Remote Work Digest: June 20, 2019

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

5 Tips For Working From Home With Kids | Anthony Caruana, Lifehacker.com.au

working-from-home-kids

In this era where working from home and freelancing from a home office is common, there’s a new challenge to overcome. While working from home can help with the work/life balance, there are times when the kids can tip the scales away from work at exactly the wrong moment. After almost a decade of working from home with kids around, and after speaking with a few similarly challenged friends and colleagues, here are some of our favourite tips.

Establish some ground rules
Set some ground rules and stick to them. For example, if the kids see you with headphones on, they need to know that means you’re on a call and can’t be disturbed unless it’s urgent.

Communicate
Firm communication that teaches them about your work day and commitments is key. For example, while I was working yesterday, both my step-sons were home from school. I explained to them that I had an important call and that for those 30 minutes I needed them to keep a little quieter than usual.

Schedule time for work and kids
It may be a work day but if the kids are around you need to make time for them. Plan your day so there’s a mix between work, play and other activities. For example, schedule meal breaks and allow for time every hour to chat, organise an activity or to join in with play time.

Be creative
If you’re planning to work from home, have a list of different activities you can use to keep the kids busy. Mix up the indoor and outdoor play – six hours of iPad time is not a good way to encourage healthy life habits.

On the work side, if you need an escape hatch with some quiet, why not take calls and process email in the car, where it’s quiet, while it’s parked in the driveway and the kids are playing outside.

Involve the kids in your work
When you plan your work day, look for opportunities to involve kids in your work. For example, when I think about story ideas I sometimes ask the kids what stories they think are most interesting and why. I get them to read some of my work and ask them to write about things that interest them. That way, we’re working together.

How to take a Working Vacation That Actually Works | Serenity Gibbons, Thriveglobal.com

Screen-Shot-2019-06-17-at-2.39.07-PM

Not all “workations” are created equal. A productive one takes planning and balance: Too much work and too little vacation (or vice versa) can defeat the purpose. But done correctly, working vacations are an opportunity to experience the world without having to worry about falling behind.

Ready to try a working vacation? Before you book:

1. Get your team on board.
Remote work may be a staple at many companies, but not all of them are used to team members taking working vacations. Make sure everyone knows you’re not totally unplugging; you’re working intermittently.

Once your team knows you’re not going AWOL, determine your priorities together. Outline what you want to accomplish while you’re gone. Even if you’ll have access to phone and email the whole time, account for times when you won’t be strictly available, such as on flights.

2. Choose the right destination.
Your working vacation should be somewhere you actually want to go, of course, but that shouldn’t be your only consideration. Think about the factors that might influence the work you’re doing and how productively you’re able to do it.
Wherever you go, make sure the place you stay at has internet, phone service, and anything else you need to get work done. Get an international cell phone if you frequently take calls. Pay for a hotspot if you’re worried about Wi-Fi reliability.

3. Plan your workplaces.
Cafes and libraries aren’t always what they appear from online photos. That coffee shop might be so busy you can’t find a seat. The library might only offer Wi-Fi to library card holders, and you may need a local address to get a card.

Plan for those moments by creating “always,” “sometimes,” and “never” lists. You might have a nearby friend, for instance, whose house has Wi-Fi you can always use. Starbucks is another good option for your “always” list. Local coffee shops and grocery stores should be “sometimes” choices.

4. Give yourself some breathing room.
A working vacation should still be a vacation. Give yourself at least three free hours during each workday, and plan at least one day when you don’t work at all. To give yourself stress-free time away, productivity site Calendar suggests communicating those hours to your second-in-command.

We all need vacations to feel relaxed and satisfied with our lives. When we overwork, we steal from our future for the sake of the present. Taking a working vacation is the best way to balance the two.

8 Side Hustles You Can Use To Supplement Your Remote Work | Abdullahi Muhammed , Forbes.com

cddf5673ad7447d9a1e096286dba1121

Getting a side hustle becomes a necessity from time to time. With no guarantee of a paycheck if you are freelance, you have to keep money flowing in. The key is finding something that works with your schedule, and is lucrative enough to shore up your income when you need it. As you start exploring your options, consider the following eight side hustles.

1. Consulting
With consulting, you take your existing skills and use them to help other businesses. There’s a great market for this as so many businesses need help, but aren’t able to bring on full-time staff. So no wonder that consulting is a $250 billion industry.

2. Running an ecommerce store
E-commerce is a low-cost, low-barrier way of starting your own business. You can set up shop online, and sell products from all over the world. Thanks to dropshipping and other schemes like Amazon FBA, you don’t even have to purchase stock or manage inventory/logistics. Even better, you set up your online store quickly and easily with the help of Shopify marketing experts.

