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Workplace Hero

Author: Brock Armstrong

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The aim of this podcast is for me to arm you, my amazing workplace-casual army, with the weapons needed to combat the potential and perhaps inherent downsides of our chosen lifestyle. Most of us spend at least 40 hours per week at our place of work (47.7 hours is the actual average - even if we only get paid for 37.5 hours). We put time and effort into what our home looks like. We put research into the car we buy or the clothes we wear. Why wouldn’t we put at least that much effort into how we approach our workspace? This podcast will help you optimize, hone and perfect your office habitat so you can truly be a Workplace Hero.
33 Episodes
After a nearly two year hiatus, I am back with an exciting announcement! I have a new podcast called Change Academy and in this short episode of Workplace Hero, I explain what the new show is all about and play you a snippet from Episode #1 of Change Academy.
I'm going to come right out and say it. The reason I chose the topic of Self Promotion for this episode is that I have something to sell you. The product is called Weighless and Weighless is a fat loss program. So, as you can probably guess, with the millions on other fat loss programs out there advertising themselves, it is difficult being heard above the noise. So, in our endeavour to rise above all the noise, we have been forced to become self-promotion ninjas.
Parkinson's Law is a book by C. Northcote Parkinson. And this book is best known for its opening line: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Now, do you recognise it? I bet you do. Honestly, I didn’t know it had a name until I started writing this episode. 
Top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in most fields all set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation and it helps you to organize your time and your resources. -- Goal Setting Hello my cubicle convictions, open space schemers, corner office objectives, home den dutiful and coffee shop schemas. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am not the workplace hero. If there is a Workplace Hero around these parts, it is you my friend. And I will explain why, in a few minutes. Right now, I want to give you some data. The first Workplace Hero podcast episode was released on March 5, 2017. Here is a snippet of the Facebook live video I did to celebrate. Since then, I have released 30 episodes (including this one) which have received a total of about 12,000 downloads, ranging between 647 downloads for Katy Bowman’s “To Sit or Not To Sit” episode and 250 downloads for the “What Happens at Work Stays at Work” episode. When I started the podcast, I of course had high hopes of thousands of downloads and advertiser’s banging down my virtual door but at the same time I really had no idea if anyone would listen or care (aside from my mom). And as you can see, this podcast is by no means a wild, runaway success but it is also by some measures and stats I have seen passed around on the podcast forums, performing better than 95% of the podcasts on the Apple Podcasts app. Even more important than that though, this podcast has been a blast to produce. It really has scratched an itch that I have had for a while. I have worked as a tech and/or producer on 13 different podcasts and all but two or three of them have been interview style podcasts. You know, where two people sit down and have an organic conversation (usually over Skype) and then it was my job to try to make it sound good and make sense. Well, I have always been more interested in creating a more produced, scripted, researched and polished podcast. This is likely due to my background in music and my occasional dips into broadcast radio. Workplace Hero is that podcast. I love the artistry that I can bring to it. The time I take to add sound effects and drum beats and music soothes my soul. Truly. Now, I know I am rambling a bit but I do have a point here… so let me get to it. When I decided to commit to this podcast, I was worried that it would be harder, more time consuming, slower to take off than I had anticipated and I didn’t want to prematurely pull the plug on it before I had a chance to really experience what it was like to be a solo podcaster. I didn’t want to get 5 episodes in, realize that my mom is the only one commenting on the blog posts (which she kinda is) and that I am only getting 200 downloads per episode (remember that I have worked on shows that get 100,000 + downloads per episode so that is my frame of reference) and end the adventure before the podcast really had a chance to grow, build an audience and become part of my daily life. So I remembered (incorrectly, I might add) something I had read that Tim Ferriss said when he started his podcast. I incorrectly remembered him writing that he decided to do 30 episodes to see if he liked liked podcasting. What he actually wrote was “ I decided to try long-form audio for six episodes. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would throw in the towel and walk.” Well, despite what Tim actually wrote, I decided my number was 30. I was not allowed to stop, pull the plug, take a week off or break stride for 30 episodes. Once I reached 30, then I had a decision to make. Until then, it was business as usual. A business that is losing me money and time every week but also a business that I enjoy and hope is helping people in some small way, each week. Today, I am happy to say that I made it to 30. Six months later, here I am sitting down to write the 30th episode. —Fan Fare— It literally says in my script the words fan fare. That’s how I roll. Anyway, whether or not my goal was set deliberately through calculation and research or was set due to a misremembered quote from the 4-Hour Workweek guy, I am very glad that I set that goal. There were certainly times along the way that if the goal had not been there - and publicly stated (which is crucial) - I am sure I would have wimped out. Over at they ask the question: why set goals? Well, top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in most fields all set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation and it helps you to organize your time and your resources. By setting sharp, clearly defined goals you will see and be able to measure forward progress in what might previously have seemed like a long and occasionally pointless grind. You will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you've set. This certainly was true for me. I could have easily been distracted by the downsides of working so hard on something that is growing so slowly, or spent more time staring at my website and audio analytic data than focussing on the topic for the next episode. But by having the overarching goal of hitting 30 episodes, I could see my forward progress. And by committing to those 30 episodes, I knew that once a week I needed to buckle down and put in the time required to create those episodes. So, how do you start to set personal goals? Well, to begin with, you have to look at your goals in levels. First you create the "big picture" of what you want to do with your time (over the next 6 months let’s say since that is how long it takes to release a 30 weekly podcasts), and identify the large-scale goal that you want to achieve in those 6 months. Then, you break this big picture goal down into the smaller and smaller targets that you must hit to reach your big picture. For me that was to choose a topic each week, decide whether to get an expert on to talk about it, do some research, write my script, record the audio, edit the audio, and post all of that for the world to see. Each week. Without fail. Finally, once you have your plan, you start working on it to achieve these goals. Easy right? Well, not for everyone. I know more than a few people who have had great ideas, decide to try one and give up on it before they have given it a fair shake at all. Sure, there are ideas that don’t deserve being seen through to the end but hopefully those get vetted before the domain name is purchased, the logo is drawn and the company name is registered. I have had more than a few of those ideas. Ideas that died while I was trying to explain it to a friend, trying to choose a name for it, and one idea even died as I was pitching it to a potential investor. That was awkward. The people over at have a great list called “5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important” this is it in a nutshell: 1. Goals Give Your Focus Imagine having to shoot an arrow without being given a target. Where would you aim? And say you did aim at some random thing (out of sheer perplexity). Why would you aim there? And what would the purpose be? Get the idea‰? This is a literal example of what life is like without a goal or target in mind. Remember the story Alfred told Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight movie? When they were slowly realizing the the Joker had no real goal? “...some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” As cool as Heath Ledger was in that movie as The Joker, don’t be like him. Get some focus and have a goal. 2. Goals Allow You To Measure Progress By setting goals for yourself you are able to measure your progress because you always have a fixed endpoint or benchmark to compare with. Take this scenario for example: Brock makes a goal to have a podcast with a minimum of 30 episodes. He starts writing and recording each week and works really hard but along the way, he loses track of how many episodes he has completed and how many more he needs to make. So rather than panicking Brock simply counts the number of episodes he has already done and he instantly determines his progress and knows how much further he needs to go. And believe me. This actually happened a few times. But when I counted the episodes, I immediately felt great and refocused because I could actually measure where I was on my trajectory. Occasionally it seemed daunting but at the same time, it made me steel my resolve. 3. Goals Keep You Locked In And Undistracted By setting goals you give yourself mental boundaries. When you have a certain end point in mind you automatically stay away from certain distractions and stay focused towards the goal. This process happens automatically and subtly but according to research does happen. To get a better idea, imagine this. Your best friend is moving to Switzerland and his flight takes off at 9:00 PM. You leave right after work at 8:30 PM to see him off and you know it's a 20-minute walk to get to the airport. So you make it a goal to reach the airport in 15 minutes by jogging so that you can have more time to say your goodbyes. Would you get distracted by "anything" along the way? Would you stop for a break or a snack? Would you stop by your house before going to the airport? I bet you answered no for each question and at the end of the day, this is what a goal gives you. FOCUS. 4. Goals Help You Overcome Procrastination When you set a goal for yourself you make yourself accountable to finish the task. This is in complete contrast with when you do things based off a whim and it doesn't matter whether you complete them or not. Goals tend to stick in your mind and if not completed they give you a "Shoot! I was supposed to do _____ today!" reminder. These reminders in the back of your head help you to overcome procrastination and laziness. But keep in mind that super-long-
Society tells us that working harder and working more hours is good, but if you have listened to this podcast for a while you know that it is actually damaging you, hard on your fellow employees and even detrimental your company's success. So, let me ask you this. “What is the difference between a hard worker and a workaholic?"
Today’s topic is a fun one. Partially because it is something that I am sure that we can all agree on but mostly because for the first time in quite a while we have a guest hero! Guest heroes, actually. Vanessa and Adam Lambert from Bee The Wellness. We’ll here from them in just a bit but first, let’s talk about a thing known as Work Zones. And no, I am not ta lking about that section of the highway where you see a bunch of pylons and folks in brightly coloured outfits standing around with shovels in their hands while enormous machinery digs a new ditch No, I am talking about spaces around your home, your office or where ever you get your work done, where you can vary your stance, extend your gaze, vary your movement, and even other biomarkers like your body temperature, to keep from getting what Adam will refer to later as “cabin fever” while you are at work. Hello, my cubicle contrasters, open space sundry, corner office opposite, home den dissimilar, and coffee shop specialized. My name is Brock Armstrong, and after you listen to enough of these podcast episodes, I hope to replace the voice in your head - “put your phone down and get back to work - when was the last time you got up from your desk - shouldn’t you have left work by now - always take the stairs.” Is that creepy? Maybe a little… anyway…  Today’s topic is a fun one. Partially because it is something that I am sure that we can all agree on but mostly because for the first time in quite a while we have a guest hero! Guest heroes, actually. Vanessa and Adam Lambert from Bee The Wellness. We’ll here from them in just a bit but first, let’s talk about a thing known as Work Zones. And no, I am not ta  lking about that section of the highway where you see a bunch of pylons and folks in brightly coloured outfits standing around with shovels in their hands while enormous machinery digs a new ditch No, I am talking about spaces around your home, your office or where ever you get your work done, where you can vary your stance, extend your gaze, vary your movement, and even other biomarkers like your body temperature, to keep from getting what Adam will refer to later as “cabin fever” while you are at work.  Before I continue, let’s step into the email zone for a minute… heh. I would love it if you signed up for the Workplace Hero email newsletter over at The sign up form is on the righthand side of the page. Because I believe so strongly in the idea of Inbox Zero, I promise that you will only receive an email once per week, and it will be short, to the point and easy to delete. Plus, just for signing up, you will receive a coupon code for 10% off at the online health and fitness store, Over there they have a huge array of supplements, gear, plans, coaches and clothing that will help keep you healthy and fit. So sign up for the newsletter at and get your discount code for now.  Ok. Let’s meet our guest heroes.  AdamHi We are Adam and Vanessa Lambert owners of Bee The Wellness. We have been in the health and fitness business for nearly 20 years and as holistic wellness coaches we focus on the complete picture, including strength and conditioning, nutrition, mindfulness, and adventure. Since creating Bee The Wellness we have helped thousands of people adopt a healthier lifestyle as well create expanded lives through our remote coaching programs and retreats. They also have a great podcast that you can find on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. Just search for Bee (that’s with two Es) The Wellness or go to and give it a try. A good episode to start with would be the one where they interviewed me! Ha ha… as if you don’t get enough of me already. Anyway. When I asked Vanessa and Adam what issues they saw cropping up in their clients as a direct result of their workspaces, this is what they told me.  