Thermostat Wars

Anita,

The women in my office are at odds with the men over the temperature. If we dress appropriately for the warm weather outside, we freeze to death in the office. It’s hard to concentrate on your work when your fingers turn into blue Popsicles! Can you help us find a happy medium?

Dear “In a Cold Sweat,”

Adjusting the heating thermostatAfrican american man push button digital climate control

 

It’s a tale as old as… well, the invention of modern air conditioning, circa 1902. The gender divide is apparent when it comes to the preferred thermostat setting. I’ve known women who keep a polar fleece jacket or blanket at their desks, or who sneak a space heater next to their feet (Smokey the Bear would definitely not approve). While I won’t go so far as to call it a sexist conspiracy, the predicament does seem to affect women more than men – except for those unfortunate males who work for a female supervisor in the sweltering throes of a hot flash, jealously guarding the key to the AC.

Clothing, age, even your weight can affect how you experience temperatures. If your office has a suit and tie policy for the men, the extra layer of clothing is going to make the guys hotter under the proverbial collar. To be fair, guys can’t really strip down to the sleeveless tops that are acceptable for women to wear at work. It is easier to add a clothing layer to warm yourself up than it is to cool off when you can disrobe no further!

If Team Cold and Team Hot can’t keep their hands off the thermostat, your company may have to institute a climate control policy. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) recommends indoor temperatures between 68-76° F, which is a pretty broad range. Most building thermostats follow a thermal comfort formula that was developed in the 1960s. Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands claim the formula is based on a 40-year-old, 154-pound male, not an average female office worker with a lower metabolic rate. Women and men generally have a five degree difference in temperature preference, the researchers found. But, alas, “personal environmental modules” with individualized temperature controls in office buildings haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Over a decade ago, Cornell University put the thermostat wars to another scientific test, finding that warmer office temperatures improve productivity. Researchers increased office temperature from 68° to 77° F, and found that typing errors decreased by 44% and output jumped 150%.

Finnish counterparts at Helsinki University of Technology ran their own study. Their findings: The highest office productivity occurs at temperatures around 22° Celsius or 71.6° Fahrenheit. Hmm, those test subjects closer to the Arctic Circle seem a bit more tolerant of lower temperatures.

If the productivity arguments don’t convince your facilities manager to set the temperature above polar levels, hit ‘em in the pocketbook. Most energy companies recommend keeping the AC set no lower than 78° in summer. According to MyEnergy.com, your company can save 1-3% in energy costs for each degree the air conditioning is set above 72.

Readers: Are you “hot and bothered” at work, or given the “cold shoulder”?

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Workaholism: A Necessary Evil?

Hey Anita,

My wife is complaining that we haven’t taken a vacation in 6 years. But she doesn’t understand that I have to work non-stop to keep up with my job. Our kids are in sports and camps, and I can’t afford to be get lackadaisical. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I need to keep pace with the pack. But my long hours are causing a lot of friction in my marriage. Can you give me some arguments to help me prove to my wife that not taking time off is the price of success in our modern business world?

Workaholism_InfographicDear, Marty Martyr,

National Workaholics Day was this past Sunday, July 5. Admit it – you checked your work email.

You are not alone. A hefty 79% of respondents to a Select Family web poll consider themselves workaholics. Gallup reports that while half of Americans work 40 hours or less per week, the other half work 41-49 hours (11%), 50-59 hours (21%), even 60+ hours (18%). The last thing I want to do is help you argue with your significant other, and these stats don’t measure success – only time spent. A Huffington Post article observes, “Many feel, with some justification, that a 40-hour week would be career suicide.”

Working hard is one thing; being addicted to your job is another. Workaholism is a pattern of long hours, working beyond expectations, and a consuming obsession with your job. Workaholics Anonymous has 20 questions to ask yourself to see if you are taking your commitment to your profession too far. Beyond the obvious (Do you work more than 40 hours a week?), there’s one that seems to apply in your situation: Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else [like vacation]?