3. Teaching and tutoring online
There’s a growing market for online education. Students and their parents need help from skilled tutors. Others are seeking alternatives to formal education when it comes to developing skills they need to get ahead. If you already have the in-demand expertise, and an ability to break concepts down so they are easy to master, teaching and/or tutoring online might be for you.

4. Flipping websites
Not every entrepreneur wants to build a website from scratch. Others prefer to take existing sites, and turn them into profitable ventures. You can get in on this by flipping websites on the side. There are loads of websites that no longer serve their owner’s interests, or have been abandoned altogether. As a website flipper, you find these pages, purchase them, and sell them at a profit.

5. Affiliate marketing
If you have an active blog or website, affiliate marketing is a natural next step towards building a passive income stream. With just a little effort, you can market the products and services you like to others on your website.

6. Writing an ebook or creating other digital assets
With digital products you create something once, then sell it multiple times. You can share your expertise with an eBook, provide your target customers with templates, even use your own photographs to sell as stock images.

7. Real estate
Real estate is both the most popular and most lucrative side gig that can pay up to $90/per hour. This could be due to the fact that you have so many options for entering this niche. You can take a course and obtain your real estate license, and work selling properties on the side. You can pool your money with other investors to purchase and sell properties.

8. Working as a translator/interpreter or voice tester
If you’re proficient in two or more international languages, you can make good money off of that. You can offer translations services on freelancing websites or join a company like Para Plus Translations where you get the opportunity to work on exciting projects involving translation or interpretation services.

There’s no need to enter the world of full-time employment to enjoy the benefits of good wages. Instead leverage your skills and flexibility to land a side gig.

9 Ways to Stay Productive When Working from Home | Sophia Bernazzani, Learn.g2.com

morning routine

It’s easy to assume working from home leads to less productivity, but in reality, it’s usually quite the opposite. Keeping remote employees engaged and on track isn’t impossible. In fact, it can help boost productivity. As 52% of employees work from home at least once per week, remote work is beneficial for a reboot and recharge while maintaining a strong work ethic away from the office.

To help you with time management and remain optimally productive, we’ve compiled this list of 9 ways to stay focused when you’re working from home.

1. Find an optimal space to remain productive
It’s important you have a space that signals to your brain that it’s time to focus. Plus, it’s equally critical you save spaces like your bedroom for relaxation, so you can continue to have good work-life balance. Otherwise, you might find yourself checking your email from your bed at 9 p.m. because you haven’t mentally left the office.

2. Keep a consistent routine
To ensure productivity, a time management tip is to kick off your day with the same routine you’d use if you were heading to the office. Make some coffee, take a shower, and put on a pair of jeans rather than staying in your bathrobe and slippers. Maintaining a morning routine helps you to mentally prepare for the day and get in a productive state-of-mind.

3. Stick to a schedule
When you’re working from home, there are often other demands you need to pay attention to: cooking, taking your dog for a walk, picking a child up from daycare, or switching laundry from the washer to the dryer, to name a few. To maintain focus throughout the day, it’s crucial to set a schedule and stick to it.
For instance, if you’re most productive first thing in the morning, try tackling your most difficult tasks right when you wake up. Later in the day you can complete easier tasks, like responding to emails or editing a blog post while you multitask on some of those other non-office-related responsibilities.

4. Eliminate distractions
If you think casually checking email or quickly opening Facebook isn’t a big deal, consider this: research from the University of California, Irvine found that the typical office worker spends only 11 minutes on a task before getting interrupted, but once interrupted, it takes them about 23 minutes to get back on track. To ensure long-term productivity, implement strategies to ensure you don’t get interrupted in the first place.

5. Take breaks
To ensure you’re consistently making wise professional decisions, take breaks to mentally refresh. While it might seem counter intuitive, regular breaks can actually make you more productive, particularly if your breaks include a form of exercise.

Additionally, breaks can help prevent decision fatigue. A study found Israeli judges were more likely to grant parole to prisoners after their two daily breaks. As decision fatigue sets in, however, the rate of granting parole dropped to nearly zero percent because judges resorted to the easiest option – just saying no.

6. Be transparent about when you’re online and offline
You’ll be more productive if you set clear online and offline boundaries. If you need to take your dog for a walk, set an “Away” status on your Slack. At 5 p.m. (or whenever you choose to be done working for the day), don’t respond to any more emails, so coworkers know you’re unreachable until tomorrow. If possible, incorporate those times into your Gmail calendar so when you’re offline, your coworkers will know why.

