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Being Cold Can Hurt Your Productivity

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Being Cold Can Hurt Your Productivity

These final months of the year keep getting colder and colder. Of course, some people love the cold, especially after a blazing hot summer. However, no matter how you feel about the cold, it’s essential to understand that being cold can actually hurt your productivity.

When you’re cold, your body expends more energy trying to keep warm. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to focus and maintain energy and power throughout a long shift. Cornell University performed a study that showed that employees committed 44% more errors in their work in a cold setting instead of a warmer one.

Here are some tips for warming up your body and your brain so that cooler weather doesn’t compromise your seasonal productivity:

Grab a Space Heater

It’s understandable if you don’t want to crank up the heat throughout the entire building if you’re just a little bit chilly. Not only might this inconvenience others, but it can also run your utility up considerably. A small space heater can do the trick in this scenario.

Space heaters can be set to target temperatures so that they aren’t constantly running but will quickly flip on when things get chilly. However, leaving a space heater on for too long or unattended can be a fire hazard, so be sure to unplug it when you leave the room. Additionally, keep the surrounding area around it clear, and you won’t experience any problems.

If you want a more focused heating experience, try a heated blanket. You can wrap the “blankie” around your legs or shoulders to warm up key areas of your body. Just make sure the heat and comfort don’t make you drowsy, causing you to lose productivity.

Bundle Up

Shorts are so comfortable, but you’re going to need to start bundling up a little bit more. Just look on the bright side; winter layers offer many more opportunities to show off your style and fashion sense. Besides, you can always peel off extra layers when you’re feeling too warm. You can’t conjure up a jacket if you leave it at home.

For at-home workers, bundling up presents an interesting dilemma. The outfit of choice during the latter half of the year often includes a pair of cozy sweatpants. While it’s essential to keep warm, make sure your clothing isn’t putting you in the wrong state of mind for a productive day.

If you get cold hands but need to type all day, try on a pair of fingerless gloves. There are all kinds of typing gloves on the market to keep your digits warm while retaining dexterity.

Do Some Exercise

If you feel the cold making it difficult to focus, get up and do some light exercise. A few small exercises will get your blood pumping to warm up your body and reactivate your mind. Of course, there’s no need to hop on the treadmill to warm up; just do something simple at your desk.

For example, you can set a recurring reminder in your Calendar to stand up and do 15 jumping jacks every hour. The people in our office do all kinds of exercise during work. Jumping jacks, situps, running in place, or going up and down the stairs in the building, stretching, and a variety of other activities to keep the blood flowing and the mind awake.

These short activities won’t make for much of a weight-loss routine, but they will help keep you warm and active during the fall and winter months. In addition, coworkers can join in on exercise fun, leading to a fun office tradition.

Watch What You Eat

What you put into your body can help regulate your temperature or make matters worse. You might love ice cream more than anything in the world, but that’s certainly not going to help you focus on productivity on a chilly day. Your best bet is to try something warmer. Coffee, a little green tea, hot chocolate — there are many options.

Coffee and tea are popular drinks, especially at this time of year. Sipping on a hot drink will warm you inside and out. Not to mention that these drinks also contain properties that are designed to perk you up even on the earliest and chilliest of mornings.

Be wary of the effects of these drinks — and watch to see if they’re helping more than hurting. For example, some people are sensitive to caffeine, so while you might enjoy getting warmed up and energized, your hyperactivity might make it difficult to concentrate on project details. You also need to stay hydrated even when it’s cold, so be wary of drinking too much of something that’s not doing the job.

Get Some Sun

Not only does the sun help warm you up, but it’s also an important ward against seasonal depression. Sometimes the cold and dark affects you more mentally and emotionally than it does physically. Shining some extra light in your life will help on both counts.

During times and regions where the sun doesn’t shine in too often, look at compensating with some artificial light. For example, a small desk lamp can be strategically placed to light up your workspace when outside is nothing but dark and gloomy. You can even alarm clocks that simulate the rising sun, helping you start each morning on a more positive note during the colder months.

