Writing

What your latest Netflix binge can teach you at work

Man with eyes glued to TV

Who recently motored through all five seasons of Breaking Bad in a sleepless haze of pajamas, Nutella and per episode potty breaks?

I’m talkin’ to you. Yeah, you.

Netflix’s instant streaming service has redefined popular notions of the binge, shifting its context from the kitchen to the screen. As many of us can attest, a good NB (Netflix Binge) is comprised of a few stages: the thrill of anticipation as we wait for a new season to become available, the exhilaration and high of watching back-to-back episodes sans commercials, and of course, the lows of withdrawal as we mourn the finale of yet another “once-in-a-lifetime series.”

Interestingly, the life trajectory of the Netflix Binge rather closely resembles the trajectory of any project or program-oriented company, HCA included. We have long stretches of expectations and preparation as we make ready for upcoming programs and events followed by brief but intoxicating moments of joy during their culmination. Last but not least, we too face the threat of the post-project doldrums as we come down from our successes and return to the drawing board.

This “winter of in-between” can be a tough time for any professional, but certainly not insurmountable. Moreover, the downtime between projects and programs can be some of the most exciting and impactful periods for your company, if given the right perspective. Fortunately for you, that perspective employs a lot of the same recovery techniques that sociologists ‘round the world might recommend to avid Netflixers:

1. Stay opeN

Similar to Netflix Binges, fabulous projects sometimes leave you asking yourself, how will anything or anyone else ever measure up? Ironically, this is exactly the attitudinal pit- fall that can bring this fear to fruition. This is why it’s essential to reward yourself for a job well done, without labeling it as a professional peak. Bigger, better ideas come to those who view themselves and their environments in a constant state of progress. Spend less time setting limits and more time eliminating them with an open mind.

2. Stay inspired

This goes hand in hand with the recommendation to stay open. When you feel trapped in the graveyard of great ideas from projects past, put aside some time to read an inspiring book. Watch the latest video trending on TED Talks. Go see a movie, take a day o#, walk on the beach — do whatever you need to do to shake up your routine and shake o# the post-project blues. People say they get their best ideas in the shower for a reason…

3. Stay social

Great friends don’t just get together at birthdays, weddings and other “milestone” moments. They also catch up over a casual cup of chai, a last minute jaunt around the neighborhood or a free concert in the park. These anticlimactic “in-between” moments aren’t just the stuff of bosom friends (thank you, Anne Shirley), they form the cornerstone of epic professional teams! You don’t need to be in the middle of an adrenaline-pumping project to justify a lunch or coffee meeting, a call or an email. In fact, your ability to carry through on a social agenda beyond production deadlines will speak volumes about your authenticity and the kind of team/company that you run. Ultimately, you want all your colleagues to work alongside you in your goals to stay open, inspired and social.

What practices do you incorporate into your project pipeline to keep your staff fresh and motivated?

Writing

Fanning the flame: how to beat the distance in professional relationships

Like most property management and development companies, HCA is built on long-distance relationships. Not only is our company itself split between California and Utah, but our SoCal portfolio alone stretches from Coachella to Bakersfield, a distance of about 250 miles. Here in resident services, we spend most of our days engaged in emails and phone calls with program instructors, property managers and other colleagues and partner representatives that live and work some- where within that radius and quite possibly even farther. Were it not for consciously scheduled meetings and functions, we might never run into them at our offices or en route to our favorite local lunch spot.

With technology advancing at the speed of light, outsourcing and long-distance relationships are be- coming common — if not standard — bedfellows of the average professional. Furthermore, whether you’re a nonprofit in affordable housing or a luxury hotel business, the facts remain the same: isolation and disconnection can quickly beget dispiritedness, inefficiency and higher turnover amongst the ranks. In short, your ability to make the most of your long-distance work relationships directly impacts your growth and bottom line. Thus we arrive at the burning question…

What practices can you incorporate into your work routine to maintain and improve those longer-distance relationships?
 

1. Treat to a meal or snack.

This is my top-rated piece of advice on the matter because it is the only one that absolutely must be done in-person and that can support an extended face-to-face exchange. Driving can be a tiring activity and a lot of people might argue that two hours of driving for a one-hour meal might not be worth it. After years of traveling to and from our Woodland Hills office to distant properties however, I can’t tell you how appreciative and valued it makes staff feel. Concerned about meal expenses? Swap a meal for a morning or afternoon coffee break at $3 a head. Can’t justify the time to your boss? Try hooking on another work duty with your visit; for example, I always schedule my snack/meal treats right before or after a class that we need to photograph for promotional materials. In the end, it’s about the gesture, not the extravagance of your treat; it really is the thought that counts.

