PH: A holistic approach

This year Project House is turning four, and we have been getting ready for our next business phase.  After partnering with more than 65 clients, designing and delivering countless projects and solutions, and onboarding over 40 PH team members, we wanted to take stock of what we’ve built so far and where we want to focus next.    

Following our own advice, we enlisted some extra muscle from an energetic and empathetic business coaching team.  Together we have spent the summer diving into our project stories, mining our business data, brainstorming creative ideas, and answering tough questions about what drives our business and inspires us. We have enjoyed highlighting which services give us the best opportunity to thrive and provide value, as well as reminding ourselves what makes PH so unique.   

We are proud of being a part of a business community that acknowledges the considerable impact that happy, motivated, healthy, and comfortable employees have on productivity, retention, achievement, and financial success.  

What we’ve discovered is that we are drawn to ensuring our clients are successfully empowered with effective and practical solutions: 

  • Sustainable and positive management practices and systems to engage people better 
  • Beautiful and practical spaces where individuals and teams can thrive 
  • Tools and facilitation to maximize employee strengths and talents 
  • Strategy to align brand and culture across key business areas. 

This isn’t a wholesale change from what we’ve been doing, but at the same time it feels like a shift into a holistic approach where all of our experience, skills, and values click into place.  What does Project House do?  We help leaders create productive and engaging workplaces. 

We are excited by our ability to combine best practices, tried and true solutions, creative ideas, and industry innovations into achievable and customized solutions. 

You will start to see this focus in our branding, in the work we take on, and in the types of workshops we provide.  And as always we welcome your feedback, questions, encouragement, and referrals!   

Next up?  Crystal and I are heading to Amsterdam, where we will participate in the Smart Workplace Design Summit, a conference that celebrates the powerful combination of HR and Workspace best practices.  This is a perfect fit for Project House, as it aligns exactly with our design and solution-focused business model.  We can’t wait to tour innovative offices and exchange ideas with a range of speakers from across Europe, and come home inspired! 

Stay tuned for more, and as always, THANK YOU for being part of our business journey.   

Humility – Rick Warren

The Story of The Baker

A story we often tell when we get asked what Project House is all about, is one about a Baker who loves to bake pies.  We’ll call him The Baker.  The Baker made pies all of the time.  His pies were well-loved by his family, who demanded pies for every conceivable occasion.  His pies were delicious and better than anything available in a shop.  Over time,  The Baker started making pies for his kids’ fundraising events, for his friends and their friends, and before he knew it, his pies were in such high demand that he had a business on his hands and he needed to hire some helpers and find a community kitchen space several days a week just to keep up with the orders.

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Taking Time to #Unplug

You may have heard of a day urging everyone to “Unplug” – it’s a simple idea: put away your devices, look up from your phone, laptop, or games, and go outside, spend time with family, unwind.   There’s even a National Day of Unplugging each Spring that was started by Reboot, a nonprofit Jewish community who were inspired by taking a break on the Sabbath.  Good idea you say, and yet you are likely reluctant to hide your phone or tablet for even a few hours!  For many of us, the importance of stepping away from technology grows along with our dependency on it.

At Project House, we feel it’s important to take a regular tech break and smell the flowers/walk the seawall/stare deep into a dog’s eyes.  

Now if you’re like me and the idea of being away from email for 24 hours gives you heart palpitations or if your job is remote or online and you don’t really have the choice to take a whole day off, remember that every small step counts. Meet a friend for coffee and pledge to leave your phones in your bag.  Sign off from social media for an afternoon and take a walk outside. Make a ‘no phones at the table’ rule during meals.  Read a book in one room and leave your phone and computer in another.  Dare yourself to post your blog a day late.  The goal is to disconnect for a period to relish the freedom from the never-ending information overload and focus on your surroundings and yourself.  You’ll be amazed at what might stand out as important and what your brain can dream up when not faced with the constant stream of other people’s ideas and updates.  Problem solving, motivation, and organization – these all stem from a clear mind, and you might just find the inspiration you were looking for inside of you, instead of on Pinterest.

