Bookshelves Are My Own Private Windex

In my wild fantasies, my home looks sort of like this, but with a fainting couch and a margarita machine in the corner. Photo by Ivo Rainha from Pexels. Image description: Old world library with floor to ceiling books.

In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, patriarch Gus is convinced Windex can solve any problem. I think bookcases are my own private Windex. We own three of Ikea’s five-by-five bookcases, and I take up half of that real estate with my books, crafts, yarn, and fabric supplies. 

My husband would probably tell you that I use up more than half of the family bookshelf space. Since this isn’t his blog, we’re going with my story. Ha!

I love the way big bookshelves section off spaces. As Maya Middlemiss so aptly said in her excerpt from her book Finding Your Edge, “There have to be edges, where the workplace stops and the home begins.” 

And I find myself needing those edges as I transition from a private office with a door to an open space in my new living room. My enormous bookshelf is a “wall” that separates me from the dining area. Soon I’ll set up small shelves for my office plants and hang up my calendar. There may not be actual walls, but my office will be visually distinct from the living room, and that’s all I need for now. We’ll see what happens in a month after I’ve lived with my office for a bit. A new place is an opportunity to try new ways of working and I’m going to take full advantage of it.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

Mostly recovering from moving during the Pacific Northwest heat dome. Vancouver normally has only a couple of weeks of true heat, so most homes lack air conditioning. Heck, some businesses don’t have air conditioning. There were blackouts and fires, and people died in their overheated homes.

On a more personal level, the temps were almost high enough to kill our pet rats. I spent a lot of time keeping them cool with a constant supply of ice and cold fruit. And our movers almost didn’t come because some of them fainted from the heat the day before. I am incredibly grateful they felt up to moving our stuff for the few hours they could give us. I’m also grateful for my friends who came over and helped us get everything out of our house, so the movers only had to load the truck from our yard.

That’s how you know your friends really like you. When they’re willing to come out in the heat during COVID to schlep your stuff.

On a more writerly note, I had a piece of literary flash fiction show up in National Flash Flood Journal on June 26th, entitled A Command Performance for the Only audience that Matters. What I wouldn’t do for an unexpected sprinkler to run through right now. The heat dome is off plaguing other people but it’s still hot for Vancouver.

I might settle for a margarita slushy machine. Do you think I can find one that comes with a fainting couch? I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

Guest Post: Working from home, or living at work?

Photo by Maya Middlemiss. Image description: Woman sitting at a desk with a Mac computer and second monitor.

by Maya Middlemiss

Note from Teresa: Today is my moving day! Fellow remote work advocate Maya Middlemiss has graciously agreed to step in this week with an excerpt from her newest book ‘Finding Your Edge: Establishing and Maintaining Your Boundaries When You Work From Home.’ I think you’re going to enjoy it.

While most people end up working in one particular space or location, part of the joy of working from home is that you can be a lot more flexible, and indeed I urge you to think about the space you have around you more creatively than you might be able to in somebody else’s building.

Perhaps there are different parts of your working day, or different activities, which lend themselves to different locations? Reading and research can be done just as well from a sofa, standing meetings at a bookcase or a kitchen counter, to switch up the energy and vary your working day.

A word of caution on the boundaries front, though. While this can work very well, particularly for highly integrated homeworkers, you might want to keep a few hard edges here.

I go out of my way to consider different needs and avoid being prescriptive, and I often find myself in a quirky blend of irritated and amused by the various ‘Rules for working from home’ articles you find, which are frequently written by columnists who never do so regularly. I believe that when it’s your home, no real rules apply other than your own.

I do encourage you to think through your rules though, and at the very least have a couple of red lines you will not cross, where work cannot be permitted into your personal life, time, and space.

The Rules type listicles will say ‘Never work from your bed’ – which you might want to consider. Perhaps you have to work from your bed though, because you’re sick and you’re on a deadline, or your central heating is broken and it’s the warmest spot. Perhaps instead there’s one favourite armchair where you love to read magazines and watch TV, and instead THAT is the boundary you will impose, and you’d rather sit on the floor than ever work from that spot. This is really important, so protect that space, ensuring that it will always signify home/not-work whenever you sink gracefully into its familiar upholstery.

