Speaking up at work

Speaking Up at Work

People think being good at public speaking is about not being nervous in front of crowds. As someone whose work reviews tend to use phrases like “team player,” I’m here to tell you that’s a dirty lie. I’ve led meetings, taught seminars, performed theater, managed workshops, done standup comedy, emceed, and speaking up during the morning meeting still makes me nervous sometimes. Thousands of years of evolution is invested in making sure that our hearts pound like crazy when we speak to more than a handful of people. It’s literally a survival instinct and those are not designed to be easily overcome.

 

However, the instinct to listen quietly in the corner can be dangerous professionally! Verbally oriented learners (people who develop ideas and retain information best by verbalizing them) are often perceived as having more leadership potential, being more engaged, and to be identified as contributors. An inconvenient truth indeed, but one worth remembering! If you tend to “keep your head down” and could stand to speak up more often at work, here are some simple perspective shifts you can make to take some of the sting out of speaking up.

 

Process over Product!

Part of the reason people don’t speak up during the learning/getting up to speed phase is because they fear they don’t understand it yet and will say something “wrong.” But don’t forget that discussion is a part of learning a new concept. People who “say the wrong things” because they are engaging with unfamiliar ideas can pick up new concepts faster than people who are too intimidated to make public mistakes. Try to think of the discussion phase as an integral part of the process, like the rough draft or brainstorming part of the process. Just finding the words to talk about the project with your team can help you clarify your contribution before even beginning.

 

Identify YOUR contribution

When you say something that’s incorrect (also known as the “learning process”) you don’t just benefit yourself and contribute to some kind of myth that you know everything. You also empower your team! As the old saying goes, if you have a question about something, it’s very likely that someone else in the group does also. I can’t tell you how many times a freshman’s “stupid question” led to the breakthrough in the discussion that helped a half a dozen other people really grasp a new concept. Thinking about yourself not just as an individual, but a member of a team can help make it easier to speak up and take risks in your work.

 

Break up the crowd

I’m assuming the old “picture them in their underwear” adage is some kind of attempt at this philosophy, but a significantly less invasive way to make speaking to a crowd easier is to help your mind begin to break the crowd up into individuals. If you can think of “speaking up in a meeting” as a smaller task like “asking Ross a question” or “following up on a previous conversation with Kara,” that makes that moment of tension a little more bearable.

 

If you feel particularly vulnerable speaking up to a certain group, try to imagine a mentor you are speaking to a mentor who has supported you in the past. Pretend that you’re talking with just that one individual who understands that you’re thinking aloud and wants to see you succeed.

 

Talk About It

If lending your voice to the group is your goal, speak it! Tell a manager that it’s something you’d like to improve. They can help hold you accountable and reinforce your inevitable success! Write it down. Make a goal to contribute once to the next meeting you’re in, then twice. Sometimes, writing things down ahead of time can help clear your mind so you can bring your A-game to the table. If there’s a topic you’re particularly nervous to address, try doing some freewriting about it. No judgment and you don’t even have to keep it after the fact. It’s just a tool to get your thoughts percolating.

 

Natural Leaders

Groups can tell when a leader is tense towards them, even if that tension comes from the very natural pressure that comes up when speaking in front of a crowd of peers. Try to remember that this group wants you to succeed. You all want to succeed together! Practice in low stakes situations and then slowly start amping up how often and for how long you speak to a group. It’s not that a leader feels confident in everything they say. Leaders just know that other goals are more important than potentially looking foolish.

 

Tell us in the comments about a time you said something silly in a meeting!


Quarantine potluck

Food: Quarantine Edition

Whether you’re gaining food knowledge, losing your knack for baking or trying a different diet during quarantine, all of us are eating something to fuel our bodies. Whether it’s good or bad we want to hear about it. Don’t worry, we’ll start. I asked my Avant8 teammates what they have been indulging in while in quarantine. Some are quite impressive (at least to me) others were simple, but comfort food seemed to be a common trait.

 

The Meat Eaters

Turns out most of my coworkers’ favorite quarantine recipes turned out to contain meat. Now, most people wouldn’t even notice this, but this content writer is a vegetarian. So, here you go meat eaters.