Americans leave 429 million vacation days unused yearly, according to Oxford Economics, which noted that a heavy workload and peer pressure prevented some from taking their earned PTO. Heck, even the CEO of the U.S. Travel Association had trouble getting his employees to take more than $350,000 in accrued vacation.

There’s always one more call to make, one more email to answer. And, God willing, there will be one more day. Instead of trying to “finish” everything each evening, learn to be okay with leaving some tasks for the morning – or next week – and try to relax. The world, your industry, and your company will manage to muddle on without you for a week or two while you embark on that much needed vacation.

The consequences of workaholism are stress-related health symptoms, sleep issues, decreased productivity (did you get that one?), and an increase in work-family conflicts. If you continue on this exhausting path, you may just find yourself married to your job, and nothing else. Research by Dr. Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., reveals that workaholics are 40% more likely to get a divorce. Or worse, you could make your wife a widow. Those who regularly work 11+ hours a day are 67 percent more likely to develop coronary disease, according to a UCL study.

My advice? Have a heart and address your family’s vacation deprivation. To quote Harold Kushner, “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ”

Readers: How many hours a week do you clock for your job? Do you feel pressure to work more than 40?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Texting on the Job

Dear Anita,

Lately I’ve noticed that one of my employees is texting all throughout the workday. I’m not unreasonable. I don’t mind a text here and there, but I feel like half of her time is spent on personal chit-chat. How can I address the situation?

Texting_on_the_Job_00001161700Dear, Vexed about Texts,

Americans send 208,333 text messages every second, totaling 18 billion texts daily, according to the CITA-The Wireless Association and Nielsen. We use texts more often than phone calls these days to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. While the vast majority of those responding to our Select Family poll think that it is not okay to send personal texts at work, the Millennial generation may disagree. The numbers indicate that 18-24 year olds are especially addicted to texting.

Texting on the JobAs I mentioned in my blog post The Multi-Tasking Myth, productivity suffers when you are interrupted, whether by another work task or the buzz, chirp, or ding of an incoming text.  In a recent study in the Higher Education Journal, half of a class was requested to text the professor three times during a lecture and the other half was not allowed to text.  Who do you think retained less information and scored lower on the pop quiz afterwards? The texters, of course.  A University of Waterloo study in the workplace similarly found that cell phones created too many distractions for employees to complete their office tasks.

Customer service may suffer because of text distractions. It’s incredibly rude for a worker to engage in texting (personal or otherwise) while handling a customer face-to-face. Even when on a call on the business line, an incoming personal text can cause less than 100% attention to the conversation at hand.

Staffers who drive for their jobs should be especially careful not to text while at the wheel. And employees who have a company-provided cell phone should be aware that any texts or images sent and received are company property (think twice about “sexting” on your work cell).

Vexed, is this just one bad apple ruining texting privileges for the whole team? Depending on your company size and culture, you may wish to add a texting policy. Think carefully, though, because a strict policy could backfire by decreasing employee morale and thus productivity.

If you feel your company does needs a written policy, check out Quickbooks’ article Tips for Establishing an Employee Texting Policy. Here is one example of a texting/cell phone policy:

XYZ Company is committed to providing a work environment that is safe, customer focused, and free of unnecessary distractions related to personal cell phone usage. Cell phones must be set to vibrate or silent mode instead of sounding ring tones. The company encourages a reasonable standard of limiting personal calls and text messaging to breaks and meal periods. Employees are asked to make all personal calls and texts on non-work time and to ensure that friends and family members are aware of this policy. Flexibility will be provided in circumstances demanding immediate attention.

As a manager, you may want to make exceptions for special situations, such as when an employee’s family member is ill. In another for instance, parents of latch-key kids will be more distracted until they get that text message that their child made it home safe and sound.

But if you feel a formalized policy is overkill (or you’re afraid your workforce of younger employees will mutiny or jump ship), have a chat with your serial texter about the inappropriate amount of messaging during work hours.