Or you may have a favourite view out of the window which common sense might suggest is a good location for your desk, but actually, this aspect is so personal and relaxing to you that you’d prefer to turn your desk to the wall and save that vista for non-work appreciation.

There have to be edges, where the workplace stops and the home begins.

The Rules also say never work in pyjamas, or even wear full-on business dress to ‘go to work’ from home. This one has never worked for me in any way. I regard clothing as highly functional, and the function of clothes for working from home is to be comfortable and appropriate to the ambient temperature, plus whatever else I might be doing that day. This could mean a slightly smart top if I have an important call, or it might mean swimwear or yoga pants or whatever other healthy thing I think I might be more inclined to do later on. It might even mean both.

For me, it will never involve a suit or anything similar, but if it helps you to go to work in formal wear, then go for it. Just like you might be more confident in that online meeting if you wear full makeup, or a perfume that no video-conferencing platform can yet convey the effect of, even if you download the latest version, if helps YOU feel more confident or professional or beautiful, then have at it.  Wear a ballgown or fancy dress, or yes, even your PJs if they are comfortable the rest of the time, because it’s YOUR home, your work, your mood, your boundaries, and that’s all that matters. You can always pretend you left a filter on Zoom by mistake, if you accidently show up to a work meeting in your Monsters Inc onesie.

Alternatively, change into your PJs to signal to yourself that the work is at an end and the day is done, if that helps.

Here are some ideas for creating boundary conditions. They won’t always make it into an odd-numbered clickbait listicle of ‘rules’ on popular websites, but you might want to think about instigating the following:

·  No TV or radio on in ‘the office’/during office hours, in shared areas. Anything which creates distraction will just make the working day longer and less productive anyway.

·  No eating at your desk – take a proper break for meals, even if it’s a few feet away. I observe this one as strictly as I can, but obviously coffee is an exception and can be mainlined at any time.

·  Stay off work-related messaging and social media during the evenings at home (or at the very least, during mealtimes).

·  No work apps on the front page of the home screen of your phone (see tech and boundaries, below).

·  No removal of chargers, cables, post-it notes, highlighters, or ANY OF MY STUFF from my desk, at any time. Not even when you’re just borrowing it and I wasn’t there to ask and you really need it right now and anyway… “You weren’t even using it Mum!” Anyone with teenagers in the house, can you relate to this?

Excerpted from Finding Your Edge: Establishing And Maintaining Boundaries When You Work From Home by Maya Middlemiss at Healthy Happy Homeworking. And if you are looking for a legitimate job you can do from home or anywhere of your choosing, Maya’s new self-study course, Successfully Securing Your Remote Job, is available now.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

The beginning of the purge and pack for our move. My son rediscovered the stereo cabinet he used to play in as a toddler. Image description: Boy stands in a box with his head sticking out of a rectangular shaped hole.

Welcome to the ‘never-ending move’ edition of the Living La Vida Remota blog! I’m your host; Teresa “should have just set my possessions on fire last month,” Douglas.

We move in a week. On Sunday, I finished packing the kids’ room, and they’re living out of suitcases and sleeping on mattresses on the floor. On Monday morning, my son asked if we would do something special to mark the day we leave our house, which is also the last day of school, and the answer is yes, of course, we are.

I’m a big proponent of saying goodbye. I threw the goodbye party at work when I (and rather a lot of other people) got laid off from my previous job, and I invited everybody. And you know what? A whole whack of people came. Humans need closure.

Humans also need to be realistic, so our closure event will be getting ice cream from the shop around the corner after school. If I’m feeling really extravagant, I’ll buy fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast. As my son would say, we’re “ballin’ on a budget.”

What’s the Douglas Up To?

Leave-taking and transitioning. I have been the sole moderator of my neighbourhood Facebook group for the last six-ish years. I tried to give this role to someone else at least three times, but no one stepped up. It turns out all I needed to do was move away. I’m handing that role over to three competent people.

I’m so glad. If you want a healthy online culture, you need people who are willing to manage the experience. You need a person or people who care a lot but are willing to kick people out if they violate group norms. Not everyone is willing to bring the hammer down. But as every gardener knows, a thriving garden needs both planting AND pruning.

This is true both on social media and in your work and business life. Don’t be afraid to pull out the weeds and trim out the dead weight. The people who should be there will get more room to thrive.

Catch you next time.

