Work From Home Real Talk

This holiday season, I’m stepping away from my usual writing to bring you some of the top-read posts from 2023. Enjoy!

Working from home is not more productive for most people!

The WFH home army hates to hear this! Yikes! But it’s true. While a small percentage of workers, overall, around 10% are actually more productive, the vast majority of people just don’t have the self-awareness and drive to be as productive as they are when they are in an environment that is designed to have them do work.

The media will never tell you this because it’s not popular and won’t get clicked.

Do you know what has happened since the beginning of the pandemic? The golf industry has exploded! Some Stanford researchers, who golfed, started to realize that the golf courses seemed busy. Like really, really, busy! And these courses were busy during times when they shouldn’t be busy, like mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. You know, the time when folks should be working!

They discovered they could use satellite technology paired with GPS and cell phone data to map out traffic at golf courses. This gave them a picture of what this looked like pre-pandemic and what it looks like today. What do you think they found?

First, you have to understand that before the pandemic the golf industry was hurting. Average rounds of golf were down and trending down year over year for a long time. They had this old white guy problem. This means that old white guys were the biggest participants in golf, and that demographic was getting older and dying.

Here’s what Stanford discovered about working from home and golf:

  • There was an 83% increase in mid-week day golfing from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. All those WFH folks weren’t working all they said they were working!
  • There was a 278% increase at 4 pm. So, we have some hope for those who maybe just were cutting out a little early.
  • The pandemic has led to a golf boom with folks wanting to get outside, but weekend trips to courses were far less of an increase to weekday visits. So, yes, more people are golfing overall due to the pandemic, but weekday golf has exploded with WFH.

I know! I know! This is only one small little study. I’m sure you’re still WAY more productive working at home than you were in the office. But you’re not, or most likely you’re not, but that’s just because you have low self-awareness!

I think most of us just get confused with short-term productivity vs. long-term sustained productivity. The BLS shows productivity of workers has dropped off a cliff, so we really can’t make the WFH productivity argument any longer. I do think for short-term bursts of productivity working from home or someplace where you don’t get interrupted can make you feel way more productive. But day in, day out, over the long haul, working around others who are working will help you sustain your productivity.

I know you hate to hear this. Working at home is so lovely! Plus, you get those great golf tee times during the day!

Posted on  by Tim Sackett

A Christmas Present for Your CEO

This holiday season, you’ve got the chance to make your CEO’s Christmas wish list come true. It’s time to give them the gift of insights into what they really want from their HR and Talent Acquisition teams.

I created a short survey designed just for CEOs, all about what they wish HR and TA would do more of or start doing. It’s all about improvements, tech stuff, and making magic happen within your organization. They get to rate your HR team’s current performance, spot areas for improvement, and even prioritize the issues they care about most. Psst, CEOs, your secrets are safe with us – this survey is anonymous.

Spread the Joy

So, spread some holiday cheer and share this survey link with your CEO or hook me up with their email.

As HR pros, you have the power to make some serious magic happen. By getting your CEO involved in this survey, you’re not just boosting your own game but helping us all understand what makes CEOs tick across different industries!

I’m making this holiday season all about shaping killer HR strategies. Are you with me? Share the link with your CEO and let’s sprinkle some HR magic together!

The Ingredients of Success

I still remember an NPR interview snippet that caught my attention a few years ago. The topic? Success. Initially, it seemed straightforward—talent equals success, right? Wrong. The interviewee outlined four crucial components:

  • Talent
  • Persistence
  • Patience
  • Luck

You don’t have to have all four at the same time to be successful, but you’ll probably have all four in some kind of combination if you are successful.

Personally, I admire the relentless, persistent hustlers—the ones who refuse to take no for an answer. Persistence is their superpower, a key ingredient in the recipe for success.

Patience, though, isn’t a close friend of persistence. They rarely coexist. Yet, as I think of the successful individuals in my life, they all have great patience. Having patience doesn’t mean you’re willing to sit around and wait to be successful, it’s about understanding that success often demands time—put that on a coffee mug (we’re going to have a whole collection)!

Now, luck. Successful people never want to admit luck is involved. I’m a self-made person. I did it on my own. I’m not lucky! Luck is a bad word to successful people, it discounts the hard work, the effort and the time you put into becoming successful. But, again, each successful person I know can point to a time, or a person, or a meeting, or some chance circumstance that can only be categorized as luck.

I like this model. It doesn’t let you off the hook. You still have to do it all. You can’t just say, “well, I didn’t get it because I wasn’t lucky enough”. That’s not true, be patient. “I didn’t get it because I wasn’t talented enough.” No, keep at it. Luck finds those more rapidly who are talented, persistent, and patient.

Looking back, sure my career journey has been fortunate, but it took grinding thirty years to stumble upon that stroke of luck.

Spice Girls Know Best

The Spice Girls have always had it right: “If you want my future, forget my past.”

But not HR. HR remembers everything. Once you’ve made a mistake, it’s hard to expect a clean slate in the future. Mark still holds the title of “top salesperson” despite a dry spell lasting three years. Jessica has the “drama queen” label from an incident 18 months back, even if there’s been no repeat. Once labeled, it sticks.

