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Op/Ed

No more ping-pong: Working from home has changed what perks we value

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Everyone loves all the little perks of a snazzy workplace with snacks and neon chairs, but if we’re all working from home, does it really matter anymore?

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Empty startup office with open floor plan, abandoned while working from home.

So at this point, people are starting to adjust to a new reality (nothing normal about it, so maybe standard is the better word here, and leaves it room to grow and encompass a type of normal) of working from home, learning the ins and outs of Zoom, being hired without ever meeting your future team face to face, and all the other changes and challenges that have been revealed, reviewed, and revised in a connected and digital world.

Which is all a fancy way of saying that certain things that were – at one time – considered incredibly important are sliding down the priority scale at a scary and fast rate. It makes sense that a parking spot and transportation stipends might make less sense if everyone is stuck at home. That could kill an entire bullet point on a company’s list of perks. I wonder how many beer taps have cobwebs on them right now?

You know what is trending? A lack of interest in trendy offices. Which should only make sense, I suppose – who really cares how high up the windows are downtown if we’re all stuck working from home anyway? After all, if no one is in the office to enjoy them, why does it matter who has rock climbing walls and ping pong tables?

As Josh Wand – founder and CEO of recruiting agency ForceBrands – states, “When the pandemic hit and everyone decentralized, what I heard from hundreds of my clients is that people don’t care about those perks. People want to feel connected. They want to feel valued. The little things become the big things. It’s not about the free lunch or the extra perks — it’s about growth opportunities, visibility and transparency.”

Instead of focusing on things like a well designed physical space as a draw for talent, it’s all about a company fostering a sense of belonging while working from home. This has always been a concern when it comes to retaining talent, but now there’s an added degree of difficulty in resolving this issue given the distance and virtual nature of teams scattered across towns, cities, states, and nations.

One way to look at this is to see how a company’s culture can be adopted and applied, as now – more than ever before while working from home – this is falling directly on every employee to build, apply, and celebrate. Instead of the physical constructs and perks that could have been seen as a way to define and measure the vibe, it’s entirely on the shoulders of the C-suite, executive teams, and employees themselves. I.e., work with cool people, then it’s still cool even when you can’t be around them. And that is huge.

Manuel Bordé is the global chief creative officer at Geometry, and offers this insight: “What makes an agency culture amazing is the talent the agency has. If you lose that talent, or fail to replace the outgoing talent with equally amazing ones, then the agency culture is gone.” In short: everyone has to pull together more than ever before.

Maybe there’s a way to preserve such relationships virtually, or maybe tried-and-true options such as one-on-one meetings can help mitigate and preserve the feeling of a cohesive team. Andrea Diquez, CEO of Saatchi NY, relies on nearly thirty of these a week to keep close with employees and “feel the pulse of the agency.” Certainly, there will be a push to take this kind of interaction and communication much more seriously in order to bolster connections while working from home.

This could be me sounding selfish, but I am definitely on board with companies that have realized at-home stipends are a huge draw, and I absolutely champion that route. Helping to cover costs for employees in their home offices is definitely helpful, if not outright necessary.

Taking this a step further – could money that was previously allocated to certain perks be redirected to workers? Instead of paying for soda delivery, take those funds and use them for different benefits – added healthcare options (mental health would be amazing), additional days off, or the occasional happy hour with delivered treats? You can keep the swag – I’ve used my company issued hoodie a LOT recently.

Years ago, I went to a coding bootcamp here in Austin called Makersquare (which became Hack Reactor, and ultimately part of Galvanize). We talked about startup culture a lot, and several of us had experience from prior jobs. I remember that one person gave a presentation about one of their previous ventures, and his slide show included a picture of a ping pong table, “so that you could tell we were a startup.”

Everyone laughed. It’s funny because it was true at the time. Who knows if it’ll stay true now? I guess we’ll find out once offices open back up.

Speaking personally, I’d already seen a decline of interest in office perks at some jobs I’ve worked at – surveys that specifically pointed out that there was lower emphasis on endless snacks and more on lower commutes. This makes me think that the pandemic is just accelerating a shift toward incentives that return time and energy to employees while also decreasing daily stress.

I’m all for that. I know that I definitely love that my commute is twenty feet of walking, and I’m usually in comfy house slippers when I do that. I’d take that over the once-every-three-months game of ping pong any day. I do miss my coworkers, and I look forward to seeing them, of course, but seeing the big picture makes me reevaluate.