 

Content writer Katie versus Maple Soy Glazed Salmon: My fellow content writer, Katie and her family love variety in their kitchen. This salmon recipe is super easy to make and not one, but two really “goods.”

 

Project manager Tasha versus Crock Pot Cooker Crack Chicken: Tasha calls this recipe her got-to “lazy” recipe. And apparently, it’s also great for folks who endeavor to go the Keto diet route.

 

Web developer, Jordan has been making this Ultimate Mexican Street Corn Dip. It’s full of everything you could need in a dip. And if you ask me, it sounds good even without the bacon.

 

The Sweet Lovers

Who doesn’t love a good sweet? Well, a lot of people actually, so if you’re one of those people, move on.

 

Maddy, our content lead, is similar to me in ways. One is that we love baked goods but can't really bake. This recipe for Peach Puff Pastry Tarts has officially been added to my list of “must makes.” She describes it as “super tasty” and easy as you can use puff pastry and even canned peaches.

 

One of our designers, Steve, has a few kiddos who have a sweet tooth. They made these Quick and Easy Brownies. What a fun way to get your family doing an activity together! What’s better than ending family time with a treat?

 

Project manager, Brad, gave us this recipe for Streusel Coffee Cake that him and his family enjoy often. That’ll be sure to cure any sweet tooth.

 

The Fancy

If you like to feast “fancy” this one is for you. Robby, our lead designer here at Avant8 decided to become a chef here during the middle of a pandemic. His favorite fancy meal has been Greek-style Roast Leg of Lamb for Easter (turns out Robby is a quarter Greek!). “Because I live by myself, it fed me for two weeks, and I never got sick of it. I did have to replenish the boxed rice pilaf on week two, though,” says Robby. I don’t know about you folks, but that looks like a fancy meal to me. Cheers to the fancy feasters!

 

 

And Me

I left the best for last (just kidding). I desperately wish I were like my cohorts in the fact that they are indulging in good, comfort food and sweets. During quarantine I have not explored food but have almost taken a step back. I eat a lot of bland pasta, roasted veggies and frozen bean and rice burritos (don’t lie, you know those things slap). Because of my poor food choices, I have no recipe to contribute.

 

Whether you’ve become a connoisseur of fancy meals, comfort meals, meals filled with meat or you’re a baker in progress, we’ve all got to eat. Even if it’s just a frozen burrito.

 

 

 

 

 

Links to Food:

https://www.skinnytaste.com/maple-soy-glazed-salmon/

http://scrumpdillyicious.blogspot.com/2014/08/roast-leg-of-lamb-with-greek-style.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+Scrumpdillyicious+(Scrumpdillyicious)

https://www.wholesomeyum.com/crock-pot-slow-cooker-crack-chicken-recipe/

https://www.cookswithcocktails.com/puff-pastry-tart/

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9599/quick-and-easy-brownies/

https://www.fivehearthome.com/ultimate-mexican-street-corn-dip-appetizer-recipe/

https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/streusel-coffee-cake/6961f214-b8aa-480b-8cd5-d57ea4350757


Local roadtrips

Ode to the Middle of Nowhere Places

If you’re a Utah local, it’s easy to think of the Northwest third or so of Utah as “THE SALT FLATS” and then to never think of them again. It becomes a lack of space that exists within spitting distance of the breathtaking mountain ranges usually associated with the Wasatch Front. The uniformity and sheer lack of anything leave the whole place completely without visual landmarks. If you want to see something truly surreal, look through images of the place. Swatch after swatch of easy gradient shifts, the sky reflected back at itself, and salt crystals so delicate that they stack like snow. Besides the brine shrimp of the Great Salt Lake, the only species flourishing are weird land artists and weird art tourists. We’ve seen a lot of it at Avant8, but it’s still hard to describe the installation art of the Bonneville Salt Flats. But if you’re looking for somewhere to be nowhere for a little while, we highly recommend it.

 

Cairns

These little stone sentinels are usually more popular in wooded areas, a concept of stacking rocks by trailsides for visiting hikers. But on the Salt Flats, you’ve probably seen little villages of the white, steeple-like stacks along the side of the road. Homage to the god(s) of the desert? Animal instinct to fight the “snow blindness” of an empty horizon? A raging against the dying of the light? Up to the interpreter.

