Remote Work Digest: January 15, 2019

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

9 Productivity Hacks for Working from Home | Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., Psychcentral.com

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For writer and editor Kate Rope the biggest challenge in working from home is focusing when she doesn’t have impending deadlines. Sometimes, what helps her is an app called Focus Keeper, which involves working for 25-minute chunks and taking 5-minute breaks. Other times, Rope goes to her favorite coffee shop, where she can “just put my nose down,” and blast through her writing.

Below, you’ll find a variety of helpful hacks for being productive when working from home.

Address your exact challenges. The key is to name your biggest challenges—the obstacles that obstruct your productivity. Then channel your creativity to find helpful solutions for each one.
Designate a specific work area. Rope suggested dedicating a specific area in your home as your office, which “tells your mind, ‘it’s working time,’ when you sit down there.” This might be an entire room or the corner of the living room. If you’re very limited on space, you might even put a small desk inside a closet.
Commute to your home office. According to journalist Emily Price in her book Productivity Hacks: 500+ Easy Ways to Accomplish More Work—That Actually Work! including a commute where you leave the house for a few minutes helps you refocus and get into work mode. “The commute can be something as simple as leaving the house for a walk around the block or heading down the street to grab a cup of coffee.”
Identify your peak productivity. When are you most productive, energized, focused and creative? During those times, try to work on bigger projects. Work on less demanding tasks, such as responding to email, when you tend to be less productive.
Batch your errands. Might running all your errands in one day boost your productivity, too?
Have an accountability partner. Price suggests working alongside a friend who also works from home. If that’s not possible, she recommends checking out virtual options at Focusmate.com, and GetMotivatedBuddies.com.
Use a different browser for work. “Having a dedicated browser enables you to install browser plug-ins for a specific use and create a work-specific bookmarks bar that doesn’t get in your way when you’re surfing the web at work,” Price writes.
Tame tiny problems. Make a list of things that are bothering you, Price writes, and try to get them fixed ASAP.
End the workday with organization. Disorganization can crush productivity. Which is why taking a few minutes at the end of your workday to tidy up and organize can set you up for success the following day.

Working from home comes with all kinds of pros and cons—which will vary for each person. The key is to identify the cons, and find ways to work around them, so you can make working from home work best for you.

Working with Remote Teams? Here’s How You Can Grow A Positive Company Culture, Tosho Trajanov, Forbes.com

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Great company culture is not about ping-pong tables and office snacks. Employee loyalty, job satisfaction and work performance aren’t affected by a physical location. Whether you have one, 10, 100 or more remote employees, creating a positive company culture where they will flourish and thrive is essential for the success of any startup.

So, how do you achieve a remote-first culture?

Promote knowledge sharing.
Knowledge sharing is essential when working with remote teams because it empowers people to establish bonds and grow.

To have productive and collaborative remote teams, a major shift needs to occur. Building an organizational culture requires:

  • Removing the focus from the individual, the leader, the superstar performer, and focusing more on the team or on how remote employees work together to get results.
  • Providing infrastructure people can use to collaborate.

Provide employees with feedback.
Working with remote teams can be challenging and offering honest feedback can lead to a more positive company culture. There’ll be lower turnover rates, more engaged employees and sky-high motivational levels.

The bad news is that many managers have very little knowledge about the science behind giving proper feedback. (Let’s be honest, dealing with emotions isn’t taught in business schools.) So, how can you give proper feedback to your remote team to encourage a positive company culture? Here are a few tips:

  • When you give negative feedback, your employees’ fear sensors activate. However, approaching feedback with empathy can make a world of difference. A manager who supports employees is the real secret to employee engagement because good employee feedback is based on trust.
  • Get rid of annual performance reviews and focus on more short-term development. While their purpose is to reflect on the entirety of the past year, they often end up focusing on more recent events.
  • Set goals for your employees that include specific and measurable key results.

Creating rituals and traditions to get to know your employees.
Creating traditions with your remote team can help keep the team cohesive, effective and trustworthy. How else would you know who is obsessed with Stranger Things and who sleeps with their dog at night?

Here are a few ideas that will lead to a great company culture:

  • Regular video chats: Hold regular video chats to help your remote team communicate face-to-face. Discuss work topics but also ask about each others’ cultures, customs and hobbies.
  • Virtual coffees: Your remote team can use virtual coffee breaks, which are video calls, to take breaks and socialize. It’s a great way for employees to share what they’ve been up to lately outside of work.
  • Retreats: Weekend retreats (at least once a year) are an awesome idea to provide more personal interactions for a team that doesn’t get to collaborate in person very often.

Embrace your employees’ differences and put their skills to good use.
What is at the heart of every company? People. The secret ingredient to creating a company culture is a diverse team of talented individuals. And this is not just diverse with respect to gender, disability, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation, but diverse in mindsets and ways of thinking that people acquire through their experiences.

The companies that will succeed in this new world are the ones that strive to create a positive company culture that includes diversity in the workplace. In this workplace, everyone will thrive and each employee will have a wealth of perspectives and ideas to share.

To conclude, companies that embrace a positive company culture will find a number of benefits, including increased employee loyalty, higher rates of employee morale and boosted levels of engagement. Through knowledge sharing, honest feedback, open communication and diversity, you can create an uplifting atmosphere that will, in the long term, keep employees happy and the business competitive.

15 tips for losing weight when you work from home | Julia Guerra, Thisisinsider.com

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Working from home is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you have the freedom to dress however you’d like, finish assignments from the comfort of your living room couch, and have an entire kitchen at your disposal whenever the afternoon munchies come on strong. It’s great unless you’re trying to lose weight.

Under these super convenient, incredibly comfortable circumstances, how can you can you lose weight when you work from home? Here are a few expert tips on how to do just that.

Invest in workout equipment you can use at home.
You don’t need fancy machines and clunky equipment to achieve your weight loss goals. In fact, the director of fitness from Daily Burn, Amanda Murdock said you don’t even have to have a gym membership. You will, however, benefit from investing in a few basic tools to help speed things along.

Find activities you genuinely enjoy doing, and you’re more likely to stick with a plan.
Oftentimes, fitness is looked at as a chore — something that has to get done in order to reach your weight loss goals. Although it’s true that physical activity is an important component, it shouldn’t feel like a burden, and it doesn’t have to. The key is to find exercises and activities you genuinely enjoy doing so that the time you commit to doing them feels like time well spent.

Clock in the right amount of quality sleep.
Nutrition and fitness are two of the most important elements of weight loss. The third is sleep — getting the right amount, and the right quality of it. And because when you work from home, your living space is also your workspace, it’s important that you not only set parameters for yourself, and know when to shut down, it’s also important that you create a sleep space that’s designed for sleep, not work under the covers.

Create a space in your home that can be your designated workout area.
Kelly Borowiec, CPT, founder of Keebs Fitness suggested that, after setting up a designated workout area in your home, fill it was a few basic pieces of equipment, like a set of 5-10lb dumbbells and a thick mat, to start.

“As you begin to exercise more frequently at home, you can reward yourself by buying more exercise equipment,” Borowiec said.

Plan your workouts around the times you’re most energized.
Are you a night owl? Early bird? Do you prefer afternoons to morning and evening hours? When you figure out what exercises you’re most likely to enjoy, your next task is to figure out when you’re most likely to exercise.

Be mindful of your meals and snacking options.
Nutrition is just as, if not more important when it comes to losing weight — whether you work from home or otherwise — so if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll just have to find ways to nip mindless cravings in the bud. One foolproof method Borowiec swore by was filling your fridge and pantry with healthy snacks, and preparing nutrient-dense meals in advance so that when you go grazing, you already have good-for-you options at the ready.

Don’t skimp out on cardio.
Walking from the bedroom to your couch or dining room isn’t much of a commute, but when your career can be done from the comfort of your living room, it’s easy to forgo cardio altogether. Joanna Stahl, the founder of Go2Practice told INSIDER this is a major, common mistake.

Cardio is key to most weight loss goals, so even though your work doesn’t require you to get up and out of the house, “there needs to be a concerted effort to put the pencils down and get in a workout daily,” Stahl said.