In the end, this could represent another movement and evolution of the American workplace, especially in the tech world. It still remains to be seen if this will be a sea change, a transformation away from the hip cultures that Google and Facebook gave us to fuel our dreams of endless donuts and caffeine, and instead settling into something cozier and dependent on creating truly national (global?) teams that get by on the strength of their cooperation and desire to work separately yet together.

It’s like how I’ve got my best friend living in Japan – the few times we chat each year, it’s like no time has passed. That’s what we’re going to strive for in the new age.

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

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Op/Ed

Morning rituals of highly successful people – do you have one?

(EDITORIAL) Success looks different for everyone. But even as an individual, there are some patterns you can incorporate in your morning routine that can get you started on the right foot. Let’s take a look at what successful people do in their morning rituals.

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realtor working

Fleximize took a look at the morning habits of 26 of the country’s most successful individuals to include the President of the United States Barrack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Jobs and even Oprah Winfrey.

What was discovered? Well, each of the men and women on their chart start their day early with time blocked out for exercise and meditation, breakfast and family. In short, things that are important!

Someone, somewhere coined it best: “If it has to happen, then it has to happen first!” Everyone has an “it.” Anyone who has managed to find professional success is surely embracing this philosophy. The first hour(s) of the day are used doing whatever is one’s top-priority activity. And no sooner do you start you risk the priorities of everyone else creeping in.

Interestingly enough, exercising in the morning is one of the group’s top priorities. It’s been said many times that exercise helps keep productivity and energy levels up and better prepares us for the everyday challenge of achieving all we can.

From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own lives to achieve higher success and order.

An Insider article found that “the most productive people understand how important the first meal of the day is in determining their energy levels for the rest of the day. Most stick to the same light, daily breakfast because it works, it’s healthy for them and they know how the meal will make their mind and body feel.”

The Fleximize chart demonstrates that successful people consider the quiet hours of the morning an ideal time to focus on any number of things: important work projects, checking email, meditation. And what’s more, spending time on it at the beginning of the day ensures that it gets complete attention before others chime in.

So check the chart and find someone you can relate to.

BI points out that planning the day, week, or month ahead is a crucial time management tool designed to keep you on track when you’re in the thick of it. Using the mornings to do big-picture thinking helps you prioritize and set the trajectory of the day!

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Op/Ed

If ‘likes’ are dead and no longer matter, what does?!

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Social media likes don’t equal people ‘Like-liking’ you. What should you measure instead?

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likes in social media

What is “like”? Baby, don’t hurt me… but it’s the same as what it “meant” in middle school.

As in, it could mean any number of things, most of which aren’t as deep as you were lead to believe.

A lot of us are still hanging on to a like count translating directly to how many sales we’ll make, or how valuable our presence online is, and news like Instagram shutting down like counts threw people who land between the extremes of gas station flip-flop brands and Nike on the ‘How well are we known, and how much does it matter’ spectrum for a serious loop.

Well, this is where you exit the loop, because the likes are made up and the counts don’t matter.

That’s a bit harsh, let me try that again…the amount of likes you get on something doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.

Take YouTube’s interface for example. You can like a video to show your support, or dislike it because you disagree or think it sucks. Here’s the twist: it doesn’t actually matter how much a video was liked or disliked. YouTube just sees people interacting with the content, and doesn’t discriminate between fame and infamy when it bumps things up the lines for more people to view.

If any given shoe company shared a video of grade-school age kids working on our athletic wear, it’s highly likely that there’d be a lot of comments, a lot of likes, and a wave of dislikes.

Are the likes edgelords agreeing just to ‘own the libs’? Do they like the production values? Do they like the company values? Do those likes belong to repeat customers or not? Are they being liked because the person behind the account gave herself tendonitis being on her phone all day for a solid week, and selecting which playlist to put it in was too painful, so she just added it to her liked videos to save it for later because the Advil is too far away?

You have no idea.

And the same goes for any and every other platform out there. Ergo, strategy, presentations, and investments based on number of likes are all castles built on shifting sand.

I still remember a long form content-style commercial for some…keto…thing? With a witch in it, and she got her revenge body, and…stuff? Slapped a like on it. Did NOT buy that keto stuff. I couldn’t even tell you if it was a drink, powder, bar, or a gym at this point. We’ve come back full circle to the era of people remembering fun commercials, but not moving past that.

So what DOES matter?

Comments: Kind of.

You actually have to read these to see what’s valuable. There’s nothing sadder than having an alert go off with ‘10 new comments!’ but all of them are ‘I made 10k in a week working from my moonbase’ type spam.

Moreover, if all of the comments are negative, you’re doing great as far as eyeballs on all the ads you have supporting your site, but not so great on actually spreading what’s going to get you paid paid.

Shares: Sort of.

Have you ever seen a ‘hate share’? Those shares where your friends put a poor horrifically abused animal on your feed for NO GOOD REASON other than to show how much they hate the person that did it? Your brand content is not immune.

And not everyone’s settings will let you see the spirit in which something was shared. They could be buying. They could be outraged. The important thing here is that you monitor as much as possible, and don’t fall for the ‘no bad publicity’ line. You’re not the late Anna Nicole Smith (…right?). You’re a business owner.

Purchases: Mostly.

This always bothered me back in other places I worked. We’d huddle up, and cheer over an email generating loads of opens and buys—woo, we did it troops, we’re on the way up, and so forth.

The catch was usually that this email was about a giveaway, or a huge sale.

When we used the same formula in titling, formatting, and getting hyped about other emails that offered products at full price? Crickets. And now that you can purchase through new social media integrations, we’re facing the exact same potential for premature e-celebration with old new media.

If no one’s willing to buy your product/service at full price, purchases during sales periods are nothing to get super excited about.

We’ve gone through a lot of caveats here, good job following it all! This is where we get to the positive part.

Follows are something you can reliably keep track of!

It’s confusing since Facebook uses the same verb for inviting a page into your life, and doing whatever with an individual post, and also you can follow without liking, or still like a page but unfollow it, so I’ll call the phenomenon of clicking a button that will put your content into people’s feeds free of charge (somewhat) ‘follows’.

Follows are people saying ‘I need you by me, beside me, to guide me.’

It’s someone being totally willing to let your company be a part of their day. It’s a reliable stop-gap measure between awareness and purchasing! Hate-follows are ‘a thing’, but unless your brand pages are set to follower-only (which…WHY), you’re more likely to know that the folks following you like-like you, and you can adjust your focus accordingly!

This whole article can be summed up as ‘You can’t make quantitative data the only thing you look at.’ Even going by follows, if you have high follows, but low purchases, it’s probable that the people you’re pitching to don’t have the capital you’re actually aiming for. Not to get woo on this, but a human-focused, holistic approach to analyzing your social presence’s performance is your only option for success.

Whether or not you include bells and incense is up to you.

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Op/Ed

Working harder isn’t always financially smarter (there’s a better financial path)

(FINANCE) Getting that pay increase can cause you to spend a little extra money on the things you like, but trying to keep that level of comfort is hard.

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money pile

One summer I was a lifeguard. I earned $2.70 an hour. My first check was around $250. I was so money! I hit Contempo Casuals and I was able to buy an entire outfit and have a few bucks left.

My income was increasing and so was my taste. It’s called lifestyle creep and it happens to hard-working folk when they aren’t paying attention. Workers start out earning minimum wage, get a raise, then move on to a better paying job. Repeat.

As you earn more, you spend more and sometimes your PBR lifestyle is replaced with a craft beer attitude.

Whether you are a broker or have multiple side hustles, working harder to make more money isn’t always the answer, according to finance experts.

As Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner explains, the only thing better than a lot of money, is not needing that money.

Lifestyle creep happens when people have more income and they reward themselves, maybe buying a fancier car, buying nicer furniture, dining out at nicer restaurants, taking expensive trips. You get the picture.

But, as The Motley Fool, explains, rather than saving that extra money you are making, you have spent it. Should an emergency happen, or your income takes a dive, you will have a hard time going backward. And, you probably don’t have the income set aside for an emergency situation.

“When your lifestyle creeps up with your income, you’ve just become more and more dependent on your income,” according to Dunn’s blog.

But, you say, wait a minute! I’ve worked hard and I deserve that nice car and those fancy meals and drinks out at the hot spots.

Ok. First, you need to have a budget and, according to experts, save at least 20% of what you earn. As The Motley Fools lays it out, if you can buy the item and still reach your savings target, you are good.

You should also ask: Does the expense improve your life enough to justify the purchase?

How to know if those purchases are worthwhile? Be intentional about what you buy. See something you really want. Write it down, wait 30 days. Still can’t get it out of your head. Buy it. As Money Under 30 suggests, create a fun fund. Have your savings automatically deposited and determine how much can go toward fun each month.

Avoiding the “creep” is important if you are thinking long-term and considering what retirement will look like. If you can stick to your savings goals and manage your spending in the years leading up to retirement, Dunn says, adjusting to a lower income won’t be as challenging.

“Retirement planning is so focused on saving money,” Dunn says in his blog. “Yet, breaking your dependence on your income is a huge part of retirement success.”

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