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This can be a time of mixed emotions. I know because I greeted six consecutive New Year’s sitting in North Vietnam prisoner of war camps. Fear was the foremost emotion in those first three years, and the others were somewhat daunting, too.  Yet, we always kept hope that the new year would bring an honorable end to the war. In spite of the difficult conditions, our leaders stayed positive and inspired us to bounce back as they did so often. They also taught us to resist the enemy and survive so that someday we could return with honor.

Dealing with paradoxes

One of the difficult challenges for leaders is paradox — the fine balance between being:

  • humble and strong.
  • decisive and willing to listen to the ideas of others.
  • confident and vulnerable.
  • tough and compassionate.
  • detached and sensitive.

A healthy paradox to start the new year is facing the future with both hope and realism. In his best-selling book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins addressed the process that kept the Vietnam POWs going year after year, and he named it after his friend and one of our senior leaders, Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale. Collins insightfully categorized the importance of this dynamic tension as the “Stockdale Paradox:”  

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

So as you look forward to 2014, are you naturally optimistic and seeing the positive potential of what can happen this year?

If so, then you may need to sit down with some friends and teammates who are more realistic to help you confront the brutal realities of your situations. If you do not have them, you need a strategy and a plan in place to address the tough days ahead.     

Find the half-full glass

On the other hand, if all you can see is barbed wire and hard times ahead, then you probably need to begin the new year with a time of thanksgiving to count your blessings and recalibrate your attitude.

Determine where you can get a foothold of hope and optimism to inspire yourself and others. Optimism generates positive emotions related to faith, belief, conviction and confidence, and it’s from these emotions that we gain the inspiration to persist when things look bleak and hold on until we can ultimately prevail.

Yes, diligence and dedication are important, but never forget that inspiration is the source of power. Stockdale was right — “faith that we would prevail” is the essential principle of successful business leadership. It enabled us to resist and survive as POWs and return with honor.

This same thinking enables poor men to become rich, sick people to become well, last place teams to become first and each of us to reach our potential as human beings and business leaders. It’s more than positive feelings — it’s the choice of belief.

Most New Year’s resolutions never last as long as 90 days, but given the impact your attitude and behaviors can have on the year 2014, why not commit to lead with honor by following the Stockdale Paradox? Deal with the brutal realities of your situation, and choose a positive belief of great hope and expectations that you will prevail.

When the hard times come, it’s the leader’s attitude that lifts others to victory. The POW leaders shined the light through dark times, and that’s a lesson for all times.

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, leadership and human performance development, and succession planning. His latest book about his Vietnam prisoner of war experience is entitled “Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.” For more information, visit www.leadingwithhonor.comHe lives in the Atlanta area.

 

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Technology and the rising number of millennials entering the workforce are two factors making it easier and more acceptable for organizations to offer part-time or full-time telecommuting options to their employees. In fact, according to a recent Cisco survey, 70 percent of college students and young professionals believe that it is no longer necessary to head into a traditional office to work anymore.

While the times are indeed changing and most workplaces barely resemble the “Mad Men” office of yesteryear, companies, regardless of size still need to take certain steps to ensure their virtual office workers are productive and connected to their manager and co-workers in a collaborative manner.

Know thyself. Know thy employee.

Although we’re all super connected via tablets and smartphones, we’re not all equipped to work remotely. Moreover, many employees who might work well in a remote environment simply may crave the day-to-day interaction of working in a “traditional” office environment. With this as a backdrop, it is critical for employers to find out if their future remote worker will thrive from the virtual office.

I offered a job to a perfectly qualified candidate who turned it down because she was self-aware enough to know she wanted and needed the structure that an office provided. Until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that a good, qualified candidate doesn’t always translate into a successful and happy remote employee. Culture is critical and the extent to which employees will work remotely is a big part of your company’s culture. Ensure that the fit is right by asking specific questions about their working style and desires.

Tried and true technology

Workplace communication is essential whether employees are working in their offices or from their homes. However, when technology hinders this communication in a remote environment, it heightens employee frustration and lessens productivity.

