Working from home: Hell or Heaven?

Working from home to quote the queen Beyoncé “can be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare”. For some reason I now want to grab the imaginary mic and sing the full song. Tempting but I am not sure you would survive my rendition. This question has been on my mind all week due to “the Beast from the East” storm that rolled into the UK last week. I was snowed in at home for over 4 days and what is usually a dream became a beautiful nightmare!

Now don’t get me wrong I was glad that unlike other employment I have had throughout the years, my employer is very flexible and encourages working from home, so I didn’t need to take holiday or unpaid leave as I was able to and fully equipped to work from home. To understand my predicament you need to understand that given the choice, I would never choose to work from home unless I had personal appointments which meant I needed to be closer to home than work or I was having work done at home which required me to be present.

I applaud and encourage employers who offer this flexibility but for me personally I like going into an office and interacting with others. I like walking into a train station and getting my morning coffee. I like putting my headphones on and tuning out everyone on the train while browsing emails and the news. I like walking out to get lunch and debating what I should eat that day. I love being stopped by colleagues in the corridors and having impromptu conversations. But what I also love, is being able to sign off for the day, whatever time that is and putting on my coat and catching that train home. Work is done for the day unless there is emergency and that ability to stop and go home is essential to me, in enabling me to manage and have a good work life balance.

Working from home while great when it is convenient for you, I found this week was almost unbearable as there were no other options. I literally wanted to climb my walls! maybe it was the endless white of the snow outside or the cold or the feeling I had of being trapped inside! to be fair I wasn’t literally trapped I could have chosen to go for walks outside in the snow, but why? I mean its wet and cold! I grew up in a tropical country, unless I have no other choice and I always have a choice, I do not choose to be cold or wet! What this brought home to me is that employers should offer a variety of options for employees to choose from in their flexible working offer.

One size definitely does not fit all, consider asking your employees to be involved in suggesting what is on offer. Do not put limits rigidly on what is considered suitable or desirable. Be open to different ways of working and understand that what one employee will consider o good option for them will not fit someone else.

What this week also drove home to me, is how we engage with employees whose normal location is home.  Are they in danger of becoming the forgotten workforce?


Let’s talk about motivation

Motivation is a much discussed topic. There are those who think they have it solved when it comes to employee engagement and there are others who are constantly chasing it. Questions buzz around constantly about how to keep employees motivated so they will stay with an organisation and be productive whilst staying so. Oodles of money are spent annually measuring how engaged and motivated employees are. We fear staff who are not motivated as this normally spells trouble for the bottom line.

Let’s look at the CIPD’s viewpoint on motivation “Employees who have good quality jobs and are managed well, will not only be happier, healthier and more fulfilled, but are also more likely to drive productivity, better products or services, and innovation. This mutual gains view of motivation and people management lies at the heart of employee engagement.” This viewpoint looks at the employees while my focus here is more on prospective employees.

At the point most employees join an organisation they are highly motivated to be there, whether it is due to professional pride in the work that they can deliver and their own credibility or a genuine affinity with the mission of the organisation that they are joining. Not that there are not other motivating factors for why individuals join an organisation, because there are tons, but these two are for illustrative purposes.

I ask most candidates I meet about what motivated them to apply for the role they are interviewing and why a particular company. This is not a trick question, I am genuinely interested in knowing why the role and the organisation fits with your personal motivations and goals. It raises red flags when a candidate is unable to articulate this.

Not that it it’s a disqualification question because it’s not but I do think that candidates need to think carefully about why they apply to organisations and it cannot be just about the money. If research and experience over the years have taught us anything is that money in of itself is not a motivator.

There needs to be a certain level of intrinsic motivation with any employee for them to remain motivated and committed at work. So when the work gets hard and it will you need to be able to self motivate and be resilient to stand up to the task. Every relationship professional or personal is about give and take and being and staying motivated is as much about self as it is about the psychological and physical contract at work.

Can you afford to pay for performance?


The topic of reward and how to do it effectively is a fairly well debated topic. A great deal of research exists on the topic and every few year a new fad or a rinse and repeat of a previously outdated model is dusted off and becomes the new buzz to ensure reward effectively motivates staff. Daniel Pink in his book Drive hits the nail on the head for organisations that operate a reward system that offers pay for performance. The CIPD’s Reward Management Survey published in December 2017 cited that 48% of employers who took part in the survey stated that they operate a performance related pay system.  The most common criteria used to manage individual base pay progression was also individual performance,competencies, skills and retaining potential.

What is interesting to me is that many organisations that operate a pay for performance scheme, simply do not have the budget to pay “a meaningful amount”. In fact the sums that are offered at times are so meaningless as to be quite de-motivating for employees who strive for that magical rating. Part of the problem at times with how organisation set up their reward system is akin to keeping up with the Joneses. They fall into the trap of being so in awe with another organisation that they admire that they decide to be just like them, even if there is not a fit with that organisation and the one in which they operate. It is also true that many organisations pay consultants to come in, and propose what their reward structures and strategy should be. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with this approach but where it can become an issue is when the proposal is adopted wholesale without much thought of best fit for the organisation.

If your budget is limited pay for performance may not be for you. If you are not able to pay a meaningful sum which makes a difference for performance rather than embark on this route ensure that your base pay offer is fair both internally and in the external market. The budget that you would have used to pay that percentage uplift annually, use it instead to consider paying a bit more than the market offers. Make that your attraction tool. Invest in learning and development opportunities for all staff, not just leaders and ensure that promotion opportunities are offered internally. Look at the non-financial rewards that are on offer. Talk to your staff, what do they value the most from work and can you provide these? Let’s be adult about what we can and cannot offer and. Like a friend likes to tell me when I get too excited and want to buy a particular designer item “stay in your lane, the Joneses are broke”.


