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How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:

  • It’s hard to connect with people
  • It’s hard to keep productive
  • It’s lonely, and
  • There’s a tendency to work too much

 I feel this happens for several reasons:

  • We’re just not that used to it – yet
  • We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
  • We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
  • For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.

But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.

I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:

1. Be ruthless with emails

I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.

Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.

2. GIFs and Emojis are fine

We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.

3. Videos and voice messages are your friend

I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.

I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.

4. Look good on video

  • Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
  • Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
  • Have it at your eye-level
  • Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
  • Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.

5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online

I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.

6. Have at least two monitors

Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.

7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. 

I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.

New times, new traditions!

The Job Hunting Podcast

The Job Hunting Podcast
138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

» Click here to listen


This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Job Hunting Made Simple, The world @work

A pocket coach for ‘people moments’.

Who hasn’t ever struggled dealing with the real people stuff? The difficult conversations, the underperformance, anxiety, imposter syndrome, hybrid working, juggling family, team dynamics. All of it. How hard is it and how much mental anguish can it consume?

In response to this dilemma a bunch of very smart (Australian) people have created People Spot. Take a look!

In our field of work, Slade Group is introduced to a large array of HR Tech, but to date haven’t come across an application like this one – an available on-the-spot solution, a business coach in your pocket kind of idea.

We’ve found it has a super user-friendly layout, is easy to understand and follow, and can help anyone in the workplace navigate ‘people moments’.  

We’ve tested it and are sure of its broad relevance: the new graduate employee, frontline customer services workers, mid-level leaders learning how to performance manage, specialists juggling home schooling and remote teams, and the high-flying C-suite exec – with access to further education, travel and individualised support. We all need quick, easy answers to help navigate all those tricky people moments.

The people behind People Spot are Colin Beattie, leading business coach, David Kennedy who returned to Melbourne after working with Apple in Silicon Valley, and psychologist Nerissa Beattie. They’ve all actively wanted to create a solution to help people better navigate the often messy moments of human interaction.

They needed backing and support and brought in some trusted names from Australia’s largest businesses, from finance to tech: Nigel Dalton former CTO from REA Group, Nat Feehan Chief Customer & Commercial Officer for Estimate One, along with Kate Temby former Goldman Sachs Managing Director and now Partner at Affirmative Investment Management.

It launched earlier this year and we’re hoping The People Spot might help us all! They’re excited that it’s struck a chord with us and have offered an exclusive offer to readers of The Slade Report, use our discount code SLADE10 at thepeoplespot.com to save 10% on any order. 

What have been your hardest People Moments in your world @work?

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Posted in The world @work

The Dream vs Reality

My lived experience of part-time work, parenting, and working from home

Three years ago I was looking to return to the workforce after having children. I really wanted to cut out the dreaded commute time to the office, as well as those rushed pickups from school and childcare. Who wants that stress in their lives every day? I thought about how wonderful it would be if I were able to work part-time, and from home, without all the logistical pressures… Surely I wasn’t the only one who dreamed about this?

Well, dreams do come true, but not quite in the way we might have expected!

I secured my ideal three-days-per-week job, with the option to work from home, just as the pandemic was starting to hit here in Victoria. I set up my perfect working space by the window. The garden became my daily view. This was going to be bliss.

However, within weeks I would realise this was not going to be quite so blissful after all. With lockdowns in place, both schools and childcare centres were closed and things changed dramatically. The children would now be home for the foreseeable future. Not only was I a recruiter, I had the added roles of teacher, carer and boredom reliever/entertainer whilst fulfilling my day job. Family life once again became a juggling act, trying to fit in work calls around setting up my young son – who was only new to the education system, with his daily tasks – trying to stop the other child from having too much screen time versus drawing on every surface of the house. It was a nightmare.

While my WFH dream had faded, the world @work carried on. Not exactly normal or new normal, just in a slightly different way. Catching up for coffee with a client or candidate was shelved for meeting on Teams or Zoom, and our recruitment process adapted to interviewing and onboarding candidates online, not knowing when they would meet their employers in person. Even my husband started a new role during Covid – it took him nine months to finally meet his colleagues in person.