To that end, you’ll have to do your due diligence in researching the technologies that work best for you and your employees. Unified communications systems are gaining in popularity and making it easier for employees to work remotely. For us, a VoIP solution provides us with the telecommunications services we need to communicate as easily as if we were in the same office.

We also use Google Apps for Business. This has enabled us to run the virtual office as efficiently as possible. Even better, the applications are compatible with Microsoft Office — making it easier for employees who prefer to use Outlook instead.

Make connections count

There’s the flip side to relying on technology to connect with employees and that is true face-to-face communication. While it may sound counterintuitive to promote face-to-face communication as we are all moving away from it, there are situations where in-person interaction is better than instant messages, video chat and email. These technologies cannot replace in-person team-building exercises, team community service days or infrequent lunches or dinner and drinks.

While running a virtual office may make it more difficult to schedule and coordinate these in-person team meetings, it doesn’t make them less important. Look to schedule these meetings on a quarterly basis, if not more often. Schedule them well in advance to make it easier on employee travel schedules and pack in as many relevant activities (such as training sessions or team lunches) around these in-person meetings to maximize schedules and travel budgets.

Shane Pike is president and CEO of EngineerJobs.com, one of the most visited engineering job sites in the world. Before that, he built NursingJobs.org into one of the Web's leading job sites for nurses in just two and a half years before selling it to Internet Brands in 2008. He is a graduate of The University of Alabama. He can be reached at shanep@engineerjobs.com.

The downturn of the economy is clearly behind us. Companies have their feet back under them and are once again focused on expanding, acquiring, adding clients and hiring employees. Now is a great time to grow.

Moe’s Southwest Grill is one of those fortunate companies that made it through and, for the past few years, has been experiencing growth. In fact, Moe’s is preparing to open restaurants at a much more substantial rate than in years past. While this is great news, growth, of course, comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

So how do you prepare your organization for growth? 

Establish a viable strategy

First, you need to have a sound strategy for how you go about it. Moe’s expects to double in size in the next three to four years — but how many will we open next year, and can our current organization support it? Those are questions that can be answered with a solid strategy.

It was important for me to work with the team to set our opening goals together so everyone bought in — now we know next year we’ll open 100 restaurants, 150 the year after that and another 200 after that. Including the team early in the planning allows you to get support, but it also helps you hold the team accountable for the goals it sets.

Explosive growth means opening 100 to 200 restaurants a year, which is also like opening a small restaurant chain each year. The support team that’s in place to support 500 restaurants will also need to grow, so it’s important to understand the people impact of growth. How do you become a recruiting machine but hold on to your company culture? I currently meet the final candidates for nearly every position we hire, even if for just a few minutes, to ensure they can “play well in the sandbox” with the rest of the team.

I stay involved because I know growth is one thing that can fracture our culture and ultimately the company. It’s important to recruit quality people who are the right fit, because when you don’t, there’s a good chance the culture will slip away. 

Define departmental roles

In the grand growth plan, every department should play a clearly defined role and be a vital part of the growth strategy.

In the franchising model, franchise sales are the pipeline. Real estate leads the way to introduce the concept across a larger geographic area. Training helps new restaurants open and is on the ground to mobilize what they do in the restaurant. Operations supports training and the franchise partners to ensure customers have a consistent, positive experience. Marketing promotes our products and what our company stands for and grows sales.

As a leader, you know that some of the most exciting times can be the most challenging. But with a sound strategy, the right people in place and departments that are involved and know their roles, you should be full steam ahead.

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 500 locations nationwide. Paul has been a leader in the foodservice industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at pdamico@moes.com.

 

Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:21

Why you can’t treat social media like a road trip

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The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.

I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.

Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.

 

A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.

 

Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.

 

Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.

As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.

 

Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at mmarzec@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7078.

When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.

While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.

They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.

And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.

You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?

During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●

What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.

Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.

Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.

Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.

As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.

On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.

In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.

If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.

There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.

Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.

To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●

 

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.

Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.

Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.

Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.

In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”

One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.

Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.

In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.

Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.

Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.

Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●

 

Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at dsklein@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7026.

We deeply want to be led by people who know what they’re doing and who don’t have to think about it too much — but there’s one glitch in that: The amount of success it takes for leaders to become overconfident isn’t terribly large.

