work from home remote work

COVID-19 and the long-term changes to the workplace landscape

Yes–things are different. Change can be overwhelming. But all things in our lives will continue to change. And we must, as a society and as leaders in the workplace, adapt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID stress leaderHow are you–as a leader in the workplace or as a business owner–adapting? Five or six weeks in, it’s time to adapt if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, panicked, or frustrated. If that describes how you’re feeling, I genuinely suggest you seek help through a life coach or professional counselor. I can refer you to excellent professionals who offer online services. This pandemic may be the most traumatic thing you’ve experienced, and that’s nothing to apologize for; it is something to face.

Here are some ways I see the COVID-19 pandemic permanently altering the workplace landscape FOR GOOD in the United States.

Disclaimer: There are plenty of ways this pandemic and our national response have altered the economic and workplace landscapes in negative ways. Other people can write about negative impacts and outcomes. Let’s dig into the good stuff.

Many full-time employees in very rigid, traditional workplace settings have gained the opportunity to work remotely.

Will this be temporary? I don’t think any of us know about exact time frames yet. But I believe this forced workplace experiment will permanently alter the workplace landscape. Employees who might have otherwise never gained this opportunity have now had it. Have they liked it or not? Either way, yay for experimentation and opportunity!

work from home remote workA word of advice to employees who have been working remotely and have enjoyed it: Don’t give it up. Do not return to work and to business as usual without attempting to retain your flexibility if you love working from home. If you were able to perform your tasks in a productive manner from home, why not ask if you can continue working this way? You could request to work remotely. Or you could request to work one or two days per week from home. If working remotely does not hinder your performance or make it difficult on others in any way, there should be no reason your employer should say no. There’s never harm in asking.

Here’s another suggestion: If you ask, and your employer says no, ask why. Take notes.

Keep those notes, and then begin looking for another job with more flexibility. It might take you a long time to find the right fit. But it’s better to look for something better for two years than to spend the next 20 years feeling unsettled or disgruntled.

Many traditional, rigid employers have been forced to allow employees–who begged for flexibility and remote employment opportunities–the chance to work from home.

And guess what? We’re not hearing countless reports of employees blowing it. They’re holding it together even though they’re simultaneously teaching children and parenting.  Isn’t that AMAZING? Grown, responsible adults doing jobs without other adults walking around every 30 minutes to watch over them… Crazy. During this pandemic, while wearing multiple hats, if your employees been able to be even half as productive, they are proving that working from home is a conceivable option.

work from homeWill these same employers continue to allow flexibility and remote work options to their employees when COVID-19 social distancing restrictions are lifted? I hope so. I hope employers have learned a valuable lesson about trusting employees to behave responsibly.

A word of warning to traditional employers who are chomping at the bit to return to their rigid ways: Be careful. Your employees have likely enjoyed flexibility. They probably don’t like commuting or sitting in uncomfortable, poorly ventilated, outdated offices. Maybe they are working while wearing pajamas. And they might not like you, either, or looking at your face daily. So if you’re going to reject requests to continue working remotely, be prepared with legitimate reasons.

A better option: Say yes—or say yes partially. You don’t have to allow employees to work remotely all the time. Flexibility is wonderful. Allow employees in a department to work out their own schedules with some at home on Mondays, and some at home on Fridays. People are pretty creative, responsible, and productive. Keep them accountable, meet regularly, and ask them to produce solid results. But try trusting them–and see what happens. You have already survived this pandemic. Why not give flexibility a chance?

Some clients have reported that as a result of COVID restrictions, they were forced to cut budgets.

They had to lay off more than half their staff. In some cases, they told staff they hoped to rehire when restrictions were lifted. In other cases, employers did not make promises.

One client privately disclosed that she was grateful for this pandemic for one reason: it forced her to trim the fat. She knew some employees were unproductive and ineffective. Those employees took too much time to manage. Yet she liked those employees as individuals, so she hesitated to fire them. The pandemic gave her the perfect opportunity to get rid of them. They could apply for unemployment–better unemployment benefits than usual–and she could permanently lower costs.

Many employers may not admit this, but I have a feeling this has happened in multiple organizations across the United States. If you’re a business owner, however you do it, maybe trimming the fat isn’t a bad idea right now. How have you been wasting money, time, or energy? Who has been spending too much time killing time at work? Are there tasks you’ve been outsourcing to someone who is not a true expert–you just have a really great relationship with the contractor? Maybe it’s time to evaluate your budget and develop a better business plan.

Colleges and universities may need to evolve (once again) to offer more “essential employees” degree plans, vocational training, and fast-track certifications.

How many Gen Z high school students will consider majoring in physical therapy now? Almost all physical therapists have been out of work this entire time. Dentists, too. Did anyone ever think a dentist would be unable to perform services and generate income? I didn’t.

