5 Remote Work Tips for Exhausted Employees

5 Remote Work Tips for Exhausted Employees

5 Remote Work Tips for Exhausted Employees

Written by
On December 19, 2020
I have worked remotely with several of our customers and I have a few tips for those finding their new remote working situation difficult. It comes in waves and I’ve heard from many people that they are exhausted of working remotely after 8+ months. In time, you may start to enjoy your new remote status again or at least learn how to make it work for you while you have no choice. Working remotely seems for me, to be a better way to do my work. There are some things I’ve found help me be successful and made a difference in my work from home situation:
Remote work desk set up

Get ready

I still get up early and shower and put on work clothes. Just rolling out of bed and putting on sweats did not make me feel ready for work. Getting ready helps me prepare for my day. Even if you won’t see anyone in person, it’s a great habit to help set you up for success. It is also very nice not to have to spend hours on the road to get to your workplace especially on those snowy winter days.

Have a workspace

Make sure to have a set workspace. It might be time to invest in a desk and chair to use only for work. Using your couch or your bed might not be the best choice of workplaces during your workday. Look on the bright side, having use of your own kitchen for beverages and meals is convenient and having your own bathroom is nice as well. You will need an area to work that you can concentrate on your work and be in meetings without distractions. Invest in a comfortable office chair – it makes a difference.

Use time wisely

Overall, I think working remotely has opened my eyes to how much time there is in a day. Adjusting to the options that you have when you work from home is something that over time you will make work for you. I feel that I am actually happier and more productive working remotely now. The old 9-5 work hours have become more flexible for people. You are sometimes able to work when it works best for you and your team. You will still need to be available for meetings, core hours and things depending on your job but there should be a few minutes in there to plan a walk outdoors, keep an eye on your slow cooker, or change a load of laundry.

Master communication tools

You may have put off getting to know your communication tools because you thought you would be going back to work in person soon. Well, it might be a little bit before you return to the office. Take the time to master your tools:
  • Login and use your company communication tool like Slack and spend time on non-work-related communication to continue building relationships.
  • Working remotely is different than being able to talk to team members in person. I found turning on your camera for a video chat on Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, or any video conference really helps by seeing people’s facial expressions and smiles. You can use email too but seeing and hearing people seems so much better than typing questions and just replying to things. We are humans after all and need to socialize.
  • Get to love your product tracking tool such as JIRA to organize and keep track of the work needed to be done. Being able to smoothly communicate things to a team on all of the work going on and moving it through the process correctly is very important to the success of the product and project.

 

I feel that after I mastered the remote work experience and I am actually more happy, comfortable and productive working remotely and I hope you can use these tips to feel that way too. Remote work might be the future of work. We have been forced to try it and it might reveal if it works best for certain people and companies. Do you have any working from home tips? We would love to hear how remote work is going for you.

How to Creatively Connect with Employees During COVID-19

How to Creatively Connect with Employees During COVID-19

How to Creatively Connect with Employees During COVID-19

Written by
On November 3, 2020
Finding ways to help engage and connect your employees has always been important, but with office environments suddenly going virtual, it has become essential. With COVID-19 impacting every company and industry differently, creativity counts. Here are a few unique ways we’ve been able to build, or maintain, strong connections with our employees.
SDG Employees Connecting at Night in one of our Communities
SDG employees enjoying the consulting cooperative learing community. Screenshot from a member of the community.

Invest in an internal communication platform

Slack is an absolute staple in keeping us connected at SDG, especially during this time. This tool allows employees to send direct messages, create different channels, make video calls and interact with peers in a variety of ways. At SDG, we’ve been able to utilize Slack in several creative ways over the last few months in an effort to encourage engagement and add a fun twist to the workday. Some things you might want to try:
  • Host themed trivia sessions for some awesome prizes. We created a #trivia channel for those who want to participate and change up the topics each time. Make the events 30 minutes over the lunch hour to get as much participation as possible. We promise, sometimes it’s worth it just to watch the conversation thread!
  • Post questions or challenges and ask people to share their responses in a thread. Just like on social media, it’s a quick and easy way for people to share their experience, photos, tips and tricks. It’s also a great way for employees to get to know each other.
  • Create channels around certain topics of interest. In addition to our #beer channel and #foodies channel, we recently added a #gratitude channel and a #humor channel that allows employees to keep each other uplifted and smiling when they need it most.

