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: 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: June 16, 2018

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

How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work | Andrew Medal, Entrepreneur.com

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Working remotely can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompany documented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

Struggling with your calendar

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

1. Create your list of tasks.
2. Prioritize the list.
3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

Chasing clients for payment

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.

Convert Your Office Job To A Work-From-Home Arrangement | Manon DeFelice, Forbes.com

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A recent survey of over 5,000 workers by FlexJobs found that telecommuting 100% of the time is the most desired type of flexible work arrangement among job seekers. Such arrangements appeal strongly to working parents and others seeking better work-life balance.

Before you ask to switch to a telecommuting arrangement with your boss, consider the following tried-and-true tips.

1. Build your case with solid research. Instead of just listing all the personal reasons why you want to work from home, present your boss with a face-based presentation on how remote work arrangements can be a benefit to the company.

2. Offer examples of other companies’ flex policies. When you show your employer that other companies are going flex, he or she might be more inspired to implement a flexibility policy at your workplace. Present your boss or manager with sample flexibility policies, such as the nine examples included in this article from 1MFWF.

3. Try working flex once a week on a trial basis. If your manager needs convincing, let her test-drive your telecommuting capabilities one day a week to see how it goes. If your boss goes for it, use that day as an opportunity to show just how productive you can be when you work from home.

4. Be a communication whiz. Convince your boss how easy it is to stay closely in touch with you, no matter where you are. A wealth of technology can help teams stay connected around the world, from Skype and Google Chat to Basecamp, Slack and many more.

5. Offer to take a salary cut. Many people feel that working from home is a reward in itself, saving you the hassle of commuting and increasing your quality of life. You can assign a monetary value to it, and suggest a pay savings for the company by letting you telecommute.

6. Get another flexible job offer, and let your boss match it. A job offer from another company can be very motivating for your boss to let you switch to a work-from-home arrangement.

What if your boss can’t match the competing offer? Then maybe it’s time to make the move to a more forward-thinking company—and start living the work-from-home lifestyle that you envision for yourself.

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You for Entrepreneural Success | Deep Patel, Entrepreneur.com

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If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales
A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognize that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful startup.

2. Human Resources
HR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

3. Customer service
Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership
To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants — these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

8 effective time management tips for entrepreneurs working from home | Toby Nwazor, e27.co

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If you are working from home, you will understand how challenging it can feel at times to manage your time effectively so as to increase your productivity. Below are eight points that can help you do that.

1. Prepare your to-do list every night before you sleep
If you really want to manage your time effectively, then you should wake up with tasks on your mind. And the best way to do this is to make a list of the next day’s tasks at night before you go to bed. That way, you can maximise your morning hours and achieve a lot more before the rest of the world get to work.

2. Prioritise your tasks
It is not enough to prepare a to-do list, you need to prioritise your goals. Divide your tasks according to what you must do, what you should do, what you want to do just because it’s nice, what another person can do for you, and what must not be done.

3. Work out a schedule, and maintain it
Assuming you had to go to work, what would your schedule look like? Duplicate it for the house. If you decide to work from 7 am to 4 pm, so be it. Make the people you live with understand it. This means that there will be no running of errands around that time, neither would you decide to hang out with a friend that just came into town.

4. Define and own your workspace
A few weeks ago, I hired someone to redesign my office. I told him I wanted to have an ‘office feeling’ whenever I entered that particular room, and he did it. After that, I noticed that I work faster when I get into the office and focus on a particular task.
You should do likewise. This will help you more if you live with a someone. In that case, let them know that unless it is very important, your office is where you work and there should be no distractions.

5. Work when you are the most productive
Although you work at home, you need to find out when you are the most productive. The secret is to schedule your most important tasks at that period. That way, you will accomplish more in less time.

6. Cut off distractions
Cut off every distraction. This could entail telling your family, or the people you live with not to disturb you when you are at work. Make them understand your schedule.

7. Avoid clutter
Don’t allow your workspace to be cluttered. This includes arranging your system files and folders and managing your email better too.

8. Take brain breaks regularly
You must try to avoid having burnouts at all costs. This is especially important if your job requires creativity. Work at a stretch for some time, but make sure to schedule breaks into your plan. This is the time you get to rejuvenate, listen to music, call a friend, or maybe just read a novel.