 

The Tree of Utah

You can know the story of the tree and still not understand the story of the tree. It’s the halfway point to Wendover, the closest gambling refuge to Utah, and its construction involves a vision. It is 87 feet tall. The sculptor (?), artist (?), visionary (?) was a Swede, born in Iran who left the tree to the State of Utah. He designed it to bring, “space, nature, myth, and technology together.” The partial spheres at the base of the tree represent the tree’s growth cycle. The orbs near the top that approximate branches are covered with rocks and minerals native to Utah.

 

Spiral Jetty

The Spiral Jetty is an art installation on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. A series of stones are arranged into a super-human-sized spiral on what is sometimes the edge of the water. The Jetty leads out and curls around with a neatness and uniformity that rejects the randomness of the surroundings and inevitably draws a few visitors every weekend it isn’t frigid. The whole scene is reminiscent of crop circles but inverted in positive and negative space. If you go, be sure to walk the jetty in its spiral shape. Cutting across it is just not as fun.

 

Sun Tunnels

This middle of nowhere is about 40 miles West of Wendover along the border to Wyoming. There are four equidistant, x-arranged sections of concrete pipes tall enough for a short person to do loop de loops inside, as evidenced by the palimpsest left by skateboard tires. Drilled through the several inches thick concrete are periodic holes the relief the size of a can of Coke. During the day, they let in shafts of light that pierce the relative darkness the tunnels generate. At night, on astrologically significant dates, the holes align with the positions of certain constellations. On the Summer and Winter Solstices, the sun aligns with two of the four tunnels at sunrise and sunset (alternating each solstice, suggesting that the very heavens swing around this one spot.) On that day, land art hippies and astrology nerds gather to light bonfires and drink coffee and shiver in the cold morning for this magical (?), ridiculous (?) event.

 

Who Should Go to the Salt Flats?

Admittedly, this place is not Disneyland. This is a trip for photographers or yogis or anyone content to sit and watch for a while. Though the drives around the Flats can be long, it is a great destination for any kids that have been feeling cramped up. Small towns and cafes can be entertaining pit stops for children who have never played video games. Dogs will thrive on all the free space to roam without consequence and fascinating smells. We suggest that owners have a plan for keeping pooches out of the water or washing them off after (truly do not recommend).

 

Prepare Yourself, Adventurer

At Avant8, we highly recommend that adventurers go highly prepared into the Salt Flats. Cell reception is not reliable everywhere. Take fully charged phones and way more water than you need. Make sure someone at home knows where you are going and will follow up on when you’ll be back.

 

Steve Taylor, resident designer extraordinaire learned this the hard way. He said of the experience:

The Salt Flats in Utah, why wouldn't you want to go? You see the most beautiful photos and sunsets that you want that experience too. Our family adventure started out wonderfully, a nice drive, nice weather, a nice picnic lunch, but all good things must come to an end. As we were driving across the Salt Flats our front tires suddenly sunk, they broke through the salt crust, and into the slimiest, thickest mud! When we found some wood scraps, we thought we found our saving grace, but they were no luck- our tires were too covered to grip the wood. After asking for help, one family said no- one great family said yes, we were STILL STUCK! No tow trucks, no shovels, no getting out. We dug and dug and dug in that thick mud, we were covered! After being stuck out in this beautiful place for 4 hours, our family came to save us! Yes, the Salt Flats are beautiful, but one visit may be enough for the Taylor family.

Fair enough, Taylors. Take 200 experience points, a mud hoard, and inspiration to use on your future endeavors.

 

Take care travelers!


Things to do at home

How to distract, I mean entertain, your kids at home

Summer is fast approaching, but with COVID-19, kids are already home from school and have been for a while. That means that they’re already bored with all of their toys, games, sidewalk chalk, roller skates, Fortnite, or whatever kids are into these days. A lot of them have probably turned to staring at screens for long periods of time.

