1. Pass out nice gift frames to the fathers in your office so they can display photos of their children. It’s a great personal gesture that allows them to celebrate fatherhood 365 days a year. Try googling Father’s Day Photo Frame or Photo Gift for some classic and elegant ideas.

2. Treat the office to lunch. Whether you choose to get catering or opt for delivery, serving food is a great way to break bread with your employees and allow them to relax over good food. If you’re feeling particularly enthused, taking the whole office out is another idea.

3. Announce a communal potluck and give your employees ample time to prepare their favorite dish for the big day. Honor the fathers by asking them to bring in a photo of their children and ask them to say one interesting thing about them. Set aside time during the work day for your employees to hunker down, bond with their colleagues, and dine together.

4. If you’ve got the room in your budget, give each dad a small monetary gift, like movie tickets or tickets to the zoo. Providing an experience on the company allows your employee to create family memories that will last long after Father’s Day is over.

5. Nobody says no to ice cream. Surprise your employees by hosting an ice cream social in the afternoon! If your sights are set on delivering the wow factor, surprise your employees by having an ice cream truck pull up to your workplace and serve unlimited ice cream.

6. Have a picnic for your employees’ families and ask the managers to grill hot dogs and burgers. No better way to demonstrate your appreciation than reversing the pecking order and having management serve the staff.

7. Plan a company excursion, such as to a local sporting event or a fun group activity like bowling. Not only will this boost morale, it allows employees to socialize and build relationships.

8. If you’d like to go all out, host a full-fledged family day of fun with carnival activities, contests and games, such as relay races, a treasure hunt, a bouncy house, and more. Consider preparing snacks like mini bags of popcorn, cotton candy, chicken shish kebabs, etc. Take lots of photos and post them on the office bulletin board to commemorate the occasion.

9. Have a cupcake decorating party and invite your employees to create some beautiful Father’s Day-themed treats they can proudly take home to share with their family. If you’re unsure of where to start, Pinterest has some great ideas.

10. Create gift bags for the children of the dads in your workplace. Some great ideas include coloring books, crayons, markers, activity books, bubbles, stickers, and tattoos. Write a handwritten note about how much you appreciate each dad’s hard work, and pass along the gift bag for their children. (Bonus: consider including a fun Father’s Day-themed worksheet the kids can fill out and give their dad to tell him the little ways he matters.)

Taking the effort to recognize and celebrate Father’s Day is just one way to develop a positive staff culture that will ensure your employees feel happy, respected, and acknowledged.