The Luxury Of Living At Work?

The Luxury OF Working From Home

I don’t work from home. In this pandemic, I am required by my employer to be in offices 6 days a week. Yet I don’t envy those who have the “luxury of working from home,” because it’s not a luxury. It’s quite the opposite in fact.

Let me make this a simple as I can. Pre-pandemic, the ability to work from home was a luxury. Sometimes reserved for employees as a reward, it was often seen as a perk. As I look around at my friends and family that are working from home, it’s painfully apparent that the only people benefiting from this “new normal” are employers.

Work-life balance is out the window. I see family working extra hours FOR FREE because they are unable to meet the requirements of their jobs during regular business hours due to the pressure of being at home, without a proper workspace, dealing with children who are not at school, other family members who are also working from home, and the myriad distractions that come with that.

“But Paul, shouldn’t they make up the hours for the work they don’t accomplish?” I hear you ask. “Doesn’t the employer deserve to get what they pay for?”.

Yes, they do. But frankly, fuck’em. Let’s talk about what they employer is getting out of everyone working from home, shall we?

In most cases (and yes, I’m sure there are a handful of excellent employers who deviate from the norm,) the workloads have not decreased, but do you know what has? The employers’ costs.

Some have reduced the amount of space they are renting, but others, even if they keep the space in hopes of the full workforce returning to the office after the pandemic, face dramatically reduced costs for that space. Water, sewer, heating (or air conditioning), electricity, office supplies, insurance, cleaning, hardware /furniture /equipment attrition costs have all dropped dramatically. That’s to name just a few.

Those costs are now borne by guess who? That’s right: the employee.

Most people did not have an office in their home pre-pandemic, and those that did usually didn’t have it set up as a long-term work environment.

No matter how cheap you choose to go, it costs time and money to set up a long-term workspace in your home – assuming you even have the space to do so. Who pays for that? Do you get reimbursed for the desk, desk chair, laptop stand, monitors you had to purchase in order to be in any way as efficient as you were in the office?

Who pays for the additional water, sewage, heating / air-conditioning / office supplies / company coffee costs that come with being in your home instead of the office? You know, the normal costs of doing business, those unspoken items that are part of your employment, that are now being dumped on the employees.

Let’s not even talk about the cost of internet usage in America and its “no real choice is an actual choice” approach to broadband providers. I can’t get unlimited where I live. I have a 1TB cap, and we come precariously close every month to passing that cap because one of us is working from home. If we both were working from home, then we would blow through that cap in no time, and then come the overage fees.

And don’t get me started on those who offer advice to others without realizing that their reality is simply not the reality for the majority of folks. Nor could they make it such if they wanted to!

“If you have a standing desk, recreate that at home. You also want to make sure that your chair is ergonomically comfortable and that it’s an ergonomically friendly keyboard,” Mathew said.
But that doesn’t mean working from home can’t convey some extra benefits. For Kvinta, that includes regularly working outside.
“So, I do have an office — a dedicated office inside. But on beautiful days like today, I haul everything out, put it on my table on the porch, and I can work all day on the porch. It’s pretty awesome.”

CNN HEALTH

Sure Kvinta – We’ll drag the desk, two monitors, laptop, dock, and everything else out on the back porch, and set up a canopy to stop the Alabama sun from glaring off the screens. Let’s have the cabana boy bring margaritas while we’re at it. Christ on a cracker, at least I have a deck. What about all those poor wretches paying through the nose for studio apartments? I’m sure they can drag all their stuff to… Wait, what’s open and safe, with free wifi?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all great for employers, but my blood boils when I hear that even the richest of the rich (almost) want to reduce employee wages because they are working remotely.

It’s a fucking global pandemic people, and despite the existence of vaccines, the end is not yet in sight, for so many reasons.

If employers want to show solidarity with their remote workforce, maybe they should reduce expectations and increase pay. I’m certain it won’t inconvenience the shareholders all that much. It will go a lot further than platitudes at engendering goodwill with employees and improve retention when we come out the other side of all this.

Your home is supposed to be your castle, your sanctuary. I find it pretty fucking offensive: that the majority of employers just started squatting in people’s homes without so much as a “by your leave.” Fuck, most squatters would at least offer a reach-around to stay…

Entrepreneurship Is Not For Everyone

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone

Being an entrepreneur is cool right now, but let’s be honest – entrepreneurship is not for most of us. To put it another way – anybody can be an entrepreneur, but most people probably shouldn’t.

I went on a spontaneous Facebook live rant about this very topic a few months ago, so if you don’t feel like reading this post just scroll to the bottom and watch the video.