When you do this, you will come back rejuvenated and ready to take on more tasks.

 

Remote Work Digest: May 9, 2017

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

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Image from https://www.pgi.com/blog/2017/07/why-remote-work-policies-fail-some-employers/

These 10 tips will help you enjoy working from home | Joshua Trudell, Rare.us

Having a home office and working from home can be a blessing and a curse. Here are 10 tips that’ll help you enjoy working in your own space.

1. Figure out tax repercussions

To write off home-office costs, you must use the area for work only and on a regular basis. You should be able to write off 100 percent of costs associated exclusively with your home office — everything from buying a work computer to office supplies.

2. Create a daily work schedule

If you work for one company, try to set well-defined work hours to avoid phone calls and emails without boundaries on your personal time. If you are a well organized self-starter with time management skills, you’ll be better off.

3. Keep your visibility high

People who work from home are often saddled with an unfair label that they can’t really manage others while working from home.  To help ward that off, make an effort to show-up on a regular basis for meetings and other office gatherings.

4. Be an extrovert

Co-workers can also be envious of your freedom, so make the effort to get out of the house and get in an out-of-the-office lunch or coffee with them to avoid the hard feelings.

5. Network electronically

Look into judicious use of social media – particularly those outlets that can relate to your profession, such as LinkedIn. Comment on posts and contribute your own to display your expertise and get that connected feeling.

6. Get dressed (or not)

If you’re going to be more comfortable and can stay focused on work while in jeans and a T-shirt – that’s one of the benefits of working at home. if you are going to be meeting or videoconferencing with co-workers or clients, you should dress appropriately.

7. Be prepared to be your own IT department

If you’re an employee, try to butter up someone in the IT department, who you can reach out to in a pinch. If not, invest in some training – possibly an inexpensive class at a community college or know the quickest route to the Apple store in your neighborhood.

8. Become familiar with web-based applications

Know the cloud, love the cloud – it’s your friend.

9. Don’t forget about insurance

Most home-business owners have little or no coverage from their homeowner’s policy. What’s more, if you file a homeowner’s (or renter’s) claim for losses that stemmed from an undisclosed home-based business, your insurer may not cover it.

10. Set up your computer so you don’t waste time online

Try setting up two user accounts – one for work, which allows the apps and sites you need to get work done, and another for personal use. If you continue to have issues, try getting a laptop for personal use and put it somewhere inconvenient during the day.

Make Your Workforce Smarter By Letting Them Work Remotely | Boris Dzhingarov, TgDaily.com

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In a society that has mostly valued hard work in the form of manual labor over the creativity and problem-solving of the mind, it’s rough being creative when your skillsets and talents don’t function on the typical work cycle of Monday through Friday from the crack of dawn until sunset. Thankfully, many tech industry employers are catching on to the need to allow their workers more freedom both inside and outside of the office. Companies like eBay, Facebook, Google, and even Apple – with their relaxed environments and remote work forces – are all setting an example of what it looks like to prepare for a future of absolute genius.

Problems are solved unconsciously

If you’re like most businesses, you probably have creative team members functioning in various roles who need to solve problems as part of their jobs. The dilemma is that solutions are not likely to come while they’re sitting at their desk looking busy. Solutions are found when the mind is not engaged in rational or deep thought. These solutions come at times when the conscious mind is free – in the car, in the shower, while taking a walk, or upon arising from a nap.

Getting the conscious mind out of the way

When the conscious mind is running the show, the prefrontal cortex is in charge. The prefrontal cortex provides the ability to focus and meet deadlines; however, it also kills creativity because when logical and rational thought are engaged, the brain brushes off creative solutions before the conscious mind picks up on them.

How freedom affects productivity 

Remote workers have been proven to be happier and more productive than those who work the traditional 9-5 schedule. Statistics show that the average 9-5 office worker only gets about 3 hours of work done per day. That’s a huge difference!

Traditional schedules don’t work for all-around

If you want to see better results in your business, before you buy the next best system for success, try allowing your staff to work from home a couple days out of the week. You’ll probably be surprised to see your staff’s happiness and productivity rise at the same time.

