How to Create a Healthy Workplace for Introverts and Extroverts

Stressed WomanSometimes there is so much noise around me that I feel like pulling out  my hair! There is on going trend towards an open office concept that is supposed to promote creativity and collaboration. Companies are tearing down their dingy old cubicles in favour of wide open spaces.  Is this really the right way to go? Have we gone too far from cubicles to the other extreme? Is this even healthy? A 2008 review suggests perhaps not.

A 2008 review article published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that 90% of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as stress and high blood pressure. – Oommen, V et. al,

I am an introvert who lives in an extrovert world. Quiet space to actually get work done and think clearly without being infected by interuptitis or loud obnoxious people with headphones blaring or who are nearly yelling at each other when they are actually sitting next to each other is precious. The introvert’s need for quiet space is not considered in the push towards open offices.

The first office Lifemoves was in was about five feet wide and twelve feet long without windows- not exactly inspiring.  We have now grown into a space with eight large windows and plenty of sunshine during the day.  Workplace wellness is very important to me. My current dilemma is how to create a successful multidisciplinary clinic in less than 900 square feet that caters to introverts and extroverts while maximizing its financial capacity.

Right now, I am alone and I love it. However, growing my business means sharing the space with more professionals and clients in the space when I might be trying to do administrative duties or just need a space to be quiet.  It is also imperative to develop a space where extroverted people feel comfortable as well.

Office layout shouldn’t be a compromise between private and public space, but one which offers both things to its employees whenever they need them.  – Alexi Marmot via BBC News

A recent BBC News article describing the development of office architecture over the last 100 years eludes the need for flexible spaces which gives people the ability to be an organic spaces where they can be alone or in groups as needed.  One solution to some of the distractions is broadcasting pink noise, which makes human voices less discernible.

First it is important to study the needs of the organization and how work gets done (ergonomics). One solution for small spaces is to set-up hubs for various activities as well a culture of deliberate times for collaboration or conversation and times for quiet.

Remember introverts are often their most creative and productive when they are alone.

It is very easy to be sitting next to someone, have an idea or agenda item pop-up in our head and then have the need to ask the person next to us. This adds to their stress by interrupting their workflow (do interrupt them if there is a fire or danger to their life).

 Try

 the Getting Things Done methodology of adding them to the agenda for that person then addressing it in your next scheduled meeting.

 Another idea is to use a red light green light system. Turn off all technology interruptions and place a red card in a visible place during times when you don’t want to be disturbed. Turn everything back on and use a green card when you are open to a conversation.  To block unwanted noise use noise cancelling headphones or add pink noise to make the voices others less discernible.

This idea came from a Canadian company with a new technology [wish I could remember the name, if you find it let me know] which places all calls and email alerts on hold with a bright red light; turn the system off and the light turns green.

Resources

  1. Buelow, Beth The Introvert Entrepreneur (thank you)
  2. Kramer, William. The Pleasures and Perils of an Open-plan Office. BBC World News Services, March 27, 2013.
  3. Oommen, Vinesh Should Health Service Managers Embrace Open Plan Work Environments? A ReviewAsia Pacific Journal of Health Management3(2), pp. 37-43, 2008

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Staying Consumer Debt Free for One Year

The following is an opinion and experience piece and NOT financial advice.

