Tugreofia Smith interview with Canada’s podcast

20

November, 2020

 is the Vice President of Operations at A&T Ascension Consulting (ATAC) (http://atacinc.ca), a virtual #staffing company she co-founded with her husband Adrian, where she manages hundreds of #remoteworkers across North America. Having successfully led virtual teams for over 10 years, she is passionate about the opportunities that #remotework provides to individuals, rural communities, and evolving businesses. As the mother of five children, Tugs fully appreciates the challenge of balancing work and family. Part of her mission is to offer better work-life balance to thousands of working moms throughout the country. Tugs is based in the Toronto area.

“Remember why you started this business. Remember why you have this energy and this passion. Remember why you want to change the world. What inspired you? Who inspired you? Get caught up in that “why.””

Staying Positive in a Negative Situation — 3 Tips for Entrepreneurs

3 Tips for Entrepreneurs

21

October, 2020

There are many resources, motivational videos, books, and podcasts on how to stay positive but not a lot of them look at the subject from an entrepreneurial perspective. Entrepreneurship is a uniquely challenging but rewarding roller coaster of ups and downs that requires some very specific strategies to navigate the challenges. Here are three tips specifically for entrepreneurs seeking to level up themselves and their business.

atac inc

Tip 1: Remember that You Are Your Brand – As an entrepreneur and a business owner, you are your brand. If things aren’t going well on the home front and you get into a meeting with an important client, you still need to remain professional and composed at all times no matter how much you may be struggling internally. To be successful, you truly have to do the things that other people aren’t willing to do, which sometimes means putting on a smile on the outside however much you may be crying on the inside. However, ensure that you take some time after your meeting or presentation to address the source of the issues or stress. Keeping thing bottled up and unresolved will eventually affect your productivity.

Tip 2: Keep Moving (or Press Pause)First and foremost, keep moving. If something is not going right in one part of your family life or business, there are always a zillion other things in your life you will need to continue taking care of. For most entrepreneurs, when your business is in its infancy, you are everything. You’re the accountant, you’re the payroll person, you’re HR, you’re everyone. And if you stagnate or fall apart, everything can be destroyed. When one aspect of life isn’t going right, instead of sitting and wallowing or focusing on this negative energy, keep moving forward. If you have to complete your payroll or if you have to write a plan for your client, do that. Focus on income-generating activities. Focus on things that will propel your business to the next level. Because if you get caught in that negative energy it’s only going to pull you down. Remember from Tip 1, you are your brand on every level and your business will always be a reflection of how well you’re keeping it together.

If you find it impossible to keep moving, the other option is to pause. Try meditation. Taking a break can be as simple as five minutes away from your desk. Let’s face it. We’re business owners, we’re trying to launch our business or keep our businesses successful. We don’t have months, weeks, or even days to go off and meditate. But we can always take five minutes to sit in silence. Depending on your belief system, you can approach mediation from a spiritual level or purely as a relaxation strategy. Try to get your mind focused. Alternatively, you can enjoy an activity that allows you to lose focus. Sometimes, I’ll step away from a stressful time at work and watch a TV show for 30 minutes – something that makes me laugh or cry. And then I come back tough as nails ready to get things done. Take a break. And then come back stronger. Remember that negative energy is just that. It’s energy. You want to change the energy flow whenever you’re in a negative environment or headspace.

Tip 3: Remember Your “Why” — My most important tip for entrepreneurs is to always remember your “why.” Remember why you’re working until midnight. Remember why you may not be paying bills on time. Remember why you started this business. Remember why you have this energy and this passion. Remember why you want to change the world. What inspired you? Who inspired you? Get caught up in that “why.” Get refocused and get refreshed. And that is going to change your negative situation. I’m not going to promise it will change immediately. But it will change your energy and once your energy changes, everything about your business changes. Because when you’re an entrepreneur, you are your business on every level. When you change your energy and remember why you’re doing this, you become ready to take on the world. And that means continuing to make progress.

No one is immune to encountering negative situations. Inevitably, you’ll spill something on your shirt as you’re walking into a meeting, get into an argument with your spouse, or you might have a fender bender on your way to work. Things happen. Life happens. But despite the circumstances, we need to always make sure we are laser focused on our business, on our dream, on the seed that we planted and that we continue to nurture.

