How to Make the Most of Your Hybrid Team

Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”–Thomas Edison

Today’s business managers might be forgiven if they think this phase of the pandemic should be called the “hurry up and wait.” In March 2020, knowledge workers fled their office buildings to work from home. A year later, many of those folks had to start making plans to return to the office because COVID was supposed to be over by summer. 

And now here we are in the Fall of 2021, with the Delta variant, vaccine controversies, and major companies like Apple and Amazon pushing back their return to office start dates. It’s enough to make a manager question their career path.

Whether you believe that remote work will permanently transform modern business practices or fade away with COVID, many managers are dealing with some version of a remote or hybrid team dynamic right now. 

Winston Churchill once said that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” And if you’re a manager with a hybrid team, you have the opportunity to make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt. But only if you’re intentional about it. Here are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself if you want to get the most out of your hybrid team.

But First, a Definition

Hybrid work comes in all shapes and sizes. This article assumes that all of your direct reports work from home some of the time and in the office at other times. Hybrid teams with two dedicated worker tracks–some work remotely 100 percent of the time while the rest return to the office–have specific issues that we’ll discuss in a future article.

It’s Only the Best of Both Worlds If You Treat them Like Different Worlds

Ask Yourself: Do my team’s in-office days look measurably different from their work from home days?

It makes no sense to bring people into an office so they can sit in front of a computer and not talk to each other. Instead, prioritize work that takes more planning and intention if done remotely. Going to lunch with a cross-functional colleague or grabbing coffee with your direct reports probably doesn’t feel like work. But those in-person interactions help your coworkers see you as a human being. They help your team to “hear” your voice and add in the context of your personality to the emails and text messages you send. They’re better able to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Everyone is busy. We make decisions every day about when to open someone’s email or answer a phone call. That lunch could make the difference between Claudia from Sales saying to herself, “Why don’t I answer Artin’s email before I stop for the night? It will only take a few minutes,” and “Eh, I’ll answer Artin’s email Monday. I was just about to stop work for the night.” It’s a lot harder for Claudia to say no if she feels that Artin respects her as a person.

A Successful Hybrid Team Flips the Office

Ask yourself: Could this entire in-office workday have been an email?

I’m not suggesting that you should turn in-office time into an eight-hour brunch session. Or pack in back-to-back meetings that could have been an email. Instead, take a page from education called flipping the classroom.

According to the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, “flipping the classroom means that students gain first exposure to new material outside of class…and then use class time to do the harder work…of assimilating that knowledge…in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor.”

In a flipped hybrid office, employees would devote home office time for head-down work, low stakes/routine collaboration, and research. Office time would prioritize trust-building, brainstorming, creating buy-in, and resolving conflict. All of these activities benefit from a period of solitary preparation. 

Only you can decide the extent to which your team can flip the office. There will always be people who need to complete head-down work in the office for various reasons. Additionally, managers work within the context and constraints of their company culture. But taking the time to optimize your hybrid team’s time inside and outside a traditional office is well worth the effort. You will find that they are more effective and productive, no matter where they do their work.

What’s That Douglas up To?

Grandpa Pete and I were sitting in his backyard after spending many hours cooking Carnitas.

Well. I didn’t think my break from the blog would be a month long. How are you doing? I hope you’re well. Shortly after my last post, I went to see my grandpa in California, and it did me a world of good. I haven’t been back home since December of 2019. I hugged my mother. We spent the first night on her back patio drinking rum and juice and talking about music and painting. I met my 14 month-old grand-nephew.

And most of all, I listened to my grandpa tell stories. We talked about his time as a demolition expert for the army. We talked about how he met my step-grandma. I learned the one true way to make carnitas even though I am a vegetarian and there were entirely too many pig feet involved. And the first thing I did when I got back to Canada was to start telling those stories to my children, while my grandpa is still alive, when we sat down to dinner.

In more writerly news, I had a story published on The Syndrome Mag, called An Open Letter to the Man Looking for Love On LinkedIn. It’s a comedy piece dedicated to the men who think it’s cool to proposition professional women on LinkedIn. I’m thinking of just sending a URL to the piece any time that happens to me going forward.

I also launched a Latinx literary audio mag called (super creatively) LatinX Audio Lit Mag. We (and by that, I mean I) publish fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction from people who are part of the Latinx diaspora. I’ve been blown away by the beautiful submissions I’ve received. You can find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Radio Publica. Have a listen if you’re so inclined.

Don’t Throw the Remote Baby Out With the Bathwater

Photo by Georgia Maciel from Pexels

Back in 2011, I had a colleague we’ll call James who started an executive MBA program while fully employed. He had the full support of our director, who we’ll call Wayne, who was also enrolled in an evenings and weekends MBA program.

The only problem was that James decided to take daytime classes while pretending to work during the day. He missed team meetings, or showed up late and pretended his camera didn’t work. His staff couldn’t reach him since he never answered his phone. Our boss fired him a few weeks later.

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an expose revealing that some employees have decided to take on two jobs. And some employers are going to read this and think ‘I knew it! If you don’t watch employees they’ll cheat you! Everyone needs to come back to the office.’