Like so many people here in Australia with family and friends abroad, I am heading overseas in a couple of months to see my own family after a long absence. It has been tough for everybody, especially missing out on the special times together. As for me, this time I have decided it’s not going to be a working holiday and I am grateful that Slade Group supports that.

It’s been great to see flexibility occurring more broadly in the market. Progressive companies are supporting their employees by considering extended leave, career breaks, boomerang hires and other forms of engagement – all of which I have benefited from over the years, which enables them to retain the talent they have invested in. These are also the companies attracting that coveted top talent, not only here in Australia, but globally. I am not just talking about the hybrid model or simply working from home. Think about employees working across different times zones. I think we have proven that all of these can be done, and be done successfully.

As some of the old normal starts to return, my dream is growing bright again. I get to keep on doing what I wanted to do, which is return to work (minus the deputy teacher and childcare jobs on the side), in a role I love, connected and productive, at my home office with my desk next to the window overlooking the garden. I truly feel like one of the lucky ones. To all those parents that are looking to return to the workforce – finally we have far more options and flexibility than we ever did before, and I would not want it any other way.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

The fundamental aspects of culture that schools must address to attract more teachers

A 40 per cent reduction in graduates going into teaching, coupled with the fact that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, means there are far more fundamental cultural and societal issues at play, particularly in regards to teachers in Secondary schools.

Recent financial inducements as part of the Federal election campaign to attract more graduates into school teaching are no doubt welcome. Teachers have never been paid sufficiently and certainly not in relation to the importance and value they have towards a society’s future.

Quality teaching and quality schools add immeasurably not only to economic success, but so importantly to social harmony and a society’s progress.

In Australia, the value of teachers has never been properly valued and respected. Now, more than ever, that needs to be rectified. To advance teaching as a profession, the voice of educators and school leaders needs to be heard and respected loud and clear.

However, the greatest reward and energy quality teachers get from teaching lies in seeing and participating in the learning by their students: seeing them grow and develop in their learning and understanding, and rejoicing in helping guide those students towards exciting futures.

So, apart from the importance of societal recognition of the value of teaching, the culture within schools (like any organisation) is integral to a renewed sense of value and reward within the profession – particularly given the added pressures associated with the past two and a half years of the pandemic.

Here are four fundamental aspects of culture that I believe schools must address in the current candidate short environment:

  1. Wellbeing and support: Is the culture within the school one that provides strong wellbeing and support for teachers? Is it one that recognises the demands of the profession and puts in place wellbeing measures that are customised to the needs of individual teachers?
  2. Student care: Is there a culture within a school where each teacher feels able to support the wellbeing needs of their students, needs that were already considerable pre-pandemic and seem to have grown exponentially in recent times?
  3. Learning and development: Is there a learning culture within the school that listens to the voice of educators and other staff and provides relevant, personalised professional learning that empowers staff in their fundamental purpose – to enhance the learning by their students?
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Is there a culture of coaching and mentoring within a school so that all teachers, from relatively inexperienced to those more experienced, believe their growth and development as professionals is enhanced by collectively and collaborating working with others?

Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He didn’t mean strategy was unimportant, rather that an empowering culture was critical to organisational success. Strong culture in an educational environment needs great strategy, but the latter won’t work without reflection and action on key measures to support teacher wellbeing and growth.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

Definition of Success = The Human Factor

What defines a successful person? Embedded throughout my secondary education was that elusive end of year score, which for some reason was going to determine our success in life. However, success has many faces. Even those who reach great heights in academia need to have a balance of social awareness, connection with others, an empathy that supersedes intelligence and a touch of commercial reality.

The challenge of continuously competing with other students who were more intellectually inclined weighed heavily on my shoulders throughout my secondary and tertiary education. I felt demoralised knowing that my chosen career path, whatever it may be, could be in jeopardy due to the fact my brain was wired differently. I shouldn’t have. There is a litany of brilliant people throughout history who failed to win popular support for their ideas, as well as many arguably not-so-clever people who were smart enough to succeed.

My life experiences have been a bit different to my peers in my generation: travelling to third world countries and dedicating more of my time focusing on the needs of those less fortunate. Unlike those with a more limited world view, my volunteer work abroad – teaching English, providing food and essential supplies to children and families in the local community in The Philippines, Africa and Fiji – enabled me to empathise with people from other cultures and relate to people from different walks of life on a whole new level. It enabled me to grow and mature. I became more confident in my abilities and started to believe that I did possess unique skills that could take me anywhere in life. It was a defining moment for me that reshaped my understanding of who I am.

