Going Back to Office Life: Do Employees Fare Better at Home?

PhotoCredit: Ben Kolde, unsplash.jpg

How do your employees work best? Well, it requires leadership empathy to understand your team best and help them thrive. Today’s guest post addresses the hot question right now of going hybrid or not is the recipe for future performance success. Guest Blogger Stephanie Hendricks is a full time freelance contributor to many leading small business growth publications. Including SmallBizTrends, SMBCEO, and Noobpreneur. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the American West in her sprinter van with her dogs.

When COVID first struck, most businesses wouldn’t allow their employees to work from home. For the most part, they simply didn’t want to relinquish control. There were also questions of efficiency.

Although remote work proved extremely lucrative, reducing office costs and other expenses, most companies couldn’t wait to bring people back. Unfortunately for them, some employees got used to the idea of working from home. Economic data indicates that this approach is the best option for both sides.

In this article, we’ll analyze whether or not working from home is actually worth it. Check it out!

Tackling the fears

So far, several studies have analyzed the impact of remote work. Given that most companies had to send their employees home, we have ample data to make some conclusions. Here are some general data:  

  • 51% of companies declared they’ll return their workforce to offices within the next year.
  • 53% of workers have had at least one infection in the office since they all returned.
  • Approximately 20% of employees now have a hybrid schedule.

One of the major concerns for employees is how they would adjust mentally to the newfound situation. Every third person said they were happy to return to the office. Interestingly enough, one-third of the workforce doesn’t want to come back. So, we’re split even in that regard.

Aside from the fear of COVID, there are other reasons why people don’t want to come back. For example, they’ve seen how productive remote working can be. During this period, employees experienced less stress and had more time for family and friends.

There are also less common reasons why some people don’t want to return.

“Employees that work in an esthetically unappealing environment are less willing to return,” according to the Collection, a premium office rental in Los Angeles. According to their data, the quality of the workspace has an enormous impact on employees. After enjoying all this time at home, they don’t want to return to a gloomy environment.  

Impact on productivity

The reason why most companies wouldn’t let their employees go home is that they feared losing productivity. And truth be told, some teams really struggled to meet their deadlines. This isn’t particularly surprising, given all the comforts and the lack of control.

But, there were also opposite cases. Some people worked even harder as they had much more free time on their hands. Among others, they felt free and didn’t experience the same level of stress as they would in the office.

Here is some data that would interest you:

  • According to a smaller Ergotron study, 40% of people worked longer while at home. The National Bureau of Economic Research shows something similar. According to them, the average work day was prolonged by 48.5 minutes during peak COVID. Based on that calculation, a person that has a 40-hour work week would annually work extra 193 days.
  • Another positive improvement has to do with balancing a job with personal life. According to the same Ergotron study, 75% of people said they’re now more productive at work while having much more time for their family. A few other studies corroborated similar data.
  • As previously mentioned, remote work also had a major positive impact on stress or, better yet, lack thereof. Out of all the people working from home, 29% experienced moderate job-related stress. This is down from 33% in 2019 when employees were still in the offices. Remote work had a similar impact on extreme stress, and these numbers fell from 17% in 2019 to 15% just a year later.

Other important figures

Based on everything we’ve shown you so far, it seems that remote work is fantastic for employees and companies alike. Here are some other interesting tidbits that favor working from home:

  • Employees were able to save 8.5 hours every week just because they didn’t have to commute. Annually, this would accumulate to 408 hours saved.
  • One of the reasons why remote work was so efficient for companies is because it allowed them to eliminate social interaction. For 70% of employees, social interaction is every bit as important as getting their work done.
  • Aside from having a positive impact on mental health, working from home was better for physical health. People who don’t visit the office exercise 30 minutes more during the work week.
  • Approximately 62% of employees have to work alone to reach maximum efficiency. That being said, being at home allows them to reach their maximum potential.

What Will Become of the Twitter Brand?

By now, you’ve surely aware of the Twitter brouhaha. Billionaire Elon Musk now owns the social media platform. 

