Remote Work Digest: August 18, 2016

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

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Image from Lifehacker.com.au

5 Rules To Follow When Working From Home | Spandas Lui, Lifehacker.com.au

Working from home is something that a lot of people desire and small business owners often have the luxury of doing so. But the home is full of traps that can distracts us from getting work done, which is why setting up some ground rules is so important.

Over at small business blog Flying Solo, Emma Heuston-Levack, talked about her experience of working from home for the past 18 months and the commandments that she follows in order to stay disciplined and keep herself in line:

  • Separating your workspace
    A separate space is important to help you ‘leave the office’ each day so you’re not tempted to work around the clock.
  • Set your space up with good equipment
    Make sure your home work space is set up with the right things to ensure you can work smoothly and comfortably throughout the day.
  • Exercise discipline
    Don’t just roll out of bed and start working in your pyjamas at noon; get up, get dressed and sit down at your workspace by a certain time each day.
  • Ensure you take regular breaks
    You won’t have office buddies remind you that it’s lunchtime, so you should be mindful to take regular breaks or risk burning out.
  • Get out of the house
    You don’t get to interact with people on a daily basis like you do in a real office so make sure you schedule some social catch-ups regularly. Otherwise, you’ll end up becoming a hermit.

You can read more about Heuston-Levack’s work from home commandments over at Flying Solo.

How to win at working from home | Tracy Ramsden, Marieclaire.co.uk

A new study reveals that over half of UK employees think they are more productive working from home, let’s take a moment for the procrastinators and the easily distracted out there. We asked Jason Downes, MD at Powwownow, the company behind the Smarter Working Initiative for his advice on how to make working from home work for all of us.

1. Have a plan (and stick to it)
Before you get started, write a to-do list and make sure you stick to it. This will help create a structure for your day and establish an end goal.
2. Have a routine (and don’t stay in your Pjs)
It’s a good way to remind yourself that you are still working even though you are at home and to stop you from feeling lethargic and unfocused.
3. Create a workspace (probably not the sofa)
Having your own space will help you stay focused and organised and also let anyone else who may be at home that you are working.
4. Be truly flexible (that means to a cafe sometimes. Win)
It’s important that the confines of an office, is not replaced by the confines of your home. Changing location and working from a library or coffee shop can help stimulate the creative juices.
5. Stay connected and communicate (so sync your email with your iPhone)
The changes in technology means that we now have the ability to communicate and work effectively from home. The use of quick conference calls can be frequently used to catch up with remote staff to prevent people feeling isolated and helps set the agenda for the day.
6. Take a break (i.e. you may not have to walk to Pret but don’t forget lunch)
Working from home should not turn into a bigger task than it has to be. Make a nice lunch or go for a walk as you would when popping out to get lunch from the office, don’t just sit by the computer all day.
7. Be clear with your manager regarding targets (like a virtual to-do list)
This helps to establish structure in your day, can act as a huge motivator and makes sure that you and your manager both understand what outcomes to expect– this avoids any miscommunication, crossed wires or finger pointing come the end of the day.
8. Leave work (it’s 5pm, you can close your laptop now)
When it’s time to finish work and you have done all the things you need to do, then you should stop working. It’s important to know when to finish for the day and maintain a good work-life balance. Just make sure you have achieved the goals that you set out to achieve.
9. Talk to other flexible workers (it’s good to share ideas, people #PassItOn)
Speak to other flexible workers to share thoughts on what does and doesn’t work well. We have just created the Smarter Working Initiative so that all companies that offer their staff flexible working can come together to share positive experiences and companies that don’t currently encourage this way of working can sign up to try it.

6 signs your hobby is benefiting your career | Aine Cain, Businessinsider.com

Today, “get a hobby” is usually a rude thing to say. It’s typically meant to signify that you’ve got too much time on your hands.
But as it turns out, it’s pretty good advice.
You should get a hobby. Committing time to an activity that makes you happy can do wonders for your life — not to mention your work performance. Hobbies are good for you.
Here are six signs that your hobby is paying off big time:

Your hobby helps you structure your time
Try taking on a hobby to see if it boosts your time management skills. As the Harvard Business Review previously reported, conventional time management solutions have become increasingly less effective. Scheduling time for your hobby might be a surefire way of avoiding distractions both at work and after hours.