When to Worry About A Company’s Remote Work Policy

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels Image description: Two people sitting on a couch, looking very worried.

On June 7th Flex Jobs published a study called 10 Red Flags of a Toxic Hybrid Workplace. Whether you’re looking for a new job or transitioning to a more permanent hybrid work style, it’s worth a read. Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.

Companies don’t plan to become toxic. They get there largely through complacency. “We hire the best of the best,” they may reason “We’ll figure out our hybrid work model as we go along.” Or they threw something together for the pandemic and assume that plan is sufficient going forward.

Here’s the thing: March 2020 was a collective “uh oh” moment. We had no idea how the virus spread and we didn’t have a vaccine. Under those circumstances, it’s easy to step up and unite under the common goal of earning a paycheck while not dying.

The Thrill is Gone

But we’re fifteen months past March 2020. And as researchers discovered in studies with skydivers, the human body acclimates to its environment. If you jump out of a plane enough times, the stress you experience is “more akin to the stress you get from driving in slow traffic that’s making you late.” (Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman)

We’re habituated to COVID19. And that means anyone who was scared into a better version of themselves may lapse into their old (bad) work habits. The pandemic forced us to rip down the wall between our home lives and work lives. Children video bombed work calls and we collectively had to get over it.

But what happens when part of your workforce re-enters a traditional office space? Many unvaccinated children in the northern hemisphere are (or very shortly will be) on summer break. If your company doesn’t have explicit, inclusive guidelines, some managers may penalize staff that must work and parent at home.

Secondly, people who are less scared are going to be pickier about their company’s remote work processes. I strongly suspect that many employers will discover that the information and communication channels they set up in March were powered by fear of the virus and employee goodwill. Employees will only attend ten Zoom meetings a day for so long before they decide to mutiny.

Smart leaders get ahead of the mutiny.

Look for Curiosity and Plans to Iterate

A company isn’t necessarily toxic if they lack a final version of their remote work plan. This is chapter two of the great remote work experiment, after all. But you should be worried–very worried–of employers whose plan is nothing more than a set of high-level ideals. Worry about the employers who think they’ve “solved” remote work and have no mechanisms in place to review their processes down the road. Worry about leaders who don’t show curiosity and a willingness to change.

In the end, work systems are living things. They should grow and adapt with the needs of the business. Leaders won’t always get things right on the first try. But if they begin with a concrete plan for efficient, inclusive processes, and iterate along the way, they’ll develop a great place to work.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

I’m up to my eyeballs in moving boxes. My living room looks like a warehouse organized by a kleptomaniac. This, despite the amount of stuff I’ve given away or donated. Why was I keeping my kids’ old preschool lunch sacks? What was the plan with that?

In any event, I haven’t written much in the last few weeks. Widget published my comedy piece Mary Poppins Adopts Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, which I wrote a month ago. Tim Ferriss is someone I love to hate because his whole system is based on exploiting low-paid workers. One of his acolytes once asked me to ghostwrite a book, in two weeks, for very little money and was surprised when I told him no. He didn’t understand that writers have to eat too.

I might post next week, or I may give in to the all-consuming beast of this move and post the second week of July. Either way I’ll see you soon!

Guest Post: Easy Task Management Strategies for Everyday Life

By Stephanie Haywood

Image of calendar with words “this week” and a camera. Image via Unsplash

Note from Teresa: I am in the middle of all the logistics leading up to my move, so this week I’m turning the blog over to guest poster Stephanie while I make high-stakes decisions such as, ‘do I really need that spiralizer in the back of my kitchen cabinets?’ And, ‘is it normal to have this many books?’ I’ll see you all next week.

Small business owners have had to learn the hard way that proper task management is vital to both the survival of a business and the mental health of its owner. Balancing the demands of both work and life (while also having personal time to recharge) is no easy feat. Thankfully, you can learn the skills necessary to free up more of your time so you can concentrate on what is most important to you. 

Here are some easy strategies to task manage like a pro.

Prioritize

You can’t do everything at once, so you’ll need to prioritize. First, create a system for determining which tasks are most important and/or time-sensitive. Move these tasks to the top of your to-do list. Next, determine which tasks need your individual skills or attention. Then you may be able to delegate the rest, creating more time and energy for yourself. 