VanessaAs the majority of our work for Bee The Wellness takes place out of our house or on the road and includes a ton of computer time we have identified three issues that cause us the most grief and negatively impact our productivity.  1. Eye strain - Frequent laptop and mobile device sessions can have our gaze fixed at one distance for hours if we don’t take action.2. Lack of movement - When you get out of bed and then you are at work all day you miss out on several opportunities to move. Think walking to your car, walking up the stairs in your office, and running whatever errands you have to do. Adam3. Boredom/ fatigue - Similar to #2 being in the same space morning noon and night can seriously affect our ability to stay focused. It’s like having cabin fever and can sneak up pretty quickly if you don’t get a change of scenery. To combat these issues we create work zones and rotate between them throughout the day. These zones help us to stay productive and check a few items off of our daily fitness list.  I don’t think any of us can argue with any of those issues. In my experience they are all quite ubiquitous in our modern work life. I for one have been experiencing more and more annoying eye problems the older I get (and no I don’t wear reading glasses… not yet anyway. Sometimes I would rather work in a very loud and crowded coffee shop than spend another minute standing at my desk in my office. And I know that I am lucky that a large part of my job involves me getting a lot of movement in my day (remember, I am also the Get-Fit Guy over at but I have many clients who feel trapped behind their desk and are simply desperate to find more ways to add more movement to their every day life. So this is where the idea of Work Zones come into play. I will let Vanessa explain.  VanessaSo what are work zones? They are spaces you identify throughout your home, office, and common spaces like hotels, where you can set up shop and work. There really is no limit to how you set up your spaces but we like to make sure we at least cover these three bases: Adam1) Sit-to-stand: This is where your technical work gets done and the place to put any specialty gear you require. A podcast recording setup for example. 2) Outdoor: Like the name implies we want this space to be outdoor or as close to it as possible. Somewhere with distant views, fresh air, and outdoor light.3) Gym Space: This does not need to be fancy, just a spot with a few fitness tools and the freedom to move. Vanessa I am sure your mind is already scheming, already taking stock of the benefits you will glean, the energy you will reclaim and the focus you will gain but our guests have a few more benefits.  So what are the benefits? 1st there is the physical benefits from frequent movement: Changing your physical position, sit to stand, leaning back into a stool which allows the hip capsule to remain open, captain morgan. Any new position you can create for your body helps decrease the problems associated with not only repetitive motion but the rigidity that staying in one place creates. We know that lack of movement  is bad for circulation, mobility, and maintaining consistent energy and focus throughout the day. So creating new positions is important Adam 2nd we know staring at the computer all day can cause eye strain: A great practice is take to breaks and stare off in the distance to give the muscles in the eye a chance to work. By moving outside where we can actually focus on something in the distance we offer our eyes the opportunity to work in a way that strengthens the muscles and helps prevent fatigue.  Vanessa 3rd. As with any job one of the greatest challenges we face is a diminishing ability to focus or stay engaged: Changing our work zone serves as a way to break up the monotony of the  day and gives us a chance to feel refocused without losing productivity and time.  Those are all great points but let’s get some concrete examples of how this can work in the real world.  Adam With this in mind, we like to actually move around the house into different work zones. Going from our standing work stations, to sitting at the kitchen table, to working from the various counters in our house helps us to create different positions for our bodies to move through.  We include an outside work station where we can take breaks from  staring at the computer screen and get some fresh air, sunlight & vitamin d to help keep us invigorated as well as calm and focused.  We also have a simple gym set up where we can grab a couple sets of basics movements like squats, kb swings or pull-ups throughout the day. The gym space is a great stop over when we are working on something the requires creativity and abstract thought and strategy...getting a little movement in can help inspire new ideas or different ways of looking at old ones. If you are having trouble visualizing how this might work, I will embed a video of our Workplace Hero friend, Katy Bowman, over at where she shows exactly how she moves from one work area to another in her house (she calls it a Dynamic Work Space), using different positions, levels, heights and all the stuff that Vanessa and Adam are talking to us about today. And don’t worry, she sped the video up so you don’t have to sit there for an entire hour just to see how she does this.  Ok! I think we have some great ideas here which means it is my favourite time of the podcast. Vanessa, can you give us some homework? Vanessa HomeworkSee if you can create three different work zones and move between your work zones every 90 minutes or so. Each one should:- Change the space you’re in can reinvigorate your focus = better productivity, - reduce eye strain by focuses off in the distance,- give you some fresh air, sunlight, vitamin d calm central nervous system, - break up the day up so that you are less bored. For me, it works like this:- I have my standing work station in my office with my main computer on it (with two huge monitors),- Laptop com
Close your eyes for a second and dig deep into your psyche. I want you to be truly honest with yourself. Can you do that for me? Ok. Do you truly believe that one day you will actually go home from work with a completely clear desk? No projects left incomplete, no phone calls left to make, no emails to follow up on, no documents to edit, and no meetings to book?   The honest to dog truth is that there will always be work left undone at the end of your busy day. Admitting this gives us three options: We can go home, but take the work with us and then spend our evening doing it (or actively suppressing the urge to do it). This ensures maximum tension at home, unrestful rest, and then returning to work the next day tired and resentful. Drag your ass home, leave the work on your desk, then spend the evening fretting over what you left behind. Same results ensue involving the tension and fitful sleep. And when you get back to work next day, you’ll be tired and resentful—and the work will not have been done either. Take a deep cleansing breath, leave the work behind gracefully, truly forget about it, and enjoy a relaxing evening. No tension, lots of rejuvenating rest, plus you return the next day ready to tackle what’s waiting for you. Newsletter Before we dive deeper down this magical list of alternatives, I want encourage you to sign up for the Workplace Hero email newsletter over at The sign up form is on the righthand side of the page. Please know that because I believe strongly in the idea of Inbox Zero, you will only receive an email once per week, and it will be short, to the point and easy to delete. Best of all, just for signing up, you will receive a coupon code for 10% off at the online health and fitness store, Over there they have a huge array of supplements, gear, plans, coaches and clothing that will help keep you healthy and fit. So sign up for the newsletter at and get your discount code for now. Now back to leaving it all behind OR what happens at work, stays at work. Here are some techniques that I found at and that will help you achieve the last and best of the three options I mentioned. Like a cool down after a hard workout, treat your trip home as positive time to wind down and start the process of relaxation. Play some of your favourite music, or listen to your favourite podcast. I would suggest not catching up on the news or scrolling through social media. Choose something you really like and enjoy and that won’t remind you of work or bum you out about how truly crappy humans can be to each other. There’s a perception that more work equals more productivity, but that’s not always the case. So you never take a sick day, or a vacation, and you are always ‘on-call.’ You also put in about 70 hours a week, so that will pay off eventually I’m sure…oh wait, except it doesn’t. The Economist looked at the data from OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries found that the more productive workers were actually those that spent less time in the office. Lifehacker takes it one step further and puts an actual number on how many hours we work before we begin to see diminished results (hint: it’s about 30 hours a week). If there was ever a reason to leave work at work, this data should be it. You are actually making yourself more productive! This one is more of a psychological one - match your journey time with the time you need to relax. If that means taking the long, scenic route, so be it. If it means stopping at a park on along the way, that’s just fine. Your family and friends will prefer you half an hour later but in a calm and pleasant mood rather than half an hour earlier but in a foul one. Never be in a hurry to get home. If you do, every hold-up, every traffic jam, every pedestrian trying to cross the street in front of you, every late train, or missed bus will be a source of additional stress. Try to take it easy, and I don’t mean you have to drive under the speed limit. Simply treat your commute home as your time—a period just for you. All day at work, you’re at other peoples’ beck and call. Now it’s time to to relax and be yourself. If you need to rant and/or vent, do it before you leave work or do it along the way. Curse the world in the privacy of your own vehicle or yell at the wind as you ride your bike home. Go to the noisiest part of the subway platform and rant where no one can hear you. Just don’t walk in the door when you arrive home and launch directly into a rant. Who wants to bring a cocktail and slippers to that? Take a minute at the end of the day to write down your accomplishments because it’s easy to get bogged down in everything that you still have to do that you forget everything that you have already done. What good is working if you never take pride in those accomplishments that you put so much time and effort in? Before you end each day reassess your to-do list, look at what you something accomplished that day and feel good about it. If you must take work home—and you should treat that idea as you would infecting yourself with a repulsive social disease—designate a specific time to do it and stick to that designation. Early is best (while you are still in work mode). Plus you don’t want to do it too late or you may get into bed, wide awake and still buzzing from staring at a screen, and probably sleep badly, and then start the next day off on a bad note. Besides, no one is going to put on a Barry White album for someone who is pouring over spreadsheets in their comfy at home undies. When you get home, switch your full attention to whoever is there waiting for you (be it human, animal, amphibian or whatever). Never be physically present and mentally still at work—that sucks for everyone. If there is no one home, focus your attention on some domestic matters to help shake off the day. Do what it takes to get work out of your brain. Always keep your promises. If you’ve planned to go out for dinner, don’t cancel, claiming to be tired or swamped. If you’ve promised to help your kid with homework, do it. If you said you would dive into the new season of Game of Thrones, dive in! People who break promises are teaching those around them a dangerous lesson and although you may really really feel like you do not what to do what you promised, I bet that you will end up enjoying it—and inevitably feel far better than if you slumped in front of the TV or your laptop resenting work, yourself and the world that created capitalism. Be firm with yourself. In the end, leaving work behind, mentally and physically, is all on you. You have to want to do it, decide to do it, and then freakin’ do it—and keep on doing it, until it becomes the well ingrained norm. Slowing down and clearing your mind of the leftovers from the day is indeed an act of will. You may think that watching TV or distracting yourself in some other way can be a short-cut, but it how is that working out for you so far? The minute you ease up on the distraction, all the worries come rushing back. Right? And now, your homework. Every day this week, I want you to mentally prepare for the end of your day. When you bring work home chances are that you are thinking about that e-mail you didn’t send or the big meeting you have tomorrow or everything you have to do before Friday’s launch, and so on. So, before you leave work, simply clean up your desk. A clutter free desk (and that includes your inbox, and computer desktop) helps to clear your mind. Physical clutter competes for your attention and because the brain has limited attentional resources, this competition can reduce and damage your productivity. Try cleaning up about a half-hour before you are done with work. The process of putting things away (physically and digitally) can help you mentally sort through your day. Organizing your desk helps you organize your mind. If you work from home, this is even more important! If you don’t clean up your work area, you may feel like you are physically incapable of leaving work behind. Another great way to begin winding down your workday is to make your… wait for it… to-do list for the next day. You know how I love my to-do lists! This will make sure that you know that you are ready to start the next day with a plan and goals in mind—which means you’ll spend less time thinking about everything you have to do and more time actually doing it. And this will in turn help you have a restful, non tense evening of focussing on your friends, loved ones or who the heck is going to actually rule over Winterfell! As a closing note I want to tell you about something cool that Google is doing. Google is conducting a decade’s long study into the work lives of its employees in an effort to understand how people work better. What they’ve discovered so far is that only 31% of their employees are able to leave work at work. That means 69% of people take their work home with them. It’s more than that though - people are actually unable to distinguish between their work life and personal life to the point where Google’s Dublin office instituted a policy called “Google Goes Dark” where all of the employees in that office are forced to leave their work devices at work and turned off. This was done in an effort to draw clear boundaries between home life and work life. And I think it is pretty awesome. Nice work Google. I think all us Workplace Heroes should follow suit. So… now, go make this week a dark one. ** Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong with story help from Eleanor Cohen. Podcast logo by Ken Cunningham and original music by my band, The Irregular Heartbeats.