 

As a parent, you probably don’t want your kid using their screens too much. They’ll have plenty of time to do that as adults… But that doesn’t change the fact that right now, there aren’t many options available to all the well-meaning parents out there. Most zoos and museums are closed and if you want to go out into nature, you have to find nature without lots of people (which if you live along the Wasatch Front, you know isn’t easy to do). So, what can you do with your child(ren) at home?

 

Board games

Like I said, there is a good chance you’ve already exhausted this option. That is, you’ve already played the games you own. But what about making one of your own?

 

You can do this just by customizing a game you already have. For example, replace the people in Guess Who? with pictures of friends and family or even celebrities or fictional characters your child likes. That way you can ask questions like, “Is your person famous despite having no discernible talent?” (Spoiler: the other person has a Kardashian)

 

If you’re in the mood to be more creative, try making up a new game. Work with your kids to design and make it. That alone will keep them entertained for a while. Then you can play the game together.

 

Blind building

This is a fun challenge for kids who have a lot of Legos and a lot of time. Set up your child in front of a pile of Legos, blindfold them, and give them a few minutes to build something. Whether you give them something specific to build or have them go nuts is up to you. There are a bunch of different ways you can play this, so the game can go on for ages.

 

Tie-dye

Ah, that old fall back, tie-dye. This is a way to make something creative and practical. You can use an old piece of clothing, or go and get a new one, just as long as it is white. There are a million tie-dye kits out there that you can use. I would suggest doing this outside, as it can get a little messy.

 

Scavenger hunts

This is another one of those activities that has a bunch of different ways that you can do it. The main thing is to compile a list (or find one online) of things for your child to go and find. You can theme it after books, so they have to go through their picture books to find everything on the list. Theme it after your backyard or neighborhood. That way, they get outside and get moving. Try incentivizing it. For example, if they find x number of things on the list within x amount of time, they get a popsicle. However, you want to do it, it can be a lot of fun!

 

Crafts

This is a broad suggestion. But that is only because it really depends on your child’s interest. Have a kid who likes dolls? Make paper dolls with them. Maybe even a whole wardrobe and house. Have a child who likes science? Make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. Here at Avant8, we’ve been digging this paper plate UFO from Woo Jr. It’s cute and timely.

 

It’s easy to find instructions on how to do different crafts online. Plus, many of these crafts use things you probably already have at home, so you probably won’t need to run to the store.

 

Audiobooks

Of course, you may not have time to do a bunch of activities with your kids. That is completely understandable. After all, many of us are working from home, and can’t necessarily take breaks to help our kids make a tie-dye shirt. But there are options to keep your kids entertained and your hands free to work. My favorite is audiobooks. If your kids like being read to audiobooks are a great option. You can set them up with the book and some coloring supplies, Legos, or whatever.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Audiobooks are just as expensive as regular books, I don’t have the cash to buy a bunch of them right now.” And you’re right, audiobooks are priced in a way I don’t fully understand. But this is just another example of why libraries are society’s saving grace. Most libraries offer some sort of audiobook app (the Salt Lake County libraries use Libby). These apps are free and available for use by those who have a library card (though standard library rules do apply; they only have so many copies, and the book has a due date).

 

I recommend the Harry Potter audiobooks. The narrator, Jim Dale, does a great job.

 

Offer to teach

A lot of these activities are not going to be quite as popular with older kids. If you have a bored preteen or teen, try asking them if there is anything they want to learn how to do. A lot of teenagers don’t know how to cook, garden, or change the oil in the car, but there are plenty who would like to know and would almost teach themselves if given a bit of guidance.

 

A bit of advice: offer to teach them something, but maybe don’t offer suggestions. Bursting into your teen’s room and saying, “Come on kid, I’m going to teach you how to garden,” may end up sounding like chores to them, even if they are interested.

 

These suggestions won’t cure your child’s boredom forever, but hopefully, they’ll help stave it off for a little while. At the very least, you’ll get a break from listening to Frozen 2 for the millionth time.


Video marketing rules

Video conferencing etiquette 101

Despite all of the craziness of the last couple of months, it does appear that things are starting to calm down. At least a little. While there are states that are opening up a little again, it does seem like many of us will still be working from home. Real-life boardrooms will still be off-limits, but virtual versions are required.

