What Does it Look Like

By Kristen Taylor 

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She asks. A stranger, at this point, since I was initially skeptical about therapy. It is a question dipped in concise innocence that cut so deeply into my vision of anxiety that I felt foolish that I hadn’t thought of such a simple phrase years ago. I spent so much time defining my anxiety, naming it, feeding it and letting it grow into a viable character in my life. I give it a space in my home and it sits next to me while I try to manage a cluster of tasks. It is the monster that lives inside of me. It sticks me into two corners of past and future distracting me from the present moment. The monster creates “to-do” lists and completion checks. Then it slides me into depression like the ocean waves hitting the sand it curls around me as I distantly get caught up in my own thoughts and worries. Everything becomes a reminder of the future – the things I should be doing- the mother, woman, and human that I should be. It reminds me, with past failure to shape my perspective on the future. It is downright exhausting to be in my head some days, making it impossible to visualize a life where the character called anxiety was not the constant antagonist. 


It seems easy enough, right. Create an altered narrative to this story. That phrase will echo over and over, what does it look like? What does a life of minimized anxiety feel like? My answer lately has been this: balanced. I was too afraid to admit what the unbalance looked like until I was laying on my kitchen floor gasping for my breath. I was unhappy in a job that was as equally demanding as figuring out how to be the mother of four. My phone chimed a meeting as I was putting away the dinner dishes and starting the bedtime process. I was going through motions of motherhood, as most of me was still sitting at my desk waiting for management to notice how much I had been slipping lately. I knew that meeting wasn’t exactly the promotion my stack of bills from another childbirth and partially unpaid maternity leave needed, for or the reduction of workload I had indicated in my secret meeting with HR. My work life was like the game of Jenga we played as an exercise in team building. I was the tower, and little by little pieces were being removed. I was toppling and they kept pushing pieces out. Some days it was the workload, or the declining relationships with management and almost always the craving to be present in that photo my husband sent of my children running around the zoo. Everything led up to this, the unbalance in my home life and the stress in my workload. I simply couldn’t handle it anymore; I lost my balance and fell. 

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It is a year and a half later. I am still picking myself off my kitchen floor. I always thought a breakthrough in managing my anxiety would be a sudden burst of clarity; as if the monster would just disappear the way they do in fairy tales. But balance, as I learned by practicing yoga, is built slowly and with focus. I am sitting outside on my patio surrounded by all the sounds of early summer – the soundtrack of birds with a baseline of a distant train and the vocals of neighborhood children. I am appreciative of this moment, it is one of the moments that I craved when sitting in a windowless cubicle. I get my work done in the morning. I tend to my favorite hobby, writing. I am hopeful for a sunset run. I focus on the good things of getting two toddlers to sleep, like tiny kisses and little hands holding my arm for comfort. Then, I can enjoy a glass of wine and finally start season 2 of the Handmaid’s tale. This is what a good tonight looks like. 


The day after I lost my job, I made my mental health a priority. I would never be useful in any job or relationship if was charged by the electricity of anxiety. I started a running routine. My brain is a full bottle of champagne just waiting to be corked and running allows me to pop the cork, no one else. I need an appointment with my own thoughts, but they were so busy they couldn’t fit me in. So it got clogged. I made mistakes, first little ones then much larger ones. Or was it a lot of little ones that made me look like one big failure? Either way, I didn’t have time to organize my (many) thoughts. And the cork blew on me. With running, I am alone in my head, letting it all go. All those analyses, those worries, the funny musings and the downright cliché; it all piled on top of each other, like the laundry I don’t have time to sort. This wasn’t just about something that happened last year or recently; this is a lifetime of bubbling anxiety. I need to get healthy and create my balance. What does that balance look like? A goal of four runs a week that resets every Sunday but understands when things get just so chaotic that routines are broken. It gave me bonus friendship for added accountability that rewards me with mini therapy sessions and sweaty hugs. It gave me legs that could stand an eight-hour bartending shift so that I wouldn’t have to feel financially guilty if I didn’t work a full-time office job any longer. 

