Remote Work Digest: March 31, 2020

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

5 Productive Things You Can Do While In Quarantine | Blair Flood, Money.com

Life's short, spend it productively

If you’re among the thousands of Americans who suddenly find themselves with extra time in their day due to new work from home policies (less commute time) or temporary leave, we came up with these 5 productive things you can do while in quarantine to help you keep your sanity.

1. Learn about the stock market to be prepared

Market sell-offs create huge buying opportunities. A Motley Fool Stock Advisor membership provides you with the market research you need to navigate these difficult times.

Once you figure out what to buy, you’ll need to figure out how to buy. In just a few years, Robinhood has become one of the largest stock trading apps in the country, offering commission-free trading and an easy way to start investing. They offer you the ability to start with as little as $1 and buy fractional shares, so if your favorite company’s stock is a little too expensive, you can still get involved.

2. Make sure your credit report is in good shape

Don’t make the same mistake! There are sites that allow you to see a free copy of your credit report and services that help you monitor your credit in real-time. This will allow you to catch any errors before you go to apply for a loan or credit card. Spending a few minutes now to make sure that your credit report is in good shape could save you a ton of time down the road.

3. Keep your mind busy by learning a new language

Learning a new language has been on my to-do list for years, and I’m finally checking it off. I want to be fully prepared once it’s safe to travel again, and to be honest, it’s not taking nearly as much time as I thought.

4. Use this time to compare prices on your home and car insurance

If you don’t own a home, but are still looking to save some money, getting an updated car insurance quotes is a great way to find savings. MONEY’s recent article The Best Auto Insurance for 2020 is a great place to find a few companies to get quotes from. Even if you don’t end up switching, it’s a good idea to see what you can save.

5. File your taxes

If you’re sheltered in place, tax preparation software is the way to go. Most companies offer free online software, but charge extra for assistance. I learned the hard way that paying the extra fee can be worth it if you have a complicated filing (like getting a letter from your city saying that you owe them taxes from over 4 years ago… You can always add on the assistance later if you need it, so start with the free version and see how far you get.

Now, Relax!

You’ve earned it. Call that friend you’ve been wanting to video chat with for a while, relax with a glass of wine delivered to your door, read that book that you started over Christmas break and never finished, or spend time making a home-cooked meal.

How to maintain employee performance during COVID-19 | HRD, Hcamag.com

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The majority of organisations have focused on scenario planning and necessary operational responses to ensure business continuity during COVID-19, according to Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice.

However, these plans often do not address, nor impact, employees’ ability to focus on their work, Kropp added.

According to Gartner, HR should help managers at all levels do six specific activities to ensure employees get the requisite support to tackle the emotional response:

Sense employees’ need for support

Managers need to recognize signs of distress among their people, both directly through conversations and indirectly through observation.

To facilitate regular conversations between managers and employees, HR should provide managers with guidance on how best to broach sensitive subjects arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including alternative work models, job security and prospects, impact to staffing, and tension in the workplace.

Promote dialogue to build understanding

Two-way communication with managers and peers provides employees with the information and perspective they need, while allowing them to express and process negative emotions and improve their feelings of control.

HR leaders should help managers create opportunities for two-way dialogues that focus on a realistic picture of both the positive and negative implications of the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Use objectives to create clarity

Clear objectives and regular updates on possible changes will help ensure employees maintain focus, energy and a sense of purpose.

HR leaders can help managers reassert the link between employees’ work and organisational success by providing visibility into the current organisational goals and translating the organisation’s vision into their employees’ context.

Reinforce organisational values to reduce the like hood of misconduct

Apart from modeling the right behaviors, managers should encourage whistleblowers to call out unethical behaviors, remind staff of the channels for reporting misconduct, and highlight punitive measures for noncompliance.

Tailor recognition to acknowledge employee efforts

Recognition can take many forms other than monetary rewards — public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, development opportunities and low-cost perks.

For organisations facing a slowdown in business, managers can take this opportunity to provide development opportunities to employees who normally do not have capacity. This reinforces the organisation’s commitment to the long-term success of the employee.

Drive engagement via innovation

While managers and employees may understandably become more risk-averse in this uncertain environment, it is these times of change and disruption that innovation and risk-taking become even more important for employee engagement and organisational success.

The disengaging effect of constraints on innovation and risk-taking are particularly severe for high-potential (HIPO) employees who tend to have a stronger desire for these types of opportunities.

15 easy kitchen hacks that will transform your life during lockdown | Laura Nightingale, Getsurrey.co.uk

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With the nation on lockdown, if you get bored at home these tricks will certainly inspire you.

