Work From Home: Different Experiences

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I know. I keep thinking “hey, I’m about done with this,” then some new wrinkle shows up and next thing you know, blog post. I also like it as some of my career advice has aged out, but this is relevant and fresh and helpful.

I was chatting with some friends about our different experiences in Work From Home (WFH) and then something struck me. As much as many of us are WFH, as many of us have done WFH . . . we’re often forgetting just how diverse people’s experiences are.

One friend of mine has done it for two decades. Another had remappable experiences. I had done it on and off for two decades and had participated in WFH experiments. It was interesting comparing notes.

It also struck me that as WFH becomes more normalized we’re going to need to keep this in mind to adjust.

As we move to WFH we have to appreciate our experiences are different than other peoples. There are things we know and things we don’t know. Things we can handle and things we can’t. Any move to WFH is going to require people to cultivate some personal awareness so we can develop, learn, and unlearn.

Also we’ll have to be aware that others have different experiences than us when it comes to WFH. We may find someone who know more and we should listen. Others may need psychological tips from us to navigate unknown waters. We’re going to need empathy and humility.

Some of our co-workers won’t have the above knowledges or sensitivities, and we’ll have to educate them. Hopefully we can do so either formally or appropriately, but I’m sure there’s already been plenty of WFH-based temper flareups. These will keep occurring.

Finally, this giant science/business experiment is happening during a pandemic. We’ll have to relearn and reapply our lessons all over again when things calm down (which is probably 9-12 month at my guess).

I’m terribly concerned right now that the continuing WFH that’s going on hasn’t had enough` effort by people to assess different experiences. I mean it’s sort of understandable – we got thrown into this fast – but that still means there’s a problem.

This is something I also need to sit with myself. I don’t think I fully assessed the different experiences and challenges people have faced. I need to understand my friends, family, and co-workers a bit better.

So for now?

  1. Realize your WFH experiences aren’t others.
  2. See who you can learn from regarding WFH.
  3. See what you can teach about WFH.
  4. Have empathy for people who are adjusting to WFH.
  5. Be ready to have to face changes to WFH because of how we did this.

Steven Savage

Career Advice: Your Climate Plan

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I’ve noted before, I kind of give less career advice lately. Some of it is that my advice has changed, some of it is that I am evaluating what I can share as a more senior professional, and most of it is the world has changed. However, I can provide some useful insights, repeating and expanding on what I’ve said before.

Work climate change into your career.

Sure I’ve said it before, but I should note that as of this writing in 202 I live in California, which got hot then caught on fire. Then everything caught on fire, and a bunch of states near us had it even worse. The term “climate refugee” got used in the present tense in the news, so I got thoughtful.

Oh and there’s a damn pandemic.

So here’s a few insights I’ve had from being in the middle of this.

Accept this is the reality. Climate change is real. It will probably affect your life and your job. That’s the way it is.

Evaluate possible climate impacts on where you live – and may live. This may not be as clear as it seems, so do your research. For instance there’s several possible scenarios of where I live, meaning I get to contemplate heat, fires, torrential rains, and mudslides (probably not at once). Also keep in mind these are impacts – don’t think in good or bad, because that increased heat to you may mean others wish to move to your area.

Listen to others. Share ideas with friends, follow the news, join a transition community. Connect with others to understand what’s going on – and what may go on. I’ve had more than enough cases of “oh, I didn’t know that” in just the few years to remind me of this.

Have a climate change plan. Evaluate what happens if you have to move due to climate change. Do not assume you won’t – instead evaluate how you might be impacted. Remember impacts could even be “my area is really climate safe and people may want to move here.”

Have a climate change career plan. You’re going to need to ask what you’ll do for a living. Do you have portable skills? Can you work from home and remotely? Where can you move and do what you do?

If you move, remember others my do it as well. If ten years from now you’re leaving a unlivable area, you won’t be alone. Keep track of what happens in your “relocation targets.” Also remember if you arrive late if there’s a rush, there may be challenges.

