How to Work Through an Ice Storm

Work Through an Ice StormDecember is here, and for most parts of the country, winter is arriving in full force. The best way to avoid a wreck on the ice is to not drive at all. But, many people must drive through icy conditions just to make it to work. When you head to work in winter weather, keep these few tips in mind to ensure your commute is a safe one.

Plan for Inclement Weather.
If the forecast calls for bad weather overnight, plan for bad road conditions even if your local meteorologist has a reputation for not always being on the money. If you park outside, be prepared to de-ice your car in the morning. Wake up a little earlier to give yourself plenty of time to defrost your car and drive to work unrushed. If you do find yourself with little time to let your car’s defrost system kick in, spray de-icing solution onto your windshield. This can be found at your local automotive store or a homemade mixture of half water and half vinegar will work just as well. Be sure to not pour hot water onto your frozen windshield because it can crack the glass.

Pack Proper Equipment.
To be on the safe side, store jumper cables, a flashlight, a blanket, gloves, a bag of salt or cat litter, and an ice scraper and brush in your vehicle. Then you’ll be prepared to handle the worst no matter where you are. If you’re in the office when snow and ice arrive and you aren’t properly prepared, a credit card can work well as a makeshift ice scraper. Also, make sure your cell phone is always charged in case you get stranded and need to call for help.

Complete Your Tasks on Time.
Missing a deadline or coming in to work late due to inclement weather can cause headaches for you and your team. To help out in times like these, finish your work quickly and work ahead if you can during the winter in case a blizzard hits or schools get cancelled and you have to stay at home to take care of a child. You’ll be less stressed and not so far behind when you return to work. Also, if you foresee a storm, talk to your supervisor about tele-commuting or working from home.

By taking a few precautions and planning ahead before bad weather hits, you can avoid the perils of traveling to work in frigid weather. Drive safely!

Have other winter weather tips? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Post-Interview: Following Up with a Phone Call

Post Interview Follow UpAfter you’ve prepared to ace a job interview and the interview is over, you might feel like you knocked it out of the park. Now what? Sending a polite thank you card is a great idea, but what else can you do?

Calling to follow up with a potential employer can help you stay fresh in the hiring manager’s mind. But be careful – with phone calls, there is a fine line between sounding like an enthusiastic go-getter and becoming just plain annoying. To help you make a post-interview follow-up call that will leave a positive impression, practice using these tips.

Stay Patient.
You may feel that you should be a shoe-in for the job, but it may take the interviewer a while to get back to you. Time seems to move incredibly slow when you are waiting for “the call.” But, keep in mind that hiring managers can have substantial workloads and may be physically unable to get back to you. If you call too soon, they might not have much news for you. It’s best to wait two to three days before following up.

Speak with a Person.
When calling, try to speak with a person instead of leaving a message on a machine. Preferably, speak to someone who was present at your interview. If you reach a receptionist and the interviewer is unavailable, ask when they would be available to take a brief call. If you must leave a message, limit the number of voicemails you leave to one or two spread over a couple days – flooding the interviewer’s inbox will likely annoy them. After a significant amount of time has passed and if they still haven’t returned your calls, focus your time on other opportunities. Would you really want to work for someone who doesn’t respond to you anyway?

Keep it Brief.
When you’re able to speak to someone, keep your conversation short. There is no need to recite your credentials or detail why you’re perfect for the position. Hopefully, you already covered that in your interview. Instead, just express your continued interest and enthusiasm for the position. Use this opportunity to politely ask if the position has been filled or if you’re still under consideration. If you’re still in the running, ask for a timeline for their decision. Finish the call by saying “thank you” for the opportunity to speak with the interviewer.

When trying to reach the interviewer by phone, being assertive can sometimes come off as over-anxious, so restrain yourself from being too pushy. Taking a proactive and confident, yet relaxed, approach to the post-interview follow up can be a simple act that helps you land the job.

Time Management Tips to Reduce Workplace Stress

Reduce Workplace StressThe holidays are literally just around the corner. Unfortunately, not only joy and cheer are associated with this season; stress levels also spike during the holidays. Aside from the regular amounts of stress individuals work under, the American Psychological Association reports that the holidays increase stress for women by 44% and by 31% for men.

Stress often comes with feeling overwhelmed and losing of control at the workplace. To help you get a handle on things, try these time management techniques at work and reduce work-related stress.

Work-Life Balance – To lower stress levels, it’s vital to find the balance between your work life and your home life. Compare your work schedule and job responsibilities with your family life and social activities. If you see that you’re too heavily involved with work and have little time for your outside life, make it a point to balance the two. Look through our blog’s Work-Life Balance page for more ideas.

Take Breaks – Instead of misusing time throughout the workday, taking small intentional breaks throughout the day will help you focus the rest of the time. Stepping away from your desk or getting up to stretch will give your mind a quick break and allow you to quickly recharge.

Prioritize – Properly allocating your time to complete important tasks keeps you on track and organized. Pay attention to what you’re working on and how much time is required for each task. This allows you to know if you’re able to take on an extra task or help out a co-worker with another assignment. But, make sure you don’t over do it, because taking on too much is simply asking for added stress.

Understand that some stressors are out of your control, but with proper time management, you can reduce your stress levels at work. Be sure to review our other tips on reducing workplace stress, so you can enjoy the holidays without overwhelming stress.