7. Make a to-do list
Checking off a to-do list is one of the simplest pleasures of a work day. When working from home, it’s necessary to have specific goals you need to meet to ensure you stay on track when Netflix or your bed is calling your name.

8. Have a set end time
To ensure proper balance, try setting up a logoff routine at a reasonable end time each day, regardless of how much you’ve finished. Jot down a to-do list of tasks you want to tackle the next day, set an away status on your messaging apps, and put your work supplies back away until the morning.

9. Maintain relationships with coworkers via messaging or video conferencing software
Working from home could hinder your ability to catch up with coworkers and form those deeper bonds like you would if you ran into them in the office kitchen. To combat this, it’s vital to maintain connections with them through internal communication tools like Slack or video conferencing software tools like Zoom. Set up regular 1:1 virtual meetings simply for the purpose of catching up so you’re never out of the loop.

Remote work is hard work
Even though you might have the luxury of sitting on your sofa while working from home, it doesn’t mean you’re not working. The work you do from home can be as productive – if not more productive than your time in the office. Don’t second guess yourself!

Advertisements

Remote Work Digest: June 16, 2018

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

How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work | Andrew Medal, Entrepreneur.com

20180612193303-GettyImages-685053280

Working remotely can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompany documented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

Struggling with your calendar

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

1. Create your list of tasks.
2. Prioritize the list.
3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

Chasing clients for payment

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.

Convert Your Office Job To A Work-From-Home Arrangement | Manon DeFelice, Forbes.com

https_blogs-images.forbes.commanondefelicefiles201806beverage-computer-flower-948888-1200x907

A recent survey of over 5,000 workers by FlexJobs found that telecommuting 100% of the time is the most desired type of flexible work arrangement among job seekers. Such arrangements appeal strongly to working parents and others seeking better work-life balance.

Before you ask to switch to a telecommuting arrangement with your boss, consider the following tried-and-true tips.

1. Build your case with solid research. Instead of just listing all the personal reasons why you want to work from home, present your boss with a face-based presentation on how remote work arrangements can be a benefit to the company.

2. Offer examples of other companies’ flex policies. When you show your employer that other companies are going flex, he or she might be more inspired to implement a flexibility policy at your workplace. Present your boss or manager with sample flexibility policies, such as the nine examples included in this article from 1MFWF.

3. Try working flex once a week on a trial basis. If your manager needs convincing, let her test-drive your telecommuting capabilities one day a week to see how it goes. If your boss goes for it, use that day as an opportunity to show just how productive you can be when you work from home.

4. Be a communication whiz. Convince your boss how easy it is to stay closely in touch with you, no matter where you are. A wealth of technology can help teams stay connected around the world, from Skype and Google Chat to Basecamp, Slack and many more.

5. Offer to take a salary cut. Many people feel that working from home is a reward in itself, saving you the hassle of commuting and increasing your quality of life. You can assign a monetary value to it, and suggest a pay savings for the company by letting you telecommute.

6. Get another flexible job offer, and let your boss match it. A job offer from another company can be very motivating for your boss to let you switch to a work-from-home arrangement.

What if your boss can’t match the competing offer? Then maybe it’s time to make the move to a more forward-thinking company—and start living the work-from-home lifestyle that you envision for yourself.

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You for Entrepreneural Success | Deep Patel, Entrepreneur.com

20180612185056-GettyImages-867405726

If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales
A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognize that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful startup.

2. Human Resources
HR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

3. Customer service
Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership
To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants — these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

8 effective time management tips for entrepreneurs working from home | Toby Nwazor, e27.co

productivity-time-management-watch

If you are working from home, you will understand how challenging it can feel at times to manage your time effectively so as to increase your productivity. Below are eight points that can help you do that.

1. Prepare your to-do list every night before you sleep
If you really want to manage your time effectively, then you should wake up with tasks on your mind. And the best way to do this is to make a list of the next day’s tasks at night before you go to bed. That way, you can maximise your morning hours and achieve a lot more before the rest of the world get to work.

2. Prioritise your tasks
It is not enough to prepare a to-do list, you need to prioritise your goals. Divide your tasks according to what you must do, what you should do, what you want to do just because it’s nice, what another person can do for you, and what must not be done.

3. Work out a schedule, and maintain it
Assuming you had to go to work, what would your schedule look like? Duplicate it for the house. If you decide to work from 7 am to 4 pm, so be it. Make the people you live with understand it. This means that there will be no running of errands around that time, neither would you decide to hang out with a friend that just came into town.

