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: 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.