Your hobby balances you
Citing a Bain & Co. study of MBA students, The Boston Globe reported that work-life balance is an increasingly important issue to workers, despite the fact that businesses have been slow to catch on to the trend.
By taking on a hobby, you can begin to prioritize your own work-life balance and capture this sense of contentment.

It allows you to pursue your passion – realistically
The platitude “follow your dreams” is typically a lot of fluffy nonsense. Most of our “dreams” are pretty impractical. For most people, it’s far better to get a decent job doing something you really like and are good at than to set off on a quest to find your “calling.” Perfect is the enemy of good, and all that.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your other pursuits entirely. You can make time to sculpt, do stand up, or crochet after hours. If you fiercely guard that hobby time, you’ll find that you’re able to continue to pursue your passion in life, even if it’s not your main career. Who knows — you might eventually get so good at your side hustle that it will eventually become your full-time job!

It keeps you healthy
If your hobby involves physical activity, you could be boosting your memory and cognitive abilities, according to a Stanford University psychological experiment.

It can be difficult to schedule time for exercise into your busy life, so working out during our hobby is also extra efficient.

It allows you to connect with others outside of work
It’s great to make friends at work. However, workplace relationships don’t necessarily blossom at every company — some offices are too toxic, competitive, or transitory to sustain lasting friendships.

Making friends through your hobby is different. You’re not just bonding over circumstances, you’re getting to know each other through a shared interest!

It makes you less stressed
Some worry that taking on a hobby might add to the stress in their life. In fact, hobbies have the opposite effect — they relax you.

A San Francisco State University study discovered that employees who pursue creative hobbies are able to recover better from the demands of their job.

“Creative activity was found to have both indirect effects and direct effects on performance-related outcomes, but the effects varied by the type of performance-related outcome,” the study found. “The results indicate that organizations may benefit from encouraging employees to consider creative activities in their efforts to recover from work.”

What Are Best Practices for Employee Retention and Recruitment? | Lindsay Wissman, Zanebenefits.com

There is good news for entrepreneurs with growing businesses: it doesn’t have to be rocket science. Here are some simple things you can do to provide a meaningful experience for your employees — and why you can’t afford not to think about your employee retention strategy.

Hire the Right Managers
When hiring managers, it’s common to look for someone who will fit in with the culture. However, Forbes recommends that hiring someone whose skill-set aligns with the job is the best route. The thought process here is that a person with the proper skill-set is better equipped to succeed in their role and motivate direct reports to do the same.

Provide Career Navigation and Growth Strategy
Experts suggest hiring people that are planning their careers with the company, rather than just filling roles. During interviews, ask candidates what their goals are, what motivates them, and then assess whether those answers coincide with what your company can provide for them. Once you’ve hired the person you feel will be the best fit, be sure to sit down with them and outline an individualized path for success.

Staff Recognition
It’s important to remember that motivation is not a one-size-fits-all system. While monetary rewards will be the catalyst for one person, it could be investment shares, a gift card, or extra vacation time for another. Be flexible in your rewards system and be willing to negotiate if the winning employee would like to tweak the prize just a bit. It doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciative — they are just trying to tell you what works for them.

Why Employee Retention Matters
A popular argument for pushing employee retention strategy to the back-burner is that the cost of losing an employee is difficult to monetize. Yet, it doesn’t take a whole lot to realize the impact turnover can have on your business. Poor morale, lower productivity, more frequent mistakes, and disengagement are all issues that can cost your company dearly, but do not have a price sticker.

Conclusion
An employee retention strategy is often overlooked in small businesses that are otherwise strapped for resources. Not investing time in such areas can have a drastic and costly effect on your businesses. As J.W. Marriott famously said, “If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.”

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