Welcome to Grey Matters with Lori-Jo - a blog series for office assistants. My plan is to present topics that could be challenges to any business person, offering a “more than one way to skin a cat” approach to addressing the challenge based on All Service Concierge’s collective management experience. I hope it will provide food for thought and alternative solutions to common problems.
I’m calling the series “Grey Matters”. Why? It’s my attempt at a pun. Grey can be spelled Gray (more than one way to skin a cat). Grey matter relates to brain power. (thought-provoking). Grey sometimes refers to problems to which there is not always a clear-cut solution (as in gray areas). Matters are fringe activities, but they are important (they matter). Mainly, I’m calling the series “Grey Matters” because this author/researcher is grey and the topics matter to me. So here we go…Lori-Jo
Published: February 16, 2016
Grey Matters, Post #3: Work-Life Balance
Six weeks into the New Year and half the winter’s behind us. This is a great time for reflection and regrouping. Are you still on target to hit your personal and professional goals for 2016? If you're finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, you're not alone. Check your perspective: Do you live to work or work to live?
Certainly, your best individual work-life balance will vary over time. The right balance for you when you’re single will change when you marry or have children. The good news is that no matter where you fall on the scale, a few small steps can go a long way toward staying sane at work and home as well as making the best use of your limited time.
First, prioritize. Force yourself to focus on the things that are important to you, and don’t do the extraneous stuff. Make time for the things that ignite your joy. Don't assume that you need to make big changes to bring more balance to your life. Set realistic goals, like leaving the office earlier 1 night per week. Slowly build more activities into your schedule that are important to you.
Be proactive about scheduling. When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends, and activities that help you recharge. If a date night with your spouse, a softball game with friends or coaching your son’s basketball team is on your calendar, you'll have something to look forward to and an extra incentive to manage your time well so you don't have to cancel. It's hard to make time for exercise when you have a jam-packed schedule, but it may ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate. It’s a real boost in terms of the way you feel for the rest of the day. Your head is clearer and you’ve had a little time to yourself as well as done something good for your health overall.
Concentrate on things you can control. Note that technology is a tool to improve work-life balance, not the master of it! Many people are putting in extra hours, or using their smart phones to be on call when they're not physically at work. You must be able to turn it off for some time each day!
Remember that you can respectfully decline offers to run the PTA or serve on an extra committee at work. When you stop doing things out of guilt, you’ll find more time to focus on the activities that truly bring you joy.
Many of us waste time on activities or people that add no value -- for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping. Take stock of activities that don't enhance your career or personal life, and minimize the time you spend on them.
Quality vs. Quantity
Real people can’t devote 100% to everything they do. Rethink your errands, daily responsibilities and work tasks. Consider whether you can outsource any of your time-consuming household and business chores or errands. You may even be able to leave work earlier if you make a conscious effort to limit the time you spend on the web and social media sites, making personal calls, or checking your bank balance. While there never seems to be enough time for your family and yourself in any given day, that can all change when you hire a personal assistant from All Service Concierge!
Published: October 6th, 2015
Grey Matters, Post #2: Navigating the Holidays
It’s October, the fourth quarter, the beginning of the end. Are you humming, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or are you already lamenting about “The 12 Things of Christmas That Are Such a Pain to Me”? Unfortunately, for many of us, you can’t have a wonderful time until you tackle the 12 things (or more) that are such a pain, usually at home AND at work!
The holidays are a busy time. From everyday stressors such as working long hours to fighting traffic, caring for aging parents and growing children and paying the bills, just when you think your life is stressful enough, the holidays arrive, adding an additional layer of stress which can have a long-lasting impact on your body and your mind.
Emotions run high during the holidays as most of us feel a duty to make the holidays the best we can. The most important aspects of the season are the opportunities to connect with friends and family.
Workplace stress has a way of escalating during the holidays. It’s easy to get overloaded this time of the year in the work-life merge, as we wrestle with year-end workplace obligations and an expectation of joyful family time.
Beyond ensuring the completion of year-end projects, managers have to be aware of how the holidays affect employees. How can you keep your employees engaged and stress-free this holiday season?
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Whether it’s the holiday your employees celebrate or memories associated with the holiday season, the holidays simply aren’t the same for everyone. It’s important to acknowledge cultural differences among your team. Be aware of how your organization celebrates the holidays as to not exclude employees. Pay attention to the needs of your team and offer ways to manage workplace stress, don’t add to it! If you have a festive office, plan just one, simple party. It will keep tensions low by reducing office obligations and will keep the cost low for everyone as well. Make it fun; just don’t make it mandatory to participate.
Giving employees a more flexible schedule to accommodate added family burdens might help, including telecommuting, at least occasionally, until the seasonal rush passes. In order to have a smooth holiday season in the office, make sure the entire team knows the vacation schedule and make sure that anyone eligible to take time off is able to. Nothing initiates resentment more than an employee being forced to work when his family is having a holiday event. If your business must have someone present in the office on holidays, consider hiring a back up staff now, so everyone can schedule their vacations.
There’s a lot of excess running around and tension in the office during the holidays for employees and the boss alike. Figure out a way to wind down. This may call for a change in the workload or the workforce. When the tasks become overwhelming, plan to increase your staff. The added helping hands will alleviate project and to-do list related stress in the office and ensure your staff knows they are appreciated. For example, office decorating, party coordination, receptionist duties during meetings and events, sending holiday greetings, gift giving (including ordering, shopping, wrapping and delivering), representing the company at charity events/trade shows/vendor parties, as well as year end inventory, file-purging, data entry, and reporting are all tasks that a part-time, temporary office/personal assistant can handle for you and your team. Separating these tasks from your employees’ daily and year end responsibilities and sharing the work will improve productivity and reduces unscheduled time off, fatigue and resentment. This is well worth the investment!
Published: September 28th, 2015
Grey Matters, Post #1: Multitasking – Pro or Con?
The term multitasking was born when computers became capable of running multiple programs simultaneously. This is a wonderful time-saver and exactly what engineers designed computers to do. Humans have been doing two (or more) things at once forever. For some tasks, it’s automatic. For example, most of us are able to walk and chew gum at the same time! Mother’s have always been adept at it, especially if they have more than one child! Office workers eat at their desk while they work on their computer, answer the phone while typing, read email during a conference call, etc. The ability to multi-task is often a specific requirement in many job descriptions.
However, too much of a good thing is not necessarily better. For example, we should all stop multi-tasking while we’re driving. Here are a few research findings about multitasking:
When the quantity of tasks per person becomes overwhelming, consider an office/personal assistant as a reasonable solution to the multitasking dilemma. Separating the tasks and sharing the work will improve productivity, safety, job satisfaction and ultimately profitability as it reduces distraction, fatigue and resentment. This will more than pay for the help!