Drink a ton of water, but don’t sip on a glass with meals.
According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the average adult should be drinking two liters, or eight cups, of water per day. However, the key is to drink these eight cups between meals, not during them.

Sign up for classes to hold you accountable.
If you’re struggling to find motivation, Stahl told INSIDER that either signing up for a workout class at a studio, gym, or online is a great resource. Not only will you have committed to be at the gym at a specific time, but classes that come at a price up the ante, because you’ve not only committed time, you’ve put down payment, too.

Remember that small adjustments to your schedule can make a difference, too.
Liana Hughes, certified personal trainer and coach at Gixo said you can become more active by making some small changes like “planning a time to exercise each day, setting alarms to get up and walk around each hour, stretching while you are making your morning coffee, and getting up and walking around during conference calls.”

Walk whenever and wherever you can.
“You don’t have to take a 60 minute cycling class or run miles and miles because small changes can mean big differences,” she told INSIDER. “For instance, taking walk breaks during the day will not only get you disconnected from your computer, but will count towards that weekly minimum. Go outside and take a walk and add in some power walking for a block to raise your heart rate to bring in cardio to your daily routine.”

Set up shop as far away from the kitchen as possible.
Does just being in the same vicinity of food initiate temptation? If so, set up your workspace far away from the kitchen to avoid wandering into the kitchen when you aren’t actually hungry.

Get dressed for work in the same way you would if you were going to an office.
It’s easy to fall into the mindset that because no one’s going to see you, working in your pajamas or baggy sweats is acceptable. On the one hand, it is, but on the other, getting dressed in the morning the same way you would to go to an office building will take you out of a lazy mindset.

Practice mindful eating.
“Eat in the common work kitchen area or an empty conference room,” American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, V Shred‘s lead trainer, and an expert in nutrition, Benjamin Suyematsu suggested. “Use the time to really be mindful about your meal. Taste the food. Take your time and enjoy the meal as opposed to rushing through which only adds air to your stomach leading to bloat and even indigestion.”

Cut back on sugar, alcohol, and high-fat foods.
“The biggest things to stay away from while trying to lose weight are sugars, alcohol, and high-fat foods,” CruBox trainer, Brian Evans said. “It is important to eat a super balanced diet and additionally, stay away from food that is labeled low fat or sugar-free. Typically those food have to either added fat or sugar for taste than the normal full calorie options.”

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Remote Work Digest: December 17, 2018

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

What Job Hunters Should Expect in 2019 | Hannah Morgan, Money.usnews.com

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If you’re starting to think about looking for a new job, there are new protocols and “rules” to learn before dropping your resume on every online job board. Here’ what you need to know to and a new job in the new year.

Learn how ATS works
Almost every company uses an applicant tracking system to process resumes and build a database of candidates. Recruiters search the resumes for keywords to pare down the results to a smaller number of candidates who exactly match their criteria. Because of how prevalent these systems are, it’s so important that you take time to customize or refocus your resume for each job you apply to and ensure it includes the appropriate keywords and skills.

A one-page resume hurts more than it helps
For you to adequately highlight your work accomplishments (not just regurgitate your job description) and keep the font size readable, your resume may run onto a second page, especially if you have more than five years of work experience. 2019 may finally be the year to dump the old notion that your resume should fit on a single page.

The interview process will be rigorous.
You may be asked to complete an online personality assessment, work simulation assignment or video interview, or to participate in an interview over a meal. As a result, the hiring process will take longer than you expect. Be patient and understand that the employer wants to hire the best match for the role, considering more factors than just your skills.

Know your worth.
It’s relatively easy to research salaries using online salary calculators, but don’t stop there. Talk to people who work in your desired city and ask them what the going rate is for the work they do. This is especially helpful if you are changing careers or pursuing your first job after college. Using both these methods to research salaries allows you to command more respect when negotiating salary.

Join employer communities.
In order to join these communities, you must first identify companies that interest you. This is often as simple as thinking of your current company’s competitors or companies that appear on “best of” or “top employer” lists.

Find someone to refer you.
With your list of companies, begin meeting with people you know and ask them who they know who works for companies on your list. If you state that you are looking for more information about the company and its culture, you’re more likely to get help than asking for a job within one of those companies.

Look beyond the job boards.
Job boards will help you research the job market, keywords and job titles so you can target the appropriate types of roles. But don’t count on any one source to uncover job opportunities.

In fact, the highest quality new hires don’t come from job boards; they come from employee referrals. Expect to see more employees sharing job opportunities on social networks as companies incentivize their employees through referral programs.

Freshen up your LinkedIn profile.
Today’s savvy workers understand that a vibrant LinkedIn profile helps tell their career story.

Use your summary section to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Explain what motivates you and provide information that would help a potential employer understand what makes you tick. Even more importantly, a LinkedIn profile carefully crafted with the appropriate keywords and skills helps recruiters discover potential candidates.

Watch for job ads on social media.
The next time you’re on Facebook or Instagram, pay attention to the ads you’re seeing. While every company is on LinkedIn, they realize that employed individuals may not check LinkedIn regularly. To catch the attention of employed individuals, expect to see more companies posting advertisements on other social networks, too.

Don’t forget to consider remote work.
Working remotely is growing in popularity among employees and employers. Just watch out for scams by carefully vetting all opportunities prior to providing any information online or through email.

Practical Time Management Tips to Make Life Better In and Out of Work | April Joy, Thebossmagazine.com

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While we are always stuck with the same 24-hour period every single day, there are easy ways we can improve our time management and pave the way for a much better life both in and out of work. Here are some practical time management tips for your consideration:

Prioritize
Prioritization simply means focusing first on those things that are very important. In the office, for example, there will always be tasks that demand your utmost attention while there are also those that can be deferred for another time. The same is true in the house. You’ve got to check which ones will be requiring your attention first. Unfortunately, this means you’ve got to have a system that will help you assess each situation in an objective manner.

Delegate
Delegate the tasks that you think other individuals can safely and effectively carry out. Leave the more important ones to you. Keep in mind to check the capabilities of the person to whom you are delegating. Give only those tasks that you are confident they can handle with ease.

Select a Target
When you set a target, make sure that it is realistic. This requires a deeper understanding of what needs to be done. You have to look at the difficulty of completing the task including other factors that may have an impact on the accomplishment of said task.

Don’t Procrastinate
Procrastination doesn’t only affect your productivity; it also shows your lack of respect for the others who are working their butts to complete their tasks. Additionally, you are wasting your energy by engaging in non-essential activities.

Take a Short Breather
Working for eight continuous hours is not only counterproductive, it also exposes you to a number of health problems, including stress. You may start the day feeling energized but as the day progresses, your energy levels dwindle, often compounded by work-related stress. If you continue, you will find yourself unable to complete anything. The best remedy is to take a short 5- to 10-minute breather just to “recharge” yourself. This will help you complete more tasks as the day progresses.

Time management need not be difficult. Whether it’s in the house or in the office, you can employ these tips to make the most out of your daily 24 hours.

The 4 Work-From-Home Secrets No One Talks About | Rieva Lesonsky, Smallbiztrends.com

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A recent survey of 1,000 employees—including those who work at home full time, work at the office full time, or split their work time between home and office—delved into the downside. Here are four things few people will admit about working from home, and how to keep these problems from getting out of control.

1. It Makes People Jealous
Full-time office workers are less likely than remote or split-time workers to be satisfied with their jobs overall, their compensation, their career growth opportunities and their work-life balance. They’re also less likely to feel that their employers value them. Overall, 78% of all survey respondents believe people who work from home are happier.

Solution:
If people with certain job descriptions get to work remotely and others don’t, those stuck at the office can feel slighted. Think of other perks you can provide to enhance their morale. Take advantage of their presence in the office to provide lots of feedback, and make the effort to connect with them on a daily basis.

2. It can get lonely
Three of the top four things work-at-home employees miss about the office involve colleagues:

  • Being around other people: 38%
  • Office camaraderie: 35.2%
  • Free coffee: 29.6%
  • Parties/social events: 23.1%

More than half (51.2%) of work-at-home employees admit feeling lonely during the day, and 48.1% say they plan to return to an office environment eventually.