Aren’t we all more inclined towards repeat business if we are greeted kindly and treated respectfully, like a friend, rather than a customer or a number?

Before I joined the recruitment industry, I spent seven years working in retail, specifically women’s fashion. I saw many eager faces wanting to achieve managerial roles, believing that their ability to meet arbitrarily high KPIs was the key to becoming a great leader. However, running a successful business requires more than reaching budget. The true leaders of the organisation were the team members who demonstrated empathy and made it a priority to listen, and not just make our customers feel welcome, but also established an inclusive work environment for all employees. I, for one, loved working in an environment where my feelings and ideas were valued and acknowledged, ultimately boosting my work performance and productivity. In turn, we did our best to make our customers feel like they were the only person in the store.

Austrian pianist, author and composer Alfred Brendel famously said: “LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same letters – coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Everyone wants to speak and be heard, yet it appears that few people can sit quietly and really listen.

My experience in recruiting hasn’t been long yet, but in the short time I’ve been with Slade Group and the Interchange Bench, I’ve been able to observe a few things. Through my interactions with colleagues, clients and candidates I’m learning key skills that not only make a great consultant, but help ensure successful recruitment outcomes. People often talk about trusting your gut instinct and following your intuition, but there’s a lot be said for learning to listen. Our capacity to grasp how others feel and think may indeed be our most valuable asset in the workplace.

So, whether it is facilitating temporary and contract work, permanent career changes or helping organisations grow by sourcing the best talent, I’ll be listening carefully to what clients and candidates are looking for. Recruitment often presents us with sliding door moments – opportunities that might have been missed if we were too focused on what we may think success should look like, as opposed to what we can achieve.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

5 reasons why I stay, and enjoy recruitment.

Over my 22-year recruitment career, I’ve been asked time and time again by people in my networks – clients, candidates, work colleagues and friends – why the Recruitment industry, what is it that keeps you engaged?

At a time when candidates have become a rare commodity and The Great Reset is a hot topic, my reply remains the same. If you have the passion to make a difference, the drive to capitalise on opportunities and a positive attitude to develop yourself and others, there’s unlimited scope to successfully impact both a client’s organisation and a candidate’s career.

As a consultant, achieving recognition as a professional, a recruiter of choice in my field and a reputation as a trusted advisor for the value I add is not only rewarding, it reinforces my decision to stay.

Here are five reasons why l chose to work in the recruitment industry, and why I believe it’s still the right career choice for me:

  1. Great development opportunities and career progression

Recruiters receive comprehensive training – not just when first starting out, but throughout their career. Learning from colleagues, applied skills training and professional development programs have helped me grow and refine my skills. With dedication and the right attitude, recruitment is a profession where one can build career progression. I have personally been promoted from Resourcing through to Senior Recruitment Consultant and Team Leader of Government and Commercial divisions.

  1. Independence, exclusivity and flexibility

It’s a tremendous career for self-managed high performers. Running a recruitment desk, whether WFH or in the office, is like running your own business. Once you’re fully trained and have all the skills to succeed, you have the opportunity to account manage your own clients and establish exclusive candidate talent pools. It’s a great match between personal responsibility and the support of a wider business. And with our new ways of living and working, the flexibility to better manage your work-life balance.

  1. Making a positive impact on people’s lives

Whether it is finding someone their dream job or helping a client hire the perfect person to grow their business, recruiters have a huge impact on people’s lives. I still get the same buzz of excitement placing someone in a job now as I did when I began my recruitment career over twenty years ago.

  1. Uncapped potential

While you make your own success, you also share in the success of placing the right people in the right organisations and helping candidates achieve their career goals. At the same time, you’re part of the success of the recruitment firm as a whole. It’s a bit like being a shareholder in the business. While there are various remuneration models, most agencies provide a base salary and performance structure that supports consultants to realise their potential.

  1. Recruitment tools are continually evolving

Like many industries, technology has revolutionised recruitment. LinkedIn, for example, has made it easier to network professionally online. It’s also now common to meet over Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which is great for those working remotely or regionally, even internationally. While digital platforms can help to connect people, there’s nothing like face-to-face contact when building relationships.

