July 20, 2018

The Roundup: Longest U.S. commutes, dealing with annoying coworkers, plus tips for public speaking

In this week's Roundup, we dive into work-related annoyances - namely, long commutes and co-worker habits. Plus, presentation tips for HR leaders.

Kelsey McGillis

Kelsey McGillis is a writer at Ceridian's Toronto office. An avid reader and writer, she studies English and Communications at the University of Toronto.

America’s longest commute

U.S census data about people’s work commutes has been reported in a new Time article, and it proves what many already knew to be true. Across the country, average commute times vary, but one thing’s certain for all – Americans spend a lot of time getting to work.

Unsurprisingly, the longest commutes in the country are in the most urban states. From New York to Washington D.C, it seems the fastest developing cities have the slowest commutes. In fact, the census found that the longest commutes were in cities with longstanding public transit systems. It seems that regardless of public transportation’s efficiency, commutes remain long in major metropolitan cities.

The longest commute in the country is New York state, clocking in at an average of 33 minutes. In fact, one in five New Yorkers have more than an hour-long commute. While New Yorkers are struggling through lengthy drives, North and South Dakotans have the nation’s quickest commutes, at a short average of only 17 minutes.

Whether you live in the Midwest or Northeast, commutes around the country are no cake walk. The national average is 26 minutes, with more than 9% of Americans spending over an hour driving to work. With more than eight in 10 people choosing to drive, it’s no wonder the roads are so congested. At least you can find some peace in your next long commute –  you’re certainly not alone.

How to deal with annoying coworkers

The New York Times recently published an article featuring advice in dealing with workplace conflict – but not the usual conflict you might expect, such as difficulty collaborating or clashing personalities. The article instead centers on more minute workplace annoyances; whether it be a bouncing tennis ball, loud chewer or constant cougher. Though seemingly petty nuisances, as we learned in a past Ceridian article, it’s the little annoyances that quickly add up to create a hostile work environment.

As both an employee and manager, there are a number of things to keep in mind when dealing with coworkers’ irritating tendencies. Before even approaching the offending coworker, the first question is “who is going to deal with this?”- whether it will be the employee, a manager or HR who will approach the offender. As a rule of thumb, for more minor issues, coworkers should be encouraged to resolve issues between themselves, before bringing it to their superiors.

If a one-on-one discussion doesn’t work, or the subject matter is simply too touchy, then managers should step into their role of mediator with pleasure. Regardless of who is confronting the employee, it should be handled delicately. Acknowledging the discomfort of the confrontation, focusing on the person’s good traits and using “I” statements rather than “you” are some keys to keep in mind. Rather than blaming the other person, emphasis should be put on how their actions make you feel or affect your work experience.

As one expert so accurately puts it in the Times article, “Annoying problems are part of the package of working with other humans.” So, unless the day comes that our workforce is fully automated and run by robots, dealing with disagreements and annoyances is simply par for the course. Learning to deal with these annoyances will save you the headache.

Presentation preparedness: it’s more than a script

Whether at a conference, in a board room or on a Skype call, you likely spend a large portion of your work life talking. So, your presentation skills are crucial, whether in front of four or 400 people. Though every leader should hone this set of skills, it’s especially important for those in HR. Because of Human Resource’s position between employees and senior leadership, communication is a critical part of building trust and connection. Human Resource staff must know their audience, appear as strong authorities and be engaging.

While striving to be the best speaker you can be, it’s important to remember that there is such thing as overpreparation. Fast Company recently published an article highlighting the downsides to presenting from a prepared script. For starters, speaking and writing are very different skills – When trying to speak in long sentences you risk getting lost in the linguistics and losing all genuineness. Not only does this disengagement with your content come across as boring, it also damages your reputation.

Aside from diminished genuineness, speaking from a script sabotages confidence. With a script, your mannerisms may seemoverly rehearsed or poorly timed – in short, unconfident. Not only are your mannerisms hindered with over-rehearsal, but so is your eye contact with the audience. When attempting to follow along with a script, you may get lost and not look at your audience enough, missing their cues.

In any workplace interaction, HR leaders should strive to appear confident and trustworthy. These traits simply don’t come from scripted dialogue. Keep the ‘human’ aspect of HR strong, and always strive to speak as sincerely as possible.

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