4. Define and own your workspace
A few weeks ago, I hired someone to redesign my office. I told him I wanted to have an ‘office feeling’ whenever I entered that particular room, and he did it. After that, I noticed that I work faster when I get into the office and focus on a particular task.
You should do likewise. This will help you more if you live with a someone. In that case, let them know that unless it is very important, your office is where you work and there should be no distractions.

5. Work when you are the most productive
Although you work at home, you need to find out when you are the most productive. The secret is to schedule your most important tasks at that period. That way, you will accomplish more in less time.

6. Cut off distractions
Cut off every distraction. This could entail telling your family, or the people you live with not to disturb you when you are at work. Make them understand your schedule.

7. Avoid clutter
Don’t allow your workspace to be cluttered. This includes arranging your system files and folders and managing your email better too.

8. Take brain breaks regularly
You must try to avoid having burnouts at all costs. This is especially important if your job requires creativity. Work at a stretch for some time, but make sure to schedule breaks into your plan. This is the time you get to rejuvenate, listen to music, call a friend, or maybe just read a novel.

When you do this, you will come back rejuvenated and ready to take on more tasks.

 

Remote Work Digest: March 20, 2018

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

How To Become The Type Of Manager People *Actually* Like Working For | Erin Bunch, Wellandgood.com

1c3d9dbdd59842f708f84b8787181eb0

Some seriously successful boss babes weigh in on how to conquer the imposter syndrome most first-time managers experience and become the type of leader that your team (it’s your team now!) would be excited to work for.

Tips on how to successfully transition into a management role:

1. Avoid micromanaging
Stephanie Horbaczewski, founder and CEO of the Marketing Services Agency and Media Company StyleHaul, first and foremost calls out an all-too-familiar misstep she’s watched new managers make: micromanaging. “The most consistent misjudgment I see in managers is not recognizing when to have enough confidence in their teams to work autonomously to produce great results,” she says. To remedy this, she suggests allowing individuals to have more ownership and accountability for their own projects. “When team members grow, the company does, too,” she says.

2. Become “radically candid”
Communication, my boss babes say, is also key. “One of the biggest management challenges is [learning how to be] radically candid, or giving feedback that is direct, thoughtful, and ongoing,” says Katerina Schneider, founder of the buzzy supplement company Ritual. “I’m still learning how to do this, but the best mentors and leaders I’ve ever encountered are masters at helping their team constantly evolve and grow through feedback that is honest and caring.”

3. Tailor your management style to each person
It’s also important to recognize that cookie-cutter techniques may not be the most efficient way of dealing with individuals, says Sakara Life co-founder Danielle DuBoise. “Each person needs to be managed in their own unique way, and you have to adapt your communication styles accordingly,” she says. “This way of building a team is very effective because people feel seen and heard as individuals, rather than as worker bees.” Getting to know a person’s specific strengths and weaknesses will also, she says, help you to assign projects accordingly.

4. Teach, don’t tell
Meanwhile, Meg He, co-founder of Aday, posits that the most effective communication sometimes involves less talking and more doing. “Telling rather than teaching [is a big mistake I see new managers make],” she cautions. “This approach does not enable an employee’s growth.”

5. Allow others to be “smarter” than you
Whitney Tingle, co-founder of Sakara Life, agrees with this approach. “One of the biggest mistakes I see managers make is thinking they have all the answers instead of asking the right questions,” she says. “True leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about surrounding yourself with amazing and intelligent people and making sure all that effort is aligned with the company’s mission.”

6. Start slow
Bandier founder Jennifer Bandier, meanwhile, cautions against a management mistake that can rankle a new team right off the bat. “New managers tend to come in and want to create immediate change; however, I believe that you should first learn about the existing processes and listen to your teammates and employees,” she says.

7. Celebrate success
In today’s fast-paced work environments, it can be tough to slow down enough to appreciate progress, Aday co-founder Nina Faulhaber says. She tells me that she loves to be “in the weeds” with her team, from creation to execution of a project or idea, but that sometimes she’ll move on too quickly once a project’s been completed. “This means I often forget to celebrate wins,” she says. “I’m so grateful when our team reminds us of successes and the moments we should cherish together.”

9 traits of successful programmers that kids can develop now| Mike Melnicki, Venturebeat.com

kid-coding

Qualities like curiosity, perseverance, and empathy are critical and, frankly, harder to learn the older we get. If you want to equip your kids with the skills and traits they’ll need to make it as a software developer, start early and get them to go beyond the keyboard.