Team up. Don’t do this planning alone. Even if you’re alone now, when you move you may have a roommate, or an SO, etc.

Those are my thoughts, and I hope they help. Let me know your climate change plans and thoughts.

As for mine? My area has problems, but they’re straightforward, so I have some identified “bug out” areas and a job that can be done remotely. I’ve got it easier compared to some.

But I’m also older. I won’t be around as long as some of you. I hope my advice helps, and that maybe it does some small part to help you adapt to climate change. And perhaps we can work on mitigating it.

Steven Savage

Work From Home: Work From Home Training

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

And the series continues. I guess because I have A Lot Of Thoughts on this.

Me, I’ve worked from home (WFH) a lot, and I’ve had friends who have done it for over a decade. We’ve got certain work from home skills and abilities, that we probably don’t see as we’re used to them. I realized that recently, and it came to me that as we do more WFH people will need training to do it – and people probably aren’t ready.

How many of us actually are skilled at working from home? Because, in a world where WFH is comparatively rare, it means some of us lack the skillset – yes it’s a skillset.

Consider what WFH Skills include:

  • Time management on your own. Not as easy when you’re remote.
  • Phone etiquette and phone technology. Look, do we even use our phones for calls? When is it time to just text?
  • Proper use of chat programs as you can’t swing by desks. I’m talking not just sending messages, but replying.
  • Proper use of email as folks need to rely on it more (and trust me, a lot of us are terrible at it).
  • Proper use of tools for collaboration like Jira, Rally, and such. Those are even more vital for collaboration.
  • Use of documentation tools and proper use of documentation. Being able to hand someone a document is great for communication, but not if your writing is horrible.
  • Business processes and the like – because you can’t yell over your cube to ask someone “how do I do this?”
  • The psychology and manners of working from home.

Even typing that list i feel both exhausted and appreciative of those with good work from home skills. I’m sure you could write books on the skills, or run classes. Speaking of . . .

Organizations will need to ensure people are trained for WFH. The skills above need to be acquired by folks for any organization that wants or needs more WFH. These need to be learned intentionally; we’re in a rapid shift, and you can’t just hope people pick it up over time.

Note I say Organizations plural – because even in the post covid age, there will be more WFH for everyone. The business you work for will need this training, sure. But this will also be your church or temple, the con you do cosplay events for, and maybe even your gaming group. Every organization out there needs to be ready to teach people how to work from home.

This also means that there will be a whole new range of opportunities for people to write, teach, and educate. We’ll need guides and consulting services and people to teach work from home. Organizations will need to develop ways to improve WFH processes – or hire people that do. In fact, this might be a great chance for you to share your WFH knowledge with others!

But we’re going to need to train people to WFH, everywhere, and provide that education. This may be a bigger shift than people are ready for – but being ready is something we’ll need to be. WFH is here, there will be more, and in an age of climate change and pandemic, we’ll need to adapt.

It’s time to get educated.

Steven Savage

Creativity, Resistance, and Results

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I have written about regularly, creativity is necessary to get a better world. It is a power that dissolves the grip of tyrants, a kind of Alkahest that dissolves in a disarming matter. But one of the powers of creativity is that well-done creativity is about results.

For all its power and adaptability, good creativity is also strangely solid.

Think of the power of a single book. It is a real thing, it exists, its ideas are there. Even a lousy book is an achievement – and a great book is even more of an achievement. A book can change the world and take down empires.

A thousand books, even in a regime trying to censor them, can bring down an empire as it can’t stop them all. The empire might not even know they exist and what they say until it’s too late.

Now take those books and add in films, TV shows, podcasts, and more. Creative people can get things done, and that’s another reason tyrants fear them. Certainly if you’ve ever seen a dictator or would-be dictator style themselves a writer and artist while promoting their obviously poor and shallow works, you know they crave that completion, that artifact showing triumph.