BOL (Best of Luck).

Readers: Do you send personal text messages while on the job? What is your company’s policy on texting?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Opposing Office Politics

Hi, Anita:

Two groups of my co-workers have been at odds with each other for the past month. There was a disagreement over the way a project was handled and now it feels like the office is a war zone. I have tried my hardest to mind my own business but I can feel everyone involved trying to pull me in their direction. How do I stay out of the game of office politics?

Dear, Caught in the Middle:

Office politics is present in almost every work environment. Whether you are a forklift driver in a warehouse or an assistant in the executive suite, these games have been known to crash even the best office parties.

Office_GossipI have a few tips for you that will help you steer clear of political mumbo jumbo and center your focus on what matters most: your job!

  1. Do not engage in gossip. Avoid involving yourself in rumors and off-work topic discussions. Seriously, do not touch it with a 10-foot pole. All it will do is get you caught up in the games even more. You will be no better than your coworkers who are in the midst of this spat.
  2. Be a great listener. Not all gossip can be avoided, especially when it is shoved right into your lap. To not be rude or disinterested, practice your listening skills. The other person may need to vent about their opponent, but that doesn’t mean you have to give your opinion. Be a sounding board for their feelings and then politely carry on with your day.
  3. Keep your personal life private. Keep your personal information just how it should be: personal. To avoid conflict, do not discuss politics or religion while you are in the office. Your opinions and preferences that do not relate to work are on a need-to-know basis. As for your coworkers, they fall under the “do not need to know” category.
  4. Be positive and complimentary. Like your mother and I will always tell you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” The same rings true in the workplace. You don’t want to start building a reputation of being a Debbie Downer.
  5.  Keep your interactions on an even keel. Be aware of how your interactions with your coworkers, superiors and subordinates are being perceived by others. Unequal treatment will be recognized immediately and could form a breeding ground for even more office politics.
  6.  Stay focused. Nothing can be better for you and your career than staying focused on doing your job well. If you keep your goals and tasks top of mind, you will not only be a more productive employee, but you will set a higher standard for your peers. The troublemakers will begin to see that you do not have time to engage in their quarrels or drama.

Readers, what tactics do you employ to avoid office politics?

Check out this video to see how to best avoid bad office politics:

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Tips for Time Management

Hi, Anita:

My business has seen a huge jump in orders and we are firing on all cylinders. I definitely welcome the increase in pace and couldn’t be happier with the pick-up in the economy. But I am worried that before long I will find myself with too many things to do and not enough time to do it. What tips do you have for time management?

Dear, Crunched for Time:

Time management is a great tool for everyone to master. When time begins to vanish right before your eyes, it is good to have a set plan in mind on how to keep your life in order. One thing that always fascinates me about time… when all we have is time, it creeps by, and when we don’t have enough, it seems to fly out the window.

Time_Mgmt

Here a few tips to keep that wily and unruly time of ours under control.

  • Take the first 30 minutes of your day planning out your day.
  • Prioritize your tasks. Separate them into those that must be completed today, those due tomorrow, those due next week, and so on. This will give you a good checklist to work from.
  • Record your daily activities and analyze the time you spend doing each type of task. When you look back after two weeks, you will be able to better understand where you can save 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there.
  • Don’t be afraid to set aside “Do Not Disturb” time for yourself. Get the most important tasks completed and out of the way during these hours.
  • Budget time in your day for unanticipated interruptions. Trust me, they come out of nowhere when you least expect them.
  • Remind yourself that you are only human, and it is impossible to get everything done in a day.
  • Schedule time about every half hour to respond to emails in your inbox. If something is urgent and needs your immediate attention, instruct your staff to either call or visit you in your office.
  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. It will help you have more energy and the fuel to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

A good video to watch is below from Dr. Darryl Cross. It is a bit longer than my usual visual entertainment but worth every minute:

Readers, what do you think is the biggest time-waster during your day? Do you have a secret tip you would like to share with the Clew-munity?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Seeking Solutions for Obamacare

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

As the HR Director of a company with 56 people, Obamacare is on the top of my mind. My company is on the fence about what we should do. We don’t want to let go 7 people to be under the magic number of 50, but we want to avoid the steep penalties. What are your thoughts on how to best handle this new law as an employer or business owner?