1. Focus
While there are lots of ways to foster focus in kids, I encourage parents to go the route of giving their child unstructured time to dive deep into whatever they enjoy doing. Let them understand what it feels like to be totally absorbed in something. Whether they’re shooting hoops or drawing, they’re building the muscle memory they need to see a task through to completion.

2. Collaboration
Making software is a team sport: It takes developers, designers, product managers, marketers, and customer support engineers. So what better way to learn how to work with others toward a common goal than by playing a team sport? Or if your kid isn’t interested in athletics, they can form a band, build a clubhouse with friends, or team up to work on a project. All of these collaborative activities teach kids how to divvy up the work, play their positions, and support each other.

3. Leadership
Providing opportunities to practice leadership at home can also lighten the load for parents. Find something your child can be in charge of: a flower bed, one day of your next family vacation, Grandma’s birthday gift, etc. It’s not about making them do it all themselves (delegating is an important skill, too!), it’s about giving them ownership of something. Let them make decisions about what gets done, and how.

4. Emotional Intelligence
Empathy is the key not only to creating software your customers love but to being a great teammate as well. Experts have written extensively about how to build empathy in kids, but I have a few favorites. The classic game of “what does that cloud look like?” introduces young kids to the idea that different people have different perspectives.

5. Curiosity
If you aren’t constantly learning and growing, your skills will atrophy and you’ll eventually be left behind. As with focus, unstructured time to explore an interest is a good way to foster curiosity. Better yet, parents can nurture their child’s curiosity by connecting them with books, activities, and documentaries on whatever subject they’re into. Bonus points for parents who demonstrate passionate curiosity about their own interests.

6. Growth mindset
Kids whose parents set an example by admitting what they don’t know (and inviting their child to come along and find the answer) have a leg up when it comes to developing a growth mindset. See also: kids whose parents take the time to explain complex concepts or systems to the best of their ability. Answering tough questions with “Well, that’s just the way it is” is expedient in the moment but does no good in the long run.

7. Writing
Very young kids can get a head start by telling you about what they did at school (and don’t hold back on the follow-up questions!). Parents of older kids can encourage journaling or writing short stories. When they’re ready, encourage them to write to companies whose products they use or to their representatives in government to advocate for things they are passionate about.

8. Storytelling
Asking kids to recount things that happened at school is a good way to foster this skill. So is making a short adventure movie with a smartphone for their friends – the more drama the better. As a bored teenager, I and my group of friends started organizing a show-and-tell event in the neighborhood where we’d tell a story about an object and why it was meaningful to us. It began with five attendees and grew to beyond 50 people on a monthly basis.

9. Teaching
Most kids love to show off what they know, so channeling that energy into teaching usually isn’t a hard sell. They can help younger siblings learn how to tie their shoes, fold clothes, braid hair, skateboard … whatever. Older kids can hone their teaching skills even futher by becoming peer tutors at school.

Learning and enrichment are the keys to future success, but burn-out is real. Heed the warnings of those child-athlete-gone-bad documentaries and encourage your kids to find their own path through early life and then send me their resumes in 10 years so I can hire them! A well-rounded childhood sets them up for a fulfilling career in software development, or wherever they ultimately choose to go.

Avoid Making These 7 Mistakes When Designing Your Home Office | Annie Pilon, Smallbiztrends.com

A home office can offer entrepreneurs a low-cost, convenient and comfortable place to run a business. But if it’s not designed well, it can also lead to plenty of distractions and loss of productivity.

shutterstock_347650931-850x476

Blake Zalcberg is the president of OFM, a furniture manufacturer and distributor based in North Carolina. In addition to his design acumen, Zalcberg is also familiar with the importance of an effective home office due to the fact that a good portion of the OFM team works from home on a regular basis. So he’s familiar with a lot of the concepts that go into designing an effective workspace, along with some of the most common mistakes.

If you’re working to design your own home office, here are some missteps to avoid.

Designing Your Office as an Afterthought
Zalcberg says, “A lot of people just end up putting the office in that old formal living room that used to have plastic over the couches because it’s just not really used or they think they don’t need a dedicated office space at that time, even if they will in the future.”

Even if you don’t have a ton of space options for your office, try to choose or outline a space that will actually be conducive to good work, rather than just throwing a desk in the corner of the dining room.

Putting the Office Near Distractions
Distractions can be different for each worker. Some people can work with the TV on but get distracted if they see people walking down the street. So while it may not be possible to eliminate every potential distraction while working from home, think about the things that are most likely to derail your work and try to limit those as much as possible.