So, there it is. Five reasons why l chose the recruitment industry and have never looked back.

Are you looking for your next career opportunity after two years of COVID lockdowns and restrictions? Have you considered temporary or contract work? I’d love to hear your feedback on this story.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

The U30s are different.

Covid delayed a lot of Under 30s’ plans for the exhilarating two year stint living and working abroad, but with borders re-open, they’re busting out in big numbers again.

Before moving to London this month from Melbourne, 27 year old Kirsty had two very attractive offers from two UK consulting firms. Both sizeable, reputable organisations, the choice for Kirsty in assessing their job offers wasn’t so much about the role or the salary. For Kirsty it came down to their respective answer to one question: “What are your WFH/WFO arrangements?”

One said, “We’re super flexible, we all work when and where we want, at home or in the office.” The other said, “We offer some flexibility, but most of us are in the office most days.” Kirsty jumped at the opportunity to work in an office where she’d get to work with and know her colleagues In Real Life. Who would have seen that wheel turning? Not me! As Kirsty said, “Why would I want to live in some dodgy affordable share house and work from my bedroom all day? I want to get out and meet people, and at work is the obvious place where that happens.”

Those at mid and later stage careers can likely look back on their first decade in the workforce as one which was fast, fun and challenging. We didn’t have too many responsibilities outside of work, and family life, if that lay ahead, was still a foreign country. Who didn’t collect a handful of friends they made at work in their 20s? And perhaps you’re one of the two in five people who have had relationships with people they met through work? Pretty hard to have a drink over Zoom on Friday night and kick on.

Leadership is hard, and this is another example of the nuanced decision making that is required in policy planning and employee centred decision making. A 27 year old is very different to a 47 year old, and we can’t assume their workstyle needs are the same!

Good luck managing through another year of challenging decision making.

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Posted in The world @work

Why candidates have become a rare commodity

No doubt you’ve heard, Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4% – the lowest since 2008 – and is predicted to fall even lower. SEEK recently confirmed that they are experiencing an all time high in available jobs, coupled with the lowest candidate availability since 2012. Furthermore, the recruitment website confirmed a 40% increase in jobs Australia wide, with an 80% increase in Victoria alone!

In our post-covid capital cities, let alone regional centres, candidates have become a rare commodity. A unique series of events, including continuing Covid outbreaks and mutations, lockdowns, border closures, travel restrictions, lack of migrants, students and working holiday travellers, has combined to create a perfect storm.  And there is no shortage of jobs. I will take this opportunity to send a shout out to all the human resources, hiring managers and recruiters who have displayed continued resilience after everything the last two years has thrown at us. We’ve taken yet another deep breath, dived deeper into the diminishing candidate pool, and continued to successfully place top performing talent – but it is TOUGH!

Engaging candidates (whether passive, engaged, open to a conversation etc.) is actually more than just contacting potential hires. I’m sure those of us on the recruiting frontlines have experienced the highs and lows of candidates: no-shows at interviews, ghosting, withdrawals at the last minute, accepting another role that seemingly came out of the blue, unrealistic salary demands (not so unrealistic as it turns out, when the push for higher remuneration is being met elsewhere)… I could go on! In addition to this, working from home, hybrid work and flexible working arrangements are now arguably the most import factor in determining whether a candidate is even interested in a new role.

In today’s market, understanding the motivation behind an individual’s career move is more important than ever. Whilst salary, work-life balance, career management, professional development, interesting projects and meaningful work are not particularly new concepts, taking the time to explore a candidate’s motivators is somewhat novel. It may surprise some of you to read that I have found the only way forward with candidates is to genuinely service and interact with them. Yes, it’s a return to our old school ways: over communicate, don’t make assumptions, close the conversation loop, gain commitment and follow the process.

If I had a dollar for every candidate that was genuinely shocked when they were called to advise they had been unsuccessful, were given valid feedback on why they didn’t get through an interview, or had a pep talk to prepare them for an interview with the hiring organisation…  

While it may seem candidate loyalty has wavered since the days where employers held all the cards, could it be that we all had a part in driving them away from us because we stopped genuinely caring? It’s food for thought.

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Posted in Business Support, Slade Executive, The world @work