Musk says his goal is to reinstate free speech and get rid of spambots. But with Musk, you never really know what he’s playing at or if he’s just a quirky rich white guy. As one reporter said on NPR the other day, “We can never be sure what Elon Musk will do. He’s known for saying he’ll do a lot of things and then only doing less than half of them.” The big question mark right now is if he will or won’t let former US president Donald Trump back on the platform. Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the Jan 6 insurrection for inciting violence and violating community guidelines.

This post is not about analyzing Elon Musk’s motives. It’s about the seismic shift that happens when a corporate brand reputation (Twitter) collides with a strong and polarizing personal brand reputation (Musk).

Most brands don’t have the issue of being beholden to their CEO’s controversial personal brand. And it presents an interesting conundrum: Which brand will triumph?

Twitter has built a brand based on current events and celebrity interaction. We often hear breaking news on Twitter. We follow wars and uprisings in real time on Twitter. We share hilarious memes on Twitter and get to see how witty or insightful people can be with a limited character count. For me, Twitter is like a cocktail party. You scroll to bump into interesting people and witty repartée. You seek out the hot gossip. You often find out about news events before mass media outlets get their acts together. And you are able to hear from people on the ground in the midst of amazing events or tragic catastrophes.

Elon Musk is a polarizing personal brand. While he has led the success of Tesla and SpaceX, he has often made very controversial statements. His chaotic “would he or wouldn’t he?”battle to get on to Twitter’s board, and then turn around to offer to buy it, and then turn around again and rescind the bid – and then now turn around again to actually buy the platform gives us whiplash. His whims are unpredictable and that makes him a little bit dangerous. Check out a great timeline of events right here. They also impact real people by impacting stock prices and retirement accounts.

Elon says he’s passionate about protecting free speech and getting rid of spam bots, which sounds great, but what does that actually mean? Will content moderation end, leaving twitter to become a cesspool of misinformation and harassment (which it already has issues with)? Musk says he’s cutting 75% of the workforce, which included content moderators, and he already burned the C-suite to the ground, firing the CEO, other key execs, and the Board. He is making it a private company with no oversight. But he also claims that there were fake accounts and numbers inflating the sales price from Twitter SEC filings. And a company whistleblower seems to validate those claims.

On the outside, advancing security and features, eliminating fake accounts, and allowing free speech all sound great. But what happens when we don’t trust the brand of the person making those promises and decisions?

Many Twitter fans are worried. Some, including high-profile personalities and advertisers, are abandoning the platform entirely due to concerns about hate speech and misinformation becoming more rampant, while some are taking a cautious wait-and-see attitude.

When powerful brands collide, who emerges victorious?  I have no answer for you here, but it’s something we should pay close attention to as we consider future deals like this one.

More you might like:

How to Parlay Your Personal Brand into Your Business Brand

What is a Brand Strategy?

Photo credit: Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

What is a Brand Positioning Statement?

What is a Brand Positioning Statement? Why do you even need one?

Your business or organization can only grow and attract attention if people understand what you’re all about. While there are no official figures, according to one source, in 2021, the average person was estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day.

There’s a lot of noise out there, ya’ll!

To get attention, cut through the noise, and ignite action, we must be able to quickly and clearly explain what we do, who we do it for, and what benefit they get from us.

This is where a Brand Positioning Statement comes in!.

A Brand Positioning Statement is a super useful brand tool that speaks directly to your dream clients or customers in the language and words they understand. A Brand Positioning Statement quickly, clearly, and succinctly describes your business to someone so they can understand if you are right for them or someone they know, and compels them to learn more. The brand positioning statement is also something called your Core Value Proposition and can form the basis of a memorable elevator pitch, too. So you can see why this is a fundamental tool in your brand and marketing toolkit. 

A brand positioning statement encapsulates your Brand Strategy into a clear, compelling statement that can inform many other marketing tactics, such as a tagline, press release boilerplate, or advertising copy. 

This statement tells me the essentials about your company: what it is, how it is positioned, the target audience, the three core benefits it provides to me as a customer, and even clues me into the voice of the company.