Create deadlines

For tasks that aren’t time-sensitive or don’t already have a clear endpoint, creating deadlines yourself will help keep you on track. Research shows that deadlines (even if arbitrary) can improve focus, boost productivity, and increase perseverance. Even if you find time constraints stressful, learning to work with them can decrease your overall stress in the long term. 

For example, if you struggle to stay on top of your email inbox, tell yourself that you have until a certain time to respond to the most urgent ones and can then take a break. Both the time deadline and the reward of the break can help motivate you to complete the task quickly and efficiently. Another benefit of deadlines is that they provide a burst of energy and focus when you’re close to the end (much like a runner ‘smelling the barn’ and sprinting to the finish line).

Define ‘finished’

While it’s obvious when some tasks are done (such as washing the dishes or mowing the lawn), it’s not the case with everything. If you tend to tinker or overthink, you could be wasting time on projects that are already complete. For tasks where it isn’t as easy to identify completion (such as editing a piece of writing, processing a photograph, or organizing your garage), you may need to decide ahead of time what ‘done’ means to you so that one project doesn’t hijack your entire to-do list. 

If you’ve delegated tasks to others, be clear about what ‘finished’ means to you so that you don’t have any misunderstandings or incomplete tasks. To ensure that the person doing the task knows what your expected end goal is, communicate your requirements both in writing and verbally if possible. If you’re hiring freelancers, it’s beneficial to you and the contractor to create a freelance contract that specifies the type of work and services, payment terms, and the terms of termination. People have different learning styles, so multiple forms of communication can be very helpful. Time deadlines also help define what ‘finished’ is, but they aren’t the only indicator. 

Our daily lives (both personal and professional) revolve around continually completing tasks. When we occasionally bite off more than we can chew or haven’t mastered task management, it can create problems. Thankfully, prioritizing, creating deadlines, and determining clear endpoints can go a long way toward improving your efficiency. Once these habits become second nature, you’ll be free to concentrate on what you enjoy most in life. 

Sometimes Multitasking is a Bad Idea

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels Image: Asian woman in workout clothes checks watch and looks at cell phone.

We’ll start with a remote work cautionary tale.

Last week I contacted someone in a Facebook writing group I’m in to talk about a passion project I’ll launch in Fall. It’s an audio literary magazine for Latinx writers, and this person offered to help get it off the ground.

I was in a hurry. My message was a little meandering, and I hit send before checking my spelling. We were using Facebook Messenger. I assumed that a few spelling errors would be fine on an informal message asking when she might have time to chat.

Mistakes Were Made

Well. I left out the word ‘mag’ (short for magazine) in the URL I manually typed into messenger. Then, iPhone autocorrect helpfully separated the three-word URL into separate words and decided the last word was a website. Only it couldn’t find a website spelled the way I spelled it, so it made its best guess.

Folks, it linked to a Latinx porn site. But that wasn’t the worst thing.

Not only had I just sent a professional contact —a contact I’d only spoken to once before, mind you—a porn link, I did it in my chiropractor’s office. He was taking a long time to come into the room, and I panicked. Was I on the office wifi? Did his admin person call him over to see what I was watching in his patient room? I’ve knit baby bonnets and booties for this man’s children.

Visions of his wife picking up the knitted socks with salad tongs and throwing them into the fire roared up in my head.

Did you know that you can’t delete Facebook Messenger chats off your phone? You have to do that on a laptop. This is a real big oversite. Maybe the functionality was there but I couldn’t see it while I was panicking and my eyes were (metaphorically) bleeding.

How Did I Get Here

I consider myself a remote work pro, but I made a rookie mistake. Namely, I decided not to check my message for the right tone and spelling. Had I done so, I would have caught the spellcheck disaster before it happened.

More importantly, I didn’t honour the way I like to work. Some people enjoy blending their personal life and work tasks. That’s not my style. I like to keep things compartmentalized. Personally, I’m faster, less stressed and more accurate if I focus 100% on work tasks during designated work periods. The only thing I should have been doing in my chiropractor’s office was knitting.

The answer is always more knitting.

The real point of this long-winded story is that each of us has a preferred way to work. Figure out your preferences, and honour them as much as possible. Right now, some folks can’t have what they need to be happy remote workers. You’re working and caring for kids. Perhaps you’re stuck working in your home when you’d rather work from a coffee shop. Or the countryside.