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I am starting to accept my anxiety in all its various forms. It can be a burst of negative thoughts that isolate me to my home. It can be a fight with my husband that scares me into words I would rather not say. It is a pouring out of frustration over two toddlers that never seem to listen. It is a bad tip on a large check or a spreadsheet that doesn’t quite tie. It is a deadline that I didn’t plan adequately to meet or a phone call I dread making. It is finally getting the courage to open my credit card statement or asking my mom for help. I have come to know what anxiety looks like. With each of these toxic moments, I am trying to learn and find something pull me off of the floor, the balance I need to stand tall.  It can be a run or a yoga class. It is a long phone call with a good friend. It is actually getting time to hang out with my sister. It is a road trip, with my husband driving and Band of Horses playing. It is how happy my children get when we visit their grandparents. It is Friday night wine and watching true crime stories with my neighbor. It is listening to my favorite podcast “Beautiful Anonymous”, loudly and verbally agreeing with the caller as I clean an empty bar. It is the beautiful shade of dark blue that I painted my bedroom walls. It is the proud little smile I get when someone tells me I am actually a good accountant, or bartender, or Mom. It is an unexpected gift. It is reading a book that I can’t put down. It is writing a verbally eloquent essay. It is random and adolescent conversations with my teenage daughters. It is quoting every line of Spaceballs and still thinking it is the funniest movie ever made. It is realizing the little moments that make me happy, embracing them and using their light to keep the dark monsters quiet. At least that is what balance is starting to look like for me. 
 

To read more of Kristen's writing, check out her blog cassidymarierose.com

Stigma

By Annie Doherty

I’ve sought acceptance my entire life - acceptance from my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers, husband, myself. I’ve sought acceptance to such a degree that I allowed myself to become whatever anyone wanted. I shut down every true part of my being to morph into what was desired by those around me. I’ve gone from praying that I would be bipolar to fit in with all the men in my family, to turning off every true feeling and emotion because it was what someone wanted. I never liked who I was in those times, but if it got some semblance of love and acceptance, I would allow it. 

    I no longer turn off all my emotions. I no longer wish to be bipolar. I am, however, someone who struggles with depression. When I finally admitted my struggle, to even just myself, it broke open a dam that I had hardly realized I built. I lived within the walls of my own interior castle; I locked everyone out, even myself.

I often wondered why I could accept the illnesses of others but refused to allow myself to accept my own. The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s because I had been met with so many combative or uninformed opinions regarding mental illness. I fought hard for people to understand bipolar disorder was not something you could just turn on or off. People were uncomfortable hearing about someone being so depressed that they wished to stop waking up. I knew I was depressed, but I didn’t want people to tell me just to be happy or pray more and everything would get better. So, I held everything inside for as long as I could.

I avoided eye contact. I shifted my stance, bent my legs and rubbed my arms. I stumbled over my words. I tried to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. I tried to shrug off any level of seriousness. I laughed awkwardly. I felt shame in telling someone that I struggled with depression. I felt shame admitting there lived within me a dark monster that consumed any hope of joy and shattered any desire to face the next day. I felt shame confessing the very truth of my sad soul that I had tried for years to cover up, tried to ignore, tried to bury somewhere so deep within myself that I couldn’t remember where it lived. I didn’t like how they would look at me once they knew I wasn’t normal.

In the summer of 2013, I made a suicide attempt and spent nine days in the psychiatric ward. I was surrounded by people suffering from similar mental states, some better, some far worse. It was the safest I have ever felt in disclosing the truth about how I was doing. I have never been so brutally honest with myself, or others, then when I was in the hospital. There was no judgment, only the truth. There was no stigma. The moment I left the hospital, I felt myself start to hide the truth again. Despite having exposed the depression I had been dealing with for years, I still did not feel comfortable discussing my illness. The first few months out of the hospital, I wanted to go back. I didn’t enjoy the looks I was getting from friends who didn’t understand what was going on with me. 

