Photo: Dennis Jarvis

On a coaching call from my back deck “desk”, I encouraged my client to step away from the screen and take a walk during our session. Far from “phoning it in”, the movement got his wheels turning, the sun shone on some new insights, and overall the work-from-home flexibility helped us do some exceptional work together.

Access a touch of outdoor inspiration and exercise for an extra boost of critical thinking and creativity. These days, we have the built-in excuse to be out of the traditional office (government mandated WFH for most), and it’s Spring, so we can just open the front door to get moving.

But this isn’t only about making the most of being at home. Science that backs up the reasons the “walk-and-talk” should have always been, and should continue to be, more the rule than the exception.

As reported in a compelling German research paper, “moderate physical activity improves various cognitive functions, particularly when it is applied simultaneously to the cognitive task.” In other words, moving and thinking is a great combo. Various studies show that from new info recall, to generating ideas, to focused thinking, the benefits of the walking meeting are many.

Even better if you can find your way among greenery. Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese art called “forest bathing” in English, involves slow, meditative exploration of natural areas with all your senses. Literally just being in the forest can have immediate positive physiological effects. If you don’t have the trees or the time for this brand of eco-therapy, the good news is that positive health effects are found in a wide spectrum of exposure to foliage. In the book Your Brain on Nature , among dozens of studies that support nature=good for you, they reference Dr. Roger Ulrich’s research that patients with plants in their hospital rooms required less pain medication, had lower blood pressure and heart rates, higher energy, and more positive thoughts.

Leaders, you’re saying, “Yes! Exercise! Self-care! Get outside! Ergonomic set up! Spinach for lunch! I have a FitBit!” Of course, we all know what we should do. I was coaching someone today who’s promoting and preaching all the right things for health of his team, meanwhile admitting to me that he gets 2500 steps a day according to his tracking device (research says 10,000 steps a day is a healthy minimum goal). Working from his cottage (points for nature), he’s blocked the window that creates a reflection on his screen so he can hole himself up and tackle the eight straight hours of video calls each day (eek!)

With a friendly nudge, this well-meaning individual agreed to admit these habits to his team, in the hope the honesty inspires solutions that transform the shoulds into some compelling, functional and sustainable healthy practices they can pursue together. In a quick brainstorm, he and I came up with just a few to get the ball rolling for when he tables it at his next meeting:

  • Finish all meetings at a quarter-to the hour to allow at least a 15 minute break when you’re back-to-back
  • Earmark your former commute time to “commute” somewhere on foot, outside. Take a picture of some nature on route and share it!
  • Position yourself so you can see greenery from your workspace. Or add a plant to the home office.
  • Change video calls to phone calls if appropriate, so you can stretch or walk while chatting. (Another client of mine unapologetically bikes while on conference calls.)
  • Share what’s working and what’s not, so you can learn from co-workers.
  • Request a weekly tip or challenge from the group, and take it on together, to create some focus and accountability.

In this time of change, we all need to find our groove with new routines. Take it easy on yourself, and embrace trial-and-error as a part of the process. But don’t give up! Let go of the guilt of creeping scale numbers or the pressure of being perfect. Instead, just do your best to model with enthusiasm the process of building good habits in a new work environment.






Photo: Mackenzie Kosut

Working from home can look drastically different depending on one’s home situation. If employees are asked to work remotely more permanently, it will warrant careful consideration and pro-active support of employee needs on a case-by-case basis to ensure that engagement, performance and overall career progression are adequately supported.

Picture it: one team member is working cross-legged on his bed all day because it’s the only private spot available in his tiny shared downtown rental, while his colleague works from her stunning sunroom-turned-office overlooking the garden of her large rural property. It’s likely neither abode was selected with a home office as a top consideration, but here they are, making the best of a situation neither chose.

I’d venture to guess the former will show up overall less polished on video calls and feel spent sooner each day, while the other will benefit from all the ingredients needed to be clear-headed, creative, and show up “like a leader”. Fast forward in time, and there’s a threat that working from home will influence their individual career paths significantly. There will be a new brand of executive presence in a world of exclusively on-screen interactions, and I’m sure that no amount of decisive communication style or the like will make up for cluttered backgrounds and double-chin-accentuating camera angles. It used to be that you had to consciously manage how people perceived you through your communication, dress, dedication… all those things you brought to the office. Now, the office itself is part of how one shows up.