In reality, you can structure the remote environment so it’s clear when people are working–without resorting to surveillance equipment. I wrote about How to Know if Your Remote Employee is Really Working over on Medium if you want an overview of what to do. But here are some quick tips:

Hold Regular Check-Ins

Wayne exposed James’ deception very quickly because he had a set of regular check-ins with his direct reports. James wasn’t doing his work. He had nothing to talk through with his boss (or with us, during team calls) because he wasn’t doing anything. Wayne’s check-ins were short, interactive, and tailored to the needs of the team. In other words, you couldn’t just log in and ignore the meeting.

As a side note, I’m not suggesting that all meetings need to happen in real-time, on camera. That isn’t realistic. You should “meet” in some fashion, often enough that you have a sense of what your direct report is working on. That can happen just as easily over chat, phone, or email.

Focus on Outcomes

Is your direct report turning in a reasonable amount of work in a reasonable amount of time? Is it high quality? If so, then your direct report is working. If not, spend some time diagnosing the issue. Did you provide enough training? Is the employee spread too thin between departments? There are many reasons why someone’s work might suffer.

Many employers find that, if they provide the right environment, their workers are even more productive when they work from home. And many employees enjoy the benefits that come from working remotely. Don’t let a few bad apples cause you to miss out on the very real benefits remote work provides.

What’s That Douglas Up to?

Well. There’s really no gentle way to say this. I had a lovely vacation with my family, and then two days after I got back I found out my maternal grandpa has liver cancer. He has three to six months to live.

I’m grateful that Canada opened its borders to US travellers because that means I can afford to book a flight to see him in a couple of weeks. My grandpa taught me many lessons about how to deal with people. I am the person and manager I am today because of the stories he told about work around the kitchen table.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during COVID, it’s that my grief expresses itself in different ways. One day I’ll do nothing but feed the kids and stare blankly into space. Then on the next, I’ll get up and bury myself in multiple projects. So you’ll continue to hear from me. But maybe not as often. this isn’t an apology; it’s more of a head’s up.

You Need to Manage High Performers Differently

Photo of Olympic symbol at sunset, near a beach. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Last week Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympics all-around gymnastics final, and much of the world lost its ever-loving mind. Biles is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. She has no equal in gymnastics. Therefore, the only person who can legitimately decide whether she’s fit to compete, is her.

The same is true for extraordinary performers in all fields. That’s what makes managing them so uncomfortable for some bosses. Often, managers expect to lead by showing their team how to do things or coming up with the right answer. But you can’t do that when your direct report is better than anyone else at their job–including you.

I’ve managed elite performers during my time as a people manager, and I’m here to tell you that these folks still need you. They just need you differently than average performers. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re lucky enough to manage extraordinary people.

Even Simone Biles Has a Coach

There’s a school of thought that says, when you have a top performer, your only job is to get out of their way. That’s not true. You actually need to be a hands-on manager. Think of those elite race cars at the Daytona 500. They go through an average of 20-28 tires during that race. With elite performance comes elite maintenance. But the maintenance is different.

Act as a sounding board.

Elite performers need to bounce ideas off of people too. And they have few, if any, equals to collaborate with. So a good manager acts as a coach by asking leading questions, and encouraging experimentation. You may never tell them what to do, but you can help them clarify what they should try next.

Check your insecurities at the door.

When some managers are confronted by greatness, they compensate by taking the “everyone has something they can improve” approach. Then they pick something minor and spend time reminding the elite performer that they suck at it. This is about as effective as trying to get Simone Biles to improve her basketball game. The woman is 4’6.

Don’t confuse this with ignoring bad behaviour. If an employee is acting violently or inappropriately, deal with it. I’m talking about picking people apart because you feel intimidated. Don’t do it. Your job is to be as good at managing them as they are at doing their job.

Keep other people from slowing them down–or boxing them in.

We live in the era of mass-produced everything. And chances are, someone higher up the hierarchy would like to turn your high performer into an army of high performers. But not all extraordinary people are good teachers. And let’s face it, even if Simone Biles taught us gymnastics, I doubt you or I could do half the moves she does.

You may have to protect your high performer’s time. You may also need to protect their ability to perform their job to the best of their ability. Just as the judges at the US Classic underscored Bile’s Yurchenko Double Pike to keep things “fair” for everyone else, you may encounter leaders who essentially want to slow your direct report down because nobody else in the company can keep up.

This is an irrational decision. In business, EVERY company should want to outperform their rivals. The only way to overcome this maneuver is to be well connected. That way, you can talk the right people out of setting unnecessary limits on your people.

Managing elite performers is immensely rewarding. You get to watch people with extraordinary abilities do their thing up close, and benefit from their talents.

What’s That Douglas Up To?

My desk is set up! Image of a desk with a laptop, a second monitor, and shelves with plants on the wall.

I almost typed “finally done emptying boxes!” Unfortunately, that isn’t literally true. I still have boxes of yarn that need to be put in their new home. But I’m at the point that I can ignore those boxes with abandon and get on with my life.

My desk is set up. Wahoo! I think better when I have a dedicated space. My desk will never be super clear because I have many interests and they all cross my desk in one way or another (that’s a sewing box on the right) but it’s pretty.

I was supposed to have a comedy piece out last week but the fine folks who accepted it last year haven’t published it yet. I’m also waiting on a short story that is supposed to be out “soon,” and a comedy piece that was accepted last week.

Now that I have my desk set up I’m hopeful that I’ll begin writing regularly again. Hopefully, I’ll have more news to report on that front in my next blog post. Stay safe out there, friends.

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.