3 Ways Virtual Workers Make Organizations More Effective | Munira Rangwala, Yourstory.com

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Technology has made it possible for startups to hire the best talent from all across the world at sensible rates. Startups are recognizing the importance of creating and managing virtual teams and the big billion dollar companies are soon following suit. One survey reports that 73 percent of employees believe that the challenges that virtual teams pose are overshadowed by the benefits. Today, entrepreneurs are readily outsourcing duties that are not within the main scope of their business to virtual employees.

Here are three ways in which virtual workers make organizations more efficient.

Best talent available

If companies begin to feel that managing a virtual team is creating more work for them, they are bound to give up on the idea of remote working. The solution to this is to create a common framework so that managers as well as virtual employees can work together effectively once they have found each other. Virtual assistant companies do just that. They add an important layer of management to the freelance economy which benefits the companies that hire them and the talent that works for them.

Effective administration

Virtual employees are often better at operating social tools that help streamline teamwork and collaboration. This allows virtual workers to be effective at tasks that generate maximum value for their company.

Allotment of resources

By reducing the number of on-site employees, a lot of small and mid-size organizations are reconsidering the traditional office expenditures. However, virtual talent doesn’t come cheap. If companies want to hire the best, they should be open to shelling out larger paychecks.

If you still aren’t sure about outsourcing work, look at your motivations and see if they align with the benefits of outsourcing. Consider the amount of time, money, and management efforts outsourcing will save your company and only then go ahead with the decision.

How to Make an Awesome Remote Team | Kirsten Helvey, Fortune.com

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Here are some strategies for helping your own team work effectively, wherever its members may be:

Use the best collaboration tools

It can be easy for people to begin to feel disconnected and thus disengaged, so make sure you utilize the best technology to enhance your remote workplace.

Foster team spirit

The office should be a social place where relationships are built. Although it can feel awkward at first, video conferencing can really help remote teams get to know each other. Also, try to partake in employee celebrations for major milestones, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, and big accomplishments.

Flex your work schedule
Remote workers should have the freedom to choose not just when they work, but how they spend their work hours.

Engage with your manager

Regular check-ins with managers are foundation to successful remote working relationships. The more a manager understands your day-to-day activities, the better. I find that documenting tasks and goals for both the near term (weekly and monthly) and the long term (quarterly and annually) is crucial to staying on track.

Working remotely requires strong communication, established goals, and clear expectations. If you can stick to these guidelines, you’ll end up a happier and more engaged employee.

Remote Work Digest: April 24, 2018

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

How to Transition Your Business from an Office-Based Company to a Remote One | Russell Smith, Business.com

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Remote working is becoming increasingly popular in business. It can drive down costs and improve employee happiness. But how do you make your company remote?

The desire for employees to work remotely is on the rise. Workers value the flexibility, and employers can save thousands on operational costs. If your employees all work from home, that means no office space to rent, no bills for food, no more electric bills to power your office equipment. It can also open you up to new avenues of online business.

Can you actually make your business remote?

Companies considering a move to remote operation need to perform an analysis of their brand and establish whether or not it is actually beneficial, or even realistic.

Considerations to make include:

  • Efficiency and practicalities. How will remote working impact your ability to complete the tasks you and your workforce normally perform? Will it speed things up, slow them down or maintain similar output levels?
  • Consumer satisfaction. Is an office or storefront part of your core service delivery process? If so, moving remotely may impact how your customers perceive the value of your company.
  • Investment. Going remote may require investment into staff, equipment and work tools.
  • Growth opportunities. Could going remote hinder your ability to grow? While it could be beneficial in some circumstances, operating a physical location within vibrant, industry-leading areas can be important to attracting investors and building relationships.

Consider your transitional strategy.

How should you go about doing this?

  • Identify goals. What are your goals for going remote?
  • How will you achieve those goals? Establish how you will use remote working to achieve the goals you’ve set.
  • Timeframes and deadlines. Set broad deadlines for establishing your remote business. Then set firm schedules and timelines for specific steps of the transition within those deadlines.
  • Announcement. Inform clients and employees of the change. Allow enough time for questions to be asked and decisions to be made. Some employees and clients may be against the shift. They must be given time either to adjust to the change or to move on from your business, allowing you to fill gaps now. This is beneficial to both them and your company.

Establish your software platforms.

Software exists to manage all facets of remote working life, covering everything already in place in your typical workplace headquarters.

  • Work connectivity. Cloud-based software allows you to connect your business to any location in the world. Many applications provide helpful tools for maintaining long-distance workplace connectivity.
  • Industry-specific software. Most industries have specifically tailored cloud-based software that supports remote work. You just have to do your research and find what works for your brand.
  • Task management. Task management apps enable management to establish task lists, set deadlines and monitor progress for both themselves and their team.
  • Time management. Time management apps exist to track everything from work logs to activity levels.
  • Client and team communication. There are many apps that work well for online workplaces, enabling multiple channels of conversation that range from direct messaging to large chatrooms with hundreds of individuals. You can also use video conferencing to add that personal face-to-face touch when chatting with clients or engaging in important internal conversations and meetings.

Test your remote work structure.

Plans on paper rarely translate perfectly to real-world scenarios. Therefore, to ensure your shift in direction doesn’t lead to calamity, a trial period is recommended. During this time, partial remote work should be exercised.

Depending on your business, this will take different forms:

  • If you have a large roster of clients and employees, split them up. Assign some clients and employees to continue working under the current office-based structure while others are moved to a remote work structure and practices.
  • For smaller companies, instead of transitioning some individuals to the new system, make a switch to part-time remote work and monitor the difference in processes.

Any issues that come up you can then evaluate and decide to either scrap the project or revisit the planning process, assessing better avenues based on feedback and performance. For example, you may find your software choices are ineffective in practice or that clients who initially responded positively to the idea are making the transition more challenging.

If you find remote working to be a triumph, now is the time to make the full commitment.

The 15 most surprising flexible jobs, according to Flexjobs | Kathleen Lavine and Rebecca Troyer, Bizjournals.com

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Not the 9-to-5 grind, these flexible jobs may surprise you.

Listed by Boulder-based Flexjobs, these varied positions — which go far beyond general office work or data entry — could involve telecommuting, freelance gigs or part-time work.

Here are 15 of the most surprising flexible jobs:

  1. Senior Food Stylist. Responsible for styling food and kitchenware products for photo shoots.
  2. Music Researcher. Handles responsibilities including recording music performances, conducting in-person research in businesses, photographing locations, and completing detailed reports.
  3. Gameplay tester. Responsibilities include helping discover creative approaches to various game features, identifying bugs, creating & executing test cases for specified features, and communicating issues & risks.
  4. Medical illustrator. Develops editorial imagery required for new products.
  5. Senior voice recording transcriber. Transcribe 30 to 60 minute audio files into transcripts that are near verbatim, differentiation between interviewer and participants’ remarks.
  6. Animal behavior counselor. Handles tasks such as providing on-scene behavioral trauma documentation, conducting behavior evaluations, reviewing and editing forensic behavior reports, participating in media interviews, and other assigned duties.
  7. Archivist. Lead projects, convert data and work to engage audiences.
  8. Mammalogist. Develop survey and research projects, identify informational needs, communicate information, and assist land managers.
  9. Opioid program specialist. Assists with developing or revising contracts, grant applications, and/or state and federal reports.
  10. Investigator – Civil rights. Responsible for completing investigative and mediation activities.
  11. Oceanographer. Lead, analyze, interpret, portray and input technical data, prepare environmental impact statements, serve as program lead.
  12. Organic certification specialist. Performs technical reviews of crop, wild crop, livestock, or processor applications.
  13. Pig idea and policy officer and stakeholder coordinator. Manages and supports implementation initiatives and queries that arise from users.
  14. Role player, assessment practice. Conducts phone-based role-play exercises and rates participants at a virtual assessment center.
  15. Construction control representative (civil). Responsible for overseeing dam modifications and civil construction projects.

Flexjobs also maintains a list of 50 current “surprising” flexible jobs as well as a database of the 50 most surprising jobs based on 10 years of aggregated research. Here’s the full report.

How To Tune Out Distractions & Get Things Done With These 6 Simple Tricks | Caroline Burke, Elitedaily.com

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When you work in an office, there are plenty of distractions that can get in the way of you doing your literal job, from noisy co-workers, to blasting music, to that “open workspace” vibe, which basically invites everyone to come talk to you at your desk every five minutes. But even if you work from home, there are distractions you have to avoid there, too, like playing with your pet floof, or toggling over to Netflix for 10 minutes or so for a “quick” break.

Here are six quick tips for drowning out the daily noise of your life and getting sh*t done faster.

  1. Invest In Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Sometimes the easiest way to get rid of distractions is to literally block them out. Investing in a clutch pair of headphones that block out the external noise of your life doesn’t have to bankrupt you, either; there are plenty of noise-cancelling headphones under $100 for you to consider.

  1. Schedule A Work-From-Home Day When Things Get Really Hectic

Working from home ensures you can actually run your day the way you want to, without dealing with unexpected meetings or co-workers who drop by “for a second” just to talk. You probably won’t be able to work from home all the time, depending on what you do, but taking that day for yourself every once in a while can definitely help you get back on track with your productivity.

  1. Use Your Calendar To Block Out Time On Your Schedule

Even if it’s purely for the visual aspect of it all, blocking out time on your calendar could be enough to a) keep people at work from bothering you, and b) organize your time in a way that ensures you get everything done, distraction-free.

  1. Map Out Exactly What You Need To Do Before You Do It

Consider taking time each evening to write down a set of notes about what you need to get done the next day. That way, you won’t have to waste time scrolling through calendars or asking your co-workers what they need from you.

  1. Organize Your Workspace With A Minimalist Vibe

Unless your brain only works via a series of sticky notes, try keeping your desk as minimalist as possible, allowing you to move through your workday without feeling totally overwhelmed by the clutter. Or keep it totally messy, if that’s what makes you feel better! It’s all about finding the environment that makes you feel best as you work.

  1. Be Honest With Friends and Co-Workers

Although it might feel awkward to tell someone to go away, everyone understands the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to get done, and for that reason alone, it might be best to be totally honest with your co-workers and friends about needing that distraction-free time.

Consider telling them you need an especially quiet day to get through all of the bullets on your to-do list, or opting to work during lunch to take advantage of the quiet and taking your break when everyone else comes back.

Tips to manage remote employees | Chris Smith, Knowtechie.com

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Remote work and freelancing is not all guts and glory and can become quite stressful for people. While this is rarely the case, there are ways to fix these issues and improve the relationship between managers and remote employees. Let’s explore some strategies.

Optimize Your On-Boarding Process

With proper expectations in place, remote employees are equipped with the skills and knowledge they require to succeed at a job. Create goals and timelines for projects and run new remote employees through the ropes to see how well they handle it and how on time each task comes in.

Create a Unified Culture

With a unified company culture, you can immediately weed out the weeds who don’t fit into your organization and don’t believe in its mission.People are motivated to work for companies they feel are larger than themselves. Create a sense of pride and direction for each employee, regardless of their status, to motivate them to do more. Loyalty and community lead to leadership and increased collaboration.

Leverage the Right Telecommunication Tools

There are so many tools out there to keep up with remote employees and communicate in real-time. Skype is an obvious one, but Slack is another great alternative that many companies now leverage. 43% of the nation’s richest 100 companies use Slack. For companies that rely on remote crews, crew trackers and attendance management systems allow managers to keep track of employees by location and project status.

Communicate Emotion in Chats

When you can’t communicate in real time, try to keep communication light and fun. It may sound stupid, but use gifs and emojis to convey emotion to freelancers and remote workers to make them feel a part of the team. Be sure to give praise when earned through emojis and announcements on Slack.

Be Flexible, But Keep a Backbone

Finally, it’s important to set schedules and deadlines for remote workers to adhere to. But you mustn’t forget the purpose of remote work, which is the ability to complete assignments freely and on your own timeline. Offer remote workers the freedom they need to work a night shift busting out content instead on the 9-5 grind. Of course, don’t let that mean remote workers are too free to give you the work months behind because they finally got to it.

Remote Work Digest: March 20, 2018

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

How To Become The Type Of Manager People *Actually* Like Working For | Erin Bunch, Wellandgood.com

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Some seriously successful boss babes weigh in on how to conquer the imposter syndrome most first-time managers experience and become the type of leader that your team (it’s your team now!) would be excited to work for.

Tips on how to successfully transition into a management role:

1. Avoid micromanaging
Stephanie Horbaczewski, founder and CEO of the Marketing Services Agency and Media Company StyleHaul, first and foremost calls out an all-too-familiar misstep she’s watched new managers make: micromanaging. “The most consistent misjudgment I see in managers is not recognizing when to have enough confidence in their teams to work autonomously to produce great results,” she says. To remedy this, she suggests allowing individuals to have more ownership and accountability for their own projects. “When team members grow, the company does, too,” she says.

2. Become “radically candid”
Communication, my boss babes say, is also key. “One of the biggest management challenges is [learning how to be] radically candid, or giving feedback that is direct, thoughtful, and ongoing,” says Katerina Schneider, founder of the buzzy supplement company Ritual. “I’m still learning how to do this, but the best mentors and leaders I’ve ever encountered are masters at helping their team constantly evolve and grow through feedback that is honest and caring.”

3. Tailor your management style to each person
It’s also important to recognize that cookie-cutter techniques may not be the most efficient way of dealing with individuals, says Sakara Life co-founder Danielle DuBoise. “Each person needs to be managed in their own unique way, and you have to adapt your communication styles accordingly,” she says. “This way of building a team is very effective because people feel seen and heard as individuals, rather than as worker bees.” Getting to know a person’s specific strengths and weaknesses will also, she says, help you to assign projects accordingly.

4. Teach, don’t tell
Meanwhile, Meg He, co-founder of Aday, posits that the most effective communication sometimes involves less talking and more doing. “Telling rather than teaching [is a big mistake I see new managers make],” she cautions. “This approach does not enable an employee’s growth.”

5. Allow others to be “smarter” than you
Whitney Tingle, co-founder of Sakara Life, agrees with this approach. “One of the biggest mistakes I see managers make is thinking they have all the answers instead of asking the right questions,” she says. “True leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about surrounding yourself with amazing and intelligent people and making sure all that effort is aligned with the company’s mission.”

6. Start slow
Bandier founder Jennifer Bandier, meanwhile, cautions against a management mistake that can rankle a new team right off the bat. “New managers tend to come in and want to create immediate change; however, I believe that you should first learn about the existing processes and listen to your teammates and employees,” she says.

7. Celebrate success
In today’s fast-paced work environments, it can be tough to slow down enough to appreciate progress, Aday co-founder Nina Faulhaber says. She tells me that she loves to be “in the weeds” with her team, from creation to execution of a project or idea, but that sometimes she’ll move on too quickly once a project’s been completed. “This means I often forget to celebrate wins,” she says. “I’m so grateful when our team reminds us of successes and the moments we should cherish together.”

9 traits of successful programmers that kids can develop now| Mike Melnicki, Venturebeat.com

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Qualities like curiosity, perseverance, and empathy are critical and, frankly, harder to learn the older we get. If you want to equip your kids with the skills and traits they’ll need to make it as a software developer, start early and get them to go beyond the keyboard.

1. Focus
While there are lots of ways to foster focus in kids, I encourage parents to go the route of giving their child unstructured time to dive deep into whatever they enjoy doing. Let them understand what it feels like to be totally absorbed in something. Whether they’re shooting hoops or drawing, they’re building the muscle memory they need to see a task through to completion.

2. Collaboration
Making software is a team sport: It takes developers, designers, product managers, marketers, and customer support engineers. So what better way to learn how to work with others toward a common goal than by playing a team sport? Or if your kid isn’t interested in athletics, they can form a band, build a clubhouse with friends, or team up to work on a project. All of these collaborative activities teach kids how to divvy up the work, play their positions, and support each other.

3. Leadership
Providing opportunities to practice leadership at home can also lighten the load for parents. Find something your child can be in charge of: a flower bed, one day of your next family vacation, Grandma’s birthday gift, etc. It’s not about making them do it all themselves (delegating is an important skill, too!), it’s about giving them ownership of something. Let them make decisions about what gets done, and how.

4. Emotional Intelligence
Empathy is the key not only to creating software your customers love but to being a great teammate as well. Experts have written extensively about how to build empathy in kids, but I have a few favorites. The classic game of “what does that cloud look like?” introduces young kids to the idea that different people have different perspectives.

5. Curiosity
If you aren’t constantly learning and growing, your skills will atrophy and you’ll eventually be left behind. As with focus, unstructured time to explore an interest is a good way to foster curiosity. Better yet, parents can nurture their child’s curiosity by connecting them with books, activities, and documentaries on whatever subject they’re into. Bonus points for parents who demonstrate passionate curiosity about their own interests.

6. Growth mindset
Kids whose parents set an example by admitting what they don’t know (and inviting their child to come along and find the answer) have a leg up when it comes to developing a growth mindset. See also: kids whose parents take the time to explain complex concepts or systems to the best of their ability. Answering tough questions with “Well, that’s just the way it is” is expedient in the moment but does no good in the long run.

7. Writing
Very young kids can get a head start by telling you about what they did at school (and don’t hold back on the follow-up questions!). Parents of older kids can encourage journaling or writing short stories. When they’re ready, encourage them to write to companies whose products they use or to their representatives in government to advocate for things they are passionate about.

8. Storytelling
Asking kids to recount things that happened at school is a good way to foster this skill. So is making a short adventure movie with a smartphone for their friends – the more drama the better. As a bored teenager, I and my group of friends started organizing a show-and-tell event in the neighborhood where we’d tell a story about an object and why it was meaningful to us. It began with five attendees and grew to beyond 50 people on a monthly basis.

9. Teaching
Most kids love to show off what they know, so channeling that energy into teaching usually isn’t a hard sell. They can help younger siblings learn how to tie their shoes, fold clothes, braid hair, skateboard … whatever. Older kids can hone their teaching skills even futher by becoming peer tutors at school.

Learning and enrichment are the keys to future success, but burn-out is real. Heed the warnings of those child-athlete-gone-bad documentaries and encourage your kids to find their own path through early life and then send me their resumes in 10 years so I can hire them! A well-rounded childhood sets them up for a fulfilling career in software development, or wherever they ultimately choose to go.

Avoid Making These 7 Mistakes When Designing Your Home Office | Annie Pilon, Smallbiztrends.com

A home office can offer entrepreneurs a low-cost, convenient and comfortable place to run a business. But if it’s not designed well, it can also lead to plenty of distractions and loss of productivity.

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Blake Zalcberg is the president of OFM, a furniture manufacturer and distributor based in North Carolina. In addition to his design acumen, Zalcberg is also familiar with the importance of an effective home office due to the fact that a good portion of the OFM team works from home on a regular basis. So he’s familiar with a lot of the concepts that go into designing an effective workspace, along with some of the most common mistakes.

If you’re working to design your own home office, here are some missteps to avoid.

Designing Your Office as an Afterthought
Zalcberg says, “A lot of people just end up putting the office in that old formal living room that used to have plastic over the couches because it’s just not really used or they think they don’t need a dedicated office space at that time, even if they will in the future.”

Even if you don’t have a ton of space options for your office, try to choose or outline a space that will actually be conducive to good work, rather than just throwing a desk in the corner of the dining room.

Putting the Office Near Distractions
Distractions can be different for each worker. Some people can work with the TV on but get distracted if they see people walking down the street. So while it may not be possible to eliminate every potential distraction while working from home, think about the things that are most likely to derail your work and try to limit those as much as possible.

Failing to Soundproof your Office
No matter what your distraction levels might be, there’s value to having some level of soundproofing to your home office, whether that involves acoustic wall tiles or a solid wood door to shut out the rest of the house.

Zalcberg says, “Think about if you’re on a conference call. Do you want the person on the other line to hear the dog barking and doorbell ringing and kids running around, or do you want them to feel like you’re really focused on what they’re saying?”

Include Subpar Lighting
Poor lighting can also be a major hindrance to good work. If your office is in a room with minimal windows and you don’t have adequate overhead lighting, you’re likely to strain your eyes and get tired or worn out quickly. However, even if the only space you have is the basement, you can install bright LED bulbs in your overhead fixtures and then add table lamps to your space to make a big difference.

Forgetting About Comfort
Another source of distraction for some home office workers is the furniture. If you have an old desk and uncomfortable chair, it can make your office an unwelcoming space and even lead to back and neck problems. Instead, find an ergonomic chair that feels comfortable for you.

Failing to Plan for Avoiding Clutter
Once you outline the space to use and eliminate potential distractions, you then have to think about how to lay everything out effectively so that all of your items and documents have a set space. Think about your typical workday and the items you use most often to make sure that nothing will be left just floating around your desk or workspace.

Automatically Going with “Office Style”
According to Zalcberg, there’s been a major shift in home offices over the past several years. Before, offices in the home strongly resembled traditional offices, with similar furniture styles and generic office decor. But now, more entrepreneurs and professionals are taking the opportunity to get creative and make the office feel more like a part of the home. This doesn’t mean you should avoid generic office furniture. But you certainly don’t have to opt for this style just because you’re designing an office space.

The BEST lifehacks for a good night’s rest – including exercise and sex | Jeff Parsons, Mirror.co.uk

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According to The Sleep Council, nearly half of Brits are only getting about six hours of sleep a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate (or ‘toxic’)sleep.

Thankfully there are a range of techniques compiled by that can be used for a better night’s kip.

Here’s ten of the best from GPDQ, the UK’s first GP on-demand app:

1. Develop a sleep routine
Start developing a sleep routine a couple of hours before bed, to get your body and brain prepared for a restful night.

Firstly ensure that you go to bed at the same time every night, and as tempting as it may be to have a lie-in, it is also important to get up at the same time each morning.

Secondly, become a creature of habit, repeating the same bedtime routine every night to help to regulate your inbuilt body clock, (the circadian rhythm) and give your brain the cue it may need to know when it’s time to unwind and go to sleep.

2. Avoid white light before bed
Watching TV or using your computer or phone before bed may be considered a good way to relax before bed, but it can sometimes be detrimental. Namely because the bright light emitted, may act as an environmental cue to your body that it is wrongly day time, and therefore hinder any biological desire to fall asleep.

3. Take a warm bath
As well as the relaxation-factor it provides, research has shown that if you take a warm bath one to two hours before bed, the rise in temperature, followed by the drop-in temperature when you then enter a colder room induces sleep.

4. Listen to electronic music
A state of relaxation can be achieved in many ways including by reading, or listening to music. The influence of music in relaxation has becoming increasingly studied – most will listen to classical music or piano playlists; however an acclaimed DJ is encouraging people to turn to electronic music. DJ Tom Middleton, has created a sleep album called ‘Sleep Better’ designed to help Britons drift off, and it’s backed by science.

5. Reschedule your potential nightmare worries
If anxieties keep popping into your head, stopping you from falling asleep, acknowledge and accept them, but avoid feeding them with too much of your time. Rather than ruminating over these worries, write them down and pick them back up in the morning with a fresh head.

6. Learn relaxation techniques
Gentle relaxation exercises like simple yoga stretches, combined with steady breathing can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate to help you relax. Other practises such as mindfulness and meditation may be useful to get into a calming state.

7. Pamper yourself
Self-care can also be a big part of relaxation – pampering yourself in the evening with soothing oils or body lotion can make starting a bedtime routine an enjoyable process.

8. Exercise regularly
Exercising is an important part of our physical and mental health, and is a good way to manage stress and anxiety through endorphin release.

We also know that exercising in the day can improve sleep quality, however if you’re having difficulty sleeping and considering hitting the gym a couple times a week to help catch some Zs, just keep in mind that you need to make exercise a more frequent activity for a prolonged period before you begin to see tangible results.

9. Sex will make you sleepy
This is thought to be due to the production of oxytocin, a hormone that will counteract the stress hormone cortisol, allowing you to feel more relaxed and transition nicely into sleep.

According to nhs.uk: “Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.”

10. Optimise your diet
In general, avoiding eating heavy meals before bed and reducing caffeine intake (ensuring none is consumed for at least 6 hours before bed) is likely to help.
We also know that whilst alcohol is likely to send you off to sleep, it is also likely to result in poor quality sleep, waking you up several times through the night.

What experts say:

“The most important myth of sleep is the 8-hour rule,” said Nick Littlehales a sport sleep coach that recently partnered with Braun UK. to help people lower their blood pressure.

“If you tap it in your browser you’ll realise that when that lightbulb was invented, we always slept in a polyphasic way. This means to sleep in shorter periods more often. People worry about sleep and try to do it all at night for 8 hours or more, which is really difficult,” he added.

“In sport we use a polyphasic approach where you sleep in shorter periods more often, by using naps at midday and early evening. We should aim to change our perspective of sleep and view it as recovery in 24 hours, instead of recovery eight hours at night.”