Six Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Online Work Environment

Creating a Healthy Online Work Environment

The need for a healthy and satisfying work environment is not up for discussion. Any enlightened manager knows its benefits. The same need extends to remote workgroups, and that is still something of a revelation to many leaders.

 Perhaps it’s because of the “environment”. The remote work environment is fleeting; all team members don’t work together. They cannot share the same jokes; they can’t feel each other’s challenges. At least not by default – that’s why building a culture of empathy and team spirit is critical.

 As the remote workforce grows bigger, there is a serious concern for remote employees to remain connected to the rest of the team. A vibrant work environment that meets the requirements of remote employees can help reduce that isolation.

What exactly constitutes a healthy online work environment?

 It’s a work environment where remote employees feel safe in their roles, an important part of the team and the company, and one where they have the opportunity to learn and grow.

 A healthy online work environment encourages unrestricted communication, open discussions, and collaborations. It supports remote employees with educational and technical resources to enable and empower them. It overcomes hurdles like different time zones or different work methods.

 A healthy work environment is one that promotes a healthy lifestyle, free of emotional strain. It is a place where employees feel that despite working remotely their work makes a difference, not only to the company’s bottom line but to the community as a whole.

 The edicts of a healthy online work environment mirror that of an in-house team.  Remote workers have the same need to feel safe and secure in their work. They still need to be challenged and held accountable for their actions. And they definitely need the support of colleagues to flourish in their roles.

 A healthy online work environment translates to happy employees. And what is the business decision that underlies employee happiness? Research has shown that happy employees are 12% more productive.

How to cultivate a healthy online work environment

  •         Trust and faith: Without trust no team will ever reach its full potential. That’s possibly truer for remote teams – who don’t always get to see the full picture and have to rely on other members to fulfill their roles. Likewise, having faith in a colleague, even when mistakes crop up, will go a long way in building an online work environment that is secure and reliable. Both trust and faith underpin the decision-making process and accountability – two qualities remote employees seek to feel part of the company.
  •         Peer-review and recognition: Sometimes feedback from peers is saved for occasional reviews. But it should be fluid enough to become a part of the daily routine so that remote employees can receive and share feedback without worrying about egos or hurting anyone. Open recognition of achievements is just as important to foster motivation and improve productivity. On the other hand, recognition of problems within the team and swiftly addressing them will also help promote a healthy remote work environment.
  •         Intellectual challenge and educational resources: Remote work often relies on tools and apps that new hires may not be familiar with. And on top of that, given the flexible nature of online work, help may not always be readily available. A healthy online work environment should have resources in place for employees to rely on not only to fulfill their roles but fire up their intellectual curiosities. Because an intellectually challenging role is one of the best motivators.
  •          Safety and security: “Remote” doesn’t take issues like discrimination and harassment off the table. In fact, these deadly problems have already migrated to the online work environment. The danger for remote employees is that if they don’t speak up, their pain and the existing problem will continue. Both team members and team leads should be wary of these issues. Victims should be able to speak up and get the support they deserve.
  •         Work impact and social responsibility: Knowing that their work matters not only to the company but to society is not a vague factor for employees. The new workforce, particularly Millennials, prefer working for companies that have a strong social responsibility program. Giving remote employees the opportunity to participate in a company’s CSR programs will tighten their bond with the company.
  •         Health and wealth: Companies can’t dictate good health measures to employees. Yet the effect of a healthy lifestyle on the employees’ work and the company’s profit is far from debatable. This is why managers are now actively reinforcing healthy habits. Remote employees shouldn’t miss out on the support of the management or colleagues because they don’t meet face to face. In addition, full-time remote employees have the same needs for time-offs that will help renew them for dedicated work.

Be it fun team-building activities or an open ear to a colleague’s troubles, measures that make the online work environment tangible despite being fleeting will help remote employees perform better, feel supported, and build relationships – and in turn make them feel like an important part of the company.

