Sunday 26 July 2015

7 Tips for Business Travel Etiquette

Weary business travelers have an unsaid camaraderie about them when they see each other at the end of the day waiting impatiently for a delayed flight, picking up souvenirs for the family to avoid the guilt of being away. Some have the ‘feeling important’ look, being the special chosen ones from their company to travel for a meeting. Some like to look busy, barking away orders on the phone. Others quietly retire into a corner with their laptops either keeping up with their emails or their reading. It is fun to watch and observe.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been travelling on work for many years now. Here are some tips I’d like to share based on my observations:

  1. Pack well – Pack only what you need but do pack an extra set of clothes. You could allot some space if you like to shop for local stuff like traditional arts and crafts or even souvenirs. Try and pack clothes that will not get crumpled. You could carry a travelling iron. It’s also okay to use the hotel laundry to have your clothes ironed. I carry separators that I put in space saver bags between clothes so they don’t move too much or crumple. 
  2. Dress professionally - It is important to look your best for meetings. Dress professionally and carry a combination of clothes you can mix and match if you are staying over a few days. You could carry an evening shirt or blouse if you think you may need to go out for dinner.
  3. Maps and addresses - You have set your appointments but make sure you have the updated office addresses and phone numbers in place before going to meetings. Map distances between meetings and the approximate time it will take. Keep in mind your phone just may not find good network signal in that city or may run out of battery. Carrying a backup battery or power bank may come in handy
  4. Rental car – make sure your car arrangements have been decided before you land and the driver knows the locations you need to visit. I’ve asked for a change of driver if I’m not happy with the one I get for whatever reasons. Do tip the driver when he drops you back. 
  5. Hotel etiquette - If we are nice to hotel staff, they are nice to us. This is even more important if you are a frequent guest at the hotel. So what if the company’s footing the bill. We need to behave well and follow the right etiquette. Tip the staff well. Do take time to give feedback when the hotel asks for it so they keep in mind your needs when you visit next.
  6. Safety precautions – we need to take adequate safety precautions when we travel to a new place. Don’t stay out late by yourself without having checked if it is safe to do so. Go out with people or friends you know. Ladies need to be extra cautious and on alert when travelling to a new city. I’ve refused to stay at hotels I’m not comfortable in. I’ve asked for a change of car drivers if I’m not comfortable. 
  7. Eat light & keep hydrated – One doesn’t have time to eat when one has a packed day running from one meeting to another but it’s important to eat well, eat light and stay hydrated to avoid feeling tired. Carry a snack or a fruit when you leave the hotel in the morning to take care of hunger pangs.

Why don’t you share your tips as well?

Tuesday 21 July 2015

10 Tips on Office Etiquette

Don’t we all have that one colleague, who talks too loudly on personal calls? Or the one who sneezes all over without an ‘excuse me’? Office Etiquette is very important in the work environment today. What people think of you is dependent on a lot of factors other than your performance. It is always a good idea to put your best foot forward, whether at your office desk or at the lunch table. 

Here’s a list of things to keep in mind around your office:

  1. Stay at home when sick:  Why would you want to infect the rest of the office? Its okay to take a day off if you are sick. If you do end up going to office with a cold or a cough, do be careful to use tissues while coughing or sneezing. You can excuse yourself from shaking hands with others. 
  2. Eat lunch in the cafeteria: Most offices have a designated area for lunch and coffee breaks. Avoid eating food at your desk. Your room as well the rest of the office area will start smelling of food you’ve consumed (read  ). At the lunch table, clean up after yourself. 
  3. Keep phone volumes low: I’ve seen people at offices do conference calls with the door open or use speakerphones in open offices thereby disturbing colleagues. If you are working in an open area, you could try and be soft or step into a meeting room while making or receiving calls whether official or personal.
  4. Keep mobile ringtones in check: Ideally keep your ring tone on low volume or on vibration so you don’t disturb your colleagues. Bollywood songs, whistling or other such ringtones are highly avoidable in the corporate environment.
  5. Don’t gossip: A highly avoidable habit is gossiping about colleagues and indulging in politics.  Everyone stands to lose this game.
  6. Don’t take things from people’s desks without asking: The stapler may be company property but it is still not advisable to take it off someone’s desk without permission. Always ask to borrow things and be mindful to return the item as well.
  7. Hold back on the perfume: While it is great that you want to smell pleasant at work, do consider that your favorite perfume may not agree with someone else’s sensibilities. Wear light perfumes at work.
  8. Ask before changing the AC settings: Everyone has a different preference for the temperature in the room. In case you need to change the AC settings ask your colleagues. You may be surprised to know that everyone thought the room was too cold but decided not to say anything.
  9. Follow the Dress Code: Diligently follow the dress code of the organisation. Even casual Fridays call for conservative dressing.  Don’t wear colors that are too loud or clothes that are revealing.  
  10. Keep your desk clean and organised: A cluttered desk does not indicate you are working very hard. While personalizing your workplace is a good idea, going overboard with pictures is not advisable. One picture of your loved ones and an inspirational message should be good.