When I finally was able to be comfortable in my own skin and realize that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, I didn’t feel the desire to go back to the hospital. I no longer put a stigma on myself. I talked, and still talk, openly about things I’ve gone through. I’ve seen how honesty can both help people open up and how it can cause them to shy away from me. 
Now that everything has been exposed to my family and friends, I can’t avoid my darkness anymore. I’ve accepted it. I ache for people around me to understand the complexities of mental illness so that those who have them don’t feel like they need to hide it or feel ashamed. Mental illnesses are real and should not be met with whispers and side looks and shame. Depression may always be a part of my life, but it does not define who I am. These are things that need to be spoken about, written about so that this stigma that has been attached to mental illness can be put away. 

Asking for a Raise? Four Steps to Getting What You Want

By Kristen Harris

In life, you often have to ask for what you want. You might not get everything you want but asking for it certainly helps. And asking for it in the right way really increases your odds.

Let’s say you’ve been working in a role for a while and things are going really well. You feel like you’re excelling at the job, taking on increased responsibilities, and creating value for your employer. So you’ve decided to ask for a raise.

You want the raise, and believe you deserve it but aren’t sure how to ask for it. How do you approach your employer? What should you ask for? What happens if they say no? Often, when people go into these conversations unprepared, they’re disappointed in the outcome.

You can greatly increase your odds of success by preparing for the conversation. Don’t just pop in your boss’ office and say “hey, I want to be paid more”. Since you’re the one asking for the raise and initiating the conversation, take all the time you need to get ready.

(By the way, if you’re freelancing or working independently, at some point you’ll want to increase your rates. These tips can also help you prepare for that conversation with clients.)

There are four key steps to preparing for a “raise” conversation:

  1. Do Your Research. Collect as much information as you can about your own role, your progression within the company, and similar roles at other companies. How long have you been in the role? Have you received raises in that time? If so, at what time points and how much?  Look at your job description–what additional responsibilities have you taken on? How does that compare with similar roles within your company and at other companies? Research the pay range for your role within your company and at similar companies. It’s kind of rude to ask your peers what they make, but there are plenty of online resources to find accurate salary information these days. How well is your company doing financially? If it’s seasonal, is this the “good” season or the “slow” time of year? Has your company recently gained (or lost) clients?

  2. Organize the Information. Organize your research, then identify the best 3-5 points to make your case for a raise. What you select is going to be unique to you and your position, but things like additional responsibilities, progressive growth, and comparable pay at other companies are good things to look at. Be sure to consider the overall health of the company and how your role fits into future success. Show that you’re thinking big picture about the company and its overall success, not just about yourself. Prepare your notes–actually write down your top 3-5 points–in preparation for your meeting.

  3. Make Your Case. Don’t just pop in one day on the fly, schedule a meeting with your boss or the decision-maker. Now you know that person has set aside time for you, and you’re more likely to have their undivided attention. Start the meeting by telling them you’d like to discuss a pay increase. Then share those top 3-5 points you’ve researched to help make the case for why you deserve it. Keep it factual, realistic and non-emotional. Then ask for their feedback and listen to what they have to say.

  4. Accept Feedback. Their feedback is valuable, regardless of the answer. If they say “yes” then congratulations–you’ve made a great case and got what you wanted! If they say “no” or “not right now”, ask questions and really try to understand their reasoning. Ask what you can do to earn the raise you want, and when an appropriate time would be to bring it up again. Talk about a plan or how you can take on more responsibilities that allow you to prove you’re worth more.

These pay conversations can be difficult because they often feel like conversations about our self-worth. They’re not. The only thing you’re talking about is what the company can afford to pay you for the work that you do, and how you might be able to earn more. If you can’t get a raise right now, you’ll get valuable information on how to get one in the future.

You can’t always get what you want (thanks, Rolling Stones) but preparing for the conversation can make it go more smoothly and increase your odds of success. Working with a professional can help things go more smoothly too. We’re always happy to help our placed talent navigate these tricky conversations–just ask.

Is This Just A Funk I’m In Or Is It Something More?

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Let me start by stating the obvious, I am not a doctor, nor a professional in the area of mental health, but what I do know, like most people, how great it is to be healthy, both physically and mentally.