This pandemic is a game changer in terms of forcing higher education administrators to reconsider the world of academia. Small, private, liberal arts institutions were already floundering, with enrollment down and finances amiss. More traditional institutions with faculty members who were afraid to even upload grades online? Gosh. Welcome to online learning management systems and to teaching exclusively online with a one week learning curve. Bless them. I can’t wait to see what’s on the course schedule for fall 2020 at the most progressive institutions. Those institutions will attract and retain students. And their students will obtain high-paying jobs which stand the test of time–and all the crazy stuff the world will throw at them, too.

And lastly, if you have been preaching to your business owner or manager about the importance of online branding, brand awareness, digital marketing, content management, or social media management, congratulations. YOUR TIME IS NOW.

social media managementAll my traditional clients who hesitated to consider these avenues for branding, marketing, and outreach are now nervous. They’re scrambling to find money to pay for a content management strategic plan (and its implementation). They know they must hire someone to manage their social media and other digital content (email marketing, blog, web content, etc.). In a time when people are mostly home-bound, practicing social distancing, and working remotely, the online market is all we have. And we know that if we attempt to reach people where they aren’t, we’re just fishing in dry ponds.

If you’re panicking, too, because you know your online brand amounts to a Facebook Page created in 2016 by a college student who volunteered for you one summer, it’s okay. Really–you will be okay. But you need help. So either hire a local professional or contact me, and we can figure that out.

Do you foresee other permanent changes in the landscape of the national workplace? I’d love to read your feedback. Please share your thoughts in the comments on this blog post. Thank you for taking the time to read and share with others.

 

Siddiqi Ray photographer

An interview with Siddiqi Ray: A vision for entrepreneurs

Each business owner discovers the road to entrepreneurship differently. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing my friend, Siddiqi Ray, about her unique path to successful entrepreneurship.

Siddiqi Ray is an internationally acclaimed photographer, speaker, and coach. Prior to stepping out on her own as an entrepreneur, Siddiqi garnered experience in editorial photography, marketing, customer relations, graphic design, and higher education. Although Siddiqi didn’t start her own business immediately after graduating from college, she shares that her mentors planted entrepreneurial seeds in her as early as age 16 when she attended The Arts High School in New York.

“I’ve always been really good at seeking out mentors—either people who were where I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do, or who had another quality they embodied that I realized I needed,” Siddiqi shares.

The importance of mentors

This led Siddiqi to pursue internships and career-related positions throughout high school and college. Her tenacity helped her land great positions later in life with organizations like The Mayo Clinic and with clients like The Navy SEALS and The Dalai Lama. However, as Siddiqi points out, translating impressive work experience into entrepreneurial success is often a struggle.

One of Siddiqi’s most noted mentors, who pushed her to pursue a career wholeheartedly in photography, was a professor at Tish School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). While Siddiqi entered the school expecting to pursue a career in videography, her professor noticed her true talent—photography—and urged her to take her camera and “go out and experience the world and live your vision.”

So she did.

Siddiqi notes that her professor’s words, care, and mentorship impacted her profoundly.

“That was such an amazing revelation—to have someone care enough about me and to see something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.” Siddiqi mentioned other mentors, friends, and colleagues who have impacted her similarly.

Discovering our own strengths & weaknesses as entrepreneurs

Siddiqi Ray photographer
Siddiqi Ray, internationally acclaimed photographer

“Sometimes we have that knowing, but it’s hidden in plain sight,” she muses.

When starting and growing businesses, many entrepreneurs struggle with inadequacies. For some, it’s their own soft skills or interpersonal skills, and for others, it’s character strengths and weaknesses. Siddiqi admits she wasn’t immune to this struggle; she grappled with one soft skill in particular which was both her greatest quality and the “bane of her existence”—and that was vision.

Siddiqi defines vision as the internal sense of knowing, a gut instinct, and a big picture ability to see where she wants to be and what she wants manifested in her career, business, and finances. Not all entrepreneurs and business owners possess this soft skill—that’s for certain. Many business owners are simply not big picture thinkers. Many, instead, muddle through details and have difficulty with even the simplest questions, like “Where do you see your business in five years?”

Not Siddiqi. She admits that the hard work for her happens in the space between the vision and the now. She shares that she often feels frustrated because she is not truly goal-oriented even though she is vision-oriented; she can get frustrated in the translation.

Siddiqi Ray’s advice to budding entrepreneurs

Siddiqi advises budding entrepreneurs to pursue, find, and believe in their own vision yet hold it loosely.

“Hold it loosely because something better may, and probably will, occur,” she encourages.

Siddiqi notes that it’s important to keep refining your vision as you take action steps toward your vision.

“When I focus my energy and concentration, I focus on the baby steps right in front of me. I don’t worry about spanning the distance. A lot of people I work with are really busy trying to figure out how to fix it and make it work. That’s not where the mojo is. That’s not where the magic is. That’s not where the miracles live. There is vision, and there is what is going to organically happen on the way to our vision,” Siddiqi reflects.

