The Sick, (Uh, Slow Work) Day

A recent study discussed on MSNBC’s Today Money website reports that some people will call in sick on what they consider to be a slow work day. While some bosses may see it as a way to lower stress levels, others may see it as a form of slacking off. If your boss falls into the latter category, there are ways to use your slower work day to take some of the stress off you rather than calling in sick.

*Clean out/reorganize your email and voicemail. Email and voicemail can really pile up during busy times and make it difficult to find information when you just have to have it. Ideally, you keep your messages under control so this doesn’t happen. However, communications sometimes come in so fast during the day, it can be hard to keep up. Use a slow day to delete unneeded info and reorganize what is left so you can quickly access what you need.

*Clean off your computer desktop. Same deal here. It’s tempting to keep all of your important files on your desktop so you can easily access them. However, you may end up with several versions of the same files, making it confusing and hard to find the right file. Put the old file versions in the trash, and the files you need to keep organized into desktop folders.

*Organize your desk. Recycle unwanted papers and clean out files. Do you really need four different copies of the employee handbook? Not if you aren’t an HR specialist. Clean out your tickler file or set up one if you do not have one. A tickler file system reminds you of important dates and projects coming up, but it doesn’t work very well if you don’t keep up with it. Not sure how to set one up? Watch here. Put unused paper files away.

*Do lunch. This takes some planning ahead, but networking and mentoring should be a part of your work day. One way to fit in mentoring of employees or networking with colleagues is to schedule lunch. It doesn’t have to be a “lunch meeting.” It can be a birthday or anniversary celebration or even just a time to touch base with those people you mentor or with whom you network at work.

*Get your expense receipts under control. Expense accounts can be a real blessing, but expense reporting can be a headache if you do not take the time to organize a receipt system and to understand how expense reporting works at your company. If you have an assistant who does this for you, then lucky you. Check with that person to ensure that the system you are using works, and tweak it if it doesn’t.

*Go over your report templates. Many jobs demand regular reporting, often done in Excel. If you have to do your own reports, set up a template to make reporting easier. If your report templates are already set up, review and tweak them to make reporting easier if you are allowed to do so. Take a few minutes to learn/review some basics in Excel that can make reporting easier.

*Plan some fun. Fun can be birthday celebrations or just rounding up people for pizza at lunchtime. It can be dressing up for holidays such as Halloween or declaring one week as time to wear your jeans to work. Go in on a large lottery prize ticket or set up a pool to guess the birth date and weight of a co-worker’s baby that is due soon. None of this takes a lot of time, and it can build camaraderie among departments that do not often interact.

Every job is different. So keep a note file, either a paper pad or a computer word processing file, where you can jot ideas for things that can be done on a slower work day. It helps relieve work stress without taking a sick day that may make you look like a slacker to your boss.

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I am Hating This

Another music legend passed away tonight, and I am hating this. Whitney Houston had an amazingly powerful voice, one that reached out to many people regardless of color, regardless of gender. It is especially sad that she passed away on the evening before the Grammys, a show where she once reigned as queen of her generation’s singers.

Her fall from the pinnacle of her career was both painful and sad to watch, as was her courageous attempt to make a career comeback. There is no word yet on how she died. However, this woman had some seriously rough ups and downs with alcohol and drugs. In an industry where many millions of dollars are made, there has to be at least some money dedicated to protecting the “human assets” in the moneymaking machine. There are some rehab programs in LA and NY, but they are too limited and never very well-funded. And you must have a lot of money to try to recover at some of the more famous clinics.  A wider safety net is needed in the arts and entertainment industry where career pressures make some people more vulnerable to addictions. Instead, we just all express our condolences and say, “how very sad” and wait for the next celebrity’s demise…

Please keep her daughter Bobbi in your thoughts. Nineteen is still too young to lose her mom, even if her mom was a celebrity. You will be missed, Whitney.

Check out Whitney Houston’s hits on YouTube for a musical celebration of this talented singer’s life.

Creating a Work Legacy

If you are like a lot of people, you may have had to take a job that was not necessarily on your career path during this recession to stay afloat and pay the bills. Now that the job picture is improving, you may be restless and be thinking about moving on to a new job. This may feel great if there is a possibility of moving towards a new job that will propel you along your chosen career path. There are some helpful things you can do while you are moving towards your next job.

Think about what you will leave behind at this job. Will it be a reputation for developing good rapport with customers? Or developing a better survey to measure customer satisfaction? Maybe you were the go-to person for all things computer. This is your work legacy, and you’ve been working on it since Day 1 at this job. As you think about moving on, step back and assess your work legacy. Are you where you want to be in this specific job, even if it wasn’t your dream job? If you are unhappy right now, you may have time to change things, as it may take you some time to move on to that next job. So what will you change now? Here are a few things to concentrate on:

1) Learn as many new skills as you can. If you feel like you are doing the job of two people, this one is probably a done deal. A broad range of skills makes you more marketable and can come in handy in any position. For example, I was laughing with a friend at a holiday party about our ability to project 16mm films and to fix film sprocket damage. It came in handy for him when his company was showing films at a work retreat.

2) Contribute as much as you can to your job. Don’t just “phone” your performance in. It is easier to leave a job when you know you did your best and supervisors were happy with your work.

3) Create healthy relationships with colleagues. This can be difficult to do when people are working hard in fear of losing their jobs. However, you can make a big difference by offering to help when you can and by creating a supportive atmosphere. Make work friends, and take time to blow off steam and talk about things other than work.

4) Ask for help when you need it. It speeds up skill acquisition, helps you to contribute within your company and may introduce you to new people in the process.

Knowing that you’ve created a good work legacy can give you satisfaction, even if this last job did not take you exactly where you expected to go in your career.