Sunday Inspiration

Nervous about going for that new job? Go for it! What’s the worst that could happen? Unsure about a new project or objective? Try it, you only fail by not taking that first step. A member of your team not performing as expected? Have a conversation. Don’t leave it to unravel even further. You are doing both yourself and your colleague a disservice. Asked to speak at an all staff meeting but you are secretly petrified? Fake it until you make it. I guarantee you, there are a lot of people in the audience who would be as terrified as you are standing up there and who are secretly cheering you on!

A little bit of inspiration this Sunday to start the week ahead!

Incubate to accumulate

  • I – innovate
  • N – new ideas using your
  • C – creative insights while
  • U – understanding the process to
  • B – be your true authentic self
  • A – achieve what you set out to do, then
  • T – teach others , pay it forward and
  • E- excel at all that you do


Don’t be afraid of failure

It is remarkable that fear is something that is developed rather than something we are born with. I am often amazed at the lack of fear that babies and toddlers display. I can recall with perfect clarity memories from as young as 2 years old and I shudder with fear now at some of the things I used to get up to!

I recall once at 3 years old climbing underneath my grandfather’s house to hunt crabs that used to make their homes there! In this particular incident the crab had grabbed my comb in its pinchers and scuttled away! I was so determined to retrieve this, that I scrambled after the crab and proceeded to wrestle it for my comb!

If you have seen a land crab in Jamaica you will know that they are not tiny!! In the midst of the struggle, the crab dropped the comb and latched onto my finger with its pincher and proceeded to squeeze!! The howls and screams that emanated from my mouth were enough to bring my mother and cousins rushing to my aid from all directions. Luckily I didn’t lose the finger but I still have the scar today as proof of this incredible act of bravery ; ). At 3 years old I was fearless! The lesson I learned from this at 3 was to never wrestle a crab head on! No knock it out with a big stone first!

My second recollection in being fearless is at 16 years old going on a hike with the pathfinders group I led at church. During this hike alone with a group of kids of similar age or slightly older we had the brilliant idea to end our hike by exploring the local Bat Caves. Apart from bats, we had no idea what else resided in these caves but we were determined to find out! We had no light source just our over developed sense of curiosity and a knowledge that nothing bad could happen to us! ( the knowledge of youth, oh how I miss this).

We proceeded to explore the caves, it was dark and damp. There were a lot of stumbling about while our eyes adjusted to the darkness and about half way into our exploration, we fell into an underground river!! To understand the import of this, you would need to understand that whilst we all lived on an island and had no fear of being in water that very few of us could swim! Myself included there were about 10 others in the group that also didn’t know how to swim. What we did know how to do was tread water! Whenever this memory surfaces I break out into a cold sweat! Just imagine what could have happened if anyone of us had started to fear or panic!

Needless to say we all safely exited this river even though to do so meant diving under a short tunnel to emerge on the outside of the caves. To add to what would now be a big fear factor this all took place in pitch darkness. From this experience I learned that fear can stop you having the most brilliant experiences if you allow it to dictate your actions.

There are many things I have failed at both professionally and personally but it is only through failing and learning from those that I am authentically who I am today. To miss the me now who has developed and grown would have been a personal tragedy. To anticipate me in the future is only possible due to the failures I have had along the way. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. We learn from our mistakes, we grow by learning.

A Wrinkle in time, saves nine

“A wrinkle in time, saves nine”. I used to be told this saying as a child and into my early teens and never understood this parable and what it meant. It truly sounded like nonsense, especially as every woman I knew who developed wrinkles before they expected them to appear, were fervently applying Oil of Olay daily to reduce the appearance of said wrinkles! Given that when this phrase was tossed at me I was running helter skelter for something or the other, I can only assume that my patient, all-knowing parent was reminding me to not be in such a hurry and to slow down before I caused myself an injury.

It is strange to think of wrinkles appearing in time as it is such a precise measure, however, I choose to interpret the phrase to mean that by slowing down and taking time out to think or reflect, and taking things in the order in which they appear that I can save myself mistakes, or errors that may otherwise trip me up. Don’t rush into everything, take the time to think things through carefully. Think about what you are trying to achieve and plan it out, this can save you needless work and expenses later on down the line. Trust the process and don’t rush headlong into everything. Be mindful and reflective in your thought process and your actions will follow suit.

In our everyday working life deadlines and decisions tend to be due yesterday. We often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of our inbox and so we rush from one deadline to the next, from one critical incident to another. There is little time to plan or be strategic in our thinking as we are constantly in fire fighting mode. This is very reflective of my experience in working in the HR profession. The number one debate seems to be how HR adds value, even amongst HR professionals themselves! the consensus seems to be that we can hardly add value as we are always putting out fires. I find it incredible that fire fighting is not seen as value add in and of itself! have you ever seen a fire fighter putting out a fire? it is a serious endeavour!

I am not making light of this debate but sometimes I believe we lose focus of just how integral we are to the overall success of an organisation. We don’t just exist to put out the fires that crop up, but we also plan and strategize to ensure that our organisation is up to code to continue the fire metaphor. We work with others to ensure that training and appropriate guidance is in place to prevent such incidents but that if they do occur we have the tools to bring things back to where they need to be. So for me human resources is the “wrinkle” in an organisation’s time that saves nine!

I’d rather be…

At the airport jetting off to sun and sea!! It’s been a long winter. Somewhere there is a beach towel and a mojito with my name on it! nothing fancy, just me, a sandy beach, rum, coconut water, fish, my kindle, numerous bathing suits, a hat, aloe vera gel and 8 plus hours of full on sun and a cool sea breeze. My idea of heaven on earth. This is is what I would rather be doing than sitting at home preparing to be snowed in this weekend!