Perhaps a healthy online work environment is not measured in numbers. But lasting relationships, loyalty towards the company, and a remote employee’s pride in working for the firm is a good gauge for how conducive the environment is to dynamic remote work.

 

Guest Author Bio

Image courtesy of DistantJob.com

Image courtesy of DistantJob.com

 Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 10 years of experience in tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high-quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost – with no red tape and within two weeks.       

 

6 HR Epiphanies Learned Through 6 Years of Blogging

6 HR Epiphanies

Yesterday was my 6th year blogiversary for this here blog. I am eternally thankful for the ride I have had to date with this blog. After 10+years of living HR day-to-day (6 of which I have spent writing about it too) — you have many a-ha moments.

This blog has spawned a business, speaking engagements, brand partnerships and more.  I created this blog as a safe space for me to reconcile the things I was experiencing as an HR practitioner who struggled between being human and being in HR. I’ll explain more about that later.  Ultimately, the more opportunities I garner to step outside of the traditional HR box the more I see both the potential and disarray of HR as a discipline. Both warrant our attention separately and collectively.

As such, I have decided to share 6 HR or more specifically business epiphanies with the lens of HR for my fellow practitioners to sink their teeth into.

Here we go…

1) One of the reasons that I struggled to find sustained success in my HR positions was I was always striving to be more “human” in Human Resources. That should not be an oxymoron, but judging by discussions I have had with friends who are practitioners as well as attendees of my workshops — there is almost always a moment or moments in which we all as practitioners need to yield more heart than head; less policy and more practicality. No HR practitioner should be working in HR feeling like they are at constant odds between their HR duties within their respective organizations and their own morals, values, and well-being. This needs to stop.

2) Change is happening quickly. Innovation is the new buzzword we all love to hate. That aside, I’m not sure that we are moving quite as quickly towards innovation in our own discipline as we should. If we are the core or the heart of the organization, how well can the rest of the moving parts operate with a slow or non-existent “heartbeat”? Ponder that for a moment.

3) On innovation, we can not afford to have change happen to us, we must initiate and lead from where we sit. Forget “seats at tables” and our usual bouts of being “strategic”. When was the last time we shifted or pivoted for the sake of being a better industry without first being beat down in some doom and gloom article or being coerced by other elements outside of our sphere of influence? Don’t get me wrong, we are very much guided by what happens in our individual organizations and must keep an eye to that, but it is safe to say that we should have many ideas about how HR can be done better and be actively seeking to implement or experiment with them.

4) The truth hurts. That is if you are brave and bold enough you have to realize that speaking truths outside of the normal realms of compliance, strategy, and protocol will rub people the wrong way or they will pretend to not understand. I’d like to believe we have gotten smarter as a species, so it is a little hard for me to believe that people can’t or won’t admit to some of the harder truths working against us like: Why does Diversity & Inclusion exist? Is it because it is necessary for having a sustainable business or is it because there are systems beyond the scope of business and HR designed to marginalize groups of people who are now being “managed” and given “opportunities” under the guise of D&I? I’ll let that marinate.

5) For HR practitioners and HR Influencers alike, if you don’t have a zeal for improving lives, society, businesses — get out! There is a space for you in this world. You owe it to yourself to find it as there is a vast labor market of opportunity calling you to find your true passion and purpose and/or a tiki torch, but I’ll save that discussion for a different day. I have had my fill of HR practitioners who have fallen and bumped their heads on HR and do it with hate and disdain for the industry. As for the “influencers”, many are great, just as many exist to blow hot air about how terrible we are as a discipline while collecting checks from said discipline. There’s a difference between “tough love” and “snark for snarks-sake”. Know the difference. Evaluate yourself and if all outlined here is applicable– get out! As the saying goes, we can do bad all by ourselves.

