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The moment warm weather hits, productivity dips. There are many reasons – some personal, some biological, some environmental, but the numbers don't lie: 26% of employers say their employees are less productive in the summer. After combatting distractions and lack of productivity all summer, we're all ready to hit the ground running come September, right?

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Wrong.

How many of us find ourselves in the following scenario: it's 9:15am in a college town, and half of the team is still en route to your 9am meeting. The workplace Back to School Slump is a thing, whether you live in a college town, have children in school, or are in any way familiar with the impending sense of doom that September brings. It's a challenging time in the workplace and it can be tough to muddle through.

Why does the Back to School Slump happen?

1) Employee burnout. Between 2000 and 2014, productivity has skyrocketed, growing 21.6%, with wages only increasing 1.8% (source). In the summertime, staff is even leaner, making an already too-large workload even more impossible. When the summer ends, everyone is back from vacation and the biggest thing on the to-do lists is to catch up from all the missed and postponed work. Whoever covered for you is exhausted, whoever is coming back to a bunch of work is exhausted. It's lose-lose.

2) Traffic. The school season brings with it a plethora of commuters who have been away from the rush hour road all summer: school buses and parents. If you happen to be in Boston on move-in day, don't even bother driving anywhere.

3) Office temperatures. 71% of employees say they are less productive in an office that is too warm. 53% say they are less productive in an office that is too cold. Fall weather is confusing, and that thermostat can't keep up! Wear layers and keep a sweater at your desk – you might have figured out the summer office climate, but fall will keep you guessing.

4) Nostalgia. Remember when September meant new binders and a fresh set of notebooks? That was nice. Try to channel your inner child and buy yourself something new. It'll spike your excitement and feel like something new has begun instead of the same old, same old.

5) Kids. If you have 'em, you know. Getting yourself out the door is not even half as challenging as getting tiny humans on their way for the day. Summer may have allowed some relaxed mornings, but now there are things to remember, papers to sign, and drop-offs to make. And don't forget the snacks! ...No, for you. You need snacks too.

What can you do?

1) Employers: make it fun. Vacations are generally over, and there is no company-wide holiday for a couple months still, so morale has never been more important. Keep your employees engaged and excited about work by organizing morale-boosting activities, lunches, or getting a treat for your team.

2) Take an extended lunch with coworkers. Spending time with others who understand your pain (being stuck inside an office all day) will drag you out of the funk and boost your happiness. Your productivity is sure to follow. And try to get outside – breathing in some fresh fall air will do wonders.

3) Shift your work hours. If you find yourself getting antsy to leave the office at 3pm, see if you can shift your work hours to be earlier in the day, at least for the short-term. It's easy to get out of the house early in the morning when you know you're heading home with plenty of time to get through your lengthy to-do list.

 

Posted: 9/11/2017 2:33:32 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


If you have an office job, chances are high you have listened to something while cranking out expense reports or performing some other task that involves more muscle memory than serious thought. Whether it's a podcast or a playlist, queuing up something in the old earbuds is just a natural part of your day.

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We've all asked around for podcast recommendations and feel like the good ones have all been tired out – you can only listen to one This American Life each week, and 99% Invisible has short episodes. What else is there to fill the time? We've gathered a list of some lesser-known podcasts that are well-worth your time.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Straight from the mouth of The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, comes a podcast promoting positivity, practical advice, and the importance of good habits. We could all use a glass-half-full attitude at work, right? Maybe save this one for those miserable winter months.

Eureka by Baron Fig

A podcast from a notebook company might not necessarily seem like it's worth your time, but once you hear the description you might change your mind. They "sit down with Thinkers to discuss how they're turning ideas into reality." Though only a few episodes in at this point, a podcast that'll motivate you to learn a bit more about, say, PENCILS, might spice up your daily routine

How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black

Comedian Michael Ian Black hosts in depth interviews with creative big names: actors, entertainers, musicians, chefs, directors, journalists, and authors all sit down and talk about their creative lives.

Intelligence Squared

Workplace chatter is probably riddled with mentions of whatever newsworthy event has happened over the weekend, and while it's nice to leave the controversy at the office door, maybe you're looking to bring some into your headphones. Listen to a lively debate between experts on political and cultural topics , with both sides attempting to convince the live audience to side with them upon the conclusion.