I think this is for three reasons.

First, creative people are DRIVEN. It is often inspiration and passion. It may involve the creative ego which is remarkably productive. But the sheer drive of creative people can keep them going in the fact of kings and despots – even if that creativity is peppered with rage and hate.

Secondly, creative people can leverage their creativity to get things DONE.They figure out ways to manage their time (or mismanage it really well). They seek ways to get their work complete. Really good creative peoples get creative about their time management.

Third and finally, creative people can be creative about how to get work OUT. They will self-publish. They will make pamphlets. They will distribute files to twenty different e-book publishers. If you are old enough like me and remember the old ‘zine days or the early internet, you know what creatives will do even without modern tools.

So don’t just apply your creativity against the tyrant and the despot. Appreciate how your creativity drives you to finish, finds ways to complete your world, and get your work distributed. Embrace your creativity as it lets you realize itself.

And it makes kings and emperors afraid.

Steven Savage

Crunchyroll Expo: Thoughts

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

So I attended some of Crunchyroll Expo, and wanted to share a few thoughts about the event. It’s actually pretty positive, though keep in mind I was mostly observing and wasn’t doing everything.

Still, what I saw impressed me – and gives me ideas for how we can manage cons in pandemic times. In fact, more on that later.

METAPHOR: In general there was an attempt to copy the feeing of a con – treating it like a city! That’s just pure metaphor, but it makes it memorable and relateable and fun.

Takeaway: Model your virtual con on physical space.

EVENTS: Pretty much every kind of con event was there, just often changed for the need to be virtual. Again, this preserved the metaphor and experience, and it made it accessible. Also I think people needed that sense of normalcy.

Takeaway: Find equivalent events for your virtual cons. Not always the same, but close.

MEDIA: There was streaming and videos and so on. Wisely, there was chat so people could, well, chat – while being on the page. Discord type stuff is nice, but I see the advantage of the embed (more on that later).

Takeaway: Combine streaming with accessible chat for the “con experience.”

PANELS AND SUCH: These used pretty much the same model – stream with a chat. But most panels were pre-recorded, which gave the presenters time to chat. I never realized until now how the pre-recorded appraoch works for audience contact.

Takeaway: Try pre-recorded events in your virtual environment, using chat for interaction.

SHOPPING: This was disappointing as it was mostly links to people’s profiles and some items. This is an area that needed to be rethought as it lacked the human contact. I think shopping at virtual cons needs to feel like the real thing, including chats with others and the store owner. Try to create a virtual artists alley or dealer’s room.

Takeaway: The fun of shopping and art at cons is the interaction. Try to get that with chat, people being available certain hours at their “table,” a good metaphor, etc.

Was it a success? Well, people came from all over, I saw great stuff, people had fun, and in the middle of a horrible pandemic. I also saw some clever use of metaphor and web layout.

So heck yes. There’s a lot to learn here.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Books: 9/8/2020

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I’m going to post a roundup of them for interested parties!

My sites:

Fiction

I’ve been returning to fiction with a techno-fantasy setting of several planets orbiting a star called Avenoth.  Take a typical fantasy world of magic and gods, and let it evolve into the space age and internet age . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

Steve’s Work From Home Findings: The Dam Bursts

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’ve been writing about Work From Home (WFH) a lot lately. You see a post here a week as I discuss my thoughts and findings. But it’s not just here I’m talking about it.

It’s a subject at work because, you know, pandemic.

It’s a subject among friends, as we’re almost all working from home.

It’s a subject at home as my girlfriend is dealing with it too.

And I realized I, the geek job guru, the WFH advocate, am tired of talking about working from home. It’s all over, it’s everywhere, it’s exhausting. So why am I not thrilled we’re discussing it?

We first of all, there’s the entire damn pandemic. It’s a pretty awful time to discuss it, as well as all the other awful stuff in the world.

But I realized it’s because it’s like a damn bursting, it’s an overload. Suddenly, because of the pandemic, we’re having to cope with WFH fast.