6) Lastly, there is still hope for our discipline despite the calls for its obliteration. It’s called imagination, creativity, and humility. These three things are the foundation for what HR needs to be in the present and in the foreseeable future. These three approaches to HR and business are not to be seen as scary but are meant to excite, inspire and galvanize those of you who are ready and willing to face societal ills, digital transformation, and rapid growth head-on. The future is exciting and so is the work we have ahead of us.

So there you have it, my epiphanies on HR 6 years into blogging. I hope it sparks conversation, makes you think, and promotes change. After all, the initial intention of The Aristocracy of HR was to raise the standard of HR while always asking ourselves the hard questions about how and why we do what we do.

Thank you for reading, supporting and inspiring me through the years.

Humbly yours,

 

Janine a.k.a. Your “CzarinaofHR”

Heads Down, Mouths Shut: The Distracted Generation

Heads Down, Mouths Shut-The Distracted Generation

To say there is a lot going on in the world right now is probably an understatement. The current events of the moment are so cumbersome and so complex that for many it has become emotionally and physically taxing.

The interesting thing about the emotion piece is that most of us are walking around unable to muster up emotion for anyone or anything that doesn’t directly affect our own lives. That is to say that we would rather lose ourselves in the joy of Beyonce’s pregnancy or the latest You Tube video of someone making a fool of themselves in an effort to ignore and/or not fully participate in the more pressing issues of the moment. As an avid watcher of the hit show: The Walking Dead, I am more and more convinced that our story – like the show will never be about the zombies or the villains who destroyed humanity; but rather the human beings that were so out of touch with reality that they allowed it to happen.

Of course there will be the bunch who say: “I can enjoy pop culture and be just as socially vigilant as the next soldier”. Sure you can. I will not deny you your joy. Lose yourself. However, I will wager you that the people dying in Aleppo have no distractions; nothing to divert their attention from the daily horror of their own lives. The biggest diversion those poor people have is the pain of losing loved ones, the periodic pleas over social media to save them, and the hunger pangs plaguing them for weeks at a time.

Do you think the people of Flint, Michigan have the luxury of caring about pop culture or the latest viral video when they are going on their third year of having lead-ridden water to drink, cook, and bathe with?

What freedom to divert attention do the people of Pinellas County, Florida have as 95% of their students continue to fail reading and writing with a white-run board of education who prides themselves on incarcerating young black children for minor offenses?

Enjoy your diversions, your bubbles, and all of the things that make you comfortable and happy daily. I simply hope that the freedom to enjoy those things is never taken away from you. I hope you never have to become invisible to a whole society of people who value their diversions more than your well-being.

I hope that you never encounter an injustice so horrible that people leave you to cope in deafening silence, because they are afraid to lose what little has been afforded them.

By all means, keep your head down at that job where you can’t seem to make strides, but affords you a regular check. Keep your mouth shut so as to not stir your friends, family and professional network – I’m sure they will all come to your rescue should misfortune befall you.

Personally, I cannot keep my head down. I will not keep quiet. I have watched enough atrocities to know that I am quite fortunate and at any moment it can all be taken away from me. Nothing that is granted is indefinite. I know enough to know that I cannot cure all of society’s ills, but I know that to not step up and lend a hand is a moral sin.

As we all continue to watch many of the constructs of society and government crumble before us, we need to ask ourselves whether we are going to be proactive and do our part; or wait until misfortune hits closer to home to snap out of it and into action.

Please know the goal has always been for each of us to be so wrapped up in self-preservation, survival and distractions that we remain oblivious to all of the underhanded things going on right under our noses.

If you want to know what’s going on you merely have to stop and pay attention to what is going on and the connectivity of each event. Enjoy the glimmers of beauty still present for our enjoyment regularly; but please also recognize that your ability to enjoy those moments is a privilege many do not have.

Ultimately it is your choice to stay abreast or to live in ignorance. Choose wisely.