Breaking Bad Work Habits

breaking bad work habitsAfter spotting your bad habits in the office, the hard part is actually breaking them. But, simple behavior adjustments can dramatically increase your productivity and professional image so it’s important to change them as soon as possible.

Below is a list of a few common bad workplace habits. Take advantage of these remedies to break away from time-stealing habits and propel your career.

Bad Habit – Procrastination: A major time stealer is procrastination and it only gets worse the longer it’s drawn out. Procrastinators run the risk of missing deadlines – showing your boss and colleagues that they can’t depend on you.

How to Fix It: Think of all deadlines as nonnegotiable. Remember that people are counting on your work. When you have an approaching deadline, set an advanced finish date for yourself to complete the project. Finishing your project ahead of schedule will help relieve stress and ensure that your quality of work isn’t sacrificed by rushing.

Bad Habit – Negativity: There are many reasons negativity can hinder your career. When moaning and complaining become a daily occurrence, you’ll begin to annoy co-workers or whoever you’re grumbling to as well as sapping their personal resolve.

How to Fix It: Not every aspect about work can be fun so it’s only natural to feel negative about work once and a while, but you don’t always have to voice your concern to co-workers. Consider talking to a friend or loved one outside of the workplace. When you need to share concerns with co-workers, remember the difference between just complaining and communicating professionally.

Bad Habit – Poor Punctuality: You may think that as long as you get your work done, it shouldn’t matter when you arrive. While this is true in some cases, for most work environments, it’s simply not the case.

How to Fix It: Instead of complaining about your work schedule, realize that you probably knew the hours required when you took the job. Make punctuality a priority. Understand why you’re constantly running behind schedule. Cut out hitting the snooze one extra time, or go to bed a little earlier. Think about what would happen if everyone slept in and showed up late. Keep in mind that reliability is highly regarded by employers.

Bad Habit – Dressing Unprofessionally: You may think that deviating – even slightly – from the dress code portrays you as hip or shows your sense of style, but employers often read this as you don’t take your job seriously.

How to Fix It: Dress codes are in place for a reason. Display your professionalism and respect for the company by adhering to obvious policies. That doesn’t mean your attire has to be dull, but make sure it’s appropriate and dress the part.

Bad Habit – Playing Computer Games and Checking E-mail: Many companies are Okay with you checking personal e-mail or playing a computer game while on lunch break, but don’t abuse their generosity. And remember that some companies have strict no-tolerance policies. If you’re constantly playing games, you’re obviously not doing what you’re paid to do and people will notice.

How to Fix It: Avoid frequent time wasters such as playing games or checking e-mail. When you feel the urge to play a quick game of Tetris, satisfy that urge with a productive replacement activity – like catching up on the news.

Unproductive behavior becomes habitual over time. In that same sense, bad workplace habits must be conquered over time. When you want to change a bad habit, you must approach it with a strong commitment. So, take a hard look at your bad work habits and commit to changing your behavior. You never know what opportunities may pass you by if you don’t.

Identifying Bad Work Habits

bad habitBad habits that you carry into the workplace can impede productivity and maybe even annoy co-workers, but bad work habits can also damage or prevent career advancement. Many people don’t even realize their behavior is hurting job performance or frustrating others. That’s because over extended periods, your actions become habitual and you do them without even realizing it. In order to present yourself in a positive and professional light, it’s important to break the bad habits you have at work.

Identifying bad habits is the first step to eliminating them. So, how can you get rid of bad work habits when they’ve become so routine you barely notice them?

Keep Track of Your Day
Start by tracking how you spend your time at work. Consider keeping a journal or notepad log for a week or two, detailing everything you do in a day. List when you arrive to work late, start and end times for projects, time spent checking e-mail, time in meetings, etc. After you make your observations, review how you allocate your time. Examine how many projects you finished on time and how many you didn’t have time to complete. In addition – do you finish projects and then move on or work on them part by part? What time of the day do you spend doing certain tasks? Ask yourself if you are properly prioritizing your time and if you really need a full 30-minute conversation with a co-worker about the new Taylor Swift album. Also, avoid co-workers whose conversations can become “time thieves.”

After identifying where your time is spent productively and where it’s wasted, you can begin the hard part – breaking bad habits. Look for the next post that features common bad work habits and how to break them.

Are Lower Gas Prices Having Any Impact?

gas prices and jobsDuring the summer, increasing fuel cost increases seemed to be a daily occurrence. It often felt like there was no end in sight. But, gas prices have steadily fallen every day since Sept. 17, according to CNN, and fuel costs haven’t been this low since August 2005.

An August 2008 survey showed that 35% of workers changed their commute and driving habits due to increased fuel costs this past summer. But, cooling weather might make it difficult to ride your bike to work this time of year, and holiday expenses are just around the corner.

We want to know how lower gas prices are affecting your driving habits. Are you still concerned with finding a job close to home? Does a longer drive for a new job seem more manageable now? Is this newly found relief in gas prices having any effect on your commute or job search? Or are those costs just being diverted elsewhere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

How Do You Get to Work?

The way people get to work and back home every day varies and depends on location, the distance to work, and the availability of public transportation. So, we want to know how you get to work every day. Vote in our poll and then leave us your feedback in the comments section below to let us know what your preferred method of transportation is and if you get to use it.