Host small virtual events

Although we certainly miss having in-person events for all employees, we all know the bigger the group on a video call, the harder it is to make meaningful conversation. We’ve found it helpful to host small virtual events by different groups or departments. A few we’ve had success with include:
  • Virtual happy hours, coffees, or lunches. It might not be as fun to participate via the computer screen, but it’s an easy way for people to connect virtually outside of regular work meetings. Consider bringing a few icebreaker questions for the group or designate a facilitator if needed to help lead the discussion.
  • Show and Tell/Lightening Talks. This is an awesome way for employees to share their interests, passions, and cool projects with others in the company. Whether your employees are talking about how to successfully pair ‘apps and taps’, showing off their new DIY golf simulator, or walking through the 3D resin printing process, it is a fun and engaging way to connect employees.
  • Bingo. no daubers necessary! (https://myfreebingocards.com/)
  • Host an Ask Me Anything, or ‘AMA’ session. This has been a unique way to open the floor to employees to ask anything they want to different AMA hosts from our leadership. We have found that consistent communication from leadership is especially important during this time and employees appreciate the transparency across the organization.

Encourage like-minded employees to connect over their shared interests

At SDG, we have ‘Communities’ that empower our employees to create groups around their passions or interests on a certain topic. Meeting in person isn’t a pre-requisite for these groups, so we’ve continued to urge them to connect by meeting virtually during these unusual times. Informal or formal, technical or social, there’s something different for everybody. Like beer? Board Games? Want to elevate your leadership or consulting skills? There’s a community for that.

Celebrate your wins

It might be different than before but continue to find small ways to celebrate your wins or appreciate each other. It’s more important than ever for people to continue to feel as if they are part of a team and doing a good job. Here at SDG, we have a few ways we like to recognize our employees:
  • Start with shout-outs. At the beginning of our weekly Operations meeting, we like to take a few minutes to give ‘shout-outs’ to one another. It might be just a public ‘thank you’, but it’s an easy, and meaningful way to recognize co-workers in front of their peers.
  • Consider a few recognition programs. One of our most widely used programs at SDG allows any employee to acknowledge another employee for doing something awesome throughout the year. We also have a few quarterly programs that recognize individuals for exemplifying our core values at their customer and within SDG. No matter the format, calling out the contributions of your coworkers is just a small way to celebrate each other and say thank you.
Connection has always been an integral part of our culture at SDG. The pandemic has certainly caused us to have to re-evaluate how we do that, but it has also inspired us to think more creatively and discover new ways to connect. We encourage you to think outside the box and find innovative ways to make meaningful connections.
Stay safe everyone!

What is the SDG Big Event?

What is the SDG Big Event?

What is the SDG Big Event?

sdg logo for blog post author
Written by
on February 18, 2020

Editor’s note: The SDG Big Event is an annual event hosted by the SDG Presents Committee. In 2021, it is going digital! This internal event is for SDG’ers only and is a favorite employee event.

15 presentations, 3 tracks, 1 night.

One of SDG’s best attended events of the year, The Big Event is a special one night “mini-conference” that features 15 presentations broken up into three tracks on a variety of topics; soft skills, technologies, special interests/hobbies, all presented by SDG employees from every part of our business. This event continues every year largely due to the fact that employees get the “most bang for their buck” meaning the most information in the smallest amount of time. In our busy lives outside of work, this is important.

As SDG’ers, we like to learn about new things. From technologies to brewing beer, The Big Event is a great way to get a “taste” of a subject, and to get 5 of those “tastes” in one night. You get a chance to learn what other employees are passionate about and maybe develop a new passion of your own. You learn more about other employees and their passions in a hope that you can connect outside of SDG. Topics have ranged from Building Web Apps with Parcel to Whiskey Tasting to An Introverts Guide to Small Talk. Oftentimes, employees like to attend talks about technologies that they want to know more about that end up helping them while out on at a customer site later on.

Many of the favorite topics at The Big Event over the years have been those that novice presenters give, because it shows a great amount of courage. Many speakers comment that SDG is a welcoming environment and a safe place to try presenting with a less intimidating smaller block of time to fill. Many of The Big Event speakers then go on to present at other conferences with the confidence that they’ve gained. If you are a new employee, it is a great way to share a little bit of yourself with other SDG’ers. This internal conference is for everyone at SDG and anyone in the company can submit a talk to be considered by the SDG Presents committee. Commonly, we have over 30 presentation submissions.