In addition, it’s not just the physical space, but the emotional environment that may vary greatly from one person to the next, and will have an impact that employers must acknowledge. Of course, right now there are school-age kids in many homes hanging out during work hours, but that won’t always be the case. Beyond this temporary situation, the home is simply a happier place for some than for others. Imagine being in close quarters with an aggressive spouse, a noisy neighbour, or an endless renovation. If people have “baggage”, whatever that might look like, home is where they keep it. With a personal space, comes issues which are sure to distract, even if they’re not serious ones.

In the interview process, candidates aren’t all looking for funky furniture, an awesome coffee corner and enviable lunches-on-site in their office assessment. Some are just looking for a comfortable break from being home; a calm and tidy place to do great work.

I picture a future where established companies that declare a leap to “all virtual”, settles into either: a) some form of optional office space in which to work occasionally, b) offering a significant subsidy to make the home office a happy workplace for all, or c) granting the option of renting a local co-working space that fits the bill.

In the meantime, leaders should be highly aware of the WFH discrepancies, and consider new actions for this new cultural norm. I believe this warrants:
Surfacing discussions about unconscious bias. Let people know their dress and background matter. I consider this valuable “tell it like it is” mentoring.
Suggesting specific guidelines for video backgrounds. Related to the first point, this element can elicit subconscious judgement, triggered by the lake view or the pile of laundry in the background. The office has a dress code, so why not a video call code?
Outlining best practices for work spaces: a desk, some plants, daylight. Encourage creativity, and pay for it if you can. Try to get around being entirely Even-Steven. Some will need more help than others.
Continually asking your employees, “How’s your energy?” “How are you feeling about the work?” “How comfortable is your space?” Propose what might help: a great little chair and table for the balcony? A standing desk? An extra lamp? Get personal. I mean, you’re already in their house with them.
Purchasing everyone the best equipment the organization can afford: laptop, headphones, etc….
Splurging a bit. If the organization’s going to be saving money on real estate, spend on fun little perks that cost much less than a fancy office. Arrange a favourite healthy lunch to be delivered on Fridays. Give everyone a Starbucks gift card. Send flowers for their workspace. Maybe a music streaming subscription, or semi-annual off-sites that are a little nicer than usual.
Stopping the video call snowball. Get off your chairs and take walking meetings often, especially on lovely days. Everyone benefits from movement and fresh air.
Promoting and celebrating the flexibility of being at home. Remind people to use their built-in home perks! Talk about marinating meat for dinner on your break, putting more pieces into that family puzzle while you listen in on the conference call, play video games or run to Costco at lunch, roll around with your dog intermittently.

Although there are challenges to the all-virtual workplace, there are also opportunities to make it even more effective than the alternative, and countless employees who would love the opportunity to work from home permanently. For this reason, experts such as Amy Laski are putting up their hands help leaders build thriving virtual organizations. As the founder of Felicity PR, a communications and content agency that has been successfully all-virtual for more than eight years, Amy started the consultancy Felicity Works on the encouragement of her network, and now leads businesses step-by-step through adopting best practices borne from first-hand experience.

Whether supporting employees optimally takes consulting experts or re-working budgets, at the heart of what’s most important for formerly office-centric organizations is ensuring that all employees are in a comfortable physical space and positive headspace when they turn their minds to contributing to the business.

Illustration by Heather Clarke

“Civility costs nothing and buys everything”, wrote Lady Mary Wortley Montagu hundreds of years ago in recording her world travel experiences.

“Mind your manners”, our parents reminded us in an effort to teach us to be respectful of others and garner respect for ourselves.

Despite this time-tested wisdom and first-hand guidance, however, we still see 21st century adults with respected professional titles exhibit behaviour in the workplace that throws etiquette out the window. I’m talking about outbursts that more resemble a child’s temper tantrum than a leader’s authoritative stance. Often, targeted blaming and outright contempt are not-so-subtly layered in.