When you are an entrepreneur, your mind is a constantly whirling. I swear that when it is really quiet, I can hear it hum in perfectly balanced chaos, but we are people and people develop issues and things occur that break up that normal cadence. Those things can take the shape of stress, depression, and/or substance dependence, to name a few. What do you do?

Some of the things that an entrepreneur can encounter are:

  • Employee issues - a team that doesn’t work together, counter-productive employee, maybe someone is embezzling,

  • Client issues - clients demand more, treat you poorly, leave for a cheaper company,

  • Funding issues - a client won’t pay, a bank won’t loan you money,

  • Personal issues - problems with children or relatives, problems with your home, Illness or death of a loved one.

These issues, on top of what you work with day-to-day, can put you in a tailspin. You find yourself feeling like you are living in a hole, or underwater and hoping to come up for air. You get down on yourself or you are finding yourself angry all of the time. What can you do?

First ask yourself:

  • “Can I solve or work through these problems on my own?”

  • “Can I talk to a mentor about my concerns?”

  • “Do I need to see a professional?”

Most of us deal with challenges and mental fatigue that starts to eat away at our quality of life. It can come on you like a heart attack, either building up over time or it will just hit you hard all at once. You find yourself stressed, crying, or throwing something across the room. It is common and it does not mean that you are weak or flawed. Keeping our minds healthy is as important as keeping our body healthy. You ate well today, what did you do for your mind?

Let’s start with:

Solving your problem on your own:

Can you do something to clear your head? Vigorous exercise, take a walk, meditate, get a massage, or just step away for a bit. Indulge in yourself. Dig more into a passion you might have, something completely different! Sometimes recalibration can be that easy.

Talking to someone else:

Grabbing a drink with your crew can bring relief and talking to a family member or mentor can also help for some quick problem solving, especially the people that have lived through what you are going through right now. I promise you, someone else has had the same struggle as you, find that person.

But if you have tried these things and you are really struggling or the problem seems bigger than you are, make an appointment with a professional. A professional can be anyone that specializes in that finance issue you have to a therapist that can help you unwind your issue. Computers need to be rebooted and so do you. Sometimes getting back to mental health is not just about relaxing, it is about fixing. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or in asking for help. You are not always in control of what life throws at you, it is just knowing when you have hit your limit and need to contact the pro.

Just a brief comment about mental illness. Mental illness is vast and wide in its scope and its impact. It needs to be treated like any other issue with the body and not carry a stigma. There are many programs in place to get you or a loved ones help. Still not sure if you need help? Read some of the warning signs listed at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website. Need even more help, reach out to the national organization of Mental Health of America. 1 out of 5 Americans have a life-altering mental illness or have experienced a mental crisis. You are not alone. #CureStigma

Of course if you or someone you know is in an emergency situation, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. Hang in there. Get help. It gets better.

For those of us that just know that we are in a “funk”, don’t neglect any part of you. If a run or bike ride can truly clear your head, do it. Maybe you need as much as a two week vacation? Keep working on fine-tuning you. Not only are you worth it, but your friends, family, and co-workers will thank you.

Mental Wellness: Five Favorite Tools for Stress Reduction

By Kristen Harris

I am a big believer in mental health, mental wellness, brain health. Whatever you call it, I think it’s important. We exercise to keep our bodies healthy, why not our brains? I mean, I don’t want to lose any brain capacity, do you? Of course not! 

So here are a few ways I work to reduce stress and maintain mental health:

Work It Out. Exercise has many proven benefits–what’s good for the body is good for the mind. My doctor told me the best type of exercise “is the one you’ll do”. Run, walk, lift weights, yoga, dance, jump rope, just get moving. And make it convenient; we’re much more likely to stick with something if we like it and it easily fits into our routine. Personally, I have found that I need a lot of variety because I get easily bored doing the same thing every day or week. I mix it up with yoga, boxing, running, walking, pilates, cardio machines, weights, and yes, hula hooping. Other people love to just run every day. You do you, just do something.