 

“Remember why you started this business. Remember why you have this energy and this passion. Remember why you want to change the world. What inspired you? Who inspired you? Get caught up in that “why.””

Tugreofia Smith
Tugreofia (Tugs) Smith is the Vice President of Operations at A&T Ascension Consulting (ATAC), a virtual staffing company managing hundreds of remote workers across North America. Having successfully managed virtual teams for over 10 years, she is passionate about the opportunities that remote work provides to individuals, rural communities, and evolving businesses.
Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

09

September, 2020

While a few months ago businesses scrambled to move staff to home office environments, many of us are now starting to look ahead at what’s next. Several states and provinces have passed the peak infection rate and are looking towards declining COVID-19 numbers and a gradual return to normal. But if we assume that “normal” means working 9-5 while enduring a lengthy commute to work, is “normal” really “optimal”? We know working from home at least part of the time and can enhance a staff member’s work life balance while alleviating the need for employers to pay for additional workspace and infrastructure.

But many managers worry about how to train new staff or how to keep current staff fully engaged. These are certainly valid concerns but when managed effectively, working from home can be a win-win for both employer and staff member. Based on my experience over the past 10 years staffing hundreds of customer service agents, data entry clerks, sales reps, and licensed mortgage brokers virtually working in home offices across North America, there are some key tips and tricks to keeping remote staff members happy and productive.

Offer a virtual “water cooler” environment – It’s important that your staff feel connected and supported while working from home. Remote training platforms and communication tools are a must for facilitating skill development, performance management, and, equally important, social interaction. We use an internal chat platform to give staff members across the continent the opportunity to make social connections with one another and seek support when needed. The chat platform gives people the opportunity to share jokes, stories, family photos, or ideas with their co-workers. We don’t micromanage the chat platform or create rigid rules for engagement, and the trust we place in our staff members is reflected in their professionalism.

Keep different learning styles in mind – Deploy a comprehensive training platform that addresses diverse, individualized learning styles. Some people are visual learners, others learn by doing, and others learn through repetition. Understanding how individuals learn best from the start and delivering customized training is highly effective.

Get creative in offering incentives — Offering incentives to drive performance and staff behavior is not new to most managers, especially in a sales or KPI-driven work environment. However, we’ve found that when working with a large number of remote staff members, some mid-performers tend to disengage from incentive programs, feeling like they’ll never lead, or never win the big prize. To ensure that everyone is engaged, not just the super star performers, we offer raffles, with easily attainable ways to earn ballots. We then use a remote raffle platform to draw names for small cash prizes randomly and real-time. Staff members love it and the online raffle is often the highlight of the week!

Use video – Because 80% of communication is non-verbal, it’s important to build trust between co-workers, employees, and managers through video connections. If you’re a CEO or executive with hundreds or thousands of employees, strive to communicate as much via video as you do via email or even phone. When in-person team meetings or huddles aren’t practical, video is a great way to stay connected.

Provide flexible schedules – One of the biggest advantages of work-at-home environments is the flexibility for staff members to self-manage. Consider whether you really need everyone on your team available between the hours of 9 and 5 every day. As an alternative and where feasible think about whether tasks and assignments can be completed any time of day. As long as staff members abide by set deadlines and are delivering on their productivity commitments, many businesses find that loosening their restrictions can promote greater job satisfaction and create a more productive environment.

Look for opportunities to engage – Acknowledging birthdays, telling people they did a good job on a particular project, praising team work and collaboration, or simply saying “good morning” are small but important ways you can engage your remote team members.

Address performance issues early — Ensure that remote staff understand expectations from the start and address problems early. When performance issues crop up, provide additional guidance and partner them with a remote mentor who’s more tenured.

Grow your leadership team – Don’t think that remote workers don’t need management. One of the worst mistakes you can make when staffing remotely is letting team members get lost and feel like a number. As your leadership team grows, make sure your management team understands and abides by your corporate culture.

“One of the biggest advantages of work-at-home environments is the flexibility for staff members to self-manage.”

In summary, when managing remote teams, it’s important to respect staff members as adults. Trying to micromanage or “parent” them will never drive success. By placing trust in your remote team members, that sense of trust will be reciprocated and the business impact will show. Structuring an effective engagement and communication system for remote workers means businesses can create and maintain a post-pandemic work environment that may look a lot different and be a lot more productive than the “old normal.”