I wish I could wave a wand and change that for you. Until then, figuring out what you want in your post-Pandemic office will help you get there more quickly once we’re on the other side.

Fortunately my chiropractor did NOT kick me out for accidentally linking to a porn site on my phone, and the person I contacted on Facebook messenger forgave my gaff. This could have ended so differently. Maybe I’ll look back and laugh about this? Someday?

What’s That Douglas up To?

I have something like four-ish pieces that have been accepted for print but won’t see the light of day until the summer.

But the biggest, most exciting news is that I’m getting my first dose of Pfizer on Wednesday, May 12th. I knit a new top for the occasion. It matches my teal face mask and I bought some teal eyeliner so I can be matchy-matchy. This will be my own personal Golden Globes event, where the prize for one vaccine goes to ME.

We’ll Throw the House Out the Window

Image description: Three pineapples wearing party hats, surrounded by balloons. Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels

I have exactly one remote work-related thing to tell you and it’s this: Tuesday, April 27th I’ll be part of a Twitter panel discussing the future of meetings. If you’re reading this post before 12 Eastern, come check it out as we Tweet live and answer questions. Fellow app is hosting the discussion under the hashtag #ManagerChat. If you missed the live event you can skim through the discussion at your leisure.

For those of you who only read this blog for the remote work articles, feel free to ignore the rest of this update.

A Doctor in Da House

Seven years ago my husband, two small children, and I left California to start a new life in Vancouver Canada. When you have skin as light as ours you get to say you emigrated and are American ex-pats. Whatever you call it, we moved to Canada so my husband could get his Ph.D.

Last Friday the man successfully defended his dissertation, becoming Dr. Douglas. We partied like two middle-aged married folk with kids locked down during a pandemic. There were naps. There were limited edition Russian Imperial Stouts for the Dr. and Canadian Ice Wine for the woman who stayed married to him throughout the making of the degree. We ordered Malaysian takeout. Our daughter congratulated her father. Our son called him Dr. Dad.

Wine, Woman, and Song

I was a one-woman cliche of celebration—I’m a woman, I had wine, and I sang songs (after the wine). And since we’re in a pandemic, and Canada is in the midst of its third wave, and all our family is in the US, that’s as much in-person celebration as this life event gets.

But just you wait until we’re all vaccinated. As my grandmother would have said “Nosotros pasarmos un buen tiempo.” (We’ll have a good time.) In fact, we’ll tirar la casa por la ventana. In English, you raise the roof, but in Spanish, you throw the house out the window. Sounds to me like Spanish speakers throw better parties since the whole house is involved.

Either way, I plan to make up for lost time.

Let’s Stop Assuming There’s One Right Way to Work

One person’s perfect work situation is another person’s prison. (Try saying that ten times fast) Image description: Man sitting at a work desk, eating noodles while looking at a computer screen.)

In a recent Atlantic article, The Hidden Toll of Remote Work, author Arthur Brooks argues that “going fully remote forever could exacerbate one of the worst happiness disasters of the pandemic.” He quotes statistics from Buffer’s 2020 survey (which uses data from 2019) to show that remote workers struggle with loneliness and collaboration.

It seems like a pretty grim picture. The only problem is that this tale is incomplete. If you look at Buffer’s 2020 survey (which isn’t the most recent one), 98% of respondents want to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. If you look at the latest survey, 96% of all respondents, and 99% of workers who started to work remotely due to COVID, wish to continue doing so, in some capacity, going forward. Ninety-eight percent would recommend remote work to others.

Your Job Isn’t Your Mother

It’s undeniable that remote workers can struggle with loneliness. It’s also true that working in a traditional office is an important component of some employees’ mental health. But recommending that all workers resist transitioning to permanent remote work is a step too far: “If the office permanently closes, consider whether your employer has your best interests at heart, and if you can, think about moving to another company.” 

That last quote, in particular, gets under my skin. Office buildings weren’t invented because someone asked themselves, “Hey, how can we make our workers happy?” They did it to increase productivity and control the working environment. A company isn’t a family. It’s a unit designed to make money. A company should be ethical, and the best ones hope you’re happy, but they aren’t your mother. 