Dear, Seeking a Solution:

Thank you for the question! Business owners and employers are all struggling with the looming question of how they will handle the coming implementation of Obamacare’s penalty provisions. I am glad to hear that my readers are already thinking about the subject and beginning to get their strategies in order now. In your situation Doctor_Handswith just over 50 employees, you are in the category that must provide affordable health insurance or face hefty fines.

After doing some research and evaluating the options, I have determined that the best course of action for businesses like yours is to move your excess employees over to a staffing firm’s payroll. Here is how I came to this conclusion.

  • By migrating 7 workers to a staffing firm’s payroll, you can cut your “full-time equivalent” staff below the 50-person limit, which means your company will not be subject to fees and penalties. The staffing company becomes the official employer of record and is responsible for providing health care or absorbing the penalty. In our reader’s case, if they were to move Medical_Filesthe 7 people from their payroll to a staffing company, it could save them $14,000 in penalties and potentially even more in insurance costs.
  • Some staffing firms offer health benefits to their temporary employees, relieving you of any moral concern or burden. My favorites are Select Staffing, RemX Specialty Staffing, Remedy Intelligent Staffing, and Westaff.
  • Lower insurance rates for your employees.  Larger staffing firms have so many employees on their insurance plans that they are able to negotiate great group rates. This cost savings can be passed on to you.
  • By moving your a portion of your workforce to a staffing firm, you will not be required to comply with the complex reporting requirements. The employer must report regularly to the IRS, its employees, and to all states in which the company does business. This will reduce costs and provide a savings in administrative overhead.

On a recent episode of his CNBC show Mad Money, financial analyst Jim Cramer noted that the demand for temps is mushrooming, “fueled in part by the pending implementation of Obamacare.” He says: “Businesses of all sizes are searching for ways to cope with this law, and the easiest way to avoid paying these expenses is to hire more temps.”

Employers, what are your plans for managing the Obamacare mandate? Will you be turning to staffing firms for help?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Be Happy – All Day, Every Day

Hi Anita,

I have started to notice that when I am in a fantastic mood I tend to have a much better day at work and get so much done. My positive attitude even has an effect on the rest of the team. From now on, I want to set a positive and proactive tone throughout my office. How can I send my staff and myself down the happy path from the start of the day to the end?

Happy People

Hello, Happiness Helper,

Thanks for the great question. Nothing makes your day go by faster and better than a good mood. I think it is the number one determining factor of how we act, feel, and present ourselves. Even if we do not verbalize how happy or upset we are during the day, it is easily communicated through our reactions to stress, body language, and overall demeanor. I have seen my share of up and down days during my long life but have come up with a strategy of my own to overcome almost anything in my way.

Every night, I set my morning alarm to go off 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I use this extra time for what I call “positive reinforcement.” It is the time when I can do something positive for myself without any interference. I will usually read some selected positive affirmations, look at the nature outside of my window, or spend some time playing with my cat, Clew-cifer, before any outside nuisance can sour my mood. Choose an activity that takes little effort and gives you something to smile about as the day progresses. Coffee or your favorite breakfast meal can be added in here as well. Doesn’t breakfast in bed sound good to anyone else?

Many people view their commute to and from work as a daunting and unpleasant task. Being behind the wheel, navigating through traffic, and steering clear of worldly hazards sounds stressful. What I have done is switch my mentality on the commuting conundrum. Instead of dreading it, I look at the drive as 30 minutes of ME time! I put on my favorite mix tape (created by yours truly) and get myself excited for the day ahead.  It is where I only focus on myself and the things I look forward to accomplishing today.