Need some tips on starting small?  Schedule a weekly “unplug” hour or afternoon.  Keep your phone in your bag when you’re with friends.  Keep your phone outside the bedroom when you go to sleep.  Set up a “I’ll get back to you soon!” autoreply for emails, so you’re not a slave to answering right away.  And next Spring, remember to pencil in the National Day of Unplugging. You can take the Unplug pledge at http://nationaldayofunplugging.com (and they’ll even send you a sleeping bag for your phone!)

What Work Life Balance Means to Me

I’ve written about my family a lot over the years and the significance of their role in my goals for setting up our company and creating a flexible workplace for our team and ourselves. A huge part of our dream for Project House has been to create a workplace that allows our team to pursue a balanced life no matter what that means for them. For me, balance means being able to accompany my kids on a class field trip, take my daughter to a ballet recital, hike with my dogs in the forest, and spend time as a family in the evenings and weekends – in combination with work I love doing, clients that appreciate me and my expertise, alongside great team members. Most of the time I can have all these things – and for me, that adds up to my own personal definition of “work-life” balance.

Before starting Project House, I looked around at the employment world and realized there were really very few places I could go where I could get the work-life balance I was craving, despite the fact that I knew I could be highly productive in a shorter work week or work day. I figured if I couldn’t find a job that gave me the flexibility that I needed for myself, then I would have to build one that did. As our little business grew and more and more people wanted to join our team, we realized what an untapped market there was for people just like us, looking for meaningful, flexible opportunities to do great work on their own terms.

Now – I know it’s not a one size fits all – balance means something different to everyone, and the key to success is discovering that unique ratio that gives you peace and happiness…and…let’s be honest, pays the bills. For some people, that might mean 10-15 hours of consulting work per week, for others it could be a full-time job that starts at 6am, and for others it’s something else entirely. I by no means place any judgement on anyone for the work or family choices they make, and I’m certainly not going to pretend or presume that we all can choose to work less. What I do know, however, is that by encouraging businesses to provide their employees with more flexibility for family, exercise, rest, and fun, they can fuel a more dedicated and productive workforce. Let’s face it, when people are happier, healthier, less stressed, and less guilty around free time, they can be way more productive.

The work environment that Heidi and I have created at Project House will hopefully inspire more conversations around how different companies truly can bring elements of flexibility into their culture. We empower our team to be mature, take the time they need to take care of their health and families, and take responsibility for their deadlines and work commitments. Many of our team members only have a few hours a week to dedicate to work – but we know that they are going to be highly productive during that time. We hope that this concept will continue to gain momentum, and we are excited to be nominated for YWCA’s Outstanding Workplace Award this year – maybe our little workplace evolution (revolution??) will gain a little traction!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Day of Awesomness!

In honour of Love Note Day…

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This Monday we celebrated Love Note Day…we know it’s not particularly business-related, but I have to admit that even though I’m not a super romantic at heart, I do have a fondness for love notes.

My husband and I met at work and started dating almost 12 years ago exactly – October 4th (my birthday) marks our first pseudo date.  We were a workplace romance, starting up conversations while manning a booth at UBC together. He was new to our office, and I was being friendly. I couldn’t resist his beautiful blue eyes and amazing smile – oh, and he was intelligent and easy to get along with too! We had lunch together on the grassy knoll and things just kind of went from there.  

At the time, we were both very nervous about the implications of working together and dating. We were both professional and didn’t want a potential “fling” to go badly and ruin our working relationship. We proceeded with caution and didn’t let anyone at work know what was going on. Despite our attempts to keep things low key at work, or maybe because of it, our workload was beginning to intertwine and our higher-ups put us onto a project together.  This meant that we were spending more and more time together, which of course made keeping our relationship to ourselves and professional at work even more difficult.  How do you communicate with someone who you are falling in love with when you need to be seen as “just colleagues”? Well…love notes of course.  Dave and I would pass notes to each other, Dave more so than me I’ll admit. I have always had a hard time writing love notes – but I do love to receive them.  I still carry in my wallet the first note he ever wrote me. 