I’ve had almost every kind of job you can imagine – working in bars, security, the military, restaurants, teaching – and without a doubt being an entrepreneur is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Doubly so since I started a family.

If you think being an entrepreneur means more time off, less stress, and living a life of swag and leisure, well I hate to break it to you but you’re deluding yourself. That kind of lifestyle doesn’t happen until you make it, and making it doesn’t happen overnight unless you’re insanely lucky.

For most entrepreneurs it takes years of grinding.

For most of us, there is the daily grind and hustle. The constant struggle to stay motivated while working ridiculously long hours (not counting the sneaky work you do on weekends) and having very little time off.

Did I mention that it gets doubly hard when you have a family? Balancing family time with building your business is an eternal struggle. Thinking about playing Xbox after the kids go to bed? Forget it mate, you’ve got proposals to write and contracts to review.

As I said, when you get there it’s worth it. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. I’m far enough along the entrepreneurial journey that going back to a 9 to 5 simply isn’t an option. A “regular job” couldn’t provide for my family the way I can, nor will it ever let me provide for them in the future to the level that I want to.

So, before you hitch your wagon to being an entrepreneur, ask yourself (and be deadly honest)- is this really for me? Am I willing to work harder, sacrifice more, fail, start over and have less until I make it? If you’re not being honest with yourself about your commitment then you are setting yourself up to fail, and your valuable energy would be better spent elsewhere.

(Click here to view the video if you’re reading this post in the newsletter!)

Work On, Not In Your Business

A huge mistake I’ve made is thinking that I can handle everything myself. If I don’t know it, I’ll learn it. It’s an approach that certainly gets things done but it is not in any way efficient.

In fact, it’s about as far from efficient as you can get and in many ways it can be detrimental to your business. If you’re working on the minutiae and administration of your business – the bookkeeping, the website updates, trying to mentally untangle lease agreements and legalese, then you’re not actually spending time growing and developing your business.

You’re not moving the needle.

A $200 dollar an hour might sound expensive if you need a lawyer to look over a contract, but it’s probably way less than the potential lost revenue from you spending 8 hours trying to decipher a document when you could be hustling for new business. Plus the lawyer brings years of experience that you don’t have which allows her to point out important, potentially deal-breaking things that you a may otherwise miss!

As a small business owner, there are certainly some skills that are definitely worth learning and not farming out – social media marketing – but generally, you should surround yourself with those who are already experts and use their skills and judgment to your advantage.

Even if you’re just starting out and don’t have much cash to hire consultants, freelancers or staff, you can always barter for services and skills, and a host of sites exist where you can farm out business services for as little at five bucks.

Time is your most valuable commodity you have, don’t waste it working in your business. Spend it working on your business.

Every Castle Is Built On Strong Foundations

Every Castle IS Built On Strong Foundations

Castles stand strong for hundreds of years, and even when they fall or are destroyed the foundations remain.

I took this image while playing in the park with my son. Watching Malcolm intently collect and build his small pile of stones (“baby boulders” as he calls them) evoked a memory of working with my grandfather when I was only seven or eight years of age, laying foundations for walls and the extensions for the house in which my grandparents still live.

It’s amazing how much my grandfather thought me about life and work ethic, and I was completely unaware he was doing it. He may even have been unaware too. I hope I can do the same for my kids.

If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. In order to do a job efficiently and to excel, you need more than just the enthusiasm to do it – you need the skills.

If you want your business to survive you cannot rely on your natural talent alone. You have to build strong foundations both within yourself and within your company.

Everybody has a natural talent at something, whether it’s hustling, networking, coding, building or something else that applies to your business. But the truth is that people who are talented at everything they need to do are almost impossible to find. I’m certainly not one of them.

Mere mortals like you and I, have to make up for our lack of natural talent through continuous self-improvement – through education, practice, implementation and grinding until we get those skills down.

Natural talent is awesome, but in most fields it can be surpassed by those willing to learn the fundamentals and continuously practice and improve. Those who build upon their natural talent become exceptional.

If your castle collapses or has to face a new and unexpected challenge, then having strong foundations will make it easier to weather the storm, to build again, or even to expand with a few extensions.

It’s Better To Make Marketing Mistakes Than Not Try At All

I had a very pleasant conversation with a someone who is stepping into the role of social media marketer at a small business that currently engages in almost no online marketing.

While I believe she will do very well in the position, she asked one poignant question that always comes up with clients new to social media marketing: “What if I make a mistake?”

The short answer is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Treat every mistake as a learning opportunity.

Thankfully I recorded a video about just that topic on my way to the office this morning.

The Case Against Having An Agency Manage Your Social Media

Nobody knows your small business like you do. Nobody knows your customers like you do. Unless you’ve got deep pockets to hire the best talent it’s almost impossible to get a surrogate to speak on your behalf with your knowledge, passion, and insight into your small business and your customers.