Spend Time With Others

Time spend with other people isn’t a suggestion to huddle together with your coworkers like penguins. Instead, try to make time for healthy social interactions. Sharing a laugh with others is a great way to keep seasonal depression at bay and warm up your emotional state.

Different challenges such as Covid-19, remote work, and even social anxiety make this challenging for some. So get to your Zoom calls a minute early and chat with your team or join online groups with people sharing similar interests. A little social interaction can go a long way when the winter woes are pulling you down.

Baby, it’s cold outside,– but that doesn’t mean your productivity has to freeze over. Instead, keep yourself nice and warm, and you won’t have a problem making the next months just as purposeful as the rest of the year.

6 Hacks to Make Your Office More Productive

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Hacks to Make Your Office More Productive

With work performance metrics being tracked with ever more scrutiny, productivity has become the buzzword for just about every business. Our increased use of remote employees has, in turn, led to more meticulous research into various ways to boost office productivity.

We already have plenty of productivity tools. These are being relentlessly pitched to us from different platforms. However, relatively simple techniques and changes in habits can bring about a positive boost more so than tools and technologies. These changes take into account the preferences of modern digital workers. They also tackle the unique challenges associated with working in our hyperconnected age.

Changing the habits of one employee is not going to help much. You must find ways of reprogramming the default work style of your entire organization. Doing so can help overcome or mitigate resistance as you quietly implement widespread changes.

The six productivity hacks listed below encourage the development of habits that productive teams and employees must cultivate. Some involve retraining the mind to operate differently in the workplace or digital space.

1. Use collaborative scheduling software.

Any team can engage better with work when scheduling is made painless. Effective collaborative scheduling software can help employees accomplish more in less time and deliver better-quality results.

Nowadays, user-friendly scheduling software is easy for anyone to use and can be implemented without requiring extensive IT expertise. Scheduling programs can keep your team aligned on specific tasks and ensure equal distribution of workloads. Team leaders are empowered to monitor and manage individual performance and productivity throughout.

2. Plan work in short stints.

It’s a proven fact that the human brain can only focus on specific tasks for a short time. After that, both focus and interest begin to falter. Recent studies seem to indicate that attention spans are much shorter in our digital age.

To combat this phenomenon, many organizations have begun using the Pomodoro Technique. This involves working for a 25-minute session followed by a five-minute break. Workers can customize these sessions to fit their individual needs.

For example, try breaking up your work hours into slots of two hours. After that, apply the technique to create four 25- or two 50-minute sessions. Doing so can help you remain sharply focused on tasks for the entire 25-minute slot. Enhanced focus coupled with quick refreshers can be a real productivity booster.

3. Block distracting apps and sites.

Research on digital worker productivity reveals some interesting habits of the average employee. For example, they can’t seem to go more than six minutes without checking their email or messages on their smartphones.

The nature of our work and social life in the digital era serves to relentlessly pull us toward notifications. It’s almost like an involuntary, unconscious reflex response. This reality can become a constant source of distraction and hamper our ability to focus on tasks.

The most effective way to change this is to block app notifications and websites that distract you. Create a list of apps and websites you need to block during work hours. Even notifications can often be set to remain silent during work hours. Once work has been taken care of, you can fire up your smartphone and see what’s happened while you took care of business.

4. Create a cool and comfortable workspace.

Most employees spend the bulk of their work hours at a desk. Providing a comfortable environment can help them deliver better-quality work. It can boost productivity, too.

Several environmental factors can negatively affect productivity in the workplace. Lighting, noise, and temperature can all serve to distract and affect the mood of employees. A relaxed and comfortable setting is far more likely to yield better work performance.

Make sure your office is structured for optimal productivity. Ensure a sufficient inflow of abundant fresh air and natural light. Keep windows open, if possible. Use high-quality light bulbs to provide good lighting. Ergonomic equipment and sound baffles can also prove to be valuable investments for boosting productivity. They aren’t cheap, but they’ll likely more than make up their cost in the long run.

