Remote Work Digest: July 28, 2020

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

Feeling lonely despite lockdown lifting? Here are 8 practical hacks to help | Bianca London, Glamourmagazine.co.uk

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Claire Chamberlain, the author of UnLonely, share 8 practical hacks for beating loneliness. From improving self-care to cultivating relationships, she offers practical advice for looking after your mental and physical wellbeing, which is more important than ever before.

Embracing alone time

Sometimes, by turning your attention inward – to your own needs and passions – you can learn to form a deeper and more meaningful connection with yourself, helping to transform your loneliness into a productive and far less frightening state: solitude. By using your time alone to pursue creative, fulfilling, enjoyable and fruitful activities, you may find that the deeper connection you were seeking was within you all along.

Prioritise your wellbeing

In order to remain (or return to feeling) positive, looking after yourself is important. Simple things like taking a hot shower each morning and using your favourite shower gel, picking an outfit that makes you feel good, enjoying a hot cup of tea, doing a spot of mindful colouring, getting out for some exercise and cooking yourself a tasty dinner each evening can go a long way to boosting your mood and your self-esteem.

Consider your diet

Taking the time to look after yourself includes fuelling both your body and mind well, so that you have the energy and strength to maintain a positive mindset and feel physically great. Eating a good balance of lean protein (such as tofu, pulses, beans or lean meat), wholegrain carbohydrates (such as wholemeal pasta and bread) and healthy fats (such as avocados and oily fish), plus plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, will keep you feeling energised all day. And, of course, the occasional treat doesn’t go amiss either. Eat mindfully, eat with joy and eat for happiness!

Be more mindful

Spending time focusing on your surroundings can help to ground you in the here and now, taking you firmly into the physical world and away from thoughts, worries and anxieties. Reconnecting in this way can help you feel more at one with the world. To get started, begin to notice your surroundings or your bodily sensations. If a thought arises that takes your mind away from “now”, acknowledge it without judgement, then draw your attention back to the present moment.

Get some fresh air (every day)

There are so many reasons why stepping outside into the fresh air each day is good for your mind, body and soul. Research has shown that regular walking can boost both your mood and self-esteem, while also easing feelings of anxiety and depression, and reducing stress levels.

Lose yourself in a good book

Reading can help you forget any worries or loneliness you may be feeling, allowing you to enter and inhabit a completely different world. What’s more, reading does not have to be reserved for your home: carry a book with you, so you can dip into it when you’re out and about, perhaps in your local park or while you’re waiting in a queue.

Cook from scratch

There is so much joy to be had in flicking through recipe books, discovering mouth-watering dishes, buying fresh ingredients and taking your time preparing a delicious meal. Making the effort to cook properly at least a few times a week can feel so rewarding, and it is a fabulous way to show yourself a little love.

Express gratitude

Taking time each day to think about all that you have to be grateful for in your life has been proven to have a positive impact on almost all areas of life, including enhancing self-esteem, increasing optimism, boosting energy, deepening relaxation, promoting feelings of kindness, improving sleep quality and – crucially – strengthening social bonds.

4 skill you can add to your resume that your’ve learned from working remotely during the pandemic | Hayden Field, HerMoney, Businessinsider.com

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In cover letters, job interviews, or conversations with your current employer, emphasize the skills you’ve built during the pandemic that can help advance your career, says Megan Fasules, a research economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Be honest about your experience. Few people will want to hear that you handled everything perfectly during these challenging times, but many will want to hear how you handled it and emerged with strengths that you’re proud of, says Amanda Bates, a career services director at NC State University and career coach with The Muse.

Here’s a rundown of actionable career skills you may have reinforced over the past few months.

Communication

“Communication is king,” said Fasules. “That tends to be the number-one competency overall regardless of a pandemic, but it’s even more so now.” Since most workers aren’t able to interact in person during this time, they’ve had to hone communication skills in other areas, such as email response time and Zoom call etiquette. In an office, communication looks different, says Bates — you can see people, read people, walk up to someone, and share information. In the age of COVID-19, verbal and written communication skills are paramount.

And it’s not just about communicating with coworkers — those in client-facing professions have had to get creative in finding ways to connect and be persuasive without typical communication strategies. These skills are “transferable across all occupations,” said Fasules. For example, many health care professionals have pivoted to all-virtual visits via phone or video chat, and that can require additional expertise in communicating, says Bates.