Do share your list of dos and don'ts of office etiquette.

Sunday 12 July 2015

6 Tips to Conducting Effective Office Meetings

I’ve been part of several waste-of-time Monday morning (compulsory) meetings as a junior rookie and wondered why we spent so much time not doing any work.  With almost one work day wasted in office meetings, we were essentially left with 4 work days to do actual client work. 

Office meetings are important for obvious reasons if you look at things from the boss’ perspective. However, they tend to largely drag on or be a waste of everyone’s time especially if it doesn’t directly involve them.

Here are some tips to make office meetings more effective:
  1. Invite only relevant people to join the meeting – everyone need not be asked to join the meeting just to be nice to them or make them feel important. A meeting is not a PR exercise.
  2. Encourage everyone to be prepared – circulate the agenda in advance and ask people to think and be prepared before they get into the meeting so each person comes with their views. If you need to conduct smaller one-on-one meetings before the big one, do it.
  3. Stick to the agenda and goals. Don’t digress - a business meeting with a defined agenda and goals is not the place to air views about other matters and get side tracked. In case there are pending issues to be discussed, set another meeting time.
  4. Someone leads the meeting – If you have called for a meeting, you should be concluding it.  You could moderate it or select another colleague to do it.
  5. Respect time – Sometimes meetings run so over time that everyone loses energy and interest thereby diluting its purpose. Not to mention a serious waste of precious executive time and productivity. Set a realistic time and stick with it. 
  6. Conclusion & Follow up – summarize the meeting, set goals and responsibilities with timelines. Follow up with the concerned parties to ensure tasks have been completed as discussed in the meeting. This is absolutely crucial to achieving progress.
There is of course meeting etiquette that one can take care of to increase effectiveness – the key being leaving gadgets out to rest. If one has the ability to listen and allow other points of view, that works well too.

Viraj Kulkarni, Founder & CEO, Pivot Management Consultants, shares some tips from his experience, “Many of us speak very fast. Be in no hurry, speak slowly to be heard clearly. Slowly, not softly, else you would be asked to repeat. Special attention should be paid to dressing for video conferencing (VC). I’ve seen many people fidget with chair knobs or play with cell phones while on a VC! This should be avoided. Remember to smile. Serious business can be done with a pleasant smile too".

Please share your tips for effective office meetings.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Want to know how to accessorize your work outfit?

Always wondered how to choose the right accessories for your work outfit? Read our tips on how to do it just right in today's Afternoon Despatch & Courier.

Check out our accessories board for ideas

Have questions or want to share your personal experience? Feel free to comment below.
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Thursday 2 July 2015

5 Office Party Do’s and Don’ts

I bet the first thing that came to your mind when you read the title is obvious – the recent case where a young lawyer got drunk hanging out with colleagues after work and was responsible for the deaths of two people.

We all know what should and should not be done, yet we don’t mind crossing boundaries once in a while. However, that once in a while may be too heavy a price to pay for your reputation.

Most of us socialize outside of the office with the people we work with. Whether it’s a celebration for the completion of a major project or a dinner invite to your boss’s home, or a party with your distributors and dealers, you want to be relaxed and at the same time put your best foot forward. You should be able to have fun at such events and return to office with your head held high.

Follow these 5 rules to be remembered as the life of the party for all the right reasons:
  1. Do follow the instructions on the invite: Firstly make sure you RSVP after you receive an invite. Read and adhere to the instructions mentioned – party theme and dress code. The invite will also tell you if you are expected to attend with your spouse or partner. If required do inform the name of your guest.
  2. Do arrange for transportation after the party: It is the prudent thing to think about your transportation back home after the party. Get colleagues who may live in your area to car pool that day and hire a driver for the drive back. If that’s not an option taking a taxi is the best solution.
  3. Do use the opportunity to network: Use the opportunity to network, make new friends and create a better rapport with colleagues across departments. Discuss hobbies and other interests for deeper connections with people. Network with people who you may not be directly working with but may play a role in furthering your career.   
  4. Do not get inebriated: Needless to say, it’s highly inappropriate to be over drinking at an office party. Know your limits and stick to them.
  5. Do not talk shop or complain about your workplace and colleagues: It’s very easy to get into the trap of gossiping and cribbing about one’s workplace and colleagues at office meet-ups. Keep away from joining such office groups. Your original seemingly harmless remark may get blown out of proportion and retold all over office. Work related discussions should be kept brief. If the invite is extended to spouses they may find the work conversation uninteresting. Small talk is what is required and expected at office parties.  
Do thank the organizers for their efforts. Making a good impression at office parties will help you build a good reputation.