5. Provide the right snacks.

We all know that eating the right foods has a pronounced impact on productivity. We also know that glucose can energize the brain and help keep an individual alert and focused. A low level of glucose makes us lose focus. Similarly, foods high in carbohydrates or sugar release glucose quickly. This often results in a burst of energy followed by a quick crash.

This is one reason why eating right has a lot to do with productivity. Foods such as almonds, bananas, eggs, dark chocolate, yogurt, and others can put your employees in an energetic frame of mind. Stay away from bags of greasy chips, sweets, and fried items.

6. Encourage standing with adjustable-height desks.

Productivity is directly proportional to the health of your employees. Sitting for long hours at a workstation can create health issues, which in turn cause them to lose focus.

Spend the money to invest in adjustable-height desks. This is not some trendy digital-age hack. Standing desks demonstrably help your employees stay in better shape and minimize discomfort. Sitting at work for long hours is known to put heart health at risk. It can also cause back pain and contribute to obesity. 

A Texas A&M University study revealed that worker productivity could be increased significantly when employees switch to standing desks. The ability to work while standing helps improve energy levels and focus. Top tech firms such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all convinced. They all use standing desks in their offices.

Hopefully, these six hacks give you some ideas for promoting productive habits in the workplace. Of course, the best way to encourage others to change their habits in the workplace is to lead by example, adapting these practices to your own work style. True, it will take time to nurture a more productive working environment. However, you can make the change sooner rather than later through thoughtful planning and implementation strategies.

Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

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Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

Like so many other business owners, you’re rearing to get back to work in your office. Specifically, going back to what life was like before COVID-19. Your main goal for right now maybe simply returning to the office.

That’s not unreasonable. The rollout of the vaccine is here — and things are looking up. According to JLL’s “Human Experience” report, three in four workers wants to return to an office in the future. However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

In other words, don’t’ haphazardly and rush your reopening. Instead, start developing a plan that will ensure that you can safely and efficiently reopen your office. And, if you don’t know where to begin, here are some pointers to get the ball rolling.

Steps to Reopen Your Office — Brush Up on the Law and Health Guidelines

Without question, the step you must take is reviewing the legality of opening back up. For example, check your local guidelines to actually see if you can resume business operations. Even if you can, there may be limitations on how many people can be in the building simultaneously. The vaccine is helping a lot in getting permission to get back to work.

Because guidelines vary across states — you’re going to have to do this part on your own. But, simply Googling your state and business reopening guidelines should steer you in the right direction. If you rent your office space — you could ask your landlord. Or you can schedule a virtual meeting with stakeholders to discuss your reopening.

Another helpful tool? USA Today’s real-time tracker or COVID-19 trends and restrictions. It can at least give you an idea of whether or not your state is tightening or loosing-up regulations.

If you have the green light, there’s another legal matter to dig into. And, that’s if you can force employees back to work.

Well, that depends on the state. However, if your employers are considered essential or have a contract, employees must show up to work. But, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers paid leave if an employee or someone they care for has been impacted by COVID. If you have any high-risk team members, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may compel you to let them continue working remotely.

Create a Written Return to Work Plan

“Most employers will return to the office in stages, with some employees continuing to work at home for an extended period of time,” writes Dawn Ross, Partner at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross LLP. To be frank — expect this new hybrid workplace to be “the norm over the next several years.”

“Instead of allowing this to happen haphazardly, create a written return to work plan detailing who will be returning to the office,” advises Ross.

At the minimum, your “return to work plans” should include information like, “When they will be returning, and outlining what precautions have been put into place to keep employees and the general public safe.” Many “of these steps will take a month or more,” start planning earlier than later.

What should be in your written plan?