 

This means we should layout some much-needed ground rules for video conferencing.

 

Subtlety is key

Sometimes you have to sit in on meetings that you don’t really have much to say in. You’ll probably sit there and think about all of the things you could be getting done instead of being in that meeting. This isn’t new to video conferencing, but what is new, is that you are at your computer, not a conference table. Meaning that you could actually be doing that work that you’re daydreaming about. But you need to be sure that people can’t tell you aren’t paying attention. Find a way to work subtly. If you use dual monitors put the page you are working on using the monitor that has the camera. Keep your typing movements to a minimum. And be sure that you can hear the meeting. You don’t want to be caught not paying attention when your boss asks you a question.

 

Mute is magic

Pretty much all conferencing programs have an option to mute your microphone (in fact, I would be wildly surprised to find out that there is one that doesn’t offer that option). Use it. Please. If you have nothing to say. If no one is asking you a question. If you are not running the meeting. Please use mute. No one needs to hear your neighbor blasting Billy Joel just because you have to. If you are one of the blessed few that only has quiet neighbors, you may not need mute. Keep your microphone unmuted just to flex on the rest of us.

 

You are not in the Witness Protection Program

Sunny days, open blinds, and web cameras do not mix. If your home office is set up with a window behind you and you like to have your blinds open, your coworkers won’t be able to see you during video conferencing. All they will see is your silhouette. You’ll look like you’re being interviewed for a true-crime documentary and you saw something you should have. Your coworkers will probably be surprised when you talk, and your voice isn’t altered to protect your identity. If possible, move your set up so that the widow is next to or in front of you. At the very least, move your computer during a meeting. Your coworkers want to see you. Well, I don’t know that for sure, but it will probably make them less uncomfortable to have an actual face to talk to.

 

Wear pants, please wear pants

I know that you can’t really see people much below the waist during a video conference, but that is no excuse for pant-less-ness. After all, what if something happens and you have to stand up unexpectedly? What if your cat jumps on your desk, knocking your hot coffee all over your lap, making you jump up and your whole team (including your boss) sees your heart boxers? That would really undercut any authority you may have held before that meeting. Bottoms are just the smartest way to go. No one is expecting you to be in slacks. You can wear sweats, shorts, or whatever. Just as long as it is something on bottom, I think we’re good to go.

 

These are just the beginning of the rules that we’re starting to figure out as we continue working from home. If you think of more to add to this list, let us know!


Kids working

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Off to Work Your Kids Go

Parents, first off, I am so sorry that you’re going through this like the rest of us, but with kids. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love kids! I worked with children for multiple years. I taught swimming lessons and worked at a summer daycare. But, after all, was said and done, those kids went home with their lovely parent/s. I, personally, can’t imagine what it’s like going through a pandemic, working from home, and taking care of children. So, I did a little research on what people are doing to get their little munchkins working (at chores) during quarantine.

 

First things First: Schedule

Like most of us, children have also lost their day-to-day schedule. They aren’t getting up every morning and going to school, preschool, or daycare. They get up and stay home, like you. Creating a type of schedule that is similar to their regular days seems to be of the utmost importance. Parents and children (depending on the age of course) should plan their schedule together so that they feel like they have a bit of control in this situation.

 

Clean-Up … Clean-Up

When I was younger, I was quite diligent on chores because I knew that waiting for me was my favorite TV show or playing with my best friend. But this was during the late ’90s and not during a pandemic. So, how do you get your kiddos to do their chores? Here are a few tips I found:

 

  1. Stop Distractions - Often times when a child isn’t doing their chores it’s because they are distracted by “fun” things. While building your schedule, make time for chores and then a time for fun.
  2. Timing Chores - Setting a time limit for chores. This can be fun, but also effective! Most children love competition and games. You can also make chores game-like by giving points after each chore is done. Then reward them after getting X number of chores done.
  3. Technology is King - Today’s world is all about technology and we should use that to our advantage. One fun chore trick I found was “For Today’s Wi-Fi Password” - this is a list of chores your child must do before they get the new Wi-Fi password of the day.
  4. Choice - Giving your child options as to what chores they get to do may make things a bit easier. I’ve seen large popsicle sticks labeled with chores for a child to choose from. That way it may make the child feel like they are the ones who chose to do chores.
  5. Scavenger hunt - Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt so, let’s make it chore-centered. Perhaps have your child search for an item you know has been misplaced and get them to find it and return it to its proper location.
  6. A Little Bribe – This may sound a little risky, but an occasional incentive may get the job done. The older kids may be motivated by earning the day’s Wi-Fi password. The young’uns might require something sweeter.