Failing to Soundproof your Office
No matter what your distraction levels might be, there’s value to having some level of soundproofing to your home office, whether that involves acoustic wall tiles or a solid wood door to shut out the rest of the house.

Zalcberg says, “Think about if you’re on a conference call. Do you want the person on the other line to hear the dog barking and doorbell ringing and kids running around, or do you want them to feel like you’re really focused on what they’re saying?”

Include Subpar Lighting
Poor lighting can also be a major hindrance to good work. If your office is in a room with minimal windows and you don’t have adequate overhead lighting, you’re likely to strain your eyes and get tired or worn out quickly. However, even if the only space you have is the basement, you can install bright LED bulbs in your overhead fixtures and then add table lamps to your space to make a big difference.

Forgetting About Comfort
Another source of distraction for some home office workers is the furniture. If you have an old desk and uncomfortable chair, it can make your office an unwelcoming space and even lead to back and neck problems. Instead, find an ergonomic chair that feels comfortable for you.

Failing to Plan for Avoiding Clutter
Once you outline the space to use and eliminate potential distractions, you then have to think about how to lay everything out effectively so that all of your items and documents have a set space. Think about your typical workday and the items you use most often to make sure that nothing will be left just floating around your desk or workspace.

Automatically Going with “Office Style”
According to Zalcberg, there’s been a major shift in home offices over the past several years. Before, offices in the home strongly resembled traditional offices, with similar furniture styles and generic office decor. But now, more entrepreneurs and professionals are taking the opportunity to get creative and make the office feel more like a part of the home. This doesn’t mean you should avoid generic office furniture. But you certainly don’t have to opt for this style just because you’re designing an office space.

The BEST lifehacks for a good night’s rest – including exercise and sex | Jeff Parsons, Mirror.co.uk

Headshot-of-a-blonde-woman-sleeping-in-bed

According to The Sleep Council, nearly half of Brits are only getting about six hours of sleep a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate (or ‘toxic’)sleep.

Thankfully there are a range of techniques compiled by that can be used for a better night’s kip.

Here’s ten of the best from GPDQ, the UK’s first GP on-demand app:

1. Develop a sleep routine
Start developing a sleep routine a couple of hours before bed, to get your body and brain prepared for a restful night.

Firstly ensure that you go to bed at the same time every night, and as tempting as it may be to have a lie-in, it is also important to get up at the same time each morning.

Secondly, become a creature of habit, repeating the same bedtime routine every night to help to regulate your inbuilt body clock, (the circadian rhythm) and give your brain the cue it may need to know when it’s time to unwind and go to sleep.

2. Avoid white light before bed
Watching TV or using your computer or phone before bed may be considered a good way to relax before bed, but it can sometimes be detrimental. Namely because the bright light emitted, may act as an environmental cue to your body that it is wrongly day time, and therefore hinder any biological desire to fall asleep.

3. Take a warm bath
As well as the relaxation-factor it provides, research has shown that if you take a warm bath one to two hours before bed, the rise in temperature, followed by the drop-in temperature when you then enter a colder room induces sleep.

4. Listen to electronic music
A state of relaxation can be achieved in many ways including by reading, or listening to music. The influence of music in relaxation has becoming increasingly studied – most will listen to classical music or piano playlists; however an acclaimed DJ is encouraging people to turn to electronic music. DJ Tom Middleton, has created a sleep album called ‘Sleep Better’ designed to help Britons drift off, and it’s backed by science.

5. Reschedule your potential nightmare worries
If anxieties keep popping into your head, stopping you from falling asleep, acknowledge and accept them, but avoid feeding them with too much of your time. Rather than ruminating over these worries, write them down and pick them back up in the morning with a fresh head.

6. Learn relaxation techniques
Gentle relaxation exercises like simple yoga stretches, combined with steady breathing can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate to help you relax. Other practises such as mindfulness and meditation may be useful to get into a calming state.

7. Pamper yourself
Self-care can also be a big part of relaxation – pampering yourself in the evening with soothing oils or body lotion can make starting a bedtime routine an enjoyable process.

8. Exercise regularly
Exercising is an important part of our physical and mental health, and is a good way to manage stress and anxiety through endorphin release.

We also know that exercising in the day can improve sleep quality, however if you’re having difficulty sleeping and considering hitting the gym a couple times a week to help catch some Zs, just keep in mind that you need to make exercise a more frequent activity for a prolonged period before you begin to see tangible results.

9. Sex will make you sleepy
This is thought to be due to the production of oxytocin, a hormone that will counteract the stress hormone cortisol, allowing you to feel more relaxed and transition nicely into sleep.

According to nhs.uk: “Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.”