Breathe It Out. Meditation has become uber-popular, to the point that it might seem complicated or off-putting to some people. Don’t stress out about meditating! Keep it simple by just sitting quietly and taking a few deep breaths. If you want to take it further try an app (I like Headspace), guided meditation, or a class. Regardless of the method, slowing down for a few minutes does wonders for my stress, anxiety, nervousness, frustration, anger and more. Sometimes I go into a conference room for a few minutes to decompress before a big meeting or after a challenging conversation.

Talk It Out. Sometimes we need to verbalize our fears, worries, frustrations or concerns; it really helps me to talk through things. Depending on the issue, I might reach out to a friend, spouse, trusted colleague, or mental health professional. I’m totally up for talking to anyone who can help me, and have no qualms about calling in a pro when I think that’s what I need. “Therapy” can sound intimidating like there’s an assumption that something is wrong with you. Just think of it as a really smart friend who is trained and wants to help you.

Write It Out. Whether you keep a daily journal, write in a notebook to work out an issue, or dump all your frustration on a piece of paper then burn it, writing can be very cathartic. It helps me work out issues, solve problems, come up with new ideas, and understand frustrations. Sometimes I just have to get it out so I can let it go. Which leads me to...

...Let It Go. If I can’t fix a problem or change the situation, and it’s just continuing to upset me, at some point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it. Do I want to keep letting this person or problem take up space rent-free in my brain? Am I spending more effort and energy worrying about it than they are? Is this really going to matter 20 years from now, or even 2? It can be easier said than done but often the best course of action for me is to...sing it with me...Let It Go!

Mental health and wellness are at least equally as important as physical health. Take a little time for yourself; you need and deserve it. My experience is that slowing down and doing these activities makes me a better, kinder person.
 

Anxiety

By Annie Doherty

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I grew up in a family full of mental health fun. The men on my Dad's side are bipolar and the majority of the women in my family deal with depression--and we all have a large helping of anxiety. From a family viewpoint, things have been an open dialogue for the most part. 

My battle with anxiety began when I was 8 years old. I had panic attacks every time I went to bed and had no idea how to articulate to my parents what was happening, but only that I felt as though I was going to die. Fortunately for me, my Mother has experience in anxiety herself and in dealing with other family members. She helped me through that strange first experience with anxiety by quietly sitting with me and reminding me to breathe. She eventually got me a kitten as an attempt at a therapy animal. I still am highly responsive to touch when I'm in the middle of panic and often reach for strange textures to awaken my senses to something other than the madness in my brain. (my Mother is now a therapist!)

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When my Father passed away last January, my anxiety erupted in a grief and confusion filled storm. I had spent the past 12 years caring for my intensely bipolar Father while he battled kidney failure and kidney cancer. Our relationship was a tumultuous one. After he passed, I had no idea what to do. I had all sorts of time and freedom from my caregiver duties and felt a bit lost. My Father was a writer and a painter, something he also encouraged me to do my entire life. During the good parts of our relationship, we often discussed literature and shared our own writing with each other, we even wrote a book of poems together when I was in middle school. My apartment was littered with his paintings, and my paintings that I created so desperately in an attempt to gain his artistic approval. 

After he passed, I found myself unable to write or paint. His passing created a rainbow of emotions--ranging from relief to confusion to guilt to grief. His mental illness and lack of proper attention to it caused a lot of tension in all his relationships, mainly ours. when I sat down to write and process his death, it felt too intense. My anxiety would shoot through the roof and I'd be left exhausted and with nothing processed, so I turned to a new artistic outlet of hand lettering. I wasn't great at it, but it was soothing practice and something I could do mindlessly without having to create my own content--I could letter other people's words and quotes that meant something to me. 

A co-worker, at the time, knew I had started this hobby and suggested I participate in the #100dayproject that takes place on Instagram. I had already created an Instagram solely dedicated to my lettering, which often talked about my mental state, anxiety, depression, and the loss of my Father. I had no idea what I would do for 100 days but was definitely intrigued. 