After a couple of quite unbelievable reports lately from clients exposed to behaviour that I would describe as “SO not okay”, I turned to seasoned psychologist Barry Pokroy of Circle and Square Inc., to try to make sense of such extreme unprofessional conduct. Read more

It’s important for us to recognize, assess and nurture key business relationships. Why? Because getting what you want with others’ help is way easier than going at things alone! Allow me to help you map out a strategy.

But first, let’s back up and make sure you believe that you are an important person who knows important people.

How do I know that’s the case? Because you were plucked from a large pool as the very best person to perform your job function. If the pool was a small one, it makes you all the more invaluable! The important people you know? Those include the person who hired you, the individual to whom they’re accountable, people who have seen your name on great work, anyone who taught you the skills you have today, bosses you’ve impressed in the past, and friends from school who have earned coveted roles. They’re all surely influential people in your profession to some extent, and they’re in your direct network.
Think of it as a solar system –  in the elementary school sense –  in which you’re the sun at the centre. Go on, actually draw it! Put several increasingly bigger rings surrounding you to indicate the orbit of planets around the sun. (Fortunately this has nothing to do with the actual order of the planets, because I only remember that Pluto is last…and that’s not even a planet anymore. Go figure.)
Now you’re ready to plot on those orbit lines “planets” that are those closer and farther from the sun, indicating various people in your professional network. Those closer to the centre are your strongest relationships: individuals you could call up any day and it wouldn’t be too awkward.  More distant relationships are farther from the sun; contacts that might require a catch-up e-mail with an update on your life or perhaps a reminder of who you are. Surely, there are a whole bunch in between.
Your solar system will always be evolving. For example, when assigned to work more directly with a senior leader in your organization for a few months, she would naturally move from an outer ring to an inner one as you build rapport.
What you do with this visual reminder is up to you. I would suggest that first, you look at it and feel great about the power of relationship at your fingertips. Then, consider your immediate goals.  Want a promotion? More insight on career options or working arrangements? Mentorship? Target which people are the “important” people in that particular context and reach out to ask for advice, guidance or support from the people who know you. Pull some of those planets in closer to the sun.
“Good idea!” say some of you. And off you go to pick up the phone. For the rest, I know it’s a panic-inducing suggestion, to whom I offer this advice from the movie We Bought a Zoo:
“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”
And you’re hardly buying a zoo here. You’re just manipulating your universe! 😉

Photo: Margie Johnston

According to research done by Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs, retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40% and it increases the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%.

Sounds horrible, no? So why do people retire? We’ve convinced ourselves it’s because the pool-side relaxation at the end of 4+ decades of work is our birthright. Frankly, it’s only because in the 1880s, the Chancellor of Germany put into place the novel idea of contributing state funds to support people over 70 who could no longer work. Life expectancy was then about 65, so really, not many people actually retired.

Shortly thereafter, however, North Americans adopted the idea, dialled back retirement age to 65 and never adjusted it. Financial planners who want your business tempt you with visuals of a perfect life on the horizon; a time with no cares in the world. The thing is, today we can expect to live to 80, so we have a precarious 15 years – some will surely have 30– to try to avoid the real hazards of retirement.

Retirees can lose their footing in society, and start to question their purpose, even if they’re doing deep reflection from a beach in Hawaii.

According to psychologists, connecting to one’s purpose is a trait we all share, regardless of level of wealth. Whether you’re a bus driver or a CEO, the right perspective can inspire a feeling of doing meaningful work. Take that work away, and aligning with daily purposeful activities becomes a lot less clear. And it’s making us sick.

Here’s what we can do about it: Stop aiming for retirement, and rather, aim for being “selfishly employed”. If you really want out of the rat race, save your pennies for the goal of working at something you love and that’s aligned with your physical capacity. Consult, teach yoga, write, sell cookies, fundraise, whatever. As long as you insert yourself into something that forces you to think, be relied upon, socialize and get up in the morning to give your gifts to the world.

For retirees reading this whom I’ve frightened, I have something for you. I started an initiative last year called More to Give. Until now, I’ve kept this free coaching offer off my public profile, sharing it only with my personal network. I’m putting it out here now because I’d like to meet more amazing retirees and help them to feel great about this chapter of their lives.