2. Share photos & videos.

The advent of camera phones significantly increased the ease and importance of image-sharing in contemporary society. When I finished prepping boxes full of scholarship materials for mailing last week, I was able to upload a phone pic of the finished product to our Facebook page in less than a minute. If your “treat” (see above tip) involves taking photos as mine frequently do, or if your conversation was about a tangible task or product, try to shoot over a photo or video update to your long-distance colleague. It’s a great way to show her/him that you are prioritizing that task while being inclusive in the process.

3. Send a handwritten card

Nothing says, “I’m thinking of you from our office 100 miles away,” like a handwritten card. Email and the Internet are becoming such standard methods of communication, that a touch ‘o’ the quill to paper is increasingly meaningful. Perhaps you want to send something to the tune of “thanks for hosting my visit” or “great catching up with you.” There’s no need to limit yourself to post-visit etiquette either. It’s never a bad time to express heartfelt appreciation; in fact, people tend to treasure out-of-the-blue gratitude even more. Mention great work to supervisors: Like many paper and service-driven industries, housing can often be one of “no news is good news.” While a handwritten card is a great way to buck the norm and give your long-distance colleague the warm and fuzzies, a mention of great co- operation and collaboration to her/his supervisor can also go a long way. Perhaps your praise gets passed back down, now fortified by supervisory validation. Maybe it comes up at the annual review as a bullet point underneath a potential raise. Either way, making the extra effort to pay back what’s due can really help set the tone for a long and prosperous working relation- ship, despite any distance.

 
What is the key to your long-distance relationships at work? How are you adapting to this trend?

Writing

It takes Kool and the Gang to celebrate: Hot tips to get company party RSVPs

December, the twelve and final month in the calendar year, arguably surpasses the graduation frenzy of June in sheer partydom. As you plan your own company party, you may find this evidenced in the response – or lack thereof – of your guest invites. (Yes) RSVPs are particularly tricky to come by for smaller companies that may not have the resources to match the celebrity, freebies and general za za zu of larger companies.

When the scales are uneven and invitations are flying left and right, how can you compete for an evening on someone’s social calendar? Here are a few tips from me to you:

  1. The early bird gets the worm. It’s never too early to drop a mention of your party as long as you know it is 100% guaranteed to happen. People are a social species for the most part. The prospect of connecting with folks who have common interests usually excites us. This is particularly true if you work for a smaller company, given that many may not even have the budget to pull this off.
  2. Ask yourself, “What would Ferris do?” As mentioned in our previous post on open house tips, a fun theme or uncommon activity can help your event stick out. Ferris Bueller made movie history by transforming a typical school day o# into a thrilling back-to-back chain of dance mobbing, car racing and dog chasing. What can you do to differentiate your party from the run-of-the-mill holiday parties that you’re competing with?
  3. Layer your cake. Layer your communication. Have you ever seen a single layer cake at a wedding, bat mitzvah or quinceanera? I’ll bet you haven’t. That’s because there are some occasions in life that merit more. Your party should be one of them. In this spirit, commit to party invites on multiple platforms: paper, electronic, email and phone. When it comes to the phone, tie in the matter of your party to a greater discussion about work. This way you’ll err on the side of thorough (as opposed to obnoxious) in your follow-up.
  4. Ready a reminder. Even though smartphones, laptops, tablets and Cloud storage have given us the ability to combine and synch our calendars, it’s still important to send out an event re- minder a few days to one week prior to your party. We can have access to all the technology in the world, but this won’t help if someone forgot to pop an event on the cali in the first place and now has a conflict. Catch these slips before you submit final numbers for chairs, foods and the like by sending a simple reminder.
  5. Parties are karmic. Remember that the other eleven months: It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: if you don’t focus on building relationships with your guest invites during the rest of the year, they will probably feel disinclined to reciprocate by attending your party. Parties are karmic in this way, so do your best to demonstrate an authentic interest in whomever you’re inviting throughout the year.

What other tips do you recommend for rustling up company party RSVPs?