For a good percentage of us work-a-day-grumblers, three little words habitually accompany our entrance to work, a meeting, a luncheon or even getting home from work: “Sorry, I’m late.” Does this sound like you? Hello cubicle cutoff, open space overdue, corner office out of luck, home den delayed and coffee shop sluggish. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. We’re on that trajectory together, you and I. You can think of me as your very chatty co-pilot. Before we get started, if you enjoy this podcast and the tips and strategies it contains, I encourage you to visit That is the wellness coaching business that I run. Whether you are wanting to slim down, run a 10k or a marathon, race in a triathlon, pack on some muscle, clean up your diet, or get ripped, I will create a plan for you. No cookie cutter programs allowed. Just 100% tailored programs that fit around your life’s commitments. And for being a Workplace Hero, I will give you a special deal on your first 3 months of coaching. Head over to and send me a note mentioning this podcast episode so I can start building you the perfect program to meet your wellness goals. Let me set the stage for you - It’s Monday morning. In a surprise turn of events, you wake up feeling great! You had a fun weekend of good sleep, good food, fresh air and exercise, and aside from the one drink-drink you had with dinner on Saturday night, you adhered to your long term plan extremely well. Sadly, something goes wonky with the kids, or you take a little too long chatting with that cute barista, or doing your morning journalling, or spacing out on your coffee cup, and you find yourself running late. “Not again!” you think to yourself. “I hate being late!” For a good percentage of us work-a-day-grumblers, three little words habitually accompany our entrance to work, a meeting, a luncheon or even getting home from work: “Sorry, I’m late.” Does this sound like you? A ton of studies have looked into why some of us are chronically late. The truth is that there are many reasons why people just can’t get somewhere on time. But there seems to be one common thread running through the behaviour of chronically late individuals that may be a universal reason for their perpetual tardiness—and it is a surprising one: People are late because they don’t want to be early. Most of us know people who are always on time because they hate being late. I fall smack dab into this category; in fact, I’m freakishly scared of being late. I often arrive places embarrassingly early, which sometimes prompts me to hide out somewhere around the corner, playing with my phone, just so people don’t notice just how early I actually got there. Because people like me hate to be tardy, we always appear to be on time (even if it is because we hid in a stairwell playing Kwazy Kupcakes on our phone for 20 minutes). But just as we hate to be late, another cohort hates to be early. And if you ask them, these anti-early birds say that they really want to be punctual—they just prefer to be right on time than to be early. Wanting to avoid being early, then, is a strong motivation for why many people who are chronically late and honestly it is hard to reconcile these two competing ideals. So why does this second group hate to be early? There are many reasons but here are a few that I found at 1. It’s inefficient. Being early requires having to sit around with nothing to do (or play with your phone). The waiting time is just short enough that you can’t get into any other project; as soon as you do, the time is up. 2. They hate the uneasiness of being early. They feel awkward and uncomfortable waiting. They might even feel as if others are watching and judging them, whether this is true or not. Arriving a few minutes early makes you feel proud and confident, but arriving too early can make you feel foolish. You fear others might think that you have no life aside from this event, and you don’t want people to think that your time isn’t valuable either. 3. There is an opportunity cost associated with getting somewhere early. Just as someone else’s time is valuable and you want to respect it by being punctual, so too is your time valuable and you'd rather use it productively than wait around inefficiently. This is a behaviour I saw time and time again with a CEO friend of mine. He was so obsessed with not wasting a moment of his time that he would see a 3-minute window as a chance to get another call done which inevitably took longer than 3 minutes and would start a cascade of lateness for the remainder of the day. 4. Sometimes you do not want to be early to be polite. You may not want to disturb someone by getting there too soon—say, a friend’s dinner party—so you would actually rather get there a little late. In an article at the Huffington Post called: This Is Why You're Late All The Time (And What To Do About It), Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again says “Lateness is really a commonly misunderstood problem. Yes, it's a rude act, but I've interviewed hundreds of people and the vast majority of late people really dislike being late, they try to be on time, but this is something that has plagued them throughout their lives. Telling a chronic late person to be on time is like telling a dieter, 'Don't eat so much.'" And it's often a problem that begins early in life. For many people, it started in childhood, and they're late for not only things that have to do with other people, but things that will only hurt themselves. They'll show up to the gym, for instance, 10 minutes before it closes, or they'll even be late for important appointments like job interviews. Part of DeLonzor’s research included a test to measure the differences in how timely and late people perceive the passage of time. The test she devised is a simple one that you can try yourself. Choose three or four pages in a book, mark the time, and start reading. Stop reading when you think ninety seconds have elapsed, then check your watch to see how accurate you were. DeLonzor found that early birds, almost without fail, stopped reading before ninety ­seconds had passed, while the late-ers put their books down well ­after the ninety-second mark. The researchers at Cleveland State University also included a time perception test in their lateness study, this time using stop-watches. Interestingly, their results were similar to DeLonzor’s - the late people consistently underestimated the passage of time. There are many many more studies, papers, opinions and theories as to why people are chronically late but we don’t have time to get into all of them in this episode. But what we will do is look at 5 potentially helpful strategies that you can implement if you are one of those always in a hurry and yet always late individuals. And yes, if you are a late person, this is your homework. 1. Reevaluate how long your routines really take. Late people tend to remember the one time they got ready in 20 minutes (instead of 40) or the one time they got to work in seven (instead of 15) minutes. Try writing down your daily habits and then estimating how long you think it takes you to do each one -- then spend a week or so writing down how long each thing actually takes. It's time to relearn how to tell time. 2. Change your thoughts, not just your behaviour. Reframing the way you think about punctuality can be an effective cognitive trick. Instead of stressing about it, sit down with a pen and paper (when you're not in a rush) and jot down all the positives that come with being on time. That is from Teri Bourdeau, a clinical associate professor of behavioural sciences at Oklahoma State University. You might write, for example, that being timely will make you look more responsible, or that it will stir up less conflict with co-workers. Think about the things that are going to motivate you to be on time, and remember them the next time you're trying to cram in too much before a deadline. 3. Get down with downtime. Eternally tardy people, particularly those like my CEO friend that I described earlier, often like to pack in as many activities as possible to maximize productivity, which can make any extra waiting time uncomfortable. One option for coping is to plan out an activity you can do when spare minutes creep up but avoid things like email or returning phone calls as those can easily expand beyond the time available and then you are right back where you started. Now my favourite option is to reframe downtime as something to enjoy between all the rushing -- luxury time instead of wasted time. A big part of the enjoyment of life is just sitting back and talking to the person next to you or looking at the sky or spacing out. Never underestimate the value of a good space-out. 4. Budget your time differently. Timely people will give themselves round numbers to get somewhere -- 30 minutes, for instance. The chronically late, on the other hand, often budget exact times, like 23 minutes, to get somewhere, a habit that DeLonzor calls "split second timing," which doesn't account for the inevitable delays that inevitably pop up. If you're magically arriving exactly “on time,” that means you engaged in split second timing and you probably should not consider yourself to be “on time” unless you're actually “a few minutes early.” 5. Reschedule your day. Habits tend to be reflexive patterns of behaviour and what we need to do is change that pattern. To do that, you can start writing appointments down 30 minutes before they actually happen, which will help you start planning before the last second (kind of like purposely setting a clock 10 minutes ahead to try to fool yourself into being early). Another way to reschedule your day is to reevaluate your to-do list -- chances are, you're simply not going to get everything done. For more info on To-Do lists, check out the podcast episode at I
Experts agree that your email behaviour has the potential to sabotage your reputation both personally and professionally. wrote a story with some of the industry's most seasoned email experts which had them weigh in on how to perfect your email etiquette. We'll take a look at their suggestions in a minute but right now, I want to clear something up.
I am currently coming to you live from my childhood bedroom at my mom’s house. Yeah, I am taking the week off to visit my mom, sister, niece, nephew, some in-laws and friends. But I didn’t want to break my streak of not missing a week of this podcast since its inception, so here I am churning one out for you while I am “on vacation.” The fact that I am talking into this mic while I am out of office, brings up something that deserves a proper episode one day but today I am going to cover it as quickly as possible (so I can get back to the rollicking game of “boot the ball as hard as you can” that I have been having with my sister’s kids). And the topic I am going to cover today is: working on vacation. I am sure that you have read all the articles about “unplugging” on vacation - but I know you and I know you aren’t going to do it. Because of leaps in technology and the nature of our jobs these days, it’s not like the old days when you put your hat on, left the office and that was that - we can work whenever and wherever we like (or our employers like). But here’s the thing: If you don’t chill out and enjoy your hard-earned vacation, odds are that you’re going to burn out, and that helps no one. So here are a few slightly goofy, not so hard-and-fast dos and don’ts of working on vacation that I found over at If you follow at least some of them, you’ll come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to breeze through every item on your to-do list: DO - find a number two for your out of office email reply. Don’t leave ‘em hanging with a generic “Thanks for your email! I’m currently out of the office and you’re screwed until I get back.” The best OOO message includes someone, someone reliable, to field urgent or easy-to-fulfill requests. Find a buddy, with the intention that you’ll return the favour one day, and you’ll come back to work with happier clients and a much less voluminous inbox. DON’T - get super personal about why you’re out of office. A quick “I’m enjoying a sunshine getaway!” is fine, but “I’mma gettin’ crunk on piña coladas with my hot bae #speedo #tequila” is better left unsaid. DO - pick a check-in time and tell your boss. Pick one window when you’re game to check your work email (I like first thing in the morning since I generally get up before my partner), and stick to it. Your boss will appreciate knowing when she can plan to hear back from you and therefore you will be unlikely to get bothered outside of that time. DON’T - check your email 24/7 and answer incoming messages anyway. If you cave once, you’re screwed. It sets the precedent that your coworkers can bother you at any time during your precious, hard-earned vacation. And they will. Believe me. They will… those vultures. DO - jump on a project if you have to. If you check your email at 4 p.m. and they really do need you to jump on something, by all means, take action. Go find a quiet spot where you won’t feel distracted and you can get through the task as efficiently as possible. I did this once while I was on vacation in Japan and I swear it bought me more brownie points with my team than anything I had ever done before or since. DON’T - complain out it to your fellow travellers. It ruins the vibe, man. It harshes the mellow, dude. Finish your work, and then put it out of sight and out of mind. A cold one isn’t a bad idea right now. Don’t mind if I do! DO - post a crap load of photos on social media. It’s your vacation, and you can post yourself swimming with manta rays if you want to. But . . . DON’T - add captions of how happy you are not to be at work right now! That’s just bad form. And you do have to go back to work and face your coworkers again… someday. DO - write down any great ideas that come to you while you are chill. You are relaxed, after all, and that is often when you get creative and might just feel a burst of inspiration while you’re getting a thai massage. Or so I hear. So jot that biz down! but… DON’T - let that be an excuse to open that laptop and slip into work mode. If an inspirational moment does strike, jot it down in that adorable Moleskine notebook of yours, and promise yourself that you’ll hash it out when and only when your return to the real world. Now seriously, you've spent weeks or months planning this vacation, from the coolest AirBNBs to the hippest restaurants to the world heritage sites that you just can't miss. Or maybe you are hunkered down in your childhood bedroom waiting for your mom to give you your next chore that she has been saving up for you since your last visit. Either way - Stop. Reading. Emails. Of people who used their devices for work-related activities while on vacation — even for as little as one hour — just 43% remembered everything about their trip, according to a new study by HomeAway and University of Texas researchers. And people who broke out their laptops, rather than just their phones or tablets, had even worse memory recall. So, if you were looking for another reason to leave work at the office and enjoy your time off, this is it. You know, I like to remind myself that considering how many chumps aren't even using all their allotted vacation days, I am not going to be that guy. I am going to freakin’ make the most of my time off and leave the work behind. After all, that's what the out-of-office reply is for, right? Now, I am going to cut this one short and go make this week at my mom’s count. ** Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in Edmonton north of the Yellowhead. Artwork by Ken Cunningham and music… well there was no music in this episode so never mind.  