It took a long time to climb out of a deep canyon, but this week I celebrated one year of being free of consumer credit card debt.  The debt burden saddled me for close to a decade and prevented me from doing many of the things that I wanted to.  It is also kept dragging down my moods.
 Our financial wealth and our weight often reflect our mindsets.  Though I wasn’t overweight and I was undervaluing myself. 
It took several years of shifting my own thought patterns, disciplined debt re-payments, support from friends and famiyl and financial education to free myself from the shackles of consumer debt.  Thankfully, my interest rates weren’t too bad, however every month I  was paying the credit card companies annual interest of over 8%, instead of having this money invested and paying myself.
Have you ever watched shows like “Till Debt do Us Part”?  It is actually pretty scary how much consumer debt these participants have. This is money owed that is outside of their mortgage.  My fiancée and I have agreed that we want to start our marriage with zero debt that is not building our wealth (such as a mortgage).  We have been judiciously putting money aside on a monthly basis so that we are able to pay for a wedding that is within our means to pay by cash.  I can’t imagine paying for an extravagant party that means that we spend the next 5-10 years paying it off. What a way to start, eh? 
  I got into trouble because I was living outside of means and because the credit card company hounded me to take on a line credit of that I originally said no to.  They also continually increased my limits to beyond my ability to pay it back; lining their pockets with the interest payments. 
 My self-esteem during these years was low, so was my earning power. I found it difficult to find work as a Kinesiologist after graduating in 1999. I also started a previous business because I couldn’t find work. To increase my long-term earnings I did use my credit card to pay for various educational investments which have definitely paid off. However, now I make sure that I have the cash before paying for continuing education.
A few of my fears are being homeless (though I know there are many reasons that people end up on the street) as well as not having enough income to support a moderate lifestyle in retirement.  Much of the financial advice seems to be all very similar and all makes sense.  My goal is to reach retirement debt and mortgage free.
All I can say is live BELOWyour means so that there is always cash left at the end of the month. Money is an object, it only has what value we attach to it.  What is enough? Enough is to know that I can pay my bills on time, have a roof securely over my head, feed myself and my family and have the freedom to enjoy a moderate lifestyle.  Next steps for me are to slowly add to my retirement fund, while building a 6-month cash based emergency fund. 
Being an entrepreneur means that I will have income as long as I am able to build and run a business where others can  perform work and clients are willing to pay for our services.  Our health and wellness is not discretionary, so health care businesses will do well as long as we provide value to our clients.
There is a great piece in the Financial Post on why it is important to pay off your debt NOW.  Have compounding interest work for you instead of for the credit card companies. Another good resource for entrepreneurs who are not financial gurus is “Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers,” which among other things explains how to calculate the value of money invested today. 
The above is based on the author’s experience and opinion it is NOT considered NOT financial advice.

How to Keep a Clear Mind After a Computer Failure

People often panic after a computer failure for several reasons: 1. we have developed so much dependence on them and we aren’t sure how to live without them; 2. they don’t have adequate back-up systems; 3. they don’t have an alternative system in place that can be used.

As David Allen of Getting Things Done says, our minds become cloudy when know there is so much to do, but are not clear on all that needs to be done, how to do it or even where to begin. My mind became overcast when my laptop which I am dependent upon to conduct my business wouldn’t boot up at 9:00 PM on Sunday.

Just before I purchased the five year old Toshiba, I also bought a desktop – exactly for this type of occasion. Since the screen was at my work office I had to cart the tower, keyboard and mouse on the bus to North Vancouver. After booting it up, I discovered that it had not been updated in a long time. Nor did I have a written system for getting back up and running.

How much work that needs to be re-done depends on how often computer files are backed-up. Having redundant systems in place minimizes the amount of downtime businesses have when one system crashes. This past week this lesson hit me squarely. After nearly five years my laptop decided that it no longer wanted to boot-up on Sunday night. Luckily the last time I backed-up most of my files as a few days earlier and some of the work information is located on a cloud system, accessible from anywhere.

Operational downtime also included going to get the problem laptop diagnosed. It was really bad but, thankfully they were able back-up the hard drive. Since repairs would have been $500, even with an unstable computer it was time to buy a new one. Having the desktop enabled me to continue operations at a minimal level – because I had access to our cloud, the files on the external hard drive and our online booking system. This process was clearly going to take most of several days, days that I had planned to use for writing my articles for IMPACT.

My mind was cloudy trying to make decisions on day-to-day operational tasks because dealing with this situation required a multitude of decisions including researching laptops available then purchasing it, figuring out where all my software was to reinstall and how to retrieve lost passwords that are so often conveniently stored in the browsers. The process of getting the primary system back up and running was a big distraction which would have been a lot easier had I made sure that my desktop was updated at least once per year, had a systematic back-up and if I had printed instructions of what needs to be done to get a new computer loaded. In my boxes of original program disks it is difficult to figure out what is still useful versus what is left-over from past systems.

A regular back-up system needs to be in place to ensure that all non-program files are saved on a regular basis, maybe once a week or even once every couple of days. It really depends on how much data changes on a daily basis. Keep back program disks together in a box or if they download files now often file downloads on a USB drive and store with their registration information in a text file or spreadsheet. Solutions also include a larger external hard drive or investing in an online cloud so that back-ups off-site and are safe from fire and water disasters (think of Australia).

What did keep my mind clear is that my own physical training sessions took priority. Completing each session gave me confidence that something on that day was done well. Taking physical breaks clears the mind. Take heed, make sure that you have a system and where all files are organized in a systematic way. Also, think about how many different ways your business could keep running despite various disasters.

Doing so will drastically reduce your mental fatigue and stress level by giving you piece of mind when something does happen. After all, it is only a matter of time. Another piece to have organized is passwords in a safe secure place so that you only have to remember one of them to retrieve the rest. Having a system in place that deals with the initial computer crash all the way to reinstall will make the process a lot quicker, keeping your mind clear.