How I dealt with a #work from #home #month

Forced to stay indoors after a recent ligament injury, I convinced myself that getting through the recovery period at home would be a piece of cake. As it turned out, the only piece of cake involved was one I ate every time I wanted to take a break from sitting at my table.

But keeping a check on my calorie intake was not the only challenge. I found myself wasting time, often calling up people to chat, and taking “tea breaks” far too often. So I reached out to a few experts and asked them for advice on how to deal with this. Here’s what I learnt:

No. You cannot take naps

I have a study table in my bedroom that works as my laptop stand. Which means that even when I am working, the bed is never really too far. And it can be quite challenging after a heavy lunch to resist the temptation of a 20-minute snooze. I mean, no one is watching.

Expert-speak: Francis Padamadan, senior director, APAC, KellyOCG, an outsourcing and consulting service provider, suggests creating a schedule to stay on top of things. He adds that having a separate work area—a study room or an office—is ideal. If a separate room is not possible, make sure there is at least a desk which separates your leisure time—television, sleeping, etc.—from your work time. This will reduce chances of distraction or breaks. “There is also a range of communication devices which lets you be in touch with the manager, and it depends on you how you use them,” he adds.

The most important thing is self-discipline. There is always going to be the temptation to do your personal work, maybe heat up the food, or watch a video. “But that is unethical and unacceptable. If you need to do something, schedule it into your day and tell your clients, colleagues, etc. that you will not be reachable for an hour or two, etc.,” says Chandrasekhar Sripada, professor (organizational behaviour and strategic human capital) at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

How do I manage my time?

In office, I knew I had to get in by a certain time, take a lunch break at 2pm, have tea at 6pm, etc. But, at home, I would end up having lunch at 4pm, working some days till 9pm and other days till 5pm. There was no consistency.

Expert-speak: Making a schedule for yourself can be boring, agrees Amit Kapoor, co-founder of Eupheus Learning, a Delhi-based educational technology start-up. “Everyone thinks it is there, all sorted in their ‘head’, but putting tasks down on paper could be beneficial. In fact, one can use tools like schedulers and reminders in Outlook or Google calendar so that they don’t miss an important deadline,” adds Kapoor.

A manager can definitely make the schedule for the co-worker and give timelines to be followed, as it were, in an office environment. Regular conference calls can let you stay on top of things at work, and in the loop. “According to me, work can be done from anywhere, especially if it does not demand the physical presence of an individual,” says Kapoor.

Can people just stop ringing the bell, please?

Okay, let’s not lie. We all listen to a bit of music, or read some non-work- related articles at work. But at the end of it all, you have to meet a deadline and finish your work. At home though, I spent most of my time answering the doorbell. The number of people visiting the house on any given day is much greater than the number of colleagues I talk to—from maids who could now come and go as they pleased, to delivery people and random neighbours making small talk. Can we just tell them not to speak to us? Can we not answer the door at all?

Expert-speak: Ensuring that at least the people close to you are aware you want to maintain a professional atmosphere and do not want to be disturbed during the day can help, says Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease, an HR solutions provider. “Regardless of the other distractions for a brief period of time, school yourself to find ways and means to find your flow and concentration and quickly revert to the task at hand. If you’re still struggling to stay focused, take a short break before you get back to the task in hand,” she adds.

Power cuts, internet speeds and iffy devices

Power cuts may not be common in every city, but dismal internet speeds surely are. Why are they never as fast as they show on TV commercials? Why does my laptop decide to stop cooperating as soon as I open three tabs on my web browser? Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to do my work using good old paper and pen?

Expert-speak: Formulate a stand-by plan for that inevitable power and internet outage and make sure all your devices are fully charged before you begin your workday, says Chakraborty. “Uninterrupted internet and power supply is very vital to function and stay connected, so make those worthwhile investments. It will help if you can arrange for multiple options (broadband, mobile broadband, USB, invest in an invertor or back-up generator) and not really depend on just one service provider or method.”

The fear of missing out

Not directly being part of meetings or brainstorming sessions can lead to alienation and a feeling of being left out. Mine is a small team, so I was always aware of what was happening, but how does someone working in a bigger team keep their chin up in a situation like this?

Expert-speak: Sripada, who worked from home for six months at one point, says it can be lonely. “No matter what you do, the human interaction, the casual conversation around the coffee machine, is something you will miss. In such scenarios, especially if the work from home situation is of a longer duration, you would want to meet up or go to places where peers hang out. So that you get an idea of what is happening in the industry, network, and be in the loop of things,” he says.

Design a makeshift home office (at no extra expense)

If you have to work from home for a few weeks, you could end up spending a lot of money to turn it into a work-friendly area. Here are some simple hacks to keep costs low and still have a nice set-up.

 Make sure your table has light. Moving it closer to a window will only help you during the day. You can get a small lamp for a large table. If it is a small one, move it under a ceiling light.

 Try not to fill up all the space on your table. Move your books, diaries or notepads to a corner or a desk organizer. This will make space for your laptop or desktop.