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. Forrester Research predicts that today's youngest workers (that might be you) will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime! Hello, desk displeased, cubicle crestfallen, open space sorrowful, corner office objectors, home den defeated and coffee shop sullen. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. You are the real hero here. Well, at least until the end of this episode. Things may change after you hear this one. It’s odd. In school, we spend a lot of time and give tons of attention to putting together a resume, building a CV, and generally how we should go about getting a job – but we give pretty much no air time to how to leave a job, quit a position or walk away from a contract. Personally, as a member of the first generation to not do as well as their parents (GenX) I think this is pretty “meh.” Gone are the days of choosing a career, climbing the corporate ladder, and retiring at 65 with a comfy pension and a gold watch. Many of my friends have had more than 5 jobs in their adult lives. Some jobs ended, some never really got rolling, some we were fired from and some… gasp… we actually quit! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. Forrester Research predicts that today's youngest workers (that might be you) will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime! In 2005, I had been working for the Alberta Provincial Government for nearly 5 years. I was comfortable. I had a pension. I had a great team a decent enough office with big windows and my coworker was also one of my closest friends. We actually planned activities together out side of work! But then, one day it happened. One of the cool, young firms in town not so subtly dropped the hint that there would be a spot for me if I were to become available. The pay would be less and the responsibility would be higher but the projects would be cooler, there was more room for upward growth (unlike my government job where without going back to school, I was already nearing the top of my surprisingly low pay grade) and to top it off I would rarely ever have to wear a tie again. It didn’t take much for me to draft my letter of resignation, cash in my vacation days (which overlapped nicely with my new job’s starting date - talk about double dipping) and make the move. I have been accused before of not having the gene responsible for the feeling known as nostalgia (by my mother no-less) so you may want to take this with a grain of salt but I never looked back. Not only that, I have quit at least 5 more jobs since then. How did I do it? How should you do it? Should you do it? Well, that is what we are going to talk about today. But first, I want you to write down this URL: that will take you to the Quick and Dirty Tips network website where I recently became the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast. If you are a fan of these short, snappy and information packed podcasts, you will dig the Get-Fit Guy (and the other Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts). If you want to begin an exercise routine and don’t know where to start, or if you’ve been working out for a while and aren’t getting the results you want, I will give you the tips you need to reach all of your fitness goals. So head over to or just search for Get-Fit Guy and check it out. Ok, back to quitting your job without leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. Before we get to some good strategies and graceful exits, let’s talk about some not so graceful moves. Quitting the job I told you about earlier was smooth for a few reasons (not including my emotionless heart). The biggest reason was that I had a job all lined up. I also knew and liked the people I was going to work for and I was walking into a guaranteed pay cheque. But that is not how it always goes. I have left three jobs in the last 10 years with nothing but a hope and a dream — and a partner with a solid income. Which I will never take for granted. Having a supportive partner was extremely helpful for me along with the elephant in the room - being a white, middle-aged man in north America. I am fully aware that I have a distinct advantage here. I wish it were not so and I attempt to do my share to put my overly confident pasty people in their place. It will be a long battle but I believe that we as a society are ready and I am willing to use all my Homer Simpsonesque white male privilege to help fight the good fight. Black Lives Matter. Love is Love. I’m with her. So with that acknowledged, here are a few lessons I learned and a few I found in a great article at from jumping in head first. Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose! 1. You Don’t Need the Approval of Others When I would tell people about my plan to leave my office job in favour of the freelance fitness coach life, I wanted them to reassure me with statements like, “Oh wow, you’re so brave!” “Good for you!” or even a friendly, “Go get ’em, buddy!” Unfortunately, that’s not really what I got. Instead, I was faced with a lot of, “Wait, you’re doing what? ” or “Do you think you have enough clients for that?” and my favourite “I guess you can always go back to the liquor store.” which is where I worked in my early 20s. But in the end, it really didn’t matter. I was the only one who needed to feel good about my decision. And I did - at least I did in between each beer fuelled doubt session. 2. Scary is Exciting and Change is Good There’s a reason that people love downhill skiing, mountain biking, open water swimming and riding motorcycles - we like being a scared. There’s a part of being wholly unsure about your situation that makes you want to run and cry—but the other part is actually thrilling. In the first few days (alright, months) after leaving my desk job, I’d sit down at my computer and feel lost. Some days I would be tempted to put “checked Facebook” on my to-do list just so I had something to cross off. But, at the same time, I felt liberated. I had no idea what was coming next, and that actually made me feel surprisingly motivated and optimistic. But it wasn’t until my partner said “You’re eventually going to make more than $400 per month again, right?” that I actually felt completely in control again. Some how answering that question, looking the woman I love in the eye, saying “Yes! Absolutely.” gave me the reassurance I needed to land my next big client. 3. You Never Know Until You Try I hate to sound like a second rate motivational speaker but this sentiment is really true. You can only guess at what you’re actually capable of until you push yourself to freakin’ do it. Honestly, I didn’t dislike my full-time job but it didn’t set my hair on fire either. It was repetitive and frankly… easy for me. And, while I did perfect the art of taking someone’s pretty Photoshop designs and turn them into code that would appear consistent across nearly everyone’s crappy computers, I knew deep down that there was more out there for me. Fast forward to now, and I’ve accomplished things that I never even thought were a possibility for me. I’ve been published places that I assumed were mere pipe dreams. I’ve worked with people who are essentially celebrities in my eyes. Just think—none of it would’ve happened if I had stayed with the “safe” route. 4. Your Career Really Doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) Define You We all have (at least at some point in our lives) had the tendency to use our careers to define ourselves. But, it’s important to remember that your job isn’t who you are—it’s what you do to make money to afford to do the things that define you. As Muse Managing Editor Jenni Maier explained in her article about being laid off “Your position definitely adds to your life, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of it.” When I left my last full-time job, I felt the need to justify my decision and clarify every last detail until friends actually put a moratorium on the subject. Apparently, I felt a need to explain my employment situation in order to give myself a purpose and identity. Turns out, that’s really not the case—all of that pressure to define myself using my full-time job was totally self-imposed. In fact, most people honestly didn’t care if I was slinging beers or repairing bikes - as long as I was happy. Although, above anything else, they were most likely just wondering why I gave them a play-by-play career breakdown when all they asked was, “Do you need a bag today, sir?” In an article over at, they say that before you ditch your current position in favour of a new gig, take the three M’s test: M#1 - Are you miserable? Life is too short for misery. Figure out if you’re having a random bad day or if you’re stuck in an endless string of them. (Here’s a simple rule: You shouldn’t dread going to work.) If you’re miserable, leave. But before you do, consider whether there’s anything you can do or ask for that would take the misery away. If you like the company but don’t like the job, tell someone how you’re feeling. Better yet, bring a plan to your boss for how you would change your job. Be a part of your own solution. If they can’t fix your pain point, that will make your decision to leave much easier. M #2 - Are you making enough money? But then again, how much is enough? Rather than fuss over numbers in a spreadsheet, how about making a list of the lifestyle you want. My list is simple: live somewhere with no commute, eat out a couple times a week, have a membership to a gym I actually like, and take a few vacations per year (one of which is overseas). Clarifying success in terms of daily life vs. dollars makes it easier to see how much is “enough.” When your primary motivation is money, you tend to forget about things that are mor
I know I am not the first one to make this joke but… work can be a real pain in the freakin’ neck! Sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen for eight-plus hours, driving through downtown traffic to get to the office, and even sleeping in a funky position, can all accumulate into one hell of a stiff and tense neck. As we learned at, creating an ergonomically correct workstation can help but it is not the be all end all. And although I have a standing workstation, take regular breaks to go move around and even do breathing exercises and meditation (by which I mean nap) many afternoons, I still get a stiff neck by the end of most work days. Neck pain can be caused by well really any activity that strains your neck. You might feel pain at the base of your skull and down into your shoulders, or you might feel a knot in your neck. You may also develop a headache. Serious neck pain can limit your ability to move your head and become severe enough to limit your ability to do your job. I got it so bad once that I couldn't ride my bike to work and that was a real bummer. I mean, you have to be able to shoulder check, right? If your neck pain is worse at the end of the work day, it might be related to stress placed on your neck while working. Repeated, prolonged activities that affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints cause most neck pain. Examples of these types of activities include: Holding your head forward to read a computer screen; research shows that just using a computer for a prolonged period of time can cause or aggravate neck pain. Repetitive movements of your arms and upper body. Poor lifting techniques — if you do any heavy lifting at work, your neck is at risk for damage almost as much as your back. In most jobs (not all as my nurse have pointed out to me), ergonomics can help you protect your neck. If you don’t remember from the previous podcast episode, Ergonomics is the science of fitting your work environment to your job in a way that is best for your well-being if you simply can’t change your position, get up and move around or simply say no to stay in one location for 8 hours a day. If your work is focussed around sitting at a computer station (as many of our jobs are), well then ergonomics takes into consideration how your desk, chair, and computer monitor can be placed to lessen the stress on your neck. If you work in an industrial setting (or a hospital, retail or other mobile type jobs), ergonomics may involve training you in proper techniques for lifting, standing and using heavy equipment. Get-Fit Guy Ok… pardon me for a second but right now, if you are near an internet connected device, I want you to type this into a browser: that will take you to the Quick and Dirty Tips network website where I just became the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast. If you are a fan of the short, snappy and information packed type of podcast like Workplace Hero is, you will likely love the Get-Fit Guy (and the other Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts). The goal of the Get-Fit Guy podcast it to help you enhance your energy, lose weight, boost your performance, and get your body looking better than ever without spending a ton of time at the gym (or a lot of money on equipment). If you want to begin an exercise routine and don’t know where to start, or if you’ve been working out for a while and aren’t getting the results you want, I will give you the tips you need to reach all of your fitness goals. So head over to or just search for Get-Fit Guy and check it out. Ok, back to how we can avoid being a real pain in the neck. I mean having! Having a real pain in the neck. Some Help Everything from keyboard height, to computer type, to chair type should be considered when making your workspace neck and back friendly. Here are some simple fixes from that will go a long way in helping your back, neck and other joints feel better while at work. 1. Setting up your desk A typical ergonomic evaluation at work will likely focus on providing a comfortable, adjustable chair, with or without appropriate education on how to adjust it to fit you, and a keyboard tray. Some workplaces may even evaluate the positioning of printers, screens, and the mouse. Sometimes an employer will purchase a standing desk for someone with neck and upper back pain due to logging long hours in the office. If a standup desk is not an option for you, there are inexpensive desktop converters that enable you to keep your desk and convert it to a standup desk either inexpensively and/or if you only want to stand for part of the day. For people who aren't sure if they can manage standing up all day, this is an easy way to try it without having to change your current desk. Here are some examples of Standing Desk Converters. 2. Sitting with support Your optimal ergonomic setup should start with your sitting position. When sitting at your desk, your feet should be flat on the floor, and the height of the chair should allow your thighs to angle down slightly. This position will allow you to place your weight through your “sitting bones” (called ischial tuberosities), rather than rounding your lower back and causing your shoulders to round out and your posture to slump forward. I find scooting to the edge of my chair really helps me stay straight and tall for fear of slipping off! 3. Adjusting keyboard tray height I think this is often overlooked. We spend so much time worrying about our chairs that we forget about our hands and arm. Set the keyboard high enough so when your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees, you aren’t forced to slump down through your shoulders to touch the keys. If the tray is too low and cannot be adjusted, place the keyboard on your desk. The mouse should be placed at the same level as the keyboard. If you use a drafting pad, it should also be at this height. Whether it is angled or not is a personal preference. 