1. Tissue box

Fill an empty tissue box with carrier bags, bin bags or food waste bags and pull them out as you would a tissue.

2. Egg cartons

Don’t waste that last drop of sauce. Instead pour it into plastic egg cartons to make single serve portions.

3. Freeze milk

There are lots of foods that can be frozen which you might not realise, including milk.Frozen milk should be thawed before it is used and be sure to give it a big shake before you pour it to ensure all the solids and liquids have been fully mixed.

4. Microwave bread

You can make bread in the microwave, yes really. Plus it takes just 90 seconds to cook. For the full recipe click here.

5. Pasta recipe

Did you know you can make pasta from scratch with just four ingredients and it takes under 10 minutes to make? Watch this video here showing how to make it in a flash.

6. Jam jars

Clean, empty jam jars can be used for a whole host of things including tea light holders, mini vases for wild flowers and, our favourite, for keeping food in.

7. Hang cleaning products on a rod

If the cupboard under your sink is a mess and you can never find that bottle of kitchen cleaner, make a rail for them. Screw a metal rod into the cupboard and hang the handles on it to make more space.

8. Saucepan handles

If you didn’t know, the reason why there is a hole in a saucepan handle is so that you can rest a wooden spoon in it.

9. Put paper towels in the salad drawer

Kitchen roll absorbs the condensation that vegetables generate as they chill. So put a layer of paper in the fridge draw to keep them fresher for longer.

10. Wine bottle watering can

Use your empty wine bottles as watering cans to feed the plants. Alternatively, they make a fancy water carafe for the kitchen table.

11. Coffee jar vase

Bigger than a jam jar, they make excellent vases.

12. Planter box milk cartons

Simply cut them in half, fill with soil, pop in seeds and watch your flowers or herbs grow. It’s great fun for kids and they can decorate the boxes too.

13. Banana pancakes

If you can’t get hold of flour, eggs or milk, you can still enjoy pancakes with this healthier alternative. Just mash one banana, blitz an handful of oats into a flour consistency, mix them together and then fry in a pan.

14. Nice cream

Nice cream as opposed to ice cream because it’s nice and healthy. It’s virtually fat free and has no refined sugars. All you need to do is cut a ripe or over ripe banana into chunks and freeze. Once frozen remove and blend it with a splash of milk to a thick and creamy texture. You can customise it however you like. We like blitzing frozen strawberries with it too for yummy strawberry and banana nice cream.

15. Flip your cereal bag before opening

Hate finding crumbs at the bottom of your cereal packet? Don’t throw them away or suffer with a mushy breakfast. Just shake the bag each morning to distribute all those little bits.

6 productivity tips for staying on schedule when working from home | Hope Reese, Techrepublic.com

kid standing near sofa while mother working with laptop

Working from home can also bring distractions from friends, family, social media, new obligations at home––especially if you’re sharing space with others––and reinventing schedules. All these things are likely to throw you off your routine. As a result, it’s easier to lose track of time or miss out on the regular reminders about important workplace meetings.

Here are six tips from productivity experts about how to stay on schedule and not miss out on important workplace meetings:

1. Create a new alert infrastracture

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the international bestseller The Happiness Project. As someone who has dedicated a lot of thought to examining the best way to live a productive and fulfilling life, you could call her an expert on setting healthy habits.

“I’m losing my sense of time,” Rubin told TechRepublic. “I usually know exactly what time it is, and what time of day it is, and it’s getting lost. So, even if you don’t usually depend on calendar alerts and putting Post-it notes up, you might find you need to build up more infrastructure.”

2. Make it clear to others that you are home, but you are still working

If you have roommates, a partner, or kids at home, working at home might make it seem as though you’re more available for activities around the house or hanging out. And while the great benefit of working from home is the increased flexibility, it’s critical to make sure you maintain a healthy boundary between your home life and your work life.

Gently inform others who might be distracting you from your work schedule that you need to stick to your schedule. If it’s you who is creating the distractions, make sure that you keep yourself accountable by setting hours and sticking to them. Close the door to your office area, if possible, or put in headphones to block outside sounds.

3. Stop messing around on Instagram

To counteract your social networks’ ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and, according to Fast Company, log out of every account. You might even consider working primarily in a private or incognito browser window. This ensures you stay signed out of all your accounts and each web search you conduct doesn’t autocomplete the word you’re typing. It’s a guarantee that you won’t be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day.

4. Write down your schedule – and stick to it

Rubin suggests writing things down on paper to stay on track. “Without the infrastructure and the social aspects of seeing people come and go, you might forget. You might have to prepare something for Friday, but you feel like Friday is an eternity away,” she said. “Yet time is still passing, so you might need to write things down more explicitly.”