So, what’s the game plan?

If you screw up, if you sense that label, or if a specific issue has warranted repeated discussions, it’s time to consider a career move to a new organization. Pay attention to the number of discussions—once is a potential oversight, but twice or more likely lands you a Lifetime Label. These labels echo stick. Messed up with a subordinate? You’re forever “that” boss, unless you marry them, and even that comes with its own label. But get divorced? Back to square one.

This idea also extends to positive instances which is a good thing and a bad thing. Remember the manager who transformed a struggling business into a standout? Despite multiple failures in similar roles, their name popped up each time a struggling business nearby needed help. However, their initial success owed much to the team’s efforts. Placed in similar situations with different teams, they failed. Yet, the past clung, painting them as the ultimate “fixer.” HR just can’t forget your past!

The real issue? HR won’t acknowledge this tendency. So, if you truly want to “zig-a-zig-ha” in your career, sometimes, moving on is the only way forward.

The Quest for Simplicity!

Ever wondered why HR Departments insist on tangled processes? Truth is, we all crave simplicity. But peek into our organizations and complexity rules the roost. The harder we try to simplify, the messier it gets. Surprisingly, the culprit’s closer than you think—it’s you. Yes, YOU. Yup, making things complicated? It’s kind of your thing. Go ahead and pick up that red pencil in the photo and circle “Complicate” instead, you know you want to!

Harvard Business Review dropped some knowledge bombs:

“There are several deep psychological reasons why stopping activities are so hard to do in organizations. First, while people complain about being too busy, they also take a certain amount of satisfaction and pride in being needed at all hours of the day and night. In other words, being busy is a status symbol. In fact a few years ago we asked senior managers in a research organization — all of whom were complaining about being too busy — to voluntarily give up one or two of their committee assignments. Nobody took the bait because being on numerous committees was a source of prestige.

Managers also hesitate to stop things because they don’t want to admit that they are doing low-value or unnecessary work. Particularly at a time of layoffs, high unemployment, and a focus on cost reduction, managers want to believe (and convince others) that what they are doing is absolutely critical and can’t possibly be stopped. So while it’s somewhat easier to identify unnecessary activities that others are doing, it’s risky to volunteer that my own activities aren’t adding value. After all, if I stop doing them, then what would I do?”


Ron Ashkenas. “Why Organizations Are Afraid to Simplify.” March 28, 2013. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/03/why-organizations-are-so-afraid-to-simplify

Turns out, people love complaining about being swamped, but secretly, they enjoy it. Being busy is like a gold star.

Managers cling to tasks like lifelines. Admitting something they do is low-value or unnecessary? Terrifying. Especially when job cuts loom large. They’d rather sell the idea that what they do is crucial, even if it isn’t.

Here’s the kicker: you can break this cycle. How? Reward people for axing pointless work. Right now, we hail the overworked, perpetually busy folks like heroes. But let’s not forget the silent achievers—the ones who nail it in half the time. Somewhere down the line, ‘working smarter’ morphed into ‘work smarter and longer.’ Truth is, most folks can’t work smarter, so they pile on hours and glorify every task as vital.

Embracing Challenges on a Mission

Whenever someone mentions being “on a mission,” it reminds me of the Blues Brothers movie and their pursuit:

In our modern leadership landscape, openly declaring one’s mission is a powerful step. It makes complete sense, set a goal, sharing it with the world, now you’ve got some investment into making sure you truly do go after that mission. However, there’s a crucial aspect of missions that often goes unaddressed.

Acknowledging the inevitable bad days or rough patches within a mission is vital, yet rarely discussed. Many leaders shy away from admitting this reality. When challenges arise, panic sets in, and people begin to believe that the mission won’t be accomplished.

As leaders, part of our responsibility is to equip our team for the journey ahead. It’s not just about motivation; it’s also about presenting the truth. We must prepare our troops for the tough moments, the setbacks, and the muddy paths. Embracing the possibility that not everyone will emerge unscathed and there will be backwards steps is crucial. It’s in these moments that the real strength of leadership shines through.

The greatness of being on a mission lies not just in the endpoint but also in the journey itself. That has to be on a motivational coffee cup or something, right?

Maximizing Employee Referrals: The Key to Hiring Success

Referral hires often stand out as the cream of the crop in any company’s recruitment efforts. It’s a simple equation:

Good Employee + wanting to stay a good employee + employee’s reputation = usually good people they recommend to HR/Recruiting to go after and hire

I’m like Einstein when it comes to HR math! However, here’s the challenge: despite this equation, many companies struggle to receive enough referrals. We’ve analyzed our referral process, fine-tuned collateral materials, and even leveraged technology to automate referrals. Yet, the numbers remain short of our expectations and needs.

There’s a straightforward but often overlooked aspect: giving employees explicit permission to share job openings within their personal and professional networks every time a referral is needed for a specific position.

HR excels in roll-outs—we’re masters at initiating programs. However, where we often stumble is in the continuity of these programs post-roll-out. Brutal truth, but true.

So, how can you ramp up your referral game?