The week before the project kicked off, I had one of my top five worst panic attacks. I had been paralyzed by the need to remove and shred a pork shoulder from the crock pot. The task seemed impossible. I had to first clean the dishes in my sink before I would be able to shred the meat, but I just couldn’t do it. I crumpled to the floor in a pile of tears. I remained in the fetal position, sobbing and trying to catch my breath for nearly three hours. My mind raced with thoughts of failure, the inability to be a decent human, and thought of being weak since I had been reduced to nothing because of the simple task of cleaning the dishes and making dinner. I almost got up and threw everything in the garbage several times, but the thought of being like my Father kept me from doing that. you see, when he got overwhelmed with things, he would just throw them away--all of his dishes, his pans, the food he couldn't figure out what to do with, clothes when he couldn't stand to wash them. I was terrified that I was turning into my father in that moment. I was 28 and completely convinced that I was going crazy and never going to make it back to anything that resembled normal life. 

But then something happened and I said to myself, "Annie, take one breath. breathe in, breathe out. now repeat," and I did that for a few minutes, then I said, "Annie, we're going to stand up now. one foot at a time," and I did it and then, "Annie, let's wash one fork. we can handle one fork," and I washed a fork, and then a plate, and another dish, and another, and next thing I knew, the dishes were clean and I was able to move on to making that pulled pork. When I was finished, I took my anxiety medication, emailed my boss that I would be taking the next day off work, and passed out.

It was the first time I ever took a mental health day. and it felt empowering. I didn't even fib and say I was sick--I said I needed a mental health day and I realized at that moment that my 100-day project was going to be about anxiety because we need the freedom to be able to take care of ourselves when the time calls for it. I reached out to 100 people to get their input on anxiety--their experience, their advice for fellow anxiety friends, their advice for people who have never experienced, and coping mechanisms. I wasn't sure if anyone would respond. but then I got all sorts of replies - and I had more than enough material for the project. 

I posted for 100 days the words of people who so bravely shared with me vulnerable details of their life. We worked to open the dialogue of mental health, in this case with a focus on anxiety and depression. I hand-lettered all the words myself, trying to make something beautiful out of something that can be so ugly. I connected with so many people across the country and even across the world. though my following is humble, I am honored that so many people have felt the freedom to share and discuss their mental health journey through the project.

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This spring, Annie kicked off part 2 of her #100daysofanxiety project. She’s currently accepting submissions via the survey link in her profile. The project runs from April 3 - July 11.

Follow her lettering Instagram handle, @pennedbythepiglet 

 

Color Coding Employees and How it Makes Handing Out Assignments Easier

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Most employers are very familiar with DISC, Myers-Briggs, and StrengthsFinder analysis testing. We at Portfolio Creative use the book “StrengthsFinder” by Tom Rath when we hire new associates. It has helped us understand people as soon as they step through our doors, as well as see where they are going to be effective on the team.

We also use a much simpler analysis that anyone can do and it is a quick read of anyone on your team, not to mention, yourself. It is called the Color Code Personality Science test and you can test yourself and your entire team for FREE here.

We love it because we can quickly understand each other, know how to respond to each other, and get the best results from each other. (Alliances may have been formed.)

Everyone is broken down into 4 simple color groups based on what is their most dominant color but every one contains some of everything, the definitions that follow that are in quotes are taken from the Color Code Personality Science website:

RED - “Red are the power wielders. Power: the ability to move from point A to point B and get things done, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of vision and leadership and generally are responsible, decisive, proactive and assertive.” We need the RED personalities on our team. These people are the “get it done” people, just get out of their way. They like direct, short conversations and you won’t see them again until the task is completed. On time. The rest of the team knows that these three will hold them accountable to complete jobs on time, too. 

BLUE - “Blue are the do-gooders. Intimacy: connecting, creating quality relationships and having purpose, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of quality and service and are generally loyal, sincere, and thoughtful.” We have a whole bunch of BLUE people here and considering what we do, this is great news. We deal with people and create relationships through great service. The BLUE people make it so people will keep coming back to use us.

WHITE - “White are the peacekeepers. Peace: the ability to stay calm and balanced even in the midst of conflict, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of clarity and tolerance and are generally kind, adaptable, and good-listeners.” Need some conflict resolution? Send in the people in whose dominant color is WHITE. They see all sides of an argument, rarely get combative, they just want to see everyone get along. Typically, everyone gets along with these people. 