4. Looking straight at your monitor Right off the bat, I am going to say that almost everyone has a monitor that sits too low. And a big reason for that is the ubiquity of laptops. The laptop is not built for a human body it is only built for portability and the sooner we realize this the sooner we will stop breaking ourselves. You have got to place the monitor so the bottom is approximately the level of your chin. This positioning can vary slightly, with a 13-inch monitor slightly higher than chin height, and a 24-inch monitor slightly lower. If the monitor is too low (say way down on your lap or even the table you are sitting at), you will slump down to work. If you work primarily on a laptop, use a secondary monitor, if possible, when you are at your desk, as the laptop screen will force you to angle your head downward and increase stress on your neck. The larger monitor should be placed directly in front of you. Occasionally a computer station includes an off-center monitor. Adjust this if you can. If you’ve ever watched a movie while keeping your head turned slightly while on a couch, you know the uncomfortable neck strain and stiffness that results. And remember what Katy Bowman said in the episode “swapping one static position for another is not the answer” so if you are off centre make sure you vary the off-centredness so you don’t get stuck day after day leaning to one side. 5. Avoiding your cell phone for anything that lasts more than a few seconds Cell phones and tablets are most likely the cause of many problems when people use them for email and texting, playing games and watching shows. In my practice, I often find that people with neck and upper back pain answer emails using a cell phone or tablet at home or in the office. It’s important to limit your workload and overall use of phones and tablets. Anytime you can answer emails through an actual computer, as working on a computer offers the best chance for good posture. I was at a conference a while ago and a fellow name Kelly Starrett was speaking at it. He is the author of a book called Become A Supple Leopard and if you have any injuries, stiffness or hotspots, I encourage you to pick that book up. Anyway, after he finished his presentation I spotted him off in a corner doing something on his phone. Which is not notable in and of itself but the way he was using it was incredibly noteworthy. He was sitting in a full squat, heels on the floor, with the phone lifted right up in front of his eyes so his spine was perfectly aligned and straight all the way from his perfectly flexible hips. It was a thing of beauty... at least it was for a movement nerd like me. 6. Getting up and walking around I know. You are probably getting sick of hearing me talk about this but seriously, sitting in an office chair seems simple, but it can be fatiguing and your posture suffers more and more the longer you sit. All of us should be doing this but if you have back, neck, and/or shoulder pain, you really must stand up and walk around the office every half hour. An easy way to do this is to set a silent alarm on your smartphone to go off every 30 minutes. It may not be possible to get up every time the alarm goes off, but it can be a good reminder that you’ve been sitting for quite a while, especially if you skip the alarm a few times in a row. That’s when that pavlok device would come in handy. If you haven’t seen this shocking device, go look it up! But anyway, setting the alarm can help you stay accountable to yourself, making sure you aren’t compromising your health for your work. Ok, now your homework. This is a little more complicated than usual because it involves you going to to watch a (pretty funny) video of Kelly Starrett (the guy I talked about who was in a squat while using his phone) showing how we can text, email and play games on our phone without destroying our necks. Now, if you aren’t going to watch the video, I am goin
Hello desk dozers, cubicle catnaps, open space snoozers, corner office conscious, home den dreamers and coffee shop slumbers. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. That’s you! The point of creating this podcast was to make you into a Workplace Hero. I am merely along for the ride. You can think of me as a helpful hitchhiker. If you tend to suffer a sleepiness attack in the mid-afternoon, well it’s not all that odd. Many people experience a noticeable dip in their alertness, attention, creativity, energy level, and ability to concentrate in the afternoon. It’s true, the majority of us have been there: after an awesomely kick-ass, productive morning of finishing projects and heading for inbox zero, the clock strikes two and well, hell… you might as well pull down the blinds, slip on your jammies, and slide under your desk The good (and bad news is) that it’s completely normal to feel super-tired once the afternoon rolls around. Circadian rhythms, which affect our sleep patterns, may be to blame for the midday slump. In fact, our “sleep signals” peak at night and during the afternoon, which completely explains the phenomenon of the siesta. Secretly aren’t we all a little jealous of a culture that embraces an afternoon nap instead of scheduling another meeting through it? What happens is, your body releases your brain's natural sleep chemical, melatonin, telling your body that it's time to go to hit the hay, sometime between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. WebMD's sleep expert, Michael J. Breus, PhD, (who we will talk about more later) explains that the exhaustion you feel in the middle of the day is just like the tiredness you feel before bedtime at night as it has to do with a dip in your core body temperature. Right before you go to sleep at night, your core temperature begins to drop, which is a signal to the brain to release melatonin. The exact same thing happens on a smaller scale between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. It's a mini-signal to your brain to get sleepy. Basically, because we wake up super early for work, our body wants to go to bed in the afternoon because our natural clock is telling us to do so. Is all this talk about sleep making you tired? It's definitely making me nod off. *shakes it off* But other factors, like what we eat, hydration levels, and how much time we spend staring at a screen can also affect those droopy eyeballs. There is a great book called The Power of When by Michael Breus (who I mentioned in the WebMD article earlier) that explains something else that is very cool. It’s a thing called a chronotype and I will explain more about that in a second. Right now, if you are near an internet connected device, I want you to type this into a browser: that will take you to the Quick and Dirty Tips network website where I just became the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast. If you are listening to this episode when it first comes out, you will see that my friend Ben Greenfield was the Get-Fit Guy before me and the latest episode if actually him handing me the keys… so to speak. I gotta say that am grateful, thrilled and more than a little intimidated to be taking over for Ben. But that aside, if you are a fan of the short, snappy and information packed type of podcast like Workplace Hero is, you will likely love the Get-Fit Guy (and the other Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts). The goal of the Get-Fit Guy podcast it to help you enhance your energy, lose weight, boost your performance, and get your body looking better than ever without spending a tonne of time at the gym (or a lot of money on equipment). If you want to begin an exercise routine and don’t know where to start, or if you’ve been working out for a while and aren’t getting the results you want, I will give you the tips you need to reach all of your fitness goals. So head over to or just search for Get-Fit Guy and check it out. Ok, now back to whatever the heck a chronotype is! As Michael Breus puts it, every person has a master biological clock ticking away inside of their brain, and dozens of smaller biological clocks throughout his or her body. But, unlike a normal clock, not every person’s biological clock keeps the same time or even at the same pace. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I’m not a morning person”, well there’s a reason for that. Some people are meant to be more productive in the morning than at night, and vice versa. Yes, believe it or not – your body has been programmed to function much better at certain times of the day than others. Based on general morningness and eveningness preferences, different people fall into different classifications, called “Chronotypes”. Each Chronotype will reveal exactly what you need to do to work with your body, not against it. There are four Chronotypes (Dolphin, Lion, Bear, and Wolf), and most people fit into the “Bear” category (I am a dolphin, in case you are wondering). You can head over to to find out your own chronotype but for our purposes here, we’ll assume the majority of us are bears and continue with some anti-sleep advice that I found at,, and on how to combat, avoid or otherwise stay awake through our afternoon meetings. Since I just confessed to also being the Get-Fit Guy as well as (not) the Workplace Hero, this first one won’t surprise you. The first tip is… 1. Work Out A midday trip to the gym may not only boost productivity; it could ward off sleepiness, too. Stick to some light aerobic exercise before getting back to the books. Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try some deskercises to work out at work. Go back to for help with that 2. Step Back From the Screen In order to avoid eyestrain (which can make the eyes feel tired) keep a safe distance from the computer screen—about an arm’s length. That, or try a pair of snazzy computer glasses. Go back to for more info on that from Dr Tamsin Lewis 3. Stretch it Out Feelin’ stiff? Stretching out can provide a quick boost of energy. If there’s no stretching station in sight, try a handful of these desk stretches to keep the muscles loose. Visit my friend Abi Carver over at for help with that. 4. Move Around A change of scenery may boost productivity, so do some work at a coffee shop or camp out in a meeting room. Try to park near a window for some natural light, which may keep us more alert. Check out for some help on that from Biomechanist, Katy Bowman. 5. Grab a Towel Splash some cold water on your face to wake up. I call these birdbaths and no, I don’t have a link for this one. 6. Sip Green Tea With less caffeine than a cup of coffee, a mug of green tea can give us that afternoon pick-me-up without making us stay awake all night. Plus its nutritional benefits are enough to keep anyone wide-eyed! For more caffeine alternatives go to 7. Talk it Out Instead of emailing a coworker down the hall, take a trip to his/her cubicle and talk in person. That'll stretch out the legs while providing a break from staring at the screen. Ummmm… nope. No link for this one either. 8. Have a Snack Not meal time yet? Have a snack to help boost energy levels. Try an ounce of cheese, a handful of nuts, or another high-protein snack to keep alert. Go to for help from Quick and Dirty Tips own Nutrition Diva on that. 9. Try a Walking Meeting Take that meeting to the streets and discuss what you would in the office outdoors. When I worked for a big coffee company I would often take my meetings while walking along the seawall. 10. Switch Tasks Working on the same project for five hours? Try tackling something else to stay stimulated and keep things fresh at the desk. 11. Take a Catnap Sometimes the best remedy for fatigue is to simply shut the eyes. Learn how to power nap (10-20 minutes of snooze time!) to get that midday boost you really need. 12. Schedule an Appointment Have to hit up the dentist? Schedule an appointment during lunch for some forced activity that prevents us from feeling doze-y. This way, you avoid eating at your desk, too! 13. Take a Break Take five to do something besides work (like calling a friend or doing a crossword puzzle) in order to give your body and mind a break! Use these tips to relax in five quick minutes before getting back to the grind. 14. Chew Gum Afternoon energy may be as simple as chewing gum (seriously). Chewing gums with strong minty flavours like peppermint and spearmint are stimulating, and the act of chewing help the brain fight the feeling of lethargy. Works well when you are taking an exam or needing to focus 15. Turn Up the Tunes Listening to some favourite music might help us focus and feel more energised. Pro tip? Listen with noise cancelling headphones to really hone in on a task. 16. Remember Breakfast Like my friend Dr Cate Shanahan says: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day - to not screw up.” Eat a solid breakfast of protein, healthy fats and minimal carbs to sustain energy throughout the day. 17. Eat a Small(er) Lunch Supersizing that manwich may be the reason for nodding off. Choose a smaller (but nutritious) lunch; choose something with more protein and fewer carbohydrates to dodge drowsiness, like my favourite big ass salad with sardines. 18. Avoid Sugar A little sugar may go a long way—in the wrong direction. Consuming some sweets may provide a sugar-high that will only lead to a sugar crash, causing us to become even sleepier. 19. Stay Hydrated In order to avoid dehydration and its sleepy side effects, just keep sipping. There is no magic number of cups that every human needs to hit (despite what the internet may tell you) just drink to thirst and you’ll be good. If you want you can add some lemon or lime to your water to perk you up and as well. 20. Please Stand Up No! I am not making a Slim Shady joke. Stayin
Hello desk destitute, cubicle cheapened, open space strapped, corner office commendable, home den derelict and coffee shop subjugated. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. That’s you! You are the hero here. The goal of this podcast is to make you into a Workplace Hero. I am merely the doorman at this skyscraper of knowledge. After the recent podcast episode about How to Ask For and Get a Raise (which you can find at I got some feedback from people looking for more information on how they can really hone in on being the kind of employee who actually deserves and gets a raise. Some of the questions and comments I received reminded me of a few jobs that I have had in the past where I honestly had no idea how I was doing. Or how anyone else was doing. I would show up, do what I thought my job entailed, collect my paycheque and go home. And as un-rocky as that boat was, I would go home at the end of the day oddly unfulfilled. I was never really disappointed in my work but I also was never really proud or excited about it either. The simple existence of the "like" button on Facebook (and all the other social media equivalents) just proves that above many things, as a society we crave feedback. Whether it is from our parents when we are kids, our teachers while we are in school, our friends or our spouses in the "real world" and of course our bosses at work, we desire feedback and in some cases, we even use it as our fuel or motivation to keep moving forward. So what happens when we don't get any? What happens when we work hard, hit all our deadlines, nail our deliverables and still get met with silence? Worse yet, what happens when we know we screwed up or that we totally half-assed a project and we don't get chastised, reprimanded or even asked: "is everything ok?" Well, that is when we need to stand up, gather our courage and march into our boss's office to ask for the feedback we need and likely deserve. But how do we do that? In an article over at they say that it is not an easy or natural task, asking for someone’s opinion or evaluation of you and your work, but that it is indeed an essential part of career development. And while we can’t promise that it will be painless, with the proper preparation and the right questions, asking for feedback can be a smooth process. Before we get into the best times and the best ways to ask for feedback, I want to direct you to the website That's a program that I am working on with my friend Monica Reinagel (AKA the Nutrition Diva) where we teach you to stop dieting and start weighing less. Which means that we will share the tips, tricks, strategies and techniques that we use to help our personal coaching clients achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle without dieting. Because well, dieting sucks and simply doesn't work (not for long anyway). The program closes on July 7 so head over to to find out more now… otherwise, you will have to wait until the new year to get in and start weighing less. Ok. Back to asking for feedback without sounding needy or lame. Let’s start with the best times to ask for feedback. Of course, the number one time would be to ask during your annual review. For those of you who haven't had one before, an annual review is a routine and formal process where your boss will evaluate your progress and contributions over the last year (or quarter, depending on where you work). If your company doesn't have a formal review process, you should ask your boss or HR department to set one up for you. If those opportunities don't present themselves naturally, I think asking for feedback once per quarter is super helpful without being super overwhelming. The next best time to ask would be before an important meeting, presentation, or project. Think of this as an opportunity to be coached or mentored by your boss. After one of these scenarios is also a good time to ask for feedback. It’s a good moment to take a step back, get your manager’s thoughts, and learn from the experience while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. And the next best time would be during your day to day. There are usually small moments that occur every day when it's appropriate to ask for feedback, or when your boss will openly give said feedback. This is what