10. Optimise your diet
In general, avoiding eating heavy meals before bed and reducing caffeine intake (ensuring none is consumed for at least 6 hours before bed) is likely to help.
We also know that whilst alcohol is likely to send you off to sleep, it is also likely to result in poor quality sleep, waking you up several times through the night.

What experts say:

“The most important myth of sleep is the 8-hour rule,” said Nick Littlehales a sport sleep coach that recently partnered with Braun UK. to help people lower their blood pressure.

“If you tap it in your browser you’ll realise that when that lightbulb was invented, we always slept in a polyphasic way. This means to sleep in shorter periods more often. People worry about sleep and try to do it all at night for 8 hours or more, which is really difficult,” he added.

“In sport we use a polyphasic approach where you sleep in shorter periods more often, by using naps at midday and early evening. We should aim to change our perspective of sleep and view it as recovery in 24 hours, instead of recovery eight hours at night.”

 

Remote Work Digest: June 9, 2015

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

Image from Communitytable.com

Image from Communitytable.com

The Remote Worker’s Guide to Office Etiquette | Life Hacker India

Communicating with your coworkers is much harder when you’re working remotely. Alan Henry from Gawker Media, says that, a little empathy can keep you happy on any remote team set up. Face to face interaction may be completely avoided but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any awkward silence when in conference calls or online meetings. In order to avoid that, here’s a helpful list of office etiquette that shouldn’t be forgotten:

  • Respect Everyone’s Time Zones and Busy Time
  • Use Technology to Make Remote Communication Easier, Not Harder
  • Navigate Office Chat Like a Pro
  • Communicate Clearly: Your Works Matter More Without Non-Verbals

Working remotely has a lot of benefits, Henry explains that you’ll have to put in a little extra effort and make sure you’re clear when you need something, respect other people’s boundaries, and reinforce your own. As long as you can get those things down you’ll be fine.

12 Ways to Stay Focused and Productive When You Work From Home | Lifehack

Having the option to work from home brings a lot of benefit to employees and employers alike. You can set your own hours, dress how you want and work in a way that maximizes your time and skill set. However, working from home, whether it is on a part time basis or full time job, is not without challenges.

Here are Kristen Brown’s best ways to make working from home easier:

  1. Be Honest
  2. Designate a Space
  3. Make it Pretty
  4. Stick to a Schedule
  5. Dress for Success
  6. Take Breaks
  7. Go Public
  8. Multi-Communicate
  9. Be Human
  10. Create a Calendar
  11. Find Your Tribe
  12. Prioritize Right

Following the tips mentioned above will greatly help you increase your productivity levels while still enjoying the perks of working from home.

Does Working From Home Really Save You Money | Bplans

There are countless benefits when working remotely, such as having control over work schedule and personal life, expenses, and greater productivity. There is no longer a need to question why so many people choose to become virtual employees. On the other hand, working from home also adds a few lines to the budget that might not have been there previously.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to a home office, here are Kelly Gurnett’s list of financial pros and cons you keep in mind:

Pros:

No More Commuting Costs

Even if you ride the bus or own a car, commuting a long distance is not really helping you save money at all. There are more expenses that just gas to take into account such as tolls, parking, vehicle wear and tear and maintenance, and the lost time spent driving or commuting when you could be doing other important things.

No More (or At Least a Lot Less) Eating Out

Eating right helps you work better, think better and play better. When you work from home, it’s a lot easier to find the time and motivation to make healthy and budget-friendly meals.

Childcare Savings

Childcare can be really expensive, but working from home allows you to spend more time with your kids depending on the schedule you have established.

No more peer pressure purchases

We might feel the need to keep up with everyone and sometimes you have to spend money to do so. Working remotely relieves you of peer pressure and unnecessary purchases.

Cons:

Healthcare

Cutting ties with a traditional job also means losing your healthcare coverage and if you’re used to having your insurance covered, this can be a big adjustment.

Taxes

In order to know more about working from home tax implications, you should do more research and ask a CPA to fully understand how taxation works. There are a number of rules, and the rules differ depending on whether you’re self-employed or an employee.

Misc. Business Expenses

If you want a smooth work flow, spending extra for computer upgrades, higher internet speed and additional equipment is a must. The good thing is you might be able to write off a number of them come tax season.

How to work from home efficiently | KnowHowNonProfit

With long commutes and budgets cuts, more people are working from home. But how can you make sure you do work and not watch TV? Stephanie Hill shares her tips on how to work efficiently.

1. Know the flexible working policy of your organization.
Flexibility can be challenging, especially in small organizations. In order to get a clear understanding, you should take time to ask your HR department for their homeworking policy.