Despite our best efforts to be cautious and careful, we fell hopelessly in love with each other.  A few colleagues saw us out together and I’m sure the rumour mill started winding up at the office.  I remember diving behind a movie store aisle one day in an attempt to hide from a fellow work colleague when Dave and I were picking out a movie to watch.  We got caught despite my efforts of course – how do you explain your way out of that one??

It wasn’t until the company Christmas party that we finally came forward with our relationship.  Whether intentional or not, Crystal may have had one or two drinks too many and …well…the cat was out of the bag! 

Work handled our relationship fairly and professionally. They moved Dave off the project that we were working on together, and they put him onto other work on the UBC Okanagan campus, while I remained on the Point Grey campus.  They allowed us both to keep our jobs, for which we are still grateful, and we remained very professional in the workplace.  Our boss at the time told us that we would thank him later for splitting us up to work in different areas, and I have to admit he was right.  Although working together while you’re falling in love is exciting, it was not a good long-term solution for us – the separation between our work projects was great for each of us as we were able to make a name for ourselves independently from one another.   

The rest is history of course!  We were engaged within about a year from when we met, got married 6 months later, and now we have three amazing daughters.  For all the fuss over office romances, I’d say ours was a huge success…and of course I still look forward to receiving love notes from my husband. Although these days they tend to read more like this: “Can you please feed the dog?”

In honour of Roller Coaster Day…

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This week I’m inspired by Roller Coaster Day.  Many people are drawn to roller coasters as a symbol for life’s ups and downs – it is part of the human experience to go through highs and lows, success and defeat, exhilaration and desperation, sometimes simultaneously.  The key difference between a roller coaster and life, however, is that the coaster is relatively safe and it’s your choice to get on: you’re strapped in, the equipment has been tested, and you’re really just pretending to be in danger, which is what makes it fun. What’s interesting in real life is that everyone’s interpretations and attitudes around their own experience are different.  It’s how people deal with their own life’s roller coaster that fascinates me.

I think the general Roller Coaster Attitude that I share is best summarized by the ever-lively and optimistic Grandma in the movie Parenthood:  You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.  Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

The things that excite, worry, frighten, and amuse each of us are so different and sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react until we’re right in it  – there are many different lenses through which to see things, levels of resilience and grit to draw from, and an infinite number of ways to combine optimism, pessimism, and realism.   In every aspect of our lives we experience highs and lows; there are times where we’re on the way up, and others when we feel out of control and terrified, and these are rarely the same for everyone.  Some people lead with ‘why me?’ and others with ‘of course, why not me?’; some are glass half full, others not; some approach a situation with powerlessness, and others with a bull-by-the-horns mindset. Some people push on, and some people hold back.  You might be thrilled and excited to meet new people, and I might be terrified.  You might see a breakup as the worst possible outcome, and I might see it as a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start.

My 93 year old grandmother told me last week that she regrets never jumping out of an airplane or trying a mountain zipline.  I don’t consider myself that kind of risk taker – not interested, thank you.  Having said that, I have fully embraced all of the joy, uncertainty, and cold sweats that come with parenthood and starting a business, and I feel fully awake and engaged when I’m a little bit scared – it keeps me focused and ready.

What I remember from riding roller coasters as a kid at the PNE is that feeling, right after the terror and “oh my god what have I gotten myself into”, after the coaster had slowly chugged back to the loading platform, when I KNEW I NEEDED to go again, RIGHT AWAY.  I’ve long since lost my appetite for rides, but I hold onto the nervous excitement and appreciation of “controlled chaos” – if I can stay just on top of my fear, I can use it to push myself into new things, which, as they say, are only new once.

How do you approach something new?  When has bad news for you turned into good news?  When has watching someone else’s reaction changed your perspective?