 

Three Lessons I Have Learned From Five Years of Blogging

Three Lessons I Have Learned From  Five Years of Blogging

September 13th will mark the 5 year anniversary of The Aristocracy of HR. I certainly never set out to become a blogger, so reaching this milestone is pretty darn special. There were quite a few people who gave me a chance and supported from the very beginning. I’ll give them a shout out next week as well as address how I stumbled upon blogging; but for the purpose of this post I want to explore what I have learned over the past five years.

The first lesson is: Honor your writing process.

Don’t get me wrong consistency is a huge factor in achieving and maintaining traffic to your blog, but you want to know what is even more damaging than consistency- forced content. I have never been able to write under duress. Like a true artist, I need the spirits to move me or something to inspire me to write. Luckily, I have been inspired on more weeks than not these past five years. However, there have been a few weeks in which nothing I thought to type was worth your time.

I often had this aching feeling like I needed to put something out for the sake of not losing readers. I used to sit in a bit of my own purgatory, until one day I learned to honor my writing process. I write what inspires me. The only other writing I know how to do is to introduce a product, service or event which is a bit more technical. Outside of that, I am not a content calendar gal. It just isn’t helpful given the way I write.

If there is anything that I have learned, it is that you will churn out the worst content – if you don’t recognize what kind of writer you are and honor it. Planning a content calendar may help some organize their thoughts – while others may be more free-spirited like me. Do what works for you.

The second lesson is: Write what you know.

I’m not sure how many blogs I’ve read over the years, but I am certain it’s in the thousands. That said, there is nothing worse than reading something that seems forced or isn’t based in fact. There is of course satire, but I am talking about the group of folks who are professionals, experts, gurus, ninjas in their own right yet, their story and/or style of writing leaves much to be desired.

Part of how you succeed as a blogger is to write what you know. The things that are like second nature to you, but still a mystery for the right audience is where the magic happens. I’m not saying pick easy topics to write about all the time, but do yourself and your readers a favor by knowing what you are talking about. Lack of acumen can plague even the best writing. It’s kind of like an unwanted zit – it’s grossly noticeable, unnecessary and bothersome.

Lesson three is: Be humble.

When I started blogging in the HR niche, there were a lot of cliques and elitist personalities in abundance. I’ve since learned that many of the other blogging niches suffer from the same problem. Many of the bloggers who were prolific five years ago have either fallen off the blogging scene and faded into obscurity. Some have moved on to other endeavors. Yet there are still a few plugging along like me. You never know where your next opportunity is coming from. Treat new bloggers the same as you would a blogger with thousands of followers or readers. That newbie blogger with a rather scant reader base and social media following can sky rocket to notoriety in the blink of an eye. Focus on being better at your craft, but never count a lesser-known blogger out.

I believe one of my keys to success with The Aristocracy of HR is that I am humble and welcome connecting with my readers and followers whether online and offline. It may seem as though this would be simple for most bloggers to follow through with; but I have seen many let the pomp and circumstance of blogging success get to their heads. Don’t let that be you.

There are so many other lessons I have learned in five years. There are far too many to share in a mere blog post. When I got clear about how I wanted to celebrate this occasion I realized the best way to do so is to give my time and ear to those thinking of dabbling in blogging and/or those who are bloggers but need a fresh perspective to continue.

As such, I am holding a free Q & A call on September 13th to answer questions about blogging, business, and how becoming a blogger has transformed my career and life.

If this is you, register for my call below. Conversely, if you know someone who could benefit from this call, please feel free to share the call information.

 

 

Stay tuned here as there will be many more celebrations of my 5 year Blogiversary and announcements in the coming weeks!

 

Three Reasons Why Failure Feels So Permanent

Three Reasons Why Failure Feels So Permanent

I was on Facebook last week and happened to see a headline that actor, Will Smith had some choice words for “The Donald”. I clicked on the headline and watched the video of his press conference in Dubai for Suicide Squad. When probed by a member of the Dubai press about the negative reviews of Suicide Squad he said the following:

” I feel like at this point in my career I’ve earned the right to fail. Right. So, I’m going to take shots and I’m not going to hit them all; because I’m going to be trying really wild, aggressive, creative things. Some of them will be critically-acclaimed, some of them will make money and some of them will be Wild, Wild West.” 