 If you want to add a hint of colour, you can keep a water bottle, a vase, maybe even a small desk plant. Hang a piece of art on the wall in front of you to break the monotony of the “office look”.

 Use jars instead of buying a pen stand to stock your stationery items. Not only will you spend less, you will also enhance the “artsy” feel of the table.

—Niharika Choudhary, founder and creative director, Peeli Dori


8 Values You Should #Communicate In Every #Job #Interview

“I’ve had three unsolicited job offers in the past week,” Bridgette told us last week. “I wasn’t expecting any of this. And, I haven’t updated my resume in nearly five years. And, I don’t know what to say in an interview. Am I basically thanking them for considering me?”

Those are great questions—especially when a company is trying to entice you to leave your current role. However, even though there’s a talent shortage, now isn’t the time to slack and assume companies will hire just anyone. Sure, they may have heard great things about you from a former coworker. They might have culled through your LinkedIn profile. And, they might already be sold on your existing resume and experience. But, they still want to know if you align on values.

When and if you respond to these recruiters or hiring managers, it’s still worth your effort to shine. Here are the top eight values we’ve found hiring managers are looking to find in new employees.

  1. Loyalty: It may feel a little hypocritical to claim your loyalty to one organization as you express interest in a new opportunity. And, it’s okay to express it in a cover letter or phone interview. Tell the hiring manager that you don’t want to leave your current company, but you promised yourself you’d never close yourself off from opportunity.
  2. Unique Contribution: Recall the aspects of your work results that only you could create. Maybe you offer value beyond the job description that very few, if any, can offer. Communicate these aspects—unique networks, special skills, work experience that may benefit the company, even if doesn’t typically fall into the job category.
  3. Growth Mindset: It might not be the first thing you consider when communicating with a new company, but leaders are focused on the future of the organization, and seek people who are interested in growing inside the company. Try to keep your communication less focused on your personal growth (I want to be earning xyz amount in so many years) and instead focus on your growth on how you can help the company grow.
  4. Self-motivation: While it’s easy to say you’re self-motivated, it’s a game changer if you can show it to a potential employer. Think about what you might be able to do for organization before they hire you. For example, if you work in social media, write a blog post. If you work in sales, make a beneficial introduction. You may never get paid for your effort, but you’re surely catch the attention of the company.
  5. Honesty: Don’t lie to a potential employer. Ever. If they ever find out you’ve lied about a seemingly simple detail, they’ll start to question everything about you.
  6. Positivity: Having sat across the table from potential hires, we’ve both been shocked by how some people believe complaining and negativity might be an attractive quality. We understand that while writing a cover letter, talking on a phone interview, or a face-to-face interview might make you nervous, it’s important to ignore those thoughts that say, “Oh, if I mess up, I’m doomed for life.” Be yourself. Use your unique voice. Be positive.
  7. Dependability: How do you prove to a potential employer that you’re dependable before you have a job? That’s a good question because dependability is more than just showing up on time and sticking with a company for a while. Dependability also means doing what you say you’ll do. Promise to follow up with an employer in a unique way. Be precise, and follow through with that precision.
  8. Team-Oriented: While a cover letter’s purpose is primarily to focus on your skills, talents, and values, hiring managers also want to know that you’re a great team player. Show this by communicating the appreciation you have for others who have helped you get to where you are today. Talk about current or former bosses and peers you’ve worked with in a positive way. Show your potential employer that you recognize strengths in others.

It’s true. Maybe in today’s job market—where companies are competing for and chasing down the best talent—you don’t have to try your best during the recruitment process. But, we like to think, in any endeavor—that you get back whatever you give. Show your values. Put your best foot forward. And, good luck.

6 #signs your #job is #ruining your #mental #health

First and foremost, most of us go to work to make money. Ideally, on top of that, you like what you do. On top of that, there may even be social benefits to going to work every day if you also enjoy being around your co-workers. If your job checks all of those boxes, great! If it even checks just one, you might be doing all right. But if you can’t think of one positive thing about your current situation, you might need to make changes. Work should not be a place that makes you feel terrible—all the time. Yet this is what happens to many people who must endure toxic work situations that are damaging them mentally. If this is happening to you, it is time to find a new job or make strides toward a new situation. Here are six warning signs that it’s time to make a change.

1. You can’t bring yourself to go to work

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel as though your limbs weigh 1,000 pounds and you simply cannot pull them out of bed? Does the idea of stepping foot in your office fill you with crushing anxiety, EVERY single day? Do you take days off simply because you can’t bring yourself to go into work? These are all great, big, flashing warning signals that something is terribly wrong at work, and it’s wreaking havoc with your mental health. Sure, for most people it’s not common to bound out of bed with a huge smile on your face ready to take on the day (how lucky if that’s the case!), but if work dread plagues you every morning, that’s not the norm.