As a part of your plan, Ross also recommends doing the following;

  • Survey your employees to find out who wishes to come back. While JLL found that a majority of employees want to return, another online survey shows that close to 30% would quit if forced back to the office.
  • Order PPE. Place your order for cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves.
  • Daily health checks. Both the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)” recommend that all employers consider some kind of health check for employees coming into the workplace,” adds Ross. Additionally, “several counties have issued Health Orders instructing all employers to create policies that require employees to complete a health check before coming into the office. Many counties have created a daily health check app for this purpose.”
  • Temperature checks and COVID-19 tests. At your expense, you can conduct and require employees to take temperature checks and COVID-19 tests.
  • Have positive COVID-19 contingency plans. If an employee tests positive, you need to have a plan. It must “address contact tracing, notifying local health officials, and cleaning the affected area, and must include a written notification to employees working in proximity to the positive employee without disclosing the employee’s identity,” advises Ross. You should also have a procedure in place in case you must quickly shut down if there is a spike in numbers or the virus mutates faster than we think.
  • Update IIPP plan. Your state has guidelines “requiring employers to include COVID-19 prevention measures in their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs).
  • Worker’s compensation. Employees may be entitled to worker’s compensation if they test positive for COVID-19. If so, you should initiate the claims process.

You should also think about how many people will be allowed in the office? And, will have shifts between work-at-home and work-at-office?

Other reopening considerations.

You’re not done just yet. If employees are working from home because they don’t want to return, or you’ve had to reclose, you should have the following in place;

  • “A written work from home policy that clearly states your expectations and requires your employees to commit to those expectations,” states Ross.
  • Depending on your state, you may be required to reimburse employees for work-related expenses.
  • Workplace safety can also apply to remote workers. You should provide them with ergonomically correct desks, chairs, and keyboards.
  • Changing employees from salaried exempt to non-exempt.
  • Taking a measured approach for those who do not want to return to the office.

If your business interacts with the general public, post required local postings for them to see. You can also refuse to serve customers who do not comply with safety precautions. And, you may also an Assumption of the Risk policy for customers.

Redesign the Office by Taking Recommended Safety Actions

Even with written policies in place, you’re still going to have to re-design the workplace before reopening. After all, you want to make sure that your team remains safe and healthy. Moreover, you have to follow local or state ordinances.

While this may seem overwhelming, the CDC has put together an extensive list of guidelines that your office should adopt. For starters, if the building has been unoccupied for an extended period of time, you should check for mold, rodent/pest, or mechanical problems. Don’t forget about looking for stagnant water and ensuring that ventilation systems are working properly.

In terms of decreasing transmission of COVID-19, concentrate on;

  • Encouraging healthy hygiene practices by providing each employee with sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Also, put up signage reminding people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and coughing into their elbows.
  • Practicing social distancing by keeping chairs/desks at least six feet apart. You could also install physical barriers and stagger arrival/departure times.
  • Reconfiguring walking areas so that everyone is walking in one direction.
  • Replacing high-touch communal items, like coffee pots, with pre-packaged or single-serving.
  • Discouraging large gatherings and canceling non-essential travel.
  • Intensifying cleaning and disinfection, such as asking everyone to wipe down their workspaces at the ends of the day

To ensure that everyone is on the same page, the CDC suggests including and involving all employees. Also, you should hold seminars, workshops, and drills, so that you are aware of new workplace safety practices.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have the funds to do much of the above, unlock capital. For example, selling off assists that you no longer need. You may also be able to receive assistance through organizations like the Small Business Administration.

Implement Safeguards For The Ongoing Monitoring Of Employees

You should be commended for coming this far. But, this is another critical step to take before reopening. And, that’s implementing safeguards that will monitor your team. These include;

  • Even if it’s not COVID, encouraging employees who are sick to stay home.
  • Conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks.
  • Monitoring absenteeism and offering more flexible time-off policies/schedules.
  • Having contingency plans if an employee gets COVID-19.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open with employees and Creating and testing emergency communication channels for employees and state and local health authorities.

What happens if an employee tests positive?

Cleaning and disinfecting the area where they were present is a must. The employee should also be quarantined until released by a physician or public health official. And, if any other employees were in close proximity, they should also be isolated for 14-days.

It’s important to keep all your employees notified. And, if they voice concerns, you may want to close the office back down until everyone tests negative.