Time management

During a global pandemic — and the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that comes along with it — many have found time management much more difficult than usual. If that’s you (and you’re not alone), there are ways to turn what you’ve learned into successful takeaways for your career.

Think about the way in which you’ve approached your daily schedule, listened to yourself, and attempted to work smarter rather than harder, says Fasules — when you were in “work mode,” how did you focus, and in “home mode,” how did you separate yourself from email and Slack pings? “Many of us were in sink-or-swim mode for so long we didn’t actually realize we were building that muscle,” said Bates.

Productivity

In your next cover letter, interview, or review session, describe how you figured out your own work-from-home “rhythm” — how to set the priority levels of different projects, separate professional and personal time, double as your own manager, solve your own day-to-day problems — and how you’re going to apply those skills in your career, says Bates. For example, she says, in a cover letter, interview, or raise conversation, you could point out that during the pandemic, you learned how to meet the goals of an organization regardless of where you are and how to do it in an efficient way, using specific skills.

Conscientiousness

“You get hired for extraversion, and then you get raises for conscientiousness,” said Fasules. She cites research published in 2016, which suggests a correlation between extraversion and starting salary (but not salary growth), while on the other hand, “conscientiousness was unrelated to starting salary growth but significantly so to salary growth.” During a job interview, for instance, warmth and high energy often associated with extraversion could help a candidate’s odds of selection, but researchers suggest those qualities won’t necessarily propel a career forward as much as the intrinsic motivation and organization often associated with conscientiousness. “Figuring out how to prove you are a conscientious worker at the start is tricky and would be very beneficial,” said Fasules.

Try to break down the idea of being “conscientious” — in your view, what makes up that quality? It could incorporate empathy, focus, respect, efficiency, or determination, for example. So in your cover letter or interview, instead of saying you’re conscientious, you can show it with examples or by talking about the things that matter to you. For example, if you see empathy as a key ingredient in being conscientious, you could point out how during COVID-19, you threw out typical email jargon and replaced it with genuine phrasing, aiming to check in on the people you correspond with — clients, fellow employees — in a way that shows you truly care how they’re doing.

Don’t Procrastinate: Teach Your Kids Time Management Skills | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

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How can you teach your kids these basic time-management skills? Here are ten ways to accomplish that feat with some ideas that will stick throughout life.

The sooner, the better.

It may seem like over-parenting, but you can begin teaching basic time management skills to toddlers. Preschoolers are even capable of completing small tasks in short time blocks, such as brushing their teeth or putting away their toys.

Establish a routine and stick to it.

As your children get older, however, you’ll want to help them establish a daily routine. The reason? It lets them know “what is going to happen and who is going to be there, it allows them to think and feel more independently, and feel more safe and secure,” says Dr. Myers. “A disrupted routine can set a child off and cause them to feel insecure and irritable.”

In addition to some much-needed structure, this can help them become more accountable. And it gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with them.

Some obvious places to start setting simple time goals would be:

  • A morning routine, like eating breakfast and getting ready for school.
  • An after school routine, such as chores and homework.
  • An evening routine that could include dinner, brushing their teeth and reading before bed.

Have them make their own calendars.

Whether if it’s a DIY, old paper calendar, or an app like Cozi, get them involved in the calendar creating process. As a family, list your commitments and add them to the calendar. To prevent any confusion, use color-coding so that everyone has their own color for their own schedule. Most importantly, keep this in a location that’s easy to access and review.

Set priorities.

It’s essential kids learn to differentiate between ‘have-tos’ and ‘want-tos’ and learn to prioritize and self-monitor,” Marcia Grosswald, an upper-elementary resource teacher, told Scholastic. Grosswald uses the popular rock, pebble and water analogy, where students’ duties are represented by the rocks and pebbles.

The rocks, however, signify their most essential tasks, like school and sleep. The pebbles represent extracurricular commitments. And, the water stands in for want-to-dos, such as hanging out with friends.

I use a jar to represent a day,” says Grosswald. “The rocks go in first because they are things you have to do whether you like it or not. Next, come the pebbles. But there’s still some room in the jar, so we pour water until our jar — and the day is full.”

Help them measure time.

In order to make a realistic schedule, you need a good sense of how long things take,” says Grosswald. “I give them a chart that breaks the afternoon and evening hours into 15-minute intervals,” she explains. “Each time slot is followed by three columns: what kids plans to do, what they actually did and reflection.”

Make it fun.

As an adult, it’s hard to imagine how something like time management can be fun. But, it is possible by making it a game. Heck, you may even use gamification yourself to boost your productivity.

As for kids, I suggest you explore the Timex Time Machines app. In a partnership with Scholastic, there are interactive games, lesson plans and activities to teach children in Grades 1 through 3 core time-telling concepts.

Stop being a helicopter parent.

Let’s say that they just started a new school year. Because they have a new routine and teacher, which means new expectations and rules, they may be anxious. Instead of telling them how to handle this situation, let them voice their concerns and develop solutions to this problem.

When they’re older, let them create their own routine, and let them be flexible with their schedules so that they have free time. Your role, then, would be to coach and reward them as opposed to dictating every minute of their time.

Don’t over-schedule your kids.

What happens when you overcommit and pack your calendar too tightly? You probably feel like you’re always on the go. More troublesome, you may feel like you’re always behind. And, you don’t have the wiggle room to address the unexpected.

Designate a study zone.

If you’ve ever worked from home, then you know how important it is to have a dedicated workspace. I’d even go as far as to say that this should be a top priority when it comes to time management.

The reason? It lets you block out distractions like the TV or noisy family members, and it helps you distinguish between your work and personal lives.

The same idea is true when it comes to children. They should have a designated study area that’s quiet and free of distractions so that they can focus on their homework.

Be a role model.

Finally, the best way to help your kids get a better grasp of time management is to set a good example. As psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore explains, “Good modeling doesn’t guarantee that children will do what we want them to do, but telling children ‘do as I say, not as I do’ definitely won’t work.”

You’ll want to keep your own goals under control, meaning that if you’ve been emphasizing the importance of a schedule, and you’re failing at time management, they’ll pick-up on this inauthenticity.

5 ways to transform employee experience during the Covid-19 crisis | Yogita Tulsiani, Indianexpress.com

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The crisis is disrupting the work culture, helping companies induce new ways of working and communicating with employees. There are several different ways in which the management and leadership are driving an impeccable employee experience during the ongoing crisis.

Becoming a full-time leader in building trust

At this time, employees want to hear the words of encouragement from influencers in the company. The leaders are taking a bigger role in rebuilding trust and reconciling employee communication. By creating a clear plan of communication and connection with employees, engaging them to share their opinions and concerns during the crisis can help them bring sustainability and credibility at the workplace.

Focusing on employee’s resilience and well-being

To improve employee experience, companies must stay strong with their employees than having them left in the dark during the crisis. A clear understanding of challenges and their emotional and financial condition can help them reshape their experience. The main focus of leadership and talent management teams is to keep their employees well-informed, safe and positive during the time of uncertainty.

Embed relationship-building strategies

To build strong relationship strategies, managers can take potential actions in developing employee to employee relationships and make them come together to listen, talk and work on tasks like never before. Moreover, they can also embed the ideas of virtual talent shows and peer-recognition sessions to strengthen professional relationships.

Maintaining employee productivity and engagement

The Covid-19 crisis has made the companies worry about the employees’ productivity and efficiency. The better way to go is to make them understand the company’s vision and business goals. The visibility of a clear vision makes the employees be more productive and pay more attention to their designated tasks. For larger organisations, making the right use of communication technology can help in delivering the required message at the right time.

Nurturing growth through online learning

Companies should make a comprehensive plan for learning offerings for employees. They can build a team of talent managers, IT, and learning delivery partners for remote training of employees. Once the clear view of learning is in place, managers can prioritise what needs to be built.

To get a clear picture of how employee experience is going to create long-term sustainability for the company, establish a list of effective employee communication strategies. Powerful analytics can assist talent managers to have a better sense of employee experience. Besides, making effective use of technology can enable them to make the employees stay informed and productive while being more transparent and open to their managers. Evaluating different assumptions and understanding their implications on business post-COVID-19 is the key to improved employee experience.

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

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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

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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.