2. You can never really leave work

If you have no chance to get out of a non-work mindset, you’re not living a balanced life. When you’re home with family or friends, do you still have your phone connected to work email and attached to your palm so you can deal with clients or co-workers? Are you always on call? Do you not even get to take a break when you’re in the office to go for a 15-minute walk to get some lunch or a breath of fresh air? If so, that is not a healthy way to live your life, and you probably need to make some radical changes. Everyone deserves time off, no matter what you do for a living.

3. You don’t want to socialize at work

From Monday through Friday, the average adult spends half of his or her waking life at work, so it is vital to get along with the people you spend time around all week, even just on a cordial level. But if things are bad at work, the idea of talking to or even looking at your co-workers may make you feel sick to your stomach. That is not a good thing, and a very clear indicator that your job is making you deeply unhappy.

4. You’re overlooked and ignored

Some people prefer to go under the radar at work, but there is a real downside to always being overlooked or ignored: you don’t get the accolades for a job well done that you deserve, and you might even get passed over when it comes time to receive raises or promotions. Chronically overlooked employees may start to feel like they don’t even exist, which can put them into an extremely unhealthy frame of mind. No one wants to feel as if they don’t matter.

5. Your job fills you with guilt

Sometimes we don’t think about the consequences of a particular job when first accepting it… we just need to work, whatever that may be. But if you are working for a company that commits the unconscionable—environmental damage; human rights violations; misogynistic, homophobic, or racist practices; selling unsafe products; treating workers like sub-humans; supporting immoral or unethical ideologies; lying to the public—simply going to work may fill you with an awful sense of guilt. If that’s the case, it may be time to find another opportunity. We all need to pay the bills, but you’ll want to remain true to your morals if what your company does is negatively affecting your state of mind. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror, your mental health will suffer.

6. Your personal life is suffering

A miserable job may make you feel miserable during work hours. A completely unacceptable one will leak into your personal hours. You might get testy with your spouse or kids at home. You might never be in the mood for intimacy. You might spend all your free time sleeping, crying, sulking, or simply thinking about work. If you feel terrible at all times because of your job, there is no question that your job is ruining your mental health and you need to take some positive action.

Going From #Dual #Income To #Single Income

There are many reasons you might consider a lifestyle change that means moving from two incomes to one. Maybe you or your partner wants to go back to school. Or pursue a passion project. Or spend more time at home with your kids.

No matter the reason, one of the benefits of moving to a single income by choice is that you have time to plan and prepare. As you weigh the pros and cons of taking this big step, here are a few things to try before making the decision.

Create a Leaner Budget

When it comes to reworking your budget, you’ll probably want to eliminate some spending. The three biggest ticket items are housing, transportation and food.

Here are a few strategic ways to slim down your budget:

  • Explore refinancing options for your home
  • Downsize to a smaller house with cheaper utilities
  • Trade in your vehicle for something more affordable
  • Prepare more meals at home and eat out less

Small Moves

There are a lot of little ways to re-evaluate spending around your house, such as taking a look at cable packages and phone plans. With rising TV costs and new alternatives, watching TV can get expensive. Consider downsizing your cable package or cutting the cord completely. The same goes for home phones. If the majority of your phone time is spent on your cell, you might not need that landline after all.

Practice Having One Income

If you’re considering going to one income, take a few months to try it out. Get used to your new budget. During this trial run, spend only what you’ll make with one income and put everything else into savings. It could help you save a good chunk of change before the actual switch. And if you have debt, you can use some of that savings to pay it off before you move to one income.

Re-evaluate Your Retirement Savings Plan

When it comes to retirement, consider increasing contributions to ensure you’re saving as much as possible. Do your research or talk with a financial advisor about options that can help you maximize growth and provide you with the most financial security.

Talk to a Tax Advisor

A lower household income could mean that you’ll fall into a new tax bracket. If that’s the case, you might want to change the amounts withheld from your paycheck each month. You can check with a tax professional or the IRS to see whether your withholdings need to be adjusted.

Get a Side Gig

Temporary or part-time jobs can give your family extra cash, whether it’s for spending, debt payments or savings. Work-from-home jobs allow you the freedom to stay at home with the kids and earn extra income. Do you have a passion project that could be monetized? That might be another way to make up for some of the income you’ll be losing.

Side jobs can also help you network with like-minded people—just like the office. Even if it’s not for extra cash, you can get involved in the community and stay active with learning opportunities or initiatives you’re passionate about.

Staying in the Workforce

Even if you decide not to leave your job, for whatever reason, living off of one salary is a great way to create a cushion for you and your family. This way, you get to keep your benefits, like retirement and insurance, but you’ll be tucking away one entire salary into savings.

All About Teamwork

Try to set goals and follow them as a family. You and your partner will be each other’s support system. Create a higher level of commitment to your new budget.

And don’t forget the possible benefits of this decision. Getting to spend more time at home with your kids. Going back to school for a new career. Maybe even getting a more flexible schedule working from home. Remind yourself why you want to make the switch. Going from two incomes to one is a big decision, but it could be the right move for you and your family.