When you get to the office, be sure to get your work day started with a big smile. Smiling is contagious and will spread like wildfire. Even if you don’t feel happy or in a great mood, research has shown that even fake smiles have a positive effect on how you feel. When someone asks “How are you doing this morning?” or “How is your day treating you?” Happy!respond with something positive. I try to stick with responses like “I am great! How about yourself?” or “Today is going great so far!” Be sure to add in that smile! Refrain from telling others all about your troubles or how awful you feel. I’ll bet that 9 times out of 10, a positive response is better received.

Most employers allow their staff two 10-minute breaks throughout the day on top of a lunch break. Get your blood moving and the endorphins pumping by taking a short walk outside. This is and has been a great stress reliever for me for some time now. I find that I am much more productive and more alert, which contributes to my overall sense of happiness and well-being. It gives your brain a break and lets you refocus your energy on the positive.

As the closing bell rings, be sure to leave your work at the office. The evening hours are there for you to partake in non-work activities and do something you enjoy. If that is reading a book on your couch, grabbing dinner with a friend, or catching up on the latest football game, be sure you allow yourself time to indulge in simple pleasures.  Before calling it quits for the day, try your best to remove all negative thoughts from your mind and think of what was positive during the day. What were you able to accomplish? Remember a few things that made you smile. It can be as small as enjoying a candy bar after lunch or seeing an improvement in your productivity. Just end your day on a positive note!

A friend of mine shared this great video that I can’t help but smile at. We should all try to be this happy and cheery in the morning.

What do you do to make your days pleasant and positive? I would love to hear them!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Making Time To Exercise

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have sworn to myself that this will be the year that I successfully keep my New Year’s Resolution. For many years, I have tried to eat healthier, make smarter choices, and get more exercise into my daily routine but I seem to fall of the wagon in a matter of weeks. What can I do to make sure I succeed at my goal and become a healthier, better me?

Thanks for the question, Eager to Exercise,Man Stretching at the Office

During the holiday season, many of us see our weight creep up on the scales — to the point that we make Santa Claus himself look like a runway model! One too many of Grandma’s famous cookies or an extra helping of mashed potatoes here and there can really expand the waistline. It is no wonder that the top New Year’s Resolution is to become more physically fit and get healthy, according to a survey conducted by FC Organizational Products in December 2011. With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, where can you find the time to fit in exercise and smart diet choices? I have a few ideas that will help you be more active, involved in your health, and keep your resolutions all year long – even at work!

  • Avoid the elevators. Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Park your car at the far end of the lot. Depending on the size of your parking lot or structure, you can make up for the half of a cookie you grabbed walking out the door. Remember, every step counts!
  • If possible, walk or bike to work. You are already leaving time to complete your standard commute. At least double your normal commute time and put your shoes and pedals to the pavement.
  • Find more opportunities to stand while working. Standing will increase blood flow throughout your body and relieve some soreness from muscles. It also takes more effort from your body to stand than it does to sit. Try taking a call with a head set or trade emails and phone calls for a walk over to a co-worker’s desk.
  • Make room for a quickie walk. Utilize your allotted break times or put 20 minutes of your lunch break aside to take a brisk walk around the building, either outside or inside.
  • Swap out your regular office chair for a large fitness ball.
  • Rise and shine. Wake up an hour or so earlier and take a fitness class at a local gym. By the time you get to work, you will be running on the energy you just earned at the gym and you also have freed up a whole hour after work for other activities.
  • Bring your exercise clothes to work with you. Anything you can do to make getting a workout in easier the better. You are also limiting your excuses for not making it to your sweat session.
  • Keep a set of these guys (look left) at your desk.
  • Make a run for it. Bring your lunch to work with you and swing by the gym on your lunch break. Even 25 minutes of exercise will have a positive effect on your day and health. Once you get back to the office, eat at your desk and refuel from your great workout.
  • Join or start a sports team at your work. Gather your co-workers for a game of kickball or basketball after work. Having other people depending on you and holding you accountable for the team will make it harder for you to wimp out at the last minute.
  • Snack the smart way. At all costs, avoid the vending machines at your office. These on -the-go food facilities are full of high sugar, calorie, and salt options with little to no nutritional value. Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, raw veggies, and yogurt with you or in the office fridge. For tips on how to keep it safe from thieves, check out my post, “Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit.”