YELLOW - “Yellow are the fun lovers. Fun: the joy of living life in the moment, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of enthusiasm and optimism and are generally charismatic, spontaneous, and sociable.” While you may think a YELLOW coded person could be a distraction, there really is nothing better to keep a team motivated. They can keep everyone upbeat, focused, and really help everyone see the joy in the job. Every team needs at least one cheerleader.

I am sure that you are wondering my results. I am: 
RED 44%, BLUE 42%, WHITE 9%, and YELLOW 4%. 

What this says about me is that I am driven, but I appreciate people and relationship. On the backend of that, I don’t have a lot of tolerance nor do I need to create fun moments. (Work over fun has always been a gift and curse for me.) How do I feel about that? GREAT! Because this is me and I know where I thrive and everything else...well, I have a great team to help me out with that.

 

Flexible vs Remote Work Part 3 (keys to making Remote Work work)

By Kristen Harris

In Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 we talked about these two workforce trends and dug deeper into Remote Work in Part 2.

So, depending on what needs to be done, Remote Work can be a great option for both the company and worker. But we don’t see a lot of companies embracing this trend, or even considering it. They may think about it in a traditional sense, where they outsource a project to another business or freelancer, but there are other situations where it works just as well.

For example:

  • a retailer needs someone to manage their social media for 10-15 hours per week.
  • a non-profit organization needs someone fulltime to handle a variety of marketing work, including press releases, an e-newsletter, and an online events calendar.
  • a corporate internal communications department needs someone to edit and proofread all of their materials; workload varies so this can take anywhere from 25-40 hours per week.

In all of these situations, once the person gets to know the business and brand voice, their work can easily be done remotely. There may be the need for the occasional meeting or project review, but most of the work and communication will be online whether they’re sitting in the company’s office or not.

One problem we’re seeing right now is a mismatch between business needs and expectations for these type of projects. The company may be trying to hire someone on a part-time, flexible or on-call basis to do these types of work, while also requiring that all the work be done onsite in the company’s office.

We’re in a hiring market where talented people have lots of options, and most want to know approximately how many hours they’ll be working each week. Unfortunately, a candidate may accept this part-time type of scenario but will leave for a full-time role as soon as they can. These companies are looking for a unicorn, or maybe a four-leaf clover...what they want might exist but there are very few of them.

Often someone who is set up to do Remote Work would be a better fit for these type of needs, but businesses often don’t take advantage of this option. Why? I think it comes down to trust.

Companies and managers have concerns about Remote Work. The idea of working with people they don’t see every day makes them very uncomfortable. And their concerns are legitimate.

They have questions like...

  • how do I know when the person is working?

  • can I be sure they’ll get the project done on time?

  • will the work be high-quality, to my expectations?

  • won’t people feel disconnected from each other?

  • how will we communicate?

  • can they collaborate with other team members?

  • what about attending meetings?

  • how will they absorb our culture and what we’re all about?

First, it’s important to select someone who has the right skill set and self-management ability. Then, the rest of these concerns come down to the ability to build a high-level of trust and communication on both sides.

If you’re working with someone you trust and they trust you, then you know they’ll do what they say, hit their deadlines, do quality work, and let you know if they run into an issue. Aren’t these the same expectations you’d have of someone, whether they’re in your office or not?

One thing that can significantly help build that trust and keep projects on-track is an abundance of communication. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to find what works for the two of you: email, chat, phone calls, video calls, and in-person meetings if it’s feasible. Be sure to include conference calls with teams or collaborators; video calls can be great for this because everyone can see each other and body language so the conversation tends to flow more naturally.

Create a schedule for communication so expectations are clear on both sides. For example, you could email and chat anytime, have a phone call every afternoon, and a group video call weekly. Communicate as much as possible...if it’s feeling like a lot, maybe verging on too much, that’s probably just about right for a remote relationship.