So now suddenly all our years of theories and ideas and experience are compressed into less than a year.

So now all of our repressed desires to discuss it erupt out.

So now we’ve got to adapt so fast and so quickly it’s hard.

The dam has burst. Years of tweaking WFH, or maybe talking about it, of doing a little bit weren’t enough. So here we are in a disaster we could be ready for, adapting fast, applying lessons from decades in a year, and going “I told you so” a lot.

There’s a lesson in this.

Look, by my best estimates we’re stuck doing this until March 2021, probably July. We’re then going to deal with a world post-pandemic, with vaccines and new protocols and the like. We’re going to be worn and tired.

In this time, its important we apply these lessons, but also to go easy on ourselves. Because this is not just a hard time, we’re overwhelmed with all the stuff we have to do for WFH, and we’re tired.

So apply the lessons, but apply the vital ones first.

Use the techniques we have, but don’t beat yourself up over doing them perfectly.

Move to WFH, but understand people can’t do everything and times are tough, and it’s not perfect.

Finally, accept that during a freaking pandemic none of us are at 100%. Hell, some of us are operating at 120% and we’d like to slow down.

The dam burst. All our ideas and maybes about WFH exploded into life fast because we had to use them, during a disaster. Go easy on yourself and on everyone.

It’s not like we’re going anywhere, sadly.

Steven Savage

Podcast Dreams

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Yes, I’m thinking of a podcast. No, don’t panic, this isn’t something related entirely to the Pandemic or being a Dude With Opinions. It’s something I’ve been considering since before the Pandemic hit.

(The Pandemic HAS made me more desperate for human contact, so won’t lie, it plays into it).

So anyway, my idea would be to start a podcast that I do every week or every other week depending on my plans. This would replace one of my usual blog posts probably. Yes I’ve got a subject in mind, but I’m refinining it let’s say.

As noted, I’d been considering this for awhile. When I finally sat down and thought about it, I saw a lot of advantages to podcasts. So I wanted to share.

EASE OF ACCESS: I listen to podcasts when I drive, work out, walk, etc. It’s a way to give people something they can access and enjoy more easily.

PERSONAL: Look I love writing, as can be noticed from a large growing library. But there’s something about a Podcast that just connects you with people!

FORMAT: A podcast is a different format than writing – and as I do public speaking, it’d be fun to try it out.

SKILLS: Making a podcast also intrigues me as I’ll learn new things! Sound control, mic tech, etc.

ACCESSIBLE: Podcasts have so many ways for people to access them! It would let me connect more people. Speaking of . . .

CONNECTION: Yes, this is part of it. To reach people more personally. To team up in podcasts. This would be really nice to try.

So anyway that’s what’s crossing my mind right now. The current plan is to try to develop a proposal, run it by a few people, and probably try it somewhere October-November (when the novel goes to the editor).

Steven Savage

Steve’s Work From Home Findings: Workplace Social Events

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

There’s also social events at workplaces. Some of us enjoy them, some of us hate them, but they’re a reality. If we work from home, these are going to change.

Now before I go on, this is colored by personal opinions. I’m not a fan of “work socializing” as I’ve usually seen it done wrong – contrived, forced, and unsocial. However when it’s done right, as part of a functional culture, it’s pretty beneficial. My take is that when you do it, it should come OUT of work time – don’t take time out of people’s non-work time, and don’t force it.

So, part of this post is going to be colored by those opinions. Fortuantely, I think I’m right.

So here’s a few things we need to do with workplace socialization in Work From Home (WFH).

TAKE WORK EVENTS OUT OF WORK TIME:
I know I said this above, but let me reiterate it – if you throw work social events, they should usually come out of work time. WFH makes time, schedules, and travels unclear – so make sure to preserve the work/life distinction by not chipping into “life” time.