Sure you can use an agency to take the grunt work out of your social media. Need an infographic done? Collect the data and farm it out. Need a video edited, your website tweaked, or a banner created for you Facebook page? Farm out the work. Need someone to help you with your strategy, editorial calendar and get you set up with the tools you need to do the job efficiently – hire someone!

Need to respond to a customer or patient who had a bad experience at your practice or small business – you need to do that yourself. You’d be pissed at being put on the long finger by some faceless agency woman, so why would you expect any different of your most valuable assets – your customers?

Want to tell your story as authentically as possible? YOU need to tell your story, engage your customers, and be on the front lines of your social media accounts so that you can listen to what your customers are telling you and seize those opportunities.

Managing social media isn’t like war. Sitting back 200 miles behind the front lines sipping chardonnay and only reading reports while the agency troops do the interacting means that you will be unplugged from vital information about what your competitors are doing and what your customers really want. In a small business, you can’t be the social media General that only sees the big picture as reported to you – the key to social media is in the details. The key is in getting dirty, hearing first hand what your customers want and spotting the trends before they occur – an ability that only comes from being in the trenches.

Put in the work. Do your 6 hours a week (minimum) and you will see the payoff.

Messaging Inside The YouTube App Will Be Huge!

Video on the internet is huge! Messaging is huge too (and bots inside messaging platforms). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that messaging and native sharing within the YouTube app is only going to mean more video views for those investing in the platform.

The sharing model within the YouTube app is broken. The only options to share a YouTube video from my Nexus 6P are outside of the YouTube experience (yes Google Plus is outside of the YouTube experience) and into other platforms. That’s great for exposure on other platforms, but when you want to keep people inside your platform consuming content, it doesn’t make great sense.

If your target audience is anybody in the 16- 44 age range and your content is actually worth sharing then this is great news.

Lack Of Data Standard, Not Meaningful Use To Blame For Crap EHR Systems

Meaninful Use and EHRs

Let’s not blame the carrot (Meaningful use) for the stick (Electronic Health Record systems) being too short!

If we want to make Electronic Health Record systems (and Practice Management systems) better, cheaper and actually innovate, then we need a standard schema for how core data is stored so that it can be easily exported to a different EHR at the drop of a hat.

Despite the availability of $35 billion of federal funding to incentivize the adoption of this new health information technology, results have been disappointing.  For one thing, physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who rely on such systems on a daily basis reported steadily decreasing levels of satisfaction with them.  The move to electronic records has not only failed to enhance patient care but in many cases actually interfered with it.

Meaningful use isn’t the reason that EHR systems are so fundamentally crappy and exorbitantly expensive, it’s that once you sign a contract vendors know you’re going to be with them for 5 – 10 years because an automatic lock-in is created by the prohibitive costs related to implementation, staff training and patient data transfer.

Sure, there are standards for interoperability, but as far as I can tell there are no standards defining how these companies actually store the patient data within their systems. Or, if we feel this is too much of an imposition, standards defining a schema for importing and exporting of information from the system (what they do with it in their system is their own business).

There are criteria for a data export for a certified EHR but of course they fall short of providing a real solution:

We also note that this functionality is not intended to and may not be sufficient to accomplish a full migration from one product to another without additional intervention because of the scope of this criterion. Specifically, the data and document templates specified in this criterion would not likely support a full migration, which could include administrative data such as billing information. The criterion’s functionality could, however, support the migration of clinical data between health IT systems and can play a role in expediting such an activity if so determined by the user.

This leads to very expensive and time-consuming conversion processes, which usually results in only a partial import of the data your practice needs being imported.

I recently handled a migration from a well established server-based product to one of the largest cloud based providers. Much to my frustration even a basic list of referring providers couldn’t be exported from one and imported to the other without connecting directly to the SQL database, exporting the data, then reformatting to match the new vendors schema, manually creating some data columns that couldn’t be reliably split programmatically and uploading to the new vendor.

The patient demographics were a considerably larger nightmare.

We could have paid the vendor to do it but that would have taken longer than doing it myself and would have cost considerably more.

A defined standard for core data portability would make it incredibly easy to demo solutions from vendors as you could import data into a test environment, evaluate the system with real patient data instead of the often useless test data many vendors load into their demos, and enable practices to make better informed decisions about which solution to invest in.

Needless to say data portability would increase competition between vendors essentially forcing them to focus on what practices actually need, delivering better user interfaces, improved user experiences and lower costs – all of which adds up to products that are easier to use, cost less and create more time for physicians and their staff to actually focus on patients.