There are a lot of benefits of tapping into Remote Work for your business. Explore the options and find ways to build the trust that makes it work.

Flexible vs Remote Work Part 2 (are you missing great talent?)

By Kristen Harris

In Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 we talked about these two workforce trends, and how they are NOT the same thing. Flexibility is becoming more commonplace in business and can be a great retention tool.

But Remote Work is another trend that is getting a lot of attention lately. As a refresher, Remote Work is when the job doesn’t need to be done in the company’s offices. The person might work from home, a coffee shop, the library or a co-work space.

With our knowledge economy and business being more global, many jobs can be done remotely. Recently I saw an article about 170 companies that operate with remote workforces. Some companies are embracing it and others aren’t; success can be very dependent on the industry and role.

This week someone was telling me about her last corporate role–she worked for a global company and was the only person on her team in the local office. Her boss was in Europe, and most of her coworkers had no idea who she was or what she did. She often worked at home or from a coffee shop because it didn’t matter where in Columbus she was, she was always remote in relation to her team.

This Remote Work option can have advantages for both companies and workers. The company can access talent from other geographic locations because candidates don’t have to be in their metro area or willing to relocate. This also allows businesses to tap into talent with different skills or experiences, maybe ones that are not easily found in their own market. Having the option to work remotely may also help attract or retain a valued employee who needs flexibility in their schedule or is not able to commute.

For employees, there can be advantages to Remote Work as well. They can take a job or work with a company that is not in their area. If they have a high-level of expertise or a specialized skill set, the number and variety of companies they can work with greatly expands when working remotely. And the ability to work remotely also may make it possible to juggle work and family responsibilities or provide the ability to work for someone who has physical limitations.

In the creative industry, we’ve always had the concept of Remote Work with freelancers building their own book of work, managing several projects or clients, and doing all the work from their own home or studio. They’re not hermits...they often meet with the client or collaborate with other creatives through in-person or video meetings. But the majority of their actual work is done remotely.

However, even with all of these potential advantages, we don’t see a lot of companies taking advantage of, or even considering, this option. Why? We think it’s a matter of trust, and will dig into that more in Flexible vs Remote Work Part 3.  

Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 (p.s. it’s not the same thing)

By Kristen Harris

Flexible Work and Remote Work are two key workforce trends that keep gaining steam. They’re often lumped together but, while they CAN be related, these two things are not the same.

Flexible Work simply means there is some measure of flexibility in the job. This may be how, when or where the work is done. Having a 10-hours/4 days-a-week schedule, working from 7-4 instead of 9-6, or working 30 hours a week at a prorated salary are all examples of flexibility. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and being given the choice of a laptop or desktop computer are also flexibility. And the option to occasionally go offsite to work from home or a coffee shop is flexibility as well.

But, this is where it gets tricky. Flexible Work (even with the option to go offsite) is not the same as Remote Work. When someone has a Remote Work job they are inherently not in the company’s offices. They may work in another city, like a sales manager with the Western territory for a New York-based company, or they may be located in a client’s office instead of the company headquarters. Their job may be one where it really doesn’t matter whether they’re in the office or not; many call centers are going to this model and setting their employees up to work from home.

The difference is, with Remote Work there is an expectation that you will be working from home or another location. The job may also be Flexible, but that’s not always the case. A job may be Flexible, Remote, or both.

For example:

  • a call center job done from home with a strict 12-8 schedule, five days per week is Remote Work but not Flexible Work because it’s a set schedule.
  • a marketing job that only requires 25 hours per week, onsite in the company’s headquarters, is Flexible Work but not Remote Work because the person is required to be in the office.

  • a sales role that has no set schedule, working wherever and whenever is needed from home, a coffee shop or the airport, is both Flexible and Remote Work.

Companies are becoming more open to Flexible Work options, offering different schedules and occasional “work from home” days. Or they might realize their need is not a full-time role, and perhaps better suited to a part-time employee or contractor. Businesses that can offer this type of flexibility are able to tap into a broader pool of candidates and retain valuable team members as life needs change.

There are different considerations with Remote Work, we’ll explore that in Flexible vs Remote Work Part 2.