Our SDG Presents committee handles the speaker selection, communications, and logistics for the event. Plus, during the rest of the year hosts presentations every month on a wide range of topics. The commitee helps bring learning, sharing, and connecting to all of SDG by facilitating a place where employees can show up and learn something new or practice the art of presenting.

In 2020 the 7th annual Big Event is taking place on February 18th and we cannot wait for a night of learning and fun. In 2021, The Big Event is going virtual! For SDG employees, our intranet video portal houses all the recorded presentations of the past 4 Big Events, as well as some full-length presentations dating all the way back to 2012! The learning never stops here at SDG. We consider ourselves to be life-long learners and those who partner with us can feel this energy, passion and drive to share the knowledge as well as learn from each other—something that The Big Event is all about.

Looking For Ways to Support Local Organizations?

Looking For Ways to Support Local Organizations?

Looking For Ways to Support Local Organizations?

Alex Haider Marketing
Written by
on November 13, 2019

Second Harvest Heartland

Second Harvest Heartland

At SDG we enjoy giving back to the community and one way we do this is by putting our money where our mouth is. This Give to the Max day we are doubling our employees’ donations to Second Harvest Heartland. Second Harvest Heartland in turn is doubling that donation as well making that donation quadruple. Second Harvest Heartland focuses on food insecurity and we know that 1 in 11 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin face hunger every day not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Therefore, we are excited to help bring food into our community with the help of Second Harvest Heartland!

 

Give to the Max day is a day of concentrated giving in Minnesota led by give.mn. Every year thousands of organizations and individuals generate donations and excitement for Minnesota causes that are working to improve the quality of life for all Minnesotans.

 

If you are looking to support a local organization on Thursday here are ones you should consider. They are places where SDG’ers have donated their time, talent, and treasure in the past and they do great work in our community.

This fall team SDG volunteered at Second Harvest Heartland packing squash and onions packing 355 meals per person.

Second Harvest Heartland is one of the largest, most efficient and most innovative hunger relief organizations in the nation. In close partnership with nearly 1,000 food shelves, food pantries and other meal programs, Second Harvest Heartland helps the 1 in 11 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin who face hunger every day. In 2018, Second Harvest Heartland helped provide a record 89 million meals to more than a half million people. They will continue to leverage their unique position in the emergency food chain to advocate, educate and provide food until everyone in their service area has what they need to thrive.

VEAP

VEAP

This fall a group from team SDG volunteered packing food at VEAP.

 

With just $1, VEAP can provide food for 6 meals to local families in need. Last year, VEAP distributed over 3.6 million pounds of food through their Food Pantry– enough to make 3 million meals. VEAP focuses on access to nutritious foods, and over half of the food in their pantry is fresh produce, positively impacting the health and success of our community. VEAP serves low-income families, children, seniors, and individuals at serious risk of hunger and homelessness. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota and serving the communities of Bloomington, Richfield, Edina, and South Minneapolis, VEAP staff and volunteer corps of 3,000 offer immediate and caring support through access to healthy foods, stable housing, and financial support and assistance. Every gift makes a difference in ensuring local families and seniors have food on their plates and full bellies.

 

Secondhand Hounds

Secondhand Hounds

Secondhand Hounds joined us at our latest SDG women in tech event where we helped socialize puppies and learn more about the organization.

 

Secondhand Hounds is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rescue. Founded in July of 2009, their 2,000+ foster homes, 3,000+ dedicated volunteers, and staff members have made a positive impact on the lives of many animals in our community. Their organization provides safe foster homes, proper veterinary care and daily necessities for dogs and cats, while working hard to find each a permanent, loving home! 

In 2018, they spent well over $1,200,000 on veterinary care. Your donations go a long way to care for hundreds of deserving animals each year. Secondhand Hounds loves all animals, and regularly goes above and beyond for difficult veterinary cases. Their ability to provide such thorough care is directly due to the support we receive. They also have a matching grant during Give to the Max day.

Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald House

Team SDG loves volunteering as part of the Cooks for Kids program. Cooking meals for the families at the Ronald McDonald House.

 

They keep families with seriously ill or injured children close. Close to each other and to the resources they need. 6,600+ families a year at four Ronald McDonald House Twin Cities locations.

Services include:

  • Lodging (72 families find a home every night at four Twin Cities locations)
  • Meals. Cooks for Kids volunteers serve dinner every night, and brunch on the weekends, at all four of the locations.
  • Fully stocked pantries and access to laundry. They take care of the little things so families can focus on their children.
  • Family-focused activities, and perhaps most of all, a caring community of support when needed most.
  • K–12 school keeps kids on track with their schooling while away from home and provides a valuable support system for patients and siblings.