2. Prepare your workload the day before

3. Set up your home office
Creating a home office that provides comfort and contains everything you need to work with is very important if you want to be more productive in what you do.

4. Be present from home
Take advantage of modern technology to establish an online presence. If you want to ask a question or discuss work related issues, don’t be afraid to call the office as well.

5. Review it
Is working from home right for you? Make notes of what works and what does not.

4 Challenges of Managing Remote Teams | ReadWave

Telecommuting is getting a lot of attention lately. According to the research, there are more than 53 million Americans working remotely, on a freelance basis. The report says that approximately 20% of the entire global workforce work on a telecommuting basis and about 29% of them work from home at least part of the week while 10% of them work full-time from home.

Working from home is a dream, but for many, it also has its pitfalls. Christoper Calhoun, from ReadWave, writes about the challenges of building and managing a team remotely.

Communication

Every member of the team must have great communication skills and share a common vision and culture. Aside from the occasional video conferences, you should also take advantage of the numerous tools that can help virtual teams communicate better. Skype, GoToMeeting and Yammer are just some of them.

Security

Telecommuting will always bring with it certain security issues. Thankfully, Proxy Networks says that most of the security problems a remote help desk team may encounter can be sold.

Company Culture and Team Building

Building a company culture remotely can be a true challenge. Slack, Uncover and Google Hangouts are some of the tools that can help you build a team that knows how to have fun remotely and not just work remotely.

Concentration and Focus

Concentrating while in the comfort on one’s home can be challenging with so many distractions near by. This can be solved when your team is properly motivated and everyone are all professional and driven.

5 Million Hours Tracked

5million_hours

We are happy to announce the milestone of 5 million hours logged on Worksnaps. It is a nice round number, but we understand that it is the result of lot of trust and support given by our customers to use Worksnaps to manage their work, time and teams. We have heard a lot of excellent feedback from our users. We will continue to prioritize them, translate them into product features and enhancements, and make our product better. In addition to addressing customer requests, we have many exciting features in our pipeline to be released, such as

  • Project Weekly limit — Manager can budget weekly hours allowed for all the users in a project
  • User Weekly Limit — Manager can budget weekly hours allowed for a user to log in all the projects
  • Auto-clicker Detection — A comprehensive mechanism to fend off fraud by using auto-clicker programs
  • Time Approval Workflow — A light weight work flow for submitting offline time by users and approve offline time by managers

We will write separate blog articles to introduce these features in the near future.

We are also actively working on upgrading back-end infrastructure to provide higher scalability and performance. We believe all these will give better overall user experience to our customers.

We would like to thank our users for your support. Your inputs are invaluable and we believe you are also our partners to drive our product better. Therefore, we look forward to hearing any idea, comment and feedback from you.

Worksnaps Reaches over 80 Countries

We are excited to announce that Worksnaps service is now being used by users from more than 80 countries around the world. There is strong evidence that more companies are turning to remote workers to augment their workforce, and online work has spread to many places around the world. While we see that we have strong user base in the traditional IT outsourcing hotbeds such as India, the Philippines and many parts of Eastern Europe, we are delighted to find users from countries such as Madagascar, Kenya, Andorra and Fiji.


Meanwhile, we are also happy to realize that the time tracked on Worksnaps system has now exceeded 2 million hours. Back in January of this year, we reached the milestone of 1 million hours. It has taken us about 8 months to achieve the second million hours. We want to thank all the users, especially those who give us feedback, suggestions and constructive criticisms. We understand that the 2 million is just a number. The most valuable asset we have is our user community. We will continue to humbly listen to our users and enhance the product to better serve their needs.

Continue reading

Introducing our New Help Desk


In order to provide better customer support and user experience in the ticket process, we are happy to announce that we have upgraded our help desk system. We had been using OSTicket, an open-source ticketing system. OSTicket has been adequate in handling our customer issues and serving ticket workflow. However, with the growing customer base and the increasing demand for enhanced features such as streamlined email process, flexibility in customization and better integration with knowledgebase, we have chosen a new ticket system – Freshdesk. We met the Freshdesk team in this year’s Launch Festival in San Francisco. By talking with them in person, we were very impressed by their passion in providing the best customer service experience, something that we wholeheartedly share, let alone the comprehensive feature set in their product. We did a pilot run, simulated many use cases and tailored the system to our needs. We did run into a few bumps, but with their timely customer support, we were able to iron out the kinks easily. Now we feel that we are ready to move ahead to make Freshdesk as our new help desk system.

Continue reading