 

While researching this, I found out that there are many ways to get your kids to do their chores. Like, a lot. These are just some that I, a childless person, found notable. Whether you have ten children or one fur baby, all they are looking for is your best. I bet they are happy to be spending a little more time with the person/people they look up to most (well, maybe).


Keep calm

Good ways to keep calm

There is so much uncertainty during this time that it may be likely that you, your friends or even your family pet has taken on a bit (or a lot) of anxiety. Luckily, you’ve got me, a resident GAD (general anxiety disorder) Content Writer to give you a few ideas on how to stay calm when everything seems out of your control. Here are some tips that this writer has learned about how to keep calm as well as some knowledge gained by the World-Wide-Web.

 

Breathing techniques

These techniques often have folks give an eye-roll - don’t worry, I understand why. Breathing? How can breathing help calm a nervous person? Let us tell you how! When some people feel anxiety, they tend to shorten their breath without even realizing it. Shortened breath in itself can inhibit feelings of anxiety. When breathing techniques are used people are focused more on their breathing than their anxiousness and therefore a sense of calm may wash over you. There are several types of breathing techniques. Next time you're feeling anxiety, try out one of these (my favorite is equal breathing).

 

Challenge “What Ifs”

This is one of the things this Content Writer/overthink-to-the-max struggles with. The “what if this happens” or “what if that person feels this way.” There is one thing we as humans know to be true: we don’t know what is going to happen. All we can really do is be prepared, so, how do we prepare for those “what ifs” that cause us anxiety? Ask these questions:

 

  • What is the worst (realistic) thing that could happen?
  • If this worst-case scenario thing does happen, what will I do? How can I prepare?
  • How will I cope with this?

 

These are just a few questions that you may ask yourself. After you answer these questions the idea is that those “what-ifs” are nothing to worry about. This may work for you, it may not, but it’s worth a shot.

 

Move to release

The age old “exercise will make you feel better” concept. Time and time again healthcare professionals say, “Hey! Exercising is good for you” and they aren’t wrong (obviously). Oftentimes feelings of anxiety manifest themselves into physical feelings. For this writer, my hands shake 24/7 and I have to check-in with my breath to make sure I am breathing properly. Moving to release sensations of anxiety can be seen in many different forms. Yoga, running, weightlifting, and hiking, among others, work because it releases endorphins and makes you focus on the activity rather than what is making you feel anxious.

 

5 Sense Grounding

This calming technique has you go through your 5 senses. This allows you to come back to the present moment and re-focus. Follow these steps to help ground you:

  1. Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you.
  2. Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you.
  3. Acknowledge THREE things you hear.
  4. Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.
  5. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

 

These are just a few options that may assist you in calming down. There are many other calming techniques that people use. It’s important to understand these are not universal. They won’t work for everyone but, it’s worth a try.


Struggling wiht working from home

When working from home is scarier than COVID-19 (mental health and isolation)

As we head into mental health awareness month, it's time to do a check-in. How are things in self-isolation? If you are looking for more immediate help in a time where leaving the house isn’t really an option, here are four things you can do now, even if you’re feeling low. We here at Avant8 aren’t medical professionals, but as a team, we’ve been able to work with one another and compile a list of advice we hope will be of some help.

 

Step 1: Assess where you ARE

 

Not where you want to be, not where you want your boss to think you are. Being stuck at home can be particularly scary for those who effectively use professional distraction as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable feelings. At the office, you had expectations, coworkers, social niceties to cater to. At home, your “office” might be 30 feet away from where you sleep. Thanks to social distancing, you’re stuck there almost all day.