Let’s Put Down the Pitchforks

Before we ask folks to join a back-to-the-office revolution, let’s first consider pointing people toward the tools they need to ward off loneliness no matter where or how they work. That information is out there. I know because I’ve written some of it. But I’m not the only one. There is a veritable army of people waiting to help you make the jump. Working from home isn’t synonymous with isolation. If you like working remotely and are motivated to make connections with people, you can learn how to do so. 

Someday the pandemic will be over, and those of us who love to work remotely will once again spend time with the people we met in our communities because we weren’t chained to an office. 

In the end, we need workplace choice. If Mr. Brooks wants to work from his pre-COVID office, I hope he gets the opportunity to do so. But I don’t want to be forced back into a traditional office because someone else doesn’t like working from home. That would be as ridiculous as insisting everyone should raise children because some people enjoy doing so. Instead, let’s respect each other’s differences and work together to create humane workplaces, no matter where we sit.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

The big news is that we’re moving this summer. My husband is finishing up his PhD, and so we’re moving away from campus. The Vancouver housing market is pretty insane. And oh my goodness, the applications! It was like applying to college. We had to write a personal essay, talk about our extra curricular activities, and submit references. I wish I were kidding. I’m surprised they didn’t ask for a lock of hair and a vial of blood.

In between looking for places to live, I wrote stories for the book of essays about my family’s pandemic year. I also did a voice-over for my micro-fiction piece Spores, which will be appearing in the audio-lit mag Micro at some point in the near future. I found them while researching audio literary magazines as part of an upcoming project. More on that later. Meantime, check out Micro. They’re doing some fun things.

I hope you and yours are coping as best as you can. I’m rooting for you!

Will Remote Work Change Cities? Yes, If We’re Lucky

Image description: City skyscrapers at night. Photo by Peng LIU from Pexels

On March 29th the New York Times ran an article from Matthew Haag entitled Remote Work is Here to Stay. Manhattan May Never Be the Same. In it, Haag reports that “As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.”

If New York wishes to fund the services that keep the city functional, something has to give. Either everyone needs to go back into offices in the city (which isn’t a good idea before we achieve widespread herd immunity) or government officials need to rethink where they get their revenue.

Businesses are Incentivized to Keep Remote Work

Rethinking a city’s revenue mix is the strategic thing to do. The pandemic has been billed as a once-in-a-hundred-year event. However, assuming that the next catastrophe will happen in our great-grandchildren’s lifetimes (and therefore is something we can leave them to deal with) is short-sighted at best. Climate change has already led to more destructive hurricane and fire seasons. Many of the major cities of the world grapple with housing shortages.

Hefty real estate costs and adverse weather events give businesses solid reasons to offer remote work options for their employees. To put it bluntly, remote work is an important part of a company’s risk management. Remote work offers businesses the opportunity to lower costs and continue operating during disasters. No CEO in his or her right mind would give up that advantage.

If cities want to recover from the pandemic and remain relevant, then they need to operate as if employees have more choices about where they live and work. If a white collar employee can work from anywhere, then they don’t have to live in a 500 square foot basement apartment with eight other people.

It’s Time to Think About Cities Differently

People have to want to live in a city for other reasons. Personally, I love cities. Nightlife! Culture! Restaurants! I’ve lived in some great ones–New York, Los Angles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently I live in the suburbs of Vancouver. It’s quiet, and boring, and exactly the sort of place I need to stay because it has a good school for my kids and I can afford things like music lessons and summer camps. I would move to downtown Vancouver in a hot minute if 1) comfortable housing was affordable 2) there were good schools for my kids and 3) there were reasonably priced, family-centric activities to participate in.

Families move out of cities and into the ‘burbs because cities aren’t set up for anyone but the wealthy or the single. Let’s change that dynamic.

The technology that enables remote work has been with us since at least 2009. The only thing standing in the way of mass migration of white-collar jobs to remote work has been the old-school management mindset. The pandemic wiped away a great deal of that “remote doesn’t work for MY company.”

New York isn’t dead. No city has to die. But if the world’s cities want to keep up (and keep the revenue rolling in) then they need to shift along with the times.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

I’m in a toxic relationship with my printer. The thing generally refuses to print anything and blames me for the issue–it says I’m out of paper when I’m not. Then, just when I’m ready to throw it away I decided to try printing something one more time. And you know what? Magically it starts working. But not for long. Oh no. Just long enough that I hesitate to throw it out the next time it fails to perform.