 

Families come to the Ronald McDonald House from the Upper Midwest (80%), across the country and from around the world. They are your family, your friends, your co-workers and neighbors and they have one thing in common… they are seeking medical treatment for their child at a Twin Cities hospital. Keeping families close helps children heal. Most of the 6,600+ families who came through the doors last year never thought they would need the Ronald McDonald House.

 

Until they did.

Pet Haven

Pet Haven

Pet Haven was the recipient of our spring Pints for a Purpose event bringing together those in the tech community to build community and drink beer for a good cause.

 

et Haven is a pioneer in animal rescue in Minnesota. As the oldest foster-based rescue in the state, thousands of cats and dogs have found their “forever homes” since 1952 through Pet Haven’s doors. Every animal has a unique story and a personality! Your support ensures a happy ending for the hundreds of animals that find their way home through Pet Haven each year. Our network of foster volunteers provides safety, security, a warm home full of love and compassion. Their goal on Give to the Max Day 2019 is to raise $30,000, an amount which represents approximately 1/5th of Pet Haven’s annual veterinary expenses.

 

We would love to hear where you are giving this Give to the Max day and we will follow up with a total from all the SDG’ers donations to Second Harvest Heartland. You can find all the organizations participating in Give to the Max day here: https://www.givemn.org

A Millennial’s Take on the Life of a Software Developer

A Millennial’s Take on the Life of a Software Developer

A Millennial’s Take on the Life of a Software Developer

Written by
on August 15, 2017

Why is a so-called millennial’s take on life as a software developer a topic worth thinking about? What is different about my professional career compared to my older *ahem* more experienced colleagues? There must be a reason that my generation is the topic of so much discussion and analysis. The first and obvious reason is that millennials are quickly becoming a key consumer base and the largest segment of the workforce in the software industry. But those are just demographics and bottom lines, there is something else below the surface of corporations trying to better market to and employ millennials. Let’s explore why millennials are the most talked-about demographic in the industry.

My millennial colleagues and I were born in the digital age, and most of them have been fortunate enough to be using computers from a young age. It is an inherent advantage that younger people grew up learning and using new forms of technology. These skills transfer directly to the workplace, as the sheer volume of development technologies, tools, frameworks, and techniques is exploding. With an unprecedented number of software developers in a strong industry, best practices can change every month as someone develops new approach to a problem or improves on existing standards. The flexibility needed for working in such an environment is something that millennials can excel at. Growing up with technology integrated into everyday life offers a difference of perspective as well, which can be a boon to businesses where technology can solve more problems.

 

Millennial’s Take:

A successful developer is a tech-savvy multi-tasker, characteristics that all my colleagues share, regardless of age. Knowing how to apply technology to solve a business problem is our job and something we are successful at.

Millennials are described as compulsive job-hoppers, switching jobs frequently to chase potential wage gains and find a suitable workplace culture. Taking these factors into consideration, employers are putting lots of effort into attracting and keeping good workers by offering flashy perks and cool, modern offices.

Millennial’s Take:

What we want from employers is the same thing that all employees want: a challenging, fulfilling occupation that also gives them a healthy relationship with their workplace. I find my work to be the most fulfilling when, at the end of the day, I’ve given my best effort to solve complex problems, and I’ve done it as part of a cohesive team of great co-workers. A traditional, “boring” office is a better place to work than a trendy open concept office if I can find gratification and value in my work. The beer fridge, bean bag chairs, and ping-pong tables are great fun, but superficial.

There is the notion that millennials are a generation of instant gratification. This would indicate that in order to successfully retain and manage a younger workforce, a company would need to go out of their way to actively engage a millennial software developer with unique experiences and an ‘agile’ way of life. How else to keep these impulsive and impatient developers on-task?

 

Millennial’s take:

I learned very quickly, as all developers do, that real-world software development involves patience. There is no instant gratification when working on tasks that can span weeks, often with very little reward besides the thrill of solving a problem. Spending days chasing an elusive bug only to find the culprit in one line of code is something that software developers of any age can share.

My final thought is that there are no meaningful differences between generations of programmers. There may be differences in experience with different programming languages, tools, and coding standards, but we’re all working to solve the same types of problems. We’re all dealing with the rapid changes in the software development world and trying to make an impact at the workplace.