It resonated with me, because it reminded me of my own journey and relationship with failure.

Perfection be damned!

We are the most imperfect-perfect society. Most people are so broken, so lost, still learning, still striving and yet we will do everything in our power not to appear to be an overall failure. It starts when we are young. We are coached, molded and forced to put on appearances whether at church, family functions and school. The messages we receive are that mistakes are okay, but don’t make too many of them. How does something as imperfect as a human rise to such a level of perfection?

We rise to the occasion as much as our spirits can take us and eventually we all fall short. It is in those moments of imperfection that we recognize that we are fighting an uphill battle. Those messages of “failing just enough, but not too much” feel inhumane; but still we have appearances to upkeep.

Why does failure feel so permanent?

The funny thing about failure is: It isn’t permanent at all.  When I look back at my failures, there isn’t one that completely destroyed me. You couldn’t tell me that while I was going through it, but not one destroyed me.

I’ve been through a lot. Once you have overcome the fear of failure, you figure I got this.  That is until your dreams and aspirations grow even larger in size. So, here I am again wanting to expand and reach for the stars and guess who is back to torture me – our frenemies, fear and failure.

To be honest, failure is uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like comfort food on a rainy day. It’s like the night you drank too much and prayed to get past it; while also promising never to get drunk again. In this way, much of how we approach failure has to do with mindset and approach.

Let’s explore why failure feels so permanent and what we can do to change it.

Reason 1) “If I fail, everyone will know I failed and judge me for it.” Oprah once said that every guest she had on her show from celebrities to the KKK had one thing in common- they wanted to be understood and seen for who they are.  We all worry about others seeing us fail and the opinions and/or judgments that will follow. Particularly in this digital age where everyone is so visible; failure feels very public.

Newsflash: Time fades everything – especially memory. What you think people remember about your failures is very unlikely the case. No one person should have that much power over you and your climb to success.

Reason 2) ” I feel like everything is crashing down on me in this moment of failure.” I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the feeling of failure and how this exacerbates the whole experience. As humans, we generally set out to do something and in return we expect our efforts and intentions to yield the perfect outcome. When things don’t align in the way we imagined, we generally feel like nothing can ever be better again because of that failure. Depending on the magnitude of the failure, those feelings of sadness, guilt, pessimism can last for a long time.

Newsflash: It’s important to go through those emotions, but you can’t live there forever. It’s the whole “being tired of being sick and tired”. The woeful feelings get old. Ultimately, things do get better. It requires a change of perspective and working on your approach to failure.

Reason 3) “Failure is bad and in return what I set out to do was bad.” Let’s be clear most of us don’t know how to fail and recover from it. No matter how many times we try to re-frame “failure” it is still ingrained in us as something negative. Most of us want to be seen as a success. Until recently, success was the positive end of our efforts and failure was the negative outcome of our efforts. It sounds easy enough to say we should revise our definition of success to include a healthy helping of failure, but our prior conditioning doesn’t want us to be great.

Newsflash: Let’s not romanticize failure as if all failures are equal. There are failures that result in casualties and some that are rather benign by comparison. Sometimes it really is as bad as it feels. Still, there is a lesson to learn and a wrong to make right. The grit and strength you have to use to get there is what success looks like.

Like Will Smith, I feel like I have earned the right to fail. It is a revelation you have when you have spent much of your life trying to walk a straight line. Perfection doesn’t exist. While we are all out here trying to figure out our purposes and life missions – we might as well let the failures teach us and lead us to success.

Share your feelings about “failure” with me below.

 

Startups Are Enjoying Human Resources A La Carte

Image courtesy of Flickr.com.

The definition of “a la carte” is: separately priced items from a menu, not as a part of a set meal. I am seeing a trend in my business that suggests that HR has a value in businesses still, but the need and delivery preference is more “a la carte” in nature. This means that smaller companies and startups don’t have the capital, need or want for a full-fledged HR department, but will seek out different aspects of HR expertise as the need arises.