 

  • Talk it out (friend, coworker, pet, doctor, telehealth doctor, imaginary friend)
  • Write it down
  • Admit your fears

 

For those who aren’t sure where to start because they’re in immediate crisis: my go-to is filling a bucket with ice water and dunking my head in it. Extreme? Yes. Sometimes I need an extreme resource. For those who want something a little gentler, say words of affirmation out loud to yourself of positive things. There have been studies that by speaking out loud positive phrases or emotions, your subconscious tunes into that. Helping to open the door a little bit wider for those in depression. Here’s an article in the HuffPost that expands on this idea.

 

Step 2: Sit with it

 

For those who thrive on distraction, this is really difficult. Pick the least-destructive, most-achievable way you can acknowledge what you’re dealing with. Maybe this means telling your manager that you’re really struggling with the current setup. Maybe it means deciding that your diet is officially off until things go back to normal. Maybe it’s taking a picture of your boss’s face to a boxing gym and wailing on it. It’s better to backslide a little than try to white-knuckle through the situation and end up in an out-of-control spiral.

 

  • Breathing Exercises: Breathe into a paper bag or try Alternate Nostril Breathing. There’s presently a free app called “Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds” that comes with some free-breathing sessions to try!
  • Grounding techniques: These are practices where you notice all the yellow things in the room. Or you can name six things around you that start with “s”.
  • Body scan: This is developing a mental picture of yourself from your toes all the way up to your head and slowly concentrating on each section of your body.
  • Scream into a pillow: No explanation needed, just let out a cathartic scream.
  • Fresh Air: If possible, try going outside each day at least for a minute or two.

 

Distress is usually manifested physically, so try to meet it there if you can. Where do you feel the discomfort in your body? Can you write it a letter? Can you ask it what it needs in order to leave? When did it begin?

 

Step 3: Goals and Routine

 

What are your goals for this work from home experience (survival is an acceptable answer but try to be specific)? What are your bare minimum requirements? This is what we do in marketing. We set goal posts to measure our efforts. It’s easy to focus on what you aren’t doing when isolated at home, that by setting new things to look forward too or new skills to try and develop, you are finding new ways to express yourself that hadn’t been a part of your world till now. Evidently, sourdough starters are a skillset that everyone on Instagram suddenly became interested in. And why shouldn’t they!?  Whether it’s learning guitar, getting better at baking, or finally writing that novel you keep telling your friends you’d like to do.

 

If the office is where you usually experience self-confidence, being at home can damage self-esteem as well as feel isolated. Finding new avenues for self-confidence is extraordinarily difficult. But taking on a promise to yourself to try something new and begin to set new small goals for yourself and build a new day to look forward to tomorrow.

 

 

Step 4: Make Adjustments and reward yourself for it

 

 

We have all the tools we need to get through this experience. The only trick is giving yourself enough distance from your problems to remember how you’ve defeated them in the past. Try to approach this experience like a researcher.

 

How can you reward yourself for sustainable behaviors in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilty? What rewards were you getting at work that you aren’t getting at home? How can you make your (temporary!) cage more enjoyable?

 

Don’t be ashamed if working from home is throwing off your game. This experience is new for everyone. The world has never before been in a situation like this one before. Be patient and kind, to yourself as well as others. Listen to the research about COVID-19, about isolation, about working from home. Try to connect with your fellow rats (social media, emails, video chats, cuddling a pet, maybe a massage). Evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Couple your least favorite tasks with your favorite ones. Ask a loved one to help you write a game plan. Check-in on others. Try to take care of the most vulnerable. And remember that while the Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented, every crisis that has ever happened has one thing in common: it ends.

 

This blog does speak to general audiences, it also does speak to those who may already have been experiencing mental health issues before isolation became a recognized part of everyday life here in America. If you or someone you know is struggling with severe depression or other mental health issues that could lead to suicide please encourage them to reach out with the available National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.

 

It’s important we are there for each other, and reach out to one another in a time when we are so often apart.


Video conferencing

The importance of a schedule when working from home

Ten-hut! It’s week 2 of Working from Home

It’s time to clean it up, cadets. The novelty of novel Corona has worn off and it’s clear that those who are working from home are going to be here for a while. It’s time to settle in and get this operation moving with military precision.