ATAC Unveils New Whitepaper: Using Work-at-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience

ATAC Unveils New Whitepaper: Using Work-at-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience

14

May 14, 2020

ATAC Inc, an organization for accelerating the adoption of work from home solutions, recently announced the publication of its Using work-At-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience White Paper. This white paper was written for all businesses with an interest in implementing work-at-home solutions, and explains why work-at-home solutions can be an effective option for all businesses improving efficiency and continuity of customer experience delivery to consumers this is essential.

 

“Customer experience delivery to consumers in North America and around the world has changed dramatically in 2020. Enterprises can no longer assume that the old ways of doing things when it comes to contact center management is acceptable. Rather, no matter the
vertical, companies need to adapt to the reality of cementing consumer loyalty, while at the same time having the best business continuity strategies in place.

It is for this reason that more executives are looking toward a virtualized model as a means of seamless delivery to get through challenging periods, one that uses dispersed agents that
deliver value to end-users from their residences, as opposed to collectively in cental facilities.”

 

“Enterprises can no longer assume that the old ways of doing things when it comes to contact center management is acceptable.”

atac virtual staffing solutions

“Having the right customer experience services partner in place can make the difference between a well-thought out BCP strategy and one that is slapdash. ATAC has differentiated itself as a provider of home-based virtual contact centre solutions for clients in North America, providing front-line service support to consumers alongside services that drive additional value to enterprises, all with the goal of making their contact centre operations more impervious to sudden changes that could impact delivery.”

 

Download ATAC Whitepaper here

Using WorkatHome for Business Continuity in Customer Experience. A white paper for ATAC

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

07

November, 2017

1. Divide and Conquer. The key to a good working relationship is to find out what each person is good at and then divide the responsibilities accordingly. This avoids problems that can occur when two people try to do the same things.

2. Who’s the Boss? It is important to specify one person as the boss or the person principally dedicated to running the business. This is especially helpful when children are involved because it provides one person greater flexibility to walk away from the business when necessary without interrupting operations.

3. Keep Work/Life Separate. When you run your own company, especially at home, it can often be difficult to separate yourselves from the constant demands of the business and the 24-7 expectation of many clients. Try to find one or two hours a day to put the phones away and spend time with each other focusing on something other than work.

4. Establish a Routine. Although you may be working from home, getting ready as if you are going to an outside office is essential for success. Having an established routine helps set expectations for employees, customers, family members and, most importantly, each other.

5. Have a Plan. Although it’s your own business you should take the mindset of running it like a large corporation, at least with respect to planning. We recommend writing a business plan, setting financial goals together and, at the end of each year, evaluating what went wrong and what went right, then making changes as necessary.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Taken a step further, choosing a business that lets you work with the one you love can lead to an even better life. By following the above advice and working together it is possible to control your own destiny while finding the balance you both have always wanted.

Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes are making us more lonely than ever

06

November, 2017

Several years ago, I was living in London when I accepted a job as a freelance reporter in Manchester. Despite the job being two hours away by train, I was eager—read, desperate—to take my first properly paid journalism position. The temporary contract job wasn’t enough to warrant moving cities, so I told myself I could hack travelling back and forth for a few months.

The strain of commuting 200-plus miles a week began to take its toll after just a few weeks. After travelling two hours to get to Manchester, it took another 40 minutes to the office. During the week, I crashed on sofas. Sometimes I would stay with my boyfriend’s family in Yorkshire—but that still left me 90 minutes away.

I felt drained. I was broke from spending so much on train fares. I was sick of carrying clean underwear and a toothbrush in my bag. My commute and work had left me little time to see friends, family, or my partner properly—they faced long working hours, fairly minimal pay, and hour-long commutes too.

One evening, as I waited at the station to go back to London, I realized my work had been late paying me and I was scraping the bottom of my overdraft. I had been commuting across the country for weeks, with nothing to show for it aside from bags under my eyes. I sat on a bench and cried, feeling embarrassed, exhausted, frustrated—and incredibly lonely. What didn’t occur to me at the time that I was far from alone.

Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams. It contributes to our anxiety, stress, and our waistlines. A recent study of British commuters found that even just a 20-minute increase in commute time is equivalent to getting a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction. Every extra minute spent travelling to and from work feels like a lifetime—and, unsurprisingly, increases strain on our wellbeing.