However beyond healthy work/life balance, this provides another advantage – having workplace social events come out of work time allows for clear planning and scheduling. You know when something is happening, its work impacts, and can plan for them. This clarity helps the whole WFH things.

SET REAL GOALS:
Don’t just throw a party because you always have. Don’t just do a conference because you always have.

Ask what your goals are for these new events. You may find your goals don’t align with what you do now. You may find they’re quite worthy. You may find they have purpose and cancel them.

The best way to set goals is to talk to people and figure what they want. Don’t just enforce things or assume you know best. Instead try to find what helps people you work with.

Sure you never thought a company RPG session was a thing you needed, but it may well be.

CHOOSE APPROPRIATE METHODS:
WFH and having work social events also requires you to choose appropriate methods. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Do you do a virtual event? Those are easy to set up and don’t require travel. They also can be hard to run when you have 100 people and add to online meeting fatigue.

Do you do in-person? That can be great especially with WFH – it’s a chance to get out of the house or your office! It’s also a chance to do something different. But that requires scheduling, planning, and possibly excluding people who can’t make it.

Do you do a mixed in-person and virtual? That’s great but requires good planning and coordinating.

There is no ideal method. It depends on your goals and situation, so be open to it.

TRY NEW THINGS:
You’ve probably seen the same Christmas party, birthday party, and classes at work. Well if we’re going to WFH more why not try something new? This is a chance to do work events that are different.

A few things I’ve seen:

  • Virtual happy hours. All you need is Zoom and a beer.
  • Virtual meals. Like the above but w=probably with less alcohol.
  • Movie and TV watching. Be it streaming or just running the same film and chatting it can be a lot of fun.
  • Virtual games. There’s plenty of options for virtual gaming.
  • Mini-outings. Having time for small social events among teams, not one unified one, allows for more personal focus. I’ve had fond times going to restaurants with my teams.

This a chance to experiment!

SHARE INFORMATION:
I repeat this in many a blog post, but trust me – share ideas for how to do work social events in these times of WFH. We’re all kind of trying to figure what to do right now, so swapping ideas is necessary.

At some point we’ll probably have all sorts of scholarly papers and advice books on what to do and what works. We’re just now there now – but by swapping ideas we can build a body of knowledge. In fact, your efforts might lead to help people handle WFH and work events better.

You might even become the expert on the subject.

MOVING ONWARD:
As I said I’m not always a fan from work social events, but that’s as I’ve seen them done poorly. Right now in the age of the Pandemic, of WFH and enforced WFH, we can change things for the better. We might as well anyway, we’re sort of stuck here.

But we don’t have to be alone.

Steven Savage

Organization Is Inspiration

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

This is a bit of a personal take on things, not advice or anything. But I was talking with a friend about organization and planning and wanted to share something.

I find Organization inspires me.

Planning, scheduling, breaking work down, and so on gets me going. There’s something about it that gets my imagination going and gets me inspired. So yes, I preach a lot about organizing and Agile and the rest, but I want to note how it helps me imagine.

I realized in that talk that sometimes when I’m down, planning gets me going again.

For instance, recently I was feeling uninspired and didn’t have a sense of what I was doing. So I made some finer-grained plans on my major projects – in fact, I felt driven to do it. It made me a lot more aware, a lot more organized, and a lot more “into” what I was doing.

I think there’s two parts of this.

First, when you plan and organize projects, you get into them. You feel what made you want to do them. You imagine ways to do them. You become aware of them and experience them more intimately.

Secondly, when you plan and organize projects, you can see how to get them done. You see the end goals, you see the path, you know your challenges and your workarounds. You know how to get them done – which probably energizes you as well.

So ironically, now I the planning and organizing guy, realize I may need to do it a little more now and then. That’s a useful realization – sometimes even I need to do a little more work breakdown for reasons over work breakdown.

But that’s why I share these things. Putting it into words makes me think, feedback from you the readers helps me process, and we learn together.

So let’s get organized – in an inspiring way.

Steven Savage