Here’s what’s been going on at Avant8 for the second week of the COVID-19 work from home-a-thon.

 

  1. Put the video back in video conferencing

Here at Avant8, we’ve been videoconferencing on “Work From Home Wednesdays” since before it was mandated by the Governor. But we never actually used the video capability. After all, what kind of insane person wants to show off their work-from-home outfit via video? 

But this week, Avant8 became a default-to-video setting office. And you know, it’s been nice. It’s nice to see our coworker’s faces and it’s nice to be forced to take off the leggings and step into some slacks.

Even more important than the social interaction has been going back to the routine of “getting ready for work” in the morning. Personally, I’d completely lost my pre-work routine of starting my morning with a few minutes of yoga. Going back to my morning schedule has helped me stay on task longer and feel more “at work.”

  1. Struggling with what’s email-worthy and what’s not

The question at the top of everyone’s minds during Week 2 has definitely been: is it worth sending an email about this? When there’s no in-office interaction, you’ve eliminated the number one informal avenue to bring up important, but not pressing information. Tech is helping us at Avant8 to fill in these gaps, but we’re definitely still missing the ease of our in-office banter. Video chatting and Slack have been essential to maintaining a culture of communication.

  1. Keep to a regular meeting schedule

Luckily, we’re pretty good about keeping to a regular meeting schedule, but now that there’s no way to run into anyone, it’s twice as important that we are rigorous with our schedules and meetings.

Here at Avant8, we're big fans of astronauts, and we noticed we’re not the only ones talking about the importance of sticking to a schedule while under social distancing. In an article with the New York Times, astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent almost a year on the International Space Station, recounted the importance of a schedule during Covid-19:

“When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Living in space, I deliberately paced myself because I knew I was in it for the long haul — just like we all are today.”

He also recommends taking time to do fun activities, having a regular bedtime, and getting out into nature. Read the full article here

We’re with the spaceman on that one. We also recommend setting up your home work station to be ergonomic. If you haven’t yet, you’re probably in for some back pain pretty fast here. Stay safe, stay socially distanced. Let us know how your office is combating the work-from-home fatigue in the comments!


How to Overcome Data Dump and Conquer Analytics

It’s easy to fall prey to accumulating tons of data. But how many businesses actually know how to utilize this monster of data they’ve collected? When data needs to be presented, why go through slide after slide of super-small text just to fit all the analytics in? Will any of the information stick in the client’s mind with that much content to sift through? Without having a specific purpose or end-goal in mind, you may as well not talk about data at all. Don’t waste company time on info that is only interesting. Instead, center on what will make a difference.

It’s time to make these analytics presentations not only easier for you, but for all involved. Get out of the data dumping habit, and learn how to share your analytics the right way.

It’s time to hone in on only the data that is "need to know". Data that will help improve your business rather than just be intriguing to look at.

You Need More Than Metrics...You Need KPIs

There can be plenty of interesting metrics in your collective social data. Metrics range from page views (and who doesn’t want to see how many times people clicked your blog right?), impressions, followers, and time on page. These are all interesting factors to look over, but how do these numbers connect with business success? Here enters the importance of KPIs. These metrics are specific to your core business outcomes.

KPIs that could be imperative for your company include monthly active users, loyalty members, and conversion rates. These adhere more specifically to how your company may want to improve. If these numbers are low, you know where you need to improve. If they’re high, you can see what you’re doing right.

Now don’t go overboard and consider too many analytics as a KPI. That misses the point. Pick maybe a few per department. Get as specific as possible. Narrow it down. Don’t dump tons of info into a small funnel.

Shoot Towards a Target

It takes a lot of hard work to forecast what targets your company should aim for. With this in mind, remember to target KPIs that are worthy of this hard work. The analytics you’ll uncover will be well-worth the time.

What does your company consider as an indicator of success? Before you comb through data, make a specific numerical target. Without these, there won’t be a way to chart whether performance is good or bad.

With time, your company will be much faster in finding helpful information, forecasting company plans, and directing money solely towards analytics that make a real difference.

Now get out there and conquer your mountain of data! Impress those clients and prove that your company knows how to make a campaign successful. After all, you’ll have that right data and analytics to prove it.