Design Life

Spend 40 minutes with two young design professionals (self-described side project addicts) as they discuss everything from broad topics like work-life balance or demanding freelance payment, to niche topics like bullet journaling.  Hearing from peers in the industry means you can actually relate to the hosts (they're not famous people!) – it helps to know others are in the same boat as you!

How I Built This

Think of your favorite company or product. Do you have any idea how the brand was started? How I Built This interviews company founders to tell their startup stories. You name it, the interview is here: they've sat down with the founders of Lyft, TOMS, Lonely Planet, Whole Foods, Zappo's, Patagonia, Vice, Instagram, and more. Learn more about business, entrepreneurship, and the attitude needed to make it all happen from brands you know and love.

Posted: 8/24/2017 2:40:18 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Beer fridges. Unlimited PTO. Flexible hours.

Napping pods.

What is this place?!

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Company culture took a backseat to job security and stability for decades, until the dawn of the open workspace and the early beginnings of a working millennial class. A coffee machine in the break room and the occasional donut used to be all the perks needed to ensure job satisfaction, but these days it feels like an employee needs to know that their workplace will be like a second home, whatever that means to them.

If company culture is a deal breaker, how are you supposed to evaluate it before accepting a job?

You can take their word for it, but no hiring manager will say their company culture is anything less than stellar. There are ways to find out what the space is like, what the people are like, what the company is like. And you won't have to wait until you work there to find out!

1) Look around

When you go to the office to interview, kick your peripheral vision into gear. Pay attention to what the workspaces look like and if people have personalized their desk areas. Notice if people are chatting or keeping to themselves. Do they smile at you as you pass? Work satisfaction is comprised of lots of little details, all of which become drastically important once an everyday issue.

2) Contact an employee

There are shifty ways to do this, and those should be avoided. Rather than cold contacting a current employee after you've interviewed and potentially making them feel cornered, ask the hiring manager if you could get contact information for a current employee. Even though they'll be on their best behavior, this person will likely be more straightforward than your interviewer about what's expected, as well as the current habits and trends of the office as a whole.

3) Ask

You're meeting with someone who will probably tell you everything's coming up roses at this company, but remember: you're interviewing them too. Ask about what it's like to work there. What's the day-to-day look like, do people leave on time, what do the employees do in their free time, etc. They're looking for someone who will fit in, so even if they talk up the free beer, food, and downstairs gym, they ultimately won't hire someone who isn't comfortable working late.

4) Glassdoor

There is nothing more informative than anonymous feedback. While there might be some truth to the idea that reviews are unreliable, Glassdoor seems to have captured honesty, with quite the range of responses, from current and past employees, and interviewees. Glassdoor doesn't review company culture on it's own, but sift through a few reviews and you're sure to find that you're looking for.

5) Social Media stalk

It sounds creepy... but we all do it. Why save the Instagram stalking for post-first date investigations, when you can bring the beloved habit into your professional life? Sniff around online, see what the company posts on social media. Do some Googling - maybe a blogger has visited the office or perhaps the company did some charity work or volunteering. All of this information gives you a better idea of what the culture is like, and what kind of people you're working with.

If you're really interested in company culture, the interviewers thoughts just might not be good enough. The only way to know what you're getting into is to investigate on your own. Good luck!

Posted: 8/14/2017 3:01:57 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


We talk to so many people who are years into their career and they're antsy. They like their jobs, the work is fine, their coworkers are just the right combination of hardworking and friendly. But something isn't quite enough, and they can't quite put their finger on it. Only about half of American workers say they are "very satisfied" with their current job, leaving the rest to say they're "somewhat satisfied" or worse.

Mind if we take a stab at figuring out why?

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They didn't manage their expectations from the get-go.

Consider the fact that unmet expectations are considered to be one of the biggest underlying reasons for divorce, and it makes sense that your relationship with a job could suffer from the same issue.

When you're in conversation mode with a company, whether you're just interviewing with them or are already being offered a position, did you make a point to ask the important questions? If you aren't sure what to say, read on:

1) "I'd like to discuss the salary."