The SDG ESOP: From Shocked to Excited

The SDG ESOP: From Shocked to Excited

The SDG ESOP: From Shocked to Excited

Written by
on June 24, 2016

At our company meeting last November, SDG’s owners announced that we were becoming 100% employee-owned by way of an ESOP, or Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Essentially this means that over time, full ownership of SDG will be transferred to employees through stock allocations each year. I went through several different stages as I processed this new information, but ultimately I discovered how this change could greatly benefit SDG and its employees. This may be helpful for anyone who is in an ESOP at their work or their workplace is transitioning to a Employee Stock Ownership Plan, just remember that each plan could be different than how SDG has structured their ESOP.  Here’s how I reached that conclusion that our ESOP would benefit SDG and its employees.

1. Shock.

The first stage that I experienced was shock. Prior to the company meeting, I was not thinking about SDG’s future as far as any change to ownership or management, so it caught me off guard. But with one of our owners making the decision to retire, we all knew a succession plan would have to be addressed. Nonetheless, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about what exactly this meant for me and SDG in the long-run. Which brought me to my next phase… 

2. Questions, Questions, Questions.

The next few days I went into a period of asking myself many different questions.

  • What does this ESOP mean to me and to the rest of us at SDG? 
  • What would happen next? 
  • How will this affect me or my work? 
  • What changes will be made to how the company is operated on a day-to-day basis? 
  • Who would succeed our current owners? 
  • What will we look like in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years? 
  • What does an ESOP look like for other companies? 
  • Will this help SDG be more successful?

3. Research and Discovery.

The third stage I went through was one of research and discovery. I figured I better go find out more on what an ESOP was all about to help answer the questions that kept piling up. I started by reading the FAQ that SDG made available for some of my more basic questions. At a high level, I discovered that:

  • The ESOP would change the legal ownership of SDG, but the management structure and leadership would remain the same. 
  • Our three owners will serve on the Board of Directors and many years down the road leadership would transition to the next generation. 
  • We would continue to be led by our three core values – Superior Customer Service, Exceptional Employee Experience, and Responsible Corporate Citizenship – and our day-to-day business operations would essentially remain the same.
  • The ESOP would be an additional component to our current retirement plan.
  • The value of our accounts would increase as long as SDG operates profitably and the value of the company continues to increase.

Next, as a quality assurance specialist at SDG, I was interested in the numbers.  At the time of my research, there were approximately 14,000 ESOP plans in the United States and only about 10% of those were in the private sector. Around 40% of private sector ESOP companies are 100% employee-owned. If my math is correct, that leaves SDG in a 4% group of all companies. In my opinion, this may be the most significant piece of the ESOP announcement, as it’s extremely rare to be given the opportunity of “ownership”.

4. Understanding. 

After researching and discovering a lot of information, it brought me to a new stage of understanding. I now understand how special the situation is that we are 100% employee-owned. Not only will we have the opportunity to earn our shares, we will also get cash distributed to our accounts each year. That cash will be used to buy shares when someone retires or leaves, which will allow us to keep accumulating additional shares – and hopefully the value of SDG continues rising as we accumulate them, too. We should see a lot of growth, especially in the first 10 years that we are paying off the debt. 

In addition, I began to understand that things won’t be changing as drastically as I thought at the beginning. As a matter of fact, one of the primary reasons the owners decided to go with an ESOP (as opposed to selling the organization to an outside buyer) was to preserve the culture of SDG and keep operating as we always have. 

5. Excitement!

The stage I’m currently experiencing can best be described as excitement! After looking at a few different scenarios (by using one of my beloved QA spreadsheets) of how this might work out for myself and my fellow SDG’ers, this transition could end up being more beneficial than any 401(k) matching component. The more successful we are as a group, the more value our ownership and shares will have. 

SDG’s transition to an ESOP may have started out as a shock, but I’m excited about what the future may hold for us. As a part-owner, I feel empowered. I feel an added sense of security that we are hiring people that we all want to work with. And I feel that my actions at SDG have the power to affect the entire organization.  Although this may seem like a big responsibility, I trust now more than ever that we will be motivated to contribute our best for our customers, our community, our co-owners and our families just like our core values guide us to do. If we all handle this change correctly, as I believe we will, then it can be a great legacy to keep passing on as we continue to evolve and grow. 

If your company is moving to an ESOP please keep in mind that ESOP plans can be different for each company. This is an example of how ours at SDG works.