The Basic Minimums: Three Work Habits You Should Be Doing

In the workplace there are some expectations we might set that are too high like, “If you work here you can never make a mistake!” There are some we set that are too low like, “You don’t ever have to get anything right when you work here.” But, let’s face it, both of those are absurd expectations as either would make the work place unlivable.

So, what are the sound and livable work expectations we should have? What are reasonable expectations that, when met, will serve others, improve our company culture, delight our customers or clients, and help the place where we spend most of our time thrive and grow? Well, turns out there are quite a few. At VeracityColab, we call them the “Basic Minimums”. Here are three of them.

#1: CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF

For those of us who grew up in a home where our moms and/or dads reminded us (sometimes two or three times a day) to clean our rooms, take out the trash, and clean our dishes, (and disciplined or rewarded us depending on how we responded), this one might come easy to us. When I was a child whenever we visited friends, family or just hung out in hotels, I was reminded to, “leave it better than you found it.” It makes a lot of sense and it’s a simple way to serve others. After all, nice, clean, uncluttered spaces, according to recent scientific tests, are “good for you”. They are more “restorative” and “restful”. In fact, researchers found that women with cluttered homes expressed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Read it here.

Now, for those of you who didn’t grow up in a home where you were “trained to be tidy” as it were, this “Basic Minimum” might be a bit more difficult for you. However, especially in the workplace, it is a Basic Minimum nonetheless. Just remember, you are working with other people, and a great way to serve them is to keep your area tidy, clean up after you eat in the kitchen (or wherever you eat), and take out the trash if you have a spare minute. Thinking of your boss or customers visiting your office, cubicle, or “space” might help you remember to throw that empty Cheetos bag in the trash instead of leaving it on your desk next to the four, half-empty cups of three-day-old coffee. They’ll appreciate it, and it’ll make you feel better – and even make you healthier.

Practical Tip: Schedule 15 minutes once a week to clean up your desk.

#2: COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AND BRIEFLY (WHEN APPROPRIATE AND POSSIBLE)

Seems weird to have to write this, but so many people don’t do this one simple task. Look, doing this one Basic Minimum can solve so many problems, help so many people, free so much time, and even save lives! Seems hyperbolic, but it’s true. Think about it, if someone is about to run across the street and doesn’t see the deadly Prius headed toward them, all you need to say is “STOP!” You don’t need to explain the whole situation. This communicates clearly and briefly to the pedestrian – he or she gets all the info they need for the given circumstance to understand and take action. This is the key to most work communication: give the info people need for a given circumstance so they understand and can take appropriate action.

These days, in the workplace, we have all kinds of communication tools at our fingertips. Slack is my favorite. You can “talk” to one person, groups of people, and even channels that include the necessary people. If you aren’t going to be in for the day, hit up the “EVERYONE” or “GENERAL” channel by saying, “I’ll be out of the office today, but you can reach me via Slack if you need me.” Ya see, that’s clear and brief. The “general Slack team”, doesn’t need to know anything more than that. We all don’t need to know where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with, why you’re there, how it’s going, what it looks like, etc. We just need to know the information for the given circumstance so we understand and can take appropriate action.

With clear and brief communication (provided people actually read the whole thread, text, Slack or email, or listen to the whole voicemail), teams work better, time is saved, information is understood, people are happier and the world is a better place.

Practical Tip: When you can get your responses to one word or two words. “Ok”, “Got it.”, and “Will do!”

#3: BE ON TIME

You’ve heard it a million times, “time is money”; and lots and lots of time is wasted waiting on people who are late to meetings or events in the workplace. Sometimes it’s because a car broke down or something out of our control happens, but most of the time it’s because of something of our own doing that can easily be avoided. Just like Basic Minimum # 1, being on time is about serving OTHER PEOPLE and the company you work for – instead of serving yourself.

If you’re a business owner, one of the biggest things you need to watch out for is time-wasting. Let’s do the math. If six people are scheduled for a meeting and just one is ten minutes late, that’s one full hour of waste across those six people. If that happens once a day, that’s five hours a week; 260 hours a year! If the average hourly rate is just $15, that’s $3900 of waste annually – just because someone is 10 minutes late. Obviously the scenarios and costs vary, but the point is, lots of time and money can be saved if everyone shows up to work meetings on time and prepared.

Being on time is not just about money or productivity, however, it’s about respect, trust and teamwork. When you’re late for a meeting (when there’s no real reason you should be), in a subtle way, you are saying, “I don’t respect your time” (at least not as much as mine), “I don’t stick to my promise”, and “the team is not as important as I am”. Missing enough meetings, enough times will weaken your personal brand, decrease your trustworthiness and hurt your teams.

Practical Tip: Include your travel time (whether you’re driving across town or walking across the room) on your calendar to ensure enough time to be on time.

Conclusion

So there you have at least three Basic Minimums that, if applied, will make your life and the lives of those you work with much better. Stay Tuned for Basic Minimums #4 – #6 coming soon!

Casey Williams