we would call "ongoing feedback" and the more often this happens, the more opportunities you have to grow in your career. Plus having this kind of easy interaction with your boss or manager is an indication of a healthy working environment and relationship which has its own rewards. Now, before we get to how you should go about asking for feedback, I thought we should start with an article at called How Not to Ask for Feedback. Here is the scenario: your co-worker asks if you’d be willing to look over his latest presentation, and you’re more than happy to. Only, when you get the email from him, all it says is “Good to go, right?” Boo! A rubber stamp question like that can make you feel worse than if you hadn't been asked in the first place. But, like so many tricky communication issues in the office, this one's much easier to understand when you're on the receiving end. In other words, it's possible your colleague was trying to include you, but because he was rushed, or felt like he'd done a good job already, he phrased his question in a leading way. However, you can see that his communication style (inadvertently or not) makes him come off like he's being a manipulative wiener. You’ve probably been there, too. Have you ever framed an idea for your team by saying “Can’t we all agree that yudda yudda?” This type of phrasing means that any response other than “yes” puts the other person in the position of having to immediately disagree with yudda yudda. And who doesn’t like yudda? On the other hand, if you said a simple “What do you think?” Or better yet, a “How could we improve on this?” you’re asking for active engagement—for criticism, for feedback, for innovation—in a way that shows it will be viewed as constructive, not adversarial. Of course, it may be that you already had made up your mind, and your goal is to get everyone on the same page. You intentionally don’t want to ask a question that solicits a dialogue because you don’t have the time or budget or wherewithal to alter your strategy—but you still want people to buy-in. That’s fine too, but if that’s the case, why not skip the leading question altogether? Instead, ask for what you need by saying something like this, “Ok, we don’t have the budget for any major changes, so I’d just like to know anything jumps out—for better or worse—so we know where to focus for here on out.” Or, in the case where that colleague sent you that presentation, he could’ve said: “I’m due to share this later today, but I’ve read it so many times I don’t even know what I’m looking at. Would you mind doing a quick run through for anything I missed?” That way, he’s being honest about the fact that he’s not open to strategic suggestions, but you know your time’s still valuable. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how you actually should ask for feedback. When it's time to meet with your boss and review your work, the general question, "How am I doing?" won't get you very far. Mostly because it provokes a simplified, one-word answer and that is not all that helpful for you. Managers enjoy giving balanced feedback, so give them the opportunity to do so. You can ask ‘what are some things that I did well?’ and ‘what are some things I could have done differently or better?’ You can also ask for details and examples. This will ensure that you know what steps to take and how to improve. For example, if you get feedback saying ‘you could be a stronger communicator,’ you can follow up by saying “screw you, who asked you anyway” Heh… or maybe not. You should actually probably follow up by asking for an example of a time you communicated something effectively and perhaps also a time you had room to improve. This will help you put that feedback into action. It’s important to ask both open-ended questions and specific questions, so you can get a true and thorough understanding of your boss’s outlook. Karin Hurt, the author of Overcoming an Imperfect Boss and a former Fortune 15 executive at Verizon Wireless, recommends asking these questions. 1. What specifically can I do to better support our team’s mission? 2. If your boss were to give me one piece of advice what would that be? 3. Who should I be working with more closely? 4. Which parts of my style concern you the most? 5. Specifically, what do I need to work on to be ready for (insert the job or assignment you’re most interested in here)? One other thing, before we get to your homework, that you should consider is who you should be asking for feedback from. You don’t just work with your boss, so it’s important to make sure you’re the feedback you’re seeking out is well rounded. Approach all sorts of people. Speak to your boss, reach out to coworkers, engage with clients, and even try communicating with competitors. If you have contacts in competing companies, casually ask them, what did you think of this strategy? Or what do you think of this product we just launched? They may tell you when you’re onto something worthwhile, or something they envy about your company or projects. There is definitely more than one way to go about getting the feedback you need to become the awesome employee you want to be. Ok - now on to your homework! This week I want you to ask for some feedback from someone whose opinion you truly value. It doesn't have to be a boss or a manager or even someone higher up than you at work. Heck, it doesn't even have to be at work. I just want you to practice setting up, asking for and listening to feedback. Remember what you learned on this podcast episode about asking clear questions that don't elicit one-word answers and certain
Hello desk deserters, cubicle celebrators, open space sleeper-inners, corner office carousers, home den holidays and coffee shop sabbaticals. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. That’s actually you! You see, the goal of this podcast is to make you into a Workplace Hero. I am merely your travel agent on this glorious adventure. I received an email the other day from listener Erin Moline who said “Topic idea: how to handle the backlog of email/missed conf calls/missed trainings and how to catch up without a cortisol surge?” For those of you who don’t know, Cortisol is the hormone that is often associated with stress and panic. So yeah, a avoiding a surge of that is a really good idea. We are about to celebrate Canada Day here in Canada, which celebrates the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the Constitution Act which united the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada. Because Canada Day falls on a Saturday, most of us will get Monday off work - giving us a glorious summer time long weekend to revel in what it is to be Canadian… and yes, by that I mean beer. On the Tuesday after that, I bet if you ask a number of folks what they did over the long weekend, some will say that they spent time with family or enjoyed the outdoors. But others will talk about how they used the time to catch up on their work. But if you ask them if they had actually caught up, I can almost guarantee that no one will say “yes”. With the advent of enhanced technology and our 24/7 culture, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employees to ever feel they have all their work done. Today’s work ethic of “more, bigger, faster, busier” creates a trap for many in the global economy. Technology can create efficiencies but it can also overwhelm us and make us feel forever trapped under an enormous pile of busywork. Before we go any further, I want to direct you to That’s a program that I am working on with my friend Monica Reinagel (AKA the Nutrition Diva) and over at we teach you to stop dieting and start weighing less. Now - if you are hearing this podcast when it first comes out, you are in luck! We are hosting a live webinar on June 24 at 12:00 pm ET where we will share the techniques we use to help our coaching clients to achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle without dieting. And you can sign up for that webinar at But even if you missed the webinar, head over to to find out more. Ok, now back to some strategies I have used and some that I found in my research that will help you conquer that mountain of work quickly and calmly and also help you reclaim your unused vacation days. 1. Plan ahead. Smart people prepare to take a vacation by planning ahead. This won’t surprise you long time listeners but I like to make a to-do list for all the work projects that need to get done before I leave, and I set up a contact person for any emergencies while I am away. I also make sure to alert all my clients and co-workers that I will be on vacation well ahead of the day. Don’t wait until the day before you leave to spring it on your team. But it is just as important to plan ahead for your return to the office as well. One way to do that, is to build in a vacation day at home. I know that sounds kinda crappy but rather than getting home at 10 p.m. on Sunday night and heading to work bright and early Monday morning, plan on arriving home on Saturday so that you have all day Sunday to buy groceries, wash laundry and get back into your daily routine. You may even want to get a head start on sorting—and more importantly deleting—emails. Giving yourself this transitional day will allow you to tackle your first day back in the office with a little more Zen. 2. Schedule time to catch up on work. The worst thing that you can do is to show up back at work without a plan in place, sit down at your desk as if it’s a normal day and haphazardly start working. Instead you should block out your morning (verbally, on your calendar or even with a sign on your desk) so that you have time to catch up with staff, sort through your inbox, listen to voice mail messages, make a to-do list and respond to urgent work matters. If you don’t block out that time, you will start getting questions and work thrown your way immediately without any way of knowing what is or isn’t a priority. In that same vein, I also wouldn’t schedule meetings the first—or even second day—back in the office. Give yourself time to find out what’s been going down while you were away before closing your eyes and jumping back in head first - eyes closed, head first, can’t lose! 3. Delegate job duties to coworkers and employees. One way to avoid coming back to a crap-tonne of work after a vacation is to empower your employees and delegate some of your responsibilities to co-workers. I seriously don’t know why people avoid delegating work while they are away. I guess it could be that they want the job security of being viewed as irreplaceable so they don’t want anyone else learning and doing their job. Or maybe they have a Type A personality and just don’t want to (or can’t seem to) give up control. Whatever the reason, they are not helping themselves by refusing to delegate work. Think about it. You can come back from vacation and have only 10 items on your to-do list instead of 20 or 30. That will make a huge difference in how quickly you get caught up. No one is suggesting you delegate your entire job or pass off sensitive business matters (plus who else in the office has time for that crap). Instead just choose a few straightforward duties that don’t require your specific set of skills - ala Liam Neeson. 4. Check in with co-workers. Before heading straight to your desk to check your email (I know that is the first thing you will do), try to check in with your colleagues first. Take 10 minutes to find out what has happened while you were away and if there is anything pressing that needs your attention. This will save you time and help you be more efficient. Rather than reading every email to figure out what priorities you should focus on, you will already know what needs your attention and can address those issues right away. 5. Focus on priorities. Not every email in your inbox is a priority or even needs a response. Make sure that you sort and prioritize your emails. Here is a little tip - don’t go down the list answering every email starting with the oldest. Many of those emails will have a bunch of cc-ed individuals on them and the chances are (since you told everyone you were going to be on vacation) that someone has stepped up and handled the task which renders that email thread closed. Start from the newest and work your way back. That way you will prioritize the stuff that is actually waiting for you not the stuff that has already been handled. Also, in terms of prioritizing, focussing on your work projects is crucial, as well. Make a to-do list for your first week back. Focus first on what needs to be done immediately, not so immediately, eventually and simply go down the list. By the end of the week you will be back on track, all caught up and ready to enjoy your weekend. 6. Your out-of-office response is your first line of defense--wield it to your advantage Your out-of -office autoreply needs to be straightforward, helpful, and honest--but not that honest. I also recommend leaving it up through your catch up period; your coworkers will know you're available but it will help stem the tidal wave of outside inquiries, or at least lower the expectation of an immediate response. An out-of-office message directed at external parties should include directions for who to contact according to contingencies. Assess who's going to be emailing you along two or three broad categories and let them know who to reach out to instead or when they might expect a response. Here is one of my favourite tips - It's also ok to suggest people follow up with you after your vacation because you just might not get to their email. Everybody who emails understands the volume problem and that things can get lost when someone is away. It’s not really a shock to anybody—you’re just warning people: 'It may get lost or buried, please feel free to follow up with me when I am back.’ 7. Feeling especially brave? Skip wading through email at all and nuke your inbox. I know, the very thought of losing the contents of your inbox likely sends a chill down your spine, but I argue that a post-vacation email purge can be just the thing you need to get back on track without losing an entire day to email maintenance. If your out of office reply was effective enough, the people who actually still need your or are waiting for a reply will try again AFTER the date you indicated that you would be back. So you don’t have to worry that anything will go unfinished since you have placed the onus on them to contact you when you are not on a beach sipping a margarita. 8. You should try to be indispensable — but realizing that you're not, might make you a better employee. Planning for and returning from a vacation can be a good time for an adjustment of your professional outlook on work and life. We're all striving to be the go-to team member, but believing the company actually can't function without us can not only be incorrect but it is also foolish and potentially a huge source of stress in your life. A friend of mine describes a five-day vacation she once took where she believed WiFi would be readily available and discovered it was not. At that point she realized her only option was to change her outlook on needing to be connected and as the songs says: let it go. In the end she missed a few things, but she just apologized to a few people when she got back and they were honestly more interested in hearing about this amazin