5. Create your own workspace

It’s key to make a space that feels like it’s meant to get work done. That means avoiding your bed and sofa, if possible. “I think a lot of people would benefit from reimagining their space,” Rubin says. “You might even need to move your childrens’ bedrooms around to make a work or study space.”

6. Double-check your tech

Many of us have experienced the dreaded moment when your conference call has started, but you’re not able to get into it. Maybe your internet connection is slow. Maybe you haven’t downloaded the proper software. Maybe you haven’t checked your audio. For those working at home in the age of COVID-19, the problems could be amplified––maybe other people in your space are loud, and you can’t hear the meeting. Or you’re juggling multiple meetings online and finding it hard to keep track which one you’re supposed to join.

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Remote Work Digest: April 25, 2019

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

7 Signs of a toxic work environment | Hrdrive.com

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HR departments must regularly assess all employees on an individual basis and look for instances of discriminatory beliefs, lack of accountability, hostile leadership styles, retaliation and information guarding. With an infrastructure that doesn’t tolerate these behaviors, it becomes much simpler to steer clear of a toxic workplace environment.

1. Employees Aren’t Taking Vacation Days
Workers fail to take their vacation days because of a fear of falling too far behind or that none of their co-workers can take on their workload. Encouraging workers to plan their vacation days ahead of time increases the likelihood the employees will take them.

2. Lack of Bonuses and Incentives
Employers lose talented employees left and right when appreciation isn’t common in the workplace. A sure-fire sign of a toxic work environment is when there’s a lack of bonuses and incentives.

Extra paid vacation time and even small bonuses can translate into happy employees. Gifting employees with branded items, like portable speakers and coffee mugs with company logos, has a two-fold benefit: it shows appreciation and serves as an effective way to increase brand awareness.

3. Employees Stuck Behind a Desk All Day
Sprucing up the office with standing desks is a feasible way to encourage workers to stand more often. These desks easily switch back and forth between sitting and standing desks, which makes it simple for workers to stand when they want and sit and relax during downtime. Standing desks are also known to improve employee morale because workers tend to engage with their coworkers more when they don’t feel so tied to their desks.

4. Lack of Proper Training
No one wants to come to a job each day when they don’t know how to adequately perform their duties. Training employees shows you’re willing to invest in their future and that you’re truly concerned with how they perform. Training should begin when workers are hired and should continue on a regular basis.

5. No Break Room
Your employees need an area to step away from their desks and simply relax. Ideally, you will have an indoor and outdoor break area. These are the places employees can congregate and talk about the latest twists on their favorite TV shows and which of their kiddos won an award at school.

6. Everyone’s Gossiping
Gossip tends to trickle through poor communication channels, and it starts at the top. When senior-level employees engage in gossip, it sets an example to lower-level workers that gossip is tolerated. Did you know gossip is actually a form of workplace violence? It’s the HR department’s job to create and enforce a strict no-gossip policy with reasonable consequences to any violations.

7. Weak Foundation
A toxic workplace can’t be created unless it has fertile ground to take root in, and the values and ethics of a company’s leaders play a large role in that.

Want to be irresistible to hiring managers? Avoid these 6 mistakes at all costs | Peter Yang, Cnbc.com

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From verb tense to resume length, hiring managers notice even the tiniest details. Here are six common resume mistakes they spot almost immediately:

1. Using an unprofessional email address
This is a big red flag to hiring manages because it makes you look incredibly unprofessional. In today’s world, employers want tech-savvy individuals — even if the job they applied for has nothing to do with tech.

2. Deleting important details because you think your resume is ‘too long’
A 2018 study of 20,000 resumes found that hiring managers were more than twice as likely to prefer two-page resumes. So don’t feel the need to delete important details if your resume comes out to more than one page.

3. Using an over-the-top template
Hiring managers actually prefer the boring, old-fashioned templates because it’s much easier for them to quickly skim and digest. Submitting a crazy, over-the-top design will not only frustrate them, but can lead to wonky formatting issues. Also, applicant tracking systems are very common these days, and if your fancy template isn’t compatible, it won’t be parsed properly. If you’re a strong candidate, the content — and not the colors — on your resume will speak for itself.

4. Being inconsistent with sentence structure and verb tense
When describing your previous job history, all bullet points should start with an action verb. And if you choose to write in complete sentences, be consistent and stick to it. Otherwise, you’ll have a sloppy resume that doesn’t flow well. While this may sound like pretty basic stuff, you wouldn’t believe how often applicants make this careless mistake.

5. Not including your LinkedIn profile
If you have one, make sure it’s updated and include it at the very top of your resume. If you don’t have one, create an account immediately and start adding people in your network. A study from earlier this year found that applications who submitted a link to a “comprehensive” LinkedIn profile on their resumes were 71% more likely to get an interview.

6. Not including basic skills
Hiring managers receive piles and piles of jargon-filled resumes that it’s difficult for them to assume what skills you do or don’t have. Play it safe and include even the most basic soft skills, especially the ones that are listed under the “minimum requirements” section of the job listing.

3 Ways To Stay Healthy When Working From Home | Uwe Dreissigacker, Zumper.com

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You need to stay healthy, it should be a number one priority. In fact, since it can be too easy to neglect it and fall into the trap of not leaving the house just because you don’t have to. Well, the good news is that you can do both, work from home full time and stay healthy.

Here’s how:

1. Set up a personal work station
Consider separating yourself from everyone, and claim a corner as your personal work station. Make sure you have a good chair that supports your posture and doesn’t strain your back, and that you can work from there uninterrupted.

The sooner you can enter a deep state of concentration and focus – the sooner you can finish your work and move on to personal time. So, it’s better to get used to being able to finish all your work from one specific place in order to get into the habit.

2. Take frequent breaks
Working for long periods of time without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refresh your mind, and replenishes your mental resources so that you can come back with a fresh state of mind. If you continue giving a single task more attention, even when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, you’re just going to be more unproductive in the long run.

3. Set a schedule and stick to it
Essentially, if you can afford to have extra time, through time-management, you can afford to be healthy and more productive. It can be tempting to stay up late and start working whenever you feel like it, but your mental health and body will thank you if you set up a schedule and stick to it instead.

While waking up early might feel like a chore if you’re working from home, it’s a great way to start your day. Now, you don’t have to get up as early as 4 am, like some entrepreneurs suggest, but setting up your alarm a little earlier than usual can give you a lot of extra time in the evening.

This way, you can either use that extra time to go to the gym or exercise at home in the morning, or finish working earlier than usual – and then spend some time working out. Either way, the idea is to finish your workload earlier than before and then spend that time being healthy.

Conclusion
Winging it doesn’t really work when you’re working from home. If you start to associate where you live with a workplace you don’t enjoy being in, due to work, it’s really easy to get depressed and want to quit.

Meanwhile, if you set some time aside to stay healthy and look after yourself, you’re more likely to be more productive and efficient in the long run.

After all, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.

4 Ways to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview | Maurie Backman, Fool.com

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Remote interviews and in-person interviews are very different beasts. Maintaining an engaging discussion with an interviewer can be difficult when that person isn’t actually in the room with you, and technology issues can make connecting remotely all the more difficult. If you have a remote interview coming up, here are a few key things you can do to prepare for it.

1. Establish the right space
If you happen to already have a home office, doing it there is probably your best bet. Chances are, that space already looks somewhat put-together, and it also shows your prospective employer that you do, in fact, have a suitable area in your home for doing your job. If that’s not an option, then aim for something neutral — perhaps a corner of your living room, or a chair at your dining room table. No matter what spot you choose, just make sure there’s no visible clutter peeking out to distract the person you’re meeting with.

2. Look the part
Just as it’s important to dress professionally during an in-person interview, you should also do so for a remote interview. Dressing the part sends the message that you’re taking the opportunity at hand seriously.

3. Do a tech test run
Chances are, your interviewer will indicate what sort of software you’ll be using to connect remotely, whether it’s Skype or something else. Before your interview, try a test run with that platform to make sure it works for you. This way, you’ll have time to troubleshoot hiccups to avoid having to deal with them on the spot.

4. Eliminate distractions
When you’re participating in a job interview from home, there are a number of potential distractions that can throw you off your game, like a persistently ringing landline or a doorbell that sounds at the least-opportune time. To avoid getting too distracted during your interview, aim to address these potential trip-ups beforehand.

Interviewing for a job remotely can be challenging in its own right, especially if it’s your first time doing so. But as is the case with an in-person interview, the more you prepare, the more confident you’ll feel going into it.

Eat Your Way To A More Productive You

We’ve known for some time now that what we eat generally makes us to an extent what we are. Every human being is a biological system that is built and maintained by the basic types of fuel that we allow into our systems. We are unlike a mechanical machine though that has no say in the fuel that’s dumped into it. We all have a choice in the nutrition that we partake in. The diet that we build our lives on has a profound effect on us. Hence the saying, you are what you eat. According to Psychology Today, we have a chance of building a better version of ourselves all from the gut up. Eating right helps you work better, think better and play better. Here are some specific healthy choices that you might consider for working in a traditional office environment, out on the road, or one of the trendy new work from home (WFH) setups.

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