Encourage Vigilance and Lead By Example

I get it. You’ve put in a lot of time in effort in reopening your office. However, that doesn’t mean things are going to go back to normal. You still need to maintain a regular cleaning and disinfection routine. You should also keep tabs on the number of COVID-19 cases in your area — if there’s a spike, you may want to be proactive and shut things down.

But, this shouldn’t completely fall on your shoulders. Even with these protocols in place, your employees need to hold themselves accountable.

Who is responsible for stopping the spread — all leaders and all employees

“The only way to create and sustain change is to have 200% accountability,” writes corporate trainer and author Joseph Grenny for HBR. “Employees must understand that they are not simply responsible for following safe practices themselves (the first 100%), they are also responsible for ensuring everyone around them does as well (the second 100%).”

Moreover, lead by example. If you aren’t practicing precautions like social distancing or mask-wearing, then why would your team follow suit? And, Greeny also recommends using moral messaging. “Make the moral case for changing behavior by telling stories of affected friends, family, or clients to bring the risks of non-compliance to life,” he writes.

Finally, create a culture of transparency. Don’t penalize employees if they experience symptoms or aren’t comfortable being around others. Let them know that it’s acceptable to remind others of the new workplace policies if they notice someone not following them.

How to Build a Relaxing Office Environment on a Budget

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Your staff may be stellar. You may be the best at what you do. But neither necessarily mean your clients are coming away happy.

One of the easiest ways to soup up your client experience? Sprucing up your office space.

The environment you create sets the tone for how clients interact with your business. A winning office can make customers excited to come in, reduce complaints, and build customer loyalty. 

You want your customers to feel comfortable and calm. This is especially true if you’re in a line of work that makes people nervous: law firms and doctors offices, pay attention.

The good news is, you don’t need a full renovation or an interior designer to make your office a more welcoming place. Take a look at the following ways to create a relaxing environment without breaking the bank:

1. Declutter the office.

In an office, things will pile up. And if you just keep stuffing things in nooks and crannies, you’re only creating a bigger problem for the future. 

Take care of clutter by dedicating time to clean up the office. Be thorough: When you work in the same space consistently, it’s easy to miss things that customers are sure to notice. Mess can make them feel uncomfortable at best and claustrophobic at worst. 

Once you’ve gotten rid of things that you don’t need, reorganize your office to give it a full reset. It’s an opportunity to try something new instead of sticking to the status quo. In doing so, you create space both physically and mentally for your customers.

2. Change your color palette.

Have you ever considered how much color impacts the way clients experience your office? It’s a big deal. 

You can cultivate a relaxed mood in your office with earthy colors. Try a warm white accented with green and natural-looking wood. If you rely on warm colors, like reds and oranges, you’ll create a more cozy/sleepy vibe. If you use dim colors, your space might feel depressing. 

Aside from painting, you can freshen up your office’s colors by:

  • Bringing in plants that complement your furniture
  • Allowing as much natural light into the office space as possible
  • Putting art on the walls that depict serene, earthy scenes
  • Rolling out soft, neutral rugs
  • Replacing old drapes with flowing, semi-transparent curtains

A relaxed atmosphere keeps people calm yet alert enough for an office. It’s like what people experience when they are in nature. 

3. Check the temperature.

It’s easy to forget how much of a difference adjusting your thermostat even a few degrees can make. With that said, temperature can be a tough thing to get right in an office.

Everyone will have a different opinion about how warm or cold it should be. Employees may want control, but customers should also have a say. Find a happy medium: Maybe your chilly team member can put on a sweater, if it means setting the thermostat where customers want it. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust your thermostat frequently. If someone comes in shivering, turn the heat up a notch. And if they start sweating, switch it right back down.  

4. Provide snack options. 

Snacks are delicious, but they also lend a certain ambiance to an office space. Even if they aren’t hungry when they come in your door, customers like to know they have options. Munching on a cookie or apple can be soothing while they wait. 

Speaking of, it’s important to have a variety of snack options. Leave out some healthy options, but don’t be afraid to squeeze in salty and sweet snacks as well. Particularly if appointments run long, customers will be grateful for the bite. 