(If you read about More to Give as a younger person, I hope it attunes you to encouraging our seniors to identify and act on their true relevance and importance in our society.)

Here goes! 


MORE TO GIVE: A FREE coaching program for retirees in the Greater Toronto Area
with Certified Coach Rachel Weinstein

“Tell me more…”
The intention of this program is for you to feel an increased sense of purpose and pride every day through giving more.
Of course, you already touch people’s lives through the giving of your time and talents. This is a way to expand from there if you have a desire to do so.
If you are a sharp-minded 65-105-year-old living in Toronto who’s not working and feel that you have more to give (even if you’re in a situation where you’re required to receive assistance of some type from others) then you qualify for this FREE program.

“What will I get?”
The program includes an in-person conversation with me, a Certified Coach. As a Coach, I support people to define, pursue and meet their goals.
Working together, you’ll design a plan as to how you will contribute something more – however big or small – that feels meaningful to you. You might have started to think about this, but it’s often easier to get clarity through speaking to someone.

“Where and when would we meet?”
I am taking on a limited number of new participants a month, and when you get in touch, you’ll be booked in the first available slot.
Our meeting will be about an hour. We can meet at your local coffee shop or community centre, anywhere in Toronto. If you’re in a retirement residence, we can meet in the public space there. (I apologize, but for safety reasons, I can’t come to private homes.)

“Why are you doing this?”
Because I believe that your longevity is a gift to the world. You have a lifetime of accumulated skills and wisdom that others can benefit from, and I know you have a sense of that, too.

“I’m actually thinking about getting back into the workforce in some capacity. Can we talk about that in our sessions?”
Not as a part of the MORE TO GIVE program, however, this is certainly a topic well suited for my standard coaching programs. Contact me at and we can chat more about job/career coaching engagements. Or visit my website at

“MORE TO GIVE sounds amazing! How do I sign up?”
Please contact me by e-mail to set up our first session!

 “I’m a little hesitant, not sure what more I have to give, and haven’t heard of this type of ‘coaching’, but I’m intrigued. Can I ask you some questions?”
Anytime. Contact me at 

“I’m a Coach and would love to do this type of work, too.”
Amazing! If you would like to work with me to expand this initiative, let me know! I think meeting retirees in person is most effective, so I’d love to expand into other geographic regions.








Photo by jaarenwicklund via Flickr

Last week a girlfriend was recapping a TV interview with a Hollywood big-wig. “He actually seems like a real mensch”, she remarked.  (‘Mensch’ is a Yiddish word that literally means ‘human being’, but connotes a particularly fine, upstanding individual.) The surprise in her tone struck me – as if it was a novel concept that someone with such a profile can be a good person.

Lately, with so many leaders and (former) idols being called out on abusing their power and status, we’re getting used to breaking stories about their disgusting behaviour, offensive comments, deflected mistakes and exposed lies. That said, I coach many industry leaders – not quite Hollywood moguls, but significantly influential nonetheless – who are real mensches.

I took an informal poll among my network. I asked, “What makes a mensch of a leader?” Here’s what stood out:

They’re Humble. Everything this person asks of others, they do too, even if only on occasion. Sometimes they get the group coffee or make the photocopies. There’s never even a hint that they’re more important than the next person. They apologize easily and admit when they’re unsure.

They’re Thoughtful. They ask people about what matters to them. It’s clear they truly care about others’ experiences and feelings; they’re all in when they speak to you. They check in about their impact, and are particularly concerned about embarrassing anyone.

They’re Generous. mensch graciously gives time to their work team and colleagues, friends and family. They help out. They put their money and name behind causes they deem important.

They’re Respectful. They’re polite to everyone, regardless of position or gender: wait staff, receptionists, the intern, their peers. Even in a hurry or in a conflict, they’re fully present and their language is constructive. (And when they slip up, they own it.)

They Share the Credit. With awareness that their success is dependent on so many contributors, they graciously thank even the most peripheral ones when there’s a big win.

They’re Consistent. True mensches are the way they are, in both public and private situations. (These types are no good at faking it, anyway.)

So, a special shout out to the good people who are successful at the top because they’ve risen to the occasion, and inspired others to want to follow them.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”