Connecting the dots (and by dots, I mean people)

Note: This week I am at the annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

As we enter the final day of this national gathering of HR folks, the attendees will be thinking about what they really got out of this experience.

  • Were the sessions worth it? Many of them were. Hopefully you chose wisely!
  • Were the keynotes good? Mika Brzezinski was. Her message about knowing your value resonated. And even if you disagreed with her, she made you think about WHY you disagreed.]
  • Were the boxed lunches good? No. 
  • Was the Expo Hall helpful? Depends on your goals. May you connect with many good vendors!
  • Did you have fun at Jennifer Hudson? No one called me for bail money, so you must have balanced it right!

What strikes me about this week as I talk to fellow attendees is how much they talk about different people they’ve met. About the woman working in Iowa as an HR Department of One and how much she has in common with the man in California facing the same challenges. About the folks on the shuttle bus chatting about their day, laughing knowingly about a session as if they were old friends. About the online friends who have been connected for a couple of years who finally got a chance to meet face to face.

I attend SHRM not just because I want to see the sessions, or keynotes, or go to Vegas. (Wait…what?)connect-the-dots

I attend SHRM because I want to connect with the online community who has welcomed me, supported me, mocked me (I’m looking at you, Stollack), and embraced me as one of their own. I am not here in any sort of official blogging/social media capacity and yet I’ve been able to hang with these folks, participate in fantastic conversations, and share my opinions with this fascinating, smart group of people.

Last night at dinner, Jason Lauritsen (yes, I’m name dropping) stopped for a moment and reflected on the growth of this little online family, and how SHRM has become a type of family reunion – a chance to reconnect on a human level with people who have been scattered around the nation.

Jason’s right. SHRM really is about the connections we make. But what’s more important are the connections we SUSTAIN.

My challenge to you as you go back to your homes and to your lives (or to the casinos) is to ensure you sustain the connections you make in life. Help connect people to those who can help each other. And plan ways to keep those connections fresh through face-to-face meetings.

The simple truth is that for all the process and product our companies deal with, it’s the PEOPLE that matter.

Connect. Sustain. Refresh.

It’s that simple.

Finding sanity with a bit of sunshine

This week I will be attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives. This conference is unique in that it’s not just about keynote speakers. The days start with yoga or a run, there are breaks during the day to connect with people, there are interactive discussions. It’s helping us practice what we preach. I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #workhuman). 

We live and work in a world where there is no “off” switch. We come to work early, we leave late, we don’t take breaks, we eat lunch at our desk. And for this, we feel like we don’t get any work done.

When stress is high and achievement is low, it affects employees. People get stressed. People get fussy. When people get stressed AND fussy, there is no end to the drama. There’s a sour buzz in the air. People don’t want to give others the benefit of the doubt. Dumb mistakes get made. Fingers get pointed. All because we think we have to BE SEEN doing work – putting in the extra hours, toiling away at our desks so we can brag/complain about all the time we worked this week.

What the hell is wrong with us, people??!!!

First of all, we’re not solving the world’s problems by working that many hours. In fact, it makes us less productive. So good job, we’re costing the company money AND not getting good work done.

Second of all, we’re not the lone sufferers we seem to think we are. Research shows only 1 in 5 American workers take a lunch. Those people are blissful and happy and know what the weather is outside without having to check their weather app. Everyone else eats like crap at their desk because some how they think that they’ll get extra credit for being a fricking martyr.942472-work-holiday

I’m guilty of “eat at desk” syndrome. Most of the time it’s because my lunch hour is usually the only “free time” I have to catch up on emails or do actual work. But that’s no excuse. I know it impacts my creativity and ability to think critically. It also make me cranky if I’m inside all day when the sun is shining after weeks of non-stop rain. (Seriously. We’re done for now.)

And so, one day this week, I decided I didn’t want my sensible Progresso Light Soup (I’m partial to the Chicken Corn Chowder, in case you’re picking some up). I wanted fish and chips. And I wanted to eat it outside on a patio. So a group of us went and did exactly that. We got away from the office and sat in the fresh air and ate like crap (okay that part didn’t change). But what DID change is that we were able to reset for the rest of the day, and in same ways, for the rest of the week. It was like a mini-vacation. I even got a little sunburn. It was glorious.

So what did we learn from our impromptu luncheon adventure?

We learned that lunch breaks are there for a reason. That being an exempt employee does NOT mean being exempt from lunch breaks. And that eating fish and chips outside on a patio in the bright sunshine is an essential part of surviving the rat race.

The next time you find yourself approaching burnout, or snapping at your colleagues a little too easily, or struggle to write more than 4 words in a row that make sense – stop and think about the last time you had a lunch break. Then stand up and walk outside. You won’t get fired. You won’t get yelled at.

You earned that break, dammit.

So take it.


The power of downtime (or why it’s okay that I watched 3 hours of Chopped)

Feeling run down? Burned out? Too darn tired to think?

You’re not alone.

Americans work more hours than any other developed nation in the world. We take fewer vacations. We like to complain about how much we work…especially when we log in at night on our computers or smart phones to quickly check some emails so we can get a jump on our day tomorrow.

Oh, and those supposedly time-saving electronics? Those are seriously messing with our ability to get the rest we need. Which means when we get to work the next day, we will be too tired to focus, which may lead to feeling like we’re falling behind, thereby making us feel like we HAVE to check our emails right before we go to bed.

And so it goes.

It’s not just work that has us in its grip. We’re constantly pulled in several directions – family, pets, friends, church, grocery shopping (ugh) – it all erodes at our ability to feel centered and in some semblance of control. Even when you love what you are doing, it can wear on you.


Do you think it’s not impacting your performance at work? Do you think it’s not impacting your relationships outside of work?

Let me know when you come back to reality, you incredibly misguided (yet blissfully hopeful) soul.

That’s why I’m making the case for Couch Night / Binge Watching / Vegging Out. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to sit like a lump and let your brain take a rest. There are those who would probably advocate more for an evening picnic, or a walk with the family around the block. That’s fine. If you want to be all active and one with nature, more power to you. (Actually, exercise is really good for reducing stress. Go do that. But don’t be all #humblebrag about it, okay?)

Me? I watch Chopped. Like…a LOT of Chopped*.

Zero demands on my brain, zero stress, no concerns about SPOILERS (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones watchers), and I occasionally learn something about cooking. But that’s not important. What’s important is that it helps me decompress and step away from the day to day of work.

The 24/7 cycle of work, social media, and your “brand” puts so much pressure on people to be “on” all the time. We feel pressure to be perfect. We feel pressure to clever. We feel pressure to be productive.

We feel pressure.

I say screw that. Unplug. Watch too much TV for one night; eat some ice cream; build a Lego Death Star; whatever helps you chill out, renew, and refresh – and do it without feeling guilty.

You’ve earned that downtime, dammit.

Use it.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
– Chinese Proverb

*I also have an unhealthy love of Air Disasters and Engineering Disasters. I’m weird, okay?