DumbellsI hope these tips help you stay on track with your New Year’s Resolution goals. Remember that it takes time to transition into new habits and ways of life. Make your goals small and achievable. If you have a slip-up or fall off the tracks, don’t give up. Pick yourself back up and start fresh.

What are you trying to achieve in 2013? What advice do you have for others trying to make their goals in the New Year?

For a quick workout while you are at the office, check out the video below!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best of Luck,
Anita

Hire Our Heroes!

Today, we celebrate the courageous actions and valor of the servicemen and women who served in our country’s armed forces. Let us take a moment to thank them for their service and sacrifice in the name of freedom this Veteran’s Day and every day.

After last week’s post offering advice to recently returned veterans, I have been inspired to take it one step further. Hiring managers, I am talking to you. The large pool of skilled and accomplished veterans is some of the top talent available. Many of you may ask what skills and traits military personnel have that are applicable to your businesses.

There are many!

Veterans hold specials sets of skills that are so engrained in their being, they have become second nature. Determination, dedication, and drive are some that come to mind — all three highly valued qualities that any business owner, supervisor, or hiring manager would hope to bring to their teams.  I could go on and on, but I will simply highlight the top 10 reasons why you should put our veterans on your payroll!

  1. Leadership – The most successful military personnel are incredible leaders. They have the traits and characteristics to inspire and motivate those around them. The ability to lead and get the best from the members of the team is a priceless attribute.
  2. Global experience – Veterans have experience in a wide variety of regions around the world. They are used to adapting to different cultures and experiencing life/business from other viewpoints.
  3. Exceptional learning curve – Upon entering the service, military personnel must quickly master a series of skills and competencies that are required for survival. This experience allows veterans to quickly adapt and accomplish tasks that may take others months to achieve.
  4. Teamwork – Individual and group productivity are required in the military setting. Servicemen and women are familiar with working together as a team and understand the importance of personal responsibility to one another and accountability in a group setting.
  5. Ability to deliver results under pressure – Resourcefulness and adhering to tight time schedules are common occurrences in the military. Veterans are trained to organize and tackle priorities no matter what difficulties they are faced with.
  6. Respect for authority and procedures – Military vets understand the importance of structure to an organization. They value and encourage a clear set of rules and regulations that help maintain and support strategy.
  7. Integrity – This is a characteristic that is hard to come by in today’s environment. Veterans understand the value of hard work, persistence, honor, and honesty. Many have been involved in missions that require high level of secrecy and security clearance.
  8. Adherence to safety standards – Safety is a major concern in the military with regard to fellow servicemen and civilians. Military personnel believe in maintaining a safe and healthy environment; protection of colleagues and equipment is a top priority.
  9. Working knowledge of technology and machinery – Veterans are trained to effectively use the latest computers, machinery, and technology to achieve goals and accomplish tasks. If they are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, I’ll bet my favorite set of knitting needles that they will be heads down until they can operate it with their eyes closed.
  10. Positive outlook – Even under the most dire circumstances and grim futures, military veterans have the intrinsic knowledge and skills to triumph over adversity. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, drive, determination, and the desire to achieve greatness and success for the team are of the highest priority.

As if all that weren’t enough…  thanks to the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers will receive tax credits for hiring veterans —  40% percent of the first $6,000 in wages (up to $2,400) for short-term unemployed vets and 40% of the first $14,000 in wages (up to $5,600) for vets who have been unemployed longer than 6 months.

Employers, what are you doing to recruit and hire military veterans? If you are uncertain of hiring veterans, what is your reasoning?

Here is a video sharing the many ways that you can help support our veterans.

Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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