It’s also making us lonelier than ever.

“Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams.”

Millennials are often maligned as entitled, work-shy snowflakes unwilling to go the extra mile for their professions, but research suggests this is not the case. Stagnant wages and rising housing costs are pushing people further away from their jobs. The number of workers who commute daily in the UK for two hours or more has increased by a third in five years. This is a problem felt acutely by those aged between 20 and 35, who typically spend over a third of their post-tax income on rent.

Young British people may be the first generation to earn less than their predecessors, according to one 2016 report by the Resolution Foundation think tank. The 2008 Great Recession is only partly to blame, with earnings for young people being squeezed even before the start of the financial crisis. The same goes for young people in the US, who are $2,000 poorer than their parents were at the same age, according to the 2015 US Census.

As a result, my generation faces increasingly long journeys to work, with less to show for our efforts. In the UK, young people commute for the equivalent of three days a year more than their parents, according to a study by the UK-based Resolution Foundation. American workers are commuting longer too, according to the 2013 US Census—and nearly 600,000 workers endure “extreme commutes” of 90 minutes or more.

Facing skyrocketing living costs, and less disposable income, young people are also going out less, and spending more time on social media. A University of Pittsburgh study of adults aged between 19 and 32 years old found those who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel socially isolated.

That leaves commuting one of the few times we’re consistently around other people. And yet, ironically, it’s an incredibly isolating experience.

When I was commuting to Manchester, people would ask how I was. I’d reply, “Fine,” because admitting I was lonely and depressed would mean admitting defeat. But it’s not surprising that I was feeling that way. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam lists long commutes as one of the most substantial predictors of social isolation. He suggests that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10% fewer “social connections”—connections that make us feel happy.

We assume loneliness is a problem only felt among older generations, but it is a growing issue among young people. A survey of 2,000 Brits published by the UK’s Nationwide bank earlier this year unearthed a surprising phenomenon—nearly 89% of people aged between 18 and 34 who were polled said they had experienced “feeling disconnected or isolated” from society at some point in their lives, compared to 70% of those over 55.

We might be the generation that has instant streaming video, avo lattes, and “deconstructed food,” but we also live in an age of job insecurity and perilous casual worker contracts, burdened with enormous debt, and high living costs. It’s difficult to find a millennial worker who doesn’t feel disposable—most of them are. So if you’re offered a job with a long commute, the chances are you’re going to take it.

A lengthy transit to work seems like a relatively minor inconvenience, but long commutes and increased social isolation need to be taken more seriously.

Research shows feeling lonely is terrible for your physical and mental health. Earlier this year, medical practitioners warned that being lonely can be as bad for you as having a long-term medical condition like high blood pressure. Feeling isolated can contribute to problems such as anxiety and depression, which in turn can make you feel more alone, says Stephen Buckley, a spokesperson for Mind, a British mental health charity.

“Many people find spending time socializing to be a useful tool in boosting their wellbeing,” Buckley says. “But when you’re faced with long commutes, long working hours, or a lot of time away from home, it can be really difficult to spend time with others.”

These underlying factors aren’t going to go away overnight. But there are ways to get help if your commute is getting too much.

Online peer support networks like Mind’s Elefriends provide an outlet for people to discuss their problems online with people going through similar experiences. Networks for workers, such as freelancers, can be a good way to let off steam. Some groups organize social meetings in different cities, so you can speak to others face-to-face. This can be a lifeline when working far away from home.

A short-term answer to a stressful commute could be found in meditation apps like Buddhify (paywall) and Headspace, which have guided meditation sessions for a number of different scenarios, including traveling.

As an increasing number of people face long, strenuous commutes—employers may need to become more open to flexible working scenarios and telecommuting. According to a 2014 survey of more than 300 US workers by the University of Illinois, most employees performed at least as well as in the office when telecommuting—and some actually do better.

I commuted between London and Manchester for around five months until I was offered a full-time position in the capital, a breezy 30-minute commute from home. I don’t regret that period—if anything, it taught me how closely linked my commute was to my mental well-being and how important it was for me to stay connected to others. Even though my commute is shorter now, my experience has motivated me to work hard to maintain that connection with friends and family, even if it’s finding ten minutes for a coffee with someone at a train station. It can make a world of difference.

WRITTEN BY

Lydia Smith