There are very few times I wish I worked in a traditional office, but dealing with failing home office equipment is one of those times. I would LOVE to hand this problem to someone else to deal with. Sadly, I need to break up with my problematic printer on my own.

Recent Publications

I wrote a running-themed quarantine piece back in March 2020, and it took until February 2021 to find a home for it. In Zombie Run, I talk about finding safety as a woman running during quarantine.

For Weekly Humorist, Cassie Soliday and I teamed up to create a tongue in cheek piece on celebration our one year COVID anniversary entitled 5 Ways to Make Your Pandemic Anniversary the Best on the Block.

And last but not least, Bombfire just published my 100 word story Spores, which is a weird take on past experiences affecting the way we see the world.

I procrastinated about writing on my book this week, which is not good. Instead I wrote something else while will be showing up in Quarantine Review some time in August. I’ll share that when it comes out.

See you next time!

You Can Fire People Humanely Over Video Call

Image description: Person holding box full of desk supplies.

In the 2009 movie Up in the Air, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man whose job it is to fly to workplaces and fire people. His nemesis is a woman who wants to fire people via video meetings in order to save money. By the end of the film, you’re left with the impression that the only humane termination is one done in person.

The recent Huffpost layoffs seem to bolster that idea. Staff were reportedly told at ten am that if they didn’t get an email by 1pm, their job was safe. This means some folks waited three hours to find out if they had a job or not. Worse, they couldn’t be together when it happened since the team was working from home due to the pandemic. The people manager in me wonders why Buzzfeed didn’t just send out those infamous emails all at once. Getting fired by email isn’t great, but waiting three hours to get fired by email is even worse.

The thing Up in the Air and Buzzfeed both seem to miss is that you can, in fact, conduct humane terminations via video call. Just as you can conduct terrible layoffs in person. The mode of work–in person vs remote–doesn’t change that fact. Employees don’t lose their humanity just because leadership can’t see them.

I have a lot more to say on this topic. I’m in the middle of writing the “how to fire humanely over zoom” chapter in my upcoming business book right now. But here are two things to keep in mind if you need to lay off a remote worker in the next couple of weeks.

This is Not the Time to Hide Behind Business Speak

Human Resources and Legal Departments will want to vet whatever communications go out to your employees. That’s only natural. But make sure that your employees–both the ones leaving and the ones staying–get to see a human take responsibility for the layoffs. And make sure you show them your very human regret.

The Employees that Stay Are Watching You Too

Few people expect to stay a a company for life. But they’ll still hold it against you if you toss people aside like empty printer cartridges. They may put their heads down and continue working, but they’ll remember how you treated their colleagues. And how you act once the dust settles.

Think of it this way: you would never attend a funeral and expect the deceased’s family to go to a party right after to celebrate that they are still alive. And you would never tell the survivors that you’re happy they’re alive because they’re brilliant at what they do. The same holds true for layoff survivors. This is a case where doing the right thing is good from both a people and results perspective. Show a little respect for your employees’ feelings and they will more quickly refocus on the job at hand.

There is no magic formula that will make people happy to be fired. You’re separating people from their livelihood, after all. But you can–and should–take a human-centered approach when you do it. Doing so will both help your employees process the trauma of the terminations, and benefit your business results.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

Writing, writing, writing. I was having a tough time finding the opening for my business book’s chapter ‘How to Fire Humanely Over Zoom,’ until I had a conversation with someone about how not to lay people off a week or so ago. And just like that, the first few pages unrolled in my head and I had to type furiously to get it all down.

As a result, I don’t have a lot of other writing to share with you. I have no fewer than three accepted pieces waiting to be published in other outlets, but this is from work I wrote weeks ago. Two of them are literary and one is comedy. (When I’m blocked in one type of writing I usually switch to another so my subconscious can work through the issue on its own time.)

I’m Teaching My Kids How to Cook

This has resulted in some truly spectacular dishes. Some of them are spectacularly good while others…are learning experiences. So far we’ve learned not to use as much pickling salt as you would table salt, and that tortilla soup does not need to be thickened with tomato paste because soup is supposed to be runny. I think we’ve avoided having to learn that you shouldn’t put marshmallows in butter tarts even if you like both of those things separately. Whew!

That’s it from Douglas HQ. I hope you can find little pockets of joy this week. I’ll see you next time.