Some achieve a reputation for great successes when all they have done is take chances that happened to work.

The fierce personal confidence and sense of infallibility that characterizes many leaders serves as a breeding ground for mind-bugs (non-conscious flaws in the way humans think and make decisions).

As a result, leaders can fall into a trap of believing they are better informed than they really are. Then fact gathering, analysis, insights, judgments and decisions suffer — as you’ll see from the real world examples below.

A Penney can’t become an Apple

In the fall of 2011, Ron Johnson, the whiz behind Apple’s $50 million-per-store retail business, was appointed not just as CEO of J.C. Penney Co., but as the savior responsible for transforming one of the dowdiest dinosaurs in American retail.

Seventeen months — and many mistakes later, he’s out of a job. What happened? Johnson so desperately wanted J.C. Penney to become the Apple of department stores that he failed to understand his customers and ended up alienating them.

Johnson could have easily known better but refused to test his ideas in advance, reportedly shooting his critics with the pushback, “We didn’t test at Apple.”

Johnson was unknowingly a victim of a mind-bug called the “informed leader fallacy,” when a leader believes he is better informed and has better instincts than others simply because he is the leader.

Is Hewlett-Packard blind to that fact?

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s terrible track record of making and integrating acquisitions speaks for itself. After buying Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010 and announcing the TouchPad in early 2011, HP killed these products six months later with a record $3.3 billion write off.

In August 2011, HP announced the acquisition of Autonomy, which provided so-called intelligent search and data analysis. HP didn’t stress the price — $11.1 billion, or an eye-popping multiple of 12.6 times Autonomy’s 2010 revenue — but focused on Autonomy’s potential to transform HP from a low-margin producer of printers and PCs into a high-margin, cutting-edge software company.

HP stunned its still reeling investors when it said it was writing down $8.8 billion of its acquisition of Autonomy, in effect admitting that the company was worth an astonishing 380 percent less than HP had paid for it.

So what is HP’s CEO Meg Whitman planning to do now? Return to making acquisitions, of course: “We will be incredibly measured and disciplined. We are very mindful of the event that we just came off with Autonomy, so don’t worry about that.”

While only time will tell, Whitman would be wise to worry about the Informed Leader Fallacy mind-bug.

Be wary of transformative thinking

What these leaders have in common should serve as an enduring lesson.

Just as Johnson was going to transform J.C. Penney into America’s retailer, Autonomy was supposed to transform HP into a software powerhouse.

So-called transformative thinking that renders traditional valuations irrelevant and silences critics is a breeding ground for bugs in leadership thinking and decision-making. ●

Larry J. Bloom spent 30-plus years helping grow a small family business to over $700 million in revenue. He is the author of “The Cure for Corporate Stupidity: Avoid the Mind-Bugs that Cause Smart People to Make Bad Decisions,” consultant, board member, and owner of a startup media and software company that promotes better thinking. He was born and resides in Atlanta, Ga. For more information, visit www.curecorporatestupidity.com or email bloomlj@gmail.com. 

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A rather gruesome quote has been attributed to Sean Parker, entrepreneur and Facebook’s first president: “Running a startup is like eating glass. You just start to like the taste of your own blood.”

While that analogy is certainly descriptive, it does ring true for many entrepreneurs. I find startups both energizing and exhausting, and I’d compare the thrill to the adrenaline rush a runner gets. In fact, it’s the rush that inspired me to jump into the startup arena after a foray into the corporate world. 

My path to entrepreneurship started in the least risky of ways. I went to the University of Waterloo for electrical engineering, and then I did what most Canadian engineers do, I went to work for one of the big guys — Nortel.

I quickly realized that I was a terrible engineer and found myself wondering more about product pricing, sales models and addressable markets. This curiosity didn’t go over too well with my manager, but definitely helped make me a better entrepreneur today.

Work with wicked smart people

The entrepreneurial path can be full of bumps and jumps. During the height of the dot-com craze, I had the great fortune to connect with a group of amazing entrepreneurs, and we founded Cbeyond. Over the course of 12 years at Cbeyond, the team experienced a lot of great and challenging times.

I learned a valuable lesson at Cbeyond — work with great people that do what they say they’re going to do, have a passion for serving customers and give back to their communities. You and your co-founders will spend every waking moment together, so make sure they’re the kind of people you want to hang out with at the airport bar.

Cbeyond survived the dot-com and telecom busts, completed an IPO in 2005 and grew to more than $450 million in revenue.

In early 2012, while an Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgia Tech, I met the partners for my new company, Springbot. We provide an e-commerce marketing platform to help smaller online retailers compete against giants like Amazon.com Inc. The growth of Springbot has been rewarding and has relied heavily on our team, committed investors and the great startup ecosystem in Atlanta. 

Tips from an experienced risk taker

When asked about starting a new business venture, I offer the following advice:

  • Avoid running alone. If you are considering diving headfirst into the entrepreneurial waters, run with a pack. The aforementioned “rush” is 10 times better.
  • Avoid naysayers, doubters and those who say that being a technology entrepreneur is too risky. Perhaps that’s their reality. But, I say that the real risk is never discovering what makes you happy. Ask “why” three times. The answers will guide you.
  • Entrepreneurship is not for everyone but it can be great.
  • Starting a business is a rewarding and exhilarating experience that requires a ton of work, dedication and risk-taking. Given the recent challenges at Nortel and BlackBerry, however, it certainly looks like being a technology entrepreneur may not be as risky as the more traditional and so-called “safe” route — plus being a technology entrepreneur certainly beats working for a living. ● 

Brooks Robinson is co-founder and CEO of Springbot, a technology start-up that leverages big data and marketing automation to deliver an e-commerce marketing platform for smaller online businesses. He can be reached at
brobinson@springbot.com.

 

 

 

 

Summer may be over, but the trend of Americans working while on vacation is only beginning. Regardless of the industry, it can be difficult for employees to balance responsibilities to employers and customers, and a much-needed break from work.

Our team at PGi recently surveyed our customers about their relationship to the office while on vacation. One of the most eye-opening findings was that 82 percent of employees check in with the office at least once a day while on vacation.

The topic of “workation” has been widely debated in recent months. In reality, there is no one right answer for all jobs and all employees, but there are factors each individual must weigh when considering whether to work while on vacation.

Some positives to checking in while away:

Peace of mind

The purpose of a vacation is to relax and recharge, but many employees cannot simply flip a switch when they walk out the door. Instead, that last report they sent their boss or the project their team is advancing stays on their mind for a couple of days.

For many, a quick glance at their email from a smartphone to see that projects are advancing and your customers are happy can provide peace of mind and allow you to truly unplug. 

Technology increases vacations

Technology can empower many employees to take a longer vacation than would have otherwise been possible. That Friday afternoon meeting can be taken from a smartphone or a video conference with a customer can be handled from a laptop or tablet while waiting for a flight. 

Higher productivity and less stress

Studies have shown that getting out of the office can lower stress levels and workations help avoid the dreaded “vacation inbox.” By plugging in for short bursts of productivity, employees remain included in new business opportunities, critical client interactions and projects, rather than spending the first couple of days back at the office playing catch-up. 

However, those who want a more traditional work/life balance dread workations and think they can lead to the following: 

An increase in workload

According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, more than one third of employed Americans report feeling that working from vacation increases their workload. The respondents also say workations make it more difficult for them to stop thinking about work during their time away. 

A higher burnout rate

Staying on top of work increases the chance of burnout. Even the most dedicated employee needs to unplug from time to time. If they never have the chance to do so, the next time they leave the office, may be for good. 

Setting a precedent for work/life boundaries

While an employee may not mind sending a short email or taking a quick call when on vacation, they may have concerns about setting a precedent. Concerned employees need to maintain open communication with colleagues and customers to ensure work does not encroach on their vacation time.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it’s clear that working on vacation is an increasingly common practice in today’s connected world. As we approach the winter holidays, identify which camp you fall into and plan appropriately to ensure you find a balance that lets you enjoy your vacation. 

Sean O’Brien is executive vice president of strategy and communications for PGi, a global leader in collaboration and virtual meetings for more than 20 years. Visit www.pgi.com.

 

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