How does this work?

Let’s just say you have a startup and you have five employees currently.  Perhaps, you operate your business in multiple states and have a mix of both contractors and employees. At some point (hopefully not when it is too late) you are going to need to understand if you are complying with all of the employment laws. Moreover, you will want to know that you have a sound plan for managing people as you grow.

If you own a startup and you already recognize what you don’t know – you may opt to bring in someone with HR expertise to audit what you have done to date and help you figure out what the right roles are as you continue to expand your business. That HR person doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent fixture within the company, but they are a call away if some other “people” related concerns crop up.

This option of a la carte HR services is a flexible option for startups and smaller companies. When you initially start your business, money is scant. You are lucky if you have enough to bring on someone for a couple of hours – let alone a full-time HR Generalist. Bringing in HR expertise as it makes sense for your company not only keeps you in compliance, but ensures that you have someone looking at your growth through the lens of your people.

Let’s take something as simple as recruitment. You are a startup. You’re using multiple sources to create buzz for a few new roles you have within your company. It has been my experience that recruitment efforts are made constantly without a look at whether the company is getting the biggest bang for their buck. Now this oversight isn’t specific to startups and smaller companies, but the impact of those missteps are much more visible and palpable when you are in a growth state.  There are also cracks and/or bottlenecks in their hiring processes that get overlooked. Again, not a mistake that hasn’t been made elsewhere – but a mistake that can hinder your growth as a startup before your business begins to gain traction.

How do you build an empire without considering what people you will need to get there?

This is the one question every founder should be asking themselves. As a founder of my own company, I am fortunate to have the big ideas and have a deeper appreciation for utilizing HR practices to enhance my business. I have that advantage since I worked in HR for ten years prior to going out on my own, but what about those founders who aren’t like me? Are they shooting themselves in the foot by not having some HR expertise in their back pocket?

My answer is: Yes.  You may not love what HR has stood for over the past 30 years. For that matter, I am not a fan of the stances we take when it comes to certain organizational issues. However, I think we can all agree that ping-pong tables, unlimited time off and flexible work schedules haven’t exactly solved the unhappiness at work quotient if you speak to people working at startups.

Startups are often regarded as the anti-establishments working in mostly unorthodox ways that don’t conform to a specific business standard. In many ways, it has been helpful to see something other than the usual corporate modus operandi at play; but perhaps there are some fundamental things we can’t wish away. I think one of those fundamental things is HR. You may wish HR didn’t exist, but there is virtually no way for a founder to be successful in growing their business without a plan for how you will manage the people that will be pivotal in helping you grow your empire.

Here are some things you need to do now if you don’t have an HR consultant on speed dial or an in-house HR person:

1) Look at your current roster of employees and consider whether you are complying with all of the employment laws in your state and federally. If you can’t answer a resounding “yes” to that question,  you need to find someone to look at your workforce immediately.

2) When you find the HR authority for your business, don’t just look for a popular blog, do some research. I shouldn’t have to tell you how popular “faking it until you make it” has gotten. Be sure that you vet your HR person’s expertise and feel comfortable with their approach to your needs. This can be sorted in a consultation. Do your homework.

3) If you’re looking to keep this endeavor budget-friendly, choose one area that touches your workforce and allocate funds for that. Focusing on improving one area that can have a positive impact on your company is better than doing nothing at all.

3a) While we’re on the subject of budget, make sure you allocate budget for HR in the first place. I don’t care if this is for a cluster of consulting hours. HR expertise for your specific needs is not free. Having some budget can get you the right professional.

For those of you who have been reporting that HR is dead, it appears on my end that it is still very viable and much needed. We may need to rethink how we package it, but we are far from being six feet under.

If you don’t believe me, even Fast Company agrees. Check out their May 2016 8 minute read article about it here.

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