5. Don’t forget a good demeanor. 

Your office environment includes the people in it. Don’t forget to smile and maintain a positive demeanor.

Some employees are naturally gifted at making people feel welcome. Those who don’t may need to work on their relationship-building skills. Add people with a good aura to a relaxed environment, and you’ll have a winning combination.

Just because you don’t have a budget to completely change your office space doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Do what you can right now, and save the bigger changes for when you have a little more play in your budget. 

What Should Your Office’s PPE Policy Be?

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As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, offices everywhere are reopening. Work has to get done. With that said, there’s no reason to subject your staff or customers to unnecessary risks. 

There are many things to consider when reopening your business. You must reorganize the office to allow employees to work at a safe distance. You need to be vigilant about cleaning. You also need to adjust the way customers interact with your business by restricting things like drop-in appointments. 

The biggest challenge, however, might be effectively utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the nature of your business, masks, gloves, and employee-customer barriers may be necessary.

Not sure where to start? To figure out your next steps, take a look through the following questions:

1. Do I need a PPE policy?

Yes, you do. COVID-19 is contagious, and you have a responsibility to keep your customers and employees safe. That starts with a clear policy on PPE usage. 

Policies provide a level of accountability that recommendations can’t. A cancellation policy for appointments can lower no-show rates more than “soft” guidelines ever could, for example.

The same is true when it comes to wearing protective equipment. Don’t leave something so important up to chance or choice.

2. How common is COVID-19 in my area?

No matter where your business is located, having a PPE policy is worthwhile. With that said, it’s important to build yours around conditions on the ground. 

More drastic types of PPE, such as face shields, should be used in hotspots. If you’re in a place where the coronavirus is under control, regular cloth masks may be plenty.

The bottom line is, you can’t throw caution to the wind. But you shouldn’t go whole-hog if there are only a few cases in your country. 

3. How will PPE affect productivity?

There’s an argument to be made that PPE can be distracting. But when people use it long enough, it becomes the norm. The real productivity drain, in fact, comes from anxiety caused by a sense of unease at work. From that perspective, wearing PPE might actually help employees be more productive at a time like this. 

What if employees claim their PPE is getting in the way? Look for workarounds. Perhaps someone who finds a face covering to be distracting would be better off working at home. Simply getting him or her a softer mask could solve the issue. 

4. How will I get employees to comply?

When introducing new policies, there’s always a question about how workers will respond. If they don’t buy into your plan, then it isn’t going to be effective. The key is to involve your team in crafting the policy.

Solicit their input when putting together your PPE policy. Keep them in the loop about your decisions related to how and when to re-open the office. Transparency boosts engagement and encourages compliance. 

Most importantly, listen to your employees’ concerns about returning to work. Take steps they suggest to make everyone feel more comfortable. 

5. What should I provide?

According to OSHA, employers must provide the PPE necessary for employees to do their jobs safely. That guideline, however, has a lot of room for interpretation. Arguably, no customer-facing job is perfectly safe right now. 

The basic piece of equipment is a face mask. While employees may opt to bring their own, it’s important to provide backups if necessary. Keeping gloves and hand sanitizer stocked and accessible is also a good idea. 

If your employees interact intimately with customers, plexiglass shields should be provided. At high-risk companies, such as nursing homes and doctor’s offices, full-body protective coverings may be necessary as well. 

6. What consequences should I impose?

The toughest part of creating a PPE policy is figuring out what to do if employees break it. Not every infraction is intentional, and not all sanctions work with all employees. 

What will you do if someone forgets their PPE on accident? What if it slips off in the course of their work? And what if the same team member keeps violating your policy?

For first-time accidents, a verbal warning is plenty. Perhaps repeat offenders are required to work from home for a certain length of time. Intentional offenses should be punished more seriously.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last. It’s probably safe to say, however, that the virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Using PPE at work may become the “new normal.” Design your policy thoughtfully, and get buy in across your team: You may need it for the long haul.

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