Remote Work Digest: November 29, 2020

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

How to be more productive working from home: 9 rules for the “now normal” | Jonathan Thompson, Atlassian.com

A major new global study into remote working, conducted by Paper Giant for Atlassian, found that 40% of respondents felt that working from home translated to significantly longer hours.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. As we move away from traditional office spaces, there are a number of hacks and tricks you can deploy to boost your own productivity. The goal? To hit all of your targets without impinging on your wellness or work-life balance whatsoever. Read on for our nine science-backed, expert-approved principles of self-productivity.

1. Master desk-scaping

First, try “zoning” your home office, by creating separate spaces for reference materials, supplies, and long-term projects, before assigning discard dates to as many as possible. Then clear your desk itself and only replace items that are essential for daily use.

Finally, add pops of color wherever you can – from a picture on the wall, to a screensaver or even your choice of mug. Color can have a major impact on mood, with greens and blues particularly proven to increase productivity, so reach for that ocean vista or add a leafy plant to the proceedings. 

2. Embrace mono-tasking

The brutal truth is that very, very few of us can efficiently multi-task. In fact, it’s roughly 2% of the population, according to Professor David Strayer of the University of Utah, an expert in cognitive distraction. The problem is that when we bounce from task to task, we aren’t actually getting more done. Instead, we’re forcing our brains to constantly switch speeds, steering through tasks more erratically and burning out our internal gearboxes. The answer is to slay the multi-tasking monster, and embrace mono-tasking.

3. Plan tomorrow, tonight

The Paper Giant study discovered that 44% of workers believe it’s now more important to know how to motivate themselves apart from the parameters of office life. One of the best ways to do that is with a to-do list – and the best time to make that list is the night before.  

4. Make a not-to-do list

You’ve made your to-do list now, but if you want to be truly productive, you’ll need the opposite, too. A not-to-do list should be a permanent addition to your workspace, featuring all of the time-wasters that are obstructing your daily goals – from checking social media, to clicking on cat videos, to wandering into the kitchen to wash the dishes.

5. Block out your flow times

Your “flow” time is when you’re most efficient: a period of hyper-focus when you work most smoothly. For some people it’s early in the morning, for others it’s the afternoons or evenings. Once you’ve identified yours, block out 90 minutes in that window each day for pure, deep work on your biggest tasks. 

6. Prioritise Pareto and Pomodoros

Named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 Rule) states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions, and vice versa. In other words, to become more productive, you must identify the 20% of your work that is having that 80% impact, and always prioritise it. 

Next, you should maximise your minutes spent working on this crucial 20% via the Pomodoro Technique – a series of 25 minute focused “sprints” on a task, followed by a complete five minute break each time.

7. Learn to nap like a pro

The secret is to harness your body’s natural circadian rhythm and employ a 20 minute power nap (sometimes called a Stage 2 Nap) in the mid-afternoon, to boost your memory, cognitive skills, and creativity.

By restricting yourself to just 20 minutes, you reap the aforementioned benefits without falling into deeper REM sleep, which will leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. To maximize your energy, drink a cup of coffee immediately before your power nap. Researchers have found that caffeine takes about 20 minutes to show its physiological effect, so it will kick in just as you’re waking.

8. Dress for success

When you’re working from home, it doesn’t really matter how you dress – or even if you dress at all below the waist. But not making a sartorial effort is a major mistake when it comes to your productivity levels. The act of preparing for the day ahead, including the selection of slightly smarter clothes, sends a message to your brain that it’s game time – and that sparks more mental energy.

9. Set up a “force quit” to your work day

“Overworking can lead to stress and burnout, harming not only your productivity but also your overall mental health and wellbeing,” says Graham. “Instead, set a firm time to bring your work day to a close and stick to it at all costs.” If you struggle with this, find an accountability partner – a colleague, friend or manager – and set up a call to officially end the day. A hard finish not only means a softer start to the following morning after a good rest, it also means you’ll work faster and more efficiently each day, knowing that your finish time is non-negotiable.

Put these tips to work right now

Want to get the most out of the advice in this article? Pick two tips and implement them right now.
And then, if it happens to be the end of the day where you are, call it a night and start fresh in the morning. Tip #9 makes good sense, right?

Five things to consider when organizing a remote work Christmas party | Kate Palmer, Globalbankingandfinance.com

Things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organize a remote party.

Some important things that employers should be aware of.

  1. Even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
  2. Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out.
  3. When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalized, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event.
  4. Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
  5. Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.

Remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.

Remote work and self-care: The place you work and live | Sima Baldisserri, Iamexpat.nl

How can you manage to work remotely while creating the healthiest environment for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being? Here are a few self-care tips that may help to create your flexible workspace:

Your office at home

Create a space that is as separate from the rest of the house as possible.

No matter how small your living space is, do not work everywhere, because this will make you work beyond work hours. Instead, you want to maintain a distinct mental separation of your home and associate each room or corner of your living place with its own function.

Brighten your day

Choose a corner in a well-lit room and if you could place your desk near a window that would be perfect!

Having a well-illuminated office/desk by natural light produces several positive effects on your well-being: better quality and duration of sleep, greater predisposition to physical activity, prevent eyestrain and, in general, increased quality of life.

Life is in the air

Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows at least three times a day for 10-15 minutes. This is also the best practice to protect from viruses and bacteria. Living in a healthier and more comfortable environment improves mood and quality of life and reduces the risk of complaints, such as headaches, eyestrain, and feeling of tiredness or drop in concentration.

Declutter your workspace as often as possible

It is much better to manage the little space you have effectively as a home and office than to completely turn your whole living space into an office, a clean and clear workspace can reduce your stress, help you focus, and also keep work from interfering with your home/personal life.

Sense of smell

When working remotely, some of the most common complaints are decreased attention and performance, as well as mood swings, which often have an effect on the quality of sleep. The ability to smell comes from the olfactory sensory neurons, these cells connect directly to the brain. This is a reason why essential oils can be a very valid help: it is sufficient to have a diffuser where you add from 5 to 7 drops of chosen essence.

A better work-life balance

These self-care tips for remote working can apply to anyone looking for better ways to manage their lives, time and have a better work-life balance. Your home and workspace is an extension of your energy field, by taking care of it, you are a step further away from physical and mental complaints, and a step closer to your well-being, and when you feel good, your relationships and work benefit from it.

6 Best Employee Appreciation Ideas your Staff will Love | Sofia Peterson, Thehackpost.com

If a company wants to grow, it must ensure that its employees are working efficiently as well as effectively.

But how can you manage the work of your employees? How can you know if they are dedicated or not? These questions can be answered by providing employee motivation or employee awards. These are some ways in which you can show your staff that you care –

1.The employee of the month.

If you start selecting an employee of the month based on employees to work performance and give them any hike in salary or prize for this, the employees will work harder due to increased competition and desire to win.

2. Certificates of appreciation

If you provide every employee with certificates whenever they perform a task marvelously, their pride will increase, and they will feel motivated to perform more such tasks as everyone wants pride, self-esteem, and respect.

3. Company journals or magazines

Whenever any employee performs an exceptional task, you can mention his name in the company’s journals or magazines. This will make him feel attached to the work, and their pride will be enhanced. Nothing is the biggest motivator than self-esteem.

4. Small get together or celebrations

Many times employees have to make lots of efforts for a particular task which makes them feel that the work is tedious and their efficiency reduces. To avoid such situation, you can organize small get-togethers or small celebrations after every radius task. It will ignite the fire of motivation in employees.

5. Monetary incentives.

Suppose an employee has become the reason for earning unrealistic profits, you can give him a share in profits. Similarly, if employees are working on festivals or doing night shifts for meeting the deadline, you can provide them with a bonus.

6. Performance-based pay.

Suppose there are workers in a manufacturing unit, you can give them pay according to their performance. For example, if a worker makes eight units, he will get 50 rupees per day, but if a worker makes 12 units per day, he will get 70 rupees per day. It will motivate workers to work more so that they can earn more.

Financial incentives can be bonuses, free transport, gifts, etc., while non-monetary ones include more respect, pride, and recognition in the company. Once employees start to feel themselves to be a part of the company, they will work in a much better way. Just motivate your employees and make your company touch the sky.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.”

 

How Your Workspace and Activities Can Affect Your Work Productivity

Clear head equals clear thinking leading to great work results. Keeping your work space free of clutter helps productivity. This does not mean that a work space should be limited strictly to the bare essentials. Having things around you that inspire or relax you do not only keep stress at bay but this also boosts creative thinking and thereby making you more productive. Here are some tips and tricks to organizing your work space to help you do your job happily and efficiently.

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