Hello desk directors, cubicle chieftains, open space superintendents, corner office overseers, home den honchos and coffee shop comptrollers. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. That’s actually you! You see, the goal of this podcast is to make you into a Workplace Hero. I am merely your virtual assistant on this journey. Think of me as your workplace Jeeves. To earn a bigger paycheck, you’ll need to do more than just a top-rate job. An effective strategy for obtaining a raise also requires documenting your accomplishments, understanding your boss’s expectations and researching your employer’s financial health. Over at they list four of the most common reasons that people don’t get a raise. They are: You Don’t Know the Going Rate, You Don’t Know Your Value, You Can’t Justify Your Value, and You Never Ask. The last one is the reason that I have seen the most often. So may great employees, busting the butt, day in and day out for years on end silently wondering “when am I going to get a raise?” Or worse yet, thinking that they aren’t doing as good of a job as they are because if they were “surely I would have gotten a raise by now, right?” Before we go any further, I want to direct you to That’s the coaching business that I run. Whether you want to run a 10k or a marathon, race in a triathlon, put on some muscle, clean up your diet, or get totally ripped, I will create a plan specifically for you. No cookie cutter one-size-fits-all programs, just 100% tailored programs that fit around your life’s commitments. And for being a Workplace Hero, I will give you a special deal on your first 3 months of coaching. Head over to and send me a note referencing this podcast so I can start building you the perfect program to meet your wellness goals. Now back to getting that raise you so greatly deserve. The thing is, if you don’t ask for a raise and instead you wait for your boss or the company to offer you a raise, without ever raising (no pun intended) the issue yourself, you may never get one. Face it, no one has time in their busy day to keep track of exactly how far above and beyond you are going. And If you don’t have a contract that addresses raises and you don’t ask for one when you feel you can justify it, it’s extremely unlikely that your employer will just make an offer. Of course, business being business, you’re not always going to get the raise you want. When that happens, politely and respectfully ask your boss if you can sit down together and determine what specifically you need to do in order to earn the raise in the future. Try to work out deliverables that are as specific as possible and try to pin down a time frame as well. Take notes, let your boss see that you’re taking notes, and if possible work up something in writing you can both agree to. Ask for her help in achieving those deliverables. Then report your progress regularly. Once you’ve met those specific goals, it will be very difficult for your boss not to grant your raise or at the very least fight for it. Next, identify ways your past work has added value to your employer’s bottom line. Continuing keeping track of this information going forward. More and more, raises are becoming tied directly to performance. Once you’ve established your accomplishments on paper – but before you talk to your boss – find out how your employer is performing. And I mean finically. Many organizations have published data that you can read to gauge their financial health. If your employer is in the red and mass layoffs abound, you should probably put off your request for more money until business begins to stabilize. But if you decide now is a safe time to pursue a raise, go ahead and make your case. Clearly most companies are not looking for opportunities to hand out money. During the boom era of the late ’90s when talent was scarce and retention was top of mind, nearly the opposite was true. While the corporate landscape is different now, you shouldn’t sit idly by and feel dissatisfied in silence. If you have the evidence that your salary is at sub-market levels, you should speak up. Your organization has invested time and money in you. Savvy bosses understand that unhappy and underpaid employees are under-performing employees, which helps no one. It’s also a drain on their time to have to re-hire and train a replacement that fits the corporate culture. So if you have a legitimate request, you do have a certain amount of leverage here. I think it’s always a good idea to ask for a raise, even when employers are not handing them out, but only when that discussion is tied to performance. Employees should keep careful records of how their actions helped the bottom line of their company, or helped other team members improve the bottom line of the company. The fact is that no one is going to hold your hand and remind you of the great things you did all year. So keep track and share them with your manager at the appropriate time. So on that note, here are even more helpful suggestions that I found over at 1. Know your value. Do the proper research to figure out what you’re worth, even if it means going on interviews or using resources like,, or If you find out you’re underpaid, you can use that to negotiate an increase. Simply present what the field generally pays, and why you believe your performance is at the top of your field. 2. Know the number. Once you do the research, figure out what you think is a fair amount of money to ask for and have that number in your head when you ask for a raise. 3. Schedule a meeting. Find a time that works best for you and your boss and give your boss a head’s up that you want to chat about your career growth so that you both have ample time to prepare. No one wants to talk about this stuff on a whim. 4. Practice salary negotiations. This can be a difficult or awkward conversation so I recommend that you practice with a friend who can be a tough negotiator. Subconsciously when you have the real talk, your brain will fall back on the tactics you prepared. 5. Start on a positive note. Kicking off the conversation with something like, “I really enjoy working here and find my projects very challenging. In the last year, I’ve been feeling that the scope of my work has expanded quite a bit. I believe my roles and responsibilities, and my contributions have risen. I’d like to discuss with you the possibilities of reviewing my compensation.” Or, “I’d like to discuss my career and how I can do my best work.” 6. State your case, and then pause. Listen to what your manager has to say. Depending on the response, gauge how much detail you now need and how much back up support you require. You may be surprised with very little resistance but it’s still best to be prepared for a lot. 7. Be specific. Give your boss a range for the raise you want, and explain why. Be prepared to say, ‘After a lot of research, which I have here, and how I feel I have contributed to the company, I would ask for you to consider an increase of $5,000 to $7,000. It has been X amount of time since my salary was last reviewed. I greatly appreciate your consideration.’ 8. Bring your personal kudos file. Bring a list of your key achievements, and focus specifically on the areas of accomplishment that are important to your manager. Bring up your strengths and talents, your accomplishments, your desire to do even more, and your ideas and plans for the future in your role at the organization. If you put enough consideration into this, they can’t help but consider your request. 9. Don’t be aggressive. Be diplomatic, well-prepared and assertive, but not aggressive. Remember that it is the squeaky (not screechy) wheel that gets the grease. 10. For Goodness Sake - Don’t threaten your employer. Whatever you do, don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the raise. You also shouldn’t threaten your boss with other job offers, interviews, recruiter conversations, etc. If you do this, you run the risk of your boss mistrusting you, or in the worst case, if you’re already on somewhat shaky ground, your boss saying something like ‘well, maybe you should consider those other options.’ 11. Ask for endorsements. One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate to your manager that you deserve a raise, or at least some form of recognition for your results, is to have other people endorse the work you have done and how it helped them. The more your manager hears about how your work has contributed to organization goals and results, the stronger you will be positioned to be seen as someone deserving of consideration. 12. Don’t share your sob story. Don’t bring up personal issues. Don’t tell your boss that you can’t afford your rent, or that you need a raise to cover other personal expenses. That just shows that you aren’t great at managing your money or planning ahead. Simply stick to your accomplishments and the value you add to the company and you’ll be more likely to succeed. 13. Be patient. Remember, your manager may need a few days to think it over and get back to you, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get an instant “yes,” There’s also a strong possibility that your boss isn’t the one to make the decision. She might have to go to the higher-ups with your request and that can take some time depending on the amount or red tape your organization has purchased. Now, here is your homework. Even if you aren’t looking for a raise at the moment (and who here isn’t… I mean, come on?) start creating a list of your accomplishments as they happen or are completed. For me, I kept a Google spreadsheet of every video project I completed as I completed them so at the drop of a hat, I could send a link to my superiors to digitally brag about how prolific I was. And I gotta say - it worked. I got a significant raise after 8 months of being with the company. The key was being able to sha
Hello cubicle coughers, open space sneezers, corner office blowers, home den fevers and coffee shop sore throats. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. The goal of this podcast is to make you into a Workplace Hero. Plus I am currently not feeling all that heroic. If you have been listening to this podcast for a while, you may have noticed that my voice sounds a little different than usual. That is because… I am sick. Yep. I have a cold. In June! How lame is that? Luckily, I am nearly over it and I am also hopped up on cold meds… which could also account for why I sound weird. In any case, today’s topic is timely because it is all about being sick in the workplace. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people with the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away, mainly by droplets made when they cough, sneeze or talk. A person can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. Basically, any bodily opening will do. If you work in an office, as many of us do, chances are you sit (or stand) within six feet of a colleague and touch dozens of their icky contaminated surfaces each day. But the good news is, there are steps you can take at work to help reduce your chances of getting (or spreading) the flu. Before we get to that, I encourage you all to visit the webpage That link will take you to where you need to go to find everything you need to know about a new project that I have started with the Nutrition Diva herself, Monica Reinagel. The catch phrase for this project is: Are you ready to stop dieting and start weighing less? The program I am talking about is called Weightless and it is a structured lifestyle change program that combines nutrition science, behaviour modification, professional guidance, and community support. This evidence-based approach is based on research led by the National institutes of Health and has helped thousands of people permanently shed fat and lower their risk of diabetes and other diseases. This is not a diet or an exercise program. You won't be counting calories, measuring foods, eating special bars or shakes, or following rigid meal plans or workout regimens. You will not have to eliminate your favorite foods, battle constant hunger, feel awkward at professional events, or gnaw celery sticks at special occasions. To find out more, head over to and sign up now. Ok… now back to how you can defend yourself and protect your coworkers from disgusting illnesses in the workplace. The first thing you can do is clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. Viruses on surfaces like sink faucets and door handles can spread rapidly, especially in public places such as offices and schools. A study for The Healthy Workplace Project by Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona found that implementing the program’s “wash, wipe, sanitize” protocol in the workplace reduces the probability of catching the flu or common cold by 80%. It can also reduce the number of surfaces contaminated by viruses by 62%. Notice that I didn’t use the word ‘germs’ like they do in the commercials for those overly ambitious cleaning products. Wondering why? Well, its because germs aren’t a thing. They don’t actually exist. They are little animated monsters that have been made up to scare you into buying way too much hand sanitizer. When people say the word germs, they really are referring to the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease. Most of which can be washed away with good old water and some regular soap. The only time I will ever advocate using a sanitizer is when you are very sick, very contagious and not able to stay home from work. Ok… I will get off my non-antibacterial soapbox now and get back to the tips. The next tip is… I already mentioned it but I will say it again - wash your hands with soap often. This is especially important before eating, after using the restroom and after being outside. Use regular soap and warm water for 20 seconds. It is also important to wipe you hands dry with a clean, fresh towel because friction actually plays a large part in the hand cleaning process. The next tip is one that some people might be afraid to talk about but I am not because I like science - get vaccinated. Get your flu shot. According to the CDC, an annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and for most of us more importantly it is the best way to reduce your chances of spreading it to others. Yes, maybe you are not afraid of getting sick but that immunocompromised infant or nice old lady on the bus may not be so cavalier with their health. Don’t be selfish, it’s just a tiny needle. Next tip is to take steps to prevent the spread of germs. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and then throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue handy, use the inner part of your sleeve at the elbow, just like Dracula does! One sneeze can spray up to 3,000 infectious droplets into the air at more than 160 kph. Here’s a good tip that I didn’t think of until I read it on - wash your coffee cup with hot soapy water. If people around you are getting sick, the things that we drink from offer a quick way for germs to enter our system if they inadvertently become contaminated. And no, that cursory rinse isn’t enough to remove the contamination, so give it a good wash. Next tip - if you are sick, stay out of the office kitchen. Most people don’t realize that office kitchens are often a breeding ground for the flu. Try not to share eating utensils, dishes and linens if possible. And if you do, take responsibility and wash them yourself. Don’t leave them for someone else to deal with. Come on! Here is a bit of an antisocial tip: limit interactions with co-workers and avoid shaking hands with people. Few people will take offence if you offer the lighthearted response that with the flu going around, you’d rather be safe than sorry. You’ll also want to limit casual conversations with co-workers if there is an illness outbreak. If a co-worker shows signs of the flu, politely ask them to go home if possible and if they don’t, try to keep your distance from them. Remember the 6 feet rule. All in all this is likely the best tip: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, exercise in the fresh air, eat plenty of vegetables and fresh meat and avoid sugary fruits, treats and beverages. But interestingly enough, being well-rested is one of the greatest ways to avoiding getting sick. And the final tip for today - if you get sick, stay the hell home! If you do get sick and have flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your symptoms start to improve. If you can, stay home longer but that is when you are likely not contagious any longer… but that doesn’t mean you should do around coughing on everyone and sneezing into the open air! If you decide calling in sick is the right decision for you (which it always is), here’s how to go about it: - Follow your company’s procedure for calling in sick. Find out if you’re required to call HR and/or your immediate supervisor, and contact them immediately. - Try to give your employer sufficient notice, if possible. If you’re not feeling well at night, let your supervisor know you might not be able to come in the next day. - Notify your immediate supervisors and managers via e-mail and phone. This ensures the message is received in a timely fashion and they can get someone to cover for you, if necessary. - Always notify the people you work with on a daily basis and communicate your list of urgent to-dos. - And finally, use the time off to rest and recover. Don’t spend your sick day(s) worrying about work. Allow your body to recover and get well as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The CDC says that an employee should always call in sick when the illness is still contagious and his or her productivity will notably decline due to the illness. If you know that the quality of your work will be negatively affected due to your illness, it is best for all parties involved to call in sick. You are not being a wimp, you will not get fired, you are actually being a good employee, colleague and friend. Now, I am going to go lay down while you go and make this week a healthy one! ** Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in downtown Vancouver. Additional help from Eleanor Cohen and artwork by Ken Cunningham. Today’s Heroic idea came from the nasty virus that decided to take up residence in my sinuses. Screw you, you little jerk.  