Solution:
Plan regular interactions to keep work-at-home employees in the loop. Video conferences, conference calls or monthly in-person meetings can help them feel part of the team. If you use chat tools like Slack, be sure to include remote workers in the discussions, too.

3. It can encourage watching TV during work hours
More than three-fourths (76.1%) of work-from-home employees admit they’ve watched TV on the job at some point. Here’s what else home-based employees have done while they’re supposed to be working:

  • Personal tasks 64.6%
  • Shower 44.7%
  • Run errands 35.2%
  • Exercise 33.5%
  • Go out for coffee 27.6%
  • Leave the house without telling anyone 20.4%

Solutions:
If you’re concerned that household distractions are cutting into work-at-home employees’ productivity, however, institute some rules. Require employees to check in at certain points during the day or schedule daily team calls. Most important, make your expectations clear.

4. It can encourage poor personal grooming
Fewer than half of work-at-home employees regularly shower before starting their workday, and just 60% brush their teeth.

However, nearly one-fourth of office workers don’t brush their teeth in the morning, and 45% admit they don’t regularly take showers before work. I guess there are some secrets people don’t tell you about the office, either.

Solution:
You can’t control what employees do at home. For those in the office, consider putting mouthwash in your employee restrooms, and stocking up on air freshener for the office.

Conclusion:
Do work-at-home employees or office-based employees have it better? Surprisingly, the survey found that employees who split their time between home and office are the ones who have the best of both worlds. Split-time workers report the highest satisfaction with their family life, their work-life balance, and their co-worker relationships. They’re also most likely to feel that their employers value them.

7 productivity tips to wrap up work so you can enjoy the holidays (for once) | Karen Burns, Forbes.com

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You’re already busy at work. And now the holidays are coming! How to get it all done? Here are a few ideas.

End your year early. Step up the focus on your most critical projects now. Aim to get them wrapped up by midmonth. As much as possible, resist scheduling important tasks for the last week of the year.

Ritualize your work. Here’s how this works: Associate different tasks with different “rituals.” It can be as simple as always returning phone calls before lunch, for example, or only answering emails between 3 and 4 p.m. The more rigid and structured you are, the better this approach works.

Identify your “golden hour.” Determine what time of day is optimum for you, and schedule your hardest tasks for then.

Make lists for everything. Have work lists, gift lists, food lists, goals lists, etc. The buzz you get from crossing off items as you complete them boosts your energy level and helps you feel more in control.

Get away from it all. A few hours in a new environment can jostle your brain into high gear. Also, being away from your usual work site makes it harder for co-workers to find and interrupt you.

Bundle activities. When setting up meetings, for example, don’t schedule one for Monday, one for Wednesday and one for Thursday. Do them all on the same day, when you’re already in meeting mode and away from your regular routine/workstation.

Don’t forget to stay healthy. During the holidays it’s harder than usual to eat right and to get the exercise and sleep you need. So make these issues a priority (perhaps another list?).

Finally, consider that it may be impossible to do everything you want or even need to do. Plan to forgive yourself if something slides. Remember that saying no once in a while is OK.

Remote Work Digest: October 16, 2018

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

How To Stay Focused When You’re Working At Home & Distracted AF | Marisa Casciano, Elitedaily.com

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Unlike some people in this world, your commute to the couch is nonexistent. But, as sweet as working from home can be, it’s sometimes not the most ideal situation for when you need to hustle and bustle. Lucky for you, being a #girlboss and getting rid of those distractions is possible. Just take these eight tips, and you’ll be good to go.

1. CREATE AN OFFICE SPACE
Not working in a traditional office can be a fun and unique experience. However, you shouldn’t turn your pillow into a coworker. Learn to separate your living space from your work space within your own home, and create your own “office.” This could be a table with a coaster for your coffee in the morning, or one spot in your kitchen that you work in on the reg. See you later, distractions!

2. WORK OUT SOME PERSONAL DEADLINES
Don’t give yourself the time and energy to procrastinate. Every morning, write down the things you want to get done, and then stick to that schedule. Tell yourself that the press release needs to be done before your lunch break, or that the first stages of the marketing campaign need to be organized by 4 P.M. Just like that, you’re creating a work ethic and diving into your passions, too.

3. PICK A TIME FOR LUNCH
Just like creating those personal deadlines, pick a time when you’re going to eat lunch every day. This helps you stick to a normal schedule, and not steer off course. Truth is, when you get distracted and put your work off a bit, you tend to be stressed out later on. Get into a routine, and that won’t be the case.

4. STICK TO A MORNING ROUTINE
Truth is, when you don’t have to account for traffic along your morning commute and simply sign onto via your laptop, it’s easy to stay in bed a little bit longer. You often let yourself hit “snooze” one too many times, and find yourself rushing around your house, that first few minutes of your day. Break that bad habit right now, and your distractions will go down, simply because you’re more prepared to hit the ground running and get to work.

5. STAY OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Do yourself a favor, and put that screen down, if you really want to focus while working at home. Tell yourself that you can’t check Instagram until you’ve handed in your next assignment, or give yourself five minutes every hour to check your phone and then throw it in a drawer on the other side of the room. Trust me, and then thank me later, OK?

6. GET OUTSIDE ON YOUR BREAK
Getting outside can be a great way to combat distraction. It gives you a change in location, and lets your mind wander past the laptop screen. (Not to mention, you might run into a pup or two! Um, yes please.) So, during your break, take a walk around your neighborhood or sit out on your deck. That sort of thing.

7. LET YOURSELF LAUGH IT OUT
Give into your distractions for a little while, and your brains naturally hits the refresh button. Look at your favorite memes, aimlessly scroll through social media, or watch a few videos on YouTube that have always made you smile or feel inspired. In no time, you’re back to work and feeling better than ever before.

8. ONE WORD: HEADPHONES
When in doubt, put in some headphones. The outside world can be so distracting. Did you hear that car going down the street? What’s your roommate making in the kitchen? Is that your neighbor’s pup that’s barking upstairs? Just like that, you’ve completely lost your train of thought and motivation to get work done.

So, stop the distractions before they even start, and play some music. Tune into some acoustic jams, and tune out of the nonsense going on around you. Working from home is a sweet deal most of the time, but when you need to buckle down and focus, sometimes you just need a little extra help. *Cue “Work” by Rihanna and let’s go.*

How to Discipline an Employee for Absenteeism | Priyansha Mistry, Thehrdigest.com

It is often difficult when trying to address employee absenteeism when it has become a habit. Hence, business managers try to work employee’s attitude towards absenteeism rather than correcting the event. Meanwhile, the task of employee absence management is one that requires careful measures. While you can’t force employees to be at work, those that would ridicule productivity need not remain in your team.

Here is a workable procedure to handle absenteeism among employees.

1. Design an employee attendance policy
As a manager, you are expected to design an attendance policy for your employees to make your fight effective. Most importantly, this policy must cut across every employee and must outline in details when and how they should work. In creating employee attendance policy, all issues related to attendance should be addressed. In addition, the policy should stipulate disciplinary actions for defaulters which should be based on the level of offense.

2. Ensure consistent enforcement
Consistent enforcement does not suggest a lack of empathy towards employees. It simply means that the policy should not be taken for a flake. Being immediate and proactive in policy enforcement shows the employees commitment to the management.

3. Find out the reason for absenteeism
As a manager, when you notice a consistency in absenteeism, you should call it out. Invite the employee and try to find out the reasons for their absence. Your findings will help any conclusion you need to make.

What kind of disciple should be taken?
One thing very clear is that, even with the policies and tight levels of enforcement, absenteeism will still happen. This means that some employees will be disciplined. However, the kind of discipline to be meted out will depend on the nature of the absenteeism. Employees who call in to inform about their absence may have a lesser case depending on their reasons. But for workers who form it as a habit to be absent and even neglect the place of pre-information, stricter measures should be taken. They should be written to and made to answer queries for their action.

You may want to reward employees who are consistent to work to encourage others. Also, studies have shown that employee engagement is also an effective tool to help them to show more commitment to work. However, the mentioned procedures on how to discipline an employee for absenteeism will help to keep everyone in shape.

More Than Higher Pay and Promotions, Millenials Value These 4 Benefits Most | Adam Robinson, Inc-Asean.com

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Recent data shows 60 percent of employees indicate benefits and perks are a major factor when accepting a job offer, and 80 percent of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise.