Employers are ready for this discussion, even keeping their initial offers low to accommodate for a requested upgrade from the candidates. But the crazy part? Almost half of nationwide job candidates don't even try to negotiate initial job offers. Forty-nine percent! Researchers have found that those who do negotiate raise their average annual pay by $5,000, meaning that a 25-year old that negotiated a starting salary of $55,000 would earn about $634,000 more than if she had accepted the offer at $50,000, over her 40-year career.

The best way to broach the subject? When you receive the job offer, mention that you're very excited for the offer and know you could bring a lot to the team, but were hoping the salary would be a little higher. Say you'll review the offer and get back to them, leaving them with the expectation that you will be negotiating so that it isn't a surprise when you bring it up on the next phone call. When you speak with them later, express your excitement for the position, refer to your mention of salary earlier, and then explain that the number you had in mind was $xx. You're worth this amount because of X, Y, and Z that you bring to the team.

Don't be afraid of losing the offer – again, companies anticipate a conversation about salary.

2) "How often are salaries evaluated and raises/bonuses given?"

To many, this feels like a pushy question. You've already heard what the position pays, why do you need to know the rest? Here's the thing – a position that pays a lower amount with more frequent and probable pay raises might be worth more in the long run than a position that starts at a high salary, but stays there. It's easier to visualize yourself at this job several years down the road when you have a rough idea of what you'll be making. The Five Year Employee is often disgruntled because they aren't making as much as they think they deserve. Solve that problem by knowing what to expect up front.

3) "What does this company value the most, and how do you think my work for you will further these values?"

Turn the tables during an interview and ask them a question. Being direct is a good way to make the interviewer evaluate the company's priorities  on the spot, so you get a pretty honest and focused answer from them. You will be much happier down the road if you know your values align with your employer's, and that you have a role in the mission of the company.

4) "Are there opportunities for upward mobility in this role or department?"

If you take a new position assuming you will be promoted in a few years, you'd be disappointed to be doing the exact same job you started at in five years, right? Chances are, the hiring manager knows up front whether there's room for growth or if you're in a dead-end position, and they'd like to have a person with same expectations for either situation. While it might not be a main focus of conversation, it's important for an employer to know if a candidate has further aspirations they need to address in the coming years, and the candidate should know if the future they seek can be found at this company.

Expectations are the easiest way to maintain job satisfaction for years down the road. Knowing what you're getting into, or at least having conversations about your future at the company, will keep you and your employer on the same page, and keep you far away from the disgruntled feeling that plagues American workers today.

Posted: 7/27/2017 1:11:40 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


In the last decade or so, the workforce has seen the rise of quirky job perks. The elusive "millennial" is described as a job-hopping, adventure seeking, entitled workaholic who prefers a purpose-driven career as opposed to a 9-5 cubicle job. Millennials cycle through jobs more quickly, with only half of them (as opposed to 60% of non-millennials) expecting to be at their current job a year from now. With their reputation preceding them, what other choice do companies have than to scramble to be better than the next? It has become the norm for office culture to have all the bells and whistles.

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But the truth will surprise you.

What 2 things do millennials want the most? 

Advancement in the workplace.

Annual raises.

We know, it's surprising, right? But think about it – with this generation having higher student loan debt (the average millennial owes $30,000), a home ownership rate at a record low, delaying marriages and family-starting, it's not shocking that money and career stability is on the forefront of young people's minds.

What does this mean?

Assume loyalty. Companies need to drop the assumption that millennials already have their foot out the door. Believing your employees aren't loyal and are antsy for the next Big Thing means you won't bother to invest time and money into them. They long for stability but are walking with the weight of financial and social pressures on their shoulders.

Give raises. It's one of the easiest and most effective ways of showing that you appreciate your team. It might feel like extra money isn't much of a gesture, but getting a brand new job gives an employee 8-10% pay increase on average. You don't need to match this for a raise every year, but it's certainly worth keeping in mind. A bonus in a heavy-spending time of year (think wedding season or the holidays) can also be a great motivator.

Give your employees a voice. Letting your team be involved in the future of the company makes them more invested in its success. It's important to make sure they know you trust and value their opinions, so when the time comes for a promotion or a new position, they'll be considered. Giving them respect and responsibilities will go a long way.

Posted: 6/29/2017 2:43:50 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments