6 Astronomical Events to Add to Your Calendar

By | Scheduling | No Comments
astronomical events

While astronomical events happen so often, rarer events have been happening here on earth. With the pandemic and social distancing mandates, life has been challenging. But even as we’ve struggled, the earth has continued to move forward.

Planets still rotate, the sun sets, and the Moon rises. However, some of the most astronomical events have occurred in the last few years. For instance, there was a blue moon on Halloween in 2020. Did you see it? If not, you’ll have to wait until 2039 for that to happen again. But don’t worry, many astronomical events are coming up this year. You just have to make sure you see them.

Thankfully, we live in a time of online calendars. So instead of missing out on events, you want to witness — you can create events and even set reminders to ensure you don’t miss what’s important to you. Here are a few events you may want to add to your calendar.

1. Planets Align

When: June 24, 2022

On June 24th, there will be a rare astronomical event where the planets (Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn) will be bright enough to see with the naked eye. They will also appear in order from nearest to the furthest from the sun. Remember that the planets won’t be in line in the solar system — they will just appear that way to us on Earth. The Moon will also look to be aligned with the planets between Venus and Mars.

This alignment will occur before sunrise on June 24th across the eastern side of the Earth. And like mentioned, you won’t need a microscope to view it. Just walk outside and look up.

2. Southern Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower

When: July 28 – August 9, 2022

The Southern Delta Aquariids are a meteor shower best visible in the southern United States. This shower gets its name because of how it radiates in the constellation Aquarius. While the meteor shower typically takes place annually between the end of July and August, this year will be different.

At the shower’s peak, between July 28 – August 9, 2022, there will also be a new moon, which happens when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun. With a new moon comes darker skies and a clearer look at the meteor. Keep in mind that the shower will be most visible from mid-evening to dawn, highest around 2 a.m.

3. Jupiter Opposition

When: September 26, 2022

During astronomical autumn (September 22 – December 21), Jupiter will appear more visible than at any other time. This is called the “Jupiter Opposition,” because the planet will appear opposite of the sun, making it look bigger to us on Earth. However, Jupiter will also appear brighter because of its proximity to Earth.

According to research, the best time to see and photograph a planet is when it’s in opposition. And while Jupiter will be more visible during the entire season, it’ll reach its peak visibility on September 26th. So to ensure you get the best photo, aim to take the picture when it’s high in the sky, and there aren’t any clouds.

4. Fireballs With Northern Taurid Meteor Shower

When: November 11-November 12, 2022

The Northern Taurid meteor shower will be active from late October to mid-December of this year. This meteor shower happens annually and typically only produces a few meteors per hour. This year, however, will be different.

During the peak of the shower (between November 11-November 12), bright fireballs will appear in the sky. A fireball is a meteor but much brighter to the naked eye.

These fireballs accompany the Northern Taurid meteor shower once every seven years. So, if you miss it this year, you’ll have to wait until 2029.

5. Mars Opposition

When: December 8, 2022

On December 8, Mars will appear more visible and bright — the perfect time to take a photograph. Mars is one of the closest planets to Earth but will be opposite the sun in December, illuminating the sky all night. This is an astronomical event you don’t want to miss, especially considering Mars is one of the smallest planets in the solar system. It’s rare for this planet to appear bigger than the rest.

Similar to other oppositions, this one doesn’t happen often. The next time won’t be until January 2025.

6. First Supermoon

When: June 14, 2022

Well, I didn’t get this one edited to publish until today — so we all missed the Supermoon and the Strawberry moon. Even Forbes wrote about the Supermoon and Strawberry Moon. And I’m mad it wasn’t on my Calendar! A supermoon is pretty much what it sounds like — when the Moon looks bigger than usual. While the Moon doesn’t change in size, a supermoon happens when a full moon occurs at the closest point to Earth during its orbit. Not only does this make the Moon look larger, but brighter as well.

Supermoons aren’t rare, but they don’t happen all the time. That’s because a full moon only occurs once every 29.5 days. That said, not every full Moon is a supermoon since it has to also pass close to Earth. Therefore, a supermoon only happens a couple of times a year. So to make sure you don’t miss out, set a reminder for the next Supermoon on June 14, 2022.

Here are the dates for the future moons in 2022. Add them to your Calendar.

DATE TIME Nickname

July 13 2:37 p.m. Buck Moon

Aug. 11. 9:35 p.m. Sturgeon Moon

Sept. 10. 5:59 a.m. Harvest Moon

Oct. 9. 4:54 p.m. Hunter’s Moon

Nov. 8. 6:02 a.m. Beaver Moon

Dec. 7. 11:08 p.m. Cold Moon

Conclusion

The events above are worth seeing whether you’re an aspiring astronaut or a casual observer. Not only are they known to be breath-taking but also rare.

So to ensure you don’t miss out on these events, take the time to set reminders now. Then, all you have to do is add the events to your online Calendar. Not only will this visually remind you, but you can even set up calendar notifications beforehand.

5 Software Solutions for Better Time Management

By | Time Management | No Comments
Better Time Management

As an entrepreneur, one of the most difficult things to manage is your time. You wear multiple hats, trying to balance everything from checkbooks to customer complaints and internal affairs with your employees. Making sure you have time for all of that, plus a personal life to keep you sane, is just as important as it is challenging.

While discipline and hard work are certainly answers to time management concerns, there are other solutions worth exploring. In particular, consider these five software programs that have already been proven to help improve time management and overall productivity.

1. Project Management Software

If you were able to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably became familiar with at least one type of project management software. These tools made it possible for teams to continue working together despite not meeting in the same place. Even as offices return to normal, project management software is still seeing use because of how helpful it can be for time management.

Project management software can help you manage your time in many ways. Delegating tasks can be done much more quickly, and roles can be assigned publicly for the whole team to see. Many software programs include messaging capabilities to send quick updates and questions, whether you’re on your computer or mobile device. Most programs also allow you to integrate other apps such as Google Drive and Zoom.

Your entire team will become more efficient thanks to the features that project management software provides. Meeting times can be cut down due to increased communication, and resources can be more easily stored and accessed within the program. Over time your team will adapt the software to its needs making it become increasingly effective as time goes on.

2. Time-Tracking Software

One of the best ways you can improve your time management is to keep a daily record. You can do this on paper, but you’ll have a much easier time using time-tracking software. Not only is it faster to track your time through a digital program, but the software often comes with additional, helpful features.

One such example is Calendar, the aptly named online calendar application. One of its features is time analytics. As you update your events and appointments within Calendar, it breaks down your daily and weekly time usage. This allows you to visualize how your time is being spent. You may notice you’re spending too much time in meetings and not enough time networking thanks to these analytics.

Time tracking will also help you keep yourself accountable to projects and commitments. For entrepreneurs trying to get a start-up going this is especially important. Time tracking ensures that you’re putting in the effort required for success while still spending quality time with your family and friends.

3. Checklist Software 

When you have so many tasks staring you in the face it’s difficult to decide where you should start. Do you need to begin your day by checking emails, or should you finish that high-profile sales pitch first? What you need is a good game plan for your daily checklists. The less time you spend mulling over your to-do list, the more time can be spent toward action.

The first step is to make good lists. Checklist software can provide good templates for your to-do lists. You can organize tasks by type and urgency while adding colors and designs to set them apart. Visualizing your checklists will improve your ability to complete them.

Ranking your to-do list and prioritizing items in your schedule will be a little tougher. Try something like the Eisenhower Matrix to help determine which tasks should take precedence each day.

4. Automated Scheduling Software 

When it comes to time management, automation will always be your best friend. The more tasks you can automate, the fewer things you have to worry about each day. This frees up a lot of time for you to focus on a more concentrated list.

Let’s say you operate an appointment-based business. Clients can use automated scheduling software to book their appointments without needing to go through an agent. All of the time and effort needed to schedule appointments is now spent by the customer.

You can use automated scheduling software within your organization as well. A scheduling link can be shared with employees who might want to meet with you periodically. That same link can be shared with other companies or investors who work with you for optimized communication.

5. Knowledge Base Software

Also known as help center software, knowledge base software allows you to set up self-service content for your customers. A common use for this software is creating a Frequently Asked Questions page for your website. Informative blog posts or tutorial videos also fall under this category.

Such a tool is extremely valuable for small business owners who are more likely to be answering questions for customers. If prospective clients can get their questions and concerns answered on your website, there will be fewer calls to field and emails to respond to. Since most of these customer interactions can’t be planned for in advance, you’ll have an easier time sticking to a concrete schedule while building your business.

In addition to this list, there are many other types of software solutions that can help you better manage your time. Give at least one of them a try this month and pay attention to your time usage. Compare it to last month, and you’ll see which solutions are actually fixing your problems.

How to Schedule Remote and Office Work

By | Scheduling | No Comments
office working

Many of us have become used to working in hybrid work environments– whether it be in-office work or remote work– and also balancing personal life. Companies are focused on returning employees to work and many have worked through the challenges of the remote “era.”

Some companies have taken an approach of “okay, we went easy on you during covid — but now it’s time to get back to the office.” After the epidemic, just 46% of firms would accept remote work. Others have returned to the office or embraced a hybrid paradigm that allows remote and in-office work.

Companies and employees know how to work from the office and everyone learned how to shift and work remotely during the pandemic — but may still struggle with the hybrid approach and there’s no need to worry. Just learn how to do the hybrid work better.

Obtain the best of both worlds and utilize the hybrid work option

Desire the convenience of working remotely with the benefits of visiting your coworkers for the best results.

How to explain your option of a mixed schedule

For a hybrid work model to function for your organization and workers, it must be planned and purposeful.

Begin by choosing a model that fits your business. You may not get it right at first but choose one. The cohort schedule is arguably the simplest. You can build on this schedule after you know what works for you and your company.

Don’t apply a remote and office work hybrid schedule randomly

Introduce a one-day policy or a WFH policy. You may tweak and develop your model over time. It’s also wise to test your hybrid model on a small group of individuals before rolling it out to the whole company.

Record your work habits and that of your team. You may think of it as your company’s hybrid work manifesto. For example, is it simpler to brief everyone in writing, over Slack, or in a once-a-week, face-to-face meeting over Zoom< How will you handle something like onboarding new personnel?

Finally, choose the tools you will use to manage your varied work schedule. Therefore, apart from communication platforms (like Slack), you’ll need project management and reporting tools to guarantee everyone is on the same page.

Scheduling Remote Workers, Hybrid Employees, and Office Work Best Practices

If you’re ready to start using hybrid work in your workplace, some helpful habits, tools, and strategies are everywhere for you to take advantage of. You’ll want to manage hybrid work gaps — from policies to documentation, continuing education, and the specific tools you will all use consistently.

Here are a few notable areas to check for your hybrid employees.

1. Define KPIs

KPIs are your key performance indicators and the best way to see your staff’s effectiveness. For example, sales calls, articles created, and support tickets resolved will be some of your KPIs from the past that will still be relevant.

2. Adequate tools — still a must

Using platforms like Slack or Zoom to interact with your team is easy. Starting with Google Workspace is an excellent start, but it has limits. The best technologies allow your employees to operate productively and collaboratively from home. Yes, you may have to kiss a few frogs (as they say), but ask for suggestions from your team. And maybe the communication method you’ve always used with remote issues is fine. But check it out.

3. Set up schedules (and stick to them)

If you use a cohort or staggered schedule, have everything in writing and it to your online team calendar. However, understand that your staff will know exactly when and where they will be working — so ask them. As a manager, set an example — let your team know where you are and ensure that you keep to your timetable, or let someone know.

4. Decide how and when to communicate

Many hybrid and remote businesses use asynchronous communication, where workers respond to contacts when they are available. This is only one form of communication, so ensure there is a document where everything is written down and employees can refer back to it.

Determine the appropriate and type of communication for your requirements. You can use Zoom for customer-facing conversations and Slack for internal business calls. You can also send emails or put messages in your project management application.

Avoidable errors in your remote schedules and office work requirements

Rethinking your workplace has its own set of issues. Here are some frequent pitfalls to avoid while implementing or improving a remote-hybrid model.

Schedules may boost productivity, cooperation, and teamwork even while working out the issues associated with such implementations.

1. Not everyone follows the same rules — big rule breaker

When creating a hybrid schedule, one rule must apply to everybody.

It’s disheartening to work in an office 3–5 days a week while senior management works remotely full time. Therefore, all workers must follow the same rules to maintain a fair game where everyone wins.

2. Using outdated productivity tracking techniques

Monitoring employee productivity via invasive time-tracking or screen-recording equipment is obsolete. Understand that your employees will not only feel betrayed by your invasive behavior — but over-monitoring will hamper their productivity and career advancement.

3. Forgetting it — a huge error

Your model’s effectiveness requires constant innovation in hybrid methods and procedures. Include and fairly treat all members of your team. Monitor their reactions to the new structure. Your workers should not feel unjustly treated or that you favor a particular team. Create a timetable that meets each employee’s demands.

4. Offering possibilities based on hybrid workplace presence

Depending on how your employees live, some individuals can afford to be more present at work. Others, like parents or caregivers, cannot come as frequently. Therefore, as long as everyone does their job effectively and on schedule, everyone should develop their own career path. Never penalize individuals because they cannot be in the workplace more since this defeats the objective of a hybrid model and timetable.

5. Managing schedules

Companies let managers lead the way when experimenting with flexible work options. Many of them forced their staff into the workplace for no understandable reason and the timetable disappointed these employees.

If you have just implemented a hybrid model — don’t micromanage your staff. Micromanaging from a company or employer  can be so difficult that employees will resign. Make your company rules and follow them. And use scheduling apps whenever possible.

6. Breaking destructive behaviors with no information

Breaking destructive behaviors requires patience. But if you use such tools with your staff the hybrid schedules will begin to work well for you. Don’t make the mistake of just replacing workers who want to try a hybrid schedule.

Conclusion

You’ll have the temptation to resume office meetings if you partly enable staff to work from home. It’s crucial to include everyone, including those who still work remotely.

But seriously — squelch your fist-in-hand tendencies to keep control of everything in your company and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more productivity you see — along with heightened well-being in your team.

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thanks!

How to Schedule Remote and Office Work was originally published on Calendar by .

5 Ways to Prepare This Summer for Employees Going Back to School

By | Scheduling | No Comments
back to school

It’s normal for business to shift as the school year approaches, and this transition can affect employee availability and general operations. The academic calendar and breaks from school affect your business and your employees’ lives. So, how do you make their lives easier and maintain your daily operations?

Summer is an important time to prepare your business for the coming changes as some employees take classes in the fall. Don’t wait to plan your accommodations. Here are a few tips for managing back-to-school preparations during the summer:

1. Schedule Around School Hours

It’s a good idea to schedule your business with school hours in mind. As classes are in session, depending on your business, you may have more clients or less. If college students are a large portion of your customer base and they leave town for summer break, you might choose to be open less hours during that time. Then, the opposite is true for the fall when they come back.

It’s important to monitor these trends and adapt your operations. Ensuring business hours meet demand means that you’ll be able to schedule the appropriate number of employees and plan more strategically, even if your employees are in school themselves. You can also make sure these hours work for clients by asking them on social media, which improves brand engagement. Do your best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, and you can make up potential income dips elsewhere.

2. Consider Additional Hires or Shifts

It could be worth hiring additional employees to fill gaps as the availability of summer employees may shift as classes begin. Say that one employee will soon need a certain time frame free from work due to upcoming classes. You could hire a part-time employee to ensure their role is still fulfilled.

In addition to this change, you could also adjust your shift system to offer even more flexibility. Many businesses have a four shift system, with individuals working morning shift, mid-shift, evening, and overnight. To accommodate more workers’ schedules, you could offer additional hours. Maybe it’ll be easier for your new employees to come in with shorter shifts or different start and end times.

3. Stay Up to Date With Your Employees’ Schedules

Your business may be a seasonal one or have different workers during different shifts. In any case, you want to make the transition for incoming employees as smooth as possible. Check in with them as summer progresses, so they can update you with new needs and schedule changes. This also gives you the benefit of alerting customers should business hours need to change as a result.

If you have set up a shared employee shift calendar already, this is the perfect reason to use it. While you have all of the shifts organized on it, your employees can include their timelines right in the application. There won’t need to be any delay in finalizing shifts and operating hours for all to see online.

4. Permit Remote Work, If Possible

For a not-necessarily-in-person business, the remote option can make it much easier for employees to be available, faster. Being a student requires a lot of time dedicated to studying, and it’s typically easiest to do so at home. The less time they need to spend commuting, for instance, the longer they can focus on work before switching gears. They can even use the same devices to switch between these responsibilities, increasing efficiency on both sides.

Allowing remote work can also show your employees and clients how much you care about your personnel. In such cases, the former will feel a lot safer coming to you and therefore have higher morale and bandwidth. And the better the work your employees do, the more satisfied your clients will be.

5. Help Streamline Your Employees’ Workflows

Alongside scheduling around school hours, it can make the work feel more fulfilling if you streamline things for everyone. One way to do this is by planning difficult or high-effort tasks to be done earlier in the shift. When an employee needs to leave, they won’t feel guilty or anxious that important things are being momentarily put aside. Also, if you set up programs to automate little tasks, it can free up time for the important ones.

Instituting a new management system to keep projects on the public radar and up-to-date for those involved also improves workflow. This can eliminate the need for someone to sit down and plan something when they may not have the time. It can also keep everything and everyone organized without much human effort.

The end of summer doesn’t have to be a bad omen for business, if you prepare accordingly. The most important takeaway is to make sure that you’ll have the hands you need when you need them. Take your time and consider your employees’ needs, and you can help make them happen. When the fall comes around, you’ll be ready for anything.

Image Credit: Olia Danilevich; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone

By | Scheduling | No Comments
Flex Work

The demand for flex schedules at work is on the rise. ‌ ‌Almost ‌80%‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌workers in the U.S. would prefer a job offering a flexible work schedule over one without. As a consequence, this results in employers starting to accommodate this request. ‌

So, why are so many people ‌‌‌expecting flex schedules? ‌Well,‌ ‌flexible‌ ‌work‌ ‌schedules‌ ‌are good for employees, because they can organize their lives around their jobs — not‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌way‌ ‌around.

However, it has plenty of benefits for employers too. ‌For example, employee retention, productivity, diversity, and engagement may all be boosted by flexible scheduling. ‌As‌ ‌such,‌ ‌it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular employee benefits.

What are the best ways to set up flex work hours‌ ‌that‌ ‌work‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌business‌ ‌and‌ ‌your employees? ‌Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Flexible Work Schedule Policy?

Before going further, let’s quickly explain a flexible work schedule policy.

Employees can modify arrival and departure times when employers offer flexible work schedules. Employees can also decide how long and where they work. ‌It’s an alternative way to work instead of the antiquated 9 to 5, 40-hour workweeks.

You should know that the Fair Labor Standards Act in the U.S. doesn’t ‌address flexible work hours. ‌Instead, it’s something‌ ‌between‌ ‌employer‌ ‌and‌ ‌employee.

With that in mind, employees should be clearly informed who is covered by the policy and when a flexible schedule is available. ‌In addition, you should consider a variety of flexible schedules to meet the needs of all your ‌employees.

  • Flextime work schedule. With Flextime, workers can choose their working hours. ‌It‌ ‌also allows employees to adjust their operating hours from week to week, depending on the needs of the business.
  • Remote working schedule. An employee who doesn’t come into the office regularly works remotely. ‌For example, working from home could be an arrangement in which the employee works exclusively 2-4 days per week from home or from home.
  • Compressed workweek schedule. This allows employees to work their 40 standard weekly hours. But, over a shorter period than five days or ten days during the usual week. ‌An example would be to work an extra hour Monday-Thursday and to take a half-day off on‌ ‌Friday.
  • Part-time work schedule. This is a conventional type of flexible schedule. ‌For example, when an employer does not wish to lose a skilled employee, they may agree to let that person work part-time. ‌However, the employee cannot dedicate their time to full-time work.

How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a flex schedule is, as well as its variations. Now you can focus on making a company flex schedule that works for everyone.

1. ‌Involve employees in planning.

When establishing flex plans, companies often make the mistake of not communicating well‌ ‌with‌ ‌workers. So, the easiest solution? ‌Develop a flexible work program based on the interests and needs of your employees.

Determine whether the new work arrangement is right for them. ‌For example, will ‌employees remain productive under the new arrangement? ‌An ideal agreement would satisfy the employees’ personal needs while addressing the company’s need to provide high-quality‌ ‌products‌ ‌and‌ ‌services.

How can you get your team involved? You could collect feedback through surveys, one-on-ones, or town halls.

You can ask your team for feedback in many ways, but know what works best‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌people. For example, in team meetings, some employees might feel more comfortable offering candid feedback. Others might prefer a confidential, anonymous‌ ‌survey.

2. Know your team.

“As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to know the people on your team,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Knowing who you work with allows you to be mindful of their tendencies and build more than just trust.”

It is also easier to delegate tasks to your workers if you know them well. ‌As a result, you’ll have more insight into the team, which will help when selecting a combination of personalities for a specific‌ ‌project‌ ‌or‌ ‌team. ‌Knowing you’ve already done the hard work, you can resist the urge to micromanage them.

Remote workers can be more challenging to get to know than their in-person counterparts. ‌Follow these steps to get to know them:

  • Prioritize facetime. “You might not be able to be physically together, but technology can be a bridge,” says Howie. “Eat lunch together once a week via videoconference.” ‌Plan to fly them in at least once a quarter for meetings.
  • Be generous. ‌To build trust, you need to take risks. ‌And — you should give people a chance. For example, “If they want noise-canceling headphones, could you surprise them with a pair?”
  • Ask questions. ‌Around 60-80% of our conversations revolve around ourselves. ‌Encouragement not only enables you to understand who they truly are. But it also strengthens your relationship with them.

Respected leaders motivate their workers to keep working through tough times. ‌If more needs to be done, they will speak up for it. ‌In short, make an effort to get to know them.

3. Instill a sense of purpose.

“It is time for a flexible work paradigm shift, with less focus on where or when we work, but rather on how value is generated,” Jason Grover, HR Vice President Polaris Industries Inc., told Forbes. “COVID has taught us that our productivity is contingent less on location, more on leadership instilling a sense of purpose.”

When we align employees with salient priorities and foster an environment where they can give their best effort, he says people are more likely to choose‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌productive‌ ‌path.

4‌. ‌Conduct‌ ‌a‌ ‌trial‌ ‌run.

If‌ ‌you’re apprehensive about starting a flex work plan or getting a lot of resistance, a trial run might help. ‌

Create a trial, flexible work program before launching a full-scale program. ‌The process can be carried out by a single department or a small group of employees from various departments. ‌Run the trial for at least a month to work out the kinks and collect‌ ‌data.

You may notice that not everyone is cut out for remote work. While others, however, thrive in a WFH environment.

5. Flexibility is all about being flexible.

How does a company like Vistaprint make flex schedules work?

“Some of us work best from our bedrooms,” the company states. “Some of us prefer an office environment.”

The company’s goal is to provide its team members the flexibility to choose the work environment that best suits them.

“Our offices have become collaboration centers with bookable hotdesks and a mix of spaces where team members can meet in person to work and socialize whenever needed,” they continue. “Any team members who choose to leverage these collaboration centers can do so as frequently or infrequently as they like, and they will continue to have the autonomy to create their own schedules.”

6. Establish a standard work window.

It can be challenging to bring people together if they have different schedules at work. ‌Thus, a typical window schedule helps manage flexible scheduling most effectively.

Regardless‌ ‌of‌ ‌the time of day your employees work, set core hours, for example, ‌between‌ ‌10‌ ‌a.m. and 3 p.m. That means everyone is expected to be available at those hours throughout the week. ‌You can use this time to delegate tasks, hold meetings, ‌or‌ ‌bond‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌team.

Employers have a “schedule center” if a typical work window is implemented, which they can use to plan their schedules. ‌However, it is the workers’ responsibility to manage their schedules efficiently.

7. Be consistent.

When informal policies aren’t applied consistently, it causes resentment, bad morale, employee loss, and even legal trouble. To prevent this, develop a detailed, clearly-stated, and non-discriminatory policy on the company’s flex work arrangements.

8. Redefine productivity.

“Flexible work demands a shift away from seeing productivity in terms of being present for fixed working hours,” says Jane Parry. “Indeed, the problem of presenteeism — where people feel compelled to show their face at work even if they are ill—only feeds into the productivity puzzle.”

Companies (and managers) need to establish better performance metrics. How? By asking questions like:

  • Was a project completed on time?
  • How well did the team work ‌together?
  • Was high-quality work delivered?

“These are much more effective yardsticks of success than whether staff clock in at 9 a.m. each morning,” adds Parry.

9. Don’t have a communication breakdown.

A flex work schedule may leave co-workers and supervisors without business and social contacts. However, including flex staff in staff meetings will prevent them from feeling overlooked or alienated from co-workers‌ ‌and‌ ‌managers.

You could also set dedicated Slack channels so everyone can communicate and collaborate. Or schedule regular Zoom check-ins.

Furthermore, contact with other employees shouldn’t be limited to e-mail. Make it a point to have additional contact points, such as phone numbers. At the same time, know when it’s appropriate to text or call your team members. For example, contacting them Friday evening should be avoided unless it’s an absolute emergency. Preferably, you should reach out during the agreed-upon core hours.

10. Monitor, assess, and update.

An evolving process of improvements or developments may be required as a condition of flexible work arrangements. Therefore, take the time to review whether or not flex programs are meeting goals. If not, then adjust them as necessary.

Again, encourage employees to give feedback and keep the lines of communication open. ‌And as mentioned above, you can use a limited-time pilot program when launching a new plan. ‌If the plan is unsuccessful, you might have to return to the company’s prior traditional work arrangements.

One more thing. Stay abreast of any potential legal issues. ‌Employees must be carefully classified as exempt or non-exempt by their employers. For example, for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a given work week — non-exempt employees get overtime. ‌Therefore, those employees will have to document their work hours.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone was originally published on Calendar by .

5 Ways to Up Your Workplace Efficiency

By | Business Tips | No Comments
workplace efficiency

“Work smarter, not harder,” they say. We’ve all heard this modern productivity axiom by now, but there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement. Working hard is important, but working efficiently is even better. The two combined can lead to incredible results.

So, what’s the secret to making work more efficient? This is a question that business owners and managers ask themselves every day. This article outlines some ways employers can enable and motivate their workers to become even more efficient without working them into the ground.

1. Implement Self-Service Options

This one is a no-brainer for appointment-based businesses operating in the modern era. Self-service can open up so many possibilities for both your business and its customers. For example, having online booking options takes a huge load off of your employees and simultaneously empowers your customers. Clients can set and adjust appointment times whenever they want, and employees no longer have to spend hours on the phone coordinating bookings.

This frees up a lot of time for your employees during a regular shift. Instead of manning the phones all day, they can work on other projects. This could be as simple as staying on top of office organization or taking part in training to prepare for other roles.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can implement a self-check-in system for when customers arrive to their bookings. A tablet or kiosk can do all of the work that a front desk representative can. Customers can signal their presence and make relevant notes in their customer portal upon their arrival.

2. Embrace Office Automation

Businesses have myriad ways to automate processes, from CRM systems that will auto-email leads to social media tools that will auto-post on Instagram. But even humbler forms of automation can improve your workplace efficiency. There are myriad small tasks that consume workers’ attention during the day. A coffee maker set to auto brew will give your office manager 15 minutes back each morning, and that’s just one example.

A smart thermostat saves energy and keeps the temperature even so that extreme heat or cold don’t throw your employees for a loop. Smart light fixtures are likewise energy efficient and can also be set to dim or turn off without any human intervention. No one will have to traipse through the office at the beginning or end of the workday turning lights on and off. While these solutions might seem small, together they can make your workplace more efficient than you realize.

3. Retool — or Replace — Meetings

Companies waste a lot of time in meetings. Some estimates state that over 30 hours are squandered each month in meetings that aren’t necessary. Simply put, most meetings can be condensed or bypassed entirely to allow for greater workplace efficiency.

One solution is to plan meetings more effectively. Have an agenda prepared and share it with all participants beforehand. Practice getting to the point and rein in discussions to make sure the group doesn’t get sidetracked. Better yet, replace frequent meetings with constant communication through technology.

Take project management software, for instance. Instead of a status update meeting, you can use a digital chatroom to send messages, updates, and reminders. These can be addressed to the entire company, a specific department, or even to an individual. Such communications keep parties informed and don’t cut into productivity like a formal meeting where everyone is trapped inside a room with no escape.

4. Crunch the Numbers

The value of data cannot be underestimated. Insights gleaned from data can help you serve your customers better, increase revenue, and also make your workplace more efficient. Gathering data is easy; it’s knowing what to do with the data you have that’s the trickier part.

Let’s focus on workplace efficiency, which you can monitor with a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Harvest. Here are some examples of workplace data you can track:

  • Number of tasks completed on average per day
  • Amount of time spent per task
  • Amount of time spent per task category
  • Average time spent in meetings
  • Hours worked per week

This doesn’t have to be your full list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Once you have a sufficient sample size, you can start to make some conclusions about what needs to change to increase productivity and efficiency. You may notice that efficiency takes a huge dive for the last hour of the day, for example. You might opt for a shorter workday or add an additional 15-minute break to try to keep energy levels high.

5. Improve Employees’ Quality of Life

No matter what the numbers say, sometimes the best adjustments you can make are to the quality of life in the office. Happy employees are more productive employees, so seek out work-life enhancement opportunities. Ergonomic solutions such as sit-stand desks and optimized keyboards can help employees work more comfortably for longer periods of time. Improved lighting can make early mornings and gray days more bearable.

Helping your employees outside of the office will often improve their efficiency on the clock. Benefits such as hybrid work or childcare services give workers fewer things to worry about at home, so they’ll be less distracted while working. Workers who also feel cared for by their employers are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. High retention rates improve company efficiency, as you won’t be spending a lot of time and resources on constant training and hiring cycles.

With greater workplace efficiency, you’ll see improvements in company profits, customer satisfaction, and work quality. To maintain optimal efficiency, you’ll need to continue to adapt, so keep looking for new ways to enable your workers to be the best they can be.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Deal With a Customer Complaint Quickly

By | Business Tips | No Comments
Customer Complaint

No matter what industry you’re in, customers want quick responses when they contact you with complaints. Customer service agents similarly want to resolve issues on the first try. First contact resolution (FCR) is a metric that plays a crucial role in whether your customers keep coming back. It also affects whether they refer you to others. Let’s dive into some best practices for resolving customer tickets quickly — for the good of both your customers and your agents.

Train Agents to Ask Good Questions

Good FCR starts with training agents to ask questions that uncover the root causes of issues. Again, Role-playing can help agents learn to do this.

Let’s say your company sells architectural software. In one scenario, a customer named Sara calls your help center. Sara was unable to save a project and now needs help recovering it. In the scenario, the agent, Drew, helps Sara recover her project. Then, as instructed, Drew closes by asking if there’s anything else Sara needs. Sara says, “Nope! I guess it was user error! Hopefully, I’ll save it correctly next time.”

By asking a follow-up question, Drew revealed what Sara actually needed: clear instructions for how to save her projects. Drew responded by explaining the process to Sara and sending a follow-up email with the instructions written out.

Drew was able to both solve a customer’s root complaint and suggest a change to his company’s software manual. This scenario helped him become confident with digging deeper on calls.

Analyze Your Data to Find the “Why”

If your FCR is not where you want it to be — look at your data for clues. A few metrics to start with are customer effort score (CES), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and quality assurance (QA).

As you look at the data, be curious about why customers may be contacting your team multiple times. Is it because customers don’t understand how to communicate their problems? Or perhaps they need the solution in writing? Do you have a policy that is not customer-friendly? Once you have some answers, brainstorm your next steps.

In order for this exercise to work, you need reliable internal data. Consider implementing a quality assurance scorecard system using a platform such as MaestroQA. A quality assurance system software will automate repetitive data collection tasks and give your team access to the data. Access to this system empowers your team to troubleshoot first contact resolution (FCR) issues quickly and independently.

Provide Coaching for Your Agents

Have you found FCR-related issues caused by individual behaviors? Because customer service agent coaching is highly personalized, it can target that behavior. For example, an agent might escalate most calls. During a coaching session, the agent might share that they feel insecure about navigating the internal knowledge base. The coach can provide resources to help the agent become proficient at doing so.

In the end, coaching is an excellent way to increase your agents’ confidence and improve FCR.

Update Your Learning Management System and Knowledge Base

Good customer service basics don’t change much over time. But the specifics of your industry may vary and change a lot. So, someone in your organization should be responsible for keeping your learning management system (LMS) up-to-date.

When your training materials aren’t regularly updated, you might notice red flags. Second and third phone calls from the same customer might include complaints like, “That’s not what the last person told me.” Different agents might follow different workflows to solve the same problem. Creative problem-solving is good, but your customer experience should be consistently excellent. An updated LMS helps make that happen.

In addition, your internal knowledge base should be easy to navigate. Agents should be able to find information and easily navigate to related documents quickly. Customers notice when an agent can answer questions quickly. With quick, confident responses, customers feel more comfortable asking follow-up questions — knowing the interaction will be succinct. Fast and accurate feedback will improve your FCR.

Eliminate Steps For Your Customers

When someone submits a help ticket, it is generally impossible to resolve it entirely with one message. For example, if someone needs to exchange a pair of shoes, they might initiate a return via email but leave out critical info.

To streamline any process — your customer agents should be trained to gather all necessary information at one time on the first phone call or contact. Sometimes, this call is best accomplished via an online form. Other times, the solution is best accomplished via email. (“Please send a screenshot of your original order, plus the size you’d like.”)

Whenever possible, automate frequent needs. For example, you might create a place on your website where customers can cancel their subscriptions. Your solution can include the option to pause a subscription or to receive a discount instead of canceling. Clearly written solutions on your website will save customers time and your company money.

Finally, keep the dreaded phone tree as short as possible. A brief recording might answer frequently asked questions (for example, a restaurant could include its hours on its answering machine). But anything longer risks frustrating your customer, causing complaints, and thus making your agents’ jobs harder.

Invest in Best Practices

To provide excellent customer service, you can leverage available tools and innovations. You may find a new report that helps your team, or a new technology might be helpful. For example, a video call solution that integrates into existing CS workflows can help resolve issues that typically require a site visit. Creative solutions can infuse new life into your help desk.

But sometimes, you just need to spend the time reviewing simple, reliable data. Then you can implement changes and best practices to quickly assess and resolve customer complaints.

The payoff? Happier, more loyal customers and agents. And that makes investing time and resources into these best practices well worth it.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Deal With a Customer Complaint Quickly was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

5 Ways to Customize Your Client Experience

By | Business Tips | No Comments
Client Experience

From start to finish, there’s a lot that needs to be done to take care of your customers. You want them to have a flawless check-in experience, an ideal appointment, and a clean exit. Satisfied customers will leave positive reviews and refer your business to their friends.

One way you can set yourself apart from competitors, while simultaneously enhancing the client experience, is by offering customization options. This way, each client can have a unique experience that fits their needs and preferences. Customization isn’t always easy in the brainstorming phase, so here are some ideas you can use to get started:

1. Provide Onsite Child Care 

Many clients have children, but they won’t always have access to childcare when they have time for appointments. Additionally, few businesses allocate resources toward onsite child care services. This monumental gesture could be huge for your local community, if implemented correctly.

Just think of how many parents will appreciate being able to go to the salon on a Saturday because they can take their child along. Parents with working partners also don’t have to postpone dentist appointments or doctor’s visits simply because they’re too busy with kids during business hours.

Onsite child care should have at least one designated employee to take care of any children present. Some sanitized toys and a TV are enough to keep them entertained for a half-hour appointment. Your clients will be extremely grateful and may return frequently due to this service.

2. Send Personalized Gifts

Who says you should only take care of your clients while they are inside your building? A lot of what can make a client experience unique occurs before and after their appointments. For example, you can go the extra mile by sending some personalized gifts to your regulars.

In your customer portals, you can keep track of birthdays or other special events worth recognizing. An email saying happy birthday with a gift certificate or coupon attached is a nice gesture that isn’t required. Going out of your way to send little messages and gifts like that can really set your organization apart.

To make this strategy work you really have to be sincere. Get to know your clients and remember key details about them. This way you can congratulate them when they grow their family, graduate from school, or accomplish other things outside of regular holidays.

3. Offer Loyalty Discounts

Appointment-based businesses are no strangers to loyalty and rewards programs. What you might not have considered is offering a variety of loyalty programs for customers to choose from. This way each client will receive bonuses and incentives that actually matter to them rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s say you set a benchmark of 10 appointments for the first loyalty bonus to kick in. Customers can have the option to accept a discount on their next appointment or receive an Amazon gift card, among other options. You’re offering them a simple choice to make, but the freedom to choose is a powerful gift.

Loyalty points are perhaps the most flexible way to incentivize and reward your clients. Points can be redeemed for discounts, gift cards, or even stockpiled for larger rewards such as electronic devices or even hotel stays. Some customers might strive to unlock the highest reward possible, while others will be content to receive a voucher for a free meal.

4. Keep Preferences on File 

If you get your haircut at the same salon, they likely remember exactly how you like it. This shows they put forth effort to customize each client’s experience and keep it consistent. Your business might fall under a different sector, but the principle is still the same. Keeping customer preferences on file can add a lot to their experience, especially when repeated.

A few examples would be recording a client’s favorite massage therapist or the nail tech who knows their preferred style. You can also keep track of details such as appointment times, so you can suggest the best date and time for a follow-up appointment. This information is best tracked in a customer portal that can be created and maintained through a CRM or customer relationship management tool.

5. Provide Snacks and Refreshments 

You should do everything you can to keep waiting times low. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that are out of your control, wait times might run longer than you’d expect. Additionally, some industries can’t help but have wait times, such as a mechanic’s shop providing an oil change.

If you have a lot of early morning appointments, a fully stocked coffee bar should be a big hit. You can provide all sorts of flavors and fixings to keep guests comfortable in your waiting room. A soda fountain machine or individually packaged snacks are other treats you can leave out for your clients while they wait.

After going through this list, stop and think about what your clients would appreciate the most. Be creative with the ideas you choose to implement. As long as you have their best interests in mind, you will find success in customizing their individual experiences.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

Use Your Calendar App to Snag the Best Bargains

By | Appointment | No Comments
Calendar App

Everyone at some point sees a garage sale flier and takes interest, only to forget about it minutes later. With so much going on in your life, these little bargains are easy to miss. The same goes for any kind of sale, really — thrift stores, clothing brands, bake sales, etc. Whenever you come across an exciting sale, you can integrate it seamlessly into your schedule via your calendar application.

1. Follow Public Sale Calendars

Organizations that regularly hold these events (recreation centers, religious communities, etc.) usually have a publicly-viewable calendar. This can be a physical one on a bulletin board in town or an easily-accessible digital one. The latter is more common as time goes on and is incredibly convenient to follow. Then, depending on the app, you can subscribe to be notified of new postings or upcoming events.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a fully-integrable calendar for you to add to your app alongside your personal one. Remember that many people have similar interests as you, and you may find some helpful bargain-hunting communities online. Along with these opportunities come plenty of resources on the subject. If they have a shared calendar, they’ll do a lot of the work.

2. Note Every Sale That Catches Your Eye

Even if it draws you at first glance, not every sale will grab you enough to want to go. But you never know what you might find sitting in the back of a thrift store or outlet mall. So it’s worth taking a slight detour to see what a sale is all about, if it’s even of tangential interest. Then, whether you end up going or not, just jot down (or snap a picture of) the information for later.

Then, you can enter it into your calendar and reconsider as it approaches. Is it worth fitting the potential bargains in among your other duties? You can also take this time to look into the event a little more and get more information. If you end up removing it from your schedule, this experience will still help you learn more about bargain-hunting.

3. Separate Them Into Categories

Once your calendar starts to fill up, the different events can get confusing. Ideally, you’ll want to know which are higher priority and what types of items you’ll find just from a glance. Most calendar apps have multiple categorization options to make this happen. Depending on your platform, you can label events by type, color, tag, importance/urgency, topic, etc.

You can, for example, mark all sales of your favorite categories (like video games or cookware) as a specific color. Then, when you open your calendar for the month, you can see that color and immediately recognize what it stands for. Adding a textual tag (“church,” “garage”) can help you separate these events even further based on location or type. The more identifiable each category is, the easier it is to differentiate sales without reviewing each one visually.

4. Fit Sales Events Into Your Established Schedule

You can decide which events you want to move forward with, fitting in among your other responsibilities. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to do the math if your calendar app has a visual editing component. You only need to click and drag things around to reschedule them in many instances. Then it won’t feel like you’re wasting time (which you aren’t!) by going to a sale — it’s already scheduled.

The mental effect of this is perhaps the most powerful part. People often don’t devote the time they need to the things they love without doing something similar. Your responsibilities are already set in stone, so there’s no reason not to fit these things around them. Scheduling free time helps balance work and life and gives it relative psychological importance for completion.

5. Get the Important Things Out of the Way First

It’s not always possible to fit the exciting things in among your more essential duties. However, it is possible to get the latter done first to open up your schedule later on. This is the objective of the MIT time management strategy — prioritize more essential tasks to complete them before moving on. This helps particularly if you get overwhelmed easily because you’ll only focus on a few tasks at a time.

As a result, you’ll be able to be more productive in completing what you need to complete. In addition, it saves mental bandwidth so you don’t burn yourself out early and time you can spend shopping afterward. The best part is lessening your anxiety when taking that time— you know you’ve already been productive today.

It sounds unnecessary to track sales on your personal calendar, but it is perfect for saving money. As long as you spend consciously, it can make a big difference in your finances. And calendar apps are genuinely well suited for such a task, so it’s a no-brainer if you’re passionate about saving. So next time you see a garage sale flier, put it in your calendar, and you may discover something wonderful.

Image Credit: by Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

Use Your Calendar App to Snag the Best Bargains was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller

How to Help Your Team Prepare for Summer Vacation Season

By | Business Tips | No Comments
Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is upon us, and it’s a popular time for employees to take time off. Maybe they plan on traveling with their family or taking a few weeks to spend quality time with their kids at home. Either way, it’s a good idea to help your employees prepare to ensure a seamless absence.

This article offers tips to prepare for summer vacation. From having employees request time off early to integrating collaborative technology, here’s everything you should know:

1. Get Time Off Requests Early 

Summer is a busy time for vacations. Chances are, your employees are planning a few trips they don’t want to miss. That’s why it’s important your staff notifies you of their vacation plans early. This will help you prepare for their absence in advance, so you can avoid being understaffed.

Most companies want their employees to submit time-off requests sooner rather than later. Not only does that increase the likelihood you’ll approve their time off, but it helps you assign work accordingly. To ensure this happens, consider sending out an email reminding your employees to submit their summer requests.

You should also include a note to ensure workers know their requests may not be approved. While you want your employees to enjoy the summer, the truth is, you can’t always approve everyone’s time-off request. Make sure you set realistic expectations.

2. Display Time Off Requests

Instead of having employees blindly submit time-off requests, consider having a board that displays everyone’s availability. This way, if an employee sees several people are approved off one week, they’ll know to avoid requesting that time. And instead, they might request their time off for the following week when more people are in the office.

Some companies use software to display everyone’s approved time off. This is a great option, but it  could be costly, depending on the service. If you’re a small business, using a physical calendar or an online alternative could work. Just make sure your employees have access to each other’s calendars and mark their time.

The more transparent you are about approved time, the more seamless it’ll be for employees. In addition to displaying approved time off, make sure you track it as well. It’s important employees can see how much time off they’ve acquired, and what they have left.

3. Make Sure They Plan Ahead

Just because your employee won’t be in the office, doesn’t mean their responsibilities disappear. It’s important they tie up any loose ends before vacationing and communicate with whoever will be covering for them.

For instance, let’s say you work in customer service. Your employees could reach out to their clients to let them know they’ll be out of office. You should also advise them to provide clients with an alternative contact, in case of an emergency. Another good idea is to have your employees set up out-of-office email responses to automatically send when someone reaches out.

You could also have your employees create an out-of-office checklist for their team. This can help prepare others for anything that’s due while they’re out. It’s also a good idea to have employees mark themselves as absent on any communication/project management tools the company uses. This will hopefully keep co-workers from reaching out to people while they’re out of the office.

4. Explore Hybrid/Remote Options

The pandemic forced thousands of employees to work from home. But even now, new data shows remote work is still surging. That’s because some people still don’t feel comfortable working from an office. Then, others simply prefer the convenience of remote work.

Allowing your employees to work from anywhere means they have more flexibility. They can visit their family out of state and even travel out of the country, while still working. If you don’t have a remote option, consider putting one in place this summer.

Allowing remote work can also save your business money. For instance, you could significantly reduce your office’s electric bill with employees at home. If 100% remote work isn’t an option for your employees, consider exploring hybrid options. Three days in the office and two remote days each week will offer employees some more freedom this summer.

5. Integrate Technology 

If your company doesn’t leverage technology, you may be doing your employees a real disservice. Regardless of your industry, it’s important workers have a place where they can communicate with one another. This is even more important during the summer when employees are going in and out of the office.

Consider adopting technology that helps your employees stay connected, regardless of where they are. For example, you could use a messaging platform like Slack. You could also consider using project management software like Asana or Monday. Both programs can help employees stay up to date and be held accountable for projects.

Technology can be a great tool, but you don’t want to go overboard. Make sure whatever you integrate makes sense for your company, and streamlines your business.

6. Help Them Enjoy Their Time Away

According to research, almost half of American workers don’t take vacation time. While there are several reasons for this, one is that people are afraid to take time off. Some are worried that requesting time off makes them appear replaceable and impacts their job security. Some people, on the other hand, don’t have anyone that can cover for them.

While it’s admirable that employees choose to work, not taking time off can lead to burnout. Not only can this impact your employees’ personal lives, but can lower their performance at work. Both are things you don’t want.

To keep this from happening, make sure you encourage your employees to take time off. Then, do your best to ensure they enjoy their time. Encourage employees to turn off their notifications, and not worry about work while they’re gone. Ensure then that your company will still thrive without them being there for a few days.

The point of vacation is to take time off to reset and enjoy. However, you can’t enjoy a vacation when you’re worried about work. The tips above can help your employees prepare for their summer vacation so their work is covered, and they can relax.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

Register Now & Get a 30 Day Trial Register Now