  1. Establish a program (surprisingly, not all companies have one).
  2. When in need of a referral, ask for it every single time. Assuming that employees will naturally share openings isn’t always effective.
  3. Specifically “give permission” to employees to share job openings on their social networks—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok you name it!

BEST PRACTICE TIP: Create departmental email groups. When a relevant position opens up, send an email to the group with standard referral language and an easily shareable hyperlink along with clear instructions.

Granting “permission” triggers action—it’s a psychological thing, and it works wonders. Think about it, like you were a 5 year old.  Your parents tell you, you can’t ride your Green Machine in the street.  Then, one day, Mom is out getting her nails done and your Dad sees you doing circles in the driveway on that Green Machine and he goes “Hey, why don’t you take that into the street?!”  What do you do?  You immediately take that bad boy for a ride in the street! Dad “gave you permission” and you ran with it!

Referrals aren’t quite the same, but it’s surprising how some employees question whether they’re allowed to share job postings with friends and family. Don’t assume—they might surprise you.

So, empower your employees. Give your employees permission to get you some referrals! Or what if you allowed anyone in your company to hire?

Life’s Tough, But It Evens Out

In the realm of motivational quotes, one has continually stuck with me: “It’s hard, but it’s fair.” An older football coach used it to fire up his players, but it speaks volumes about life today.

The coach’s son, Toler Jr., eloquently defines the meaning of the phrase:

“It’s about sacrifice. It means that if you work hard, at the end of the day, fairness aligns with your efforts. It’s about investing time and readiness for the opportunities.”

We all think our parents are hard on us growing up.  I recall stories I tell to my own sons of my Dad waking me up on a Saturday morning at 7am, after I was out to late the night before, and ‘making’ me help him with something, like chopping wood or cleaning the garage out.  He didn’t really need my help, he was trying to teach me a lesson about choices.  If I chose to stay out late at night, it was going to suck getting up early to go to school.  He shared with me stories of his father doing the same thing – one night my Dad had gotten home late, so late, he didn’t even go to bed, just started a pot of coffee and waited for my grandfather to get up, figuring that was easier than getting a couple of hours of sleep and then hearing it from my grandfather the rest of the day.

In my role as an HR professional, I witness this every day in the workforce. There are those who consistently dedicate themselves without expecting special treatment. Others will put in the minimum, then expect a cookie. It’s a tough life lesson for those folks. Often, they depart, perceiving unfair treatment, and move between jobs, slowly learning the importance of effort and time investment. In my three decades in HR, genuine hard workers rarely face injustice. Occasionally, undeserving individuals might receive promotions, but the hard workers usually secure the better end of the deal.

As a parent, I hope I can teach my sons this lesson: Life is inherently challenging, but commitment and hard work pave the path to fairness.

Don’t take away Hybrid! Just fire low performers!

Return to work (RTO) mandates – FYI – only in HR would we make an acronym for something as benign as returning to the office after a pandemic – continue to blow up in corporation’s faces. Turns out, if you’re paying people to work at home or work from anywhere they want, coming back to an office, for many, feels like punishment.

For the most part, executives have figured out it’s probably going to be some sort of hybrid approach for almost everyone. The ones where this gets really bad is when the “hybrid” approach is you come to the office most of the time, and we’ll think about giving you some flexibility. Or those work environments that had some fully remote workers who are now being asked to grace us with their presence every so often, and they are losing their shit over that.

The problem is RTO. Executives really could care less and don’t buy into the idea that this is all a commercial real estate problem. The only thing your company cares about is performance and making money. If putting you on the moon made them more successful, pack your bags and a space suit, honey, and get ready to blast off! Your company would rather pay for an empty building and have exceptional performance than have you return to the office and be flat.

Where HR and Leadership are failing with RTO aren’t the mandates. It’s that they never should have talked about RTO to begin with. All they had to do was start firing low performers. This isn’t a remote vs. in-office debate. This is because we think you suck working at home and you’re not performing, so we want to see your butt in a cube and see if you’re actually working. That is broken.

I tell my team, and I will continue to tell my team, I don’t care where you are or how many hours you work. If you perform and meet goals, we are good. Once you decide not to meet goals, then it’s my job to figure out how to help you meet those goals, which might mean we need to find an environment where you can do your best work. If we can not find an environment where you can be successful, you probably aren’t right for this role.

This isn’t hard, but we are trying to make it hard because we are soft, non-confrontational weenies.

If there isn’t a real reason that an employee needs to be at a certain location, why make them? Well, because we are making others. Why? Well, because we aren’t performing as a company. That’s a performance issue, not a location issue. But it might be a location issue for some people who are not performing. Your job as a leader and executive is to figure that out.

You don’t have an issue with your highest-performing employees having flexibility and freedom. You have an issue that your lowest-performing employees seem to love “working” at home or having extra flexibility, but they are failing.

I think we are all tired of talking about RTO. This has nothing to do with where and when we work. It has everything to do with performing at a high level. The most competitive companies won’t offer remote, hybrid, or on-prem. They’ll offer crystal clear performance objectives and a mandate that you meet those objectives the best way you can!

This is about returning to work. This is about getting back to work and doing the work you’re getting paid for.