How and When to Say No

How and When to Say No


Hello desk deterers, cubicle closers, open space offenders, corner office combatants, home den defenders and coffee shop conquerors. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. You see, the goal of this podcast is to make you and me and anyone else we can hooked into a Workplace Hero. You can think of me as your dealer… of helpful ideas. I don’t know who actually said it first but I first heard it from Derek Sivers (the guy who started CD Baby and then later sold it for like a bazzilion dollars). He wrote in Aug 2009: There is no “yes.” It’s either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.” We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out. I love that. And I try to use it in my life as often as possible but what about at work? Can we apply the same rule there? Aren’t we required to say YES when we are getting paid to basically do what we are told? Turns out, the answer is much more complicated than that. If you feel weird saying no at work, you are seriously not alone. You may think people will dislike you, think you are entitled or question whether you are a team player but as paradoxical as it may seem, saying no at the right time and place can help your career. Elana Lyn over at spoke to successful women to find out when to say no at work (and why it’s crucial). “If you aren't getting paid to do something and the task will take away time from accomplishing what you are paid to do, saying no demonstrates your commitment to your role and the value of your time.” — Eileen Carey, CEO of Glassbreakers “My best tip for saying no is to be straightforward and not dance around the subject. Explain that the task, project or activity doesn’t align with your current priorities and, if the situation changes, you will revisit the topic. Also, sometimes you can suggest an alternative solution. Remember, everyone has to say no at some point, so the person will respect your candor.” — Johanna Lanus, CEO and founder of Work With Balance “Asking why is a good substitute for saying no because it forces the opposite side to explain and justify her point of view. Asking why allows you to present your side too. While you might not agree with the justification, you will better understand where your boss is coming from.” — Liz Wessel, CEO and cofounder of WayUp “Part of doing any role well is hearing out any and all opportunities that come your way, such as proposed partnerships, co-marketing or cross-functional projects. At the end of the day, however, you have a limited amount of time and resources, and it's your job to make sure you're spending these resources on the highest-impact endeavors.” — Alexandra Friedman and Jordana Kier, cofounders of LOLA “You should say no when it is going to set a precedent that you aren't comfortable with or that might be harmful moving forward. It is also important to say no when you know that you won't be able to deliver.” — Amanda Greenberg, CEO and cofounder of Baloonr Saying no will provide you with the time and energy to focus on the work that will move your career forward. Remember, as Elana Lyn over at says: No is a complete sentence. As pithy as that thought is, I think it is extremely important to not be flippant or careless with your no. As some of the quotations I just read highlighted, the manner in which you say no is as important as the reason you say it. So, here are some tips to say no with style and respect. It can be a little intimidating to push back when your boss asks you to do something. So, skip the flat, “ no ” or an awkward, passive aggressive, “Well, umm, see I would, it’s just you’ve assigned me so much work in the past two weeks that I’m busy working on everything else you asked, so I, uhh, don’t think I can.” Instead, try, “Thank you so much for thinking of me for this, but I was planning to spend this week working on X,Y and Z projects.” This approach works for a couple of reasons. First, it’s flattering that your manager thought of you (after all, you want to be top of mind when new, exciting projects come along!). Second, if your boss knows this new task is more important, it invites her to say, “Let’s push those other projects to the backburner,” and make sure you’re on the same page as far as priorities go. When saying no to your employees or the people you manage, you want to encourage brainstorming and love when your employees come to you with new ideas. However, sometimes you already have a clear plan in mind, and what you’d really like is for your employees to execute and follow it. Of course, “No, we’ll be doing it my way,” never put anyone in the running for the Best Boss in the world award. Instead, you want your message to be that while you appreciate employee input in general, this is a project where it is really important that everyone follow the plan exactly. Remember: You always want to offer a “why” in addition to your “no” so that it doesn’t just sound like you are being an A-hole. Try this: “Thanks for sharing those suggestions, buddy. For this particular project, we need to follow the directions exactly as they’re outlined if we want to meet our deadline. We’ve gotten approval on this plan, and any changes might send us back to the drawing board. As always, please let me know if something is unclear or if you have any questions.” When you are saying no to a client you don’t want to come off as patronizing to someone who is by definition your patron. Yes, they hired you because you know what you’re doing but they’re also paying you, unfortunately That means they get a say in the direction of your work. The first thing you should do is let the client share their thoughts—fully. You may be tempted to cut them off as soon as they start into an idea that you know would be unpopular or infeasible, but if you stop them there, they’ll think you might not get it. As they speak, listen for key concerns they’re mentioning or key issues they think the new approach is solving. Then, when you respond with your plan, emphasize how you’re addressing the same issues (as opposed to how you’re shutting down their plan). It should go like this, “I hear your concern that you aren’t sold on the proposed new hoojamawhatzit. However, I worry the one you suggested is very similar to the competition, and I know one of your main goals is to stand out in the field of hoojamawhatzits. May I walk you through how we came to this one and a few other hoojamawhatzits variations you may want to consider?” In general, before you even consider saying no, you need to first affirm for yourself that this is an appropriate time to say it. Your inner voice of doubt will make you feel guilty or wrong but if you access your inner voice of reason, what would it say? Would taking on more work jeopardize the quality of your performance, the goals of the team, or most importantly your well being? To that end, here are some ideas on how to say ‘no’ from a Globe and Mali article by Eileen Chadnick called “Five ways to say 'no' without jeopardizing your work reputation”: 1. Speak from a voice of responsibility: It is your responsibility to ensure others are aware of the assignments you are already committed to – especially since you get assigned work from different people. Such as, “I’d normally be able to do this but you may not realize I’ve been engaged on project X and it wouldn’t be responsible of me to take this on as well as I’d be unable to invest the attention required…” 2. Engage your boss in prioritizing. Given she is unaware of what is on your plate, engage her in a conversation about prioritizing. For example: “I’m currently working on project X and Y, however, if you feel this new project is more important, are you comfortable with me prioritizing this over the others or prefer we consider other alternatives such as assigning this work to someone else?” 3. If appropriate make another feasible offer. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily have to be a flat-out ‘no.’ If there’s a part that you can contribute then make that part of your dialogue. “While I can’t take on the whole assignment given the other work you asked me to do by end of week, I’d be happy to offer some ideas or do part of it or help you find someone else who can help. How does that sound to you?” 4. Acknowledge and show empathy. Before rushing to the ‘no’ part, acknowledge the request appropriately. Such as, “I recognize this is an important assignment and you need it done well. I’d like to take it on but I recognize that given other deadlines I’m dealing with, I am concerned I would not be able to….” 5. Buy time to respond versus reacting: Sometimes we say ‘yes’ because we are put on the spot and we react negatively to the prospect of saying ‘no.’ To avoid agreeing to something on the spot, try to buy a little time to gather your focus and to respond more appropriately. For example, “I would like to talk to you about this but I am on deadline with something this morning. Can I talk to you just a bit later?” Then later, “I’ve thought about this and…” (see the above strategies.) You might find after some practice, saying ‘no’ is not as unpalatable as you first thought. It may even earn you more respect and trust as others will appreciate your responsible and honest responses. Let’s see if we can create a shift for you because learning to say ‘no’ is an important skill – both for work and life. So for your homework this week, I want you to practice sayi
Hello cubicle avoiders, open space ostracizers, corner office curtailers, home den dwellers, and coffee shop congregators. My name is Brock Armstrong, and I am… not the Workplace Hero. It’s true! I am learning this workplace stuff along with you, episode by episode, we are both learning to flex our day job muscles at the same time. You can think of me as your workplace safety net.   Before we get started with today’s topic… Did you know that there are show notes for all the podcasts over at the website There is. Quite robust ones at that! I know that the majority of you are listening to this podcast while you are on the bus, in your car, at the gym or otherwise not near a pen and paper - so to take the onus off of you having to try to remember the important points and valuable takeaways, I am making it easy for you. The only thing you need to remember from this episode is Slick eh?   Ok, here we go!   The other day I posted a short video on Instagram and Twitter asking people what they thought the next episode should be about. I suggested two options: How To Ask For A Raise and How To Prepare For A Big Day (like a presentation or the final sprint on a big project). Well, a fellow with the Instagram handle WholeDoods wrote back (quite quickly, I might add) with a great suggestion. He said: how about “The perils of working from to not turn into a weird recluse who never puts on pants etc.” I wrote back (quite quickly) saying: “That's a good one! I could have fun with that. Thanks!”   So that is exactly what we are going to cover on today’s episode. The good, the bad, the awkward and the comfort or working from home.   I have been working from home on and off (mostly on) since 2010 and I have made some mistakes along the way that I like to think I have learned from. I have also made some advances in my setup, my workspace, my gear and my work hours over those years. Along with some help from a few articles, I found at Forbes and, I will now endeavour to help you avoid the mistakes that I have made.   Working from home is great on so many levels. Not having to commute saves money and time and can actually make you happier (as we learned in the episode at A plethora of free tools make it dead simple to check in with a decentralized office or teammates that may also be working in their homes, scattered around the globe. And… yes, if you want to work in sweatpants or pajamas, you certainly can. I don’t do it often but I have been known to rock the old sweat-shorts.   But there are challenges, as well. How do you keep from getting distracted by things like dirty dishes or that pile of laundry? How do you handle a spouse, partner or roommate who also happens to be home during the day? Also, how the heck do you get anything done if you have kids around?   I may not have (or have found in my research) all the answers but here is a decent list to start with.   1. Make A To Do List: First, go to and listen to that episode. Now, identify what needs to get done every day and make sure to do it. As long as I have a plan on how to complete the list of daily tasks on my personal to-do list, it doesn't matter if or how I may be interrupted or what my actual work hours are, as long as I get things done by the end of my day.   2. Use the cloud: Klaus Sonnenleiter, president and CEO of Franklin Lakes, insists that important documents need to be uploaded to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. This way you can log in from anywhere and never need to worry about having your files with you. That can come in very handy for those of us who like to get out of the house occasionally and work from a coffee shop or shared workspace. No need to drag along external hard drives.    3. Get dressed: I find that the most important thing for me is to keep a regular routine and that means that I shower and dress every day as if I were going to an actual office. Getting dressed makes the home office feel more like a real office and it reminds everyone, especially you, that even though you may be sitting at the kitchen table staring at your laptop, that you are actually indeed working.   4. Don't let friends or family members interrupt you: Boundaries are only as effective as they are enforced. I have joked for years now about getting a hat that says “I am at work” that I can put on to remind my partner that I am indeed “at work” even if I am standing at the window staring at the trees. I have not invested in said hat yet but I do get great results for a quick “working”.   Catherine Simms, co-founder of the company Whiner & Diner, also has this advice to avoid drop-in visitors. "I just tell them that it is not a good time [and] over the weekend would be better," she says. She also instructs them to call first to see if she's home. Then when they do she doesn't pick up, at least during work hours.   Here's an idea from John Meyer, CEO of Miramar. He advises that you hang or tape coloured construction paper on your office door. Tape the red paper up when you cannot be disturbed and the green paper when it's OK to come in. Yellow paper means to check first. He ads that kids, no matter what age, understand this message and actually kind of enjoy playing along.   5. Get out of the house occasionally: Even in the most awesome of home offices we can fall into a routine, and a routine is the enemy of creativity. Changing your environment, even just for a day, brings new types of input and stimulation, which in turn stimulates creativity and inspiration.   It sounds counter-intuitive, but working from a bustling coffee shop or a shared work space can be less distracting than working from a quiet office. Being surrounded by awesome team- and officemates means being interrupted for water cooler chats and work questions. Being interrupted kills productivity. The coffee shop environment combines the benefit of anonymity with the dull buzz of exciting activity. Unlike working at home, with the ever-present black hole of solitude and procrastination, a coffee shop provides the opportunity of human interaction, but on your terms.   6. Invest in creating a comfortable office: Deb McAlister-Holland, a freelance marketing professional in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says the $5,000 she spent remodeling her home office was the best thing she ever did to increase her productivity. I agree! I love my current home office. I have a sit-stand desk from ikea, some awesome 1950s robot artwork on my walls, a ton of plants, plenty of natural light and a lot of storage space to keep everything neat and tidy.   I would encourage you all to establish a few different working locations around the house as well. One where you can stand, one where you can sit, even one where you can squat or kneel. If there is one thing we have learned in the past 14 episodes of this podcast it is that we need to vary our body position as often as possible throughout the day - so take the time to establish that in your work habitat so it is easy and automatic rather than a chore to relocate depending on your task.   7. Be clear about your working hours: This was a big lesson for me. For a couple years I never felt like I was actually off the clock because there wasn’t a clock for me to be on. This is really not good for your nervous system. You know when the doctor refers to “low level stress?” Well, this is it and it ain’t good.   At first, you can even go as far as to post your hours of operation on your home office door (or laptop lid), as with any brick and morter office and stick to those hours. Indicate in your email signature, your Skype status, and your voicemail what your hours of operation are, and again - stick to them. As tempting as it is to check your work email before bed - don’t do it! Stick to your business hours.   8. Pretend you're not home: During those work hours, don't answer your home phone (if you still have one of those) or the door during business hours (unless you are expecting a delivery). This way, you are never tempted to chat or take time off or slack off in any way. This is a good strategy to stay focussed and on task.   9. Don't go to non-work appointments in the middle of the day: I’ve heard some people say that they try to make doctor and dentist appointments just as they would in a company office, first thing in the morning, last thing in the day to minimize disruptions of their work. Personally, I think this is one of the perks of working from home - I can do stuff when the line-ups are shorter, the waiting rooms are empty and the streets are less crowded. I’ll leave this one up to you guys to decide which is best for you but personally going to a matinee on a Wednesday afternoon is one of the reasons I dig being a freelance, work from home, contract monkey.   10. Get some in-person time with co-workers: For about 18 months I worked full-time for a distributed company. By distributed, I mean that we had no office to go to… even if we wanted to. We kept in touch via email and conferencing software called Zoom. We had retreats  and a conference once a year but aside from that, we never saw each other face-to-face. That really took a toll on both our camaraderie and our communication. I don’t work full-time for that company anymore but I heard the other day that they have gotten themselves some primo office space and are encouraging team members to start using it. I think this is a great move. In-person meetings are important, now and then.   11. Use Video Conferencing whenever possible: Like I just said, while it's ideal if you can occasionally meet in-person with coworkers, sometimes it's not possible because teams are separated by geography. In that case, video chatting is the next best thing. There are tons of versions out there and many of them are free to use. I like Zoom and Skype but I know a lot of people who use Google Hangou
Guest Hero: Elle Russ, writer, actor, life coach and host of The Primal Blueprint Podcast. Human-factors engineering, also called ergonomics or human engineering, is the science dealing with the application of information on physical and psychological characteristics to the design of devices and systems for human use. Over at (the Workers’ Compensation Board in the Canadian province of British Columbia) they say: Ergonomics matches workplace conditions and job demands to a person's capabilities, to improve worker safety and productivity. Applying the science of ergonomics can be especially helpful in reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury (MSI), which is the most common work-related injury in B.C. What is a musculoskeletal injury, you ask? Well, Musculoskeletal injury (MSI) is an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue including a sprain, strain and inflammation, that may be caused or aggravated by work. MSIs can affect the body’s soft tissues: the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, as well as the joints of the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs, feet and back. The main physical risk factors for MSIs associated with the demands of a job include: - Force: exerting force on an object as part of a task - Repetition: doing a task that uses the same muscles over and over with little chance for rest or recovery - Work posture: the position of different parts of the body when taken outside of the comfortable range of motion (awkward posture); usually combined with static posture (i.e., holding a posture for a long time) - Local contact stress: a hard or sharp object coming in contact with the skin For each of these risk factors, it is important to consider magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposure. Just as a proper diet is made up of a vast array of nutritional components, proper alignment is made up of nutritional loads – varying, unique deformations to the physical structure that result in a particular genetic expression that deems your structure. -- Katy Bowman Important links: Our guest Hero's website: The article at Katy Bowman's article on called Thinking Outside the Chair
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