But how do you create a good brand positioning statement?

Well, you know I’m going to say this: It requires empathy! Empathy for your ideal customers: their needs, wants, goals, aspirations, and values.

The tendency is to describe our businesses by talking about us. What we sell, provide, offer. I, I, I, I, I! It’s not about us. It’s about our customers. 

But to get a customer’s attention, we need a keen understanding of seeing the business from their point of view: What do they get from our products or services, from their point of view? Also, known as benefits

How to Craft an Empathetic Brand Positioning Statement

If you’re struggling with explaining the value you offer or if people are not quite sure if you’re the right fit for them, download my free guide The Empathy Edge Brand Positioning Template to leverage the power of empathy to craft the right brand statement that attracts your dream clients. You’ll get:

  • 6 strategies for crafting your empathetic brand statement
  • 18 examples to spark your creativity
  • 3 fill-in-the-blank templates you can customize and make your own.

Through my books, workshops, and client engagements, these tools have helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses stand out and attract their dream clients and customers.

Download your free guide now right here and make sure you hit all your 2023 goals – and attract and impact all  the right people!!

Photo Credit: Cristina Gottardii, Unsplash

 Let’s Talk About A Better Workplace Culture

Seth Godin’s daily posts range from the inspirational to the tactical. The mundane to the philosophical. So when a post punches me in the gut, in the best possible way, it gets me thinking. Which is his goal: Stop existing. Start thinking. Disrupt the status quo.

Recently, he wrote a post called But First, We Need to Talk About. The gist is that what we are willing to talk about gets attention, resources, and energy.  So when we’re unwilling to talk about end-of-life health care costs or oppressive capitalist systems, we can’t change things. Instead, we pour countless hours of conversation into things like political infighting, Tik Tok crazes, or why Kim Kardashian ever dated Pete Davidson (those last 2 are way far out of my wheelhouse)

The realization hit me: This is why I’m talking about empathy at work and creating better leaders, cultures, and brands. I want us to pay attention, yes, but to actually make a change. Transform.

It started out with helping my clients craft an empathetic and engaging brand story, rooted in purpose. And yes, advising them on where they need to walk that talk in their culture, leadership, processes, or habits.  But it’s become a bigger movement to me. One in which we rethink our existing models and narratives of leadership and organizational success.

For too long, we’ve adopted false and binary narratives that you have to choose between humanity and profits. That compassionate leaders cannot also be competitive. That ambition can’t co-exist with empathy and collaboration. That we need to be one person at work and another when we’re off the clock.

Who the hell made these rules? Oh, right, we did. Humans. Our capitalist and industrialized society.

And we blindly bought into this status quo.

Here’s the great news: We as humans have the power to CHANGE those rules. They are not laws of physics that cannot be broken. We made them. We can make new ones.. (TWEET THIS!)

But first, we gotta talk about it. 

We have to talk about what is not working, where we are not being inclusive, and how our business practices might be harming our people or the environment.  We need to admit that profit had been held up above all other concerns for too long.  And that we can have both/and rather than either/or. 

Then we need to talk about how we get there. How we re-establish new rules together. How we create a better workplace culture. How we make the entire for-business system better.

Are you ready to talk to your leaders, teams, and customers about the future of work and the empathy revolution? I’d love to help. Let’s chat about a transformative and provocative talk to kick this into action for your organization tomorrow! 

100 Decks in Your Pocket! The Empathy Edge now on Deckible

Courtesy of Deckible

It’s rare when a game changing app launches. Today is one of those days!

Deckible, founded by my colleague and serial entrepreneur Nick Kellet, launches today and I’m proud to be a part of this unique lifestyle app. You know Audible for audiobooks? Well, Deckible is that for card decks you keep in your pocket and on the go. When you download the app, you can get card decks on your phone and they are interactive – like journal prompts, videos, audio clips, etc. Decks are extremely popular and now you can take yours on the go  It’s pretty cool!

Categories range from personal development, leadership, coaching, spirituality, and wellness to books as decks (a great way to get an interactive summary version of a book you’ve been wanting to read – like mine!), even tarot, inspiration, games, and more. It’s designed for creatives to build community and amplify their work to new audiences. There are hundreds of card decks available now and more to come. 

Leading with empathy is one of the most effective ways we can better our workplace, as well as ourselves, and I want to help you on your journey so I created a Book as Deck for The Empathy Edge, if this is your style.  In this card deck version, you’ll receive practical tips, big and small, for how to align your mission and values and hire the right people, cultivating a more empathetic—and innovative—workplace culture. As well as the goods on building your empathetic brand in an authentic and proactive way. Plus journal prompts to think through the content and apply it to your organization. 

Download the Deckible app now on your phone’s App Store and then grab my The Empathy Edge deck HERE  https://bit.ly/EmpathyEdge-Deckible and let me know how you like it! 

Are You Confusing Kind Clarity with Harsh Directness?

Clarity is kind.

When you clearly communicate in a way others can understand so they can continue the dialogue with you, that is empathy in action.

Whether that communication is giving your 8 year-old his morning routine instructions or sharing information with your customers, being clear is a gift that helps you both realize shared goals.

I remember learning about communication in school. We talked about the “sender” and the “receiver”and where miscommunication can happen. And this stuck with me:

It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure they are being clear in their communication. If the receiver does not understand, it is on the sender to adapt or convey the message in a new way.

Adapt to the receiver. That is the ultimate empathy, isn’t it?!

But I would add….

It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure they are being clear in their communication. But also their responsibility to do so in a way that doesn’t cause harm. (TWEET THIS!)

For years, someone close to me would constantly defend her harsh directness with,  “I’m just being honest.” Her words often cut like a knife. Yes, you always knew where she stood – but she’d communicate without any grace or tact. 

When did we confuse being honest with being harsh and hurtful?

I recognize the truth can hurt. I often give tough love to clients. But that’s the difference: it’s tough love. I do my best (not always, but I try) to deliver a message in a way that the receiver can take in, hear, and act on. 

When you are so direct that the receiver shuts down completely, what good is being honest? (TWEET THIS!) For collaboration. For meeting your shared goals. For strengthening the relationship?

It doesn’t matter if you meant no harm.  Remember, impact matters more than intent! I always tell my brand clients this:  It doesn’t matter what you want to convey, it matters how your customers interpret it.

I recently posted on social media how “some people claim to be empaths because they “feel deeply.” But then use that as an excuse to communicate exactly what they want, exactly when they feel it. With no regard to the other person.

That’s not empathy, friend. That’s about you and your own needs, through your own lens.

I’ve often said being empathetic does not mean you people-please. That’s submission, not empathy. 

But you can make tough decisions and yes, even tell someone “no”- or give a negative performance review or file a complaint with your favorite brand – by thinking through your words and the IMPACT they will have. 

How can you communicate with empathy, even if you’re communicating something someone doesn’t want to hear? Here are 3 tips – and they apply face-to-face or in writing:

  1. Articulate: First, articulate what you want to say to yourself. Know what your main points are and what you need to convey. Jot down notes if you need to. This will also keep you on track if things get too emotional.
  2. Prepare: Next, consider what the other person might be thinking or feeling when they go into this discussion. Will they be on edge, scared, or even coming into it happy? What questions might they have? How might they respond? Prepare for those in advance.
  3. Adapt and Deliver: Finally, adapt your words and tone to lead with kindness but confidence in what you are communicating. If you’re delivering harsh news, like a layoff, how might you soften the blow while still being direct? Validate their contributions. Acknowledge their feelings. Let them be heard. Proactively provide resources or information that would help (the preparation step helps with this). And then communicate the points needed so you can both move forward in a constructive way.

Think about doctors delivering life-changing news to people. They often handle it with grace and empathy, but with complete clarity so the patient understands. Emulate that in your own work and give “empathetic honesty” a try!

Photo Credit: rf123.com, vadymvdrobot

Related Articles You May Enjoy:

Let’s Redefine Kind in Business

3 Ways to Use Empathetic Insights to Repair a Bad Customer Experience

The Lost Art of Empathy: A Customer Email Makeover

 What if We Fueled Action with Love and Not Anger?

So much of what’s happening in the world right now is fueled by hate. Division. Us against them. And sadly, some of us are only moved to action when we get angry. Our blood boils, our pulse quickens, and we step into fight mode.

Rage can be a good thing if it fuels progress. And Lord knows marketers use fear, uncertainty and doubt all the time to drive people to purchase. 

But does it always have to be that way?

I’ve been reading Bell Hooks’ book All About Love: New Visions, and man, it’s impacting my heart. Hard. It has caused me to question my very definition of love in a gentle, quiet way. Her writing is beautiful, provocative, thoughtful and concise. I wish I could write like that!

A recent chapter got me thinking: What if we strive for change, social justice, human rights, and equity with love not anger? Can love be enough to kick us into action just as much as anger and fear? What if we genuinely loved our enemies, those we fear, the liars, the charlatans, the power-hungry AND still took action? Could that be enough to catalyze massive change?

I’m not talking about being passive or sitting idly by. I’m talking about taking fierce action fueled by love, not anger and pain. When we are angry, we’re so tight, scrunched up, erratic. Could we get further – and be gentler to our own psyches – if we approached social change from love, not hate? Could we listen better, persuade better, and surprise those selfish children in front of us enough with our response that their own fears and facades crumble when faced with our tenacity  – and leave them sobbing in our arms? 

Could we be more powerful if we met tyranny and hate with love-fueled action rather than anger-fueled action? What if?. (TWEET THIS!)

Do you see this possibility or think it naive? Eager to hear your thoughts on this. DM me on Instagram!

Representation Matters

This month, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the US Supreme Court – the first Black woman to be on the bench. A woman with way more qualifications and experience than any of the sitting judges. And yet she had to prove herself over and over, and was subjected to ridiculous questions, biased scrutiny and outright disrespect.

Some people may not understand why this is being celebrated, so let me tell you: REPRESENTATION MATTERS

We hear that phrase a lot, but what does “Representation Matters”mean?

It means having a seat at the decision-making table so those views and experience can be represented in important decisions. Studies show that diversity leads to better decisions.

It means others from that same group can see themselves in those same achievements and see what is possible for their own lives.  Representation provides validation and support for similar groups – especially children – that they, too, can accomplish those goals.”IÏf you can see it, you can be it.” 

It means educating majority groups to see such people in positive, non-stereotypical ways. For example, female scientists, gay doctors, hispanic academics, asian athletes.

It means seeing yourself and your story reflected in media, advertising, literature, and art to reflect on your  own lived experiences and normalize those experiences for others.

If we want to create a more empathetic workplace and world – and make better decisions for everyone – we have to start by having more diverse voices at the table (Tweet This!)

That is why representation matters.

Related posts and info for you:

We discuss the impact of seeing role models “like you”on the “What the Hell is the Patriarchy?!” episode of my other podcast Jonni & Maria Go There so please check it out.

Why Brands Need to Speak Up

The Empathy Edge podcast interview with Khalilah Lyons: DEI Done Right for Leaders – and Our Kids

3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs – from an Accidental Entrepreneur

3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs

I never thought I’d own my own business. But here I am, just celebrating 14 years of Red Slice.

Whoa. It’s the longest job I’ve ever had!

My corporate career was very successful and I was on a good trajectory. I liked getting regular paychecks, benefits, clear goals and metrics (most of the time!). I thrived on working in teams. 

For those who want to know the nuts and bolts of how Red Slice came to be, check out this 3-part Behind the Scenes series from a while ago. In it, I shared a lot of very specific lessons at each phase. 

In general, here are 3 lessons for entrepreneurs – hard-won advice from this self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur!

  1. Define Your Goal, Purpose, and Definition of Success. You cannot skip this step. YOu might roll your eyes at this advice, but let me tell you. I did not quite hammer this out – as I said, my entrepreneurial journey was not quite super mapped out. I did have a vague idea of what I wanted Red Slice to be –  and ended up changing that vision 2 years later. You can always adapt and pivot. But start off with some kind of map of where you’re going and MORE IMPORTANTLY, why are you doing it? What is your motivator? This will steady you through some storms as you move forward. And never let anyone else define success for you. What does success look like for you? For me, it was creating more freedom in my life. It wasn’t about building a huge global agency. I was very clear on this from the beginning! In that respect, I have achieved immense success!
  1. Don’t Go It Alone: No one is an expert at everything. Starting out, it’s super important to have a good bookkeeper/accountant and lawyer. Set things up the right way to save yourself headaches later. Sure, you have to be scrappy at first. I didn’t hire my first virtual assistant until years into my business. And I paid the price in wasting a lot of time and doing things inefficiently. Know when it’s time to pay someone else for their expertise so you can operate in your own zone of genius. Don’t try to be a hero. When you need help, connections, referrals, advice – ASK! No smart business person will think any less of you. 
  1. Be Open to Change: What’s that they say about change being the only constant?! Don’t get so set in your plan that you miss out on opportunities – or that you make yourself miserable trying to make something work that just isn’t. I adapted my business a few years in and was so glad I did. It was a risk, but it was a smart one and it paid off. If I’d held on too tightly to my original picture of what I thought my work would look like, I’d be super miserable and not half as successful as I have been.  Never say never!

Entrepreneurship is hard, but it is such a journey of self-discovery. You get to know yourself, push your limits, and achieve your goals! (TWEET THIS!)

3 Surefire Ways to Attract Ideal Clients and Customers

Is this true of you as an entrepreneur, coach, consultant, marketer, or business owner?

 “We do amazing work and offer tremendous value.. I just wish more people better understood what we can do for them and how much we have to offer. It’s so hard to get people to pay attention, and I hate sales!”

Yep. Been there. We all have.

The solution is not to spend more money on marketing. It’s not to buy more ads or discount more deeply.

The answer is to critically look at your brand story and message and ask yourself, “Is my brand, story, and message infused with empathy?” (TWEET THIS!)

People respond when we feel we are seen, heard, and valued. Think about the last purchase you made where you really felt good about yourself. You felt like the sales email was written just for you! You felt like you had finally found your people. You felt like this purchase really said something about you and the way you want to work and live.

That’s what empathy in your brand can do! To connect with the right clients and customers (and I mean, right-fit, not inquiries, clicks, and follows from loads of people who will never buy from you or those who won’t get the value they need), we need to infuse more empathy into our brand.

What does that mean? Here are 3 tips for making your brand more empathetic and attracting the attracting the right clients and customers:

  1. See things from the client or customer point of view: Empathy requires you stash your ego for a while, and clearly see what your clients get from what you do. It’s not about talking only about what you offer, sell, or provide – but how does the client benefit? What do they actually get, achieve, or feel? This also means tactically go through your own sales process, audit customer support, have someone read through your website and test links. Make sure the experience is delightful, not disappointing!
  1. Speak your client’s or customer’s language: I can talk until I’m blue in the face about “brand strategy” but when clients don’t know what that means, I have to adjust my narrative. Yes, brand and marketing are two different things, but sometimes, I have to speak their language to help them understand the value.. It’s the difference between saying what you think they need to hear, and actually being the voice in their heads so they say, “I need that now!”
  1. Start with love: OK, this might be a bit hippy dippy for some, but hear me out. When you start from a place of genuine concern, service, and care, the money will follow. This is true whether you are a solopreneur or a marketer at a large organization. One past corporate client really despised his target customers, describing them in derogatory (and untrue) stereotypes,  and it was clear he didn’t understand their needs at all. That shows up in your messaging – and your reputation. You can be strong and firm and still be compassionate. Be of service, care about their success, show compassion if they are dealing with bad stuff in their lives – and adapt your policies and communications to be more human.