Realizing job seeker demands, some employers are getting creative when it comes to perks by letting employees choose their own. Below, I’ve outlined a few examples of flexible employee perks and the benefits of each.

1. Points of Budget-Based Perks
While your business might have standard options for healthcare, your bonus structure and other larger benefits, there’s much more room to be flexible with smaller perks. One company in particular is doing just this – N6A, a public relations agency based in New York, offers its employees points, which they can redeem to for free coffee, airline miles and more. The points are earned through both individual and company achievements.

Your business can take on a similar approach, either by offering a points-based system or a set budget for employee perks. Other perks might include discounted public transportation, professional development budget, bonus vacation days, and more.

2. Technology Spending Account
Depending on the individual and role, your employees might need different tools to be their most productive. For example, one employee might work best with noise canceling headphones while another needs a second monitor to complete projects more efficiently. To address this, consider offering employees a set technology budget when they start the job, but allow each employee to select their own tools.

3. Health and Wellness Options
Similar to the technology budget, consider offering employees a menu of different wellness options, including gym memberships, healthy lunch options, intramural sports teams, discounted bike rentals, and more. By giving employees the chance to choose their perks, they can opt for the wellness perks that will best serve their overall health, well being and productivity.

4. Flexible Holidays
Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse, so offering flexible holidays can help your team attract top talent across different faiths, cultural backgrounds and values. And according to a study from Harvard Business Review, more diverse workforces lead to increased creativity and faster decision making.

In today’s competitive job market with record-low unemployment, employers need to take extra steps to attract top talent. By letting employees choose their own perks, you can stand out from the competition when it comes to attracting and hiring engaged employees.

10 Motivation Tips For Freelancers Who Work From Home | Annie Ridout, Forbes.com

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According to science, motivated people have higher levels of dopamine – a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. It’s this chemical that motivates us to get up and go for a run, rather than just sitting on the sofa and thinking about it. Or to start work.

Fortunately, it’s possible to trigger a dopamine release; meaning being motivated is something that can be learned; it’s not necessarily a genetic trait. So, if you find it hard to get started in the morning and need some tricks to kickstart your brain into work-mode, these will help…

1. Ditch the PJs
While still in your nightwear, your brain basically remains in sleep mode, so get up, showered and dressed before you start work. Just as you would if you worked in an office.

2. Swallow the frog
Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou has a workplace tradition of beginning the day with ‘swallow the frog’. Each employee has a toy frog on their desk and it represents that one, dreaded task. Complete it and the frog can leave your desk. You can then get on with the work you actually want to be doing.

3. Plan your day
Starting out with a full day ahead – and no plan of what you’re doing, when – can be overwhelming. So write a list of all the tasks that need doing – actually write it, rather than doing it on your phone, then you’ll have the satisfaction of striking off tasks once they’re complete.

4. Limit emails
Most of us are emailed multiple times a day – by clients, colleagues, employers, friends and family but also for marketing purposes. These emails easily distract from the task you’re working on, so set yourself email-checking times.

5. Take a break
As well as allocating set times for each job, designate breaks for yourself. A cup of tea between tasks is a good excuse for a break from the screen. It also signals that it’s time to move on to the next job. Equally, decide what time you’ll have lunch and try to eat it at the table, away from your work.

6. Set an end-time
You may have a work cutoff if you have kids in childcare who need collecting but even if you don’t: set your own end-time. Psychologically, this will help you to get started, as you know that once it hits 5pm (for instance), you’re free to relax. How you spend the rest of the evening is then up to you.

7. Fresh air and exercise
Starting the day with a run – even just a five-minute jog around the block – or a brisk walk will help to wake you up. The exercise gives you endorphins which energise you and make you feel happier; a blast of fresh air awakens all the senses.

8. Working unconventional hours
Keep realistic expectations: set yourself just an hour for work, knowing that after that you can head straight to bed or watch telly. Again, having the evening stretching out ahead with no set plan will feel daunting. Decide on your task(s) and get it done within the hour. Continuing work when you’re tired is pointless; it won’t be your best work. Keep it short and focused.

9. Use an app
If you find yourself feeling fuzzy-headed or in a muddle, and need to reset before you can continue with work, try a mind app. Headspace teaches you mindfulness and brings you back to the present, while Calm is good for slowing down your breath and busy mind. Hypnotherapy app Clementine has a power nap recording – if you need 30 minutes of shuteye – or sessions for both confidence and de-stressing. You can just sit back and listen.

10. Treat yourself
This doesn’t mean spend £60 on a massage – though you can, if you want – it means finding little ways to boost yourself throughout the day. For instance, drinking your morning coffee while standing in the garden, in peace. Or a relaxing afternoon bath. Maybe it’s a glass of wine at the end of the working day. Whatever it is, if it brings your some joy, make it part of your daily routine.

Remote Work Digest: September 20, 2016

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

4 Life Hacks For Mompreneurs To Stay Happy and Healthy On The Go | Deborah Sweeney, Thriveglobal.com

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The gentle act of being present and focusing on wellness is a big part of ensuring that your family continues to grow up happy and healthy. No matter how old your children may be or which stage you’re at in your small business journey, I’ve found the following life hacks to be tremendously helpful for mompreneurs to stay centered on the go.

1. Cut down the screen time.
I like to think that when you cut screens out of the equation, it gives your brain less opportunities to go on autopilot and reply “fine” and really think about the day as a whole.

2. Eating and drinking right.
Consider doing weekly meal prep for the whole family that covers all of your nutritional bases. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too! Swap out sugary drinks like soda for water and decaf instead of caffeinated coffee.

3. Use technology to stay on track.
If you’re struggling to make time to get in a workout, download the Sworkit app. This lets you choose from a few different types of circuit workouts. Other great options include the Studio Tone It Up app, which acts as an on-the-go fitness studio, and MyFitnessPal which helps track your caloric intake for the day.

4. Schedule in a family walk around the neighborhood.
It doesn’t have to be a long walk. A quick jaunt around the neighborhood works just fine. Make sure every member of the family is accounted for and use the time to get in some exercise and regroup as a unit together.

5 reasons why all teams need to work remotely | Fiona Adler, Thenextweb.com

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Remote working teams may be leading the way, but almost all teams need to learn to work together remotely. Even if you’re not hiring contractors in some far away country, your own team will benefit from the learnings we can take from remote teams.

Here’s why remote working styles are just as important for in-house teams.

In a sense, all teams are remote
Whether our colleagues are in another country or just down the hall, they’re not right with us so we need ways of working together online. The same systems and structures we need to work with an employee across the world will help up work with our team members sitting on another floor or in another office.

Embracing remote work keeps existing employees happy
Research shows that employees that work from home are happier and ‘massively more productive’ and companies that offer working from home options can reduce attrition by up to 50%.

If working from home seems scary, don’t worry — you don’t necessarily need to dive into a full-time working-from-home arrangement. A policy where employees can work from home one or two days a week often gives your team the flexibility they’re craving and keeps your company competitive.

Remote working styles help you focus on real productivity
Thinking of your team as a remote team is a great way to instigate a new approach like this. Productivity tracking also doesn’t need to be as complex as you might think. For instance, it could include simple team disciplines like:

  • Holding a 10 minute start-of-day call to share each person’s plan for the day
  • A structure where everyone sends an end-of-day email to share what they’ve accomplished
  • A weekly share-your-work demonstration where the team takes turns to showcase something they’re working on and seek feedback from the team

Putting these types of structures in place is gets your team ready to work remotely but more importantly, improves team performance.

A remote working capability allows you to build a better team
By broadening the talent pool, you can often attract someone of a much higher calibre. For businesses located in small towns or in areas that have a lot of competition for top talent, offering a remote position can give you a huge advantage.

Start building your remote working capability
Working with a distributed team has its challenges, but these also force disciplines that are beneficial to all teams. Creating a framework for teamwork online, before you actually need go remote, is a wise step for all teams to take.
Plus, learning to manage a team online is a skill all managers need to learn and embrace – whether that’s to increase the performance of your existing team or to prepare for pending remote work.

3 Pitfalls You’ll Encounter When You Run a Business Out of Your Home | Maurie Backman, Fool.com

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There are plenty of benefits to running a business out of your home — namely, the convenience factor. When you work from home, you don’t waste time or spend money commuting, and you have easy access to your office at all times. On the other hand, there are certain hiccups you might encounter when you attempt to run a business from home. Here are a few to be aware of.

1. Loneliness
Working from home can be an isolating experience whether you’re running your own business or are employed by an outside firm. Of course, being busy, which business owners tend to be, can help negate some of the loneliness factor, since it’s hard to harp on that solitude when you have endless tasks to complete in a given week. Still, over time, it can get to you, so to remedy that, make your home office your primary workspace, but venture out when you can.

You might also consider working from a public library if you’re starved for company but need a reasonably quiet atmosphere. Incorporating even a modest degree of human interaction into your schedule can go a long way toward making your setup work better for you.

2. Distractions
To avoid falling behind on work obligations, make sure you have a separate, dedicated space for business matters — ideally, a room with a door that closes. Physically separating yourself from the rest of your home will help your brain process the fact that you need to be working and not doing other things.

3. No work-life balance
The beauty of running a business from home is having constant access to your workspace. The downside, however, is having constant access to your workspace. When you manage a business out of your home, it’s difficult to maintain a solid work-life balance because you could technically be doing your job all the time.

Of course, working too much can negatively impact your health, damage your personal relationships, and put you in a position where you risk completely burning out. A better idea? Create a schedule that dictates when you’ll be working versus living your life, and stick to it. If you’re supposed to wrap things up at 6 p.m. on a given day, commit to closing up shop at that point and joining your friends or family for dinner if that’s what you have planned. While it’s a good thing to be dedicated to your business, if you cross the line into total workaholism, you won’t end up doing yourself any favors.

Running a business from home can save you time and money, but it can also backfire if you aren’t careful. Now that you know what pitfalls to avoid, you’ll be better positioned to manage your business from home while maintaining your productivity and sanity along the way.

A Few Disgruntled Employees Can Destroy Your Company Culture | Richard Trevino II, Entrepreneur.com

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Disgruntled employees can pose a risk to your company by providing poor service – thus turning customers off — and they can create a negative work environment by creating stress and disharmony within the work group. Some disgruntled employees may purposely set out to cause trouble with unethical behavior, ranging from spreading rumors to stealing money and equipment. Let’s look at how disgruntled employees impact your operation and how to approach their impact in a constructive manner:

Productivity decline, hostile work environment and misappropriation of resources.
Unhappy, disgruntled employees can create a tense, negative and stressful atmosphere in the workplace, which affects the overall productivity of the team. These same employees can cause a hostile work environment. They are a drain on managers because managers, in turn, have to waste their time dealing with and resolving the problems they cause. Disgruntled employees can destroy a company’s culture by the misappropriation of essential company resources as well.

Keep your employees actively engaged and productive
When employees are acknowledged and their good performances are rewarded financially and professionally, they will be predisposed to being gratified and productive. Also, work-life balance is important to today’s employees. They must have time for their career, family and social life. When friendships and goodwill between employees are established, the positive-minded employees can provide support and encouragement to disgruntled employees.

Determine the cause of their issues and address them.
Open a dialogue with the disgruntled employees and determine their true concern, what their issues are and how you can help them resolve or get a better handle on them. Disgruntlement among employees can stem from various reasons, including perceived disrespectful treatment, need for recognition, culture of favoritism, poor performance evaluations, negative office interactions with peers and management staff, sexual harassment, lack of financial opportunities, or even limited career growth opportunity and domestic and health issues.

Ensure that employees are a right-fit for their job.
Employees are hired to do a job, and you must ensure that the right person is hired to perform that job. Regardless of the efforts you make in recognizing your employees and providing them with incentives, if employees’ interests and goals don’t match the company’s mission and vision, they are a misfit for the job. The best way to avoid the effects of disgruntled employees is to ensure that employees fit the company culture during the hiring process. Given that people can change over time and experiences, once productive employees might eventually change their interests and goals to the point where they no longer fit the company culture. At that point, it is best to determine whether there is a way that the company can still fulfill the employee’s interests and goals; if not, the employee needs to find other opportunities.

Company culture influences employee performance and customer perception, both affect the company’s reputation. Making sure that the company strives to maintain a positive culture diminishes disgruntlement among employees, but when it does happen, you should make sure to immediately address the issue so that it doesn’t destroy the inner workings and character of your company.

Remote Work Digest: August 25, 2018

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

101 Time Management Tips to Boost Productivity Every Day | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

For most of us, time management and staying productive is a daily struggle. Sometimes that’s not the end of the world. But, if you don’t address this sooner then later, the things you were supposed to do today get pushed to tomorrow, then the next day. Eventually, you could end-up several weeks behind.

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Thankfully, you can prevent that from happening by using these 101 time management and productivity tips. Let’s start to gain yourself more time.

1. Just Breathe.
2. Measure twice, cut once.
My dad used to tell me, “Measure twice, cut once.” This is actually a famous proverb for anyone involved in carpentry or building since it advices to do things right the first time around.
3. Turn off the TV.
Instead of watching so much television, spend that time on higher-leverage tasks.
4. Eat the frog first.
“Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.”
5. Schedule according to energy.
By creating a schedule based around your energy you can create a routine that ensures your as productive as possible.
6. Wake-up earlier
This way you have the time to read, exercise, respond to emails, and plan out your day properly.
7. Keep a time diary.
By recording how you spend your time for a month or two, you’ll see where you’re wasting time and what influences productivity.
8. Make use of waiting time.
Let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment. Have something with you to do. This could be reading a book, catching up on correspondence, or writing your upcoming eBook.
9. Make a list and get it out of your head.
Don’t let everything you have to do swirl around in your head. Jot them done so that it clears your brain and prevents you from getting overwhelmed.
10. Think “half-time.”
For example, if you’re cooking dinner, make the twice the amount and freeze half of it. This way you’re not spending that time again preparing and cleaning your meal on another night.
11. Ditch commitments that waste your time, energy and attention.
12. Be decisive.
Make a decision, live with it, and move on.
13. Cross something off.
This keeps your to-do lists from getting out of control. It also prevents you from over committing.
14. Lighten your cleaning standards.
Obviously you want your home and office to be clean and organized. But, settling on “dirt removal” instead of “spotless” will definitely save you a ton of time and energy in the end.
15. Establish “maintenance days.”
Group your cleaning, laundry, and errands on specific days. This way they’re not lingering over your head when working on more pressing matters.
16. Schedule your work in batches.
Speaking of grouping, start batching similar tasks together.
17. Combine efforts.
This way you’re cutting down on the time spend going back and forth all day.
18. Learn keyboard shortcuts.
19. Shorten your emails.
20. Delegate or outsource.
Instead of doing tasks yourself, delegate or outsource them to someone else so that you can focus on more important tasks.
21. Automate repetitive tasks.
22. Schedule less.
23. Work hours a day.
It’s all about focusing on your most important tasks when you’re most productive.
24. Stop multitasking.
Focus on one task at a time. Train your brain to slow down a little. It’s like running, the more you train your body, the faster you’ll become.
25. Don’t beat yourself up.
What happens if you spend a Saturday morning binge-watching Stranger Things? Stop wasting your time feeling guilty about it. Sometimes that happens. Do your best not to make that a habit and move-on instead of living in the past.

To make the most of your time, here are tips for implementing a productivity system.

26. The “Pomodoro Technique.”
The “Pomodoro Technique” is where you use a timer and schedule short breaks, usually five minutes, after 25 minutes of focused work.
27. Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” method.
Jerry Seinfeld would use a wall calendar and red marker to stay focused. He would cross out the days on the calendar when he wrote.
28. David Allen’s “two-minute rule.”
According to David Allen, author of the best-selling Getting Things Done, if a task takes under two-minutes to complete — do it now — so that it’s out of the way.
29. Break your day into five-minute slots like Elon Musk.
Doing so keeps him productive since it ensues that he stays on-track and doesn’t waste his time.
30. Jay Shirley’s “Must, Should Want Method.”
Every morning start your day by answering three questions: What must your do to create the most impact today? What should your do to build a better future? What do you want to do so that you can enjoy today and life more completely?
31. The Eisenhower Matrix
“Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.
1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).”

32. Airplane days.
If you plan ahead and organize your work before you leave for the airport, you can increase productivity by accomplishing an enormous amount while you are in the air.
33. Follow your ultradian rhythms.
It can get pretty complex, but the idea is that you should concentrate when your energy levels are highest, but to rest when you feel drained.
34. The “big rocks system.”
If you start with “big rocks,” and then put in sand or smaller rocks, all the gaps and cracks will get filled.
35. “No Meetings Wednesdays.”
Other companies have this rule for other days of the week, but the idea is the same. As opposed to wasting your time in a meeting, you can focus on important individual tasks.
36. The “anti to-do-list.”
Instead of composing just a to-do list, create a to-done list where you write down everything you’ve already accomplished.
37. Sunday check-ins.

What brings this altogether is focus and attention. The following tips can be a big help.

38. Get your environment right.
Work in an environment that has your auditory sweet spot (some prefer silence, others like background), organized, comfortable, free of distractions, and comfortable.
39. Turn off notifications.
40. Plan for interruptions.
41. Shrink your mental deadlines.
By shrinking your mental deadline you’ll work faster, as well as improve your focus.
42. Make a procrastination list.
This is a list of high-leverage activities that you can chip away at whenever you’re procrastinating or have down time.
43. Create a stop doing list.
This is a list of those bad habits that waste your time or hinder your productivity.
44. Use Brainwave Entrainment.
Brainwave entrainment isn’t a new development. In fact, it’s a 100+ year old science that uses special tones and sounds to influence an individual’s brainwave patterns.
45. Focus@Will.
Focus@Will is an app that not only removes distractions, it also increases productivity.
46. Use a password manager.
47. Hack your vision.
Blue wavelengths from fluorescent lights and electronic devices can fatigue your eyes and accelerate eye aging. To combat this start by taking a couple of small steps like blinking more and reducing your exposure before bed.
48. Actively listen.
Active listening is when you all of your attention and focus is at the conversation at-hand.
49. Have a cut-off time.
Set a specific time to completely check-out from work so that you can avoid further exposure to blue light and recharge your batteries.

The foundation of our productivity is our health, so here are physical productivity tips to simplify getting and staying in shape.

50. Exercise.
51. Fuel-up wisely.
Avoid sugar, simple carbohydrates like pasta and bread, and junk food — they can give you a temporary energy high, but then you may crash.
52. Drink caffeine intelligently and stay hydrated.
53. Get 7-9 hours of sleep.
54. Skip the nightcap.
Drinking alcohol before bed prevents your from getting a quality night’s rest. If you do have an alcoholic beverage, have one several hours before your hit the hay.
55. Stop and smell…the lemons.
Research from Ohio State University found that sniffing lemon improved people’s moods and raised levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical linked to executive decision-making and motivation.
56. Meditate.
57. Strike a power pose.
A ‘power pose’ actually can cause a burst of testosterone, that’s responsible for feelings of dominance.
58. Take a nap.
59. Set the right temperature.
60. Soak up the sun.
Natural light increases your energy levels, helps you focus, reduces stress, and assists in better sleep.
61. Smile!
Smiling makes you more productive because it boosts your immunity, makes your happier, handle stress better, and helps you focus on the big picture.
62. Bring your dog to work.
This isn’t a problem if you work from home, but what if you can’t bring your dog to work? Looking at pictures of animals can have similar effects.
63. Standing and walking meetings.
It’s not just better for your health, these types of meetings reduce distractions, promote collaboration, and saves time.

Success requires being equally fit physically and mentally. Try these mental productivity tips:

64. Have a plan.
Start by identifying a daily mantra, your short-term goal, and your long-term goal.
65. Take five.
This isn’t taking a five-minute break. It’s actually taking five minutes before any call or task to determine what you want to attain.
66. Develop a growth mindset.
67. Regularly review the past week.
68. Write in your happiness journal.
69. Get an easy win.
It’s a simple way to feel accomplished and build momentum for the rest of the day.
70. Learn to say ‘no’ effectively.
71. Find your groove.
A flow state is where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing at the moment. To get into this flow state, you should work on activities that are challenging, but also equal to the skills you possess.
72. Schedule breaks throughout the day.
“The best way to take breaks is to schedule them throughout your day. That way you can truly control the flow of work.”
73. Disconnect.
74. Rehearse situations.
75. Bargain with yourself.
“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” says Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
76. Identify you keystone habits.
Examples include planning out your days, exercising, and having strong willpower.
77. Establish S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based. This makes it easier to define and achieve them.
78. Stop tracking your progress on goals.
View your actions as evidence that you are committed to your goal” and remind yourself why you want to reach your goal.
79. Set “process goals.”
A process goal is what you actually need to achieve in order to achieve a larger goal. For example, if you want to increase sales by 25%, then your process goal would be to call 5 potential clients daily.
80. Anticipate obstacles.
This way you can have a contingency plan so that you can keep going forward no matter what.
81. Own your mistakes, then move on.
82. End your day on a high-note.
Ending your day on a high note encourages you to do the same the next day.

Success always is a team sport, so here are organization and prioritization tips:

83. Schedule your entire day.
84. Keep your desk clear.
When you have a cluttered desk that sends a visual cue to your brain that causes stress.
85. Use an online calendar and calendar tool.
With an online calendar you can access it from multiple devices, schedule meetings/appointments, set up reminders, block time, and set up recurring events.
86. Declutter your calendar.
Clear the clutter from your calendar by only adding priorities that are date-specific. Don’t fill it with minute activities or events that no longer fit into your lifestyle.
87. Consolidate your tools and apps.
Having too many of these tools and apps are counter-productive. Limit yourself to the essentials.
88. Share your calendar.
Share your calendar with clients and colleagues so that you can schedule productive meetings and be aware of deadlines without the back-and-forth emails. You can also share your calendar with your family so that they know where you are and that you can delegate household chores.
89. Set a maximum of three priority tasks per day.
90. Define three daily outcomes every morning.
91. Jot down “forgettables”.
What happens when something pops in your mind while you’re working on an important task? Have a pen and paper nearby so that you can jot it down. This gets the thought out of your head, without doing much damage to your flow.
92. Schedule buffer and travel time.
Don’t jump directly from task-to-task or meeting-to-meeting. You need time to recharge, refocus, and/or commute.
93. Break larger projects into bite-sized pieces.
94. Set deadlines.
95. Tap into the power of visualization.
“Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!,” writes AJ Adams, MAPP in Psychology Today.
96. Set-out visual reminders.
97. Find a mentor.
98. Enhance or develop skills.
99. Take one step at a time.
Baby steps. It’s probably one of the easiest and most powerful time management and productivity tips. Instead of focusing on the task, focus on what you’re doing now.
100. Don’t worry about perfection.
Stop worrying about something being “perfect.” It doesn’t exist. It’s only a figment of your imagination that can never become a reality.
101. Reward yourself.
It’s no secret that rewarding yourself when you’ve reached a goal or milestone is an effective way to keep you motivated and productive. The trick is being smart with your rewards.

 
Ask these 4 questions before hiring a remote worker | Alexis Bruemmer, Fastcompany.com

To reap the benefits, companies need to be prepared to adjust their systems and practices and set up remote workers for success. Asking these four questions before you hire a remote employee can go a long way.

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1. IS THIS POSITION WELL-SUITED TO REMOTE WORK?
If you’re hiring an office manager or administrator, they should probably be present in the office. You need to ask yourself this before you even start considering candidates–because if it turns out that being remote is a hindrance to their role, you’ll probably face expensive and time-consuming problems down the line.

2. CAN THIS CANDIDATE BE EFFECTIVE IN A REMOTE SETTING?
Not everyone can be a remote worker. For starters, someone who isn’t a proactive communicator or needs constant social interaction to thrive can really struggle in this kind of setup. When you’re evaluating candidates, you need to understand if their work habits fit the needs of a remote role. This is a little tricky, but having a consistent interview plan can make all the difference, mainly when hiring for a technical remote position.

3. HOW CAN I HOLD MY REMOTE TEAM (AND MYSELF) ACCOUNTABLE?
As a manager, I tend to share what’s happening at the leadership level during our daily standup, and as much as I can, I communicate how our team’s work ties back to larger strategic goals for the company.

You don’t necessarily have to use this method–but it’s vital that you have a single, shared system for tracking progress on team deliverables. That way, everyone is clear on what they need to accomplish, and they can have something to refer to anytime they’re unsure of their priorities.

4. HOW CAN I KEEP MY REMOTE TEAM MOTIVATED?
It’s a challenge for any manager to keep their team motivated, and remote work adds another layer of complexity to the mix. Loneliness is a huge problem among remote workers and the lack of in-office face time might also lead to higher anxiety around job security.

In addition to keeping your team on track, it’s equally crucial to keep them connected so you can combat those potentially negative feelings. I try to schedule planned face-to-face time at least three times a year with my remote team, and I put extra effort into recognizing and (visibly) rewarding great work. After all, saying “good job” while I pass them in the hallway isn’t an option for me.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Working with a Virtual Assistant | Yoshitaka Shiotsu, Business2community.com

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Virtual assistants (VA) are remote office assistants. They provide administrative, clerical, and support services that can range from scheduling conference calls and sending invoices to more complex tasks regarding PR, marketing, and project management. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid when working with Vas.

1. Hiring for tasks instead of filling roles
When you hire people to perform tasks you’re not taking advantage of this phenomenal human trait. When outsourcing tasks, once each is complete you must then spend time to delegate a new one. When you hire someone to fill a role, he or she can be trained to perform all the tasks associated with that role, keeping management time to a minimum.

2. Micromanaging a VA
When you micromanage, you become an operational bottleneck within your organization. VAs are supposed to free up your time, but if you micromanage you’ll end up spending more time delegating specific tasks than you gain from their help.

3. Not Using a System
By creating clear step-by-step procedures for how certain tasks should be performed, you can remove the guesswork and confusion that usually prevent teams working under micromanagers from being proactive and productive.

4. Neglecting to define a clear role or scope
Make a list of the specific tasks—social media posts, booking travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, etc.—of the role you’d like to outsource. Create a picture of the responsibilities, skills, and experience required of that role. Clarify whether this is a long-term hire or a one-time gig. Transparency will save you headaches and unmet expectations in the future.

5. Thinking you can 100% set it and forget it
How else is your VA supposed to learn how to better meet your business needs? Fortunately, plenty of project management tools are out there to help you better manage your VA and other members of the team. There are even freelancer management systems especially geared toward helping you work with VAs and other remote freelancers.

6. Failing to build trust
Trust has to be built; it’s a two-way street. You have to first ascertain whether you’re actually ready to delegate responsibilities to a VA. Then you have to be able to screen your short list and judge intangibles such as personality fit and attitude. Consider using test projects in your hiring process to help you select the right VA for your team.

7. NOT REALIZING VAs ARE MORE THAN COSTS ON A SPREADSHEET

Yes, it’s important to factor in the cost of hiring a VA; budgets must be balanced. However, it’s even more important to remember that when you hire a VA you’re really investing in a person, a new member of the team who can help take your business to new heights. Congratulate your VA on his or her successes. Keep your criticisms constructive. The VA you bring onto the team today could grow into a full-fledged project manager tomorrow. Nurture your investments and they’ll pay dividends in the future.

5 Signs You Desperately Need a Productivity Tool

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Image from Acclux.com

What does productivity mean to you? How do you manage to handle the tight deadlines and appointments that keep coming up? We are all terrible at maintaining a consistent level of productivity. You may find yourself juggling lots of responsibilities, workday spinning uncontrollably, feeling distracted, and simply procrastinating.

The best thing that can happen to anyone is being productive. In the words of Shawn Achor, “Happiness inspires productivity”. According to the Bureau of labor statistics, productivity in the business sector since 2007 has been consistently dropping.

We need productivity tools to streamline everything that needs to be done. How do you know if you need a tool?

Here are some signs that show you should start investing in a productivity tool to manage your productivity.

1. Your tasks are not running efficiently

There are some tasks of your job that are dull, repetitive and boring. You have to push yourself doing these tasks. When it comes to doing the work amazingly, you have to make sure you meet deadlines, reply to emails, and spend the right time in meetings. All of these things and more can be easily done, thanks to productivity software. If you don’t have productivity software and you are facing a steep fall in your efficient performance, it’s time to get one. You will be able to create tasks on your own efficiently and avoid an extra leg work on your already busy day!

2. No one knows what anyone else is doing

How do you know what you and your team is working on day in and day out? How do you know if they are overloaded or sitting idle browsing social media. It is required to have a quick glance over the workload to make the process of assigning tasks much simpler. If so, using a productivity tool will allow project managers to know who is working on which tasks, and if everyone is in loop. The tasks will be distributed equally, avoiding overloading and missing deadlines. In addition, it will also prevent employee burnout.

3. There are a lot of status-related questions

Often, it becomes frustrating for project managers to daily ask for updates on the status of the tasks. If you have to hold meetings just for checking the status of the project then you really need to get a software that displays the status of every ongoing and completed task. Everyone in the team, project manager and clients can have a quick look at the ongoing status of every task and know who is responsible for what. It saves a lot of time, effort and misunderstanding to have a check on which tasks are running late and who is not on track.

4. You are just cranking through

Today, more and more people are over occupied with various tasks that keeps them switching between tasks in order to complete faster. And in this process they lose focus and productivity. You get very little done and will mostly postpone doing some important things. This is why you need to have a project management tool where you can assign tasks based on priority to avoid multitasking. Whether working remotely or in the office, you will know when you need to focus.

Tip: Productivity tools come in a wide range of software to reduce the time you spend and increase the productivity.

5. You are using too many tools

There are countless number of tools coming up in the market, but it makes no sense to use more than one for your work. It just creates confusion and clutter. A project management tool will keep up all your needs of productivity, time tracking, maintaining a task list and everything you may need. Switch to one tool so you don’t waste your time hopping from one tool to other and get solutions at your fingertips.

Productivity is your duty

Pick a tool that fits your needs and you will be amazed to see the outcome when you combine productivity with technology. The true benefits of productivity tools will be visible the more you incorporate it into your workflow. Realize the full power of tool to make it possible for you to complete more projects in less time.

How do you increase your work efficiency without increasing your hours? Leave us a comment and let us know.

 

Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2017. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.

Remote Work Digest: July 18, 2018

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

The Rising Digital Workforce: Six Tips for Small Business Owners Managing Remote Workers | Chanell Turner, Myasbn.com

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Allowing employees to work from home is proven to lower the turnover rate and decrease real estate and overhead costs, two things from which small business owners can benefit. So, how do you help your employees manage this perk? Read on for six tips for working with and managing workers who work at home.

Establish Expectations

If done correctly, remote work can increase productivity and the overall employee performance. However, you have to be clear about what you are looking for from these workers. Is there a specified period during the day that they need to be accessible for calls? Are there specific programs you need them to use to track time worked? Whom do they need to contact if they need to take time off? It is crucial to be upfront about what you are looking for from them to ensure everything runs smoothly from the beginning.

Set-Up Regular Meetings and Short Check-Ins

It helps to carve out at least five to ten minutes a day for remote workers to ask questions and reveal what their projects are throughout the day. It also helps to meet with the entire staff at least once a week and involve remote workers through video or conference call. This act can help everyone feel they are on the same page.

Utilize the Right Tools

One of the best ways to do this is to invest in project management and virtual communication systems. Project management software programs allow you to delegate tasks, monitor progress and even project how long a job would take to complete. Many of these can be integrated with virtual communication systems that enable workers to talk with each other as they complete tasks. These programs allow remote workers to stay in the loop and reveal their progress throughout the week.

Be Wary of Time Zones

Communication is probably the most crucial part of ensuring a smooth and well-run work environment, and time plays a considerable role in this.

Make Sure They Feel as If They Are a Part of The Team

It is easy for remote workers to feel invisible, so take as many moments as possible to let them know you see how they are assets to the company. Also, make a point to include them in fun office activities creatively.

Final Thoughts

While sometimes challenging, the process of managing employees who work from home does not have to bring chaos. By setting clear expectations, putting communication front and center, and ensuring they feel like a part of the team you can set remote workers up to thrive in your company.

5 Foolproof Strategies To Find And Land Your Next Remote Gig | Abdullahi Muhammed, Forbes.com

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Before you can enjoy the benefits of being a gig worker, you have to get some of those gigs lined up. Quantity isn’t the issue. There are plenty of low-paying gigs out there. What can be challenging is finding jobs that are consistent and that pay a decent wage.

Then there’s the matter of competition. Predictions are that the freelance workforce will increase to 43% by 2020, and you can be sure a good number of those workers will be remote workers. To find good positions, you have to be savvy. Here are five foolproof strategies to help you get started.

1. Conduct a skills inventory first
The most effective way for a freelancer to land remote work is to think of herself as a small business and focus on marketability,” said Nancy Van Brunt, Director of Freelancer and Agency Success at Upwork. “The skills needed today are constantly evolving so those who are proactive about skill-related education and development are more likely to possess the skills businesses are seeking today.”

2. Browse both job search boards and communities
Don’t ignore the potential of niche online communities and organizations to help in your job search either. Many of these are a great source of advice and insights about the job search. Some even have job listings for members. You can also find recommendations from more seasoned gig workers. There are multiple subreddits dedicated to remote/freelance work on Reddit as well.

3. Develop you CV and portofolio
Your portfolio should include detailed information and images of your best work. Remember to keep it up to date. Don’t forget to optimize your portfolio for relevant search phrases as you’ll want it to be findable by potential clients. You’ll also want to create a great CV that lets potential employers know exactly what you can do for their business. The key here is to ensure that the most important elements stand out.

4. Research a company before signing on
Before you accept a gig, always research the entity behind the offer. If you’re going through a gig worker platform, check the poster’s profile. This is often easy as most gig worker platforms, which exist to match, create trust between and protect parties to a gig project, make it easy to see the track record of the job poster.

5. Plan and work for sustainability
There are two categories of gig workers. First, there are those who are happiest picking up one short term job after another and doing one off assignments. If this is you, chances are you don’t need to sweat the interview process. Just build your reputation and you’ll be in business for the long term. Then there are those gig workers who seek long term relationships with companies who hire remote workers. If you want to pick up longer term work with companies that hire remote workers, you should expect the recruiting and hiring process to work just as it does with regular employment. This includes being interviewed.

Be prepared to work the gig you land

It does no good to land that next gig if you aren’t prepared to work it. Make sure you have the following taken care of:

  • A workspace that allows you to be productive. Consider a home office, coffee shop, or coworking space.
  • An internet connection that you can count on. It may be time to upgrade to a business package if you plan to work from home.
  • The tools that you need. Is your computer up for the job? Do you have the right productivity apps, word processing software or video conferencing app?

Follow these tips, then ensure you are prepared to be effective and productive.

Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How to Fix it | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

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This guide is for everyone else. While occasional breaks are great for the mind, excessive time waste leads to lost productivity, lower morale and decreased employee retention. Even employees who would otherwise be high performers can get caught in time-wasting traps, so leaders need to step in before things get out of hand.

To avoid low productivity and improve employee time management, follow these tips.

1. Set specific productivity goals.
People who don’t feel like they have the support of their managers are more likely to feel stressed than they are to feel motivated. Give workers the tools they need, and make yourself available for questions and feedback; then, step back and let employees work toward the goals you helped them set.

2. Schedule tasks in chunks.
The same type of work should take about the same amount of time to complete. Help employees create timelines for different types of projects so they know how quickly things should move across their desks.

When employees understand how long projects take and how long it takes to complete each piece, they don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This steady stream of effort prevents workers from falling into a cycle of working overtime to compensate for earlier procrastination.

3. Show employees how their work affects the whole.
Employees who waste time typically do so because they don’t see the point in working faster. To them, the company and their co-workers do just fine, no matter how well they do their job.

In this case, the issue isn’t about time management — it’s about employee engagement. Keep employees in the loop about what the company is accomplishing, and tie their work to those achievements. Recognize the contributions of outstanding employees and departments. Constantly communicate the mission of the company and how employees help further that mission.

Financial bonuses for a job well done are nice, but people respond even more positively to personal praise. Write handwritten thank-you notes to employees who go above and beyond. Include employees on customer communications when they solve a problem or provide great service. The more employees see the effects of their work in action, the more motivated they become to work hard.

Employee time management has a cumulative effect. Engaged employees who get things done inspire others to follow suit. Those who have little to do (and those who don’t do what they should) bring others down. Use this advice to develop an office filled with productive, time-conscious teammates.

11 helpful tips on how to balance working from home + #momlife | Danielle Braff, Mother.ly

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If you dream of being a working mom and stay-at-home mom, take some tips from these mothers who’ve made the most of flexible work options (and a whole lot of inner drive).

1. Be honest with your clients
If you’re working from home, be transparent about that from the get go. That way, if a child does burst into your office or the dog starts barking while you’re taking a call, you can just keep going without having to explain away the background noise.

2. Get a gym membership
A gym with on-site childcare is essentially an on-call babysitter, says Traci Kantowski, communications director with Trust Transparency Center. “I regularly take advantage of gym childcare when I need to be able to focus, or have an important call because I know my kids are cared for,” Kantowski says. Bonus: You can also actually just hit the gym.

3. Designate an area of your home for work
Kantowski’s children know they need to knock before entering her office, but not every family can devote an entire room to mom’s workspace. If all your bedrooms are full, you can still carve out a designated area just for your work, even in small spaces. Closets can make great compact work spaces, thanks to DIY ideas and products like this closet-to-office conversion kit from the Container Store.

4. Get a hotspot plan
For many mamas, working from home is appealing because it also allows us to be away from our desks. Ballet practice, carpool duty, library time—these are all things you can make time for when you’re not commuting, but you might have to squeeze in some work while chauffeuring the kids around.

Make sure your cell phone plan includes hotspot access, so you’ll be able to sneak in work time from the carpool line, the pool and the indoor playspace, Kantowski says.

5. Use electronics in case of emergency
Screen time guidelines suggest parents keep video time to a minimum, but, one work-at-home mom, Julianne Robicheau says sometimes a little screen time goes a long way to helping mama get her work done. Robicheau started her skin care company, Robi Luxury Skin Care, when her child was a year old, and says that, in a pinch, Ryder and his team of pups have come to save the day.

6. Let them help
Robicheau often lets her 4-year-old help her when it comes to photoshoots and putting together shipments. “I’m raising them to just roll with it,” she says, explaining that she even brings her kids to most business meetings. “I shot a marketing video with a videographer from home with both kids around,” Robicheau says.

7. Reserve special toys for key work moments
When her children outgrew napping, Stephanie Woodson, who writes sewing and craft tutorials for her web site, Swoodson Says, transitioned them to quiet time with audio books and puzzles in their room so she still had a chunk of the day to herself. “Reserving special toys or crafts for busy days is key: A sensory bin or magazine collage activity can keep them happy for a long time,” she says.

8. Share childcare with other work-from-home parents
If you know of other work-at-home-parents, you can swap children with them, giving each parent a day to work while the other parent watches everyone’s kids, says Swoodson, who did this many times.

9. Wake up early
Allison Carter, creator of Confetti Party Plans, wakes up an hour earlier than her children to set her daily goals, check her email and plan her social media so that when her children wake up, she gets to focus on breakfast knowing that she already accomplished something before she actually started her day.

10. It doesn’t matter where you’re working from
Sonja Thompkins is a homeschooling mother of a 5 1/2 -year-old and an online business coach for brick and mortar boutique owners. She says she uses her gym, the library, fast food restaurants or even the car to work—as long as her child is entertained, and even takes video calls.

11. Batch work when you can
Thompkins’ husband is an army reservist and a firefighter who works in 48-hour shifts. But when he’s home, he takes over so she can crank out as much work as possible. “I use a project management app to keep me focused on the tasks I need to accomplish, which is great for my productivity,” she explains.

If you’re just starting out as a work-at-home parent, you’ll soon figure out that you’ll need to adjust your expectations, your technique and your methods as your family grows.

In the end, it’s all about flexibility. And isn’t that what working from home is all about?