 

If you need help developing your ability to see the big picture, reach out to me for help.

Siddiqi Ray is an internationally acclaimed photographer, speaker, and coach whose work merges intuition, creative vision and pragmatic analysis to help people come into their own power, connect authentically, and build trust through visibility. Siddiqi has worked for over 30 years with entrepreneurs, Forbes 100 listed corporations and billionaires, and spiritual leaders, including The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, several members of the Kennedy Family, and the Navy SEALS.

 

Finding freedom: Forging a new career path

Recently, a colleague introduced me to a group of college students during a presentation about networking skills as “Career Coach, Bethany Wallace, who is going to share with you tips about networking and her story about how she has reinvented herself in her career.”

Wow, I thought. That’s exactly what I’ve done, isn’t it? Sometimes we need to see ourselves through others’ eyes in order to appreciate our hard work, creativity, risk-taking, and perseverance. My mentors and colleagues always help me recognize and appreciate my career achievements.

happiness-1866081_1280One of the most intimidating career decisions I’ve ever made was the decision to leave a fabulous job as Content Manager of College Recruiter in 2016 shortly after starting my own career coaching business. I certainly found lots of career freedom as a result, but the pathway to this career freedom was like a roller coaster—full of ups and downs, and I felt sick half the time while on the ride.

While attempting to decide whether to leave my full-time position, I knew I needed to pour more of myself into my career coaching business to make it grow and give it a chance to succeed. I also wanted more scheduling flexibility. Staying home with my daughter, who was three years-old at the time, mattered to me, as did returning to the college classroom part-time. But the notion of leaving a well-renowned company in the job board industry, which afforded me the opportunity to earn a solid income and provide benefits for my family… ugh. I felt torn about this for months.

I finally bit the bullet and eased my way out of my position, transitioning from full-time to part-time over the course of a few months. While making the decision was difficult, it gave me total career freedom and autonomy. I now manage my own business, create content solely to promote my own business, market and sell my own services, and work directly with my clients. This arrangement might not be a great fit for everyone (or we’d have a nation full of entrepreneurs), but it’s the right fit for me.

Here are a few tips I’d offer anyone seeking more autonomy and freedom in their career.

  1. Live below your means.

Leave yourself open to changing careers—or even changing jobs or relocating—by simply living below your means. If you rope yourself into purchasing a new car every time you earn a small promotion at work, you’re tying a noose around your neck financially. You don’t leave yourself the option to pursue completely changing careers if your values and goals change. If you buy the nicest house you can afford in the best neighborhood of your city, your family and friends will be very impressed. But your options will be limited if you find that over a period of two years, you become increasingly less interested in your career field.

Not always–but often–when you change career fields, you take a step backward in terms of income because you have less experience in that particular field. Setting aside some of your income each month prior to switching careers is a good idea. In addition to saving money, it’s also a good idea to become comfortable with living way below your means. You will feel much less freaked out when you’re earning little to nothing for a while if you’re temporarily unemployed, underemployed, or acquiring clients when you start a new business.

  1. Eliminate as many risks as possible.

To follow up on #1, we’re in a true gig economy. Check out FlexJobs, for example. There are a myriad of great gig positions and part-time jobs available, many of them affording you the option to work remotely. Before you jump ship and start looking for a position in a brand new career field—going for months without income—why not land a great gig or part-time job to help supplement your period without full-time income?

I taught one online course for a community college during the first several months of my business being open. This was a lifesaver. Adjunct faculty members don’t earn much (newsflash for those of you who thought we were highly paid professionals!), but the extra income did supplement our overall family income, and it helped ease my financial fears while I worked diligently to market my services and attract clients.

  1. Stick to your guns in terms of pursuing your dreams and passions.

When you make a major career change—whether it’s switching career fields entirely or starting your own business—you’ll find that you’re surrounded by a mixed bag of naysayers and cheerleaders. Focus on the cheerleaders and ignore the naysayers.

Obviously you need to make calculated, wise, strategic decisions about your career. That’s where working with a career coach comes in. You should also consult your career mentor when facing major career decisions, and you should take other steps to assess your level of contentment, create a budget, etc.

But once you’ve taken the plunge—thoughtfully and carefully—don’t look back. You don’t want to lose momentum by focusing on negative tidbits others feed you about how you are killing your career, or how hard it’s going to be for you, or how unsure your friends and family are about your potential to succeed.

Separate yourself from negative people. Focus on pursuing your original career goals. Map out your career plan in manageable bites so you will not become overwhelmed, and then start pecking away at that plan slowly but surely.

Before you know it, you’ll be doing the exact things you envisioned yourself doing when you began dreaming about your new career. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be doing those things sooner rather than later.

Career freedom is right around the corner—but you have to pursue it.

For help making a career change, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation.