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A Business Predicated On A Lie Will Crumble When Exposed…

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wolf-in-tech-clothing.jpgImagine… I developed a concept, got a few coders together and soon a new software is born. From Beta, I take the product around the country to VCs showing off the new software, but explain to the VCs that they aren’t investing in the software, it’s more of an idea- software as the bait. We use the software as bait to potential real estate consumers, offer a guide online that agents can add to and develop for us, and make friends with Realtors all across the country by offering very inexpensive advertising. We let the Realtors, agents and hell, we’ll even let the customers build the software’s database for us by adding their home or listing for free!

It’s pure Genius. Why? Because Mr. VC, once the software’s back.end is complete or close enough, we now have built the country’s first all inclusive national listing service. We’ll make BILLIONS! We’ll even advertise our software’s statistics as fact so that we could possibly control the perception of markets! It really is UBERGENIUS! Except for one tiny flaw– When and if that ever happened, the entire real estate world would rise up against me. They would cry foul and dismiss any credibility my company had. The country as a whole would never trust a single thing I said, and you, Mr. VC could lose millions- but… I still think you should invest in me because we’ll simply change the name, the branding and, bam!- we now have the largest private consumer driven listing service… add in the option to buy and sell homes online without an agent and those pesky Realtors will never know what hit’em. Imagine…

Old hack don’t make it unimaginable:

Sellsius said…

Is the result that Zillow is moving toward a National MLS? – With owners cajoled into entering the listing data and doing the work for zillow? Brilliant plan?

Real Estate 2.x said…

Considering their are 6.5B people on earth… every man woman and child on earth must visit Zillow 2.0 times EACH per year in order for Zillow to generate the profits, via an advertising model, that will create the profits to support the market value that will pay back the investors.

My take… Advertising is not really their model.

An online client built by a tech, and developed by agents and consumers… Seems harmless, right?

***Thanks David (w/Zillow) for Engaging the conversation…

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. David G from Zillow.com

    May 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Hi, it’s David from Zillow.

    Advertising is our model.

    To get where this is all headed, think through the analogy of how your blog relates to google. Yes, by blogging and adding content to the web you give google more search results to show their users and they do get stronger … but that’s obviously not a good reason to stop blogging. Quite the opposite … google adds value to your blog by sending people to it. Likewise, participating in Zillow is a win-win game that will deliver clients to your real estate business. It’s that simple.

  2. B. R.

    May 23, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    But is your model in the end a national consumer driven listing service? We could put all this hocus pocus mumbo jumbo to bed if you can say no.

  3. jf.sellsius

    May 23, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Consider also Zillow’s initial mantra– to become the “Kelley Blue Book” for homes. This mantra reveals their notion that homes can be commoditized and valued like cars. Forget that cars are depreciating assets and homes are generally appreciating assets. If the perception becomes the reality, brokers become dispensible—just tuck your “public endorsed” Zillow Blue Book under your arm and go home shopping.

    Zillow has since backed off this mantra, realizing, I think, that real estate agents won’t advertise on a site that has this philosophy. But the fact that they use zestimates to create housing trends reports and graph zestimates tells me they still believe the mantra.

  4. David G from Zillow.com

    May 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

    BR –

    The answer is no, other than “national”, that is not an accurate description of Zillow at all.

    Zillow is a media company, so the best analogy to a legacy player would be to compare Zillow to the real estate section of a national newspaper … or to a real estate focused TV channel. That’s actually an analogy we use internally and so my boss, Spencer, will often refer to Zestimate values as our first “hit show”.

    Let me try to better explain what we’re doing …

    First, and since you asked about it, Zillow is obviously national. We do have international ambitions and I look forward to the day that we have the development resources available to work on that expansion. For now though, there’s still lots to be done in the US.

    Zillow gives listing agents and sellers the ability to post a home for sale on the site — it is free. This feature is analogous to newspaper classifieds where many agents and sellers advertise their listings today – except on Zillow, it’s free. In that sense, craigslist might be a better comp.

    Zillow is a consumer-centric real estate website. We are convinced that by putting the real estate consumer first, we will best serve our industry clients who advertise on Zillow. This was a bold bet but it seems it was the right decision at the right time.

    Zillow is “driven” however by the members who participate in the site. According to our user surveys, that group includes about 600K real estate professionals who visit the site monthly (out of more than 4M users). On Zillow, you will notice that those professionals are in the driving seat of most of the deals being discussed. Zillow reflects what is happening in the real estate industry — most houses are sold by Realtors and most buyers have representation. The conversations on Zillow reflect this reality.

    Further, while free postings are a major feature, you’re missing a big part of the Zillow picture if you are only thinking about listings. Zillow is a living database of all homes. All homes, not just those for sale. Some have Make Me Move prices, others are actually for sale. Most homes have Zestimate values and some owners have even published their own estimates. Many owners have uploaded gorgeous pictures of their house – even though many of those homes are not for sale.

    I hope that gives you a better idea of what we’re about. If not, try the site out to get a better feel for it … if you do, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you ever need my feedback in future, feel free to email me (at the email address I provided with my comment).

  5. B. R.

    May 24, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    David, I certainly appreciate your reply to the question. I hear your call to look at the bigger picture, but I think a lot of people are. The bigger picture as it relates to positioning ourselves in this new and inventive age. Realtors as you know are not always large Brokerage houses, they are every day average hard working folks trying to compete with 8 Million dollar budgets (Trulia).

    The bigger picture question has been, today it is friendly commerce, but is tomorrow something totally different? We have to be able to trust innovators that they are not innovating to exclude, but to include. When bloggers do research your site, which many of us have, we see things such as disclaimers hidden under links. The so-called breach of privacy allows strangers to Zestimate your home or allows agents to add a listing unknowingly to expose a lower Zestimate than the agent should sell the home for. A tool to the buyer yes, but harmful to the seller as I am sure Rich found out when he exposed a lower value on his own home. So here are the bottom line questions we’ve all had:

    1. Why not make it absolutely clear when creating a zestimate that it cannot be removed?
    2. Why not allow an owner to have his Zestimate removed if he so disagrees with it?
    3. Why not make the novelty of a Zestimate known (in no uncertain terms) upfront?

    Transparency is key as you techies always say- so help me clear the air once in for all on these three questions with three concise answers…

    BR

  6. jf.sellsius

    May 24, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Number 2 recognizes that home owners should be free to market THEIR ASSET as they see fit. If, as Zillow admits, the zestimate is only a “first step” why would they leave a first step sitting right next to the last step—the pricing of the home for sale. We have lobbied for this opt-out right (we even ran a poll on it—unscientific of course) & I think if owners were heard they would want this right.

  7. David G from Zillow.com

    May 24, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    BR –

    It’s a pleasure. I strongly recommend you use the google/blogging analogy above as a framework to better understand your opportunities online and to reevaluate who your competition is. You are probably passing on some business opportunities based on your current understanding of the real estate web sites.

    To answer your follow-up questions:
    1) Users don’t create Zestimates, our software does. The only estimate a user can “create” on Zillow is an “owners’ estimate”. Owners’ estimates can be removed or made private whenever the owner chooses.
    2) Owners can not remove Zestimates because the Zestimate is not published for the owner’s exclusive benefit. Remember that we decided to be the consumer-centric player in real estate. That strategy, for better or worse, implies treating all visitors to our site equally. So naturally all visitors have equal access to all Zestimate values. Transparency is something we don’t just give lip-service to.
    3) Because that’s not true. As you know, the system that produces Zestimate values is an AVM. AVM’s are very clearly not “novelties”. The reality is that AVM’s play many important roles in the real estate industry and that they are now also useful to consumers while researching their next transaction. Zestimate values do not however compete with or replace the need for a Realtor’s CMA or an appraisal and that fact IS very clearly communicated on our website.

    A Zestimate value can not hurt a seller’s deal. A seller or listing agent may hear a low Zestimate value quoted in negotiations but that’s all those conversations are; they’re negotiations. As you know, negotiations are nothing new to this industry. If it’s not a Zestimate value, buyers will use an odd comp or tax assessors value to argue for a low-ball offer. A competent Realtor will never loose a negotiation to a buyer who is quoting a Zestimate.

    Please spend some time on our website and form your opinions of Zillow based on first-hand experience of what we do. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  8. jf.sellsius

    May 24, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Re 2)
    That’s the problem. The zestimate is not published to benefit the seller (it’s for the buyers’ benefit). Finally some truth about Zillow’s unconcern for homeowners/sellers. (That’s progress)

    Zillow is not consumer centric. it is buyer centric—remember how Z came to be–B&F were BUYERS. If zillow considered sellers, it would give them the opt out right to remove CLEARLY WAY OFF zestimates (look up Steve Olshan in the Zillow blog archives). And it’s the owner/seller whose home is used as bait to attract visitors and ad dollars to Zillow. If you’re using my home to attract your ad $, you should give me, the owner some rights, don’t cha think?

  9. David G from Zillow.com

    May 25, 2007 at 9:26 am

    JF. Come on. I said it’s not for the sellers _”exclusive”_ benefit. There’s a significant difference. If you’re going to quote me, get it right.

    It’s interesting you think Zillow is buyer-centric when many industry commentators say the opposite. The truth, as is well illustrated by that disagreement, is that Zillow strikes a great balance as a neutral destination where buyers, sellers and their agents are on an equal footing.

  10. jf.sellsius

    May 25, 2007 at 10:54 am

    David,

    Forget industry commentators. Ask owners and sellers and listing agents if they would want the right to exclude a “grossly inaccurate zestimate”? Afraid they might say YES?

    Run a poll if you really want to know how owners, sellers and listing agents feel about this & whether they think zillow’s refusal to allow it is to their benefit? We did.
    https://tinyurl.com/22a73a

    You say you’re for transparency. Zillow should put its money where its zestimate is?

    I’ll wager the results will show it is not to a home seller’s benefit to have an inaccurate zestimate anywhere near their home. Do you really think this is a benefit?

  11. jf.sellsius

    May 25, 2007 at 11:16 am

    PS to David

    I was not quoting you (see, no quote marks). I was making the point that sellers do not get ANY benefit from a grossly inaccurate zestimate. Period. When you say zillow will not allow owners to remove any zestimate– that is NOT a benefit to the seller, in any way shape or form, if the zestimate they want to remove is totally bogus.

    If I was quoting you I would have said you said,
    “A zestimate value can not hurt a seller’s deal” and ask, “does an inaccurate zestimate help the seller?” or “has zillow never received a complaint that the inaccurate zestimate DID hurt a seller?

  12. Sock Puppet

    May 26, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Isn’t it just too hot in Texas to own a balaclava for anything other than bank robberies?

    -Athol

  13. B. R.

    May 26, 2007 at 6:27 am

    HA yeah, you would pretty much pass out right after “stick-em-up” from heat stroke.

  14. louis cammarosano

    May 26, 2007 at 7:51 am

    As I see it Zillow is consumer centric so that it can create a consumer to consumer real estate portal and eventually collect a transaction fee for matching consumers to consumers who sell houses to each other.

    The make me move feature is nothing more than FSBO under another name-FSBILLO or FSBOLLOW if you like.

    Does Zillow spend millions developing features for consumers all just to sell banner ads to its limited 3-4 million visitor a month person audience?

    Since there is no money in advertising to consumers Zillow takes realtor ad money – they have to show their VC’s some revenue.

    Since they need listings for consumer interest they take realtor listings.

    The Kelly’s blue book shine is off Zillow as Yahoo’s recent selection of a relatively unknown company whose core business is not even real estate (Reply) and a start up (eppraisal)to provide side by side instant homevaluations with Zillow highlights that what Zillow is doing is nothing special.

    That Reply, yes, the automotive lead generation company, can also run public data through an algorithm and spit out a valution highlights that what Zillow is doing is nothing special and not worthy of the hype they have created simply by taking last millenium’s technology and wrapping it in a big “Z”. “Zestimates” E-“Z” ads etc.

    Now the next big hype from Zillow is the (non) creation of a national listing Zite -all for the benefit of the consumer just so they can sell banner ads? How many decades would it take selling banner ads to recoup just the first $53 million they raised from investors?

    I don’t believe that Zillow would raise $53 million just to do that. I believe they want to change the real estate industry, take a cut of the action (just like they did with Expedia) and make Zillions.

    Does Zillow seriously want us to believe they can provide cool consumer features and make money selling banner ads? Sounds like every other “Web 2.0” company with a money losing “business model”.

    Zillow is much Zmarter than that, perhaps they are just not Zaying Zo.

  15. Jeff Brown

    May 26, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Anyone who doesn’t see through the ineffectual mask of Z-holdup going on, isn’t paying attention.

    Zillow is the guy in high school telling the Realtors, the girl next door, “No, really honey, I do love you. Let’s go back to my house, nobody’s home.”

    It’s amazing there’s even a debate about this. But, like the girl next door, Realtors REALLY want to believe. 🙂

  16. David G from Zillow.com

    May 29, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    All –
    Zillow is a media business and we have no plans to change that model. Media companies have always played an important role in real estate; consider that most newspapers have an entire section devoted to homes. Many of the media products used by today’s real estate consumer are online. If you’re still advertising in your local paper or sending out flyers – but your listing or your ad is not on Zillow – you should reevaluate your marketing plan.

    Louis –
    “there is no money in advertising to consumers”
    You could not be more wrong. Advertising to consumers is a 200 billion dollar industry in the US alone. Someone is making a lot of money (GOOG, YHOO, NYT etc.)

    Jeff –
    Honestly, I’m surprised. Do you believe the work you do for your clients can be replicated by a website? I don’t buy that.

  17. Louis Cammarosano

    May 29, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Jeff

    Thanks for your comments. I think that in order to gain significant advertising dollars from banner ads the audience must be of significant size.

    Currently, Zillow’s traffic ranks behind Realtor.com, HomeGain.com, MSN Real Estate, Remax and other real estate sites.

    The problem with the real estate consumer is they generally buy homes infrequently so the audience at any given time never reaches the tens of millions.

    Google and Yahoo make money selling ads because they reach hundreds of millions of consumers.

    The Zillow approach of getting consumers interested in visiting Zillow, not just when they are selling or buying a home, should increase visits and page views so you can sell ads.

    Certainly an online company can make money with advertising. It seems to me that the scale required is not attainable by one real estate web site.

    Given that instant Home Valuations are a commodity-a point highlighted by Yahoo’s inclusion of Reply (whose core business is not even real estate)and start up, eppraisals.com to provide instant home valuations side by side with Zillow-Zillow’s hopes for cornering the consumer market for Homevaluations is diminished and the limited audience of consumers interested in homevaluations becomes splintered.

    abc realestate and cyberhomes also provide instant homevalutions.

    HomeGain also has a instant homevalation tool-brought back from the last century’s tour of duty 1999-2001.

    Good luck making money selling ads around instant home valuations.

    Louis

  18. Jeff Brown

    May 29, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    David – Honestly, I’m surprised. Do you believe the work you do for your clients can be replicated by a website? I don’t buy that.

    Not my meaning at all. I was only commenting on what I think Zillow’s zup to. 🙂

    I think your ultimate goal is not anything short of putting buyers and sellers together for a fee.

    A website can’t begin to do what I do.

  19. jf.sellsius

    May 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    David,

    What if my buyers are reading the classified section of my newspaper (you know, that “entire section” you said is “devoted to homes”)—shouldn’t I continue to advertise there?

    PS When can we expect that zillow poll on the right to exclude inaccurate zestimates from homesellers’ homes?

  20. Agent Scoreboard

    June 8, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    WOW!!!

    Lots of venom at Zillow. Really I don’t see what the problems is? Who cares if zillow has a Zestimate on 123 Zikes Street. How does that affect your business? If they create a national MLS so what? Good! Its good for competition and if NAR wasn’t so busy protecting the status quo they should have created that years ago. The aggregation of listing data and traffic creates economies of scale that lowers the cost of property marketing for all involved.

    I remember when Rich was back being secret about Zillow, I actually was in a group of people that had a conversation with him at Inman. He said, how would the real estate industry be impacted by price transparency? Consumers and real estate professionals could see the gaps in the market between selling prices and asking pricings in a closer to real time manner, allowing people to quickly identify trends and make better investments in property and housing. I almost hugged him!

    I’m not sure why people care about Zillow’s valuations, as a broker https://www2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp?License_id=01379165 whose actually closed more than a few deals, in a few states. My biggest valuation problem was, “That house down the street just sold for $600,000, My house is worth that too, right?” Well that “house down the street” is 5 years newer and 350 sqft larger, and didn’t sell for 600k, but that what is was listed for.” There is a data vacuum that the realtors have held the keys to for far too long. I say give consumers all the data they want… let them pick the model that works best for them, and we can work with them.

    I don’t believe Zillow can successfully make a transition to “brokerage” maybe a cool FSBO site that includes some risk mitigation tools like transaction management and legal review. So… great! Do you think its going to take the place of agents? I doubt it. The appearance of McDonald’s didn’t kill the restaurant business, it just a filled a need of a time strapped society. Zillow is one company’s response to a societal need. Its not the first and wont be the last.

    You should thank Rich and Dave… I do, they have kept the dialog going and its great…consumers are talking and so are we, that’s how we’ll make things better..

  21. jf.sellsius

    June 9, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Good points Scoreboard. As an agent, inaccurate zestimates just create the same problem as the neighbor down the block. SO agreed. But I am looking at them from a different perspective—the refusal to recognize ANY rights of a homeowner/seller/listing agent to market their asset with outside interference. If I stood in front of your open house, nicely dressed, with a sign that said this house is only worth (pick a number that would annoy you). That to me is intereference, especially if that number is dead wrong. There is a BIG difference between publishing public data, solds (good) and creating an inaccurate value that is then attached to my home without my consent. As a homeowner it just rubs me wrong.

    Oh yeah, did you hear the latest zillow plan —display how much money is in the owner’s bank account so buyers know if they need to sell & can negotiate a better price. (joking folks)

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Opinion Editorials

Interviews shouldn’t include ‘how did you improve yourself?’ during or after COVID

(EDITORIAL) Emotional Intelligence will be even more needed in recruiting talent and Interviews shouldn’t look the same as they did pre-COVID.

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interviews

Question: Remember that last time you dealt with a global pandemic?
Answer: No, because most likely, none of us have.

This is new for many of us. We’ve likely each felt the rollercoaster of emotions or even grief as our ways of lives changed, some were quickly moved to working remotely while others were deemed essential workers and were not able to work from home. It was disheartening for many that no matter what position they were put in, it was with no choice. And then there were the millions of jobs eliminated as well, affecting people’s ability to pay their bills and fulfill their own safety, and even basic needs. Everyone entered survival mode, and it looks the same yet different depending on your unique situation.

All of this comes at a price that seems hard to predict. Moving forward will be different albeit many of us don’t know exactly how yet, and are imagining a wild range of possibilities. Now that the US unemployment is up to 14.7%, there will also be many people job searching and finding themselves in interviews answering the typical “Tell me about yourself”, or “Tell me about a time when…” Most likely many candidates will be able to tell you about their previous work experiences, but here’s what we ask of future employers:

  1. Be more understanding (less judgmental or pushy) if you see folks looking to switch careers, or you see Small Business Owners applying for your open position. This may have been an opportunity for them to explore another avenue, or it may have been forced if their previous type of position (or business) is no longer available. Of course, you can ask them why they are interested in the position, but try not to look down your brow if they seem to be an unlikely or unexpected candidate.
  2. Do not ask what this candidate did to be productive during the quarantine. Just surviving may have been enough. If they did take up a new hobby, learn a new coding language, write a book, or start a new work out program, I’m going to guess it will come out in conversation. If they literally had to utilize the majority of their energy for coping skills, that should be enough. Don’t believe all the sourdough starters you saw on Instagram (and why has banana bread been so popular?)
  3. Try to avoid some of the ridiculous questions that tell you nothing about their skill set. We get it, interviews can be boring so you thought it might be fun to ask the interviewee for their favorite joke such as “What 5 items would they want on a deserted island?” or “What fruit they would be in a smoothie?” This has been an extremely traumatic situation for many. The goofy questions are not really applicable, and will only lead to additional stress after they leave thinking over if they “got the answer right”.
  4. Please do your best to really utilize this time to hire with diversity and inclusion in mind. Do not dismiss someone because they have several years of experience in another sector or because they didn’t attend the Ivy League school. If they applied, chances are they do have an interest in your company, so exploring how they can be a great fit, bring in a refreshing perspective, and may be a better option than hiring something that exactly matches the job description (which may be hard to find anyway) is a smart idea. Please be open to a variety of ages, races, and sexes.

Interviews in general can conjure up lots of negative feelings, anxiety, and stress. Most people don’t like the stress of interviews but yet they have accepted that this is part of the job search process. There will be even more people out there looking again, and likely not because they want to. The mental toll this is taking should be handled with care. As this Ask a Manager article beautifully states:

“If someone is teaching themselves a new language or building their coding skills during the pandemic, that’s great. But to present it as an expectation during a time when millions of people are struggling to keep their homes, feed their families, and stay alive — to imply people might be less worthy of employment if they needed to focus on their finances and their safety during a f’ing global crisis — no. No. Something has gone very wrong in anyone who believes that.”

The companies with openings may have an advantage with many available and interested candidates but they also have a huge responsibility to not take this lightly; don’t waste people’s time, and don’t ask really INSENSITIVE questions. If you need help reviewing your questions or interview processes, it may be great to assign someone to review Emotional Intelligence tips and see if they can incorporate that in to what you normally do.

Emotional Intelligence is touted as the most required skill of the future (that may have been pre-pandemic), which is, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” This means really reading the room and not putting candidates in an awkward position, or placing unrealistic expectations on them. Oh, and please have a little grace with those virtual interviews – that is also new to some people, so maybe cut them some slack if the nerves have really kicked in.

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Opinion Editorials

Press mute when you’re sobbing on a Zoom (and other COVID mental health observations)

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 had been hard on everybody, but a group often not thought of are those who have mental illness, they struggled in the world before, what about now?

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Editors note: This editorial was written anonymously and brings important insight into an issue not often brought up or thought about. We at The American Genius believe this is an important topic to keep in mind about an often silent group that may think they are alone and face extra challenges everyday.

Whether you’re a veteran of working from home, or if you are someone newly learning that muting your mic is important, welcome. Working from home is both rewarding and challenging. This is not an instruction manual on how best to work from home. It’s a guide to working from home and not losing an already delicate mind to existing or potential mental illness.

Some ideas I’d like to convey should ring true now and in the future. However, one aspect is unique to now. I’m writing from the time of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Workers have been divided into two groups, “essential” and “non-essential.” Those considered non-essential were sent home with hopes of slowing the spread of the disease. Those deemed essential, like doctors and grocery store clerks, were considered too vital to our way of life to stay home. One group unable to work, the other unable to stay home.

Then there’s us. A quasi third group. Those who have a job that is so tied to the glowy screen in front of them that it could be performed, in theory, from any location with a computer and internet. Theory was put to practice as many people – accustomed to commuting each day – suddenly learned the joy and perils of working in their jammies.

Working from home is not a new idea, but there had never been such a reason to push so many people to practice it. Some companies, historically, felt uncomfortable with workers staying home. With the arrival of COVID-19 they had a change of heart and now insist on it. Once and for all we will find out which meetings could have just been an email.

The pandemic has been hard on many people. If one is able to avoid the disease itself, they are still subject to staying in and staying isolated. Many never leave their home except for groceries or prescriptions. Some people thrive in this situation, but for others, it puts pressure on the mind and spirit. What about those who already have such a toll on their state of mind due to mental illness?

Working a job, or doing anything, with mental illness can be its own challenge. Mental illnesses and disorders that can affect your work include depression, PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and borderline personality disorder – just to name a few. So what happens when those who suffer from one or more of these mental health issues have to stay at home every day for work?

There are advantages. If a moment strikes you when you can’t be your professional self, you can often step away and have that cup of tea and peace of mind. Going heads-down and focusing on your task is where you might thrive. However, working from home can still mean having dead-lines and going to live meetings. Needing help or coordination from distant workers can quickly tax your social resources.

There will be a great deal of communication through multiple methods ranging from group video calls to instant messages. Things can get out of control quickly if you don’t set limits. When you want to reach someone it may be unclear which method to use. “Should I email or call them?” you might find yourself pondering. This can frustrate you to the point of not taking action at all. Getting a handle on the lines of communication is vital.

Request to have as few modes of communication as possible. You might find yourself responding to text messages, reading emails, taking phone calls, or answering instant messages from WhatsApp, Slack, or more. It will certainly create a growing obsession towards monitoring notifications rather than actual work.

If a consensus can not be found, give your coworkers clear communication on how you want to be reached, and ask them what they prefer. Needing to check the notification on so many apps is a recipe for a panic attack and overwhelming yourself.

Let’s consider meetings. You’ve seen it by now – or you will – a Zoom meeting with people saying “hello hello, is this thing on?” It’s amazing that in a time we all have computers in our pocket, that it’s still hard to coordinate things like your own audio, video, and even lighting conditions. If you suffer panic attacks it’s best not to be unknotting your earphones while the CEO is about to make a big presentation. Get ready early, check that you can be heard and can hear others. If another meeting is about to start, leave on time. Respect the start time of that new meeting. Overlapping meetings that never end are a sign that boundaries are not being observed. Boundaries are hard for most, but if you have a mental illness they can feel impossible to set.

On a similar note, let’s look at the start and end of work. Being on time is important. Wait, you just need to roll out of bed and turn on a computer? Great, but is it though? You get there just in time to say the proverbial “here!” If you are not ready to work, you are falling behind. Extend this idea to the day itself. When is the day over? Did you start a little late so you feel obligated to work a little later? Do you have a time when other people can expect that you won’t get their message until the next business day? Does working-from-home turn into working-all-the-time?

Getting to work on time also means leaving work on time. Those who have had a reactive or abusive partner know that setting boundaries can escalate situations instead of repairing them. Telling your boss “I’ll like to be offline after 6:30.” can result in the fear that you’ll just be told to close your computer and never return. But these are the boundaries one must set. Finding this work-life balance is doubly important for the mentally ill because we need to reserve time for ourselves for repair and growth.

Among all my reminders to you, remember to leave the house. In the time of COVID-19, this gets convoluted because “Stay home, stay safe!” is the phrase of the day. Having issues going outside can be a part of mental illness. In extreme cases, some people are afraid to go out the front door. With nearly everything being available for delivery now possible to stay home for days, but this is not a good recipe for mental health. When your day ends – and make sure it ends – get some fresh air and possibly some exercise.

Plan the rest of your day ahead of time. Look forward to it and go out and enjoy it. Day to day life is already hard with mental health issues. Don’t let working from home be another hardship. Breath deeply, take care of your mind and don’t let the mixture of home and work overwhelm you. Don’t forget your most important job is to take care of yourself.

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Opinion Editorials

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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